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Date:

July 9, 2002

Subject:

Biotech is No DDT; Frankenfears; Pharming Patent; Misguided EU Pr

 

Today in AgBioView - July 10, 2002

* What Do We Know and When Did We Know It
* Frankenfears
* 'Pharming' patent boosts prospects for herpes-fighting corn plants
* EU Commission's Farm Proposal Omits Genetically Altered Crops
* Blair to Head GM Campaign
* Scent of Designer Blooms: Making Modern Roses More Fragrant
* Biotechnology and Globalization

What Do We Know and When Did We Know It

- Allan S. Felsot, AgBioView, July 10, 2002; www.agbioworld.org

The essay that was presented on the Lab Sciences Network Website
(http://www.lifesciencesnetwork.com/news-detail.asp?newsID=1708) that was
written by Anna Salleh is an interesting interpretation of the ongoing
saga of Mexican Maize Madness, the alliterative pun coined by AgBioViewís
overlords.

Ms. Salleh has striven to present both sides of the ěcornyî debate. One
particular passage struck me, however, as being a misrepresentation of the
early history of DDT. In reference to the ědearthî of information
concerning environmental risks of biotechnology-derived (BD) crops, Ms.
Salleh wrote, ěHowever, others say that five years is not a long time when
you consider it took decades to discover the impact of chemicals like DDT
on the environment.î

The issue of misrepresentation of what we knew and when we knew it about
old technologies like DDT is important to todayís perception of the risks
from the introduction of new technologies like BD-crops. If people
believe that it takes decades to discern the risks of a new technology,
then new technologies will always be accompanied by at least a quarter of
century of vehement uncertainty. However, if we actually have learned a
lot about a technology before its commercialization, as well as learned
even more within a reasonably short time after commercialization, then
perhaps we will become more comfortable with uncertainty. After all, when
it comes to technology adoption, the uncertainty can be semantically
reformulated as a risk (i.e., probability) of something really nasty
happening to people or the environment.

DDT has often been invoked as an example of a technology with good
intentions gone bad when we found out about the gory details. As
expressed by Ms. Salleh, some people fervently believe that this
realization took decades. Because this perception is inextricably linked
with how much we think we known or donít know about the ecological risks
of BD crops, a trip down memory lane to examine the early history of DDT
is warranted. Perhaps, some lessons may emerge to help assuage our
cravings for certainty, or at least to help us regain confidence in those
intangible twin marvels of the human brain, deductive and inductive
reasoning.

Iíve often wondered about whether those who invoke Rachel Carson as
prescient savior of the environment ever wondered (yet alone read) where
she obtained all of her information that enabled her to write the book
ěSilent Spring.î I dusted off my 1962 edition (the year of actual book
publication), and I quickly turned to the back pages where Ms. Carson
referenced her bibliographic materials. Lo and behold, I find that nearly
every reference was published in the late 1940ís and early to late 1950ís.
Given the former leisurely pace of research and publication, the data was
most likely collected at least one year or more before the date of
publication.

So what did we know and when did we know it relative to the advent of
commercial use of DDT? Use of DDT started during 1942 strictly for
military purposes to ward off medically important arthropods. It was
released for use in agriculture circa 1945, but it did not really catch on
until the late 1940ís/early 1950ís when its commercial production
increased five fold in a several year time span.

By the late 1940ís we already knew from scientific publications that DDT
bioaccumulated in animal tissues and could be transferred into milk. This
bioaccumulation and food chain transfer was known not from direct
treatments of animals, but from studies where spaces (i.e., barns) were
sprayed and then cowís milk was found to be tainted with DDT. In the
early 1950ís, studies were also published that showed DDT and its
oxidative metabolite DDE was already present in human plasma. Scientific
publications about fish toxicity and birds began to come forward in the
mid-1950ís. And this is just a small sampling of what can be readily
found in Carsonís bibliography to Silent Spring. Students of the
endocrine disrupter debate will tell you that DDT and related compounds
were found to have estrogenic properties by the late 1950ís.

