Today in AgBioView: July 25, 2003:
*'Unsung Hero' Named Winner of the $250,000 2003 World Food Prize
* The Politics of Biotech Foods
* Technology That Can Change the World
* Good and Bad Science on Food
* EU Precautionary Principle Defined
* EU Labeling Rules
* Response to Kindelerer's - Why Now?
* GE Fears Make New Zealand 'A Laughing Stock'
* Australia: First GM Food Crops to Hit Shops Soon
* Declaration On Securing Global Food Production
* Biosafety Regulation Only Helps Multinationals
* Frankenstein Foiled
* Trans Fats in Plant Oils
* New Book 'Genetically Modified Crops'
* Environmental Biosafety Research
* Agriculture or Aggravation?
* Glow-in-dark Pet Fish Seized
'Unsung Hero' Named Winner of the $250,000 2003 World Food Prize
United Nations Under Secretary General Catherine Bertini praised for
'Defeating Large-Scale Famine in Our Time' U.N. Agency She Transformed Now
Feeding Entire Population of Iraq
(Chicago, Ill.)- For her critical leadership of the United Nations World
Food Programme, which has saved millions of people from famine and death,
Catherine Bertini, currently Under Secretary General of the United
Nations, has been selected to receive the $250,000 World Food Prize for
"Ms. Bertini has been selected as the 2003 World Food Prize Laureate for
defeating large-scale famine in our time," said Ambassador Kenneth M.
Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation. Her selection was
announced at the opening session of the World Congress of Food Science and
Technology in Chicago on Wednesday July 16.
In announcing her selection, Ambassador Quinn observed that Ms. Bertini
was chosen by a distinguished panel of experts as the World Food Prize
Laureate for four primary reasons: "In the 10 years she led the agency as
its Executive Director, Ms. Bertini transformed the World Food Programme
(WFP) from primarily a development assistance organization into the
largest and most responsive humanitarian relief organization in the world,
delivering life-sustaining food aid to over 700 million people in more
than 100 countries during her term.
"As a result of Ms. Bertini’s leadership, for the first time in history,
the international community attained the capacity to confront and defeat
large-scale famine anywhere around the globe.
"In a key innovation, Ms. Bertini pioneered the practice of channeling
food aid through women, thus ensuring the most widespread and effective
distribution of food in crisis situations.
"During the decade she led the organization, Ms. Bertini and the World
Food Programme (WFP) saved more people from starvation and death than any
other organization in the world."
The $250,000 World Food Prize, referred to informally by world leaders as
the "Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture" is the foremost international
award inspiring and recognizing breakthrough achievements that increase
the quality, quantity, and availability of food in the world.
The Politics of Biotech Foods
- American Enterprise Institute, AEI Newsletter, July 25, 2003
Participants at a June 12 AEI conference described the potential for
biotechnology to alleviate malnutrition in the developing world by
genetically modifying agricultural products, as well as the political
barriers to the use of biotechnology.
"We are facing a major problem in Africa in particular, but also to a
lesser degree in central Asia with food security," said U.S. Agency for
International Development administrator Andrew Natsios. "A third of
Africans-200 million people-are food insecure chronically. . . . Since
1980, 50 percent of the increased productivity in the developing world in
agriculture is a result of improved seed technology. . . . One of the
answers to the problem of productivity is clearly seed technology, and
biotech is a critical part of that."
Biotech food such as golden rice also can have significant health
benefits. Patrick Moore of the Canadian environmental group Greenspirit
explained that when a daffodil gene is put into golden rice, it helps the
plant produce procarotene, the precursor to Vitamin A, which normal rice
lacks. "Half a million children go blind every year from Vitamin A
deficiency," Moore said. "This one plant could completely eliminate
Vitamin A deficiency in people who eat rice as their staple diet and don't
have enough money to buy other foods that do have Vitamin A in them."
