Today in AgBioView: July 29, 2003:
* GM Food: Far Less Scary Than It Used To Be
* GM in Developing Countries: Ripe for Research
* Can't Keep Facts Out 0f GM Story
* Bias Prevents Us Reaping Benefits
* Cotton Pesticide Use Falls 65%
* Farmers, Scientists Hit Back in Gene Row
* Russia's Future Depends on Biotechnology
* Papaya Researcher Gets ASPB Award
* California - Nation's New Gateway for European Enviro Laws
* India: Regulatory Overhaul; Legalizing Illegal Bt Cotton; Why Now?
* Biotech Food for Africa
* 'Wake Up' by Tim Pears
* Transformation of Plant Science in Our Time - the Contribution of Jozef
Genetically Modified Food: Far Less Scary Than It Used To Be
- The Economist, July 26, 2003; http://www.economist.com/
'Genetically modified crops will neither feed the world nor wreck the
planet. So what's all the fuss about?'
In Rochford, east of London, two dozen people gathered recently to discuss
their hopes and fears about genetically modified (GM) food. The assembled
housewives, pensioners and farmers listened politely to a handful of guest
speakers, and then they fired off questions: How can you be sure that GM
food is safe to eat? Aren't GM crops hurting the environment? Will GM feed
the world's poor?
Such questions have been asked up and down Britain. The meeting in
Rochford was one of more than 450 public gatherings in a month-long
consultation exercise called “GM Nation?”. The exercise, which ended last
week, is only one of several studies commissioned by the British
government. Earlier this month, the Cabinet Office, a government
department, published an assessment of the costs and gains of Britain
embracing, or rejecting, GM agriculture. This week, a group led by the
government's chief science adviser published a review of the scientific
evidence of the risks and benefits of GM crops. Soon a committee will
flesh out the guidelines issued by the European Commission this week on
how GM and non-GM (particularly organic) agriculture can co-exist, and who
should pay if one contaminates the other. Then in September the results of
about 200 field trials looking into the effects of GM crops on the
country's bugs and birds will be published.
The last time Britain saw such a flurry of interest in GM food was in
1999, when a series of events turned much of the population against
“Frankenfoods” and drove the stuff from supermarket shelves. The upshot
was a “voluntary” moratorium on the commercial cultivation of GM crops in
Britain, a pause which the government has said it will reconsider in the
The results are of interest far beyond Britain. The battle over GM foods
has pitted the world's main producers--America, Argentina and
Canada--against the European Union and others that resist its spread. This
may well culminate in a fully-fledged trade war at the World Trade
Organisation (WTO) if America presses ahead with its complaint that the
EU's five-year de facto moratorium is a scientifically unjustifed trade
Out in the field. At issue are two broad types of genetic modification,
which account for 99% of the almost 59m hectares of GM crops in commercial
cultivation. One, called Bt, takes a gene from a bacterium and puts it in
plants to give them resistance to certain insects without the use of
chemical pesticides. The other uses genes also from bacteria and gives
plants resistance to particular herbicides, such as glyphosate.
The main GM crops--soyabeans, maize, cotton and oilseed rape--are now
grown commercially in 16 countries and tested in a dozen more. GM
commodities are also widely traded, even in the European Union which still
imports several GM products, such as soya meal for animal feed. Spain
actually grows some GM crops commercially.
Much of the resistance to GM food stems from concern over its potential
risks to human health and the environment. This week's review of the
scientific evidence in Britain concludes, as several other expert bodies
have before it, that there is no evidence to suggest that today's GM crops
are less safe to eat than conventional foods. In many countries, GM foods
are already heavily scrutinised for nutritional content, toxicity,
allergenicity and genetic stability before being allowed on to the market.
While the British review is sanguine about today's GM foods, it also
recommends more research and longer-term studies on future generations of
The case for eating GM crops is far clearer than for planting them. In the
late 1990s, opponents of GM technology predicted ecological catastrophe
from introducing these “unnatural” creations into the landscape. One of
their fears was that the pests which farmers most want to kill off, such
as the European corn borer, would develop resistance to the Bt toxin in GM
However, studies of Bt cotton in America and China have shown that, after
seven years of commercial planting, the target pests are still as
vulnerable to the toxin as ever. But this is no cause for complacency,
says Bruce Tabashnik, an entomologist at the University of Arizona. He
believes it is only a matter of time before resistance develops--as it has
to every other pesticide ever tried.
Then there are worries about gene flow--the wafting of pollen or seed from
a GM plant to an unmodified one, and the passing on of undesirable
characteristics. This happens as a matter of course between conventional
crops, so it should be no surprise that it happens with GM plants, says
Allison Snow, a plant biologist at Ohio State University. The consequences
depend on the circumstances. Gene flow from one field of GM maize to
another may make little difference in the middle of Nebraska; a similar
flow in, say, Mexico, home to thousands of wild relatives of the
domesticated maize plant could have serious repercussions.
A further worry is over GM plants' potential to harm everything from
microbes in the ground to songbirds overhead. America was in a flap four
years ago when experiments suggested that GM maize could poison Monarch
butterflies: field tests later suggested that such an event was highly
Scientists do not have a clear view of the full ecological impact of GM
crops, or indeed of conventional farming, says Angelika Hilbeck, an
ecologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. For every study
suggesting that GM crops can boost, say, insect numbers by replacing
brutal chemicals with more environmentally friendly products, there is
another showing problems for the birds and the bees.
On the whole, according to this week's review of the science in Britain,
the GM crops that are now being grown commercially are no worse for the
environment than conventional farming. Indeed, under proper management,
some of them can be better for it. That said, there are limits to the
extent to which the experience of, say, Saskatchewan can be applied to
Somerset. Ecosystems and agricultural practices vary greatly around the
world, and the review calls for much more research into the local effects
While biology can go some way to answering uncertainties about GM crops,
the future of the technology lies with a more dismal science: economics.
Crucial here is the demand for GM products along the food chain, from farm
to fork. In America, there is certainly some home-grown resistance to GM
food, but consumers are generally unperturbed by having GM crops in their
backyard or on their dinner plates.
In Europe, opinion polls suggest that public attitudes towards GM food
have mellowed from outright distaste at the end of the 1990s to cautious
uncertainty. “The advocates of GM technology are wrong when they say that
public resistance is based on a misperception of risk,” says George
Gaskell, a sociologist at the London School of Economics. “Rather, it
stems from an apparent lack of benefit.”