Bear in mind that all of the studies published between the late 1940ís and
1950ís were typical hazard assessment. But hazard is a far cry from risk.
Furthermore, all of the hazard information was being collected before we
really had any development of modern day principles of toxicodynamics and
environmental chemodynamics that are important for enlightened risk
assessment. Despite our uninformed sensibilities (by todayís standards)
about environmental quality 50 years ago, we already knew within a decade
or earlier of commercial DDT use pretty much everything about DDT that
would be elaborated on in subsequent years with more detail.

The pertinent point to this discussion is that some advocates would like
to invoke a moratorium on new technologies like BD crops because they
believe past experiences with other technologies showed risks were not
realized for decades after commercialization. But the early days of DDT
use exposes this belief as mythical and not born out by the published
literature. In fact, it took decades to make a decision about what to do
with DDT. Failure to make a decision to more stringently regulate a
technology is not synonymous with lack of information about that
technology.

Weíve come a long way since DDT, and our theoretical foundations for
understanding and predicting impacts are much sounder than in the good old
days. We can do pre-commercialization hazard assessment studies for new
technologies, use our powers of intuition and deduction to assess risk,
and then rely on monitoring vigilance (along with continued hypothesis
testing) to ensure minimal adverse consequences in the future. To suggest
otherwise is to deny the evolutionary trajectory of our brainsí
capabilities.

To see how far we have come in attaining knowledge about commercialized BD
soybean, corn, and cotton in their short life thus far, take a look at
what we already do know as presented in the CAST report, ěComparative
Environmental Impacts of Biotechnology-Derived and Traditional Soybean,
Corn, and Cotton Cropsî (www.cast-science.org). The report does include a
section on gene flow and Mexican corn landraces based on an analysis of
articles published in a CYMITT-sponsored proceedings from seven years ago
(http://www.cimmyt.org/ABC/Geneflow/geneflow_pdf_Engl/contents.htm).

The nearly forty-five pages of cited references in the CAST report that
represented all kinds of publicly accessible resources suggests that we
tend to fret more about what we think we donít know then about what we do
know. Announcements of reports on past editions of AgBioView show that
the CAST report is not the only comprehensive publication that has
examined the ěstate-of-the-artî of environmental impacts. You may not
like the regulatory decisions or indecisions about the commercialized BD
crops, but blaming policy quagmires on a lack of scientific research is a
crutch poorly supported by the experiences of those taking the time to
comprehensively analyze the literature.

---
Allan S. Felsot is a Professor & Extension Specialist in
Entomology/Environmental Toxicology
at Washington State University. He can be reached by email at


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

Frankenfears
Ý
- Michael Standaert, TechCentral Station, July 9, 2002 (Forwarded by:
Bruce M. Chassy )

http://www.techcentralstation.be/2051/wrapper.jsp?PID=2051-100&CID=2051-070902A


BRUSSELS -- After years of pandering to fear of genetically modified crops
in the European media, protected farm interests and green groups, it is
difficult for the European Union to backtrack and claim to support GM crop
production and the substantial use of GM foods without a backlash of
public opinion. On one hand, the European Commission recently issued tough
new rules on GM's, and on the other it is pumping billions of freshly
minted euros into biotech research.

On July 3, the European parliament voted to enact even more stringent new
labeling rules for GM foods than the Commission, setting up a detailed
system to track GM ingredients through the food chain, requiring all food
derived from GM organisms to be labeled even if they have no traces of
modified DNA or proteins, and detailed labeling of animal feed. The vote
still has to go through the main decision-making body of the EU, the
Council of Ministers. The US claims it loses $300 million dollars a year
due to the EU not approving new GM products.

For a picture of what the EU is up against, one can easily turn to the
papers. The left-leaning British Sunday newspaper, The Observer, ran this
frightening headline a little over a month ago -- 'GM could kill off
organic farms'. "Organic farming in Britain could be doomed if the
government approves the cultivation of genetically modified crops," the
article said.

