Today in AgBioView, April 19, 2002
* Third World Held Back by Sanctimonious Greens
* Apprehensions About GM Crops: China Shows The Way
* Mahyco-Monsanto Plans Big Push for Bt Cotton
* Farmers Ready, But Where Are Bt Cotton Seeds?
* China's Food And Agriculture: Issues For The 21st Century
* What GM Crops Can Do Today
* Biotechnology 1996-2000: The Years Of Controversy
* Italian and Spanish Translation of the Brochure "Foods from GM Crops"
* FAO Biotechnology Forum Publication and Glossary on Biotech
* Biotech Makes Huge Strides Forward As Activists Chase Publicity
* How Affluence Could Be Good For The Environment
* AFSTA Adopts Position On Crop Biotech
Third World Held Back by Sanctimonious Greens
- Bill Carmichael, Yorkshire Post (UK), April 18, 2002
AT THE risk of being beaten senseless with rolled up copies of the
Ecologist Magazine, may I put in a good word for genetic engineering?
Ask, for example, the parents of 18-month-old Rhys Evans ? the "boy in the
bubble" forced to spend his early months in a sterile tent because of a
catastrophic failure in his immune system.
Until very recently, he could have been killed by any passing infection.
But using the latest technology doctors extracted his bone marrow,
injected it with the missing gene, and returned it. As a result, Rhys is
scampering about like any other healthy toddler. Even more significant
was the news last week that scientists in the United States had completed
the genetic map of rice.
This doesn't sound much, but it has the potential of transforming the
lives of millions by doing no less than ending world hunger. It will now
be possible to develop new strains of rice ? and closely related cereals,
such as wheat, maize and barley ? with increased resistance to drought,
pests and rot, thereby opening up barren areas to production and reducing
the need for fertilisers and pesticides. The amount of Vitamin A in rice
? the lack of which is a major cause of blindness in the Third World ?
could also be boosted with huge benefits throughout Asia.
The United Nations Development Programme has also made it clear that
genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have a vital role to play in
reducing poverty and infant and maternal mortality. But many of these
developments are unlikely to go ahead because of opposition from powerful
green campaigners in the rich, industrialised West.
Sanctimonious members of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have never
known the sensation of an empty stomach, but they seek to deny genetic
technology to the world's poor because it offends against their refined
sensibilities. What does it matter that children are dying in Africa so
long as green campaigners can munch their organic, GMO-free muesli with a
Borlaug: Wise Use of Biotechnology is Crucial to India's Food Security
'Precautionary Principle is a Dangerous Game Plan'
Following is the letter from Dr. Borlaug to Indian scientists and
administrators including Dr. M. S. Swaminathan. Reproduced with
permission from Dr. Borlaug. I sincerely thank him for letting me post
this to AgBioView ....CSP
NEB-60; April 12, 2002
Dr. Norman E. Borlaug
Senior Consultant. International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Centro
Internacional de Mejoramiento de MaÌz y Trigo (CIMMYT), Mexico
I was pleased hear that the government of India had finally approved the
cultivation of Bt cotton. Congratulations!! Approval has been a long,
slow, painful process, effectively delayed, I assume, by the lobbying of
Vandana Shiva and her crowd. Now that the door has been opened for the
use of transgenic biotechnology on one crop, I hope it will soon be
approved for other traits and on other crops, wherever there is proven
advantage within acceptable levels of risk. The recent tactics in the use
of the "precautionary principle" is a dangerous game plan, especially when
a country is under heavy population pressure and continuing rapid growth.
As an enthusiastic friend of India, I have been dismayed to see it Iagging
behind in the approval of transgenic crops, while China forges ahead. I
hope India's recent approval of Bt cotton is indicative of a change toward
more progressive leadership in agricultural policy. The benefits to Indian
farmers of Bt cotton will no doubt be significant. Evidence from South
Africa indicates that smallholder profits are increased by as much as US$
150 per ha, and six insecticide sprays are eliminated.
I do not agree with the critics of transgenic crops who say that there is
no need for conducting such research because the world is now producing a
surplus of food and fiber- and that the problem is largely one of
distribution. Oh, if only it were so simple! While improving the equity of
food distribution is certainly a global imperative, we cannot forget that
world population still continues to grow by 80 million per year. When I
was born in 1914, world population was approximately 1.6 billion, at
present we are approaching 6.2 billion. Even with the reported slowing in
global population growth, food production must be increased by 50 percent
over the next 25 years, just to maintain present, often inadequate, levels
of food availability.
