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Date:

March 10, 2002

Subject:

Indecisive Brits; Call for Reason; China Resumes Soy Imports; Sp

 

Today in AgBioView - March 11, 2002

* Indecision Over GM Foods
* Scientists Call for Reason in GM Row
* China to Resume Imports of GM Soybeans from US
* Speed on Seeds
* Bales of Hope: Why is Bt Cotton Still Denied to our Farmers?
* Bt Cotton Approval Coming Up
* Food Experts Set Blueprint to Gauge Biotech Risks
* Codex Biotech Agreement Hurts Public Health and Free Trade
* WHO Study on Modern Food Biotechnology, Human Health And Development
* Australia Warned of Risk of Not Producing GM Crops
* Prospects Bright For GM Corn In Kenya
* Trials In Philippines Show Superior Performance of Bt Corn
* Uganda Ventures Into Agbiotech
* (!) The Global Franken-Egg Scandal Will Break Today

Indecision Over GM Foods

- BBC, March 7, 2002

SARAH MUKHERJEE: Presenter: A scientist working on genetically
modified crops says thousands of jobs and millions of pounds are
being lost as Britain prevaricates about GM produce. Prof. Michael
Wilson, director of Horticulture Research International, was speaking
at a conference yesterday in Cirencester which explored whether
Europe is being left behind in the GM race. It's certainly a point of
view shared by the US agriculture secretary Ann Veneman, who in the
past has told EU countries if they don't commit to GM technology now,
they might never catch up in the future. Prof. Wilson couldn't agree
more.

PROF. MICHAEL WILSON: Director, Horticulture Research International:
Well, I think already in this country we've lost thousands of jobs in
the agrochemical and agrobiotechnological industries that have
migrated to America. In terms of the competitiveness of farming in
the future, Britain in particular but Europe in general risks being,
if you like, stuck in a time warp dependent on sort of
mid-20th-century chemicals.

SARAH MUKHERJEE: But some people would say well, that's fine; that's
just like beingä losing out on the arms race: it's not necessarily a
bad thing that we have.

PROF. MICHAEL WILSON: Well, as a scientist I can't agree with that.
I think we have very modern technology now which is actually
environmentally preferable to the very chemical-dependent agriculture
which has come to be known as conventional agriculture.

The process of gene transfer has been so stigmatised by a highly
successful scaremongering campaign and misinformation and hype that
it is extremely difficult to get the scientific facts across, and to
put things in perspective and to compare and contrast them with the
impactä environmental impacts and so forth of whatä all the practices
that we use now.

SARAH MUKHERJEE: But we're concerned that once you let these genes
out of the box, there's no getting them back in, and they're out into
the environment under field-scale trials or not, and that's it - we
can't do anything about it.

PROF. MICHAEL WILSON: I mean, gene flow will happen, yes, and we've
been putting out alien genes about which we know very little in
conventionally crossed plants for decades, if not centuries. We've
not understood really very much of what we've been doing genetically
to our crops. There's no evidence of creating superweeds through
releasing what one might call conventionally bred herbicide-resistant
varieties, for example. The very fact that we can use herbicides at
all shows that there are herbicide-resistant genes naturally out
there in our crops.

SARAH MUKHERJEE: Now the developing world, particularly countries
like China, have, we know, taken up trials of genetically modified
products and are developing genetically modified crops apace. Do you
think that will be where the threat comes from in future in terms of
us trying to keep up?

PROF. MICHAEL WILSON: Well, I think the developing world has most
immediate benefits to gain in terms of improving food security and
quality. China has made a huge commitment byä from the government inä
they are making promises that 50 per cent of the agricultural land
will be GM within the next five, 10 years, and where they have been
releasing it and they're issuing large numbers of permits for
commercial growing now, they are certainly seeing huge economic
benefits and yield benefits in crops such as cotton.

It's calculated that the USä the cost in US dollars per hectare for
using GM Bt cotton is $136 per hectare. If it's non-Bt cotton, which
they have to spray very substantially - about 20 sprays - it's $762
per hectare, so that saving to Chinese cotton growers poses a great
threat to, say, Spanish and Greek cotton growers; it will undermine
the market completely, because it will obviously drop the price. And
in South Africa very similar statistics were presented: the yield of
cotton in the first year of GM has gone up 18 per cent; then it went
up 60 per cent in the second year, and the use of pesticides dropped
by 13 per cent and 38 per cent respectively. So I mean, these are
typical figures which exemplify the uncompetitive position that
European farmers in general will find themselves in.

SARAH MUKHERJEE: Prof. Michael Wilson. And of course we'll be
returning to the issue of genetically modified crops, particularly as
the new season of GM trials begins in the next couple of weeks.