This term -- 'organic' -- as a brand and as a label is almost as
misleading as the term 'genetically modified'. It automatically sets up
expectations without verifiable results. Maybe it is the decades of films
of mad scientists, a history of eugenicists, comic book mutants juxtaposed
against the background of years of firmly entrenched socialists and greens
in Europe attempting to regulate everything under the sun that has brought
us to this point.

But we often forget that we modify ourselves in small ways every day. Some
of us sunbathe, and slather chemicals on ourselves in doing so, and
increase our chances to be modified enough that we may get skin cancer.
Some smoke, perhaps more in Europe than in the US, we (some of us) do
drugs, drink, pump our breasts full of silicone, nip and tuck our chins
and butts. Others take charge by modifying their bodies through exercise,
dieting, or moving to climates or locations they see as healthier. Some
choose to modify themselves by not eating meat. Some modify their
enjoyment by eating what they like. And that is our choice. You can choose
to smoke and possibly get cancer, and cigarettes rightly have a warning
label telling us that they may cause harm. Labeling a food product with a
warning of 'genetically modified' when there is no proof of harm, brings
expectations of harm just as much as labeling something 'organic' brings
expectations of beneficial health. The arguments that it is the choice of
the consumer to put something modified of organic into their bodies don't
hold much weight under the present knowledge that there is no harm in
these foods. Even 'organic' foods are not always safe, or truly
advertised, as seen in a recent incident where Spain was reprimanded by
the European Commission for labeling some foods 'organic' that were
processed under heavy use of non-organic pesticides. Germany also recently
underwent a scandal in its organic food industry.

There is a certain threshold of risk all inventions and new technologies
require, a certain factor of risk analysis. Automobiles kill thousands of
people per year and have since they were invented though no one is saying
we should have never invented the car (except maybe the Unabomber). And
yes, there has been regulation to make cars safer and less polluting, and
there should be regulation to ensure that GM products are safe for
consumers and the environment. At this point they seem safe enough and
disallowing consumers the opportunity to consume what could be a cheaper
and safe product is bad for European consumers.

Let's face it. Europe is behind the US in advances on genetic technology
being used in the marketplace. "Europe cannot afford to miss this new,
global revolution," Philippe Busquin, head of research for the European
Commission, said in Brussels May 29th. "It will happen with or without
us."

Mr. Busquin is correct in his assumption that they cannot afford to miss
the revolution. But it is not new, as he says, and it has been happening
with or without the European Community across the waves of the Atlantic
for quite some time. Now the Europeans are ready for the game, and priming
the pump as quickly as they can. Quietly, the EU is opening up the road to
GMs through the back door. Under the sixth framework program for biotech
development under the European Commission, the total budget for genomics
and biotechnology research for health, food, nanotechnology and
sustainable development, Busquin said, stands at 2.25 billion euros.

After years of spreading fear and also bowing to media pressure, European
leaders are trying to dig out of the hole, knowing that if they miss out,
they will lose out on a large and vital sector in the world economy. Even
British PM Tony Blair has said he sees 'no health risks' in GM foods. If
there are no health risks seen, and a Royal Society Report issued late
last year said there were none, the insistence by the EU to label foods
with more than 1% GM material 'genetically modified' doesn't hold much
weight. Once again to the navel-gazing Observer which says Blair's remarks
are bowing to US pressure "amid a looming row over American attempts to
swamp European markets with food made from GM ingredients and with no
warning labels."

The only real swamp here is the quagmire of protectionism against U.S.
food products that should be allowed on European shelves and not subject
to labeling that automatically puts the thought of fear into the minds of
consumers. A warning label is just that, a warning of danger. If there is
no foreseen danger, why have a warning? A more sensible approach would be
to keep the 'organic' branding on those foods produced in such a way that
they are verified truly organic, while also lifting the warning labeling
on GM foods. An unknown percentage of people may swarm to 'organics' out
of fear, but the likely scenario is that consumers seeking lower prices
would not even care as long as they are getting tasty, healthy, and
hygienically safe food. The last is the real problem of insuring food
safety. No one has died of GM foods or is known to become sick, though
many have died or become ill from tainted, unhygienic, mishandled food
goods which is the EU's main problem with its own food safety.

