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April 5, 2004


Indian firm develops GM hybrids; UC studies genetically engineered alfalfa; Plants may have future in industrial cleanups


Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org - April 6, 2004:

* Greenpeace quote
* MW Ho pushing the "HIV is not the cause of AIDS bandwagon"
* Indian firm develops GM hybrids
* Rassi Seeds Receives Nod For Cultivation Of Bt Cotton
* Puzzle of Corn's Origins Coming Together
* UC studies genetically engineered alfalfa
* Plants may have future in industrial cleanups

Subject: Searching for a quote
Date: Mon, 5 Apr 2004 13:53:35 -0700
From: "Robert Wager"

Can anyone please give me the source of the following quote from GP. In particular the part in quotation marks.

The policy, however, was opposed by international pressure group Greenpeace which warned Philippine authorities that biotechnology "can lead to millions of dead bodies, sick children, cancer clusters and deformities."

Thank you

Robert Wager
Malaspina University College
Nanaimo BC

NOTE: This quote is found in an article by Dr. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace who has since left the organization and disagrees with them on the GM issue.

See: http://www.taemag.com/issues/articleid.17889/article_detail.asp

The quote is well-documented by several newspapers, and date back to a protest in the Philippines in 2002.

For example, it was used in an article published by the Philippine Star one week ago, which you can see at:,+sick+children,+cancer+clusters%22&hl=en&ie=UTF-8

The quote is also found in an article from 2002 published by the Manilla


See also:


From: "Roger Morton"
Subject: MW Ho pushing the "HIV is not the cause of AIDS bandwagon"
Date: Mon, 5 Apr 2004 20:48:42 +1000

Readers might be interested in the latest bit of "news" from well known UK whactivist MW Ho of The Institute of Science in Society. She has recently published a document on her web site promoting the ideas of one Peter Duesberg. Her article uncritically repeats his theories that "HIV is not the cause of AIDS".

Ho states "Duesberg and colleagues charge that, 'the HIV-AIDS hypothesis has remained entirely unproductive' to this day. There is as yet no anti-HIV-AIDS vaccine, no effective prevention and not a single AIDS patient has ever been cured. Those are 'the hallmarks of a flawed hypothesis'.

A much more productive hypothesis, they say, is that AIDS is a collection of chemical epidemics, caused by recreational drugs, anti-HIV drugs, and malnutrition."

In the end though Ho tries to have an each way bet. After blandly and uncrtically repeating Duesberg's claims she casually states:

"I am entirely persuaded that recreational and toxic anti-HIV drugs as well as malnutrition can all undermine the immune system to produce immune deficiency syndromes. But I would certainly not like to exclude something like HIV that could target the immune cells directly, but that would be a whole new chapter by itself."

This is the quality of ISIS's scientific analysis - "I could talk about the possibility that HIV could cause aids - but that would be a whole other chapter and I could not be bothered. And anyway - that would be too mainstream."


Indian firm develops GM hybrids

- Reuters, 06 April, 2004

Indian seed firm MAHYCO is developing more genetically modified hybrids after launching the country's first transgenic seed, a senior company official said on Tuesday.

Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co. Ltd (MAHYCO), in which U.S. biotechnology firm Co has a 26 percent stake, introduced three genetically modified (GM) cotton varieties in 2002 and is working on GM rice, aubergine, tomato, cabbage and several other cotton hybrids.

'We have been using the Monsanto gene technology to develop several other GM hybrids, which are passing through various stages of development,' MAHYCO managing director Raju Barwale told Reuters.

Advocates of GM crops say developing countries, with smaller-scale farms and relatively poorer farmers, will benefit most from transgenic crops. Environmental groups say they are bad for the environment and should be banned.

A survey commissioned by a Monsanto joint venture said last month that GM cotton hybrids in India improved yields by 29 percent over traditional varieties in 2003.

Barwale said MAHYCO would conduct more field trials this year for a new cotton hybrid suitable for north India and probably introduce the seed to the market in 2005, subject to government approval.

Government approval is mandatory for field trials and commercial production of GM crops in the country. To date, the Indian government has only allowed commercial production of genetically engineered cotton.

