Today in AgBioView: December 12, 2003:
* RE: Indian scientists unveil protein-rich rice
* Eco-Myth and Agricultural Reality
* "Shiva the Destroyer" in German
* Study eases GMO fears
* Biotech crops providing economic boost to Nebraska
* Biotech crops provide economic boost on the farm and beyond the farm
* Biotech Crops Provide Economic Benefits
* Facts Put Hawaii Biotech Issues in Perspective
* Scientist says GM debate 'hijacked'
* Developing Countries and Uncertainties in Biosafety Laws
* Conko: Familiar Phenotypes Need Less Biosafety Scrutiny
* New Report on Use of GM Crops in Developing Countries
From: "Shanthu Shantharam"
Subject: RE: Indian scientists unveil protein-rich rice
With reference to PTI, December 10, 2003, it is nice to learn that Dr.
Subhra Chakravorty's group has transferred the Am1 gene into a variety of
Indian rices. I do hope that the protein content of rice is enhanced that
would be beneficial to ameliorate the acute protein malnutrition in some
of the world's rice eating poor. But, I would like to urge a caution when
it comes to introducing any gene through gene splicing technology into
Basmati rice, a variety that commands a premium price in world markets
because it is grown in certain geographical areas of India and Pakistan.
Basmati may not be considered Basmati when it is tinkered with modern gene
splicing technology and might hurt the market for this premium variety of
rice. This is not to suggest that Basmati does not need any improvement.
Basmati has been improved using conventional plant breeding techniques and
we have varieties such as Pusa-Basmati. Basmati is also susceptible to
very many diseases and pests. I am urging this caution to avoid
jeopardizing the premium market for the Basmati rice. Moreover, those who
can afford Basmati rice (neo-rich), can also afford many other options to
augment their protein intake. There is a reference to the controversy
about the protein rich potato "protato" in which Dr. Chakravorty claims an
incredible 45% increase in protein content and 20% increase in yield of
potato. The last time I heard about six month's ago, it was 30% increase
in protein content. She adds that she cannot explain this miraculous
phenomenon. In all my discussions with knowledgeable experts in the field,
such a high level of protein expression and yield increase due to the
addition of one Am1 gene is incomprehensible scientifically. This is the
same kind of criticism that was leveled against Martin Quaim and David
Zilbermann's paper in SCIENCE on the field performance of Bt cotton.
May be, it is true that there is 45% increase in protein content and 20%
increase in the yield of protato, but it would behoove Dr. Chakravorty et
al to refrain from making public pronouncements of such incredible claims
(specially when they cannot explain the phenomenon) until large scale
field trials are conducted and the results can be repeated under farmer's
field conditions over a reasonable period of time. I fully realize that
protein malnutrition is an acute problem in many parts of the developing
world, and any solution like the Am1 gene must be fully explored along
with other options. Hyped claims about GMO that cannot be reproduced under
farmer field conditions will only hurt the image of GMO that is already
under vicious attack around the world. More and more, scientists are
realizing that there are limited options to fortify the micronutrient
content of food and vegetable crops using conventional techniques and
increasingly, GM technology seems to offer a viable and valuable option.
Moreover, GM technology may be the only option for biofortification, and
should not be overlooked. I also urge the Indian scientific community to
reflect deeply on the application of GM technology to staple food crops by
taking into account all the socio-economic impacts of the technology so
that biotechnology becomes a part of the solution rather than add to the
problem. God knows, Indian agriculture like many other developing country
agricultural systems need infusion of modern technologies and
biotechnology offers one of the most novel and utilitarian means to
improving crop husbandry. In this context, it is important for a regular
multi-stakeholder dialogue on a permanent platform, and who knows such a
dialogue might come up with much more novel applications of biotechnology.
Dr. S. Shantharam, President,
Ellicott City, MD 21042.