As a person trained in forest ecology, I was very supportive of the
environmental movement when it began in the 1960s. However, in recent
years, the movement has been captured and distorted by elitists, and has
evolved more and more toward an anti-science, anti-technology reactionary
force. Too many of its leaders are opposed to high-yield crop production
technology, including high-yielding varieties, chemical fertilizers,
herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Yet these critics fail to stop
and think what the world would look like today, had it not been for the
widespread adoption of high - yield crop production technology during the
last 40 years? Had Indian farmers continued with the low-yielding pre -
Green Revolution technology, they would have needed to plant an additional
67 million ha to equal current wheat harvests (Figure 1). This is extra
land that India did not have to spare. It?s hard to imagine all the
consequences on Indian agricultural land use of trying to produce 75
million tonnes of wheat with 800 kg/ha technology!
On a global scale, world cereal production increased from 650 million
tonnes in 1950 to 1,887 million tonnes in 1998 (Figure 2). Had the world
attempted to produce the cereal harvest of 1998 with the technology
(yield) of 1950, it would have required 1,800 ha of land of the same
quality - an increase in cultivated area of 1,150 million ha over the 650
million ha that were actually used. Even in regions where land is more
abundant, the adoption of high-yield agriculture has spared millions of
hectares for other uses. How many hectares of forest would have been
destroyed, how many species of plant and wildlife would have been pushed
to extinction, had traditional low-yielding agriculture continued?
I continue to be astonished by the claims of some ecologists that the
world can do without chemical nitrogenous fertilizers. To equal current
annual consumption of 82 million nutrient tonnes of nitrogen, some 2.9
billion tonnes of cattle manure would be needed, which would probably
require an 8- to 10-fold increase in the global cattle population. Imagine
the feeding and environmental consequences of maintaining such a number of
Farmers by all means should strive to return organic matter and nutrients
to the soil, through appropriate crop rotations, and use green manure
crops and animal manures. But we should also heed the research of
Professor Vaclav Smil, which indicates that without chemical nitrogenous
fertilizers, only 60 percent of our world population can be supported
(given available technology). Somehow, we have failed to communicate to
the public that it makes no difference to a plant whether the nitrate ion
it ?eats? comes from a bag of urea or from decomposing organic matter.
The new tools of biotechnology will permit us to speed the development of
improved cultivars with higher genetic yield potential, increased
resistance to diseases and insects, and greater tolerance to drought,
heat, cold, and soil toxicities. By incorporating genes for crop
protection into the seed, production costs can be reduced, as well as the
need to use pesticides. This is good for farmers, the environment, and
I believe that scientists who have been part of bringing the benefits of
high-yield technology to the 20th century must speak up when
pseudo-science is used to spread fear and misinformation about
agricultural technology among the masses, including political leaders who
consequently make disastrous policies.
T. D. Lysenko and his pseudo - scientific propaganda did enormous damage
to individual scientists and to Soviet agriculture. Let us not be misled
into believing that such a scientific ?Dark Age? could never happen in
India or Europe or USA, especially if those that know better do not stand
up for a more balanced debate.
Let us remember the courageous decisions made by C. Subramaniam that
ignited the Green Revolution in 1966 - even when other cabinet members
balked at the plan. Thank God, Subramaniam was not paralyzed by the
?precautionary principle,? as seems to be the case today. Look at the
results - six-fold increase in wheat production and a three - fold
increase in rice production over the past 40 years. How would 500 million
additional Indians have been fed without this great transformation in
As impressive as these technological achievements have been - and despite
the fact that India is overflowing with buffer grain stocks - poverty and
hunger continue to haunt upwards of 40 percent of the population. While
inequitable food distribution is not a consequence of agricultural science
and technology - but rather failed government rural development policies -
we cannot rest until adequate nutrition and health care reach every
citizen. I am convinced that the wise use of biotechnology will be crucial
to achieving this goal.
Norman E. Borlaug
Apprehensions About GM Crops: China Shows The Way
- G. Padmanabhan, Deccan Herald (India), April 19, 2002
Recently, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the
Department of Environment gave conditional approval for large-scale trial
of Bt cotton by Mahyco in collaboration with Monsanto.
In this context, it is of interest to consider the situation in China. A
recent article in the magazine Science has highlighted the progress which
China has made with GM crops. From 353 applications for clearance between
1996 and 2000, China's Office of Genetic Engineering Safety Administration
(I suppose, it is the equivalent of our GEAC) approved a total of 251
cases of GM plants, animals and microorganisms for field trials,
environmental release or commercialisation.
