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Date:

April 4, 2002

Subject:

Nature and Mexican Maize; Rice Genome Decoded!; Bt Cotton in India

 

Today in AgBioView - April 5, 2002:

* Nature Editorial note
* Press Release from Matthew Metz on Transgenic Corn in Mexico
* A RESEARCH HOAX
* Journal Regrets Printing Corn Study
* Scientists Doubt GM Corn Found in Mexico
* Journal Raises Doubts on Biotech Study
* NATURE CLARIFIES IMPACT OF GM CROPS ON BIODIVERSITY IN MEXICO

* Decoding the rice genome: Scientist welcome a new era of sharing and
knowledge
* A Deal for the Rice Genome
* Genetic maps of 2 rice types 99% complete
* EXPERTS SAY THEY HAVE KEY TO RICE GENES
* THE IMPORTANCE OF RICE
* SEQUENCING OF RICE GENOME COULD HOLD HOPE FOR STARVING MILLIONS

* Organic shopper wrong to believe in healthy option
* Ban on GM soya oil not feasible, say processors
* Biotechnology key to future of agriculture
* Clearing The Air On BT Cotton
* BIOTECHNOLOGY AND SOCIAL CHANGE

From: "Willy DE GREEF"
Subject: Where is the Nature editorial?
Date: Thu, 4 Apr 2002 21:04:40 +0200

Dear AgBioViewers,

Like yourself, I'm thrilled by the news that Nature is taking the
unprecedented step to aknowledge that it published a paper that should not
have been published in the first place. However, I'm running into a small
problem: wherever I search on the Nature website, I cannot find a trace of
the editorial note you (and the Washington Post) refer to. If someone is
smarter than me in digging it out of their electronic site, it would be
great if you could either post the text or the direct link in your next
edition. Many people are going to need that reference, not least those
who, like me, will be in the frontline fights for biotech in the coming
weeks at the Conference of the Parties of the Biodiversity Convention and
the ICCP3 of the Cartagena Protocol in The Hague.

Many thanks in advance for your efforts, and keep up the good work!

Willy De Greef
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Nature Editorial note, page 1:

In our 29 November issue, we published the paper "Transgenic DNA
introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico" by David
Quist and Ignacio Chapela. Subsequently, we received several criticisms of
the paper, to which we obtained responses from the authors and consulted
referees over the exchanges. In the meantime, the authors agreed to obtain
further data, on a timetable agreed with us, that might prove beyond
reasonable doubt that transgenes have indeed become integrated into the
maize genome. The authors have now obtained some additional data, but
there is disagreement between them and a referee as to whether these
results significantly bolster their argument.

In light of these discussions and the diverse advice received, Nature has
concluded that the evidence available is not sufficient to justify the
publication of the original paper. As the authors nevertheless wish to
stand by the available evidence for their conclusions, we feel it best
simply to make these circumstances clear, to publish the criticisms, the
authors' response and new data, and to allow our readers to judge the
science for themselves.

Editor, Nature
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: 5 Apr 2002 11:05:53 -0800
Subject: Corn
From: "Matt Metz"

Press Release from Matthew Metz on Transgenic Corn in Mexico

Department of Microbiology, University of Wasington, Seattle

The Quist and Chapela study is a testament to technical incompetence.
Their mishandling of molecular biology made it so that no quantifiable
results can ever be had from their specimens, and totally erroneous
conclusions were made. Evidence for the presence of transgenic DNA in
Mexican maize remains dubious and empirical. The conclusions that there
was, ìa high frequency of transgene insertion into a variety of genomic
contextsî and that transgenes, ìbecome re-assortedî are more mysticism
than science. This could have been avoided had the authors ever been true
to the scientific method by paying attention to the possibility that their
hypotheses and data were flawed. Instead the authors continue to evade
taking responsibility for their errors, and continue to misrepresent prior
literature as being consistent with their beliefs. The authors have
indiscriminately accused their critics of financial conflicts of interest.
They happen to be fervent anti-genetic engineering activists. They
failed to carefully scrutinize their own data, and it would seem that an
ideological conflict encouraged this lapse in scientific integrity.

This piece of bad science has contributed only confusion to issues raised
by the possibility of transgenic corn being present in Mexico. Some
important points are:

1.Transgenic DNA is subject to the same constraints as other DNA in a
genome and does not behave like an infectious agent.

2.The characteristics of maize landraces have been robust in the face of
decades of exposure to commercial varieties, and there is no evidence that
the latest commercial varieties will displace these characteristics. In
fact, if any transgenic DNA is actually present in traditional varieties
it demonstrates that the traditional and transgenic characteristics can
coexist.

3.Farmers have selected variation that appears in their fields for
millennia. They should not be relegated to the role of museum keepers of
static ëtraditional varietiesí. Numerous international seed banks keep
stores of important crop diversity.

4.Cultivated corn is not a wild population, it is a domesticated and
continually human-manipulated population.

Matt Metz
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Washington, Seattle
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A RESEARCH HOAX

BRITISH SCIENCE JOURNAL ADMITS PUBLISHING PHONY REPORT ABOUT BIOTECH CORN
IN MEXICO

KNIGHT-RIDDER TRIBUNE
BY DENNIS T. AVERY
APRIL 5, 2002

WASHINGTON, D.C. After a five-month holdout, the besieged British journal
Nature has raised the white flag of surrender admitting that it published
as fact a report that turned out to be merely the latest in a series of
biotech hoaxes.

In a rare skinback, the journal's editors disavowed a November story
reporting that genes from genetically modified corn were ìpollutingî the
DNA of a farmer-bred corn in an area of southern Mexico believed to be the
birthplace of corn.

Based on widespread criticism of the article by independent scientists and
further assessments by outside referees, the editors said the evidence
submitted was "not sufficient to justify the publication of the original
paper."

Two University of California researchers had published a story last fall
claiming theyíd found GM corn popping up in fields near Oaxaca in southern
Mexico.

The report was especially disturbing because it fanned fears that genes
from genetically modified crops could actually "jump" into regular plants
and destabilize their genetic makeup. Indeed, environmental activists, who
have long warned of such nightmares, quickly exploited the Nature article.

The authors of the Nature piece, David Quist and Ignatio Chapela of the
University of California at Berkeley raised the fear that biotech corn
might already have destroyed the ancient genetic blueprint for one of the
worldís most important crop plants.