**********************************************

Scientists Call for Reason in GM Row

- Steve Farrar, The Times Higher Education Supplement, March 8, 2002
http://www.thes.co.uk/News/UK_in_depth/story.asp?id=9737

The most heated academic dispute over genetically modified organisms
since Arpad Pusztai fed potatoes to his laboratory rats has prompted
100 prominent scientists from across the globe to petition for
reasoned scientific debate.

The experts believe that the furore, which was sparked by
controversial research claiming that transgenic DNA had found its way
into non-GM Mexican maize, has ignored the science. The original
paper appeared in the journal Nature last November. It has been
criticised by scientists for using an inappropriate technique to
reach conclusions that have been seized upon by anti-GM groups.

Frustration in the biotechnology community has grown as the journal
has yet to publish critiques of the research. Meanwhile, 144
non-governmental organisations have issued a statement claiming the
scientists behind the research - Ignacio Chapela and David Quist at
the University of California, Berkeley - had become victims of a
campaign of intimidation. The NGOs accused "pro-industry academics"
of mudslinging and called on academe to "renounce immediately the use
of intimidatory tactics to silence potentially 'dissident'
scientists".

In response, 100 scientists this week published an electronic
petition. Among them are Ingo Potrykus, the Switzerland-based creator
of the vitamin A enriched GM "golden rice", and Jose Luis Solleiro,
senior researcher at the National University of Mexico. They rejected
the accusations, saying: "Scientists have a fundamental ethical
obligation to rigorously examine the results and methodology of
reported research."

Some attacked Nature for running the paper in the first place. Klaus
Ammann, director of the Bern Botanical Garden, who convenes an
influential plant biotechnology internet discussion group, said the
journal had not tackled the scientific fallout from what he felt was
flawed research. "Has Nature become a boulevard science journal
altogether?" he asked.

However, Anthony Trewavas, professor of applied biochemistry at
Edinburgh University, felt the journal had been right to prompt the
debate despite his misgivings about the technique used.
Nevertheless, he added his name to the scientists' statement and has
written to Nature asking why the researchers did not use a more
reliable test to confirm their results.

Philip Campbell, editor of Nature, denied the journal was biased
against GM in agriculture. "In editorials we have endorsed it as a
technology that should be cautiously pursued," he said. "We have
published articles and papers that are explicitly or interpretable as
being on either side of the arguments, as well as balanced accounts
of the debates."

Despite the dispute, most scientists agree that gene flow - the
process at the heart of the paper - was inevitable and would include
transgenes from GM crops. But many of the petitioners said there
were no grounds for the conclusion that such transgenes posed a
threat to native species of maize in its country of origin, as the
paper suggested.

**********************************************

China to Resume Imports of GM Soyabeans from US

- Edward Alden, Financial Times, March 7 2002 http://news.ft.com/

The US said on Thursday that China had agreed to continue imports of
genetically modified US soyabeans, heading off what could have
escalated into the first big trade dispute between the two since
China joined the World Trade Organisation.

Under the agreement, reached after negotiations in Beijing, China has
agreed temporarily to recognise US assurances that the product is
safe for human consumption. That means US farmers can continue
shipments that were set to be blocked later this month when new
Chinese food safety rules are due to take effect. Details of the plan
are set to be published next week.
The US and China had failed to resolve the issue before a visit last
month by President George W. Bush.

China is the largest market for US soyabean exports, buying more than
$1bn (£710m) worth last year. Two-thirds of the US soyabean crop is
comprised of genetically modified soyabeans, which have been shipped
to China since 1996. The Chinese plan to block imports of those
crops had aroused US fears that some of its largest agricultural
markets would follow the lead of the European Union in restricting
the crops, which the US considers to be proven as safe.

While China has not yet made its own determination on the safety of
GM foods, it had said that from March 20 all exporters would be
required to obtain a Chinese safety certificate, which could have
taken as long as 270 days. The new regulations were also criticised
by the US as unclear on how the safety assessments would be made.

US sales of soyabeans had already fallen by about $100m in the first
few months of this year because of uncertainty about the new rules.
The US had been seeking an agreement under which China would continue
to recognise US safety certificates until its new system was in
place, and would speed up processing times for its own certificates.
Both were agreed in the talks this week.
"Our expectation is that the interim agreement should allow trade to
continue if implementation moves forward," Allen Johnson, chief US
agriculture trade negotiator, said in Beijing.
Steve Censky, president of the American Soyabean Association, said:
"This agreement means the Chinese market is once again open for
soyabean imports."

Soyabean futures rose yesterday to a five-month high on the Chicago
Board of Trade after reports on the US-China agreement.

