Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on
ag-biotech.


Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives

Subscribe

 


SEARCH:     

Date:

July 17, 2002

Subject:

Foundation for Deep Ecology, Bove, Buddhism, Japan, UK farmers, Rice Blast G

 

Today in AgBioView: July 18, 2002:

* S.F. businessman evolves from clothier to eco-philanthropist
* French prosecutor fights bid to free Jose Bove
* Buddhism and GMOs
* JAPAN APPROVES BIOTECH CORN, SOY VARIETIES FOR FOOD
* Monsanto cotton seeds a sell-out with farmers
* Young UK farmers support gene crop trials
* Look abroad for mature attitude to GE debate
* More US Land Growing GM Crops
* Researchers Sequence Rice Blast Genome
* Whitehead Completes, Posts Rice Fungus Genome

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/07/15/BU114662.DTL


S.F. businessman evolves from clothier to eco-philanthropist

San Francisco Chronicle
By Tom Abate
July 15, 2002

When Andy Kimbrell addresses the Commonwealth Club tonight to attack
agribusiness, globalism and biotechnology, he'll be representing a
movement rooted in Northern California and funded by a former San
Francisco fashion magnate turned eco-crusader.

Kimbrell is the editor of "Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial
Agriculture," a 384-page assault on every aspect of modern agriculture
from chemical sprays to factory farms and the genetic engineering of
plants, trees and animals.

In contrast, "Fatal Harvest" offers a utopian alternative in which local
growers, cultivating natural seeds and using organic methods, create
sustainable farms that respect the soil and reward its tillers.

A dozen Bay Area activists contributed essays to "Fatal Harvest" including
Bolinas technology critic Jerry Mander, Berkeley chef Alice Waters, San
Francisco anti-global crusader Debi Barker and Oakland hunger activist
Anuradha Mittal.

But the inspiration and funding for "Fatal Harvest" came from former San
Francisco clothier Doug Tompkins, whose Foundation for Deep Ecology has
handed out $39 million over the past dozen years to prod environmental
activism in new directions.

Tompkins is a fabled character in the Bay Area's business pantheon, a
former rock climber and skier who came to California during the hippie era
and parlayed a gift for merchandising into a fortune.

He created the Foundation for Deep Ecology, based in San Francisco, in
1990 after his ex-wife and former business partner, socialite Susie
Tompkins Buell, eased him out of Esprit de Corps, the trendy fashion firm
they built and ultimately ruined together.

Nowadays Tompkins, 59, spends most of his time in Pumalin, the Yosemite-
sized swath of Chile he has acquired and turned into an ecological
preserve. He shares this refuge and his passion for eco-preservation with
Kris McDivitt Tompkins. She is the 51-year-old former chief executive of
Patagonia, the Southern California outdoor clothing firm that also
supports activist causes.

CONTROVERSIAL CAUSES

Despite his foundation's modest outlays of slightly more than $3 million a
year, Tompkins has helped nudge eco-activism in new directions by funding
new and controversial causes, according to Denis Hayes, who helped
organize the first Earth Day in 1970 and today runs an environmental
foundation in Seattle.

"The foundation has been very active and at a very early stage in
globalization and biotechnology," Hayes said.

Tompkins' most prescient gift may have been his sponsorship in the early
1990s of the International Forum on Globalization, the San Francisco group
that has become an intellectual leader in what has become an issue for
street protests.

"We started IFG before globalization was even a well-known term," said
Jerry Mander, one of Tompkins' key advisers.

Mander, best known for his 1970s book "Four Arguments for the Elimination
of Television," said Tompkins was also among the first eco-philanthropists
to make opposition to genetically engineered crops part of the critique of
modern agriculture.

Although much has been written about Tompkins' efforts to acquire and
preserve land in South America, little has been written about his
foundation's role in pushing issues like globalization and anti-biotech
activism.

A 2000 article in the Washington Times did link Tompkins to the riot that
rocked the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, calling his
foundation "a bright thread running through the funding apparatus" of the
protest movement.

More recently, ActivistCash.Com, a Washington, D.C., group associated with
the restaurant industry, has criticized the foundation for supporting
fringe groups like the Ruckus Society, an Oakland group that trains
activists in protest tactics.

"There's a rather disturbing element of behind-the-scenes funding," said
Jay Byrne, a former public relations specialist for Monsanto who now
operates a private PR firm.