Four years ago, several big international companies, Monsanto among them,
were promising consumers a brave new world of healthier, better-tasting GM
foods. But it has been slow to appear. Today there are consumer-friendly
GM crops in the works--tomatoes high in heart-protecting anti-oxidant
molecules, for example--but it will be many years before they appear in a
market near you.
Moreover, the firms in the business are not as robust as they once were.
Monsanto and Syngenta, formerly part of profitable pharmaceutical
companies, are now independent operations and no longer have the same deep
pockets for GM research or for purchasing seed companies. Syngenta has
shifted some of its focus to industrial applications of GM plants, such as
producing pharmaceuticals, that might gain easier acceptance in Europe
than GM foods.
This tolerance will quickly evaporate, however, if one slips into the
human food supply. America has already had a couple of such scares. In
one, a variety of GM maize, used for animal feed but not approved for
human consumption, made its way into taco shells. Hundreds of millions of
dollars-worth of processed food and raw grain had to be destroyed.
This failure to enthuse consumers comes as no surprise to Lawrence Busch,
an agribusiness expert at Michigan State University. Historically, firms
such as Monsanto and Syngenta, which had their origins in agrochemicals,
saw farmers, not shoppers, as their main customers. So when they turned to
biotechnology in the 1990s to help boost their flagging sales and offset
high development costs, such companies focused on easy traits that would
be of immediate interest to farmers, their traditional customer, rather
than to food manufacturers or shoppers.
Most farmers who have tried GM crops since they first started to spread
commercially in the mid-1990s like them, which is why acreages expanded by
more than 10% last year. And this is despite the higher cost of the seed
and the strict conditions that companies often attach to their contracts
of sale. There is even a thriving market in smuggled seed in Brazil, where
the government has not yet formally authorised commercial planting. Up to
one-third of Brazil's soyabean acreage is GM, according to Tray Thomas, an
agribusiness expert in Des Moines, Iowa.
The specific benefits conferred on farmers vary. In general, though, those
who turn to, say, herbicide-resistant soyabeans, do not plant them for
higher yields. GM versions are not much more productive than conventional
varieties. Rather, farmers choose them because they are easier to manage,
demand less weeding and take lower-cost, less toxic herbicides. Bt crops,
on the other hand, can produce higher yields than ordinary ones, under
certain circumstances. They also need less insecticide, which is better
for health and, maybe, for the environment too.
Leonard Gianessi of the National Centre for Food and Agriculture Policy in
Washington, DC, reckons that eight different commercially grown GM crops
in America, from herbicide-resistant soyabeans in Minnesota to
virus-resistant papaya in Hawaii, boosted American farm income by $1.5
billion in 2001. Studies in Argentina, China, South Africa and Spain have
also shown that farmers can gain. On the other hand, Britain's Soil
Association, an organic farmers' trade association and opponent of GM
crops, can point to studies showing that farmers in America, at best, only
break even from their use of GM.
The bottom line, says Michigan State University's Mr Busch, is that
farmers generally see cost advantages from GM crops--or they would not
keep planting them. But in its recent economic review, Britain's Cabinet
Office noted that the financial benefits that might accrue to British
farmers from planting, say, herbicide-resistant oilseed rape are unlikely
to compensate for the lack of a market should their main customers shun
the stuff. Indeed, having GM on the farm could add to costs throughout the
food chain. New European rules on labelling and traceability, to come into
force later this year, will demand further careful separation of GM and
non-GM crops, and a detailed paper trail from field to foodstore.
The rules will also require that the distinction between GM and non-GM be
applied to animal feed and “derivatives”--such as soya oil--which appear
in a wide variety of processed foods. When consumer-oriented GM foods
reach the market, producers may welcome these new regulations as a way of
singling out higher-value products. But in the absence of a premium for GM
foods, they are seen by the food industry as an onerous extra cost.
What's in it for me?
The essential problem for GM foods is that farmer-friendly crops do not,
at present, translate into comparable benefits further down the food
chain. Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world's leading grain handlers,
does not see a big difference between the price of GM and of conventional
produce. Food manufacturers, such as General Mills, are equally sceptical
about the advantage to consumers in GM food. At the same time, the message
coming from some of Europe's powerful supermarkets is that they don't want
to stock anything that they have to describe as GM.
For all their complaints about foreign opposition to GM crops, however,
there is, as yet, little sign that farmers in America or Argentina are
abandoning the technology in droves. Those who do, in order to cater to
GM-wary markets, expect a premium. Non-GM soya exports to Japan, for
example, command a premium of around 10%.
But Europe's resistance to GM foods is having an effect beyond its
borders. In Canada, for example, there is a fierce row in the prairies
over Monsanto's new GM wheat. The company claims that it will greatly
assist farmers in weed control, thereby reducing farm costs. But the
Canadian Wheat Board is advising farmers not to plant it, since much of
their produce makes its way to export markets in Europe, which might be
jeopardised if GM material were to sneak in. Countries from China to
Zambia have also seized upon Europe's resistance to GM to justify their
own import barriers. On the other hand, new markets are opening elsewhere
to cater to GM-wary populations: one country's trade loss is another's
Far from taking over world agriculture, GM crops represent less than 5% of
world farm acreage. Hesitant markets, as well as scientific uncertainty,
will continue to slow their spread in Europe and Asia. For all the
extravagant promises of salvation, and the dire predictions of damnation,
the past five years of public resistance have brought GM technology down
to earth. Its future now lies in more focused applications in particular
parts of the world. GM never did stand for Global Miracles.
GM in Developing Countries: Ripe for Research
- The Economist, July 26, 2003
'GM is one of many ways to fix poor countries' agricultural problems'
George Bush believes that Europe's "unfounded, unscientific fears" of GM
crops are hurting African farmers as well as American ones, preventing
them from embracing biotechnology for fear of losing access to European
markets. For their part, Europeans argue that many poor countries share
their reservations about GM foods. They accuse America of using world
hunger to further its own commercial interests in biotechnology.
Last summer, several African countries on the edge of famine refused to
accept American food aid because it contained GM maize which, they argued,
could have ended up being planted as seed. Last year, less than 5% of the
world's GM acreage was in poor countries. But millions of farmers in
China, India, Indonesia and South Africa are growing GM crops, mainly
cotton, and other developing countries are field-testing GM plants.
The economic gains have been impressive for many small farmers who have
taken the plunge. Studies in China, for example, show that from 1999-2001
farmers growing GM cotton earned roughly $500 more per hectare than those
sticking to conventional varieties. Although the seed was more expensive,
farmers used 80% less pesticide.