C. S. Prakash, director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at
Tuskegee University, cited another food-related example. Prakash reported
that 50 percent of fruits and vegetables in developing countries do not
make it to market because they do not get canned or refrigerated. Because
most of the people in the developing world are farmers, enhancing the
shelf life of fruits and vegetables would be a boon to these countries. By
using biotechnology, scientists in the Philippines have developed "a
papaya that instead of rotting in one week, can stay fresh for three
Yet genetically modified (GM) foods remain highly controversial, largely
because of the skepticism with which many Europeans greet this new
technology. Robert Paarlberg of Wellesely College explained the impact of
European attitudes on the developing world: "Official development
assistance from Europe is now twice as large as official development
assistance from the United States. And this money has bought influence for
Europe. European development assistance missions are now busy, especially
in Africa, holding workshops, helping governments write regulations,
conducting training sessions, sponsoring visits back to Europe, promoting
a highly precautionary EU-style regulation towards genetically modified
Not only do governments advance these attitudes, but Western European
nongovernmental organizations do so as well. Organizations such as
Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Genetic Food Alert, and UK Action Aid
also promote a highly cautious view of GM crops. Describing the results of
some of their campaigns, Paarlberg said, "In Brazil, in 1998, a lawsuit
fueled by the Brazilian office of Greenpeace helped to block what would
have been the release of GM soybeans in Brazil, and GM soybeans are still
not legal. . . . In India, Greenpeace has just taken credit for blocking
government approval of the planting of GM cotton in the northern part of
In addition to Europe's influence through aid, developing countries are
eager to conform to EU standards in order to gain access to the lucrative
European market. "The EU imports more food and agriculture products from
developing countries than the United States, Canada, Japan, and Australia
combined," Paarlberg said, "so the EU market is the prize for developing
countries . . . and they view it as risky, understandably risky, to
approve anything for planting within their country that hasn't yet been
approved for import into Europe."
Explaining the transatlantic divergence of opinion on genetically modified
foods, Tony Gilland, science and society director of the British Institute
of Ideas, said that advocates of GM food have failed to fully demonstrate
the potential of this product to the European public.
Similarly, Moore insisted that advocates of GM foods need to work on the
way they are presented: "We have to show the blind children [on
television]. We have to show the farmers spraying pesticides all over
themselves and their families. . . . We have to wake the public up to what
the policies of the environmental movement and the European community are
doing to the people in the developing countries. . . . We need to use
strong, hard-edged messaging and we need to put it on television and shock
the public into understanding what's going on there now and what the
promise is for biotechnology for the future."
Technology That Can Change the World
- Fariborz Ghadar, The Albuquerque Tribune, July 25, 2003
Technology can radically alter people's living standards around the globe,
and it can solve or alleviate many of the problems we have created for
ourselves. The business world should pay attention to three major areas of
technological research that have the highest potential for changing the
While technology as a whole will continue to make the world a more
hospitable place with an abundance of scientific achievements across a
vast body of academic fields, three areas of research in particular will
radically distinguish themselves in the coming years: computational power,
biotechnology, and nanotechnology.
In the 1970s, the processor speeds were about a thousandths as fast as
they are today, and it's expected by 2025 that computers will be a
thousand times faster than they are now, despite the emerging limitations
of the silicone chip and the resulting crossover to alternative
technologies such as DNA microchips.
Computers also will be a lot more ubiquitous in the future. Consider the
fact that the modern car has up to fifty separate computers in it
controlling everything from the fuel injection system to the airbags.
Anything in the future that has to be either controlled or calculated will
be subject to the whim of a microprocessor.
Biotechnology has the potential for being equally as pervasive. We're
entering an age when everything from crops and cattle to pharmaceuticals
and organs can be tailored for our needs. Cloning might be able to allow
for the individual replacement of limbs and vital organs, but would have
serious implications for government and society at large.
The "Era of Personalized Medicine" could mean that patients genetic code
will be broken down to determine the perfect medication, but could also
lead to genetic discrimination by insurance companies or potential
employers. And finally, genetically modified food could feed the world and
provide enough basic nutrition to stamp out many famine related diseases,
but it also has the potential for irrevocably altering the world's
ecosystem and/or causing unknown side affects in the consumers of these
In all likelihood both biotechnology and computer engineering will try to
take full advantage of the advances in nanotechnology so that they can
reduce the size of their products and increase their effectiveness.
Nanotechnology works on the molecular level, and as such its applications
are almost limitless. Products from heart valves to industrial waste
containers can all benefit from being designed down to the molecule and it
has the potential for radically altering the manner in which products are
made because of this applicability.
CEOs can play a role in shaping how this knowledge evolves by readying
their industries for global tectonics, the underlying trends that, while
gradual and often below the radar screen of business executives, have a
significant impact on corporate strategy and managers' ability to
implement them over the next two decades.
Like the movement of tectonics, these trends, while slow, will eventually
cause major quakes, with turbulent and dramatic results on the business
environment of the future. Global strategy or management teams must
prepare for these tectonic shifts. While it is impossible to make an exact
prediction, firms should develop two or more scenarios of what their
business environment is likely to look like in a few years.
After developing the scenarios, firms need to determine strategies to be
successful in each of their predictions for the upcoming environment. Once
the strategies are in place, management teams must devise metrics or
indicators to follow to decide which of the scenarios is becoming reality
and how the firms need to reorient their strategy implementation.
The really important point to remember about technology is that it is a
wildcard. At any point it can rear its head and shift our understanding
180 degrees. As such, all we can do is to place ourselves in an
advantageous position and hope for the best.
