Today in AgBioView: January 17, 2002:
* New Report Crowds Out Overpopulation Hype
* Biotechnology is Essential for the Future of Agriculture, says Minister
* French Actors Destroy GM Crops in Support of Bove
* World planting of biotech crops up 12 pct in 2002
* The end of the banana?
* Yes, we have no bananas
* Banana on a slippery slope to extinction
* Biotech key to min-till cotton
* Editorial: GE turns law into an ass
New Report Crowds Out Overpopulation Hype
So is the Earth running out of room for both people and wildlife?
Well ask your average environmentalist and, based on the notion that the
world is suffering from overpopulation, theyíll tell you the answer is
ìYes.î But a recent study from a respected pro-Green organization is
taking issue with this strongly held tenet of eco-orthodoxy.
According to Conservation International, a group noted for its criticism
of too much development, there appears to be plenty of room on planet
Earth for both man and beast. In its report entitled Wilderness: Earthís
Last Wild Places, the studyís authors note:
Wilderness areas, since the dawn of man, covered roughly 54 percent of the
Earthís surface. Present day coverage is at 46 percent.
The intact wilderness sites on the planet occupy a land area equivalent to
the six largest countries on Earth combined; or more than seven times the
size of the U.S.
Tropical rainforests of the Amazon and the Congo have not been decimated
and remain largely intact.
Seven-tenths of the worldís population was in just 38 percent of the
Earthís land area, with a virtual absence of human populations in
Conservation International, which spent two years researching the
information, claimed its own scientists expressed surprise at the
findings. As reported in CNS news, ìA lot of people will be surprised by
the percent of the land surface that is in very good shape. We were
surprised!î said Russ Mittermeier, the President of CI.
Of course, some challenge the groupís ìWilderness good ñ man badî tenet as
a basis for measuring environmental quality. But this report should,
nevertheless, be a damper to those crafting alarmist ìSave the Earthî
Biotechnology is Essential for the Future of Agriculture, says Minister
Address by Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Minister of Agriculture, Food
Technology & Natural Resources at the Private Sector Forum - Agoa Summit.
Government of Mauritius (Port Louis)
January 16, 2003
In the name of the Government of Mauritius, I have the pleasure in
welcoming you to today's workshop in the context of the AGOA Summit. It is
indeed a great privilege for Mauritius to host such an important meeting.
I would like to thank the Secretariat of Partnership to Cut Hunger and
Poverty in Africa, for giving me the opportunity to address you on
'Agricultural Biotechnology', which is a topic of particular interest to
me, as Minister of Agriculture, Food Technology & Natural Resources.
Biotechnology is in fact one of the main challenges at the centre of the
agenda of the Government of Mauritius, at this current juncture, where the
whole strategy within our agriculture is being revisited, with a view to
imparting to it, a new technological boost.
With regard to the status of biotechnology in Mauritian agriculture,
efforts at the national level into triggering its implementation have
started since the early 1990's. Taking into consideration the fact that
conventional practices have become too obsolete to sustain in the present
socio-economic context, with inter-alia, mounting competition from other
producer countries, increasing consumer and market exigencies, ever rising
food import bill, increasingly stringent international norms governing
trade in agriculture and depleting cultivable land resources in favour of
more remunerative economic activities, Government initiated a number of
endeavours to promote technology integration in agriculture.
Accordingly, some studies on the feasibility and strategic implementation
of biotechnology integration were conducted; a special high-powered
committee was established to map out a strategic orientation to this
effect; investments were made into the setting up of infrastructure for
biotechnology research and application, with the inception of two tissue
culture laboratories under the aegis of the Ministry, and special
budgetary provisions were allocated by Government to promote biotechnology
One of the achievements in the application of biotechnology in the
non-sugar agricultural sector to date is mainly tissue-culture propagation
of planting materials of elite banana varieties and some ornamentals
including orchids and anthurium. Experimentations are ongoing in other
areas of application, such as molecular based disease screening and
vaccine production for the local livestock sector.
