Today in AgBioView:
* Monsanto seeks USDA approval for new Bt corn
* Summit leaders give biotech go ahead at Barcelona
* Egypt researches biotech crops, sees income
* Geneticist Sees Worry Over GM Foods Persisting
* UK: Iceland information investigation nearing completion
Monsanto seeks USDA approval for new Bt corn
March 18, 2002
WASHINGTON - After four years of field tests of a new, genetically
modified Bt corn under government supervision, Monsanto Co asked the U.S.
Agriculture Department for permission to move ahead with commercializing
the crop, the USDA said.
In a Federal Register notice, the USDA asked farm groups, plant experts,
consumer activists and others to comment on Monsanto's request by May 13.
Monsanto's new crop is genetically engineered to resist the destructive
larvae of a certain corn rootworm pest. The corn plant is designed to
express a naturally occurring pesticide known as Bacillus thuringiensis
kumamotoensis, the USDA said.
Monsanto asked the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to
grant non-regulated status to the new corn plant, saying that its studies
and tests showed the crop posed no risk to the environment.
Because the corn plant involves a natural pesticide, Monsanto has also
filed an application to register the crop with the Environmental
Protection Agency, which regulates pesticides.
Other varieties of Bt corn have been widely used by U.S. farmers in recent
Last month, a National Academies of Science report urged the USDA to
tighten its reviews of potential environmental effects of new biotech
crops before approving them for commercial use. The independent science
panel said the USDA's environmental assessments were "superficial" and
that the department failed to check the impact of new gene-spliced crops
after they were put on the market.
The USDA reviews about 1,000 applications each year from biotech companies
wishing to either test or sell new genetically-engineered plants.
Summit leaders give biotech go ahead at Barcelona
Brussels, 16 March 2002 ˝ EU leaders gave full backing to the European
CommissionÝs life sciences and biotechnology strategy at the Barcelona
Summit. ýThey have followed their Stockholm commitments on biotech,ţ says
Hugo Schepens, Secretary General of EuropaBio, ýbecause they know that the
Lisbon summit goals cannot be reached without it. No other technology
offers the same potential for job creation, innovation and growth.ţ
Biotechnology is a broad economic opportunity in healthcare, food and
industrial applications and offers considerable environmental and
sustainability benefits. While Europe has now more biotech companies than
the US, we produce fewer products, employ fewer people and have less
finance to develop the industry. Even though 2000 was the best year yet
for European biotech, the USA increased their lead. ýWe are accelerating,
but those we try to catch up with run even faster,ţ says Schepens.
EuropaBio calls on the EU to invest in skills and training of people, to
create a predictable legal framework that is respected and implemented
across the internal market and to encourage entrepreneurship and private
and public investment in the biotech sector.
The European Commission estimates that by 2005 the European biotechnology
market could be worth over ─ 100 billion. By the end of the decade,
global markets including sectors where life sciences and biotechnology
will constitute a major portion of the new technology applied could amount
to over ─ 2000 billion (equivalent to the 2001 GDP of Germany).
Most of the actions recommended by the Commission in their life sciences
and biotechnology strategy require active involvement by Members States.
ýThe next crucial meetings are the Council meetings later this Spring at
which we expect ministers to address the specific recommendations made in
the policy paper for their responsible areas,ţ says Schepens, ýthe roadmap
is there ˝ we must all do our part now.ţ
EuropaBio has nearly 40 corporate members operating worldwide and 18
national biotechnology associations representing some 1000 SMEs involved
in research and development, testing, manufacturing and distribution of
biotechnology products. EuropaBio, the voice of European bioindustries,
aims to be a promoting force for biotechnology and to present its
proposals to industry, politicians, regulators, NGOs, and the public at
For further information please contact: EuropaBio 6 Avenue de l'Arm╚e,
1040 Brussels, Tel. + 32 2 735 03 13, Fax: +32 2 735 49 60 Mob: +32 475 93
Egypt researches biotech crops, sees income
March 16, 2002
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt - Egypt is conducting research into genetically modified
(GM) crops jointly with U.S. life sciences companies and expects to earn
income from patents and exports, a leading plant scientist said on
Magdy Madkour, director of the state-backed Agriculture Genetic
Engineering Research Institute (AGERI), said prospects of increased crop
yields from biotechnology appealed to Egypt because the country has
limited arable land, only one source of water, the Nile, and a growing
Crops spliced with genes can boost yields and resistance to pests, drought
and salinity. They can also reduce reliance on expensive chemical
Independently or jointly with some U.S. biotech companies, AGERI is
genetically engineering cotton, maize, wheat, tomatoes, potatoes and other
crops experimentally, Madkour told a biotechnology conference.