Opponents of GM food fear that by taking on GM crops, poor farmers will
find themselves beholden to big biotech companies that will tie them up in
complex contracts, and prevent them from saving and sharing seed by
patenting the genes concerned. The so-called Terminator technology, which
firms renounced after being accused of engineering it in order to stifle
poor farmers' ability to replant seed from an existing crop, still haunts
Few of the GM plants now being sold by big biotech companies will make
much difference to poor farmers. With their tiny plots and desperate need
to raise yields, they do not need the sort of high-tech soyabeans
carpeting the American mid-west. They need improvements in their staple
crops, such as fungus-resistant bananas or more productive cassava. Some
of these can come from conventional breeding, some through better farm
management--and some from GM technology.
Although big companies spend billions on GM research, little of it goes
into looking for specific ways in which GM crops might benefit poor
farmers. Like their counterparts in the drug industry, firms do not see
much of a market for products that sell only in poor countries.
Nevertheless, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, a British think-tank,
points to more than a dozen GM crops in development, mainly in
universities and with occasional corporate assistance, which could help
poor farmers. They range from virus-resistant sweet potatoes in Kenya to
drought-tolerant barley in Egypt and protein-enriched potatoes in India.
From these little GM acorns, big GM oak trees may one day grow.
Can't Keep Facts Out 0f GM Story
- Michael Baume, Australian Financial Review, July 28, 2003
The hysteria from opponents to genetically modified foods blinds others to
the benefits that can be reaped, argues Michael Baume.
Beware! According to Chicken Little activists, the sky is about to fall in
following last Friday's decision by the federal government's Office of the
Gene Technology Regulator to allow the first commercial release of a
genetically modified food crop (InVigor , a canola variety developed by
Bayer CropScience ).
After "extensive evaluation and extended public consultation", the office
has found that this particular GM canola, already produced for years in
the US and Canada (which successfully exports most of its canola, 85 per
cent of which is GM), does not represent a risk to human health or the
But the only state where this improved canola can be grown is Queensland;
the rest, despite all state governments and oppositions agreeing to the
office having the power to deal with GM health, safety and environment
issues, have banned GM food crops for the time being on the basis of no
scientific evidence whatsoever.
An estimated 30 billion meals that included genetically modified crops,
such as canola, soya bean and maize, have been eaten over the past six
years without a single report of any adverse health effect. With 58
million hectares of transgenic crops grown overseas in the past year (all
of which found ready markets), there has not been a single case of the
negative effects on biodiversity or on other aspects of the environment in
which these or previous crops were grown.
The introduction of these facts into the mainly fictional GM debate by the
president of the Australian Academy of Science , the CSIRO's Jim Peacock,
at a recent National Press Club address has not stopped the hysteria of
the anti-GM brigade. Peacock blames activists for manipulating the media
into driving public scepticism about GM foods. "Claims that GM foods are
potentially harmful to our health and to the environment simply have no
factual basis. They are mischievous and misleading," he said.
Nor has the detailed study of 200 reports of transgenic cropping by a
leading Swiss academic, outlined in a paper to this month's International
Genetics Conference in Melbourne, which found not a single case anywhere
in the world of untoward effects on biodiversity, not a single case of
environmental damage. Also at this conference, last year's Nobel Prize
winner, Sydney Brenner, complained about the ignorance that had turned GM
into a Frankenstein technology. And a renowned Kenyan scientist, Florence
Wambugu, attacked the "myths and lies" of GM opponents.
Where are the "victims" to match the scare campaign?
Hypocrisy dominates the anti-GM argument. For extremist greenies who
happily ignore the potential for massive environmental benefit from
modified crops that no longer need to be inundated with chemicals (the
injection of an insect-proofing gene is now enabling cotton growers in
Australia to look to a 90 per cent reduction in insecticides), the agenda
appears to rest heavily on the need to have an exciting, highly motivating
flag-waving campaign going (against the innately wicked, profit-oriented
corporate world) that will keep activists fired up and on the streets.
Much gene research is directed towards improving consumers' health, as
Peacock told the Press Club: "We are just at the dawn of realising how
important agriculture will be as a preventative health industry." Research
is being aimed at creating food varieties that will assist in preventing
the development of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer and
obesity all of which are costing many billions of dollars in therapeutic
And Australian research is leading the way in using GM to offset the iron
and vitamin A deficiency of one third of the world's population who have
rice as their staple diet. GM is simply the latest chapter in the
continuing history of necessary and dramatic genetic change over the years
in the nature of Australia's crops and livestock through such processes as
selection, cross-breeding and scientific effort (like rust-proof wheat)
which has enabled Australia to remain highly efficient.
As federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss warned earlier this year,
unless Australia keeps up with overseas farmers who get an economic
advantage by moving into GM crops with higher yields and lower costs, we
will cease to be competitive.
Bias Prevents Us Reaping Benefits
- Graeme O'Neill, Sunday Herald Sun (Australia), July 27, 2003
Amid all the controversy over genetically modified crops and foods,
Australian scientists have been strangely muted.
While anti-GM activists see themselves as latter-day Davids confronting
the Goliaths of science and business, our scientists are busy researching,
and finding grants, to respond to every claim of hazard. Many have felt
that to respond to the outrageous claims of the anti-GM movement is to
give them undeserved credibility. That strategic error is mainly
responsible for what is effectively an Australia-wide moratorium on new GM
But last week, a scientist, uniquely qualified to speak about GM crops,
sought to set the record straight in a National Press Club address in
Canberra. Dr Jim Peacock is president of the Australian Academy of
Science, and chief of CSIRO's biggest research division, Plant Industry,
in Canberra. I recently interviewed Dr Peacock for a series of
biographical articles on eminent Australian geneticists, in the lead-up to
the International Genetics Congress in Melbourne.
He was mostly responsible for leading CSIRO into the age of molecular
genetics. An outstanding administrator and researcher, Dr Peacock's
contribution to Australia's economic well-being is likely to be measured
in billions of dollars. In his press club address, he described some of
the research at his division, and strongly defended the use of gene
technology for crop improvement.
He chided state and territory governments for introducing a freeze on
commercial cropping of genetically modified canola -- and, by implication,
all other GM crops, except cotton. "It's odd that some of our states are
intent upon putting out the message that they are champions of
biotechnology, seeing it as a driver of the future industries of
Australia, while, at the same time, they are rejecting the use of some of
the most powerful and beneficial biotechnologies available," he said.