Last year, the government rejected MAHYCO's plea to produce a GM cotton hybrid for the north, saying it was not resistant to cotton leaf curl virus. It also asked another firm to conduct more field trials before getting approval for GM mustard.


Barwale said MAHYCI was testing GM rice in laboratories and would soon go for field trials for two to three years, before approaching the government for approval.

'The GM rice hybrid will be resistant to stem-borer pests and will reduce production losses,' Barwale said.

The company had completed some safety studies for genetically engineered aubergine, which would be protected from fruit-borer insects.

It was carrying out field tests in many parts of the country and needed 12 to 18 months before it could submit data to the government.

'Indian farmers have very well understood the technology and started adopting it. The spread of GM seeds in the country is going to be very fast,' he said.

Barwale expected GM cotton cultivation in India to rise to about 700,000 acres in 2004 from 215,000 last year and 72,000 in 2002.

India, which has the world's largest cotton area but ranks third in output behind China and the United States, grows cotton on about 22 million acres and produces 2.7 million tonnes a year.


Rassi Seeds Receives Nod For Cultivation Of Bt Cotton

- Financial Express, By ASHOK B SHARMA, April 4, 2004

India’s regulatory authority for transgenic products, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has approved yet another Bt transgenic cotton, RCH 2 for commercial cultivation in the central and southern parts of the country.

RCH 2 is developed by Rassi Seeds, a sub-licencee of the US multinational, Monsanto. RCH 2 becomes the fourth Bt cotton seed variety to be released for commercial cultivation after Bt Mech 12, Bt Mech 162 and Bt Mech 184 varieties developed by Monsanto in collaboration with with its Indian partner, Machyco was approved in March 2002.

The GEAC, in its recent meeting, also gave permission to Rassi Seeds to conduct large-scale field trials for its transgenic cotton varieties developed for cultivation in the northern part of the country, namely Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh.

At present, there is no approved Bt cotton varieties for commercial cultivation in north India. Last year Monsanto-Mahyco asked for the approval of a Bt variety for commercial cultivation in north India, but the proposal was turned down by the GEAC as the variety in question was susceptible to the deadly leaf curl virus.

“We have given conditional approval for commercial cultivation of Bt cotton seed, RCH 2 in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for a period of three years. Like other three varieties of Bt cotton approved earlier, the performance of RCH 2 would be reviewed within three years for further extension of the approval, said the GEAC chairperson, Bina Chotray.

The three approved Bt cotton varieties developed by Monsanto in collaboration with Mahyco, namely Bt Mech 12, Bt Mech 162 and Bt Mech 184 are grown in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. According to government estimates the area coverage under Bt cotton is still negligible being only 92,000 hectare out the total of over 9 million hectare under cotton crop.

In 2002-03, the first year of its approval for commercial cultivation, Bt cotton covered an area of only 38,038 hectare area representing 0.51 per cent of the area under cotton in the period. In 2003-04 with good monsoon rains the area under Bt cotton increased to 92,000 hectare.

The southern and central parts of the country have the major cotton producing areas, accounting for over 7.29 million hectare out of the total area of 9.10 million hectare.

The Bt cotton varieties, having the trans gene, Bacillus thuringiensis, are claimed to be resistant to the deadly American Bollworm which occurs on cotton. But a recent study done by Dr K Chandrasekar and Dr GT Gujar has found that the bollworm develops “31-fold resistance to the toxin “cry1ac” within six generations. The bollworms also developed cross-resistance to two more toxins called “cry1aa” and “cry1ab.” This shows that Bt cotton can be resistant to American Bollworm for a maximum period of six years.


Puzzle of Corn's Origins Coming Together
Understanding the genetic origins of corn -- now the world's single largest food crop-- is important both for production of new varieties and for preserving corn's genetic heritage, says Mary Eubanks

Friday, April 2, 2004 | MONTREAL -- The scientific puzzle pieces are fitting together to form a definitive picture of the origin of corn, says a Duke University plant geneticist who has proposed that the world's most important food crop originated in an ancient cross between two grasses.