GRANTS TO PHASE OUT

Foundation supporters scoff at the notion that Tompkins has somehow been
the puppet master behind the eco-protest movement. In any event, Mander
said the foundation will phase out most grant-giving over the next three
years and devote most of Tompkins' money -- about $125 million -- to
buying and preserving land in South America.

William Langewiesche, who wrote a 1999 Atlantic Monthly article about
Tompkins' adventures -- some would say misadventures -- in South America,
said he had a missionary zeal for preservation. He noted, for instance,
that Tompkins had a 15-page code of conduct that, among other things,
required inhabitants of one Chilean preserve to separate the recyclables
from their trash.

"He represents the modern religion of environmentalism, and he likes to
spread that around," Langewiesche said in an interview last week.

Reached by phone while visiting his parents in upstate New York, Tompkins
bristled at the mention of the Atlantic piece and sought to explain his
progression from fashion king to friend of the earth.

"Everybody has contradictions. Life is full of contradictions," Tompkins
said. "In the world of philanthropy, almost all the money earned comes
from something exploitive or polluting."

In his case, he sold outfits that were more fanciful than practical,
taking advantage of cheap labor throughout the world to keep prices down
and profits high.

"These were products for meaningless consumption. All we were doing was
feeding this gigantic consumption machine," he said.

By the time he and his ex-wife parted ways over Esprit, he was
disillusioned with the economic system he had exploited.

"One of my advantages (as an eco-philanthropist) is that I was already
operating in 60 countries, marketing a product that nobody needed but
people bought because we were clever marketers," he said. "I have come
full circle to appreciate things from the other side."
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

French prosecutor fights bid to free Jose Bove

Agence France Presse
July 17, 2002

The prosecutor for the southern French city of Montpellier said Wednesday
he will fight a legal bid to have Jose Bove conditionally freed from
prison, the anti-globalisation activist's lawyer said.

The lawyer, Francois Roux, told a media conference here that prosecutor
Leonard Bernard de la Gatinais had vowed to appeal any decision by a judge
to allow Bove out of a local jail before the end of his three-month term
for having destroyed a McDonald's outlet in 1999.

Such an appeal would automatically suspend an order to free Bove, Roux
said. The lawyer last week filed a request for the small farmer's advocate
to be let out on parole. The judge hearing the matter is to give his
decision Friday.

Since his incarceration June 19, Bove has become a thorn in the side of
France's new centre-right government, which has sworn a tough line on
law-and-order.

He has had several notable visitors, including Danielle Mitterand, the
wife of the late president Francois Mitterand.

On Sunday, a human chain of around 2,500 leftist supporters formed around
his prison calling for his release, while inside he put end to a hunger
strike he had carried out for 25 days.

Roux said Bove had met all the requirements for parole -- a job, a stable
address, having completed nearly half his sentence -- but that he was
victim of "judicial overzealousness".

"Jose Bove is not being treated like an ordinary prisoner, otherwise the
prosecutor would not have expressed his opposition to his liberation,"
Roux said.

Bernard de Gatinais had argued to the judge that there was "no urgence" to
free Bove given the risk he would again break the law and the fact that he
faces up to another 14 months in prison for a separate affair in which he
destroyed genetically modified crops, according to documents Roux showed.

If Bove's appeal is denied, he is scheduled to leave prison on August 1,
taking into account 14 days for good behaviour and another 14 days as part
of the traditional nationwide pardon decreed by President Jacques Chirac
in honour of Bastille Day last Sunday.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From: "Charles Endo"
Subject: Buddhism and GMOs
Date: Wed, 17 Jul 2002 05:08:15 +0000

Question

Hi, I have a question that maybe someone in the mail list will be able to
answer. I was wondering what is the official position of Buddhism about
biotechnologies especially OMGs? How and where could I get this
information?

Thanks

Charles-Anica Endo
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

JAPAN APPROVES BIOTECH CORN, SOY VARIETIES FOR FOOD

July 17, 2002
Reuters (via Agnet)

TOKYO - Japan's Health Ministry was cited as saying on Wednesday it had
approved three varieties of genetically modified (GM) corn and soybeans as
safe for human consumption, paving the way for more imports of
controversial bioengineered foods. The approved crops are
insect-resistant, herbicide-tolerant GM corn -- called Herculex I -- from
U.S. chemical firm Dow Chemical Co and two varieties of herbicide-tolerant
GM soybeans from Franco-German pharmaceutical group Aventis SA The number
of GM plants Japan has approved for human consumption thus rises to 43
varieties of six crops-- corn, soybean, sugar beet, potato, rapeseed and
cotton. Genetically modified crops contain a gene from another organism to
give plants resistance to a certain herbicide or the ability to produce
its own toxin to kill pests. Critics say not enough research has been done
to ensure the new technology is safe for the environment and public
health. The story explains that Japan, the world's largest net importer of
farm products, started importing GM crops six years ago as farmers in the
United States began adopting the new technology. To alleviate consumer
concerns about the safety of GM foods, the Japanese government established
in April 2001 zero tolerance for imports containing unapproved GM products
and required mandatory labelling for foods containing approved GM
products.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.blonnet.com/2002/07/17/stories/2002071700560900.htm