Organic farmers rightly see GM crops as a threat to their brand of
'organic' which often brings higher prices because of more intensive
methods and smaller areas of production. If the costs of preventing
cross-contamination from modified crops are too high, according to the
European Commission report, they would lose out on that lucrative market.
Among options the EU report looks at is establishing GM-free zones, which
could be an alternative to an outright ban of GM crops and cut the cost of
attempting measures such as staggering growing periods or greater
distances of separation of GM and non-GM crops, or lifting the ban
totally. The last doesn't seem likely given public opinion and interest
group pressure.

Amidst all the other arguments surrounding steel and farm subsidies the US
has used to protect its markets, the debate over labeling of some US food
products as 'genetically modified', seen largely as an unfair trade
barrier by the US, could spark more fuel in recent trade war issues. The
US has not formally issued a complaint with the WTO, but US trade
representative Robert Zoellick said earlier this year that he was
'strongly considering' bringing the case before the WTO.

Chief US agricultural negotiator for the US Trade Representative office
Allen Johnson was in Brussels in late June and commented that the US is
'losing patience' with the dragging moratorium. "Obviously what our hope
had been was to open up the EU approval process. It is safe to say that
people are very concerned about this (failure to do so), and we will have
to look more aggressively at what our options are." He said the US was
hoping for the EU to establish a system where non-GMO products could be
identified, but that there was "no way to detect what is and what is not
currently, creating an opportunity for fraud. It seems US consumers have
more confidence in food safety regulatory bodies than what we see here. If
consumers care, they will respond in the marketplace, if consumers want a
product, but it has to be available for them to choose."

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

'Pharming' patent boosts prospects for herpes-fighting corn plants

- Paul Elias, Associated Press, July 10, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO - A company growing corn spliced with a herpes-fighting
human gene received broad and exclusive commercial rights to "molecular
pharming" technology Tuesday when its academic partner was granted a
patent.

Several biotechnology companies and research labs are racing to develop
ways to grow drugs in crops such as corn, tobacco and rice by splicing
human genes that produce disease-fighting proteins in the plants' DNA.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office granted The Scripps Research
Institute a patent that appears to give the La Jolla research lab and
exclusive control to some of the most promising proteins - called
antibodies - grown in all plants.

"It appears to be a very broad patent for all antibodies grown in all
plants," said Lisa Haile, a San Diego patent attorney. "It's pretty
amazing."

San Diego-based Epicyte Pharmaceutical Inc. holds exclusive commercial
rights to the patent. The company's co-founders, Mitch Hein and Andrew
Hiatt are listed as the patent's inventors and developed most of the
technology while working at Scripps. "It benefits Scripps and benefits the
company," said Scripps spokeswoman Robin Clark.

The company and its corporate partner, Dow Chemical Co., hope to extract
the herpes-fighting antibody from the corn and turn it into a topical gel.
The company hopes to begin testing the gel on people sometime next year.
About 45 million Americans are afflicted with some type of herpes virus.

But the patent and the technology it covers have drawn the ire of a wide
range of critics, who argue the plants may pose unforeseen environmental
and health problems while others oppose the patenting of biological
processes.

"This is one more clear example of the dividing up of the human body into
inventions and intellectual property, which is being controlled by a few
life science companies," said Jeremy Rifkin, a prominent
anti-biotechnology author.

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

EU Commission's Farm Proposal Omits Genetically Altered Crops

- Brandon Mitchener, The Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2002

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission's proposals to promote more
environmentally friendly farming, scheduled to be unveiled Wednesday,
ignore one tool with a proven track record of environmental benefits:
genetically modified crops.

The biotechnology industry on Tuesday blasted the commission for the
omission and accused it of caving in to political pressure in failing to
embrace expanded use of "green" biotechnology in Europe. "It's ludicrous
to discuss sustainable farming without discussing the potential of green
biotechnology," said Hugo Schepens, secretary-general of EuropaBio, an
umbrella group representing 40 biotech companies and 18 national
associations.