**********************************************

Speed on Seeds

- C. S. Prakash, Times of India, March 8, 2002
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=3199813

We live in a world where technology has crunched distance and time.
The last century saw change that earlier would have taken a thousand
years but the last decade saw more change than that witnessed in the
whole century. All this calls for quicker decision-making. In a world
of business at the speed of thought, it is imperative for
organisations, be they private enterprises, governments or public
institutions to speed up the decision-making process. By the time
governments in most countries constitute committees to study an issue
and formulate a response, technology has moved on. This is happening
not just in developing countries, but even in advanced countries
where the need for new kinds of institutions and legislation to cope
with new developments are being keenly felt.

In India, we have seen the way small-time entrepreneurs wired up
millions of homes for cable and satellite television long before the
government could enact legislation to regulate them. Millions of
small entrepreneurs have similarly set up a vast network of STD/ISD
booths across the country that make it possible to call anywhere,
anytime, any place. They are now taking this revolution forward with
cellphones literally taking new communications technology to the
homes of people, enabling them to make a call and pay for it in
barter terms - a cauliflower for a call, as a newspaper headline put
it. We saw this also in the way courier companies overtook the posts
and telegraph department which is now re-engineering itself to become
competitive.

I was reminded of this when I read a recent report in the
international press (thanks to the Internet, my local paper is not my
only source of information) that nine farmers in southern Brazil may
be prosecuted by the government for the illegal planting and sale of
genetically modified soyabeans. Brazil is the world's second biggest
soyabean producer and exporter of soya after the United States. But
it is the last agricultural producer and exporter of its scale to
forbid the sale of GM products. Research on GM agricultural products
is allowed, but not their sale.

Despite the ban, over half of Brazil's third biggest soyabean growing
state, Rio Grande do Sul, is estimated to be illegally planted with
GM soya, smuggled across the border from Argentina where GM is legal.
According to Brazil's Association of Seed Producers (Abrasem),
farmers, attracted by the savings offered by GM crops which need less
application of herbicides and less fuel to power machinery for
routine field work, don't care or are willing to take the risk. The
Brazilian government had threatened in the past to burn fields found
to be planted with GM seeds but such threats were never carried out.

A similar situation in India made headlines recently. An Ahmedabad
company has been accused by the government of selling transgenic
cotton seeds to several thousand farmers in at least three states.
There is reason to believe that this is not the first year when this
has happened. All this when government regulatory authorities were
busy overseeing trials of another company that had been diligently
complying with the regulatory requirements.

After much debate on fundamental points and the expression of many
fears, a decision is now imminent on transgenic cotton seeds. Such a
debate could perhaps have taken place much earlier, but now the
genetic engineering approval committee in the ministry of environment
and forests will take a final view, perhaps next week. But even as
that happens, it would be in order to keep account of the time lost
and confusion caused by the failure to coordinate policy with
reality. It is essential to reach out to technologies at defining
moments. Developing economies pay a huge price for the inability to
absorb or reject technological change at the right time. There is
also the question of orienting national strategies so that they are
constantly touched by the pace of global change.

Governments have valuable lessons to learn from this if they want to
stay ahead of technological and market developments. The speed of
development of new technologies and knowledge means that old systems
of governance are being rendered infructuous. This does not mean that
governments must abandon their responsibilities or abort regulatory
procedures. Rather they call for an open and transparent regulatory
process that takes the people into confidence and keeps them abreast
of developments all through the regulatory process so that
unscrupulous elements do not take advantage of a knowledge gap for
their own nefarious ends.

In a world where information about new technologies is available at
the press of a button on a remote or the click of a mouse at district
soochnalayas, there is a growing hunger for new technologies to
address age-old challenges. Governments have to find ways of
involving those who are going to be impacted at every stage of the
decision-making process to prevent them from getting impatient and
jumping the gun to try out technology that has not been adequately
tested.

This also calls for communication skills of a high order to
neutralise disinformation spread by elitist groups with access and
the ability to use the modern media to their advantage. A recent
study in the UK found that more than 67 per cent of the people feel
they do not know enough about genetically modified foods. The study
also found that 51 per cent would be more likely to accept GM food
and products if the government hosted field trials and assessed the
impact of growing such crops. Six biotechnology companies have now
taken some of the blame for poor information and come together to
form the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) to act on the
government's call for a public debate on the merits and demerits of
the technology. "Clearly we have not done ourselves justice in
providing good information, valid information to allow a balanced
debate", ABC chairman Stephen Smith told the media. That calls for a
collaborative effort involving government, industry and potential
users of new technology, in this case the farmers.
---
(The author is professor of plant molecular genetics, Tuskegee
University, Alabama, and is also on the overseas advisory committee
of the department of biotechnology, government of India)

******************

Bales of Hope: Why is Bt Cotton Still Denied to our Farmers?

- Editorial, Indian Express, March 11, 2002
http://www.indian-express.com/ie20020311/ed2.html

It has been said before but it bears reiteration. There has to be
something very wrong with a society that strives to deny itself the
benefits of technological progress - never mind if it renders its
rallying cries of Jai Kisan so pathetically hollow. First examine the
thicket of cliches cultivated around us: this is the biotech century,
crop diversification is critical, the plight of cotton farmers
routinely driven to suicide must be addressed forthwith.