Monsanto cotton seeds a sell-out with farmers

Hindu Business Line
By Harish Damodaran
July 17, 2002

JUDGING by the initial response from farmers and seed dealers, the
`Bollgard' (Bt) cotton of Monsanto and the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co Ltd
(Mahyco) has been a total sell-out in its very first season of commercial
planting.

In the current kharif season, Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech India Ltd (MMB), the
50:50 marketing joint venture between the two companies, has sold 1.05
lakh packets of Mahyco's cotton hybrid seeds, genetically engineered to
confer `in-built' resistance to the dreaded American bollworm pest.

``Given the limited quantity of seeds available, 80 per cent of our sales
were made to farmers located in cluster villages around our trial
locations. Being already familiar with the product, they were the most
keen to plant them. Only the remaining 20 per cent was supplied to new
farmers'', said Dr M.K. Sharma, Managing Director of MMB.

Of the 1.05 lakh packets sold likely to touch 6-7 lakh packets next year
around 39,200 were allocated to Maharashtra, 21,000 to Karnataka, 15,000
to Gujarat, 14,000 to Tamil Nadu, 11,000 to Andhra Pradesh and 4,500 to
Madhya Pradesh. ``We are looking at this year more as an opportunity to
send the right communication to the farmer, which will create conditions
for its eventual large-scale adoption,'' Mr Raju Barwale, Managing
Director, Mahyco, said.

The Bt hybrids were sold to farmers at Rs 1,600 per packet, each
containing 450 gm of seeds to cover one acre. This is against a maximum
retail price of Rs 380 for a similar packet of Mahyco's non-Bt cotton
hybrid versions.

According to Mr Gopal Bharuka, MMB's distributor for Aurangabad district,
the high price was not a deterrent to Bollgard's sales. ``This year, I
distributed 453 packets. I am confident of selling 50,000 next season and
capturing a fifth of the district's market of 2.5 lakh packets for all
hybrid cotton seeds,'' he claimed.

Mr R.M. Arora, a leading seed dealer here, too, felt that the price of Rs
1,600 was reasonable. ``The packet costing Rs 1,600 contains not only a
450-gm composite can of Bt seeds, but also a separate 120 gm pouch of the
non-Bt version of the same hybrid seeds, costing around Rs 100. Further,
the seeds are treated with Gaucho (Imidacloropid), which does away with
the need to spray against sucking pests for up to 45 days, saving another
Rs 100. So, the effective price is Rs 1,400, i.e, Rs 1,000 more than that
for ordinary cotton hybrids,'' he stated.

But does this still work out to be economical? Most farmers in the
Aurangabad-Jalna belt with whom Business Line interacted said that they
had invested the extra Rs 1,000 per acre in the hope of saving on
pesticide applications for controlling bollworm infestation. A single
round of spraying pesticides be it organophosphates like endosulphan and
monocrotophos or synthetic pyrethroids such as cypermethrin and fennalrate
costs Rs 250-300 per acre. And farmers spray 10 to 15 times, depending
on the incidence of the bollworm population.

``Last year, I spent Rs 10,000 in making 15 sprays in my 2.5-acre cotton
field and I still got just five quintals per acre'', Ramdas Ananda Phalke,
a resident of village Varkhedi, said.

Vittal Asaram Shelke, an 8-acre farmer from village Sawangi, said that
during the last 4-5 years, his seed cotton yields ranged between three and
15 quintals per acre.

``It depends mainly on what the bondali (bollworm) does. But there is no
year where I spend less than Rs 3,000 per acre in controlling the pest. If
the Bollgard hybrids will help reduce this cost by even half and stabilise
my yields at 10-12 quintals, I would be most happy'', he added.

According to Mr Barwale, the estimated savings from Bollgard, due to
lesser number of pesticide sprays as well as reduced yield losses, comes
to a minimum Rs 3,000 per acre.

``Farmers certainly won't mind sharing a third of this gain with us'', he
emphasised.