The sugar sector has witnessed successful accomplishments in
biotechnology, which have greatly benefited the industry at large. This
sector, which is endowed with the strong research back up of the Mauritius
Sugar Industry Research Institute (MSIRI), has been a solid proof to
Mauritius as to the potential of biotechnology as an enabling tool in
Some of the successful achievements in the application of biotechnology in
the sugar sector, include: a. the application of molecular techniques for
rapid disease screening, which has enabled better control of major pests;
b. the use of tissue culture for rapid multiplication of planting
material, which has enhanced the efficiency of propagation of high quality
planting materials ; c. the use of molecular markers which has enhanced
efficiency of breeding of novel varieties; and, d. recently, the use of
genetic engineering for the development of transgenic herbicide resistant
varieties, which are still at the experimental stage, awaiting the
enactment of the appropriate legislation prior to proceeding to field
Moreover, the Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute has played a
crucial role in providing training in specialised agricultural fields,
including biotechnology, to African research and extension personnel.
The country has also set up initiatives to broaden its capacity in the
field of biotechnology. In addition to the several collaborative linkages
that Mauritius has developed with recognised institutions for training in
specialised areas of biotechnology, the University of Mauritius has also
included biotech as a major area in its agricultural curriculum.
However, other than for the sugar sector, it has been noted that benefits
of biotechnology accruing to the end users have so far remained
insignificant. We feel that, the time is now overdue to devise a
well-defined biotechnology development strategy with an agenda based on
our national priorities. It is high time to move beyond dialogue to
constitute a catalyst for change towards a modern agriculture. With recent
changes in the global trade environment and the fragile situation
prevailing within the sugar sector, our non-sugar agricultural sector will
be called upon to assume an even more significant role in our agricultural
economy, and, technology integration will be imperative to impart to it
the necessary cutting edge.
I am fully convinced that Biotechnology is an essential tool for the
future of our agriculture. We are already lagging behind in the technology
strive in this new agricultural era, and, we cannot afford to allow this
situation to persist any longer. Since I took office in September 2000,
one of my priorities has been to give the necessary impetus to
successfully steer the transition process towards a technology-based
approach to agriculture. The objective is to have a well-defined strategy,
with a view to fostering biotechnology in a priority-driven manner, with a
service orientation. Such a directed approach is very important,
considering the fact that biotechnology is an investment-intensive
technology, thereby calling for an intelligent planning and a judicious
utilisation of resources.
Towards that end and in line with national priorities, the Government of
Mauritius is proposing to set up an Agricultural Biotechnology Institute.
A feasibility study on this project has already been completed and the
construction phase will soon be initiated. This project is highly
ambitious and entails a heavy financial implication. Its implementation
will be possible thanks to the strong government commitment to
biotechnology, with due recognition to the crucial role it is going to
play in shaping the future of our agriculture.
This Institute will provide a solid scientific infrastructural foundation
for high calibre applied research in biotechnology within the appropriate
administrative and legislative framework, and will have the responsibility
of providing the targeted technological boost to the Mauritian non-sugar
sector. It will be endowed with a strong scientific resource skill base,
which is in fact one major asset that Mauritius possesses in the field of
I have the firm belief that Mauritius has all the necessary aptitudes to
eventually take up a leading role in the field of biotechnology at the
regional level. With the coming into operation of this Agricultural
Biotechnology Institute in the near future, Mauritius will definitely be
able to strengthen its position to positively contribute to the adoption
of biotechnology within the African region and assist neighbouring
countries in their respective biotechnology programmes. The aim is to make
the Biotechnology Institute emerge as a Centre of Excellence and provide a
strong base for training and service dissemination at the regional level.
This aim is consistent with the longer-term vision of making Mauritius
emerge as a regional hub.
We are also well aware of the existing controversies that biotechnology
entails. In order to ensure that the benefits of this technology are
optimised while minimising the possible risks, Government has adopted the
precautionary approach as spelt out in the Principle 15 of the Rio
Declaration of 1992 on Environment and Development.
Mauritius is therefore fostering a responsible approach to biotechnology
by setting up the necessary legislative framework to provide for adequate
biosafety measures. Alongside, with a view to gaining public confidence
and consumer acceptance of the products of biotechnology, a number of
sensitisation programmes have been initiated at the level of my Ministry.
Through these sensitisation campaigns, we are aiming at providing maximum
information especially with regard to GMOs, so as to dissipate any
unfounded apprehensions that may surround this technology and to enable
informed decisions to be taken thereon. In this context, we had the
privilege of having Dr Prakash, who is here among us today, in August of
last year to provide his expert guidance to us on our biotechnology
These to some extent sum up the experience of Mauritius in Biotechnology
and the present status of things.