Eco-Myth and Agricultural Reality
- BioScience News and Advocate, Thomas R. DeGregori, December 9, 2003
Modern agriculture has become a villain of choice for many who reject
modernity finding the trends of the last half of the 20th and beginnings
of the 21st century to be ecologically destructive if not life
threatening. It is increasingly being used as an all encompassing category
by critics of globalization and transgenic (genetically modified) food
crops and by street protestors and their mentors and organizers.
The phobias about transgenic crops have their antecedents in the
persistent mythologies about the Green Revolution technologies in which no
amount of cumulating evidence can in any way overcome mindless opposition
to it. The litany of those critical of Green Revolution is that the HYV
(high yielding varieties) seeds "require" more fertilizer, water and
pesticides when in fact they outperform the traditional varieties at most
any level of inputs.
These three factoids is all that most of the believers know about the
Green Revolution in addition to the fear that modern monoculture is a
global catastrophe waiting to happen from an as yet non-existent pathogen.
Unfortunately for the true believers, each of these beliefs is not only
wrong, they are exactly contrary to what can be factually demonstrated to
be the case.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), modern rice
varieties are three times as efficient in using water compared with
traditional varieties. In other words, we are using today about the same
amount of water to grow almost three times as much rice than in 1960.
Overall, The FAO estimates are that "water needs for food per capita
halved between 1961 and 2001."
Higher yields "require" more fertilizer as the more nutrient that is
extracted from the soil, the more that has to be replaced. Nobel
Prizewinner, Dr. Norman Borlaug states that "the high-yielding dwarf wheat
and rice varieties ... not only respond to much heavier dosages of
fertilizer than the old ones but are also much more efficient in their
use" with each kilo of nitrogen applied yielding about 2 1/2 times as much
grain than in traditional varieties.
The Green Revolution seeds turn out to be more disease resistant requiring
less pesticides as plant breeders have added multiple or polygenic disease
resistant genes - gene stacking from new sources using genes that provide
different forms of resistance. The stability of modern varieties is
demonstrated by the steady decrease in the coefficient of variation for
rice production for the last forty years. For wheat, researchers at the
International Maize & Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) have found that
"yield stability, resistance to rusts, pedigree complexity, and the number
of modern cultivars in farmers' fields have all increased since the early
years of the Green Revolution."
Central to the anti-modern agronomy mythology is the belief that the Green
Revolution technologies have led to a vast increase in monocropping,
worsened the nutritional quality of the human diet and fostered a
mentality that has been pejoratively called "monocultures of the mind."
Rice has had an association with monoculture long before the Green
It might therefore come as a surprise to many that researchers at the
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) found the percentage of total
crop harvested area in rice (defined as hectares under rice multiplied by
the number of croppings per year) has fallen "in nearly all Asian rice
growing economies since 1970." For example, rice in China went from a 0.24
share of total crop area harvested in 1970 to 0.18 in 2001 while Vietnam
went from a 0.75 to a 0.62 share in 2001 in the same period in becoming
the second largest rice exporter in the world to Thailand which went
from0.64 share to 0.57 share.
True believers always have a fall back position allowing them to protect
their anti-modern beliefs. With the possible exception of Vandana Shiva,
no one today can deny the higher yields from the Green Revolution crops.
To the argument that these higher yields allowed more land to be preserved
for conservation and biodiversity, there is a deafening silence. Yes, the
Green Revolution produced more output but contrary to all evidence of
increased height (a very good proxy for health from generation to
generation), health and life expectancy, it is being claimed that the
modern varieties are less nutritious. One activist generalizes the
nutritional attack against the Green Revolution by claiming that: "Two
billion people now have diets less diverse than 30 years ago. The Green
Revolution stripped out the micro nutrients and encouraged monocropping."