Now recap the events of months gone by. Last year field trials of Bt
cotton seeds - seeds genetically modified to lend the crop resistance
to the boll worms that periodically destroy large chunks of India's
cotton crop - found no evidence of detriment to the environment or of
cross-pollination. Instead, trials indicate that Bt cotton could
increase the Indian farmer's fibre harvest by more than a third,
while sharply slashing his expenditure on pesticides. Permission for
farmers to sow the seeds was however withheld, with the environment
ministry's expert committee recommending yet more trials. Never mind
that Punjab's new chief minister, Amarinder Singh, estimates that 600
farmers in his state killed themselves last year after their cotton
crop failed. And that farmers in Gujarat surrendered to impatience
and illegally planted Bt cotton.

This month the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee meets once
again to decide whether cotton farmers can transition to a level
playing field and finally sow the seeds their counterparts in the US,
China and Argentina have been using for so long now. Apprehensions
about transgenic crops centre on three main concerns. One, the
insertion of genes in seeds could lead to allergic reactions. Two,
cross-pollination with ''pure'' crops could take place. And three,
pest repellent crops could lead to pesticide-resistant pests. These
are the fears. Biotechnology is still not an exact science and the
desire for further tests is always hard to repress. However, half a
decade after India began field trials in pursuit of a desperately
needed second green revolution, hazy fears must not, they cannot, be
stacked against visible benefits.

And the benefits are clear. Cotton accounts for more than half the
total pesticide expenditure in India. Besides, increasing boll worm
attacks, according to Singh, have driven Punjab's farmers to increase
their pesticide consumption way beyond the permissible level. These
environmental benefits of transgenic cotton could be supplemented
with increased fibreage. Remember, it's not just about Punjab, for
most of India's acreage under cotton is in rainfed regions which the
first green revolution bypassed but where productivity can now be
increased by transgenic seeds. China learnt the lesson fast. A decade
ago most of its cotton was destroyed by boll worms; today GM cotton
accounts for more than half a million hectares. In India, on the
other hand, boll worm attacks, high pesticide consumption and low
productivity are part of the farmer's annual cycle. Will it change?

******************

Bt Cotton Approval Coming Up

- Raj Machhan, The Times of India, March 8, 2002

CHANDIGARH: Cotton-growers may be allowed to grow the
legally-approved genetically modified cotton variety in the coming
kharif season.

According to senior officials in the ministry of agriculture, the
field trials of bacillus thercinogenesis (sic) implanted cotton
seeds, conducted under the supervision of the Indian Council of
Agriculture Research and the department of bio-technology, have shown
positive results on all parameters. It is likely to get the go-ahead
from the genetic engineering approval committee of the ministry of
environment and forests.

Official sources said the government had also taken cognisance of the
experience of other cottongrowing nations in the world, including
China, where one-third of the produce is of the Bt variety. The
genetically modified variety has attracted a great deal of attention
from farmers in Punjab and Haryana, where cotton is cultivated in
about 12 lakh (1.2 m) hectares.

Haryana financial commissioner and secretary, agriculture, Naseem
Ahmed said:''The effect of American bollworm on the cotton crop in
Punjab and Haryana assumed epidemic proportions in 2001. More than 50
per cent of the crop was lost to the disease. In Haryana alone, seven
lakh bales of cotton were produced against an estimated production of
15 lakh (1.5 m) bales.'' Ahmed said farmers failed to control the
disease despite 15 rounds of pesticide spraying.

Haryana's joint director, cotton, B S Duggal, said: ''Cotton-growers
ultimately ended up paying from their own pockets. Against an average
return of Rs 10,000 ($208) a hectare in 2001, an average cotton
grower ended up spending around Rs 11,000 ($229) just to save the
crop.'' Spraying of pesticides cost Rs 7,000 ($146) a hectare.

Officials said the fear of American bollworm led to stray cases of
farmers buying the genetically modified seeds from Gujarat on their
own. "And in some cases, they ended up buying the wrong variety due
to their ignorance,'' pointed out Haryana's director of agriculture
Rajeev Arora.

Special secretary, agricultrure, Hemendra Kumar, said:''The GM
variety cannot be introduced without stringent field trials of the
new variety. The trials have been done keeping in view the local
growing conditions, ecology, chances of development of a monoculture
and development resistance to the gene by American bollworm. The
report is ready and the decison will be known in the near future.''

**********************************************

Food Experts Set Blueprint to Gauge Biotech Risks

- David Brough, March 8, 2002, Reuters

ROME - International food experts agreed on a blueprint on Friday to
assess safety risks of genetically modified (GM) foods, the United
Nations (news - web sites) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
said.