I would now like to say a few words regarding the theme of today's
workshop, that is 'The Future of Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa:
Potential and Risks for Trade and Food Security'. This issue is in fact
currently at the centre of intensive debate, especially when the impact of
biotechnology on Africa's agricultural and economic performance and
welfare is being seriously reflected upon. The two main issues that
dominate this debate are the persistent poor agricultural performance
associated with widespread poverty, and the ability of biotechnology as a
promising tool to resolve Africa's growing food crises along with its
associated benefits and perceived effects on the continent's rich natural
The issue of whether to adopt biotechnology or not, is however a
situation-dependent debate. Today, statistics demonstrate that, more than
200 million people suffer from chronic malnutrition with more than 10% of
infant mortality being registered in Africa, compared to 0.8 % in
high-income countries. These figures provide overwhelming evidence, that
the needs for biotechnology in the African context are quite different
from those of industrial countries. Africa's priority is that of food
security, while that of industrial countries is market and profit driven.
Thus, it is clear that Africa's agenda should be based on the urgency for
a strong technological back-up to enhance food production with a view to
altering the course of widespread poverty, hunger and starvation. These
distinctions must be clearly understood and appreciated at the national,
regional and international levels.
Therefore, I believe that the ongoing debate about biotechnology for
Africa should not be whether the continent needs biotechnology or not.
Instead, it should be one on how biotechnology can be best adopted,
promoted, supported and applied in a safe and sustainable manner, that
would contribute towards an improved agriculture, and to the social and
economic upliftment of the people of Africa.
We all understand the numerous controversies and apprehensions regarding
the products of modern biotechnology, i.e. genetically modified organisms
(GMOs). We all agree that a wise approach is required to ensure that, at
the end, more harm than good is not done. However, decisions cannot be
taken in a misguided manner based on misinformation. Instead decisions
should be based on founded scientific evidence.
Biotechnology is crucial for Africa. We should bear in mind that Africa
depends heavily on agriculture, which contributes to 30 % of the
continent's GDP and provides more than 70% of its jobs. I believe that GM
crops represent a big hope for a number of African nations in solving the
devastating plague of hunger and poverty.
It will be unwise to dismiss the potential of this technology outright,
particularly in the African context. Biotechnology provides solution to
the most pressing hindrances to agricultural production in Africa, such as
limited cultivable land resources, large expanses of non-arable areas,
water scarcity,etc. If today, with this technology, the possibility of
growing crops in the most sterile, aluminium rich soils can be
contemplated, can we then dispute its relevance to Africa? We know that a
number of African States have resisted accepting and have declared their
strong opposition to genetically modified crops, including those facing
The possibility of biosafety threats exists. However, the strategy for
minimising these threats also exists through the adoption of the
appropriate precautionary approach by way of legislation. I would
therefore urge all African Nations to pull efforts together in finding the
appropriate approach that would allow optimal benefits to be derived out
of this highly powerful technology that holds great promises for Africa.
Undoubtedly, the solution to food security in Africa lies in a judicious
utilisation of the benefits of biotechnology.
As far as the trade aspect is concerned, obviously, the trade potential
for agricultural products emanating from non-controversial biotechnology
is significant and is growing rapidly worldwide. This technology brings
along competitive production, better quality produce and novel products to
satisfy new market exigencies and tap new markets. There is a need for
developed nations and large food importing countries to support African
states in developing their agriculture through the appropriate and safe
utilisation of biotechnology by ensuring market outlets for products
ensuing from this technology. Trade agreements and biosafety norms and
regulations need henceforth to take this fundamental issue on board.
Coming to the question of investment involved in the adoption of
innovative technologies in agriculture, Africa will have to continuously
rely on international aid, which needs to be increasingly directed towards
providing not only financial resources, but more importantly technical
assistance and transfer of technology.
In addition, the HIV and Aids problem is dramatically taking its toll of
human life and has become a monstrous obstacle to development, especially
in Africa. Assistance, be it financial or otherwise, I believe, should be
extended to cover the fight against HIV and Aids as well. If developed
donor countries and International Aid Organisations could contribute
towards this objective financially and technically, their initiatives to
assist Africa would effectively bring longer-term benefits to the
Clearly, Africa cannot ignore biotechnology developments in agriculture.