For those of us seeking to advance and continue to improve modern
agriculture, there is good news and bad news in the foregoing. The bad
news is that no matter how successful we may be, there will always be some
who will find ways of being in denial. The good news is that in spite of
the steady drumbeat of misinformation, the Green Revolution has taken hold
and succeeded. We must be ever vigilant to make sure that the same is true
for the biotech revolution
Thomas R.DeGregori, Professor of Economics, University of Houston and
author of the just published, Origins of the Organic Agriculture Debate.
Ames IA:Iowa State Press: A Blackwell Scientific Publisher.
German Translation of "Shiva the Destroyer" by Thomas R. DeGregori now
Study eases GMO fears
- Western Producer, By Barry Wilson, December 11, 2003
Almost a decade after genetically modified crops were first approved for
widespread planting in Canada, the government is trying to find out if
those crops are harming the soil in which they grow, says the Canadian
Food Inspection Agency.
An Environment Canada study on the effects of Bt toxin on the soil began
in March 2001, the agency said in a document published in response to an
environmental petition filed by Greenpeace Canada.
A study on the source of the toxin Bt in the environment started in 2000
and should be completed by March 2006.
The agency said the research results are preliminary but encouraging.
"The scientific community suggests that the results of these studies do
not warrant the need for any policy changes," said the CFIA response. "In
fact, scientists suggest that there are no extreme environmental
consequences of the biotechnology-derived crops they are testing."
But instead of satisfying Greenpeace, a campaigner for the anti-GMO
organization said the government response proves its point that Canadians
have been guinea pigs in the use of GM crops.
"GMOs have been grown for years and now the government is conceding that
they were approved without solid evidence about their impact," said
Greenpeace official Pat Venditti. "I think this really makes our point
that the government has not done its homework on this."
The government agency reported that preliminary results from the
Environment Canada study showed the presence of GM crops did not appear to
diminish the presence of microbes in the surrounding soil.
The issue of the voluntary spread of GM crops also was raised by
Greenpeace in the environmental petition submitted in the summer and CFIA
said it happens, but not enough to be a concern.
It said the University of Saskatchewan and the National Research Council
concluded there is "a very low incidence of cross-pollination in
transgenic pea plants."
A study by the university in co-operation with the Canadian Seed Growers
Association also found that cross-pollination in wheat has a range of
As well, a "large-scale gene flow experiment in spring wheat" was started
last year and will be done in 2006.
Venditti said CFIA dismissal of low rates of cross-pollination would be
"cold comfort" to organic farmers or others trying to guarantee purity
from GM contamination.
"Again, I think it makes our point that once GM crops are introduced,
there is no way to control their spread or to guarantee there will not be
contamination of nearby fields."
In response to Greenpeace citing several studies that reported the
presence of GM crops containing the Bt gene damaged local earthworms, the
CFIA said insecticides containing Bt have been used for decades without
evidence of damage to surrounding soil creatures.
"Scientific knowledge is based on a body of work, not just one or two
studies," said the agency, which insisted there is nothing to fear in
Canada's regulation of biotechnology products.
"Canada has one of the safest, most effective regulatory systems for
biotechnology products in the world."
Biotech crops providing economic boost to Nebraska
- Grand Island Independent By Robert Pore, December 12, 2003
Despite drought conditions that lowered Nebraska crop production last
year, the state was still able to harvest more than $1.8 billion in
economic benefits from plant biotechnology, according to a study released
Thursday by University of Minnesota professor C. Ford Runge.
Runge is director of the Center for International Food and Agricultural
Policy and Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Applied
Economics and Law.
The study, "The Economic Status and Performance of Plant Biotechnology in
2003: Adoption, Research and Development in the United States," was
designed to be an economic assessment of the status and performance of
plant biotechnology, along with ongoing research and development, he said.
Runge said the study not only focused on the impact of plant biotechnology
at the farm level, but also the economic benefits it is providing to the
"We have found that the states that have been most ready to adopt the
technology on the farm level are also reaping some of the greatest
benefits beyond the farm gate," he said. "Based on these trends, we
believe that it will deliver more value at both levels -- behind and
beyond the farm gate -- to the national economy in years ahead."