The radical environmental group Greenpeace immediately seized on the
report with a spokesperson labeling the so-called genetic invasion "a
worse attack on Mexican culture than if they had torn down the Cathedral
of Oaxaca and built a McDonald's over it." One of the researchers,
Chapela, sounded less like an objective scientist than an eco-activist
himself when he told a USA Today reporter that ìdiversity is going to be
crowded out by these genetic bullies.î That seemed to echo Greenpeace's
line that ìthere are over 300 local and wild varieties of Mexican maize,
which stand to be lost . . .î Unfortunately, for Greenpeace and other
anti-GMO groups, Quist and Chapela's findings began to dissolve under the
skeptical questioning of respected genetic scientists across the globe.

At least three leading groups of scientists sent separate letters to
Nature challenging Quist and Chapelaís conclusions; one includes more than
100 names, several of them from the pair's home base UCal/Berkeley.
Another scientist, cited by Quist and Chepala, wrote the scientific
journal to say they misinterpreted his work.

A leaked internal memo from an independent scientist appointed by Nature
to review the challenges says, in part, ìI am in complete agreement with
the common theme in all four [critical] letters, which is that the Ö data
presented is simply not sufficient to warrant ANY of the conclusions of
the authors.

"Simply stated, the authors have not demonstrated that transgenes or parts
of transgenes from industrially produced maize have become incorporated
into the genome of the maize landraces they studied." The scientist added
that the authorsí response that used a widely accepted method to screen
for transgenes is simply a gross misrepresentation of laboratory
practices. He concluded that " . . . Nature should demand that the
authors retract their manuscript" if they cannot provide better
documentation that genetically modified genes actually ended up in native
corn crops.

From a historical perspective, it's important to note that Mexican farmers
have experimented with every high-yielding corn plant they could find for
thousands of years. Thatís how corn grew from the thumb-sized ears of
teosinte to todayís forearm-sized ears.

While Quist and Chapela's contention seems highly doubtful, it's likely
that transgenic corn genes will turn up in Mexico eventually but without
endangering the worldís corn crop in any way.

In fact, there is no wild corn in Mexico at all. Claiming that new genes
in Mexicoís farmer varieties will endanger the genetic base of the corn
crop is like claiming that cross-breeding two Chihuahuas may alter the
genetic makeup of the wild Mexican lobos or wolf.

This is the second time in recent years that Nature has published an
article that touched off a major, and, as it turned out, unwarranted furor
about biotech crops.

In 1999, the journal published a paper by Dr. John Losey of Cornell
indicating that biotech corn would harm the larvae of Monarch butterflies.
Field studies subsequently showed that Monarchs are safer in biotech
cornfields than in
fields that are sprayed with the usual insecticides.

It's particularly crucial that respected scientific journals like Nature
do not succumb to the political passions of the moment.

They need to get it right the first time because the stakes on this
increasingly crowded planet are so high.

To protect the planetís wildlands in 2050 and beyond, the world must
triple the yields on its current farmlands or eradicate 4 billion people.
Biotechnology may well be the solution, and respected opinion makers such
as Nature must ensure that they present scientifically accurate
information to the public.

Dennis T. Avery is a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute of
Indianapolis, and was formerly a senior policy analyst for the U.S.
Department of State. Readers may write him at Hudson Institute/DC, 1015
18th Street NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20036.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Journal Regrets Printing Corn Study

Associated Press
Thu Apr 4, 5:39 PM ET
By JOSEPH B. VERRENGIA, AP Science Writer

In an unusually bitter and public dispute among scientists, the journal
Nature says it should not have published a study concluding that DNA from
genetically engineered corn contaminated native maize in Mexico.

"Nature has concluded that the evidence available is not sufficient to
justify the publication of the original paper," editor Phillip Campbell
said in a terse message in the latest issue of the distinguished journal.

However, Campbell stopped short of retracting the original paper, which
was peer-reviewed and published in November. Instead, Nature printed two
harsh new criticisms of the work, as well as a defense by the researchers
that included new data.

Campbell wrote that Nature would allow its readers "to judge the science
for themselves." The London-based journal said that Campbell was on
vacation and that Nature would have no further comment.

The controversy further clouds the debate over the possible risks of
genetically modified crops.

In their study, David Quist, a graduate student at the University of
California at Berkeley, and microbial ecology professor Ignacio Chapela
reported that genes from laboratory-altered strains of corn had found
their way into native corn growing in the rural Oaxaca region.

In 1998, Mexico had banned the planting of genetically modified corn to
protect of its indigenous maize.

The Berkeley researchers' findings had heightened fears about the possible
risks of genetically engineered crops.

Nature's decision enraged the study's authors, who conceded only minor
interpretive errors.

"We certainly stand by our original, main statement and I have yet to see
anyone challenge it legitimately," Chapela said.

Primarily, critics suggested the researchers misidentified sequences in
the maize genes and mistook them for genetically modified material.

"The Quist and Chapela study is a testament to technical incompetence,"
said Matthew Metz, of the University of Washington and a co-author of one
of the two criticisms. "Evidence for the presence of transgenic DNA in
Mexican maize remains dubious and empirical."

"Since Quist and Chapela published bad science in Nature, both scientists
and Nature must come absolutely clean, retract and apologize. There is no
other issue," said geneticist Michael Freeling, also of Berkeley and a
co-author of a critical letter published by Nature.

Additionally, Nature arranged for three more scientists, all unidentified,
to review both the criticisms and the additional material supplied by the
authors, as well as the original paper.

All three concluded that technical errors marred the research.

One called for a retraction. The others said that genetically modified
corn is probably growing in Mexico, but that scientific proof is still
lacking.

Technology advocates described the article as a "full-blown distortion"
that Nature's reconsideration does not completely erase.

"It will be very difficult to uproot the misperceptions that have been
sown in the public's mind," said Lisa J. Dry, spokeswoman for the
Biotechnology Industry Association in Washington.

Biotechnology critics lamented the study's apparent shortcomings.

"We need to have the best science that we can get and that our
understanding and proper dealing with genetically engineered crops is
enhanced by that good science," said Jane Risser of the Union of Concerned
Scientists.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Scientists Doubt GM Corn Found in Mexico

Reuters
Thu Apr 4, 5:15 PM ET
By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists cast doubt on Thursday on American
researchers' claims they had found evidence genetically modified corn had
contaminated wild maize grown in a remote area of Mexico.

Ignacio Chapela and David Quist of the University of California, Berkeley,
seemed to confirm environmentalist's fears when they reported finding
traces of transgenic DNA in the maize last November.

Their research, published in the science journal Nature, sparked calls for
a global moratorium on GM crops and fueled worries GM material used to
make plants resistant to pests or bad weather could be transferred to
other wild species.