While not all biotechnology products will be appropriate for Africa, some
will bring value to food security and trade. Identifying appropriate
technology must be supported by the evaluation of risks and benefits to
ensure informed decision-making. In this respect, there are two
fundamental points to be considered: (1) The evaluation of existing
biotechnology products for their appropriateness, safety and true value to
Africa. (2) The development of new biotechnology products in Africa to
address African specific constraints.
To make informed decisions on biotechnology products and to use the
technology for the continent's benefit, African governments need to ensure
an effective biosafety process; a functioning agricultural R & D sector;
government funding for research; a well-informed and engaged public and
the political will to implement policy on biotechnology.
Having said this, I believe that this forum, grouping eminent specialists
in the field, will serve as the ideal platform to reflect seriously on the
'Future of Biotechnology in Africa'. I wish you all a very fruitful
workshop, and hope that by the end of the discussions, a consensus is
reached on this issue.
Let me seize this opportunity to wish all foreign delegates a pleasant
stay in our country. On this note, I thank you for your kind attention.
French Actors Destroy GM Crops in Support of Bove
January 16, 2003
PARIS (Reuters) - A group of French actors, scientists and politicians
destroyed a field of genetically modified rapeseed Thursday in support of
anti-globalization guru Jose Bove who was sentenced to a prison term in
November for a similar action.
Bove, a celebrity in France for his high-profile campaign against what he
says is "junk food," has been sentenced to 14 months in jail for a 1999
attack on a field of GM rice at a research center near the southern city
Activist group Droits devant said the 32 demonstrators, including French
actors Lambert Wilson and Anemone as well as green Presidential candidate
Noel Mamere, had replaced young GM rapeseed plants with a conventional
variety in a field in Mairy-sur-Marne, northeast of Paris.
"This action was in support of Jose Bove and Rene Riesel (another member
of farm union Confederation paysanne) who were both heavily sentenced for
a similar action," the group said in a statement.
Magistrates will tell the walrus-mustached, pipe-smoking Bove, who spent
six weeks in jail earlier this year for smashing up a McDonald's
restaurant, on Jan. 29 whether he must go to jail or wins a reprieve.
Droits devant said other organizations such as anti-globalization group
Attac and environmental lobby Greenpeace supported the action in the
While GM crops are common in the United States, France and other European
countries are dubious about using the new genetic technology in
agriculture. France grows experimental GM crops on around 100 sites, all
approved by the farm ministry.
Supporters say the crops could lead to the development of hardier strains
to help feed the world's poor. Opponents say they could trigger an
uncontrolled spread of modified genes, harming the environment and
World planting of biotech crops up 12 pct in 2002
January 17, 2003
GEORGETOWN, Grand Cayman - Planting of biotech crops spread at a
double-digit rate for the sixth consecutive year in 2002, an international
agriculture group said.
Planting grew 12 percent last year and the global market value of
genetically modified crops rose to about $4.25 billion, up from $3.8
billion in 2001, the International Service for the Acquisition of
Agri-Biotech Applications, which promotes GM crops, said in an
The figures could heat up the debate over the safety of biotech crops,
which has grown into a trade dispute between the United States and the
All told, 16 countries are producing GM versions of corn, cotton, canola
and soybeans engineered with a variety of special traits, such as
increased productivity and resistance to pests.
Moreover, more than 20 percent of the world's acreage for those four key
crops is now planted with biotech seeds, according to the agricultural
The gains come despite resistance in Europe and other regions to biotech
crops, which are plants whose gene sequence has been spliced with that of
other species. Critics say they have not been proven safe and could harm
The United States is increasingly chaffing under European restrictions on
imports, and U.S. farmers say they have lost hundreds of millions of
dollars of sales to Europe.
Last week, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said he favored
filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization against the European
Union, alleging the EU is illegally maintaining a 4-year moratorium on
approvals of new biotech products.
Clive James, chairman of the agriculture group, said widespread
consumption of biotech crops in the United States and elsewhere since
their introduction in 1996 was evidence that health fears about biotech
foods are unfounded. And he said annual growth in plantings of biotech
crops will continue.