Dr Peacock conceded that, in general, scientists had not been effective in
helping the community understand what gene technologies could do for
Australia's industries, its food supply and the environment. But he
pointed to the spectacular success of GM cotton varieties developed by
CSIRO. They had saved the cotton industry, which had been "on the way out"
as voracious insect pests rapidly became resistant to powerful synthetic
insecticides, which were also contaminating the environment and waterways.
The new GM cottons were developed by introducing the Bt insecticide gene,
owned by Monsanto corporation, into the world's best cotton cultivars,
bred by CSIRO using conventional techniques. Farmers were able to buy the
GM seeds through a non-profit industry co-operative, under an agreement
that required them to employ management techniques designed to minimise
the risk of pests evolving resistance.
And despite the gloomy predictions of anti-GM activists, six years after
the first GM cotton crops were planted in Australia, no sign of resistance
has been detected. This season will see the advent of the first new
Bollgard 2 varieties, which are protected by two independently acting
pesticide genes, greatly reducing the already small risk of pests evolving
resistance Bollgard 2 crops will soon account for 90 per cent of
Australian production, leading to another big reduction in synthetic
Dr Peacock predicted the grandchildren of today's farmers would still be
using the same system. He said transgenic cotton provided a model example
for the successful entry of new and sustainable technology into productive
Current moratoriums on GM canola cropping in WA, SA, NSW, Victoria and
Tasmania are based on fears canola farmers may not be able to market GM
canola. Dr Peacock said that 58 million hectares of GM crops were grown
throughout the world in the past year. All had found ready markets. And
despite claims that GM canola would be Australia's first genetically
modified food crop, seed from Australian GM cotton is routinely fed to
livestock, or processed to extract edible oil.
Dr Peacock calculated that at least 30 billion meals involving the
products of these crops have been eaten in the past six years. "This is a
lot of food, consumed by a lot of people and there is not a single report
of adverse health effects," he said. "Nor is there a single case of
negative effects on biodiversity or on other aspects of the environment in
which these crops were grown."
At the International Congress of Genetics in Melbourne this month,
Europe's leading defender of GM agriculture, Professor Klaus Amman,
director of the Bern Botanic Garden, reported that he had examined about
200 reports of transgenic cropping and had not found a single case of
untoward effects on biodiversity, or environmental damage.
"So, the claims that are often made which argue that GM foods are
potentially harmful to our health and to the environment simply have no
factual basis," he said. "They are mischievous and misleading."
The highlight of Dr Peacock's address was the account of his division's
discovery of a variety of barley that promised big health benefits. He
used this development to illustrate the silly notion that GM crops were
somehow inherently hazardous, and required stringent regulation because
they were products of human ingenuity, and therefore "unnatural".
The barley in question is a naturally occurring variety, the product of
some random mutation in the distant past, that changed a single DNA
"letter" in a gene involved in synthesising starch. The effect of this
mutation is to change the basic composition of the starch -- the grain
from this variety is enriched in high-amylose starch, which takes humans
and animals significantly longer to digest.
People who have been reading about new diets designed to prevent
adult-onset diabetes may recognise the description of a food with a low
glycaemic index. Starch consists of complexes of sugar molecules, which
the body breaks down to form glucose. With high glycaemic-index starchy
foods, the rapid breakdown of low-amylose starches results in a surge of
glucose in the bloodstream, followed by the release of insulin, which
shunts some of the excess glucose into long-term storage in fat cells. In
time, we grow fat, our cells become resistant to insulin, and we develop
non-insulin dependent diabetes.
For all the publicity surrounding the health virtues of low
glycaemic-index foods, it is difficult to convince people to change their
long-established dietary habits. It is far easier to endow familiar foods
with beneficial health properties.
We have been eating breakfast cereals fortified with minerals and vitamins
for years, while beer enriched with thiamine protects alcoholics against
the brain damage and memory loss of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. We can
now buy bread enriched with omega-3 mono-unsaturated oils, and spread it
with high omega-3 canola to protect against cardiovascular disease and
stroke. There is now evidence that omega-3 enriched foods may benefit
children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder by correcting fatty
acid imbalances in cell membranes, which cause brain cells to malfunction.
These health-promoting foods have been called "nutraceuticals" -- foods
that are nutritious, but which also have health-promoting pharmaceutical
properties. Nutraceuticals are seen as the future of the food industry,
and one of the keys to reducing the massive cost of diet-related health
But there's a cheaper, easier way to produce them: develop food crops that
come with health-promoting compounds pre-installed. CSIRO'S new barley is
ready-made for this purpose. Dr Peacock said that dietary trials on rats,
pigs, and, most recently, humans had confirmed the barley was likely to be
of considerable value both in preventing and treating diabetes.
"This barley is not a GMO -- it has a natural genetic change and can enter
the food chain immediately, as can any other variety of barley," Dr
Peacock said. "Only one genetic letter in one starch gene has been changed
-- and it's nice to eat." More human trials are under way to confirm
predictions that the barley will also reduce blood cholesterol levels and
protect against bowel disease including bowel cancer. A search of the
international seed bank for barley at Fort Collins in the US found the
same mutation in an old barley cultivar -- its seed has starch with the
same properties. Dr Peacock said Plant Industry molecular geneticists have
replicated the mutation using gene technology, with the same result.
"No new proteins, no chance of allergens, no new genes, just a volume
control to turn down the activity of that one starch gene," he said.
But in contrast to the "natural" CSIRO and Fort Collins varieties, the GM
varieties cannot enter the food chain, because they are not yet acceptable
to Australian society. "Ridiculous, isn't it?" Dr Peacock said. "In this
case, it doesn't matter because we have the non-transgenic barley plants
that can enter the food chain right away."
But he said there were many properties of food plants that could be
optimised to benefit human health which could only be achieved through
transgenic methods. "Is it right for us to reject this new level of
knowledge, and this new, safe technology?" Dr Peacock asked.
Victoria was the last state to decide to impose a moratorium on GM canola
-- the Bracks Government, in a difficult situation, decided not to
legislate for the three to five-year ban preferred by the other states.
But in opting for a 12-month, voluntary moratorium, Victoria made itself
the target for a blitz by anti-GM groups over the next six months. The
Bracks Government has a chance to show its leadership to get on with the
business of building the state's new biotechnology industries.
Cotton Pesticide Use Falls 65%
The annual research review by the Australian Cotton Co-operative Research
Centre has revealed major progress by the cotton industry in reducing the
volume of chemicals applied to crops to arrest insect damage.