But other researchers said on Thursday the study was flawed and the
conclusions scientists drew from it wrong.

"Evidence for the presence of transgenic DNA in Mexican maize remains
dubious and empirical," Matthew Metz, a geneticist and microbiologist at
the University of Washington in Seattle, said.

The wild maize could have been contaminated, Metz said, but the research
was inconclusive and failed to address issues such as the extent of
possible contamination or any negative impact.

"The study did not answer any of the important questions -- it just added
confusion," he said in a telephone interview.

In a letter published on Nature's Web site (www.nature.com) Metz and his
colleague Johannes Futterer added transgenic DNA did not act like an
infectious agent and there was no evidence transgenes could fragment or
scatter as the study suggested.

Nick Kaplinsky and researchers at Berkeley questioned in a separate letter
to the journal whether genuine transgenes had been detected in the wild
maize.

"Transgenic corn may be being grown illegally in Mexico, but Quist and
Chapela's claim that these transgenes have pervaded the entire native
maize genome is unfounded," they said.

"It is important for information about genetically modified organisms to
be reliable and accurate, as important policy decisions are at stake,"
they added.

Quist and Chapela, in a response to the criticism, admitted some of it was
valid but said they stood by their findings.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/05/science/05CORN.html

Journal Raises Doubts on Biotech Study

New York Times
By CAROL KAESUK YOON
April 5, 2002

ive months after publishing a report that Mexican native corn was
contaminated with genetically engineered DNA, the journal Nature made the
highly unusual move yesterday of announcing that it should not have
published the work.

The announcement was printed online, with two critiques and a defense of
the study.

The original study alarmed environmentalists because the native corn
varieties had been collected from a region considered to be the world's
center of diversity for corn, exactly the kind of repository of genetic
variation that many scientists had hoped to protect from genetically
engineered DNA.

The conclusion of contamination has largely remained unchallenged.
Instead, scientists have focused their criticism on data suggesting that
genetically engineered DNA might behave in unexpected ways, scattering
around the genome ó something that opponents of so-called FrankenDNA have
feared. It is that suggestion, and dissatisfaction with the quality of the
work, that have caused ink to be poured and mud to be slung.

As often occurs after a study suggests problems with genetically
engineered crops, opponents of biotechnology have taken up the cause, this
time of protecting Mexican corn. The study's authors, meanwhile, say they
find their work under intense scrutiny and themselves under professional
and personal attack.

The lead author of one critique of the study, Dr. Matthew Metz of the
University of Washington, called it a "testament to technical
incompetence" and suggested that "an ideological conflict encouraged this
lapse in scientific integrity."

While not retracting the article, Dr. Philip Campbell, editor of Nature,
wrote that in light of "diverse advice received, Nature has concluded that
the evidence available is not sufficient to justify the publication of the
original paper." Dr. Campbell declined requests for an interview.

The authors of the study, Dr. Ignacio Chapela, a microbial ecologist at
the University of California, and one of his graduate students, David
Quist, continued to say they were confident that the Mexican corn
varieties carried genetically engineered DNA.

As for their earlier suggestion that the foreign DNA might be dispersed
around the native corn genome, Dr. Chapela acknowledged technical problems
and said he and Mr. Quist were "backing off a bit."

The argument centers on the researchers' use of an experimental technique
known as inverse polymerase chain reaction. This technique allows
scientists to study the unknown DNA that flanks a stretch of identified
DNA. Using the technique, Mr. Quist and Dr. Chapela found what they said
was evidence that the foreign genes were embedded in a variety of places
in the genome, which suggested that the genes might be behaving
differently from standard DNA. The problem, researchers say, is that the
technique lends itself to results that can be misleading or difficult to
interpret.

"If real, that would have been a huge finding," said Nick Kaplinsky, plant
developmental biologist at the University of California and lead author of
one critique. He emphasized that he believed there was no evidence for
such a conclusion.

The arguments over the study are scientific, but many have pointed to the
personal and professional histories of those in the debate. For example,
Mr. Kaplinsky's experimental cornfields (which did not contain genetically
engineered plants) have been destroyed twice by vandals opposed to
biotechnology, costing him two years' worth of data. Mr. Quist has been
accused by other researchers of being an antibiotech activist and of
having destroyed Mr. Kaplinsky's fields. Both contentions are not true,
Mr. Quist says.

In an effort to bolster their findings, Dr. Chapela and Mr. Quist included
new data with their defense in the journal Nature. In addition, Dr.
Chapela pointed out that last year the Mexican government announced
results that corroborated their paper. The Mexican study has been reported
in the news media but has not yet been published in a scientific journal.

Genetically engineered corn is not approved for planting in Mexico and as
a result might not be expected to have an opportunity to interbreed with
native corn. But biotech corn, like corn genetically engineered to produce
the insecticide Bt, is imported to Mexico for use in food and appears to
be illegally planted.

Even critics of Dr. Chapela's study say that finding genetically
engineered contamination should come as no surprise. In other countries
where genetically engineered crops are banned, they have still come into
wide use, for example cotton in India and soybeans in Brazil.

In fact, Dr. Michael Freeling, co-author of one critique and a plant
geneticist at the University of California, said of the contamination of
Mexican corn, "I'd be shocked if they didn't find it there."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

NATURE CLARIFIES IMPACT OF GM CROPS ON BIODIVERSITY IN MEXICO

EuropaBio Press Statement
April 4, 2002
www.europabio.org

Brussels -In an editorial, Nature(1) has admitted yesterday that a paper
on gene flow to local Mexican corn varieties, called landraces, published
last November, was lacking scientific evidence and should not have been
printed. EuropaBio, the European association of bioindustries, welcomes
the rectification. "Scientific statements on biotechnology have important
policy implications," says Hugo Schepens, Secretary General of EuropaBio.
"They should always be handled responsibly." The Nature statement follows
a letter published in November 2001(2), by two scientists from the
University of California - Berkeley who reported that they had found
traces of GM material in landrace corn in Mexico. The article has been
called into question by many scientists who refute the authors' claims.(3)

Whether there are traces of GM material in Mexican landraces and how they
got there remains an unresolved issue. "It is predictable that transgenes
could be found in non-GM crops, whether they are "land races" or modern
hybrids, as gene flow between cultivated varieties is natural," says Simon
Barber, Director Plant Biotechnology Unit at EuropaBio. "Gene flow from
modern agricultural corn, which has many agronomical benefits, has not
threatened the continuance of Mexican landraces, neither should genes from
GM approved crops as their pollination mechanisms are identical."