He projected the global value of the GM crop market would hit $5 billion
"An increasing number of countries have confidence in this technology,"
James said from his Grand Cayman office. "We have an increasing body of
evidence to show that... this is acceptable."
But critics of biotech crops said pressure from producers like Monsanto
Co. (MON.N) and the U.S. government is forcing some nations into accepting
them even as public concern grows.
"There is a lot of pressure on Third World countries to just accept this,"
said Anuradha Mittal, director of the Institute for Food and Development
Policy in California. "But resistance is growing around the world."
Still, last year, more than 5.5 million farmers planted GM crops on 58.7
million hectares, or 145 million acres, up 12 percent from 2001, according
to the agriculture group.
Along with the United States, which accounts for about 66 percent of the
world's total GM crop area, Argentina, Canada, and China produced biotech
crops last year. China, in particular, saw significant growth, showing a
40 percent increase in farm fields growing Bt cotton, a crop engineered to
protect itself from insects. The increase marked the first time that the
Bt cotton area in China exceeded more than half of the national cotton
Three countries joined the list last year of those growing GM crops as
India and Colombia grew Bt cotton for the first time, and Honduras became
the first country in Central America to grow Bt corn.
GM soybeans are the most popular of the biotech crops, accounting for 62
percent of the world's GM-crop planted area, with corn second at 21
The end of the banana?
17 Jan 2003
The commercial banana has such a narrow genetic base that within a decade
the plant could be wiped out by two fungal diseases that are rampaging
through Central America, Africa and Asia, New Scientist says.
The British weekly says the alarm for the world's most popular fruit has
been sounded by a Belgian plant pathologist, Emile Frison, top researcher
at a worldwide network of banana specialists, INIBAP.
If Frison's doomsday scenario comes true, it will not just mean
inconvenience for shoppers in western countries who are deprived of their
It would also spell poverty or starvation for half a billion people in
tropical countries who depend on bananas for food or income ó the
equivalent of the Irish potato famine, in which a tuber blight decimated
the population of Ireland in the mid-19th century.
In a report due to be published in Saturday's issue, the British weekly
says the problem with the banana eaten around the world today is that it
is drawn from a tiny gene pool.
"That uniformity makes it ripe for disease like no other crop on Earth,"
Just one variety, a type called Cavendish, accounts for almost all of the
bananas sold in the world today.
The reason for this is because the Cavendish, like other
commercially-grown bananas, is a genetic freak.
In its wild form, the banana is almost inedible, for it is riddled with
The theory goes that early hunter-gatherers must have stumbled across rare
mutant plants that produced seedless, edible fruit ó the forefather of
today's commercial varieties.
These soft-fruited plants are the result of a genetic accident that gives
their cells three copies of each chromosome instead of two.
That imbalance prevents seeds and pollen from developing normally, making
the mutant plants sterile. Banana plants are grown by replanting cuttings
from a parent plant.
Traditional varieties of sexually reproducing crops have a much broader
genetic base, in which genes swap and recombine in each new generation,
and the new configurations offer a better chance against disease.
Bananas, though, have no such defences.
They are under attack on two fronts, and on present trends could disappear
within 10 years, according to Frison.
The first threat is a fungal disease called black Sigatoka, which has
become a global epidemic since it first appeared in Fiji in 1963.
To keep this killer at bay, commercial growers typically spray plants 40
times a year ó but, says Frison, this is a losing battle, for the fungus
is swiftly developing resistance to chemicals. In any case, expensive
fungicides are out of reach for poor farmers.
The other is a new form of relentless soil fungus called Panama disease
that 40 years ago wiped out the then dominant variety, Gros Michel. Fields
with Panama fungus remain unusable for years, even if they are doused with
Two potential avenues open up for resolving the banana crisis, says New
Efforts to come up with a new variety have been largely thwarted because
all of the edible varieties of banana are vulnerable to the two diseases.
After an extraordinary effort, breeders at the Honduran Foundation of
Agricultural Researchers, exploited a genetic quirk of the edible banana
in which it very occasionally allows an almost normal seed to develop and
produced a cross-breed.
The result ó a seedless edible banana that is resistant to both kinds of
pest ó is not a hit, for many complain that it tastes more like an apple
than a banana.