A task force of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, meeting in
Yokohama, Japan, drew up recommendations for evaluating the safety of
foods derived from biotechnology, said Selma Doyran, a Rome-based FAO
food safety officer.

"The document covers how to assess toxicity, allergenicity and
nutritional modifications of plant varieties obtained from
biotechnology," Doyran told Reuters.
She said the draft agreement, called "Principles for the risk
analysis of foods derived from biotechnology," would be submitted for
approval to the next meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Commission in
Rome in July 2003.

Codex Alimentarius, which brings together officials from the United
Nations FAO and World Health Organisation (WHO), sets non-binding
recommendations for food standards.
The task force "reached a very important new agreement concerning the
tracing of GM products for the purpose of facilitating withdrawal
from the market when a risk to human health has been identified," FAO
said in a statement.

Genetically modified crops have caught on like wildfire among
producers in the United States, the world's largest grain exporter.
The US government has certified the crops, which mostly contain genes
added to resist herbicides or pests, as both safe to eat and harmless
to the environment.

Other governments remain more sceptical. The European Union has
delayed new approvals of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) since
1998 in response to consumer groups asking for more tests assessing
the environmental impact of the crops and the safety of food derived
from them. The blueprint says efforts should be made to improve the
capability of regulatory authorities, particularly in developing
countries, to assess and manage the safety of GM foods.

**********************

Codex Biotech Agreement Hurts Public Health and Free Trade

- Henry I. Miller, March 8, 2002, AgBioView, http://www.agbioworld.org/

The new biotechnology, or gene-splicing, applied to agriculture and
food, has a difficult road to hoe. Beleaguered by activists,
over-regulated in the United States and abroad and rejected by many
food producers, its future is uncertain. The latest blow to this
superior technology was delivered by the Codex Alimentarius
Commission, the joint food standards program of the United Nations,
whose ongoing task force on gene-spliced foods met in Japan this week
[March 4-7].

During two years of negotiations by the task force, the Europeans and
NGOs (which are permitted full participation) have led the assault
on both public health and free trade. The participants - including
the U.S. delegation, headed by a senior FDA food regulator - have
wilfully ignored scientific principles and the basic axiom that the
degree of regulatory scrutiny should be proportionate to risk. They
have also disregarded the scientific consensus that the new
biotechnology, or gene-splicing, is a refinement of older,
traditional techniques of genetic modification. They have
deliberately circumscribed only gene-spliced food products for a
compulsory "pre-market safety assessment of all [gene-spliced] foods
on a case-by-case basis" that will "look into both intended and
unintended effects, identifying new or altered hazards and
identifying changes relevant to human health, especially in regard to
key nutrients and potential allergenic components."

These requirements are more appropriate to potentially dangerous
prescription drugs and pesticides than to new, improved varieties of
tomatoes, potatoes and strawberries. None of the foods modified by
less precise, less predictable traditional techniques - which
comprise virtually the entire diet of Europeans and Americans - could
(or should) meet these standards. The requirements for gene-spliced
foods, which are both sweeping and vague, will vastly increase the
development costs of these products, drastically impair their
competitiveness in the marketplace, and limit their use.

Derailing the development of gene-spliced foods is precisely the
agenda of many of those on the task force, and the reason is clear.
As Wellesley College political scientist Robert Paarlberg has
observed, the products of agricultural biotechnology have been
"developed mostly in U.S. laboratories, widely adopted by U.S.
farmers, and pushed out onto the world market by U.S. companies with
the support of the U.S. government. (emphasis in original)." In
other words, agricultural biotechnology is an icon of American
technological success and supremacy, and our trading partners intend,
therefore, to punish it. (And, in order to justify their domestic
over-regulation, American regulators have been complicit.)

The prospect of unduly burdensome Codex standards for gene-spliced
foods is ominous - both for the prospects of the technology itself
and for U.S. hopes of WTO relief from protectionist European
policies -- because members of the World Trade Organization will, in
principle, be required to abide by those standards. In other words,
the standards will provide cover for unfair trade practices, because
with these measures in place, a country that wishes to block trade in
gene-spliced foods for any reason can defend against charges of
unfair trade practices simply by remonstrating that it's deferring to
Codex.

These unscientific standards will harm the environment and public
health by stifling the development of innovations that can increase
agricultural productivity and supplant agricultural chemicals.
Experts at the UN and in academia warn that the greatest single
threat to the planet's environment comes from the world's burgeoning
population and its demand that ever more land be brought into food
production. Yet an important answer - developing more productive
plant varieties __ will be blocked by hugely expensive regulation of
gene-spliced techniques.