Research shows that the amount of insecticide applied in 2002 to
conventional cotton fields was 65% less than in the late 1990s, and the
amount applied to genetically modified (Bt cotton) fields was 80%. During
the mid to late-1990s, conventional cotton crops received an average of 11
sprays per season at a cost of $500 to $800 a hectare, which was clearly
Not only are growers reducing their use of insecticides and improving farm
profits, but the majority (almost 70%) are also committed to conserving
beneficial insects, to using pesticides more selectively, and to the use
of plant monitoring to improve pest management decisions. Joint Cotton
CRC program leaders, Dallas Gibb (NSW Agriculture) and Geoff McIntyre
(Queensland Department of Primary Industries), said the benefits of this
reduction in pesticide use were flowing through to local communities and
to the environment.
They said these achievements would not have been possible without
large-scale grower involvement in area wide management groups that
coordinate regional pest management activities, and their ready acceptance
of integrated pest management tools and strategies.
The CRC's research into integrated pest management and decision support
systems developed within CRC programs provided a valuable foundation for
the insecticide reduction program, as did the valuable work of the CRC's
national extension network in facilitating the adoption of industry best
The CRC research review was held at the University of New England Armidale
on July 23-24. More than 130 researchers from the Northern Territory,
Western Australia, Queensland, NSW, Victoria and the ACT presented the
results of cotton research projects and programs, and discussed future
Farmers, Scientists Hit Back in Gene Row
- Jillian Talbot, July 28, 2003 http://www.stuff.co.nz/
Farmers and scientists have hit back in the debate over genetically
modified food, calling a lobby group "anti-democratic" for wanting New
Zealand to remain a GM-free food producer. Federated Farmers has said the
Sustainability Council of New Zealand "conveniently" overlooked the
environmental and health benefits of GM technology.
The comments were fuelled by the launch of a Sustainability
Council-supported campaign, Purefoodnz, which wants New Zealand to remain
a GM-free food producer till its export markets accept GM food.
Federated Farmers supports the application of gene technology provided
appropriate controls exist and endorses individual farmers' rights to
decide what technologies are used in their production.
Federated Farmers grains council chairman Hugh Ritchie said GM technology
had environmental and health benefits, which people were often not told
about. For example, herbicide-resistant onion crops could reduce the use
of pesticides by as much as 70 per cent, and erosion and fossil fuel use
could be reduced from minimum tillage planting techniques.
Mr Ritchie did not dispute surveys in Europe showing some negative
consumer sentiment but said those surveys were often succinct yes, no,
questions. "If you say to people, do you want GM food that has a reduction
of 11 different pesticides sprayed on it because the technology allows
that . . . you might get a different answer."
Consumers were not getting enough information to make an informed
decision, he said.
In addition, a recent survey that found more than 50 per cent of farmers
wanted the moratorium on release of GM organisms extended reinforced the
federation's gene policy. This survey was conducted by Lincoln University,
not Federated Farmers, the organisation said.
"The fact that the majority of farmers were neither strongly opposed to GM
organisms nor keen to adopt GM technology reinforces the federation's gene
policy of keeping options open and proceeding with caution," Mr Ritchie
The Life Sciences Network said that to deny growers, farmers and exporters
the opportunity to develop those markets and give choice to European
consumers was "anti-democratic". "The Sustainability Council wants to
impose its own choice on every New Zealand farmer, grower, exporter and
consumer and not allow these people to make their own choices," network
chairman William Rolleston said.
The network said a recent survey by the London School of Economics had
shown that British consumers had become less opposed to GM crops and
foods. Though most were opposed in 1999, a small majority now supported GM
crops and the public was split 50-50 on GM foods. "Some reject them
altogether, others acknowledge for example the benefits of lower pesticide
residues and still others seem most enthusiastic," the report said.
New Zealand Veterinary Association chief executive Murray Gibb said GM
food was subject to far more rigorous testing than alternatives, which
were usually not subject to any tests.
Russia's Future Depends on Biotechnology
- Rosbalt, July 24, 2003, http://www.rosbaltnews.com/
ST. PETERSBURG, July 24. 'Biotechnology is not a means to providing
comfort, but a means of the survival of the human race today,' said
Director of the All-Russian Science Institute of Agricultural Microbiology
Igor Tikhonovich during the 11th international congress on molecular
interaction of plants and micro-organisms. He also said that at the
present time one of the main problems in world is the provision of food
and medicine for the growing world population and the problem of ecology.
According to congress participants these questions are impossible to
decide without the application of biotechnology. 'With the help of
biotechnology is has become possible to create principally new medicines,
plants, chemical fertilizers which provide good harvests and protection
from negative effects. The future of the Russian economy, like any other
country, is directly dependent on the introduction of biotechnology,' say
The congress takes place every two years and provides a forum for
international society for molecular interactivity of microbes and plants
IS-MPMI. Two years ago the congress met in the US city of Madison. The
next congress will take place in Mexico City. 150 Russian and
approximately 600 foreign scientists from 64 countries are participating
in this year's congress.
Papaya Researcher Gets ASPB Award
- USDA, July 25, 2003
The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) will present its 2003
Leadership in Science Public Service Award to Dennis Gonsalves for his
work in plant pathology. He is known for his contribution to the
development and commercialization of transgenic papaya that is resistant
to the papaya ringspot virus.
Gonsalves and his colleagues developed two virus resistant varieties of
papaya, 'Rainbow' and 'Sunup'. The team used both traditional breeding
techniques and biotechnology to engineer the tropical fruit to resist
attack by ringspot virus. The new varieties are now widely planted and
have shown resistance to the virus that once threatened Hawaii's papaya
Gonsalves works for the USDA Agricultural Research Service and is
currently director of the US Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Centre in
Visit the USDA Agricultural Research Service at http://www.ars.usda.gov
and the US Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Centre at
California Becoming Nation's New Gateway for European Enviro Laws
- Jim Wasserman, Associated Press, July 24, 2003 (sent by Andy Apel)
SACRAMENTO - California, where some environmentally conscious residents
drive the freeways in electric cars or live in trees to frustrate loggers,
may be assuming a new role as the nation's port of entry for tough
European environmental laws.
Environmentalists throughout California, increasingly enthralled by their
European counterparts and easily linked to their politics through the
Internet, are studying restrictive new European Union policies on
chemicals, food and water and air pollution.