It is important to consider the potential effect of GM crops on
biodiversity but there is no reason to believe that existing levels of
biodiversity are threatened by GM approved crops. When approving GM
crops, regulators take this aspect into consideration. Assessing the
impact of GM plants on the environment forms an integral part of GM plant
safety assessment around the world. EuropaBio supports science-based
procedures which have been developed by representatives of National
Governments through organisations like the OECD, the FAO and the WHO.

"What is important is not that gene flows can occur but what is the
consequence of that occurrence. Some will have no consequence, but others
might - hence it is important to assess each biotechnology project on a
case by case basis," says Simon Barber. Twenty years of experience with GM
products and hundreds of studies have reinforced the fundamental safety of
GM products on the market. The Mexican environmental ministry(4) and the
agricultural ministry(5) stated that the gene flow would not pose a risk
to human health.

The European Commission after 15 years of research on GM crops declared
"...the use of more precise technology and greater regulatory scrutiny
probably make them (i.e. GM crops) even safer than conventional plants and
foods."(6) 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 large.

For further information please contact: EuropaBio 6 Avenue de l'ArmÈe -
1040 Brussels, Tel. + 32 2 735 03 13, Fax : +32 735 49 60

E-mail: mail@europabio.org / Internet:www.europabio.org

(1) http://www.nature.com
(2) Nature (29 November 2001) Letter to the Editor 'Transgenic DNA
introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico' by David
Quist and Ignacio H. Chapela
(3) Transgenic Research - Paul Christou
http://www.checkbiotech.org/pdf/credibility.pdf
(4) SEMARNAT http://www.semarnat.gob.mx
(5) SAGARPA http://www.sagarpa.gob.mx (Spanish only)
(6) European Commission report:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/quality-of-life/gmo/
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.agbioworld.org/biotech_info/articles/mexmaizeresource.html

Mexican Maize Resource Library

Read about how the Mexican Maize scandal started, and why Nature has
disavowed the Quist and Chapela study. Resource documents included as
well.

http://www.agbioworld.org/biotech_info/articles/mexmaizeresource.html
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From: "nicholas clark (IACR-LARS)"
Subject: GM wheat in India
Date: Fri, 5 Apr 2002 10:08:45 +0100

The article that was published in the Economic Times (in agbioview 3/4/02)
mentioned GM wheat. I thought that there wasn't any large scale planting
of GM wheat yet. Is it transgenic wheat or does it some under GM because
it is a hybrid? Does anybody know anymore about this?

Cheer,
Nick

>> For close to five years now, farmers in Punjab, nearly 70 per
>> cent of whom
>> belong to small and marginal groups, have been growing bumper
>> wheat from a
>> single hybrid seed variety - 343 - on 85 to 87 per cent of
>> the area under
>> wheat cultivation.
>>
>> Over the years, this genetically modified, disease resistant wheat
has
>> also become hugely popular with farmers in neighbouring
>> Haryana, UP and
>> Rajasthan.
>>
>
Nicholas Clark
Wallace 203
IACR-Long Ashton Research Station
Department of Agricultural Sciences
Long Ashton
Bristol
BS41 9AF
UK
nicholas.clark@bbsrc.ac.uk
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Decoding the rice genome: Scientist welcome a new era of sharing and
knowledge

International Rice Research Institute
5 April 2002

Los BaÒos - Scientists at the Philippine-based International Rice Research
Institute (IRRI) are signaling a new era in rice research with the
publishing on April 5 of the latest draft sequences of the rice genome, or
genetic makeup, of the two main types of rice grown in the world today.

"The milestone publication in this week's Science (magazine) of not one,
but two, draft genome sequences of rice brings the cereal crop of the
world's poor to center stage," wrote Ronald P. Cantrell, director general
of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and Timonthy G.
Reeves, director general of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement
Center (CIMMYT), in a commentary appearing in Science, where the genome
information was published.

"We believe that the genome sequencing of the world's two most important
rice subspecies will be the first sequencing projects to yield tangible
results for humankind from the standpoints of food security and combating
malnutrition," Dr Cantrell said. The draft sequence of the indica rice
subspecies was done by the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) in China, and
the japonica subspecies was further sequenced by a team from the Swiss
company Syngenta. Both groups published their results in Science this week
amid predictions of the enormous potential impact on rice production.

What is so special about rice production? Put simply, no other economic
activity feeds so many people, supports so many families, is so crucial to
the development of so many nations, or has more impact on our environment.
Rice production feeds almost half the planet each day, provides most of
the main income for millions of poor rural households, helps ensure social
stability in some of the world's biggest nations, and covers 11 percent of
the earth's arable area.

However, Dr. Cantrell stressed that just as important as the actual
scientific advances achieved was the public sharing of information by both
groups. "IRRI advocates broad collaborations in rice research that embrace
innovations by both the public and private sectors, with emphasis on the
need to provide the best science to serve the poor," he said. "The public
availability of the rice sequences published in this issue [of Science]
will boost this commitment.

"The continuing challenge for all scientists is to broaden the developing
world's access to information and technology," Dr. Cantrell said. "We must
provide not only finished products but also the technologies that will
enable a new generation of researchers in developing countries to solve
their food production problems."

In light of this, Syngenta's efforts to negotiate a regime for making its
rice data available have been welcomed by researchers at publicly funded
institutions - particularly at IRRI, which this week marked its 42nd year
of helping to ensure global food security and alleviate poverty.

"It is extremely important that Syngenta continue its efforts to provide
nonprofit organizations, academic institutions and governments free access
to data on the rice genome," said Per Pinstrup-Anderson, director general
of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and winner of
the 2001 World Food Prize. "We encourage Syngenta to make all relevant
data freely accessible in the public domain." IFPRI is a sister Future
Harvest center of IRRI, both of them publicly funded through the
Consultative Group on International Agriculture (CGIAR)

IRRI, like many of the other publicly funded Future Harvest centers,
relies on the broad sharing of genetic information and seed stocks to
breed crop varieties that offer farmers higher yields, greater resistance
to pests and diseases, improved tolerance for drought, submergence and
problem soils, as well as good eating quality, and ready marketability.

Dr. Cantrell also stressed that despite the great significance of the
sequencing work by the BGI and Syngenta, a complete understanding of the
rice genome has still not been reached. "These drafts will be combined
with a complete rice genome sequence being compiled by the public
International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP) coordinated by the
Japan Rice Genome Program." The finely detailed IRGSP sequence, which will
have an error rate of less than 0.01 percent, is expected to be published
by the end of this year.