The four commercial biotech crops -- corn, soybeans, cotton and canola --
included in the study represented $20 billion in value in the United
States in 2002, half of the total $40 billion value of the four crops.
"I think this indicates fairly clearly the degree to which the growers of
these commodities are now relying on biotech crops to derive value from
their production," Runge said.
He said the farm value of biotech crops has affected many states in a
"The economies of these farm states have been affected by the decision of
farmers to plant biotech crops," Runge said.
Of the $1.8 billion in crop value that biotech crops reaped for Nebraska
in 2002, $802 million was from soybeans and $1.039 billion came from corn.
Runge said the on-farm impact of these crops is what's driving producers
to adopt new biotech crop varieties.
"It is clear why farmers have been adopting these crops," he said. "They
are manifesting managerial efficiencies and they lead to increased profits
For example, Runge cited previous studies that have shown that farmers
planting Bt corn, a biotech variety designed to combat corn borer, have
seen profit increases of as much as $60 per acre. Similar studies have
shown that biotech soybeans have allowed farmers to see as much as $15
per-acre profit increase.
"Regardless of what individual studies say about individual profitability
on different farms, the most compelling evidence to me as an economist on
the efficacy of the technology is the revealed preference of farmers to
plant these biotech seeds year after year," Runge said.
For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that in
Nebraska, farmers planted 87 percent of their soybean acreage this year to
biotech varieties, compared to 72 percent in 2000. Nebraska farmers
planted 55 percent of their corn crop this year to all biotech varieties,
up from 34 percent in 2000.
Another statistic that Runge said illustrates the rapid rate of adoption
of biotech crops by U.S. farmers is that in 1996, only 4 percent of the
nation's corn crop was planted to biotech varieties. In 2003, 40 percent
of the nation's corn crop was biotech.
That dramatic growth is even more reflected in soybeans. In 1996, 9
percent of the nation's soybean acres were planted to biotech varieties,
compared to 81 percent in 2003.
Runge said continued research and development in both the private and
public sectors in biotechnology plants will yield substantial benefits to
society, such as increased crop production and crop varieties that are
better adaptable to cold and drought weather conditions.
Along with the benefits biotech crops will provide to producers, Runge
said new biotech varieties will also provide environmental benefits. Corn
and soybeans fed to livestock have lower phosphorous levels, which will
help reduce the rate of water quality problems associated with livestock
New biotech varieties also have product quality traits that will benefit
consumers, such as improved digestibility in wheat for people intolerant
to certain glutens, increased beta carotene in potatoes and oil crop
traits that reduce the levels of transfatty acids that contribute to
"These new traits clearly suggest that the benefits are to be captured not
just at the farm level, but beyond it," Runge said.
He also said the economic impacts of plant biotechnology are increasingly
evident beyond the farm gate and in individual states active in biotech
research and development. In Nebraska, 32 out of every 100,000 workers are
employed as agricultural and food scientists, second in the nation only to
"Beyond the more than $20 billion in biotech crops grown in 2002, new
plant biotech firms and research facilities are being created throughout
the United States," Runge said. "The number of agricultural and food
scientists is increasing as workers are attracted to the biotech sector's
above-average wages, and a large number of individual states are reaping
the benefits of this investment and job-related activity."
He said as consumer confidence grows, it will feed the demand for new
biotech varieties, increase the advantages of those willing and able to
supply them, and indirectly establish a base of support for continued
public investments in plant biotech.
"That translates directly into high social rates of return in the form of
educational and job opportunities," he said.
The study is available at
Biotech crops provide economic boost on the farm and beyond the farm gate
- Via Agnet, December 11, 2003
WASHINGTON -- Plant biotechnology already is creating high-paying jobs and
economic value and will deliver even more value both on the farm and
beyond the farm gate in the years ahead, according to a study by
University of Minnesota professor C. Ford Runge.