Mary Eubanks described the latest evidence that corn, or maize, originated as a cross between teosinte and gamagrass, or Tripsacum, in a talk Friday, April 2, 2004, at a symposium on maize held at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (www.saa.org) in Montreal. Her research is supported by the National Science Foundation and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

Eubanks, an adjunct professor of biology, has developed evidence that modern corn, scientific name Zea mays, did not evolve solely from a Central American grass known as teosinte -- traditionally the most widely held theory. Rather, her experiments clearly demonstrate that corn arose from a serendipitously viable cross between teosinte and gamagrass.

Eubanks emphasized in an interview that her research has confirmed that teosinte was indeed one of corn's ancestors, and that gamagrass was a critical genetic contributor. She contrasts her evidence with the former, highly controversial theory of the late biologist Paul Mangelsdorf, who espoused that teosinte was an offshoot of a cross between corn and Tripsacum rather than an ancestor of corn.

"My hypothesis confirms that teosinte is an ancestor of maize, and that key genes were also contributed by gamagrass," she said. In her talk, Eubanks displayed examples of her crosses between species of teosinte and gamagrass that exhibit the evolution from the tiny spikes of teosinte seeds to the early versions of corn ears.

New evidence from other researchers that maize evolved very rapidly, perhaps over only a century, supports such a theory, said Eubanks. Rather than the long, slow progressive evolution from teosinte into maize, a fertile cross between teosinte and gamagrass could have relatively quickly yielded early versions of maize. In her talk, Eubanks displayed archaeological specimens of corn alongside matching segregates from experimental crosses between teosinte and gamagrass.

Eubanks also discussed her comparative DNA fingerprinting studies of teosinte and Tripsacum taxa, along with primitive popcorns from Mexico and South America. Those analyses of over a hundred genes in the taxa revealed that some 20 percent of the versions, called alleles, of specific genes found in maize are found only in Tripsacum. And, about 36 percent of the alleles in maize were shared uniquely with teosinte.

"These findings are by no means conclusive," said Eubanks. "We need to do a lot more sampling of the genetic diversity in different teosinte and Tripsacum species to further test this finding. But certainly, the preliminary evidence from this study supports the hypothesis that Tripsacum introgression could have been the energizing factor for the mutations that humans then selected to derive domesticated maize."

In such selections, theorized Eubanks, early humans would have selected -- from the wide range of plants that would result from such crosses -- those that had the most numerous and accessible seeds. Eventually, such selection would have resulted in the cob-like structure of today's corn, she said.

Understanding the genetic origins of corn -- now the world's single largest food crop-- is important both for production of new varieties and for preserving corn's genetic heritage, said Eubanks.

"Because the crosses between teosinte and gamagrass bridge the sterility barrier between maize and Tripsacum, I'm now moving genes from gamagrass into corn," she said. "And we have developed drought-resistant and insect-resistant corn using conventional plant breeding methods."

For example, according to Eubanks, who is working with a commercial seed producer, test crops of some new hybrids have shown strong resistance to the billion-dollar bugs corn rootworm and European corn borer, along with corn earworm, another problematic corn pest.

"Understanding the genetic origins of corn and how people historically used corn could offer valuable insights for application to sustainable agriculture today," she said. "And finally, the gene pool underlying corn is part of our heritage that must be preserved if we are to retain the ability to solve agricultural problems such as new pests or the need for new farming methods."

Also, she noted, the scientific emphasis on corn is particularly timely because of recent findings that genetically altered corn is contaminating the native land races of maize and its wild relative teosinte currently in Mexico. This alteration of the natural gene pools of these genetic resources could have the effect of reducing the diversity of corn varieties, and compromise the ability to use those varieties as the basis for new crop strains.

According to Eubanks, the new drought and pest-resistant hybrids she and her colleagues have developed will undergo field tests this summer in the Midwest, followed by yield trials in winter nurseries, more field tests in the Midwest in 2005, and marketing seed in 2006.

For more information, contact:

Dennis Meredith | phone: (919) 681-8054, (919) 417-6581 (cell) | email: dennis.meredith@duke.edu.


April 1, 2004

CONTACT: Jeannette Warnert, (559) 241-7514, jwarnert@ucop.edu

UC studies genetically engineered alfalfa to produce objective information about the new agricultural technology

Farmers view GE alfalfa trials near Stockton, Calif.

University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisors and researchers are growing genetically engineered alfalfa in small experimental plots to determine whether the technology will be beneficial to California farmers.