"The highly accurate IRGSP sequence will serve as the gold standard for
all future investigations of genetic variation in crops," Dr Cantrell
said, adding that by decoding the rice genome, scientists had shed light
on the larger, but parallel, genomes of other agriculturally significant
cereals such as wheat and maize.

"Knowing the sequence of specific genes will allow us to tap into the
natural genetic variation of crop species," wrote Hei Leung, a plant
pathologist at IRRI, and Pamela Ronald, from the Department of Plant
Pathology at the University of California, Davis, in another commentary in
Science. "In rice, there are over 100,000 accessions of traditional rice
varieties and wild species (together referred to as germplasm) collected
from a broad range of geo-climates and held in trust" in the International
Rice Genebank at IRRI.

"These rice seeds serve as a pool of 'natural variants' with the advantage
that some of these variants (alleles) have already been 'tested' through
years of natural or artificial selection under different environmental
conditions," Drs. Leung and Ronald continued. "To date, this wealth of
information has remained largely untapped owing to the difficulty of
identifying agronomically important genes.... The convergence of the
different versions of the genome sequence by the end of 2002 will yield
great insight into the relation between sequence diversity and functional
diversity in a wide variety of germplasm, the foundation on which
agricultural productivity depends."

"Although achieving food security will require a multitude of social and
economic solutions, the new knowledge derived from genomics research will
make an important contribution," they added. "The challenge ahead for the
plant research community is to design efficient ways to tap into the
wealth of rice genome sequence information to address production
constraints in an environmentally sustainable manner."

IRRI is the world's leading international rice research and training
center. Based in the Philippines and with offices in 11 other countries,
it is an autonomous, nonprofit institution focused on improving the
well-being of present and future generations of rice farmers and
consumers, particularly those with low incomes, while preserving natural
resources. IRRI is one of 16 Future Harvest centers funded the
Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an
association of public and private donor agencies.

For more information, visit the websites of CGIAR (www.cgiar.org) or
Future Harvest (www.futureharvest.org). Future Harvest is a nonprofit
organization that builds awareness and supports food and environmental
research for a world with less poverty, a healthier human family,
well-nourished children, and a better environment. Future Harvest supports
research, promotes partnerships, and sponsors projects that bring the
results of agricultural research to rural communities, farmers, and
families in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

# # #

For additional information, contact Duncan Macintosh, IRRI, DAPO Box 7777,
Metro Manila, Philippines; telephone (63-2) 845-0563 or (63-2) 844-3351 to
53; fax: (63-2) 891-1291 or (63-2) 845-0606; email: d.macintosh@cgiar.org
Web (IRRI): http://www.irri.org ; Web (Library):
http://ricelib.irri.cgiar.org
Web (Riceweb): http://www.riceweb.org ; Web (Riceworld):
http://www.riceworld.org
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Deal for the Rice Genome

By Eliot Marshall
Science, Volume 296, Number 5565
April 5, 2002

For the second time in just over a year, Science is at the center of a
debate over public access to the data behind a major genome paper it is
publishing. The issue: Should journals refuse to publish any DNA sequence
paper unless the authors make the data freely available through a public
database such as GenBank?

On page 92, a team from the Switzerland-based agricultural biotechnology
giant Syngenta describes a draft sequence of the japonica subspecies of
rice. Under an agreement reached with Science, the company is making the
data publicly available through its own Web site (tmri.org) or on a
CD-ROM, rather than through GenBank. Scientists can use the partially
assembled raw genome sequence without strings for research, and Syngenta
will permit researchers to publish papers and have Syngenta deposit a
gene's worth of DNA data in GenBank without negotiation. (The raw data
include minimal notes, an official says, such as labels on DNA likely to
be "nonrice in origin.") Larger amounts will require a specific agreement.
The company seeks no "reach-through" intellectual property rights, but
scientists doing commercial work must negotiate their own data-access
agreements.

Last year, Science touched off a furor when it struck a similar deal with
Celera Genomics of Rockville, Maryland, as a condition of publishing
Celera's draft of the human genome (Science, 16 February 2001, p. 1304).
Celera gives noncommercial researchers free access to raw DNA sequence but
charges a fee for access to its annotated gene database. Criticism in a
more muted form surfaced again several weeks ago when word of a possible
Syngenta agreement with Science began to spread in the genomics community.
A score of leading researchers--including Michael Ashburner of Cambridge
University, U.K., David Botstein of Stanford University, and Maynard Olson
of the University of Washington, Seattle--circulated a letter arguing that
failure to insist that the sequence be deposited in GenBank constituted a
"very serious threat" to genomics research.

"We understand that concern," says Science Editor-in-Chief Donald Kennedy,
noting that it would be ideal to have "one-stop shopping" for all genomic
data at GenBank. But, Kennedy said at a press briefing last week, the
company would have been unwilling to publish its raw data if it had been
required to deposit the sequence in GenBank. "We think that the public
benefit of bringing this important science out of trade secret status
greatly outweighs" the cost of granting an exception, Kennedy said.

The arrangement has not so far prompted the intense reaction that greeted
the Celera agreement. One reason is that Syngenta has promised to work
closely with publicly funded groups to produce more complete drafts of the
rice genome (see Letters, p. 45). Monsanto of St. Louis, Missouri, which
produced its own draft of the japonica sequence 2 years ago but hasn't
published it, is also cooperating in this endeavor. Members of the public
consortium working with Monsanto say that 30% of the data they have
released to GenBank originated from the company.

The Syngenta sequence will be useful in refining draft sequences. "Thanks
to Syngenta, I don't think it will be so hard" to close gaps between the
more than 100,000 fragments in the draft sequence of the indica
subspecies--also being published this week (p. 79)--says Wong Gane Ka-Shu,
a leader of the research team that sequenced indica. (The team's draft
sequence has been deposited in GenBank.)

As a result, much of the Syngenta sequence is likely to end up in GenBank
over the next "12 to 18 months," mingled with data the public groups will
be depositing, says Steven Briggs, head of Syngenta's Torrey Mesa Research
Institute in San Diego, California, which oversaw the company's sequencing
project. Asked why Syngenta is not prepared to deposit its sequence in
GenBank now, Briggs said last week that Syngenta believes it has "a
significant commercial advantage" and isn't ready to permit unrestricted
use of its data by its competitors.