The second option is genetic modification: to introduce a gene from a wild
species that would make a variety of disease-resistant edible bananas.
Ecologists are strenuously against genetically-modified crops, saying the
long-term impact on health and the environment are unknown.
But bananas might be considered an exemption, given the huge importance of
this crop in poor countries and the fact that bananas are sterile, which
reduces the risk that the inserted genes could spread to wild relatives or
Yes, we have no bananas
17 Jan 2003
BRUSSELS - Disease and pests are eating into world's supply of bananas,
according to a Belgian scientist.
Dr. Emile Frison says edible bananas may disappear within a decade if
action isn't taken immediately to develop new, more disease-resistant
Frison heads the International Network for the Improvement of Banana and
Plantain (INIBP). The organization says the banana is an essential part of
the daily diet for more than 400 million people.
Frison is considered a world expert and researcher on the banana and says
the bananas we eat are a seedless, sterile variety that could easily be
The Cavendish banana lacks genetic diversity argues Frison in an article
in New Scientist magazine.
Frison says its survival is threatened by:
- Panama disease caused by soil fungus
- Black Sigatoka, another fungal disease
- Pests invading plantations in Central America, Africa and Asia
- The current threat is compared to the potato blight which caused the
Irish famine of the 1840s.
The Sigatoka cuts crop yields by as much as 75 per cent and renders plants
fruitless in a few seasons.
Uganda, the world's second largest banana producer, has seen a 40 per cent
cut in its crop yields. Brazilian farmers say their yields could be down
as much as 70 per cent by next year.
Fungicides are proving ineffective against the diseases.
"As soon as you bring in a new fungicide, they develop resistance," says
Frison has created a global consortium of scientists to sequence the
genetic blueprint of the banana within five years.
They will focus on the largely inedible wild bananas which are full of
seeds. Many of this kind are resistant to black Sigatoka.
Banana producers won't back the effort because they fear a consumer
backlash against genetically modified fruit.
Frison says he's forging ahead.
"Work on the banana genome will be concentrated on finding ways to improve
the varieties on which Africans depend on their survival, rather than the
one you and I buy off the supermarket shelves."
Banana on a slippery slope to extinction
January 16, 2003
By Charles Arthur
London - The banana could slide into extinction within 10 years because it
is "genetically decrepit", scientists warned on Thursday.
Because edible bananas are sterile mutants, new varieties cannot easily be
produced by natural methods, leaving the fruit vulnerable to attack from
pests and disease.
In the 1950s the once dominant Gros Michel banana was wiped out by a
disease caused by a soil fungus and its successor, the Cavendish, is now
threatened by another fungal disease, black Sigatoka.
With nothing readily available to replace the Cavendish, the banana
business has reached crisis point. According to a report in New Scientist
magazine today, it could be gone in 10 years.
"In some ways, the banana today resembles the potato before blight brought
famine to Ireland a century and a half ago," said the magazine.
Dr Emile Frison, head of the International Network for the Improvement of
Banana and Plantain in Montpellier, France, said banana diseases were
becoming increasingly difficult to control.
"As soon as you bring in a new fungicide, they develop resistance," he
"One thing we can be sure of is that the Sigatoka won't lose in this
Since starting in Fiji in 1963, Black Sigatoka has spread to many
countries and has already destroyed most of the banana fields in Amazonia.
Part of the problem is that scientists and planters working on solutions
are unable to agree whether to produce genetically-modified banana
variants, or to develop new fungicide.
Frison said that too little research has been done on bananas.
"We are behind other crops in research by 50 to 100 years," he said.
Whatever happens will affect the lives of half a billion people in Asia
and Africa who depend on bananas for their livelihood.
Biotech key to min-till cotton
Biotech key factor in move to conservation tillage in cotton
Full story at http://www.cotton.org/
10th January, 2003
THE availability of herbicide-tolerant cotton has allowed and encouraged
cotton growers to adopt conservation tillage practices, according to a
study conducted for the National Cotton Council.
Conservation tillage methods, including no-till and reduced-till, protect
farmland from wind and rain erosion.
The study, supported by The Cotton Foundation, found that reduced-till and
no-till cotton acres have increased to 59% of total cotton acres since
herbicide-tolerant transgenic cottons became widely available in 1997.