"We would like to be ready with research-based answers when this technology is introduced," said Steve Orloff, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Siskiyou County. "It's somewhat controversial, but providing unbiased research results will enable growers to make intelligent decisions about it for themselves."

Although final results are not yet in, the UC scientists believe that the new varieties, which have been genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup?), could be an important new tool for alfalfa growers. These crops are called Roundup Ready? varieties.

"It looks like it might be a good fit for California," said Fresno County UC Cooperative Extension weed science advisor Kurt Hembree. "But it won't be a silver bullet for all farmers. Roundup is weak on some important alfalfa weeds, like malva, nettle, hairy fleabane and filaree. Successful weed control with this technology will depend a great deal on the ability of the growers and pest control advisers to accurately identify their specific weed problems before treating."

Alfalfa is grown on more acres in California than any other crop and is the third-most valuable crop in the United States. It was one of the earliest domesticated crops and makes a tremendous contribution to world food production. However, because it is a few steps removed from the dinner plate, the general public does not often recognize its importance. Dairy feed is the primary use of alfalfa. For this reason, UC alfalfa specialist Dan Putnam often refers to the crop as "ice cream in the making."

Evaluation and analysis of new technologies are not new to UC Cooperative Extension researchers. UC agricultural scientists have been active in analyzing technologies ranging from hybrid corn in the 1950s to integrated pest management techniques in the 1970s and 1980s, to genetically engineered crops in the 1990s. Alfalfa is among the most recent crops to be altered with Roundup Ready technology, which has already been commercialized by Monsanto Corporation in corn, soybeans, cotton and several other crops. To date, 40 percent of the corn and over 80 percent of the soybeans grown in the United States are genetically engineered.

In anticipation of a possible 2005 commercial release of Roundup Ready alfalfa, UCCE farm advisors Orloff, Hembree, Mick Canevari and Ron Vargas, and UC Davis specialists Putnam and Tom Lanini are evaluating the usefulness and performance of Roundup Ready alfalfa in the Intermountain Region and throughout the Central Valley as part of a statewide effort to assess the benefits and risks of this new weed-control technology.
Utilizing Monsanto's Roundup Ready seeds, the advisors' and specialists' goal is to provide information for farmers about the crop's growth under different environmental conditions and to determine the overall efficacy of the system compared with conventional weed-control approaches.

UC's involvement in the alfalfa trials gives California farmers research information they know is not clouded by financial interest in the success or failure of the product.

"We rate the trials blind," Orloff said. "We don't favor one approach over others. We're not pushing Roundup Ready crops at all. We are simply evaluating a new agricultural weed-control technology."

Weed control is a major challenge for alfalfa growers. Alfalfa contaminated with too many weeds may be unpalatable to livestock and less nutritious. In California, lower-quality alfalfa hay is worth an average of about $44 per ton less than premium alfalfa hay, and a common cause of low-quality hay is contamination with weeds. With the Roundup Ready alfalfa plant, growers can broadcast spray Roundup or generic glyphosate over the crop after the alfalfa and weeds have emerged, eliminating nearly all weeds. Later weed control sprays may be unnecessary as the alfalfa grows vigorously and shades later-emerging weeds.

According to Putnam, the major advantages of Roundup Ready technology in alfalfa appear to be simplicity, flexibility and broad-spectrum control of weeds. There may be other advantages as well.

"Alfalfa growers are working closely with state agencies to prevent runoff of insecticides and herbicides into streams and rivers," Canevari said.
"This new technology may reduce the amount of pesticides that are needed to grow the crop, and thereby reduces the risk of pesticide runoff with some of our winter-applied herbicides."

However, concerns remain. Canevari has seen a "weed shift" in his experimental plots where Roundup Ready alfalfa has been grown for three years.

"When we started this study, there were four or five stinging nettle plants on this end of the field," Canevari said, pointing to one of his plots at a farm west of Stockton. "Now you can see nettle all along the field. We're seeing more and more nettle each year."

Mixing into the tank with Roundup another herbicide that kills nettle and other weeds not controlled by Roundup may be one way to manage a weed-shift problem.

Another worry is the development of herbicide-resistant weeds. Certain weeds, such as ryegrass, over the years have developed levels of resistance to glyphosate.