Chinese scientists have commercialised their own version of Bt cotton
(artificially synthesised gene) and have also permitted a joint venture
with Monsanto. The article claims that the total benefit from the adoption
of Bt cotton in 1999 was $334 mn and "as Bt cotton spreads, the social
benefits from this crop will pay for all China?s past biotech expenditure
on all crops". The acreage under Bt cotton has increased from a mere 2,000
hectares in 1997 to 700,000 hectares in 2000. The major beneficiaries were
small farmers. Average pesticide spray decreased by 13 times and pesticide
poisoning seen in Bt cotton farmers decreased by five fold in terms of
numbers affected. The total investment of China in plant biotechnology for
1999 was $112 mn.
Impressive progress: The Science article portrays the impressive progress
made in China with GM crops. It is difficult not to compare this with the
achievements in India, where the hype on biotechnology (BT) is almost
overshadowing its gains in IT. First of all, the investment of the
Government of India in R&D related to modern plant biotechnology will not
be more than 1/10 of the Chinese investment of $112 mn in 1999.
Nevertheless, scientists in India have made an impressive progress in the
laboratory, thanks to consistent support from the Department of
Biotechnology (DBT) in terms of developing Bt varieties of cotton and some
vegetables - potato with balanced protein, mustard (low erucic acid and
glucosinilate), virus- resistant-tomato, chilli and so on. Some have
reached limited trial stage, but nowhere near commercialisation. In China,
among other GM products, 45 GM plant products have been approved for
trials and 31 for commercialisation.
Laboratory marvels: The field trials in India with Bt cotton in the
private sector (Mahyco- Monsanto) have gone through tortuous times, what
with self-proclaimed scientists mixing up fiction for science (Bt gene
being mixed up for terminator genes for example), aggressive activists
burning up trial fields and the media essentially highlighting negative
The anti-GM movement in Europe, which, I believe, is a response to the
economic war between the US and Europe, both with the burden of
overproduced food grains, has been used out of context in the propaganda
war against GM crops in India. This has denied the poor Indian farmer of
at least one option to contain crop loss due to pest attacks and escape
deaths due to suicide and pesticide toxicity. The state and federal
governments have been unnerved by the propaganda, and the response of the
regulatory agency to grant approvals for GM crops is obviously conditioned
by the negative environment. The net result is that all the laboratory
marvels remain so and do not make it to the field, despite the heroic
efforts of scientists and the DBT. It is the Indian Council of
Agricultural Research and Department of Agriculture that need to spearhead
field applications of GM crops.
Unfortunately, traditionalists in agriculture research find it hard to
accept changes and are also out of date. This is not to undermine the
safety and environment concerns. Bt cotton is the best bet to make a
start, pragmatically using it as long as it lasts, while preparing with
back-up strategies as and when pest- resistance develops in the field.
After all, we do have strategies to face drug resistant tuberculosis,
malaria and cancers. With so much lateral gene transfers taking place in
nature, in the time frame of decades and centuries, I do not believe a few
more or less trials can answer the environment question. Transgenes are a
drop in the ocean and nature has a way of equilibration. Bt gene product
is not deleterious to the human/animals and Bt cotton has the least
contribution to make to the food chain. The article in Science makes the
point that Bt cotton commercialisation has benefited essentially small
farmers and China has reaped economic benefits through its own public
funded research efforts as well as joint ventures with Monsanto. I believe
that in India the MNC bogey is raised to favour the pesticide lobby. There
is no reason why Bt cotton should not benefit small farmers in India.
Conflicting pressures A farmer, big or small, will go for any crop that
gives him a net profit. Mahyco should be complimented for sticking with Bt
cotton trials in the private sector, despite all the odds. Misused
democratic traditions, misdirected liberalism and misinterpreted religious
sentiments have unfortunately led to endless debates in India without
contributing much to the alleviation of human suffering. The Science
article states that China is deeply concerned about consumer safety and
acceptance and is facing conflicting pressures on the use of transgenic
crops. There is a general feeling in India that China can do whatever it
likes and get away. This does not appear to be so at least with respect to
the welfare of its own people. The Chinese are able to focus and forge
ahead, despite reservations in certain quarters. GM crops may not be an
answer to every one of India's food problems.