But one thing we do know for sure is that technology will continue to
spread around the globe becoming ever more pervasive as it grows in
sophistication and that it will have an increasingly important role for
Dr. Fariborz Ghadar is Director of the Center for Global Business Studies
at Penn State University.
Good and Bad Science on Food
- Prof. Michael Wilson, Guardian (UK), July 24, 2003
By scotching certain myths, the GM science review represents welcome
progress in moving the debate forward from scare stories about
"superweeds" and "frankenfoods" (Scientists stress uncertainties of GM
crops, July 22). The review's balanced approach shows the lack of realism
behind many accusations made by campaigners against GMs. Considering the
breadth of membership and views across the review panel - representatives
from Syngenta, Monsanto, universities and institutes, to the Green
Alliance and the science policy research unit of Sussex University - the
conclusions and recommendations of the review are remarkably unambiguous
We need an informed debate based on sound scientific evidence to enable
rational decisions to be made. Rigorous scientific research will ensure
that the risks of GM are minimised, and the rewards - from reduced
pesticide use, to vastly cheaper pharmaceuticals - maximised.
EU Precautionary Principle Defined
- Chris Dawson
From a letter to the Farmers Weekly (25 July 2003) from 'Honest Food',
"The (EU) precautionary principle, which is hardly more than prejudice
turned into regulation".
EU Labeling Rules
- Denis Murphy
Charles: re your posting in AgBioView on July 24
The EU has announced a level of 0.9 percent for labelling of all food and
feed containing GMO (GM organism) material. Below this, no labelling
requirement would be applied. My interpretation is that "GM material"
means a product from a GM crop.
This can mean soy flour from the US, where possibly only a fraction of the
flour is actually from GM plants and of course the GM ingredient itself
(protein &/or DNA) is absolutely minute. If the amout of soy flour in the
food exceeds 0.9% - maybe it is 1.5% in a veggieburger - then the whole
food product is labeled GM!
However, at least GM protein &/or DNA is easy to trace. The real fun comes
with soy or corn oil from GM crops. Obviously the refined oil is
essentially identical to non-GM oil, but also it contains no protein &/or
DNA, GM or otherwise, so how can its status be proved either way? Well
here, the EU wants retailers to establish an "audit trail" that will be
able to trace the origin of each food constituent & hence its biological
Wait till these rules hit the real world of commodity streams and product
blending and we will see some serious confusion. And who will pay for all
this paperwork - we consumers of course.
I'm all for consumer choice but I will certainly resent a compulsory 5-10%
price hike on my grocery bill because European supermarkets are too scared
to sell any food that will contain the dreaded GM label. We consumers
should be given the choice by supermarkets to buy GM-containing food at
current prices (because they won't need to be expensively segregated and
audited) as an alternative to non-GM stuff. This will allow me as a
consumer to exercise the same choice I have now in deciding not to buy
organic foods because of their high price and largely unproven
This is terribly ironic given that just a few years ago in the UK, Zeneca
proudy launched the 1st GM food in the UK - a clearly GM-labeled tomato
paste that sold well on its own merits of better taste/thickness combined
with a good price.
European agriculture ministers on Tuesday adopted new rules on the
labelling of genetically modified foods, paving the way for the EU to lift
a four-year-old ban on GM products that drew sharp criticism from the
United States. The official adoption follows a July 2 vote by the European
Parliament in Strasbourg to require food and animal feed to be labelled if
they contain at least 0.9 percent of GM ingredients.
After months of stormy debate, the 15 ministers finally buried the hatchet
and agreed on a level of 0.9 percent for labelling of all food and feed
containing GMO (GM organism) material. Below this, no labelling
requirement would be applied. The revised draft law relates to the
labelling of all foods produced from GMOs irrespective of whether there is
DNA or protein of GM origin in the final product, such as soybean oil. All
GM feed would be covered by the law, for the first time.
They also agreed on a threshold for accidental traces of unauthorised GMOs
already assessed as risk-free at 0.5 percent in food and feed for a
three-year transitional period. The same threshold would apply to
authorised GMOs but with no transition.
Professor Denis J Murphy, Biotechnology Unit, University of Glamorgan,
Response to Kindelerer's - Why Now?
- Jaroslav_Drobník , BIOTRIN, Czech Republic
Why now? ˆWill anybody believe?
My friend Julian Kindelerer asked (AGBIOVIEW 14.07.2003) why USA and
others instigate now an action at WTO concerning the EU GMO policy. I
agree it is poorly timed and counterproductive, but I shall try to look
for possible answer.
1) European politicians are under strong pressure by farmers lobby. In the
US the situation is the same. 2) In the face of recent steps of EU in this
field it is useful to say loudly that the king is nude even if the effect
in the international trade is zero. EU is presenting to the world a puppet
spectacle aiming to two targets: To formally demonstrate that there are no
official barriers to the import of products containing GMO and in the same
time to pave such barrier. Will the world believe?