"At this point, we already have Roundup Ready corn and cotton. Alfalfa is being studied and I have a project with Roundup Ready wheat. If you were to rotate between these crops, I wouldn't recommend growing Roundup Ready crops successively," Vargas said. "That's really setting yourself up for weed resistance."

The economic feasibility of growing Roundup Ready alfalfa has not yet been studied because, to date, Monsanto has not announced the pricing formula for Roundup Ready alfalfa seed. Unlike most other Roundup Ready crops, alfalfa is perennial. An annual lease on the Roundup Ready trait or a price premium for the seed that takes into consideration multiple years of growth are being considered. The UC field trials should assist growers in making an economic evaluation of the technology, since comparative yields, application rates and weed-control efficacy are being studied.

UC researchers are also considering the potential market acceptance, since growers will want to know whether buyers will purchase Roundup Ready alfalfa hay. Putnam said he does not expect much resistance from the major market for alfalfa, the dairy industry, since it has already absorbed a number of similar technologies. Most cheese, he points out, is currently made from rennin from genetically engineered microorganisms.
However, he said, there might be some consumer resistance to the Roundup Ready alfalfa crop in markets that import California hay, such as Japan.

"In my discussions with exporters, there will likely be initial resistance from the export market, since some Japanese consumers are reluctant to purchase genetically engineered foods. That will likely moderate over time and will be price dependent," Putnam said. "Organic producers will reject the technology, as they do all herbicides. Some horse owners may also initially balk at the use of genetically engineered alfalfa, but they may also quickly realize the benefits, since a number of horses die each year from poisonous weeds that could be easily removed through this technology."

Media contacts:

Dan Putnam, UC Davis, (530) 752-8982 dhputnam@ucdavis.edu
Tom Lanini, UC Davis, (530) 752-4476, wtlanini@ucdavis.edu
Mick Canevari, San Joaquin County, (209) 468-2085, wmcanevari@ucdavis.edu Kurt Hembree, Fresno County, (559) 456-7556, kjhembree@ucdavis.edu Steve Orloff, Siskiyou County, (530) 842-2711, sborloff@ucdavis.edu Ron Vargas, Madera County, (559) 675-7879 Ext. 212, rnvargas@ucdavis.edu


Plants may have future in industrial cleanups

- St. Louis Post-Dispatch, By Rachel Melcer, April 4, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- In a Creve Coeur, Mo., laboratory, biochemists Joe Jez and Tom Smith are working toward a day when plants and trees will replace earthmovers and landfills in cleaning contaminated industrial sites.

The duo, who work at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, are advancing a method of phytoremediation, a broad term that refers to using green plants to absorb or break down contaminants in soil, sludge, sediment and groundwater.

Jez has identified a gene that allows certain plants to thrive in soil contaminated with cadmium, a toxic heavy metal. Smith has found a different gene that helps some bacteria capture and transport zinc, which is important for nutrition but can be threatening at high concentrations.

They would like to augment and transfer both traits to large, fast-growing plants and trees, enabling them to store various heavy-metal pollutants absorbed from the ground. The plants could be harvested and incinerated, leaving a relatively small amount of ash for proper disposal.

"There is no single plant that has all of the things you'd want in a cleanup factory," Jez said.

Genetic modification is a promising method for combining the most desired traits and plants. But it's controversial. Some people fear that genetically modifying plants could cause long-term harm to the environment, though that has not been proved.

Meanwhile, engineers are using types of phytoremediation that take advantage of naturally occurring qualities in some plants and trees.

For example, poplar trees grow quickly and form long roots that reach far below the surface. They can absorb large quantities of water and withstand contamination.

Phytoremediation methods are gaining steam as an ecologically sound, relatively low-cost way to deal with brownfields, the Environmental Protection Agency says. Brownfields are abandoned or underused industrial sites where environmental contamination hinders redevelopment. There are thousands of them across the United States.

The EPA is overseeing 10 Superfund cleanups that use simple forms of phytoremediation, such as planting poplar trees.

The goal of most phytoremediation scientists is to develop a toolbox of plants and trees that can be matched with cleanup needs at specific sites. Most observers say this can happen only through genetic modification.