While the Bollgard cotton's resistance against the bollworm pest may be
well established, farmers have, however, been advised that for every acre
of Bt seeds planted, they simultaneously grow five surrounding rows of
non-Bt cotton as `refuge'.

``We have supplied the 120 gm of non-Bollgard seeds free, so that the
pest's activity is diverted to this additional 0.27-acre area. This will
minimise the potential for the development of Bt-resistant insect races in
the long run,'' Dr Sharma explained.

Farmers have also been asked to `scout' their fields twice a week and
spray against bollworms only in case the bollworm larval count exceeds the
economic threshold limit (ETL) of 20 per 20 randomly selected plants.
``Farmers will not have to repeatedly spray against bollworms, though they
would still have to use pesticides against sucking pests (jassids,
whitefly, aphids, thrips, mites, etc). The Bollgard's action is specific
to only lepidopteran insects, particularly bollworm,'' Mr Barwale pointed
out.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Young UK farmers support gene crop trials

Reuters, via Agnet
July 17, 2002

A poll of more than 2,000 farmers by Lloyds TSB was cited as finding that
more than half of young UK farmers and nearly half of older farmers
support field trials of genetically modified crops, despite public
wariness about GM foods.

The story says that 55 percent of the under-30 farmers polled said they
would support field trials of gene-spliced crops for their entire farms,
compared with 47 percent for those aged 31-60 and 48 percent for those
aged 61 and over, the survey showed.

Tim Porter, head of agriculture at Lloyds TSB, was cited as saying the
survey showed that the majority of farmers were thinking about increased
international competition and a reduction in the number of UK farm
businesses over the next five years, adding, "Our findings suggest farmers
are keen to explore the possibilities that genetic modification of crops
has to offer and as you might expect, this trend is particularly prevalent
amongst arable farmers in the East Anglian engine room of crop
production."

Backing for the trials increased further amongst both age groups when they
were asked to assume that genetically modified cropping would have minimal
adverse impact on the environment, the survey found.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Look abroad for mature attitude to GE debate

Asia Intelligence Wire
By JOHN PALMER
July 16, 2002

16.07.2002 The European Consumers Union is not opposed to GMOs." This is a
quote from an address by Willemien Bax of the European Consumers
Organisation to a conference I attended in Holland last month.

It will surprise most New Zealanders, given the half-truths and fears
promoted by the Greens and others in the current debate over genetically
modified organisms.

It is misleading for critics to claim our trade and markets will be
imperilled if we lift the present moratorium in October next year.

I have spent a lot of time over the past 13 years looking at market trends
and issues relating to food, food safety, consumer issues and organics in
Europe and North America.

The market reality in Europe is quite at odds with the picture painted by
the Greens and the new Sustainability Council.

The poor knowledge and vested interests of many of these people suggest
they are either naive or being deliberately misleading. For the
Sustainability Council to pathetically claim that it does not want to be
part of the political process suggests naivety in the extreme.

The reality of retail food markets, and current consumer issues in Europe,
is quite different from the emotional picture painted here.

There is widespread concern over food safety and agricultural
sustainability, and these are major issues for New Zealand producers.

But I sense a significant change in mood over the past two years in Europe
to the GM issue, which is well illustrated by the position taken by the
European Consumers Organisation.

They are not actively supporting GM release, but by not opposing it I'm
sure they recognise the considerable consumer benefits that can flow from
the careful development of science in this area.

Major advances in medical treatment are the most obvious, but there are
many others.

There are other signs pointing to this trend, which the Greens and others
choose to ignore.

The maturing of the public debate in Europe is a consequence of greater
exposure of the Greens there, over a longer period.

This maturing debate coincides with growing electoral disenchantment with
the political Greens as demonstrated by their electoral hiding in the
French Assembly a few weeks ago.

I recently visited Denmark as well, where considerable comment was made
about the last change in government, which was influenced by, and
overturned, the crazy idea of turning Denmark into a totally organic
farming country.

Maybe the experience of having greenish governments in power has
influenced their movement away from the kind of hysteria we see in New
Zealand.

Neither the Greens nor the Sustainability Council will be keen to
acknowledge these trends. But the quote above is a fact. The observations
are my opinions, but they are based on close observation of what happens
in the supermarket, and by talking directly with the supermarket
operators.

For thinking New Zealanders who are not prepared to be browbeaten by wild
exaggeration, it is clear that the spectrum of possibility, and risk, in
GM development is quite narrow.

The sensible conclusions of the royal commission's report removed all the
high-risk possibilities and outcomes from the debate. Given the unlimited
possibilities of the technology, that is sensible.