Let me explain the last statement by following the performance: Opening
Puppet EU-SCIENCE declaims: "* genetically modified food and feed should
only be authorised for placing on the Community market after a scientific
evaluation of the highest possible standard*of any risks which they
present for human and animal health*.. " At the same time it demonstrates
the label "Made from GMO" on the bottle of three-times distilled plum
brandy produced from transgenic virus-resistant plum. Will anybody believe
that this is the result of scientific evaluation of the highest possible
standard of the risk to health?
Puppet EU-DEMOCRACY steps forward with explanation: *.Clear labelling,
irrespective of the detectability of DNA or protein resulting from the
genetic modification in the final product, meets the demands expressed in
numerous surveys by a large majority of consumers, facilitates informed
choice. The wish of public is supported by the poll. But poll can be
easily manipulated and was manipulated by the way the questions are asked.
Any radiobiologist and molecular biologist will explain that genes
produced by radiation mutagenesis are man-made artefacts and the amino
acid composition of mutated proteins can be changed in a way that affect
digestibility and glycosylation pattern. Thus, derivation of new crops by
radiation may render them less digestible and allergenic.
Let us explain this to consumers and ask them in a poll: "Do you like to
eat radiation mutants? Should food products prepared from radiation
mutants be labelled?" The auditorium may bet the result. But such question
is not allowed in the EU. Some time ago Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung
published a report of the IAEA enumerating the radiation mutants
introduced in our life. It gave few examples ˆ one was Triticum durum. The
Italian minister of agriculture asked for a diplomatic step against
Germany for "the attack on the most successful export of Italy" ˆ Italian
Will anybody believe in the democracy nature of the labelling demand?
Puppet EU-CONSUMER declares "the labelling of products enables the
consumer to make an informed choice1 silently adding: "well, well,
information is a problem: just one out of three Europeans admits that
conventional crops contain genes. Only six out of hundred citizens are
able to say what the gene is. Fortunately we have very simple information
available through Europe: GMO food = Frankenstein food. Our "informed
choice" will be based on it: Will anybody believe in informed choice?
Puppet CONFIDENCE presents the expectation: "Moreover, I believe that an
appropriate labelling scheme is one of the key issues in ensuring and
fostering increased public confidence and acceptance of the application of
gene-technology in the agri-food sector. "
Let us make a "virtual experiment": The shell of eggs can be white or
brown. Consider the Regulation is issued: "In order to protect human
health, brown eggs have to undergo a comprehensive scientific assessment
of risks to human health before receiving Community authorisation. Risk
assessment must be performed considering immediate and delayed health
effects of brown eggs, respecting precautionary principle. All food
products made from brown eggs must be labelled. Traceability must be
established from fork to farm in order to a) possibly withdraw products
when a risk to human health is established, and b) to facilitate the
identification and monitoring of unintended and long-term effects on the
human and animal health. Groceries will be supplied with colour scales to
provide consumers with the freedom of comparing the browness of eggs on
shelf. The auditorium may bet how the confidence and acceptance of brown
eggs will then develop.
Will anybody believe that the "most rigorous regulation in the world" will
increase the confidence and acceptance of GMO? Will anybody believe that
food industry will use GMO-containing crops under new labelling rules?
Will anybody believe that the food product containing GMO and properly
labelled will lay on shelf side-by side with unlabelled products providing
real choice to consumer?
Summary: steps taken by EU (with silent alliance with certain NGOs) create
a safe way how to press the demand for products containing GMO down to
zero. Then EU will officially open the import of items that nobody will
buy. Will the world believe that this is not an import barrier?
- Jaroslav Drobník Prof. Emeritus, Faculty of Science, Charles University,
Prague, President of the BIOTRIN Association; j.drobnik @atlas.cz
GE Fears Make New Zealand 'A Laughing Stock'
- Simon Collins,New Zealand Herald, July 26, 2003
A top scientist who has come home after 14 years in Britain says New
Zealand's restrictions on genetic modification are making this country "a
Professor Paul Rainey, one of five world experts who were invited by the
New Scientist last month to report on the latest thinking on evolution,
has so far been unable to import the genetically modified bacteria that he
uses to study how evolution works.
Seven months after taking a job at Auckland University, he says he will
leave the bacteria initially at Oxford, where he has a part-time
appointment at an 11-person laboratory. "I don't want to have to reinvent
the wheel, especially as the lab runs in Oxford, so things can go on
"The bureaucracy is so extreme that, without paying $4000 and waiting an
awfully long time for every single strain that we want to import, we can't
bring into the country genetically modified variants. "I know a number of
academics who, rather than going through the process of trying to deal
with this, either have their work done commercially overseas - which of
course deprives New Zealand students of the training opportunities - or go
overseas and do the work themselves at a host institution. The
intellectual property from those discoveries then goes to the host
institution, not to New Zealand. Unfortunately it makes New Zealand a bit
of a laughing stock."