In the farm-reform proposals, widely leaked in advance of their
publication, the European Union's executive agency for the first time
advocates decoupling farm subsidies from agricultural production. The
current regime, critics say, encourages excess production that damages the
environment and depresses farm prices, both in Europe and world-wide.

The commission proposes replacing production-based subsidies with flat
payments for services including rural development and "sustainable"
farming -- such as organic farming -- that puts a greater emphasis on food
safety and protection of the environment. That would allow the EU to
extend the Ä40 billion ($39.72 billion) Common Agricultural Policy to
farmers in Central and Eastern European countries seeking to join the
union as early as 2004.

But the reform proposals scheduled to be unveiled Wednesday don't mention
biotechnology, even in passing, a commission official familiar with the
proposals confirmed.

That's a shift from January, when the commission published a high-profile
strategy document that said genetic engineering providing plant features
such as built-in pest resistance "can lead to reduced use of chemical
pesticides, fertilizers and drugs, and increased use of conservation
tillage -- and hence more sustainable agricultural practices, reducing
soil erosion and benefiting the environment."

At the time, Commission President Romano Prodi said the EU needed to "draw
all the advantages from this technology."

Mr. Schepens and other representatives of the biotechnology industry
barely disguise their sense of betrayal. As details of the commission
proposals leaked out, they have gone on the offensive, publicizing a
series of recent studies showing the environmental benefits of the use of
genetically modified crops world-wide.

Leonard Gianessi, senior research associate at the National Center for
Food and Agricultural Policy, a Washington, D.C., independent research
group, told a news conference in Brussels that the widespread take-up of
eight genetically modified crops in the U.S. in recent years has resulted
in a 21 million-kilogram, or 16%, reduction, in pesticide use, decreased
soil erosion, $1.5 billion (Ä1.54 billion) in added income for American
farmers and higher production to boot.

Environmentalists counter that the last thing that Europe needs is higher
food production, which encourages the EU to subsidize exports to the
detriment of developing countries. Friends of the Earth, which opposes the
use of genetically modified crops, said European society "demands higher
standards of social, environmental and animal welfare" -- not higher
output and resultant dumping on export markets.

Mr. Gianessi said biotechnology would benefit the environment even more if
it, or policy makers, allowed farmers to reduce the amount of land devoted
to agricultural production.

The commission proposal isn't the last word on the subject. Several EU
governments, which must endorse any changes to the farm-subsidy regime,
have already announced their opposition to its most radical elements.

Write to Brandon Mitchener at brandon.mitchener@wsj.com

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

Blair to Head GM Campaign

- Andy McSmith, The Daily Telegraph July 9 2002

Tony Blair is to lead a three-pronged campaign to win public opinion over
to the idea that genetically modified crops should be grown commercially
in Britain.

The campaign will run in parallel with the last of a three-year series of
trials of GM crops. The last 18 experimental sites were announced
yesterday.

Officially, the exercise is described as a public debate. However, one
minister said: "Don't be in any doubt - the decision is already taken."

The results from trials with GM crops are to be published next summer. But
ministers fear that public opinion is so hostile that allowing GM crops to
be grown commercially will provoke political uproar, whatever the
scientific findings.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is planning what a
minister called a "three-pronged PR offensive" to increase public
awareness of the advantages of GM foods. The campaign will include
television, radio, posters, supermarket leaflets and public meetings.

One theme will be the economic benefits, backed by a report from Lord
Sainsbury, the science minister, and the Government's Performance and
Innovation Unit.

Another theme will be the health and environmental impact of GM crops.
Research supported by government advisers will emphasise that GM crops
require fewer chemicals to help them grow, that trials have produced no
damage to the environment, and that there are no known risks to human
health.

The third theme of the campaign will be to emphasise the benefits for the
Third World.

A Defra spokesman said yesterday: "This will be a public debate, not a
formal consultation exercise. There are a lot of myths out there."