Tackling poverty It is stated that India's problem is not production of
food grains but distribution. It is precisely for this reason one should
encourage a GM crop so that adequate yield is ensured in a given
geographic area. Of course, the question of distribution does not arise in
a cash crop such as Bt cotton, since the farmer is dependent on the crop
for his economic survival. The GM crop can be an important element in the
Integrated Pest Management Programme and organic farming. It is also an
important tool to tackle poverty, hunger and malnutrition. GM crops have
tremendous potential to improve nutrition of the masses. Golden rice with
b-carotene is only the beginning. Crops should be engineered to provide a
nutritionally balanced diet with just one or two items and this would
serve well in mid-day meal programmes for the under-privileged children.
The Science article ends stating: "China has several advantages; it has
many well-trained scientists, a low cost environment, and large
collections of germ plasm". In India, we can claim the same even to a
greater extent, except for the eluding 'commitment' which the Chinese seem
to have in good measure. Firm decisions can only be taken if there is
commitment to a cause.
India: Mahyco-Monsanto Plans Big Push for Bt Cotton
- Business Standard, April 19, 2002
After receiving approval from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee
(GEAC) for the commercial production of Bt cotton, the Monsanto-Mahyco
combine has drawn up extensive plans for the sale of these genetically
However, in the first year, supply of seeds would be restricted to areas
where the company had conducted its trials, a Monsanto official said.
Speaking to Business Standard, Raj Ketkar, deputy managing-director of
Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (MMB), India, said: "The seeds will be marketed
through MMB before the next cotton season begins. This year, we will
supply seeds in the areas where majority of our trials were conducted, and
where the farmers are familiar with the benefits of this product."
The company has conducted around 500 trials in the past three years to
test the suitability of these genetically modified seeds in Indian
conditions. "Though the prices will be higher than conventional hybrids,
it will be in a range which farmers will be willing to pay," Ketkar said.
Against the price of Rs 300-500 of conventional hybrids, Bt cotton seeds
will be priced between Rs 1,500 and Rs 1,800 per packet of 450 gms. A
packet will be sufficient for one acre and will come with 20 per cent
conventional seeds, thus providing seeds for 1.2 acre.
Justifying the price, Ketkar said, "The average extra monetary benefit a
farmer derives by using Bt cotton is around Rs 4,000-5,000 per hectare.
This is because of less expenditure on pesticides and chemicals and better
yield." Monsanto is also planning to bring more advanced varieties of
genetically modified cotton seeds into the country. Ketkar said newer gene
constructs would also require agronomic trials before getting approval.
However, he added that the company had no plans to bring genetically
modified seeds of other crops for another 3-4 years, but would stress on
their Indian core areas such as herbicides, genetic traits and seeds.
Ketkar said the conditions imposed by the GEAC for cultivation of
genetically modified crops were almost similar to the ones in countries
that have permitted it. "Trial studies were also conducted to test if the
seed had any detrimental effect on the soil, flora and fauna," he said.
The condition (refuge planting) that farmers should grow non-genetically
modified crop along with the genetically modified one is also applicable
in the US. "This is very helpful since the American bollworm pest feeds on
around 160 known crops and species. Therefore, the cotton crop remains
safe," he added.
India is the eighth country in the world that has put in place bio-safety
norms. Monsanto is also contemplating entering Pakistan, a major cotton
producer. On the issue of pests developing resistance to the genetically
modified cotton, Ketkar said, "We have submitted a plan to the Indian
government on insect resistance management. Under it, we have outlined
three factors: introducing varieties that have a high dose of protein to
destroy the insect, refuge planting and bringing new products like
bollguard 2 to control resistance." Moreover, he added that till date
there were no reports of insects developing resistance to Bt cotton.
India: Farmers Ready, But Where Are Bt Cotton Seeds?
- Harish Damodaran, Business Line, New Delhi, April 18
It is not only the farmers in the northern region who will be denied the
opportunity to plant Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Ltd's (Mahyco) Bt
cotton this year. The bulk of cotton growers in the rest of the country,
too, are unlikely to obtain adequate supply of the hybrid seeds,
genetically modified to confer 'in-built' resistance to the dreaded
According to Mr Raj Ketkar, Deputy Managing Director of Mahyco Monsanto
Biotech India Pvt Ltd (MMB) - the 50:50 joint venture formed in 1998
between Mahyco and the US life sciences major, Monsanto, for marketing the
Bt hybrids - the projected seed supply in the current kharif season would
be just enough to cover around 1.5 lakh acres.
"The certified seeds to be sold to farmers this year have been produced
from the foundation material that we supplied last year to our contract
seed growers for further multiplication. Although we had sought planting
of the foundation seeds on 2,000 acres, we were given permission then for
only 700 acres. Considering that one acre of foundation material can
produce certified seeds to cover 200-250 acres (depending upon yields), we
can meet the farmers' requirement for about 1.5 lakh acres this year," Mr
Ketkar told Business Line.