Dr Rainey's experiments at Oxford have shown how bacteria evolve to fit
their environments. He has registered patents in Britain and the US on
compounds the bacteria produce and novel methods they use to stick to
He said he also needed approval to work on genetically modified organisms
in Britain. But the process there was "pretty streamlined" compared to the
uncertainty he found dealing with New Zealand's Environmental Risk
Management Authority (Erma). He has won approval to bring in 50 billion
bacteria that are either unmodified or covered by earlier approvals for
other researchers. But he is not yet allowed to import the genetically
modified (GM) strain that he developed at Oxford.
An Otago University researcher working on similar bacteria, Dr Iain
Lamont, said it typically cost thousands of dollars to win Erma approval
to import GM bacteria. "My own 'solution' to this has been to avoid
importing any genetically modified strains of pseudomonas aeruginosa
[bacteria]," he said. "This has had some adverse effects on our research.
"There have been some experiments we could not carry out and it has
reduced opportunities for collaboration with researchers overseas, but it
has not been catastrophic. "I would guess that this 'solution' would not
work in Paul's case."
Dr Rainey's boss at Auckland University, School of Biological Sciences
director Joerg Kistler, said the problem would be solved by legal changes
before Parliament which would delegate control of importing low-risk GM
organisms to biosafety committees at each university or institute.
Australia: First Genetically Modified Crops to Hit Shops Soon
- The Age, July 25 2003
The nation's gene technology watchdog today announced it had issued a
licence for the commercial release of GM canola, the first genetically
altered food crop to win approval.
Australian Gene Technology Regulator Sue Meek said GM canola was found to
be as safe for humans and the environment as conventional canola.
"The Australian public can be assured that our rigorous independent
assessment of potential health, safety and environmental impacts has found
(it to be) as safe to humans and the environment as conventional (non-GM)
canola," Dr Meek said. The GM canola has been modified to contain two new
characteristics - a hybrid breeding system and tolerance to the herbicide
In April the gene technology watchdog found it was safe for the
environment and posed no threat to human health after months of
investigation and extensive public consultation. "Many submissions raised
concerns about the spread of genetically modified canola, the development
of herbicide tolerant weeds and the consequences to herbicide use," Dr
Meek said. "I assure the public that my office, which regulates herbicide
use, have comprehensively considered these issues."
Dr Meek said a final risk assessment and risk management plan
comprehensively addressed the issues. She stressed that her role as gene
technology regulator only examined the health, safety and environmental
impacts of licencing the product and was not influenced by economic
issues. "Clearly the marketing implications of my decision regarding the
commercial release of canola do not represent a risk to human health or
the environment and these issues need to be addressed separately by
industry and state governments," Dr Meek said.
The Australian decision follows a major British review which found the
risks posed by GM crops were low but stressed each needed to be considered
on a case-by-case basis.
Despite watchdog approval, the states could still prove a major stumbling
block with South Australia vowing GM crops would not be introduced in the
state until it was shown they would have no impact on non-GM crops.
"There will be no introduction of GM crops into our state at least until
it can be properly demonstrated that it won't have any impact upon the
other non-GM crops and organic crops that are being grown within our
state," SA Agriculture Minister Paul Holloway told ABC radio.
Australian Democrats agriculture spokesman John Cherry said there were
issues that were falling between the cracks of the various regulators.
"The frustration is that some of the cross system things like the
combination of the crop with the herbicide, with the changes to
agricultural practices and the impact that could have on biodiversity and
wildlife aren't being considered by anybody," he told ABC radio.
"They'll fall down between the cracks, between the various regulators, and
as a regulatory system I think our gene technology regulation system does
need to be looked at again. "I just want to make sure that we apply the
precautionary principle properly and that is where there are holes in our
knowledge, we close those."
Protection of Monopoly of the Multinationals in the name of Biosafety by
Govt of India's Department of Biotechnology (DBT)
- Dr B. Gopal Reddy , Swadeshi JagaranManch, India.
July 23, 2003
The Department of Biotechnology regulates the biosafety evaluation of
genetically modified organisms in India through RCGM. The Secretary,
Department of Biotechnology nominates majority of the members in the
Review Committee of Genetic Modifications (RCGM) including the Chairman.