"The vast stock of plant breeding and genomic research and development
knowledge that led to the biotech revolution will generate billions of
dollars in additional economic benefits for farmers and others in the
agrifood value chain and within public and private research communities,"
Four commercial biotech crops -- corn, soybeans, cotton and canola --
represented $20 billion in value in the United States in 2002, half of the
total $40 billion value of the four crops.
Runge, director of the Center for International Food and Agricultural
Policy and Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Applied
Economics and Law, released the study during a news conference at the
National Press Club. He is scheduled to present the study later today at
the Fall Forum of the National Conference on State Legislatures in
The study, "The Economic States and Performance of Plant Biotechnology in
2003: Adoption, Research and Development in the United States," is an
up-to-date effort to provide a detailed view of biotechnology's value at
the farm level and beyond the farm gate, where the crops -- and the
research and development that creates them -- generate additional jobs,
income and investment in the agrifood chain and public and private
The U.S. Corn Belt and cotton-growing regions gained the most economic
value from planting biotech crops in 2002, led by Iowa ($3.8 billion),
Illinois ($2.5 billion), Minnesota ($2.2 billion), Nebraska ($1.8
billion), Indiana ($1.3 billion) and South Dakota ($1 billion). Following
these major corn and soybean growing states, Missouri was next with $1
billion, followed by North Dakota ($689 million), Ohio ($619 million) and
cotton-producing states Arkansas ($670 million) and Mississippi ($528
"The economic impacts of plant biotechnology also are increasingly evident
beyond the farm gate and in individual states active in biotech research
and development," Runge said. "Beyond the more than $20 billion in biotech
crops grown in 2002, new plant biotech firms and research facilities are
being created throughout the United States. The number of agricultural and
food scientists are increasing as workers are attracted to the biotech
sector's above-average wages, and large number of individual states are
reaping the benefits of this investment and job-related activity."
"While 41 of 50 states had some type of biotech initiative by 2001, those
that have aggressively adopted and invested in biotechnology are reaping
the greatest rewards," Runge said. Corn Belt states with higher adoption
levels of biotech crops have a greater number of ag and food science jobs
than those with lower levels of adoption. For example, Iowa, one of the
top five states in crop biotech adoption, has 50 ag and food science jobs
per 100,000 jobs, more than lower adoption states. The average annual
salary for these jobs in 2001 was $52,310 -- more than one and a half
times the U.S. average of $34,020.
In Wisconsin, where 56 of the 200 bioscience companies are dedicated to
agriculture, the study indicated there are 21,000 workers who account for
$5 billion of the Badger state's economy.
In the past two years, field tests have been conducted on 100 new biotech
crop traits by 40 universities and 35 private sector companies -- from a
new variety of corn with an improved nutritional profile for use as an
animal feed to a type of wheat that can better withstand droughts. Runge
said continued investment in research and development -- along with more
public education about the benefits of biotechnology -- is key to
achieving further gains from plant biotechnology.
"As consumer confidence grows, it will feed the demand for new biotech
varieties, increase the advantages of those willing and able to supply
them, and indirectly establish a base of support for continued public
investments in plant biotech," he said. "That translates directly into
high social rates of return in the form of educational and job
The study is available at
http://www.apec.umn.edu/faculty/frunge/plantbiotech.pdf. Support for the
study was provided by the Council for Biotechnology Information. The
results are those of the authors alone and not the University of
BIOTECH CROPS PROVIDE ECONOMIC BENEFITS
Plant biotechnology is creating high-paying jobs and economic value and
will deliver even more value for both farmers and other stakeholders in
the agrifood chain. This was the conclusion of a study by C. Ford Runge, a
professor at the University of Minnesota and director of the Center for
International Food and Agricultural Policy.
According to the Council for Biotechnology Information, the study entitled
"The Economic States and Performance of Plant Biotechnology in 2003:
Adoption, Research and Development in the United States," is an up-to-date
effort to provide a detailed view of biotechnology's value at the farm
level and beyond the farm gate.