Even for the next 2003 kharif season, Mr Ketkar said that the projected
supply of certified seeds (based on the quantity of foundation material
available for multiplication this year) would be sufficient for only 5-6
lakh acres. Compare this to the country's total cotton area of roughly 215
lakh acres, of which nearly half is planted under hybrids!
So will all this translate into spiralling seed prices? "Not really. The
open field evaluation trials carried out by the Indian Council of
Agricultural Research (ICAR) indicate that our Bt hybrids will give
farmers an additional Rs 4,000 per acre through reduction in pesticide
sprays and overall higher yields. Our assessment is that if a particular
input enables a farmer to realise an extra Rs 100 on his output, he would
be willing to pay an additional Rs 25 for the same input. We cannot expect
him to pay beyond this level," Mr Ketkar noted.
What will be the price at which the Bt hybrids will then be sold? The
maximum retail price of Mahyco's existing non-Bt hybrids (including Mech-
12, Mech-162 and Mech-184) is now Rs 350-450 per packet, each containing
450 grams of seed that can cover up to one acre.
If the Bt versions of these hybrids are claimed to give an extra economic
advantage of Rs 4,000 per acre, they will accordingly be priced in the Rs
1,350-1,400 per packet range, Mr Ketkar said, while adding that "we are
still studying the market." Assuming sales of 1.5 lakh packets at these
rates, MMB would end up grossing about Rs 20 crore from marketing the Bt
cotton hybrids in the current season alone.
For augmenting supplies, which, Mr Ketkar admitted, could not be met by
Mahyco alone, MMB has tied up with three other seed companies - Rasi Seeds
(Salem), Ankur Seeds (Nagpur) and Krishi Dhan (Jalna). The joint venture
(which is the Indian licensee for Monsanto's patented Bt gene construct)
has sub-licensed the Bt gene to these companies, which will incorporate
the same in their own cotton hybrids.
"Once these back-crossed hybrids are evaluated by ICAR, we can expect more
suppliers of Bt cotton based on Monsanto's technology," Mr Ketkar said,
even as he conceded that this process would take at least a couple of
years. So till then, the farmer has no alternative but to wait.
China's Food And Agriculture: Issues For The 21St Century
- USDA, ERS, April 15, 2002 http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/aib775
Assessment of issues that will affect China's future trends in
consumption, production, import, and export of food and agricultural
commodities. A series of 13 articles cover China's food consumption,
marketing, international trade, agricultural policy, transportation
infrastructure, regional diversity, livestock sector, biotechnology, water
and irrigation policy, land tenure system, rural development, employment,
and market information.
What GM Crops Can Do Today
- From: "Gordon Couger"
Looking at what Round Up Ready and BT crops can do today for the
environment is substantial.
Cotton uses almost 25% of the insecticide applied in the world and nearly
half of the insecticide applied in countries with high boll worm pressures
like India. The current BT cottons reduce the need for insecticides by
nearly 70% and substantially improves the yields in India and South Africa
for the small farmer that applies those insecticides by hand. Future BT
producing genes are even more toxic to worms and should reduce the need
for insecticide even more.
So BT cotton improve the yields for all farmers in high boll worm areas,
reduces his exposure to insecticides, and reduces the insecticide released
into the environment. That sound like a winner for everyone involved to
I am much more failure with what Round Up Ready corps can do for the
environment because I just finished helping my wife deciding to put in
drip irrigation for cotton to be farmed using no till methods.
Conventionally tilled cotton burns about 10 gallons of diesel per acre and
notill uses 3 or 4 gallons an acre. At least a 60% saving in fuel and
carbon released into the air. No till converts cotton from a crop that is
very prone to wind and water erosion to on that is almost immune to
erosion of any kind. This not only saves the soil but it keeps it and the
nutrients and pesticides in the soil out of the water ways, lakes, rivers,
bays and oceans. Producing not only a savings for the farmer but for
society as a whole.
Add to that the crop residue that will sequester several orders of
magnitude more carbon than conventional tillage and you have another
winner for both the farmer and society.
Add to that other precision agriculture methods that can be applied to
almost all crops such as combining yield maps, large numbers of soil tests
and spectral imaging to identify the area of the field that can actually
benefit from higher levels of fertilizer, the areas that already have more
than they can use and areas that need intermediate amounts of fertilizers.