Susan McCouch, a rice genome researcher at Cornell University, is
disappointed that Syngenta's data are not going directly to GenBank. This
would have made whole-genome comparisons "easy," she says, enabling more
rapid discovery of gene function. Despite the decision not to deposit data
in GenBank, Rod Wing of Clemson University in South Carolina has concluded
that the new data-sharing terms look "very good," particularly because
there are "no reach-through terms" seeking to patent scientists'
discoveries.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genetic maps of 2 rice types 99% complete

USA TODAY
Fri Apr 5, 6:21 AM ET
By Dan Vergano

Two teams of scientists today unveil the genetic maps, or genomes, of two
important types of rice, a feat researchers predict will bring increased
productivity from a grain that already feeds more than half the world.

In June 2000, scientists completed the genome of humans, heralding
possible gene-based treatments for diseases. ''I think in the long run,
the rice genome will do more for humanity than the human genome (news -
web sites) over the next 20 years,'' says Donald Kennedy, editor in chief
of the journal Science, which is publishing the rice sequencing work.

One international team mapped tropical indica rice, a variety used
worldwide. Another privately funded team looked at japonica, which grows
in temperate zones.

Although the strains of rice vary little, the groups used different
methods of counting and arrived at different totals for the number of
genes in each strain -- a range of 32,000 to 55,000, more genes than
humans have. Both analyses show that rice appears very closely related to
other cereal grains such as corn and wheat.

''What this means is that the understanding of one cereal can be used to
improve other cereals,'' says researcher Stephen Goff of Syngenta
(formerly Novartis), a Swiss-based company. Goff was co-leader of the
private effort. The indica team was headed by Jun Yu of the Chinese
Academy of Sciences and the University of Washington Genome Center in
Seattle.

Both genomes are about 99% complete. A more complete version, led by a
Japanese team, should be finished by the end of the year.

''Definitely this is a breakthrough,'' says Pamela Ronald of the
University of California, Davis, who co-wrote a Science commentary on the
genomes. Improved strains of crossbred and genetically modified rice will
result from using the genome as a tool in the lab and the rice field, she
says.

Hundreds of researchers have already begun to use the genome data to
improve rice production worldwide. In Ronald's lab, for instance,
researchers are using sequence information to identify genes that are
resistant to a fungal blight that can wipe out rice crops. Rice breeders
may combine those types with cultivated strains to expand crop yields and
alleviate hunger.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

EXPERTS SAY THEY HAVE KEY TO RICE GENES

New York Times
April 5, 2002
(Via Agnet)

Additional coverage of the reports today in Science by a Chinese team and
the Swiss company Syngenta on the rice genome today, opening what experts
believe will be a new era in plant breeding and food production. Knowledge
of the genome ã some 450 million units of DNA encoding around 40,000 genes
ã will help breeders create better varieties not only of rice but also of
corn, wheat, barley and other crops. New and notable: Syngenta said last
year that it had completed a rough draft of the japonica rice genome but
did not publish it. With the Chinese team making its indica sequence
freely available, the company is now following suit.

Dr. Hei Leung, of the International Rice Research Institute, said that
because of the rice genomic data "all plant breeding can proceed at an
accelerated pace." But a new gene inserted into many new crop varieties
can reduce genetic diversity and make the crop more vulnerable to
pathogens. The risk "is inherent in crop improvement," said Dr. Jeffrey
Bennetzen, a corn expert at Purdue University. "I personally do not
believe that we can rely on the private sector to maintain genetic
diversity. In fact, we can rely on them not to." The existence of a kind
of universal domesticated grain genome has already allowed the Syngenta
Corporation, which produced one rice map, to create virtual maps of corn
and wheat. They can use the rice data to determine where similar genes are
found in other crops' DNA. This virtual mapping helped Syngenta find a
cold resistance gene in corn that matched a similar gene in rice.

Joachim Voss, director general of the International Centre for Tropical
Agriculture, financed by governments and foundations from around the
world, would like to see an "international social contract" that ensures
the poor have access to all improvements involving the major food crops,
such as rice, wheat, corn or beans. "If Monsanto or another company make
drought resistant rice, they should make it available free of charge to
small producers in the tropics so they could get the advantage as well,"
says Voss, who was research manager at Canada's International Development
Research Centre until last year. "If we pride ourselves on the number of
genes in our genome, then we lose to a lowly rice plant," says Gane Ka-Shu
Wong, a Canadian who was among the lead authors of the report from the
Chinese group. Wong, who studied at the University of British Columbia,
now works out of the University of Washington Genome Center, and is a
visiting professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

THE IMPORTANCE OF RICE

April 4, 2002
Science
Donald Kennedy

Science editor Kennedy writes that in this issue, we publish two sequences
for the rice genome: one for each of the two major rice varieties
(japonica and indica) planted around the world. The value of having this
information in the public domain rests on the hundreds of millions of
people who depend on rice and whose nutritional status and health may be
improved as a result. Not only are more calories obtained worldwide from
rice than from any other single food, but the rice sequence affords entry
into the similar but larger genomes of the other cereal grains on which
the world depends. Kennedy says in their introductory Perspective on p.
53, the directors general of the two great international crop research
centers point out that the value of many decades' worth of publicly owned
germ plasm, obtained by generations of skillful plant breeders, will be
enhanced and protected.

Two different groups of investigators, one public and one private,
invested time, skill, and energy in this venture. Their joint appearance
in a single issue of Science reflects a spirit of cooperation too often
absent in an enterprise in which competition sometimes dominates
collegiality. This publication project has, however, attracted some
controversy because of our willingness to allow the authors at Syngenta to
make their data available through a means other than GenBank. Science
normally requires that nucleotide sequence data reported in its papers be
deposited in GenBank, where it can be easily analyzed and compared with
other sequence data. On rare occasions, however, we make an exception and
allow the data to reside elsewhere as long as public access is ensured. We
did that with the historic publication of the human genome sequence by
Celera, copies of which are still freely available with the sole
restriction that it cannot be redistributed. (See
www.sciencemag.org/feature/data/announcement/gsp.shl and
http://public.celera.com.)

Kennedy says that the sequence produced by Syngenta [Torrey Mesa Research
Institute (TMRI)] is proprietary, and in early discussions with the
authors it became clear that they would not deposit it in GenBank at the
time of publication. The value of the sequence, which is of high quality
and of a rice variety used widely in the temperate world, qualified it for
an exception in our view. Having decided that this resource was a uniquely
valuable one, we worked with TMRI so that the data would be made available
to the scientific community under terms essentially identical to those we
allowed for the human genome sequence. We have heard from some scientists
who argue that this decision will compromise "accepted community
standards."