Pete Riley, GM campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "The Government
has agreed to hold a national debate. At the same time, they are allowing
trials to take place that threaten the environment with GM contamination."

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

On The Scent of Designer Blooms: Scientists believe that genetic
engineering will make modern roses more fragrant

- The Daily Telegraph (London), July 10, 2002

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. That sentiment might have
been true in Shakespeare's time but today, alas, some modern roses have
lost their scent altogether and a scientific effort has been launched to
understand why.

Researchers know why all roses used to smell good (to insects, at least):
lacking locomotion, these and other flowers developed petals with sweet,
spicy, citrus and intoxicating scents to help lure species with the means
of transport - notably wings - to spread their pollen.

Today, however, Shakespeare's insight no longer holds true for many roses,
which have a soulless beauty compared with a heavily scented damask.
"Selective breeding has reduced flower scent to almost nothing," said Dr
Natalia Dudareva of Purdue University, Indiana, one of a handful of
scientists worldwide who are studying floral scent. "Flowers are bred for
colour, size and shelf life without any attention to scent," she said.
"Floral scent disappeared, and nobody knows why."

Roses are not the only flowers to be diminished this way. Chrysanthemums,
lilacs and carnations are among a host of modern cultivars whose scents do
not match their looks. That, however, may be about to change thanks to
advances in the understanding of the genetics and biochemistry of petals.

For millennia, people have prized the smell of roses. In Homer's Iliad,
Aphrodite annointed the slain Hector with rose oil, marking a long
association between things that smelt good and curative powers.

For hundreds of years, people have extracted essential oils - the volatile
fragrance molecules - using techniques such as enfleurage (a tedious
technique that relied on tallow), steam distillation or vacuum
evaporation, a relatively modern method that allows oils to be extracted
without damaging them with heat. Yet as recently as a decade ago,
Professor Eran Pichersky of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,
realised that scientists did not have a clue about how plants manufacture
the small, volatile organic molecules that were so highly prized by the
perfume industry.

To find out, his team set up a pioneering project to study Brewer's
clarkia (Clarkia breweri), a Californian annual wildflower with a sweet
scent and lavender-hued blossoms and found that its fragrance was the
result of a dozen or so volatile chemicals.

Scientists now know that an orchid can produce about 100 different
volatile compounds, while a snapdragon produces between seven and 10.
Although much has been done to analyse the composition of scent, they are
only now beginning to discover the genes that encode the enzymes that make
the compounds, and how these volatile compounds are released by petals.

Prof Pichersky's team accomplished a floral first in this respect: it
found linalool synthase, an enzyme that helps form linalool, a common
scent volatile in flowers, and the gene that holds the enzyme's recipe.
Since then, the scientists have discovered three more floral scent enzymes
and their corresponding genes in Brewer's clarkia, including salicylic
acid carboxyl methyl transferase, which produces methyl salicylate, a
volatile with the scent of oil of wintergreen.

Working on the snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), Dr Dudareva has discovered
that both the moth-pollinated clarkia and the bee-pollinated snapdragon
produce floral scents using very similar biochemical pathways. It seems
that most of the scents created by flowers could be variations on a few
biochemical themes.

For example, the snapdragon researchers discovered the enzyme benzoic acid
carboxyl methyl transferase, which helps form methyl benzoate, a major
scent chemical that wafts off its petals. This enzyme is very similar to
the clarkia's salicylic acid carboxyl methyl transferase, and indeed the
structure of methyl benzoate is similar to the structure of methyl
salicate, though they smell different.

Given the presumed role of methyl benzoate in the snapdragon flowers, it
was striking that this scent is restricted to the areas of petals that
come in contact with pollinators. Dr Dudareva even found that the scent's
function was reflected in the way it was released during the day: in
snapdragons, flowers release four times as much methyl benzoate during
daytime - prime pollinating time for bees - than at night. By contrast,
petunias and flowering tobacco release maximum methyl benzoate at night,
when moths are most likely to visit.