Then use a GPS controlled fertilizer applicators to apply just the amount
of fertilizer than is needed should result in reductions in fertilizer
usage by 50% or more with no decrease in yields. Since a larger percentage
of the fertilizer is hauled off in the crop there is less left to pollute
the environment in addition to there only being half as much put down in
the first place.
Similar technology can be used for applying herbicides to emerged weeds
with similar savings in herbicide use. In 1978 by using intelligent
application I was able to control weeds in cotton with about 1 ounce of
Round Up per acre using a hand applicator instead of a hoe. However, we
are a long way from having affordable machines that are smart enough to
reduce the rates that low.
Drip irrigation decrease the amount of water need for irrgation by at
least 20% over the next best method and increase the yield by about the
same amount. It also reduces the pumping cost of the water that is needed
by 5 or 10% because of the lower pressures used.
My point is technology is not the problem but the answer.
Gordon Couger, http://www.couger.com/gcouger
Book: Biotechnology 1996-2000: The Years Of Controversy
- George Gaskell and Martin W Bauer (eds) http://www.lse.ac.uk/lses
352 pages; paperback £28.95
* Select Chapters *
Biotechnology in the years of controversy - a social scientific
Biopolitical diversity: the challenge of multilevel policy-making
The dramatisation of biotechnology in elite mass media
In the public eye: representations of biotechnology in Europe
Nature in disorder: the troubled public on biotechnology
Troubled waters: the Atlantic divide on biotechnology policy
Biotechnology, technoscience and the public sphere
Part III: National profiles (From Various Countries)
Italian and Spanish Translation of the Brochure "Foods from GM Crops"
- From: firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to draw your attention to Italian and Spanish translation of the
brochure entitled "Foods from GM Crops" published by Maarten Chrispeels.
Both versions can be viewed at the website
Then Click on Publications. The Spanish version is entitled "Alimentacion
de Plantas Transgenicas" and the Italian one is "Agricoltura, alimenti e
biotecnologie" Hard copies are unfortunately NOT available. Direct
enquiries to email@example.com
- Maarten J. Chrispeels, Div Biology, Univ California San Diego, La
Jolla, CA 92093
FAO Biotechnology Forum Publication
FAO Research and Technology Paper 8, entitled "Agricultural Biotechnology
for Developing Countries - Results of an Electronic Forum", has been
published. It presents a report of the first six e-mail conferences hosted
by the FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture from
March 2000 to May 2001. Each conference was moderated, lasted roughly two
months and focused on agricultural biotechnology in developing countries.
The first four dealt with the appropriateness of currently available
biotechnologies in the crop, fishery, forestry and livestock sectors,
while the remaining two dealt with the implications of agricultural
biotechnology for hunger and food security and the impact of intellectual
The publication includes the background and summary documents for each of
the conferences, as well as providing an introduction; information about
participation in the conferences; general conclusions and, finally,
additional references. See
or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request a copy.
2) FAO Biotechnology Glossary publication
FAO Research and Technology Paper 9, entitled "Glossary of Biotechnology
for Food and Agriculture" has been published. The glossary is a revised,
augmented version of the "Glossary of Biotechnology and Genetic
Engineering", published by FAO in 1999 and co-authored by A. Zaid, H.G.
Hughes, E. Porceddu and F. Nicholas. In 2001, the process of revising the
Glossary was undertaken to update the definitions of this rapidly evolving
field and to enrich the number of terms defined. It now includes about 450
new terms, about 100 old terms have been deleted and it contains a total
of 3,196 terms and related definitions. The publication is available at
http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/004/Y2775E/Y2775E00.HTM or, as a searchable
database, at http://www.fao.org/biotech/index_glossary.asp. Alternatively,
contact email@example.com to request a copy.
The March of Progress: Biotech Makes Huge Strides Forward As Activists
Chase Publicity In Middle East Antics
- Dennis T. Avery April 11, 2002
WASHINGTON, D.C. The man who supplanted Jeremy Rifkin as the world's most
famous anti-biotechnology activist turned up in the midst of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict in early April - which is starting off as a
great month for biotechnology.
Jose Bove, the French farmer who has trashed McDonalds and vandalized
biotech crops on three continents, harassed Israeli soldiers and demanded
to be arrested. About 70 of Bove's fellow anti-biotech and
anti-globalization activists also turned up in Israel, offering to serve
as human shields to protect Yassir Arafat, architect of the Palestinian
violence. None of this low drama had anything to do with genetically
engineered crops or world trade. But hey, newspapers have given little
space to activists since Sept. 11 unless the activists were Moslem
terrorists planning death scenes.