There is some ground for agreement with their concerns, but it is
important to separate two issues: the accessibility of data and the place
in which it is deposited. We are fully committed to the public
availability of the data that underlie the conclusions of a paper, and we
have required that of Syngenta. We also believe that deposition in
centralized, publicly sponsored databases is in the best interest of the
scientific community. Indeed, some cost, especially to the bioinformatics
community, results from our allowing an exception to the GenBank rule in
the case of the rice sequence. Nevertheless, we believe that the public
benefit of releasing the findings from trade-secret status outweighed that
cost. Exceptions of this kind will surely be very rare.

But, says Kennedy, the National Academy of Sciences committee now
pondering future standards confronts a difficult policy terrain, as more
and more important basic research moves into proprietary places. It is
worth pointing out that the accepted community standards here have been
most actively advocated by a group of basic biomedical scientists in the
United States and Europe. They are right to count the costs of not
following them, and we at Science do not deny that those are real: The
accessibility of sequence data in GenBank is a public good. But so is the
availability of Syngenta's sequence to the world. Like other decisions
involving competing public goods, this one should involve a choice based
on the extent of the benefits and a consideration of who receives them.

The benefits of having these sequences in the public domain will not only
fall to the genomics community. They will fall as well to a wider one, a
community that includes agricultural scientists and plant breeders, for
example, who seldom publish in Science and whose accepted community
standards may be different. And they will come to a legion of hidden
beneficiaries: the rural smallholders in the Third World on whose
productivity the nutrition and health of millions of people may depend.
Who should make the rules for them?
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SEQUENCING OF RICE GENOME COULD HOLD HOPE FOR STARVING MILLIONS

April 4, 2002
Agence France Presse English/AP/Reuters WASHINGTON
(via Agnet)

Teams of international researchers will, according to these stories,
publish Friday a draft sequence of the rice genome, unveiling for the
first time the map of this staple cereal's DNA code. Publishing in the
latest edition of Science, the stories say that the draft genome of the
two most common sub-species of rice heralds what could be an important
step in the fight against malnutrition, accelerating the development of
enhanced versions of the crop. But the research gives details of the
genome of Oriza sativa japonica -- short grain rice -- and Oriza sativa
indica -- long grain rice -- which in the one case could lead to
production of a super-hybrid and in the other could pave the way for a
variety plentiful in vitamins.
Researchers have decrypted 430 million base DNA pairs. However, rice --
densely populated with many small genes as it is -- may be more complex
than scientists ever thought, surpassing even the human genome in
complexity. While japonica rice has 42,000 to 63,000 genes, the indica
variety has between 45,000 and 56,000 genes. By comparison, the human
genome has between 30,000 and 40,000 genes. Professor Jun Yu of Beijing
Genomics Institute led a team of researchers from 11 Chinese institutions
in decrypting the genome of indica rice, a major sub-species in China and
other Asian-Pacific regions. By crossing indica with other rice varieties
it is possible to produce a super-hybrid improving yield by 20 to 30
percent per hectare, research suggests. The japonica variety which grows
notably in temperate climes, was decrypted by Professor Stephen Goff, who
led a team from the Torrey Mesa Research Institute, the California
laboratory of Swiss agrochemical group Syngenta.
Production of a variety of rice that is high in vitamins may, in the long
run, be possible from the information gleaned from decoding its genome,
according to Goff. The japonica genome is expected to uncover the gene
responsible for beta-carotene, which facilitates Vitamin A production. A
consortium of public laboratories, known as the International Rice Genome
Sequencing Project (IRGSP), financed by Japan, also entered the race to
decode the rice genome in 1998. The consortium has opted to use a more
systematic, traditional route to decryption and which, though more
precise, takes longer. Results of the research should be known in
December. The stories note that US firm Monsanto, which completed a draft
of the genome in 2000, has already moved to combine its efforts with those
of the IRGSP. And the two drafts published Friday will ultimately be
combined with the IRGSP's work.

Susan McCouch, a professor in the plant-breeding department at Cornell
University in New York, was cited as saying the new sequence information
is less of a breakthrough than an incremental, though welcome, addition to
what scientists already have, adding "There is a little bit of
misconception about how novel this is. It is more of the same. It is not
the sequence that is so useful, but fact that Syngenta also has a series
of other information about what the sequence means. It's not that
critical for us. We use the public data. We have actually been able to
mine the public data and there is enough there to keep us pretty busy.
Half the genome is already published and public." The advantage of the
Syngenta data, she said, would be the work the company has done on
translating the genetic code into meaningful information. "So we know
something about the expression and transcription patterns of these genes,"
she said, referring to the processes that turn a gene on or off. Benjamin
Burr, a plant geneticist at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New
York, was quoted as saying, "Conventional plant breeding is going to be
the major benefactor of the genomics era."
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Organic shopper wrong to believe in healthy option

The Independent
April 04, 2002
By Graham Hiscott

CONSUMERS ARE buying organic food wrongly believing it is healthier for
them than the cheaper, standard alternative, according to Which? magazine.

Organic products cost on average 40 per cent more, but the consumer
magazine suggests many people assume they are better for them. However, in
a number of cases processed organic products such as cakes and cereal
contained more fat and sugar than the same food in the standard range.

When Which? interviewed 90 shoppers late last year, most who bought
organic products said they did so to avoid pesticides, but the magazine
says pesticides are generally less of an issue in processed food, organic
or not, than they are with fresh fruit and vegetables.

Protecting the environment was another reason given by the shoppers, but
the study points out that buying organic could have its own knock- on
effects on the environment.

Around 70 per cent of organic food is imported to the UK. This has its own
environmental impact in terms of transport, packaging, waste and
pollution, Which? says. Food processing also has environmental costs in
terms of energy use and packaging.

Which? says organic products have fewer additives and no genetically
modified ingredients and the food is more traceable, but it questions
whether some products should be labelled as organic. At least 95 per cent
of the agricultural ingredients must be organic, and the other 5 per cent
can be made up of non-organic ingredients, such as approved herbs and
spices, it says. Non-agricultural ingredients such as water and salt
approved for use in organic food are not included in these calculations.
So a drink made of carbonated water, organic sugar and natural flavourings
can be labelled organic although only the sugar is organic.

Which? gives examples of organic products said to be less healthy than the
same in the standard range. It found that Sainsbury's Blue Parrot Cafe
organic mini jam tarts contained 40 per cent more sugar than Sainsbury's
real fruit jam tarts. Ambrosia organic creamed rice was found to have
almost twice as much fat per serving as the standard pudding.