The current debate, therefore, is whether we should proceed very
cautiously in a very low-risk way, or whether we should say a blanket no
to commercial release.

Both are low-risk, but neither are zero-risk options. It is quite
dishonest to claim that a blanket no, for three or five years or whatever
term, is reducing risk. It probably lowers some biological risks (although
that isn't certain), but certainly raises economic and social risks.

In weighing up those risks, the Greens have fired up an emotional
bandwagon that ignores some simple truths. GMOs are already in the food
chain in New Zealand. GMOs are widely distributed globally.

If we are really concerned about the sustainability of agriculture, and
indeed the planet, then careful GM developments offer one of the most
promising and safest means of progress.

In plant breeding, there is a continual need to improve food and forage
crops, both to feed a hungry world and ensure it is done in a biologically
safer way.

Of the six billion global population, a significant percentage already
live in poverty.

By 2025, the world population will have grown to eight billion, and we
will either have helped to meet that growing food gap, or face the
geo-political consequences of living smugly in the South Pacific.

This challenge also provides economic opportunities for science, research
and production in a range of products.

My own company, Wrightson, has an interest and investment in these areas.

The frustration with the current argument is not just with its emotional
blackmail, but with the opportunities it will deny to New Zealand.

The prospect of breeding plants better able to tolerate drought or cold or
high salt levels or highly toxic areas creates truly exciting
possibilities in dealing with past pollution problems, and with
sustainability.

Perhaps that's why the European Consumers Organisation has the view it
does.

Maybe it has recognised that there are so many potential benefits it is
unwise to prevent cautious introduction of GMOs.

No sensible person is advocating that New Zealand should take risks with
its environment, its reputation, or its trade.

My fear is that the current emotion around the debate will lead to poor
decisions that, over time, will worsen the economic and biological
environment, and potentially damage our trading competitiveness.

It's easy for the well-meaning people on the Sustainability Council to
take positions when their own livelihoods are not threatened. For New
Zealand, we must take a wider and longer view.

Sam Neill is an iconic New Zealander who made his name as the star of
wonderful fantasies. Let's not be taken in by this one.

John Palmer is a farmer from Brightwater, near Nelson. He is chairman of
Wrightson, and has an extensive background in the horticultural industry,
including as a past chairman of the New Zealand Kiwifruit Marketing Board,
and Zespri International. He is a Nuffield Scholar and a recipient of
Lincoln University's Bledisloe Medal.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

More US Land Growing GM Crops

NewsRoom
July 17, 2002

New figures showing United States farmers are growing more genetically
modified crops is being interpreted by some experts as a sign that farmer
resistance to the technology is dwindling.

The United States Department of Agriculture says that the acreage planted
in "biotechnology-enhanced" corn, soybean and cotton all increased
significantly in the 2002 season.

More than a third of all the US land planted in corn is now planted in
biotech varieties while about three-quarters of the soybean and cotton
plantings are biotech.

Eight percent more land was planted in biotech corn than last year,
including the pest-resistant GM variety at the centre of accidental
release allegations in New Zealand last week.

Biotech soybean acreage increased from 68 percent to 75 percent and
biotech cotton acreage increased from 69 percent to 71 percent.
Midwest-based AgriNews Publications reports Purdue University agriculture
economist Chris Hurt as saying the figures represented "quick rates" of
acceptance, considering most technology takes 15 years to be totally
accepted.

Mr Hurt put the continued increase in biotech acreage down to better
public acceptance of the product along with continued benefits for the
farmers who plant them.

The report also quoted the chairman of the United Soybean Board saying
that a study it commissioned from the Council for Agricultural Science and
Technology showed that the use of biotech varieties could enhance on-farm
conditions.

"Farmers often work land that has been in the same family for
generations," Richard Borgsmiller said.

"Many of us have seen environmental improvements on our farms as a result
of planting biotech varieties."

Council executive vice-president Teresa Gruber said teams of its
researchers reviewed and analysed previously published studies in the
context of current farming practices.

"And the results clearly show that soil, air and water quality are
enhanced through the responsible use of current biotechnology-derived
soybean, corn and cotton crops," she said.

Researchers had used as measures pesticide-use patterns, impacts on
beneficial insects, soil management, pest resistance and human exposure.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Researchers Sequence Rice Blast Genome (Could eventually help control
spread of worldwide disease)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
17 July 2002

U.S. researchers have completed the initial sequencing of the genome for a
fungus that destroys rice grown around the world.