Bove and his fellow antis made a professional decision that joining Arafat
in Israel was a safer way to get back in the headlines than joining Osama
bin Laden in Afghanistan. There was always a question about the sincerity
of Bove's opposition to biotech crops; his father was one of France's
senior agricultural researchers. Many thought he started attacking biotech
crops to embarrass the old man.
Now he's revealed his true agenda - personal publicity. While Bove was
aligning himself with suicide-bombers, the British science journal Nature
admitted in writing that it should not have published a study claiming
that Mexican landrace corn varieties had been polluted by "jumping genes"
from genetically engineered U.S. corn.
The mea culpa came only after three separate groups of legitimate
scientists came forward to question the claim of gene-jumping made by two
University of California at Berkeley academics. They warned that David
Quist and Ignatio Chapela had used a test famous for turning up "false
positives," and failed to do the follow-up studies needed to validate
their work. As with Bove, there had been a clue that the Cal-Berkeley team
wasn't totally objective. The senior researcher, Chapela, served on the
board of a pro-organic activist group called Pesticide Action North
Another clue: More than 50 activist groups signed a complaint that the
Quist-Chapela critics were engaging in "academic intimidation" and "highly
unethical mudslinging." They seemed intent on trying to forestall the
legitimate debate that has always been crucial to good science.
It was Nature's second major biotech embarrassment. In 1999, the journal
published a paper by John Losey of Cornell University noting that
genetically modified corn pollen carrying the Bacillus Thuringiensis toxin
had killed Monarch butterfly larvae in his laboratory.
Of course, the Bt toxin had been engineered into the corn precisely
because it kills caterpillars - including the destructive corn earworm and
corn borer. The real question was whether Bt corn represented a danger to
real Monarchs in real cornfields. Losey gave the Monarch larvae in his
lab nothing to eat but milkweed leaves heavily dusted with Bt pollen.
Subsequent field studies showed the Monarchs were safer in a Bt cornfield
than in the usual cornfield sprayed with insecticides to control the
earworms and borers.
April's promising start continued when a Chinese research team and the
Swiss firm Syngenta both announced they were publishing the genome of the
rice plant - 450 million units of DNA encoding about 40,000 genes. Both
groups are making their research public to encourage its use by plant
breeders around the world.
The New York Times, which for years has carried on a virtual campaign for
organic farming - the antithesis of biotech declared the mapping of the
rice genome will "help breeders create better varieties not only of rice
but also of corn, wheat, barley and other crops."
One biotech research team has already inserted a corn gene into rice to
get a higher rate of photosynthesis and 35 percent higher yields. Perhaps
it was inevitable that a new scientific breakthrough as powerful as
biotechnology would be controversial. Perhaps it was inevitable that rich
overfed Americans should worry more about 14 captive Monarch caterpillars
than about higher crop yields able to feed the planet's 800 million
still-malnourished people Ê some 230 million of them children.
Yet, it's becoming increasingly clear that a minority willing to use
street violence and embrace terrorist suicide-bombers as freedom fighters
must not be allowed to use fraudulent science to shape the 21st century.
The hopeful events of early April emphasize that the world should stick
with the democratic process, free markets, and peer-reviewed science that
have given more people more affluence, longer lives, more freedom from
pain and a wider set of attractive lifestyle choices than at any time in
previous human history.
Let's leave the activists outdoors as street entertainment, instead of
inviting them indoors to receive the keys of governance.
DENNIS T. AVERY is a senior fellow for Hudson Institute of Indianapolis
and the Director of the Center for Global Food Issues. He was formerly a
senior policy analyst for the U.S. Department of State. Readers may write
him at Post Office Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421
How Affluence Could Be Good For The Environment
- Nature vol. 416, p 581 (2002) 11 April 2002
Sir ? A current issue in assessing the environmental effects of economic
growth is the per capita use of land in developed versus developing
countries. It is often stated that countries with higher incomes demand
much more land per person to sustain their higher consumption rates. E. O.
Wilson1, for example, cites the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF)2 in
asserting that the "ecological footprint" of each person in the United
States is 9.6 ha, against a global average of 2.1. From this, Wilson
concludes it would require "four more planet Earths" for everyone to live
as Americans do.
The accurate, long-running land-use statistics compiled by the US
Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service3 offer a way to check
these assumptions. Using these data, I have calculated per capita US land
requirements over time.