Although efforts should be made to reassure the public that
gene-splicing techniques are in fact safer than more traditional
methods of genetic modification, excessive regulation is not the way
to do so. As the president of a U.S. national consumer organization
testified a decade ago to a federal investigative panel, "For obvious
reasons, the consumer views the technologies that are most regulated
to be the least safe ones. Heavy involvement by government, no matter
how well intended, inevitably sends the wrong signals. Rather than
ensuring confidence, it raises suspicion and doubt. (emphasis in
original)"

Regulation should focus on real risks and should not be triggered by
the use of one technique or another. If the current Codex approach
is adopted, the costs of biotechnology R&D will be greatly (and
unnecessarily) inflated. The result will be essentially irreversible
constraints on innovation and trade. It is moot whether there exists
a level playing field, if it is knee-deep in mud. No agreement at
all would have been a far better outcome than one whose flaws are as
manifest and pernicious (and permanent) as in the Codex standards.
---
Henry Miller is a fellow at the Hoover Institution and an adviser to
the US delegation to the Codex Alimentarius Commission task force on
biotech foods. He was an FDA official from 1979 to 1994.

**************************

WHO Study on Modern Food Biotechnology, Human Health And Development

FAO, March 8, 2002 http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp

The Food Safety Programme of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has
commissioned an evidence-based study of the human health and
development implications of GM organisms and food products. The study
began in February 2002 and a draft study report is to be completed by
late 2002. The study involves a wide range of stakeholders, including
FAO, OECD and other international organisations. For further
information, contact Dr J¯rgen Schlundt, Coordinator, Food Safety
Programme at schlundtj@who.int

**********************************************

Australia Warned of Risk of Not Producing GM Crops

- Reuters, March 7, 2002, (Courtesy of AgNet)

SYDNEY-- Biotechnology industry entrepreneurs were cited as warning
on Thursday of risks if Australia decided not to produce genetically
modified (GM) crops. The story says that Australia presently produces
only one GM crop, cotton, but is moving to introduce a commercial GM
canola crop next year.

Production of GM wheat is still seen as years away because of
consumer acceptance concerns. Keith Perrett, president of grower
organisation Grains Council of Australia, publicly raised at a major
commodities conference the issue of risks for Australia if it were
not to "progress down the GM crop path". Tim Littlejohn, head of life
science group, BioLateral Pty Ltd., was quoted as saying, "The risks
are diabolical," and that if Australia did not "play this game" it
would have no alternative but to import overseas technology developed
and owned by others.

Ken Reed, research director of life science operator Benitec
Australia Pty Ltd, was cited as saying at the Australian Bureau of
Agricultural and Resources Economics (ABARE) Outlook 2002 that the
economic risk was clear when GM crops produced economic benefits,
adding, "Economically, the proven benefits to growers and consumers
of GM products are strong, yet need to offset the cost of effective
identity preservation, segregation and traceability management
systems," Claude Gauchat of agricultural industry body AVCARE Ltd
said.

Speakers at the ABARE conference recognised the limiting power of
consumer concerns about GM foods, but were hard-pressed to provide
answers to ways of producing consumer understanding of benefits from
GM crops.

**********************************************

Prospects Bright For GM Corn In Kenya

- Crop Biotech Update, knowledge.center@isaaa.org

Laboratory trials at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI)
have identified varieties of insect resistant corn for the Africa
Region. This is a significant output of a collaborative project
code-named Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) between KARI and
the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) with
funding from the Syngenta Foundation.

The project's goal is to increase corn production and food security
for African farmers and to develop corn that offers resistance to
destructive insects. It aims to develop and deploy corn varieties
resistant to the stem borer. CIMMYT is also involved with KARI in the
development of improved locally adapted strains of corn with
tolerance to drought and low nitrogen. These projects target farmers
who rely on corn for their upkeep and who are badly affected by
changes in weather conditions.

According to Dr. Romano Kiome, Director of KARI, 17 corn genes
identified worldwide are currently undergoing trials for their
ability to confer insect resistance in corn plants.

KARI has conducted tests on identified genetically modified (GM)
plants for efficacy against insects with some positive results. The
research work involved screening local germplasm from KARI and
imported germplasm from CIMMYT for resistance to stem borers under
artificial and natural infestation. The objective was to identify
superior germplasm as well as germplasm for crossing with local corn
varieties to confer insect resistance to them.

Speaking at a recent field day at the trial site at a KARI Research
Centre in Kiboko, Dr. Kiome said that it could take three to six
years before the GM corn hits the market. Once approved, the crop
will undergo trials in green houses, followed by on-station and
on-farm settings.

The Kenyan Minister for Agriculture, Dr. Bonaya Godana who was the
chief guest at the field day challenged KARI and other scientists to
continue identifying conventional and novel sources of resistance to
stem borers and incorporate them into corn varieties that are adapted
to Kenya's agro-ecological zones. He emphasized that one positive
aspect of the IRMA project is that varieties and technologies that
are appropriate for other African nations may be extended to them.