Rebuffed at home by Bush administration resistance to major environmental
programs, many hope to absorb European ideas into California, then
leverage the state's clout and size to drive them onto the national stage.
"Over and over again, we keep looking at things Europe is doing and
saying, 'Why is the U.S. lagging?'" said William Walker, head of the West
Coast office of the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C., group
that monitors issues from U.S. farm subsidies to pollution.
Already, in a California where last year the Green Party won 11.5 percent
of the vote in one legislative race, a politically powerful environmental
movement has driven two key European Union environmental reforms through
the Legislature, in both cases making California the nation's first state
to adopt them.
San Francisco also recently became the nation's first city to adopt what
Europe calls the "precautionary principle." Widely criticized by the Bush
administration, the principle dictates that approvals for everything from
new chemicals to genetically enhanced food should err on the side of
caution, even when current available science indicates its apparent
Such enthusiasm for European ideas in a state considered more liberal than
the nation as a whole, with its beeping street crosswalks for the blind
and signs on buildings warning pregnant women of cancer-causing chemicals,
has caught the eyes of lobbyists who often duel with the environmental
India: Regulatory Overhaul and the Issue of Legalizing Illegal Bt Cotton
- S. Shantharam , Biologistics International,
Ellicott City, MD
I would like to offer some comments on two recent postings from Mr. Sharad
Joshi, a Shethkari Sanghathan Leader and Dr. B. Gopal Reddy of the
Swadeshi Jagaran Manch regarding the dysfunctional Indian biotechnology
regulatory system. Most keen observers of the Indian GMO approval process
will find it hard not to agree with most of the criticisms thrown at the
RCGM and GEAC, the two regulatory bodies that govern the field-testing and
commercialization of GMO, respectively.
Needless to say members of both the committees will steadfastly refute
these criticisms and will never admit to their illogical and indefensible
follies. It is true that the Secretary to the Department of Biotechnology
(DBT), an unabashed promoter of biotechnology which in fact is her main
job responsibility, keeps pre-empting the regulatory decision process by
regularly pronouncing verdicts with regard to GMO under regulatory review.
She does not seem to realize that what she is doing is akin to contempt of
court on a sub-judice case.
Whether she does it wittingly or unwittingly, she must realize that her
outwardly "interference" in the regulatory decision making process smacks
of undue interference and influences the decision making process, and is
the cause of all sorts of confusion. If she knows anything about the
principles of "conflict of interest", it would behoove her not to make any
public comments on any GMO under regulatory scrutiny and let the process,
however flawed it may be to take its course. Unfortunately, very few
public officials in India understand this principle of "conflict of
interest" and most don't even know such a "public probity" is critical to
good governance. Some might ask what is "Governance"?
Be that as it may, but I have some real problems with the suggestions of
both Mr. Joshi and Dr. Reddy about their views on how safety assessment of
GMO must be done. They suggest that regulatory authorities should just
decide on the safety of a given gene, and let it go so that it can be
introduced to any crop or organism. I take it that these two gentlemen may
not have had any experience with basic principles of risk assessment.
Number one cardinal rule of environmental risk assessment is to assess the
safety of the technology product (not the process) based on its
interactions with the environment into which it is introduced. In the case
of GMO, it is the behavior of the whole organism and not just the gene,
with the environment that needs to evaluated before assessing the risks
and safety as genes are well known to behave differently in different
cellular and organism backgrounds.
Scientifically, it is not tenable for any self-respecting regulatory body
to just approve a gene and let that unregulated gene be deployed in any
organism in any environment. If we harp on scientific basis of safety
review, then we should all support a scientifically credible and reliable
process of risk Assessment. It is yet another issue whether RCGM or GEAC
really prepares a risk assessment document for the benefit of the public.
On another related matter, the State Governments of Karnataka, Andhra
Pradesh, and Tamilnadu where the first commercial Bt cotton was grown last
year have issued a balanced opinion and advisory on the performance of Bt
cotton. The state governments believe that it is hasty to jump to any
conclusion on the performance of Bt cotton based on just one year's
performance alone, but wait for another two years before a reasonable
verdict can be passed on it. This is precisely what many of us interested
in understanding the performance of Bt cotton have been saying all along.
There seems to be far more prudence and balanced decision makers in the
State Governments than in Delhi. It is really astonishing nay shocking
that GEAC has not deemed that it is its public responsibility to come out
with public statement on the raging controversy over the performance of Bt
cotton so far, and place all the data as they know it for public scrutiny.
It seems there is another movement that raging in India (probably started
by Swadeshi Jagaran Manch) that GEAC must give regulatory clearance to all
and sundry illegal Bt cotton being bought and sold in India as it has
become impossible for GEAC to stop it. It seems illegal Bt seeds are
considered "swadeshi (national or indigenous) as opposed to the "videshi"
(foreign) Monsanto's illegal Bt cotton. This is absurd and height of
stupidity. I only hope that GEAC will not yield to it.
People who are promoting the idea of legalizing the illegal Bt cotton
without proper regulatory scrutiny must realize that there is no
"swadeshi" in those stolen seeds as the material was stolen from
Monsanto's seeds. Whether safe or not, what is illegal is illegal and all
of us should respect the rule of law. It would be a great disservice to
those who respect the law and spend enormous amount of money to fulfill
the regulatory requirements, but then allow illegal actions of other petty
thieves be they national or international company.
If some activist group(s) is promoting this line of argument and throw the
"rule of law" to the wind, then the anarchy that is so rampant in Indian
seed and agri-chemical business will rage more and ultimately it will be
the poor and hapless farmers who will continue to be the unfortunate
victims of deception. I say this because I just a news item in Deccan
Herald, a Bangalore daily that even to this day and age, paddy farmers in
Karnataka are being sold spurious paddy seeds by government agencies and
government approved dealers all in the name of helping farmers. This is
outrageous and unconscionable.
Testing Bt Cotton - Why Wait for Free Seed?
- S. Shantharam
This has reference to your Jul 21 posting by KBN Rayana, DG of IAMMA,
Hyderabad lamenting about how Monsanto did not give him Bt cotton seeds
for testing purposes. I wonder why he could not have bought those seeds at
a dealer if he had strong interest in finding the truth about the
performance of Bt cotton!
'Why Now? And, why will anybody believe it?' By Professor Jaroslav Drobnik
articulates very good points regarding the EU double standards in labeling
GMOs. In his summary at the end Prof. Drobnik mentions that EU passed the
labeling legislation with silent alliance with certain NGOs. I think he is
completely mistaken about it.