Food production represents by far the greatest impact of humans on land
worldwide4: about 10% of the world's 13 billion ha of land is used to grow
crops, 25% for permanent pasture. The continental United States has a land
area of 2.8 ha per person at present. Crops are grown on 0.52 ha per
capita; pasture, grazed forest land and grazed arable land add an
additional 1.17 ha per capita. By comparison, forested lands, parks and
wildlife areas total 0.75 ha per capita.
What is most striking is that the total area used for US food production
has remained virtually unchanged since 1945. As a result, from 1945 to
1997 per capita cropland use declined by 50%, even as population grew by
90% and real per capita disposable personal income grew by 177%. The
United States is a substantial net exporter of food. For all high-income
countries taken together, average cropland area is 0.4 ha per capita. By
comparison, sub-Saharan Africa, which has the world's lowest nutritional
status, averages 0.3 ha per capita of cropland and 1.7 ha per capita of
Thus, developed nations provide more calories per person, and very
substantially more meat and dairy products per person (per capita meat
consumption in the United States is 10 times that in sub-Saharan Africa),
while using only slightly more cropland per capita than the poorest
countries and less total agricultural land (arable plus grazing) per
The reasons for this are not surprising. Farmers in poorer countries
attain much lower yields per ha, largely as a result of very low
fertilizer use: 14 kg of fertilizer per ha of cropland in sub-Saharan
Africa versus 114 kg per ha in the United States is typical5. As countries
become wealthier, yields increase substantially. Since 1945, US yields per
ha of wheat have more than doubled and of maize have more than tripled
(ref. 4); the world average yield per ha of maize is now half the US
yield. Use of chemical fertilizer and of hybrid and other high-yielding
varieties of grains could let developing countries match Western diets
with little or no increase in land use. The growth in urban areas and
other uses of land that come with growing affluence add an insignificant
amount to land requirements. In the United States, these uses grew from
0.11 ha per capita in 1945 to only 0.13 ha per capita in 1997.
The WWF derived its very high per-capita land requirements for developed
countries by including in its "ecological footprint" the theoretical
amount of forested land that would have to be added to the Earth's surface
to absorb CO2 emissions from those countries. But this is an
apples-and-oranges comparison; planting forest is but one of many ways
that CO2 emissions could be reduced (substituting nuclear energy, for
example, adds zero land requirements), and in no way constitutes a limit
on available land resources of the kind Wilson infers.
In the larger picture, it is worth noting that economic growth in
developed countries has become increasingly decoupled from dependence on
natural resources. Farm production was 7.2% of US gross domestic product
in 1945 but only 1.1% in 1997. Paul Ehrlich6 has argued that environmental
impact is proportional to population times affluence. But as far as land
requirements are concerned, it appears to be proportional to population
divided by affluence.
-- Stephen Budiansky, Black Sheep Farm, 14605 Chapel Lane, Leesburg,
Virginia 20176, USA
References 1. Wilson, E. O., The Future of Life (Knopf, New York, 2002).
2. Worldwide Fund for Nature, Living Planet Report 2000 (Gland,
Switzerland, 2000). 3. US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural
Resources and Environmental Indicators, 2000. USDA Economic Research
Service, Resource Economics Division (Washington, 2001). 4. Waggoner, P.
E., "How much land can ten billion people spare for nature?" Council for
Agricultural Science and Technology, Task Force Report No. 121
(Washington, 1994). 5. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization,
FAOSTAT Database; apps.fao.org. 6. Ehrlich, P. R. & Ehrlich, A. H. The
Population Explosion (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1990).
AFSTA Adopts Position On Crop Biotech
- Crop Biotech Update, cropbiotech.net
African stands to benefit from modern biotechnology to enhance food
production and agricultural development in combination with other existing
and new technologies. Since the continent loses an estimated 40% of its
grain crops due to pest, disease and weed damage in the field and
post-harvest losses, using crop biotechnology is a viable option.
This was the main position on crop biotechnology that the African Seed
Trade Association (AFSTA) adopted during their Annual Congress in Dakar,
Senegal. AFSTA represents seed industries in 21 African countries and
eight associate members outside Africa.
Specifically, AFSTA affirmed its support to research and applications of
agricultural biotechnology to improve agricultural productivity. It called
for appropriate policies and programs to foster rapid developments in
agricultural biotechnology. The seed association appealed also to
multilateral development organizations and foreign aid donors to assist
Africa in several aspects such as education of stakeholders regarding
opportunities and possible associated risks, suitable regulatory
protocols, promotion of entrepreneurship and local private sector