The U.S. Corn Belt and cotton-growing regions gained the most economic
value from planting biotech crops in 2002, led by Iowa ($3.8 billion),
Illinois ($2.5 billion), Minnesota ($2.2 billion), Nebraska ($1.8
billion), Indiana ($1.3 billion) and South Dakota ($1 billion).
Runge noted that aside from the more than $20 billion in biotech crops
grown in 2002, new plant biotech firms and research facilities are being
created throughout the US. The number of agricultural and food scientists
were also found to be increasing and that more states are reaping the
benefits of this investment and job-related activities.
The study is available online at
Facts Put Hawaii Biotech Issues in Perspective
- Hawaii Reporter, By Rick Klemm, 12/9/2003
We may live in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but misstatements and
misperceptions are not confined to our shores. In recent weeks,
journalists from around the world have come to Hawaii to learn the facts
about our biotechnology industry. They have heard the concerns raised by
anti-biotechnology groups on the islands, and they came here to get the
story for themselves.
The USDA's Foreign Agriculture Service, which helped to arrange the
visits, was eager for the journalists to hear the truth about Hawaiian
papaya, which is one of biotechnology's greatest success stories.
Anti-biotech activists, including some in Hawaii's organic farm industry,
have been fostering fears that pollen from virus-resistant biotech papayas
is a threat to any organic papayas that might be grown and sold into
Actually, the opposite is the truth. There would be no papaya sales at all
-- organic or non-organic -- were it not for biotechnology. Ringspot virus
essentially wiped out the papaya industry on the islands a few years ago.
With the aid of biotechnology, a virus-resistant papaya was introduced in
1998, and the industry is, once again, thriving.
In addition, groves of virus-resistant papaya trees serve as buffers to
help keep the virus from spreading like wildfire to non-resistant organic
and conventional papaya trees.
Pollen flow is a non-issue with regard to determining the "organic" status
of a crop. Federally adopted organic standards do not prohibit the
unintended presence of biotech traits in organic foods. Zero presence is
something the organic industry has imposed on itself. Furthermore, even if
pollen were to flow to organic papaya trees, the fruit would still be free
of biotech genes, according to researchers at the University of Hawaii.
The edible part of a papaya fruit always has the same genetic makeup as
the tree that produces it. If a non-biotech tree were to be pollinated by
a biotech papaya tree, the seeds inside the non-biotech fruit might
inherit the biotech trait but not the flesh of the fruit that is eaten.
To ensure non-biotech papaya, organic farmers need only plant non-biotech
Farmers can take simple steps to ensure seed purity, according to the
university's horticulture department. If organic growers put a bag over
unopened flowers on conventionally bred papaya plants, the flowers will
self-pollinate, ensuring the purity of all seeds from that flower.
Papaya pollen is not the only pollen that has gotten a bum rap locally.
Responding to misinformation spread by anti-biotech activists, some people
have become concerned that pollen from crops grown by local seed companies
might spread to organic crops or even to native plants. About 95 percent
of all the biotech acres in Hawaii are planted in corn. Corn has no wild
relatives in Hawaii, so there is no opportunity for the biotech genes to
spread into the environment. Plants are not promiscuous and our fragile
island environments are safe.
There is not much chance for gene flow to non-biotech crops either. The
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) imposes restrictions on
how experimental crops can be grown. Wide barriers are required to
minimize the potential for pollen flow. Seed companies adhere to these
barriers, not just to prevent outflow to other crops, but to prevent
neighboring hybrids from mingling with their commercial hybrids. APHIS may
require other measures as well, such as detasseling, the bagging of
tassels, or varying planting times so crops are not all sexually
compatible at the same time.