The anti-biotech NGO lobby working in the corridors of EU in Brussels and
Strasburg have remained hardly silent. In fact, they have been the most
successful and influential of all lobbyists working very closely with
elected MEPs of the Green Party, and I know so. We all need to recognize
that their lobbying efforts succeeded and that of the industry failed.
If there are any silent groups in the debate in Europe, it the scientific
community and the scientific bodies who limit their protestations to
scientific symposia, workshops and meetings and writing scholarly articles
in their own journals for their own consumption. Perhaps, Royal Society
can be made an exception to this rule.
Biotech Food for Africa
- New York Times, July 27, 2003 (via Agnet) http://www.nytimes.com/
Robert B. Bertram, a research specialist at the Agency for International
Development, Washington, writes regarding "Sowing Seeds of Destruction,"
by Charles M. Benbrook (Op-Ed, July 11) to say that the biotechnology
traits used by American farmers are not the same as those being developed
to meet Africa's food needs. Research to improve resistance to pests and
diseases in corn, sweet potatoes, cassavas, bananas and other African
staples is proceeding through partnerships with countries in the region.
The improved varieties can readily be made available to small farmers.
Mr. Benbrook asserts that American food aid to Zambia was intended to
introduce genetically modified corn. Biotech corn has been consumed for
years in many areas of the world without becoming part of the local
agricultural output, and there has been no evidence of negative impacts
from biotech foods.
Taking biotechnology off the table will hardly aid the cause of
agricultural development and food security in Africa.
by Tim Pears (Bloomsbury, £6.99)
- The Guardian (UK) Book Review http://books.guardian.co.uk/
It is hard to be sure if Tim Pears writes science fiction-inflected soap
opera, or stolid provincial, domestic drama with a rogue strand of DNA.
Either way, it's time to wake up and smell the genetically modified
The Sharpe brothers, John and Greg, have transformed their father's
failing fruit-and-veg stall into the globalised root crop giant, Spudnik.
John, a biologist, has become seduced by the potential of plant vaccines,
and has instigated illegal trials to develop a potato genetically encoded
to cure disease. As a result, two Venezuelan volunteers have died. Pears
plants the narrative in John's troubled conscience as he orbits a West
Midlands ring road, unable to face the factory, his brother or himself.
His train of thought spirals into a brilliantly realised reminiscence of a
dour working-class upbringing, laced with a disturbing hint of incest. A
pungent, deeply unsettling modern parable that will have you sticking to
rice and pasta for at least a week. AH
Transformation of Plant Science in Our Time - the Contribution of Jozef S.
- Richard Flavell, Plant Physiology, July 2003, Vol. 132, pp. 1119-1121
(Chief Scientific Officer Ceres-inc. Malibu, California 90265) (Sent by
Prof. Jonathan Gressel )
Editor's note: Plant Physiology does not ordinarily publish obituaries,
but is making an exception in this issue to honor Jeff Schell for his
enormous contribution to plant science.
Jozef S. Schell (1935-2003)
The ability to introduce genes into plant species has revolutionized
fundamental research and allowed for the fastest development of new
varieties in the history of commercial agriculture, as all readers must
know. This technology probably represents the most significant
breakthrough in plant breeding for the 20th century.
The relatively small number of pioneers of this new technology in plant
science have been honored by the scientific community, governments,
awarding foundations, and scientific academies. With the recent passing
away of Jozef (Jeff) Schell (April 2003), it is appropriate to recall his
contribution. He played an enormous role in both the discovery underlying
Agrobacterium-mediated transformation, and the vision for how this
technology could and should change opportunities for humankind forever.
Why was Jeff's influence so noteworthy? There are many reasons. He was an
exceptional scientist: charismatic, physically strong, visionary,
adventurous, and politically astute. He was an advocate for governments
and industries, and he had an immense capacity for hard work. His vision
ranged from a comprehension of the intricacies of the wonderful
evolutionary process of Agrobacterium T-DNA transfer, to a world where
many plants used by people could and would be improved as never before. As
the subject of plant genetic engineering matured, he believed, and
continuously emphasized to all, that plant biotechnology was essential for
our crowded world in order to give everyone a reasonable standard of
living and a sustainable environment.
Many research scientists who employ Agrobacterium transformation
routinely, and obviously the millions who eat transgenic food or grow
transgenic cotton, do not necessarily know how the gene-transfer
discoveries were originally made and harnessed. Although many reviews have
been written on the subject, it is not widely appreciated that in the
1960s and 1970s Jeff Schell and his colleague Marc Van Montagu in Gent,
Belgium, worked as microbiologists, as bacterial geneticists, and not as
plant scientists. However, they, like a few others, became intrigued by
the long-established evidence that some soil bacteria provoked formation
of cancerous tissues on certain plant species. Their papers of the day
focused on bacterial genetics, with the discovery, isolation, and mapping
of plasmids and recognition of different kinds of agrobacterial plasmids.
They described the production of different metabolites, notably nopaline
and octapine, by the tumors, and eventually the transfer of T-DNA.
Their fundamental research was driven by questions in bacterial genetics
and the evolution of an extraordinary plant-microbe interaction; one in
which plant cells were induced to proliferate, make, and excrete a
metabolite that the particular Agrobacterial strain was exquisitely
capable of using as a nitrogen and carbon source and that allowed it to
compete more effectively with other microbes. Plant genetic engineering
did not emerge as a topic until it was proven that bacterial T-DNA was
incorporated into plant chromosomes. Even when this was proven, the job of
genetically dissecting the functions of the T-DNA, learning how to isolate
the Ti plasmid, learning how to clone the DNA, to create deletions, to
recombine DNA into plasmids in vivo, to introduce novel genes into T-DNA
on the Ti plasmid, and to shuttle DNA from E. coli to Agrobacterium were
the stuff only bacterial geneticists could work out. Almost no plant
scientist had these skills at the time. Jeff and Marc were the leaders in
this new field because they had created the opportunity, were skilled in
the thinking and the required techniques, and most importantly, had the
foresight to know what was there to be discovered.