There are only a few nominees from ICAR, CSIR and other important
Ministries. The Member Secretary of RCGM is also from Department of
Biotechnology and it functions from DBT premises. The GEAC also largely
depends on the inputs of RCGM to approve any new technology for
The deliberations in the RCGM are directly influenced by the Secretary,
Department of Biotechnology who can address the meetings of the RCGM as
and when deemed fit. She also discusses the applications that are put
before the committee for consideration. Since the members are obliged to
the Secretary by way of their appointment (and their very existence on the
committee) it is but natural for them to oblige the Secretary.
The Government of India has declined to award gene patents as well as live
organism patents realising the adverse impact that is possible to the
Nation by way of very steep raise in prices of essentials like drugs,
seeds etc. The multinationals are illegally and tactfully involving the
Department of Biotechnology in India for stopping the entry of Indian
Companies so that their monopoly is perpetuated and they can charge
exorbitant prices from Indian Public. For example although the Indian
Companies are competent of introgressing the environmentally safe (as
declared by RCGM and GEAC) cry1 Ac gene (Bt gene) into their hybrids and
varieties and supply to the farmers at less than half the price (i.e Rs.
600 ˆ 800 for 450g of seeds as against multinational‚s price of Rs. 1600
per 450g packet) Department of Biotechnology is playing to the tunes of
multinationals and single handedly stopping this from happening.
The top scientists of the ICAR and all the cotton breeders in the Country
are also upset with the negative role played by the Department of
Biotechnology. However they are not able to express in the open and also
as they do not have due role in the process of deregulating genetically
India has seen the benefits of the reverse engineering in chemicals,
drugs, machinery due to which the Indian Companies could produce drugs,
machinery and several chemicals and supply to the common people over the
past several decades at competitive prices.
It is well known fact that the visitors to India from abroad purchase
medicines for usage in their countries as the medicines are costing only a
fraction in India as compared to the cost in US where the monopolies are
protected by strong patent system. As the percapita income levels are so
low in India we need to have lower prices for essentials like seeds and
Once a molecule (medicine or drug) is found to be safe for a particular
application in Medicine the same molecule produced by using a different
process need not have to be tested for the clinical safety. In the same
fashion once Cry 1Ac gene is found to be environmentally safe in a
particular genotype (variety or hybrid) of cotton it would not be required
to test the biosafety of the same gene in another genotype because the
functionality of the gene is by way of expression of production of a
protein in the Plant system and it is very well known and documented in
the molecular biology that the gene would always produce the same protein.
It is also well documented that in different genotypes only the expression
of the protein levels might differ which is the only factor that need to
be tested. This particular test of expression levels of the gene can be
conducted easily by simple test in any small biotech lab. Therefore if the
approved Cry1 Ac gene is introgressed into any new variety or a hybrid,
trials for evaluating the agronomic performance and gene expression level
can be very well conducted by ICAR and they would be sufficient enough.
There is practically no need for involvement of DBT (RCGM) or GEAC for
evaluating the already approved Cry1 Ac gene again and again as is now
being prescribed by the existing regulatory system.
Under the above circumstances it is essential for rationalization of the
GM Crop release system by involving all the concerned Ministries and
eminent agricultural scientists of the Country so that now productive and
profitable technologies reach the farmers quickly, so that they can reduce
cost of production and compete in the global markets.
- The Times July 24, 2003 (From Agnet)
Emotion (mostly anger) has until now, according to this editorial,
dominated Britain's long-running row over whether, and in what
circumstances, to grow genetically modified crops. Yesterday, however, a
panel of experts from both sides of the debate produced a remarkably
balanced study for the Government that avoided the usual mud-slinging and,
for the first time, managed to generate more light than heat in its
discussion of the pros and cons of GM farming.
The editorial says that the GM Science Review's conclusions are extremely
modest. Citing the many unknowns still littering every equation in which
GM food features, the experts recommend a case-by-case approach to
assessing each application of GM technology. With a philosophical turn of
phrase clearly born of long nights of argument (one GM-sceptic panel
member resigned last month), it distinguishes between "absence of evidence
of harm" and "evidence of absence of harm". The report reminds readers
that it is a mistake to be paralysed by gaps in existing knowledge, but
also a mistake to rush incautiously forward to exploit new technologies
without understanding the cost. It makes a plea for inching forward into
sensible applications of new technologies, and for a mature, measured
response to the unknown: "As individuals and as a society we have to be
able to cope responsibly with incomplete knowledge and uncertainty."