Hawaii is an important locale for seed companies and university biotech
researchers because of our favorable year-round climate, but anti-biotech
activists have overstated the extent of public and private biotech
research. According to records on the APHIS website, there have been only
466 requests for experimental planting in Hawaii since January 2001. Only
125 permits and notifications are still in effect or pending, and some
will never be acted upon.
Although seed companies control about 8,000 acres in Hawaii, only about
3,500 were planted last year. Of those planted acres, only about 1,400
were planted in biotech crops. The vast majority of those acres were
planted with seeds that already have been tested and approved by
government regulators or are nearing final approval after years of
small-plot testing. Only a small number of acres were planted in truly
experimental trials, which typically consist of only one or two rows of
plants. Our islands are not overrun with biotech pollen, as critics have
Hawaii's agricultural biotechnology industry is providing good jobs and
income for many island residents, especially in rural areas. The National
Agricultural Statistics Service estimates that island biotech companies
last year contributed $48.7 million to the state's economy.
This means purchases of goods and services, lease payments to landowners,
jobs, state and county tax revenues, and preservation of our precious
green space. Many people who lost their jobs when the sugar industry
declined now are finding work with biotech companies.
Just as foreign journalists wanted to get the facts, we hope our residents
want to know the facts, too, so they can weigh the importance of this
industry to our state.
Rick Klemm is executive director of HARTS Hawaii, an agricultural tradE
alliance, which includes member companies engaged in agricultural
biotechnology in Hawaii. He can be reached via email at:
Scientist says GM debate 'hijacked'
- ABC News (Australia), December 12, 2003
The retiring head of one of Australia's leading plant technology
organisations says the debate over genetically modified (GM) crops has
Jim Peacock led the gene modification of cotton and is today stepping down
as head of the CSIRO's Plant Industry division.
Dr Peacock says Australians do not feel comfortable with the new
technology and has accused "extremist" groups of emotional attacks on GM
"There are extremist groups like Greenpeace and unfortunately organic
farmers who have taken a role to themselves to try to emotionally damage
the cause of the introduction of GM crops," he said.
"The GM crops have been associated with the major multinationals and a lot
of the 'anti' feeling, I think, is really directed at the big
multinational companies like Monsanto and so on rather than at GM per se."
But he says more money being chanelled into eduction would convince
Australians of the benefits.
GM TRIALS SHOW EVIDENCE OF CO-EXISTENCE
Evidence show that conventional and organic crops have co-existed with
genetically modified (GM) trial crops without any economic and commercial
problems. Also, the adventitious presence of GMOs were absent in
conventional and organic crops that were located near the transgenic
crops. These were the highlights of the recent study conducted by Graham
Brookes and Peter Barfoot entitled „Co-existence of GM and non GM arable
crops: case study of the United Kingdom.š
In this paper, Brookes and Barfoot examined the issue of co-existence of
GM and non-GM crops, focusing on the main arable crops grown in the UK. At
present, no GM crops are grown commercially in the UK, however 260 Farm
Scale Evaluation field trials (FSEs) have been conducted for the past
three years for crops such as oilseed rape, sugar beet and forage maize.
These FSEs covered about 1,220 hectares (an annual average of 405
hectares) as compared to the 693,000 hectares planted to the three crops
previously mentioned, 99.76% of which is conventionally produced and 0.24%
Lastly, the authors emphasized the importance of „contextš and
„proportionality.š They considered it disproportionate and inequitable if
difficult GM crop stewardship conditions would be imposed to farms that
might wish to grow GM crops, even though they are not located near
conventional or organic crops. Thus, majority of the conventional farmers
(99.76%) could be discouraged from adopting a technology that could have
farm level benefits (yield gains, cost savings), and provide wider
environmental gains (reduced pesticide use, usage of more environmentally
benign herbicides, reduced levels of greenhouse gas emissions).
The full paper is available at http://www.isaaa.org/kc.