****************

Multiple Site Field Trials In Philippines Show Superior Performance of Bt
Corn

- Crop Biotech Update, knowledge.center@isaaa.org

Never has a technology in the Philippines spurred so much controversy
as that of Bt corn. Multiple field trials to test its effectiveness
under local conditions in Isabela, Bukidnon, Camarines Sur, and
Pangasinan even had the drama of legal battles and a series of
confrontations among those for and against the technology. One trial
in South Cotabato was never completed as anti-Bt corn protesters
uprooted the crop.

What is the real score? Dr. Leonardo A. Gonzales, an international
expert on agricultural economics, found out that Bacillus
thuringiensis (Bt) corn proved to be relatively superior over non-Bt
corn in terms of yield, costs, profit and subsistence level carrying
capacity (nutritional food security). Highlights of his recently
completed research entitled "Likely transcendental effects of
agri-biotechnology: the case of Bt hybrid corn in the Philippines"
were presented during the Symposium on Bt Technology held at the
SEARCA Auditorium, Los Banos, Laguna on the occasion of the
University of the Philippines Los Ba³os College of Agriculture
Foundation celebration.

Gonzales, who is also president and chairman of SIKAP/STRIVE
Foundation, provided an intensive socio-economic analysis of the corn
production environment where the multi-location field trials of Bt
corn are taking place. These include six sites (three in Isabela; one
in Bukidnon, one in Camarines Sur, and one in Pangasinan). The
analysis was limited to the wet season of 2001 and it analyzed the
likely transcendental effects of Bt corn. Transcendental effects are
"probable socio-economic impacts affecting trade, aggravation of the
prosperity gap between the rich and the poor, and disparity in income
and wealth distribution within societies".

Among the major findings were the following:
* On the average, Bt corn yields were higher by 41 percent than
non-Bt within the field trial sites. Likewise, in comparison to
non-Bt corn in farmers' field, Bt corn had higher yields, averaging
60 percent.
* There was a cost advantage of 24 percent in favor of Bt corn. This
means that it cost P2.81 ($0.056) per kilo to produce Bt corn within
trial sites as compared to P3.71 ($0.074) per kilogram, for non-Bt.
In farmers' fields, an average of 13 percent cost advantage of Bt
corn in high yield group and 38.5% cost advantage of Bt corn in low
yield groups were also observed.

* Bt corn also outperformed non-Bt in terms of profitability within
the trial sites by 25 percent or 15 percent better than farmers
belonging to high yield group, and 86 percent higher than farmers in
low yield category. Profit gaps are extremely large between Bt and
non-Bt corn.
* Results of the subsistence level carrying capacity were also in
favor of Bt corn. This variable answers the question of whether net
income from corn production can cover the minimum subsistence
expenditure requirements of 2000 kilocalories per capita per day.
Farmers' income on the average from non-Bt corn were not enough to
cover the cost of procuring a food basket of 2,000 kilocalories.
* About 84 per cent of farmer respondents expressed their awareness
and willingness to buy Bt corn seed once available in the market. The
major reasons cited were high yields and less use of pesticides.

Gonzales recommends a continuing evaluation of the socio-economic
effects of the dry season multi-location field trials. Initial
findings, however, demonstrate the potential of Bt corn as a viable
option for farmers in the Philippines.

For further information, email Dr. Leonardo A. Gonzales at
strive@lgn.csi.com.ph

******************

Uganda Ventures Into Agbiotech

- Crop Biotech Update, knowledge.center@isaaa.org

Agro Genetic Laboratories Ltd. (AGT) is Uganda's first commercial
agricultural biotechnology laboratory. A joint investment by Ugandans
and Swedes, AGT was granted approval by Uganda's National Council of
Science and Technology to produce coffee and banana plantlets using
tissue culture.

Erostus Nsubuga, AGT director, explained that the laboratory is
capable of producing millions of plantlets from high quality coffee
and bananas. Private sector involvement, says Otim Nape, senior
scientist of Uganda's National Agricultural Research Organization
(NARO), is welcomed as there is a big demand for planting material in
a commercial scale basis which their organization cannot supply.

For more information:
http://mail.merid.org/Rockefeller/biotech.nsf/Stories/2C86

**********************************************

The Global Franken-Egg Scandal Will Break Today

- From Our NGO Correspondent, Dr Jorge Bosque of the Institute of
Eggoecology, Berkeley, CA.

Press Release: Embargoed until 00.00 Easter Monday 2002

Mick Sunny, of the transnational NGO Eggs R' Us (ERU), plans to open
his 'Roosters' Rights' campaign on the egg-symbolic day of Easter
Monday. Mick has accused the Central Group of International Egg
Producers (CGIEP) of releasing eggs with spotless yolks into an
unsuspecting world. This was a fundamental denial of Roosters' Rights
and Mick was all for taking it to the World Court. 'We want our
traditional red spots back!' Mick declared. 'Ham and eggs doesn't
taste the same without the spots'.