The report looks at the direct risks to human health from eating GM food;
the indirect health risks of triggering greater human susceptibility to
allergies; the direct environmental risks that GM superplants might invade
the surrounding countryside; and the indirect risks to the environment,
including the possibility that growing herbicide-tolerant crops might mean
there were fewer weeds in the fields and hence less food for endangered
While it states that the United States, Argentina and Canada have grown GM
crops without measurable adverse effects, it also says that those
countries have cultivated these plants on large-scale farms that are
geographically isolated from wilderness areas. It admits frankly that it
has too few facts at its disposal, yet, to be able to predict confidently
what the effects might be in Britain, where farmland and wilderness areas
are interspersed, or what the appropriate agricultural mix for this
country might be. Equally, it admits that there has been no systematic
testing of the effects of eating GM food (though it does point to the
continued health of the US population, where GM food has been widely
consumed for many years).
The editorial goes on to say that for all its reticence, the decision in
yesterday's report that there was no scientific case for a ban nudges
Britain closer to GM crop-growing. If the field reports are also positive,
there will be no barrier to planting the first crops commercially from
Trans Fatty Acids in Plants
- Alan McHughen, email@example.com
I believe plants do not produce trans fats, although animals do. Normal
unsaturates in plants are cis-fats; the process of hydrogenation (to make
the liquid unsaturates behave more like solid saturates) adds hydrogen
atoms to the unsaturated fat molecules. Some of these land in
cis-positions, others in trans positions. landing in the trans position
also alters the shape of the molecule, but the weight and number of
various atoms is unchanged.
Trans fats are essentially converted cis-unsaturated fatty acids. Various
studies have shown trans fats to be metabolized differently from cis fatty
acids, leading to an increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol.
My preference is to avoid trans-fats, whether naturally occurring or
derived through hydrogenation of soybean (or other vegetable) oil. Foods
using hydrogenation usually require a means of solidification (liquid
margarine isn't popular). They could use saturated fats, which are
naturally solid at room temp, but they have their own health related
--- Alan McHughen, Biotechnology Specialist, University of California
The Economic and Environmental Impacts of Agbiotech: A Global Perspective
- Ed: Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, University of Missouri, Columbia, USA;
Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers Hardbound, ISBN 0-306-47501-4 February
2003, 325 pp. USD 144.95
"After almost fifteen years in the laboratory and in the test plots,
bioengineered crops arrived to the market in the mid-1990s. Adoption was
rapid and widespread. In 1996, less than 4 million acres in six countries
were planted with bioengineered plants. By 2001, worldwide adoption had
expanded to more than 115 million acres."
The foretelling of a scientific revolution has persistently raised
expectations on the potential of agrobiotechnology, and first-generation
agrobiotechnologies have had to confront such expectations in the field
and in the market. The Economics and Environmental Impacts of Agbiotech: A
Global Perspective explains how well they have fared. It brings together
leading authors from around the world who have analyzed the production,
environmental and economic impacts of first generation
agrobiotechnologies. By pooling experiences across various countries, time
periods, crops, and traits this global panel synthesizes a complete
picture of the impacts of first generation agrobiotechnologies. The
Economics and Environmental Impacts of Agbiotech: A Global Perspective
offers this assessment, accounting for the full range of differences in
geography, weather, pests, farm structures and institutions that had not
been completed previously, and answers these important questions:
* What were the factors driving the widespread adoption of these first
generation agrobiotechnologies? * What were their economic and
environmental impacts? * How were such impacts distributed among
innovators and adopters, developed and developing countries, exporters and
importers, domestic and foreign consumers? * How were such impacts and
their distribution affected by market structures and government policies?
Declaration On Securing Global Food Production
- From Crop Biotech Update, isaaa.org
A statement on securing global food production was signed by delegates of
the Congress ìIn the Wake of the Double Helix: From the Green Revolution
to the Gene Revolutionî held in Bologna, Italy from May 28 to 31, 2003.
Among the signatories were Norman Borlaug, 1970 Nobel Peace Prize
Laureate; and World Food Prize Laureates Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan
and Gurdev Khush.
The delegates from the science community said they ìsupport a
multidisciplinary approach to achieve the needed advancement in food
production by sustainable and environmentally sound practices that
include, but are not limited to:
* Accelerated and publicly funded research programs to improve knowledge
of the genomics of crop plants, accompanied by policies to ensure fair
access to genetic resources for humanitarian purposes;
* Better recognition that genes found in domesticated crops, other plants
and other living entities are the source for improvement and protection of
crops in sustainable and environmentally sound ways;
* Support for appropriate and internationally coordinated research in the
public and private sectors, both in the developed and developing nations,
in the recognition that public research provides knowledge and balance to
the private sector;
* Support with capacity-building in biotechnology and in modern crop
improvement methods in developing countries and establishment of an
appropriate regulatory oversight for evaluation of new traits in crop
* Reviewing and streamlining the regulatory processes now being enacted in
Europe and elsewhere in order to affirm everyone's right to benefit from
scientific advancement and to prevent unnecessary delays in the
introduction of crop plants with valuable traits that can save lives and
alleviate devastating human diseases;
* Re-examination of the purposes and uses of intellectual property rights
policies, in particular those that impact on biotechnologies, in order to
ensure that the public good and international humanitarian purposes are
For more information on the Congress statement, email Tuberosa Roberto at
New Book 'Genetically Modified Crops' by Nigel G. Halford
- From Crop Biotech Update, isaaa.org
The World Scientific Publishing of the Imperial College Press in London
has published the book entitled 'Genetically Modified Crops' by Nigel G.