``We hope to get the biotech cotton to the market very soon,'' he told
The conference, which runs until Tuesday, is a rare opportunity for
scientists in the developing world to discuss the impact of biotechnology
on food, health and the environment.
AGERI is developing GM cotton resistant to insects in cooperation with
U.S. life sciences company Monsanto (MON.N), Madkour said.
``We are paving the way for the acceptance of transgenic cotton in
Egypt,'' he said.
Egyptian cotton, among the world's finest, is the country's main
agricultural export. Agriculture contributes 20 percent of Egypt's export
AGERI is working with U.S. biotech group Pioneer to develop GM commercial
maize varieties resistant to the stem borer pest.
``In agreements of this kind, intellectual property rights must be worked
out beforehand,'' Madkour said, adding that AGERI expected to share income
from new patents.
``The relationship between AGERI, an Egyptian public sector institution,
and Pioneer, a U.S. private company, was forged through a relationship
that involved common business interests,'' the scientist said.
Separately, AGERI scientists are working on GM potato strains resistant to
insects and viruses, GM tomatoes resistant to pests, drought- and
salinity-resistant GM wheat, and GM melons and squashes able to fight off
In a public-private partnership, AGERI, in cooperation with a new company
Biogro International, has developed a biological pesticide, now marketed
as Agerin, Madkour said.
Egypt began its biotechnology research programme in 1990.
Geneticist Sees Worry Over GM Foods Persisting
March 17, 2002
By David Brough
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt - Worries about genetically modified foods will endure
until the products are proven to be safe and scientists can convince
people they offer some benefit, a prominent geneticist said Sunday.
"We will not go forward at all simply by reassuring consumers from a
scientific viewpoint," Brian Johnson, head of the Biotechnology Advisory
Unit at the British government's nature conservation agency, told Reuters.
"Consumers perceive that they are the people who are taking any risks that
might be there and they can see no real benefit to them of eating GM
foods," said Johnson, who advises British authorities the release of
genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment.
"They are thoroughly convinced that all the benefits are there for the
biotech companies and all the risks are for them," he said in an interview
on the sidelines of a biotechnology conference.
Consumer groups in Europe and Japan have protested vigorously against what
the popular media have termed "Frankenstein foods," fearing health and
environmental risks from genetically modified crops.
Environmental activists have uprooted GM crops and disrupted shipments of
GM grain and oilseed cargoes from the United States, which staunchly backs
foods derived from biotechnology.
Advocates of biotechnology say GM crops can boost crop yields and farmers'
incomes, reduce prices and help combat hunger and disease in the
Johnson said the key to taking GM crops forward would be the development
of products that are clearly more advantageous to the environment or
"Until those products come along, I think it's going to be very difficult
to convince consumers in Europe and other parts of the world that eating
GM foods is safe and wholesome," he said.
Johnson downplayed the current safety concerns.
"The health risks are extremely small by the time the food has actually
been through the regulatory system," he said.
"The human digestive tract is remarkably good at dealing with a huge range
of substances that are produced by genes," he added.
Johnson said GM foods could only be linked to allergies in the same way as
conventional foods. Pollen from commercially grown conventional oilseed
rape, for example, could trigger allergies, he said.
"We put up with the risks of allergies simply because we can see the
benefits of growing oils to replace the fats that we have traditionally
eaten in our food which are so bad for us," he said.
The conference in Alexandria, entitled "Biotechnology and sustainable
development: Voices of the south and north," ends on Tuesday.
UK: Iceland information investigation nearing completion
18 Mar 2002
Source: just-food.com editorial team
Frozen food retailer Iceland, now known as the Big Food Group, is about to
get its knuckles rapped by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which
is expected to announce that the company withheld information from
investors about deteriorating sales between September 2000 and January
In December 2000, Iceland was scandalised when its founder and then
executive chairman Malcolm Walker sold four million shares for ú13.5m just
weeks before issuing a profits warning that saw the firmÝs stock price
Walker resigned within a month of his sale, but not before the FSA started
an investigation into the companyÝs affairs and its openness with its
Three incidents were flagged for particular attention, as they could have
been interpreted as misleading investors.
IcelandÝs interim statement of 5 September 2000 saw Walker insist that the
company was making ýgood progressţ. He said then that he felt ýconfidence
On December 13, while WalkerÝs shares were being told, a meeting of
analysts at Iceland's headquarters in Deeside, Wales, was told that
management were ýpositive on the group's future prospectsţ.
Lastly, a statement released on 22 January 2001 revealed that underlying
sales had fallen 5.5% during December, traditionally a period of sales
growth due to the Christmas traffic.