No-till acres have nearly doubled, to 29% of total cotton acres, while
reduced-till acres have more than doubled, to account for 30% of cotton
acres. The change is most prevalent in the Mid-South, where 66 % of the
farmers reported an increase in conservation tillage acres over the last
five years. As a result, growers in the Mid-South said that 74 % of their
2002 cotton acres were in no-till or reduced-till.
Conservation tillage is least prevalent in the West, where 17 % of growers
surveyed have increased con-till acres over the past five years, and just
18 % of the 2002 cotton acres were in no-till or reduced-till.
The introduction of herbicide-tolerant varieties, especially with Roundup
Ready technology, was cited as the enabling factor by 79 % of those who
have moved to conservation tillage in the last five years. Roundup Ready
cotton acres have tripled since 1997 and now account for 77 % of total
cotton acres grown in 2002.
"This new study merely confirms what most of us suspected,î said Dr.
Andrew Jordan, director of the NCCís Technical Services Department. ìWeed
control is critical for a good cotton crop and biotechnology is giving
growers another weed control tool while allowing them to move to more
cost-effective, environmentally sound methods of cotton production.î
Growers in the survey indicated, on average, that conservation tillage
results in a $20.13 savings for fuel and labor when compared to
conventional acres. The study was conducted by Doane Market Research,
Inc., a firm nationally recognized for its expertise in conducting
agricultural research involving farmers.
Editorial: GE turns law into an ass
New Zealand Herald
Scientists at state-owned AgResearch must be tearing their hair out in
despair. As must the country's 3500 multiple sclerosis sufferers. Their
hopes of a ground-breaking medical breakthrough are again threatened by a
legal challenge. If such were not already the case, it is now apparent
that anti-genetic modification lobby groups will use any means at their
disposal to try to impose their will. In particular, statute books will be
scoured for technical trip-wires. The merit and intent of the research are
irrelevant. The anti-GM brigade will not be happy until this country has
become a biotechnology backwater.
Their latest ploy involves Mothers Against Genetic Engineering, which is
seeking a High Court review of the Environmental Risk Management
Authority's decision to approve an AgResearch project to develop
genetically modified cattle. The group claims the authority overstepped
its legal powers in the scope of its approval. It does not mention, of
course, the stringent and public regulatory process that preceded the
approval, a procedure that allowed any group or individual to object to
AgResearch's plans. Or that the authority examined the legal angles and
decided there would be no breach of the Hazardous Substances and New
Organisms Act. Or that strict controls were imposed on AgResearch.
Worst of all, the action pays no heed to the potential benefit of the
research. The project aims to use cows as "bioreactors" to produce bulk
human proteins in their milk. The proteins would be extracted and used to
treat diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Finding a cure for the
debilitating illness has proved elusive. Thus, not only has the research
raised fresh hope for sufferers but it offers the prospect of huge reward.
AgResearch may be somewhat guilty of hyperbole in claiming the project is
the key to transforming the country's economic base from commodities to
"life sciences", including medicines and foods with special health
properties. But there is no denying the potential of genetic research in
the field of medicine.
This apparently escapes the Mothers Against Genetic Engineering, so
dismally dogmatic are their beliefs. They continue to prattle on about the
danger of New Zealand losing customers in places opposed to genetic
modification and the risk of releasing harmful organisms into the
environment. In their world, this country would become an organic farming
haven; never mind that a sane and sensible royal commission found this was
not a viable notion.
It is to AgResearch's credit that it has hosted a representative of the
group at its Ruakura research centre. Like many scientific organisations,
it had previously done itself no favours by being secretive about its
work. The visit confirmed that the cows are contained by double 2m-high
fences, and that entry is electronically monitored. This, however, does
not impress the Mothers Against Genetic Engineering. Their obsession about
the release of harmful organisms means such security is deemed lax.
Specifically, they want the sterilisation of shoes added to the
Even if such a move were merited, it is a small part of the bigger
picture. That involves the potential for genetic modification to make this
country more competitive and wealthier, and its people healthier. Already,
too much research has been delayed by objections of a largely technical
nature. Now, there is the risk of an important project being terminated,
or the work continued overseas. Clearly, there are risks in GM research
and it must be properly managed. Equally, however, there is a proper forum
for objection - and no justification for incessant legal challenges.