Comparing the prices of 13 products, Which? found that those in the
organic range came to a total of pounds 18.65. The same products in the
standard range came to pounds 13.35.

A statement from Sainsbury's said: We do not make any health claims but
clearly state the organic principles of rearing and production of the
products on all packs and leaflets. The comparison of Blue Parrot Cafe
organic mini jam tarts and Real Fruit Jam tarts is not a like-for- like
comparison. The Blue Parrot Cafe tarts are smaller and contain relatively
more jam and less pastry than the Real Fruit Jam tart. This results in
less fat and a greater proportion of sugar from the jam in the BPC tarts.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ban on GM soya oil not feasible, say processors

Hindu Business Line
April 04, 2002

It is not technically possible to distinguish between GM and non-GM soya
oil as it does not contain any DNA material.

NEW DELHI, April 3 THE Indian Vegetable Oil Processors Association (IVOPA)
has termed the Agriculture Ministry's proposed move to restrict imports of
genetically modified (GM) soyabean oil as being neither technically
feasible nor legally sustainable or commercially desirable.

Briefing newspersons here on Wednesday, the Executive Director of IVOPA,
Mr D.N. Pathak, said currently around 85 lakh tonnes (lt) of soya oil was
being traded in the world and not a single country had banned or
restricted imports on account of it being made out of GM soyabeans.

Even United Kingdom and Japan, which have put in place regulations for
labelling of GM food items, including soyabeans, have specifically
exempted edible oils from this requirement. The reason for this is that
when soyabean is crushed to extract oil, all types of proteins go into the
meal and none remain in the oil, which means that even if the oil is
extracted from GM soyabean, it will not show any trace of GM material on
testing, Mr Pathak pointed out.

It is because the oil does not contain any DNA material that it is not
technically possible to distinguish between GM and non-GM oil. And since
it is technically impossible to determine whether the oil is made of GM or
non-GM soyabean, the Agriculture Ministry's proposed move will actually
tantamount to a ban on soyabean oil imports, the IVOPA - which is
basically a forum of companies such as Adani Wilmar, Cargill, Ruchi Soya,
Agritech Foods and Liberty Oil, who import crude vegetable oils and refine
the same - has held.

According to the Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA), the
country's imports of soyabean oil have gone up from 7.06 lakh tonnes (lt)
in the 1999-2000 oil year (November-October) to 14.22 lt in the 2000-01.
Soyaoil's share in total vegetable oil imports have risen from 15.7 per
cent in 1999-2000 to 29.4 per cent in 2000-01, even as that of palm oil
(both refined and crude) has correspondingly fallen from 67.7 per cent to
60.4 per cent. The increasing share of soya oil imports is being ascribed
to its attracting a lower customs duty (45 per cent) compared to the 65
per cent level for crude palm oil and other oils.

If the Government wants to restrict soya oil imports, it should
renegotiate the WTO-bound rate from the existing 45 per cent, which will
enable it raise its customs duty on par with other oils. The solution does
not lie in banning its imports on grounds that have no scientific
rationale, Mr Pathak said.

According to Mr Pathak, the proposed ban on imports of GM soya oil was
also not legally tenable because the Government has only recently approved
commercialisation of Mayco's Bt cotton, which is also a GM crop.

Given that the cottonseed oil obtained from Bt cotton will be consumed
locally as food, it is obvious that the Government's approval would have
taken into account the fact that there will be no adverse affect on oil
produced from the GM crop. Any restriction on imports of soya oil on the
basis of genetic modification will, therefore, be challenged as being a
non-tariff barrier lacking any scientific underpinnings, he added.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Biotechnology key to future of agriculture

P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service
April 3, 2002

Application of biotechnology to produce genetically modified food crops
that are disease/insect resistant, nutritionally rich,
environment-friendly and economical holds the key to the future of
agriculture, given the problems that beset progressive states like Punjab
and Haryana. Coupled with in-built safety regulations, the new
knowledge-driven farm science is, in fact, Green Revolutionótrack 2. Since
food security is the key word, biotechnology application can help increase
food production manifold from the given land rather than expanding its
expanse at the cost of forests etc.

These views were expressed by Dr C S Prakash in an exclusive interview to
TNS here tonight. He is Director, Centre for Biotechnology Research and
Professor, Plant Molecular Genetics at the College of Agriculture,
Tuskegee University , the USA. He oversees research on food crops there
besides having a website, www.agbioworld.org.

A widely travelled scientist, he is instrumental in leading to the
development of transgenic sweetpotato, identification of DNA polymorphism
in peanut and development of a genetic map of cultivated peanut. His team
has recently enhanced the protein content of crops several fold through
genetic modification. His research gets funded from the US State
Department of Agriculture as well as National Aeronautics and Space
Administration. Dr Prakash is in Chandigarh for a seminar on Biotechnology
in Northern States being hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry
here tomorrow.

Making use of biotechnology in fruits and vegetables will not only
increase their quality, nutrient content but also shelf-life of the
produce that can be transported to far-off places. The new scientific
techniques could provide value addition to farm produce, so essential to
ensure remunerative returns to producers and quality stuff to consumers.
In fact biotechnology is a tool, a technique that will reduce dependence
on high-price plant protection chemicals and even fertilisers, at a later
stage, which have added enough toxicity to the soil, air and water.

On the range of benefits, Dr Prakash listed several of these, including
production of ëízero-calorie sugarcane or high-nutrient value potatoesíí.
Punjab and Haryana are the store houses of agriculture, where potential
for higher production had been fully exploited and that has given rise to
related problems, environmental, ecological health, depletion of water,
storage etc. Therefore, the introduction of biotechnology can now be
effectively used to improve ëíqualityíí of life and health through good
food and preserve biodiversity.

Dr Prakash noted that Bt cotton would now be sown in these states. Talking
of economics of cotton cultivation, he said a farmer now invested around
Rs 500 per hectare on cottonseed and about Rs 5,000 on sprays. But Bt
cotton would mean around Rs 750-1,000 on seed but reduce cost of sprays to
around Rs 500 or so. ëíIndia must start a vigorous pro-biotechnology
campaign and dispel fears created by misinformation. The corporate sector
must be involved. The country has the basic knowledge and human resource.
It is just taking the technology off the shelf and introducing it in the
lab and on the landíí.

The state agricultural universities should reorient their research and
teaching to include tissue culture, genetic engineering, transgenic
plants, gene expression, plant genomics etc. Biotechnology, thus holds the
key to food security as well as farmers security.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.libertyindia.org/policy_reports/bt_cotton_info_march2002.htm

BEHIND ALL THE FLUFF
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