Like many flowers, snapdragons also damp down scent shortly after
pollination - a strategy that might steer insects toward unpollinated
blossoms. Dr Dudareva's team even thinks it knows why: it has found a gene
that might trigger a slump in scent, which could provide clues to its
disappearance in some modern varieties.

To lay bare all the secrets of floral scent, a systematic effort is under
way to study the rose. Dr David Weiss, a plant biologist at the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem, is the head of the Petal Genomics project - a
three-year-old effort to build a database of DNA and then identify scent
genes.

To do so, Dr Weiss and his colleagues, including Prof Pichersky, are
rummaging around the DNA of rose petals. For the study, they selected
Fragrant Cloud, a strongly scented red rose, and Golden Gate, an almost
odourless yellow variety. They have found more than 3,000 genes that are
active in the petals and have focused on those that are active during
scent production.

This way, they have found at least 15 candidate fragrance genes. By
putting these into bacteria, the resulting GM bacteria can help reveal the
role each gene plays in scent production. Already the team has found four
enzymes that help make common scent components - two forms of
3,5-dimethoxytoluene, sesquiterpene and geranyl acetate.

Dr Weiss told the journal Science that he now hopes to spice up
floriculture by using GM to create more fragrant roses. "The ornamental
flower industry in Israel is an important aspect of agriculture, partly
because we export cut flowers to Europe during their cold, dark winters,"
said Dr Weiss, whose family owns a flower business. "I'd like to see if we
can bring scent back."

Such efforts have already started. Last year, in the Plant Journal, Dutch
scientists reported creating GM petunias with the linalool synthase gene
found in Brewer's clarkia. Although the GM petunias made linalool in many
tissues, they did not release the scent. Dr Weiss's lab recently had more
success putting the same gene into carnations, which did release linalool
- but not at levels to make much difference.

The work has also thrown up an alternative route to boost fragrance. In a
study to be published next month in Molecular Breeding, Professor
Alexander Vainstein and Dr Weiss's team enhanced scent in orange
carnations by blocking pigment production in its flowers. Because some
colour and scent chemicals begin in the same biochemical pathway, the team
reasoned - correctly - that blocking colour diverts the plant's metabolic
resources towards making scent in the resulting cream-coloured flowers.

Researchers might even return carnations to their former glory. At one
time, the flowers had the fragrant smell of cloves and spice - the
volatile chemical eugenol - which is only a trace ingredient of today's
cultivars.

These new insights might even allow scientists to create stronger scents,
designer fragrances (Gucci flowers?) or even to make flowers that produce
scents at certain times of the day: most people prefer moth-pollinated
flowers, which they consider "sweet-smelling", but many such flowers
produce scents only at night.

But will the public accept the idea of GM roses spiked with scent? Despite
the controversy over genetically modified foods and crops, Prof Pichersky
claims that it can and will happen.

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

Biotechnology and Globalization

- Center for International Development, Harvard University
http://www.cid.harvard.edu/cidtech/

The rapid introduction of products derived from modern agricultural
biotechnology in the global economy has been accompanied by controversies
over their potential impacts on human health, environment and farming
systems. This subprogram examines the role of agricultural biotechnology
in the global economy, with specific emphasis on developing countries. It
is implemented with financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the
Center for International Development at Harvard University and the Belfer
Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University,
Kennedy School of Government, and Harvard University.

The overall aim of the Biotechnology and Globalization subprogram is to
undertake research, promote policy consultations and disseminate
information on the implications of biotechnology for development. It also
contributes to training in science and technology policy analysis. More
specifically, the project: (1) undertakes research on key areas of
relevance to developing countries; (2) promotes consultations on the
policy aspects of biotechnology in developing countries; and (3)
disseminates the results of the research and consultations widely through
the internet and other means.

The Biotechnology and Globalization project covers ten projects: (1)
globalization of research and development; (2) science and the
precautionary principle; (3) biotechnology in developingcountries; (4)
public attitudes toward biotechnology; (5) intellectual property rights;
(6) biodiversity and traditional knowledge; (7) ethical considerations;
(8) institutional innovation; (9) geneticdivide; and (10) aquaculture.