Halford. The book describes the history and development of the science of
biotechnology. It also features the GM crops that are grown commercially
around the world, and the new varieties that are currently being
developed. More information about the book can be found at:
Environmental Biosafety Research
- Klaus Ammann, firstname.lastname@example.org
Second Issue is available on line now (July 24, 2003).
Environmental Biosafety Research (EBR) is an international journal, whose
aim is to publish top quality research and review articles in areas
pertinent to GMO biosafety. The scope of EBR covers a wide range of
fields: plant/animal ecology, plant/animal pathology, weed science,
microbiology, entomology, food safety, agronomy, economics, etc. EBR is
the official journal of a recently established learned society, the
International Society for Biosafety Research.
The on-line version is available at
To Register go to:
Table of contents: Vol. 2 No. 2 (April-June 2003)
* Editorial: Negative and positive data, statistical power, and confidence
intervals, D.A. Andow
* General principles for risk assessment of living modified organisms:
Lessons from chemical risk assessment, Ryan A. Hill and Cyrie Sendashonga
* Possible effects of (trans)gene flow from crops on the genetic diversity
from landraces and wild relatives, Paul Gepts and Roberto Papa
* Environmental implications of gene flow from sugar beet to wild beet -
current status and future research needs, Detlef Bartsch, Joel Cuguen,
Enrico Biancardi and Jeremy Sweet
* Selection of relevant non-target herbivores for monitoring the
environmental effects of Bt maize pollen, Gregor Schmitz, Detlef Bartsch
and Peter Pretscher
* Soybean natural cross-pollination rates under field conditions, Jeffery
D. Ray, Thomas C. Kilen, Craig A. Abel and Robert L. Paris
Agriculture or Aggravation?
- Chad Konecky and T.R. Wadsworth, North Shore Sunday, July 25, 2003
The organic farming industry lures consumers by promising healthier,
tastier, environmentally sensitive produce, but some North Shore farmers
say the trend has shallow roots
The pheromone traps have festered in the fields beyond Ipswich's Linebrook
Road for a week now. And those misguided male moths mistaking an untimely
end for a fecund female will be tallied. If the body count exceeds a
certain threshold, a fine mist of pesticide will rain down upon the
Welcome to second-generation farm owner Mario Marini's world. A universe
of parsimonious, scientifically calculated crop dusting and a world of
high risk. If Marini's de facto rhythm method - known as integrated
pesticide management, or IPM - is ineffective, he'll be staring at field
full of worm-riddled corn. Enough of those, and he could be out of
It's no wonder, then, that farmers like Marini, who operates one of the
three biggest produce-producing plots in Essex County, get a little
prickly when folks suggest they should be growing certified organic crops.
Fact is, guys like fifth-generation farm owner Bob Connors in Danvers get
more than a little prickly.
"Organic isn't the best thing and people are misinformed about it,"
insists Connors, who also treats crops using IPM and owns Connors Farm
Stand, which wholesales to Crosby's supermarkets. "Would you drink raw
milk? That's organic. But we pasteurize it because it contains
microorganisms. There are more health hazards associated with organically
grown foods than the IPM method, where we only spray when it's absolutely
necessary. The chicken manure fertilizer organic growers use can carry
salmonella bacteria. Their non-pasteurized apple cider can carry E. coli
bacteria. It's not all it's cracked up to be."
Read on at
Glow-in-dark Pet Fish Seized
- Australian, July 25, 2003
SINGAPOREAN authorities have confiscated 400 aquarium fish genetically
modified to make them glow in the dark.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority feared the tiny green fluorescent
fish could get into the wild and wreak havoc on Singapore's ecosystem,
spokesman Goh Shi-Yong said today. The fish were implanted with luminous
genes from light-emitting jellyfish by Taikong Corp, a Taiwan manufacturer
and distributor of aquarium products, Goh said.
Aquariums across the city-state were being checked to make sure they were
not selling them. Goh said genetically modified organisms must get import
approval from the authorities and no transgenic animals had yet been
Adec Trading and Services, the local aquarium supply company that had the
fish, told investigators they came from a Malaysian wholesaler, Goh said.
The Straits Times reported today that the developer, Taikong, claimed the
fish were made sterile to ensure they did not disturb the ecological
balance if they were released into rivers.