DEVELOPING COUNTRIES AND UNCERTAINTIES IN BIOSAFETY LAWS
With the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, developing
countries now face challenges on how to address several issues left to
national discretion, and how to balance their rights and obligations in
accordance with their commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
According to Ruth Mackenzie of the Institute of Development Studies in
Brighton, United Kingdom, and Dominic Glover, a primary issue faced by
developing countries is the development and implementation of the national
biosafety frameworks that deal with the importations of genetically
modified organisms (GMOs) and GM commodities. Another consideration is on
how to best incorporate the precautionary principle and socio-economic
considerations of the Protocol into the national decision-making process.
The authors added that developing countries are also likely to become
susceptible to pressures for harmonization applied via diplomatic
channels, through bilateral trade, and investments. Given this diversity
of conditions, interests, experience, and capacity, Mackenzie and Glover
suggested that developing countries employ additional flexibility in the
application of international trade disciplines with regards to the
assessment of biosafety measures.
Harmonizing national diversity in the advent of a new technology is a
challenge itself to the national biosafety authorities, and the entire
international trade regime, concludes the authors.
Download the paper entitled „Harmonization, Diversity and Uncertainty in
International Biosafety Regulationš at
CONKO: FAMILIAR PHENOTYPES NEED LESS BIOSAFETY SCRUTINY
The precautionary principle has led to an inappropriate level of biosafety
scrutiny for genetically modified (GM) plants with transgenes with a
history of safe use, argues Gregory Conko of the Competitive Enterprise
Institute. In a paper in Transgenic Research, he stresses that the
precautionary approach does not give a clear picture of what information
is needed to make a risk assessment. The precautionary principle (PP) and
precautionary approach "are public policy tools, not scientific ones,"
Conko says that the PP entails making a decision based on how much
information is available and that certain experiments, production and
commercialization processes cannot proceed without express permission from
a government authority. He notes that standards for evaluation could vary,
since there's no established or widely accepted definition of how much
data one needs to make an approval decision."The problem is not just that
different regulatory authorities might have different standards, but
rather that a single regulatory agency could apply different standards to
similar products," adds Conko.
Giving governments so much subjective discretionary authority allows
"politics" and other biases to affect the regulatory process. Conko
explains that this might slow down innovation and the introduction of new
The paper recommends a tiered set of regulatory standards for different
risk classes of transgenic organisms. Conko says there is a need to
re-think about the regulation of transgenic organisms. He suggests that in
cases where specific transgenes are known to be environmentally benign and
safe for human and animal consumption.
The paper, "Safety, Risk and the Precautionary Principle: Rethinking
Precautionary Approaches to the Regulation of Transgenic Plants" by
Gregory Conko appears in Transgenic Research 12 (6): 639-647 or at this
site http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1023/B:TRAG.0000005157.45046.8e ; or email
Gregory Conko at email@example.com for more information.
NEW REPORT ON USE OF GM CROPS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
Genetically modified (GM) crops of relevance to poor third-world farmers
can be expected within the next 5-10 years. Hence, development aid
organizations must prepare poor developing nations to properly handle GM
crops regardless of whether the organizations recommend introducing such
crops or not.
These were among the recommendations made in the report "Genetically
Modified Crops in Developing Countries - Challenges for the Development
Aid" written by an interdisciplinary task force appointed by The Danish
Board of Technology. The Board has facilitated a yearlong assessment of
the pros and cons of using GM to fight poverty and hunger in the third
The task force urges all development aid organizations to assist
developing countries in the task of building up the proper institutional
capacity to make their own assessments of genetically modified crops
the establishment of and cooperation with representative, efficient and
legitimate agricultural organizations;
* the establishment of relevant public institutions and organizations
responsible for everything from legislation to assessment of technology
and management of environmental problems;
* ensuring the ability to enforce laws and regulations relative to the
handling of GM crops; and
* ensuring support for research into GM crops in the developing countries.
The summary can be viewed online at
Any questions concerning the summary can be directed to Project Manager
SŅren Gram at firstname.lastname@example.org.