Jeff's first publications in the late 1950s and early 1960s were concerned
with carbon metabolism in bacteria. These studies were followed by ones on
modifications of phages and restrictions by their hosts. His first paper,
coauthored with Marc Van Montagu, on Agrobacterium-related DNA was
published in 1972 and focused on Agrobacterium phages. With Rob
Schilperoort, he described in 1973 the detection of Agrobacterium DNA in
sterile crown gall tissue cultures. In 1974, his group showed that a large
plasmid of Agrobacterium was essential for crown gall induction, and this
was followed by a series of papers on the plasmids. The isolation of the
Ti plasmid was described in 1976, and this breakthrough opened up many new
opportunities to study its DNA. By 1977, several groups including those of
Schell and Van Montagu in Gent, Mary-Dell Chilton in Eugene Nester's
laboratory in Seattle, and Schilperoort's lab in Leiden were actively
testing the idea that the Ti plasmid of Agrobacterium might provide a
means of inserting genes into plants. In 1978, Jeff and his colleagues
(including Marc Van Montagu) published 18 papers covering the origins of
crown gall by Ti plasmid transfer and the manipulation of the Ti plasmid
by various bacterial genetic tricks, including transposon mutagenesis,
cointegration, and transfections to reveal more about the plasmid, the
genes it contained, and the requirements for crown gall induction.
In 1980 the Gent group published 20 papers, many being symposium articles,
to get the Ti-plant cell transformation message out to receptive
scientists. By the time the seminal papers were published in 1983, showing
the expression of novel chimeric genes introduced into plant cells using a
Ti plasmid-derived vector, Jeff and his colleagues had published some 150
papers. Then followed many details of the Ti plasmid genes, their role in
oncogenesis, and the behavior of these genes when transferred into plants.
Some 23 papers were published in 1984 describing the development of useful
vectors and the transfer of several more foreign genes into plants. During
this time he also studied the Ri plasmid, the equivalent of the Ti
plasmid, in Agrobacterium rhizogenes and its function after transfer to
plants cells. Once the subject was truly well established, the concept of
plant genetic engineering became a topic of worldwide debate, and the
plant scientific community embraced these technologies to literally
transform the whole field of plant science. During this period, Jeff and
many colleagues, including students and postdocs, and collaborators in
other laboratories published a large number of papers (another 449 until
his death in 2003) on Ti plasmid biology, transformation vectors, plant
gene discovery especially in Arabidopsis, promoter analyses, hormone
biology, Rhizobium genetics, and plant genetic engineering.
The enormous number of papers that carried his name, first from Gent and
then from his very large group in the Max Planck Institute for Plant
Breeding, Köln, Germany, are a witness to the huge contribution he and his
colleagues made to the development and propagation of plant transformation
and molecular genetics. However, the expansion of a technology and its
adoption into another area of science worldwide takes not only skilled
experiments and provocative publications. It takes teaching of a vision to
scientists, research funding agencies, industries and governments, and the
training of a new generation of scientists. Jeff did all of this,
unceasingly, for twenty years. He had a major impact on students,
established scientists, plant breeders, industries, funding agencies,
governments, as well as scientific societies and the general public.
During the 1980s and 1990s, he sustained a punishing schedule of lectures
around the world. In the 1980s he was sought by nearly every plant
molecular biology conference, and he wanted to attend them all to learn,
to teach, to inspire, and to open up the practice of plant molecular
If he gave much to plant science everywhere by his teaching, he gave much
to European science by accepting in 1978 the Directorship of the Max
Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Köln, Germany. This
appointment gave Jeff the opportunity to establish a very large team of
scientists, to develop the new approaches to plant science, and to train
students and postdocs. The position also gave him enhanced authority to
talk to European governmental agencies and the European Union (EU). In the
early years of plant genetic engineering, he also advised Monsanto, the
company that was to become the foremost crop genetic engineering
multinational. He also forged a long-term, mutually beneficial,
relationship between the Max Planck Institute and Bayer, a company located
close to the Max Planck Institute in Germany.
Jeff was a true European. The EU started to offer substantial funds for
research in the 1980s, and Jeff and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute
in Köln saw the value and necessity for this pan-European resource to
spearhead the research that could help address the substantial
agricultural, economic, and environmental problems of the future. He
taught and lobbied EU scientific leaders about the new plant science. To
improve the funding and management of EU plant science programs, the Max
Planck Institute and the John Innes Centre (Norwich, England) -the two
largest centers for plant molecular genetics in Europe -formed a legal
entity under Jeff's chairmanship. Much was changed during the 1990s via
this organization and Jeff's tireless and influential leadership. He saw
the needs of European and global societies and was not afraid to
articulate the opportunities, needs, and requirements for change to
While being a Director of a team of well over 100 scientists, an
international leader, and an advocate for European science and plant
molecular biology for agriculture and the environment in general, Jeff
found time to do many of the ordinary things that senior scientists do
write and review grant proposals and papers and mentor students and
postdocs in his laboratory. He was a senior editor of The Plant Journal
from 1990 to 1998. He also held the great distinction of being the
Chairman of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) Council
from 1990 to 1995. EMBO is an organization much revered in Europe and via
his service to EMBO, Jeff gave much to molecular biology as a whole. Of
course, he sat on many boards and committees around the world to give
wisdom and guidance to those who sought to further science and plant
molecular biology in particular.
Plant science is not renowned for having individuals honored by science
and society, but Jeff collected many honors. He was elected to be a
Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences (1985), of the
Indian National Science Academy (1998), of the Royal Swedish Academy
(1989), and of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1993). He won many key
prizes, including the Mendel-Medaille of the Deutsche Akademie der
Naturforscher Leopoldina (1985), the Otto Bayer-Preis of the
Otto-Bayer-Stiftung (1985), Prix Alexandre de Humboldt (1985), the Rank
Prize for Nutrition (1987), the IBM Europe Science and Technology Prize
(1987), the Wolf Prize in Agriculture (1990), Prix Charles Leopold Mayer
of the Academie des Sciences, Paris (1990), the Japan Prize for
Biotechnology in Agriculture Sciences by the Science and Technology
Foundation of Japan (1998), Premiere Grande Medaille d'Or de l'Academie
des Sciences, Paris (1997), the Australia Prize of the Australian Academy
of Science (1990), Prix Charles Leopold Mayer of the Academy des Sciences,
Paris (1990), the Hansen Gold Medal of the Emil Christian Hansen
Foundation, Denmark (1991), and the Wilhelm-Exner-Medaille of Vienna
(1995). Several universities awarded him an honorary doctorate degree,
including the Hebrew University, Israel (1994), Tel Aviv University,
Israel (1997), University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom (1997),
and University Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg (1992). One of his most treasured
appointments was of Professeur Honoraire, College de France, Paris (1998).
One cannot look at plant science journals today and their back issues and
not recognize that plant science has been transformed since the early
1980s following the activities of