Mick's colleague Faith revealed the startling news that ERU
researchers had uncovered spotless eggs in supermarkets across the
US. 'The public have a right to know that these spotless eggs are
'Terminator' eggs!! They must be labelled. They have deliberately
been made sterile by multinational egg producers to prevent poor
people hatching their own eggs at home. This will stop the further
evolution of hens, cause genetic erosion, undermine biodiversity,
threaten global food security, infringe Roosters' Rights and Human
Rights, destroy the family farm, Etc ä (ETC is other bad things Mick
asked me to say, but I've forgotten what).'

In a campaign orchestrated by ERU, waves of the Franken-egg scandal
are already breaking worldwide. In Europe, the International
Coalition for Spotted Eggs (ICSE) in Brussels claimed that the
Terminator egg scandal was an attempt by the WTO to undermine small
(but heavily subsidized) red-spotted-egg farms in Europe. Roosters'
Rights must prevail over the WTO internationally. In India, Padmina
Kali, the large NGO, led a gang to smash unspotted eggs in local
markets in Delhi. When it was pointed out that these were actually
red-spotted eggs, and that there were as yet no unspotted eggs in
India, she said eggs would be unspotted in ten years, so they were
being trashed now.

She also claimed that research published in the reputable journal
'Nature' has shown that unspotted eggs of the Indian Jungle Fowl
(Gallus gallus, ancestor of all domestic hens) had just been found in
the remote Himalayan state of Manipur, a clear case of
biocontamination, evidence of egg-export by multinationals, and a
threat to the global Centre of Hens' Egg Biodiversity, Indian
National Sovereignty, and future egg production worldwide. (This was
disputed by the Rhode Island Red Egg Producers Association, who
claimed that it was obvious that their eggs were the original
red-spotted egg; that these were already patented; and that anyone
selling Indian Jungle-Fowl eggs, spotted or not, would have to pay
royalties). Eggs R Us has demanded that CGIEP prevent further
unspotted eggs being imported into Third World Centres of Egg
Diversity; check their cold stores for contamination by unspotted
eggs; and stop telling lies about their role in the spread of
unspotted eggs - everyone knew it was them.

Meanwhile, internationally, the UN Egg and Fish Organization (UNEFO) in
Rome
claimed that all eggs with red-spotted yolks are global common
heritage, in the public domain, and therefore part of a Multilateral
Egg System (MES). Anyone producing unspotted eggs commercially would
have to contribute to 'Roosters' Rights' in the form of an
international fund to maintain spotted eggs in situ.

In Britain, the Soil and Egg Association (SEA) claimed [rightly for
once] that red-spotted eggs contained a 'life-principle', that this
was essential to human health and, further, that cardio-vascular
disease could be prevented by eating at least a dozen red-spotted
eggs a day. When questioned over these claims and their vested
interests (SEA's main source of income is its network of eggs
inspectors who certify spotted-egg farms), all at SEA claimed that
unspotted eggs were unnatural, unhealthy, and even toxic and that to
question the SEA's source of funding was a smear campaign.

As ripples from the breaking Franken-egg scandal spread through the
international NGO community, a scientific-religious NGO claimed that
plants too were threatened by the global spread of biosterility: they
had long known that all plant food had to be fully sexually
impregnated for human vitality, and that they never consumed oranges,
mangoes, seedless grapes, potatoes, yams, bananas, sugar and tea
(most of which had been 'terminated' by farmers or nature long ago).
There was currently schism in the group, as some claimed that
'Terminator'-seedless hops were the essence of beer and that beer was
therefore strictly forbidden: opponents held that
sexually-impregnated barley was more important, and that beer was
great stuff.

From their offices overlooking San Francisco Bay, the Round End First
Always group (REFA, now known as the International Egg and
Development Institute) proudly recall their 1977 campaign showing
that traditional Mexican spotted-egg farmers, helped by evil US
multinationals, were undermining Californian small-farm egg producers
with cheap imports. REFA, named after their book of the same name,
has always claimed there were already enough spotted eggs in the
world for everybody, that hunger was someone else's problem, that
boiled eggs should definitely be opened round end first, and that
lots of rich US Foundations supported this latter claim with hard
cash.

REFA also spurned the suggestion that they and ERU were mounting a
joint media campaign to have one of their former associates, Gary
Ducker, appointed as President of CGIEP, so that he could personally
prevent the global biocontamination caused by the uncontrolled spread
of unspotted eggs. Gary, a red-spotted-yolk and 'Roosters' Rights'
fundamentalist, author of the book 'Scrambling: Eggs, Politics and
the Loss of the Red Spot', was not available for comment.