A July 16 National Science Foundation press release says that sequencing
the genome, or genetic blueprint, of the fungus -- known as Magnaporthe
grisea -- could help scientists control the spread of rice blast disease,
which each year destroys enough rice to feed more than 60 million people.

Certain strains of the fungus can also attack domesticated grasses such as
barley, wheat, pearl millet and even turf grasses. The U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention recently recognized the fungus as a
potentially significant biological weapon that could be used for
agricultural terrorism.

Genome sequencing will allow scientists to understand the interactions
between the fungus and grasses, and identify the mechanisms that regulate
infection of a host plant. The first draft sequence of the rice blast
genome was completed under a joint project sponsored by the National
Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The rice blast genome sequencing data can be found at the following Web
site: http://www.genome.wi.mit.edu/annotation/fungi/magnaporthe/

Following is the text of the press release:

National Science Foundation July 16, 2002

FIRST OF CROP KILLER'S GENOME SEQUENCE AVAILABLE

The first draft sequence of a worldwide crop-killing fungus genome has
been completed under the joint National Science Foundation (NSF) and U.S.
Department of Agriculture Microbial Genome Sequencing Project.

The fungus Magnaporthe grisea causes rice blast disease, which is
estimated to destroy annually enough rice to feed more than 60 million
people. The fungus was recently recognized by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention as a potentially significant biological weapon that
could be used for agricultural terrorism.

Certain strains of the fungus can attack domesticated grasses such as
barley, wheat, pearl millet, and even turf grasses. Rice blast disease,
once thought to be confined to only developing nations, has emerged in the
United States over the past decade with the widespread introduction of
rice as a crop in the South. In the Midwest, golf courses also have been
devastated by the disease's attack on cool season grasses.

Previously, rice blast outbreaks were controlled through the application
of costly and potentially hazardous chemicals. Genome sequencing will
allow scientists to understand the interactions between the fungus and
grasses, and identify the mechanisms that regulate infection of a host
plant. This knowledge could help scientists discover new ways to prevent
fungal crop infection and the spread of rice blast disease.

"This is an important first step toward understanding how this fungus
attacks the rice plant," said Patrick Dennis, NSF's microbial genetics
program director. "The scientific community needs this information to fill
long-standing gaps in our understanding and to develop new strategies for
controlling this destructive pathogen. This will be a springboard to new
discoveries."

The research is continuing at North Carolina State University and the
Whitehead Institute's Center for Genome Research in Massachusetts.

To view the rice blast genome sequencing data, see:
http://www.genome.wi.mit.edu/annotation/fungi/magnaporthe/
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.genomeweb.com/articles/view.asp?Article=200271717359

Whitehead Completes, Posts Rice Fungus Genome

By Clementine Wallace

NEW YORK, July 17 - A team of US scientists has completed and made
publicly available a draft genomic sequence of the crop-killing fungus
Magnaporthe grisea, the National Science Foundation said today.

Ralph Dean, a professor at North Carolina State University, led the
research effort, which was conducted at the Whitehead Institute and relied
on an Arachne platform.

The research was paid for by a $1.7 million in grant from the NSF and the
US Department of Agriculture's Microbial Genome Sequencing Project,
according to Patrick Dennis, an NSF officer who administered the grant.

The researchers have completed a 6X coverage of the organism, but so far
only the first 3X coverage is available on Whitehead's web site. "What's
available now is just the first step, but at least the scientific
community can begin using it and there's a lot of very useful info" said
Dennis.

At this point, the team is working to refine and verify their assemblies.
"They have almost everything they need to close the gaps," added Dennis.

Thomas Mitchell, a senior research scientist who works with Dean, said a
lack of funds is behind the delay. "We don't have funding to complete the
whole genome yet," he said. "We will seek funding as soon as we can do the
final version."

It was not yet determined whether NSF and USDA plan to fund the remainder
of the project. "We were somewhat restricted in the amount of money we
could give them last year, and I think we would be inclined to" pay for
the next round, Mitchell told GenomeWeb.

Magnaporthe grisea is responsible for rice blast disease, which is
estimated to destroy annually enough rice to feed more than 60 million
people. The fungus has also been recognized by the US Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention as a potentially significant biological weapon that
could be used for agricultural terrorism.

As GenomeWeb reported last summer, Agilent Technologies had developed a
microarray for Magnaporthe grisea for Paradigm Genetics. The chip
comprises a host of Magnaporthe gene sequences and positive and negative
control to help in their data analysis, Paradigm said at the time.