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Date:

April 15, 2004

Subject:

Kofi Annan Congratulates Dr. Borlaug; Reflections on Earth Day; Biotechnology in West Africa; EU Biotech Labeling; Brazil labels GM food; 'Organic Food' Debate

 

Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org - April 16, 2004:

* Kofi Annan Congratulates Dr. Borlaug on his Birthday
* Eco-Imperialism: Reflections on Earth Day
* Facilitating Biotechnology in West Africa – Communicating issues to the Stakeholders
* EU Biotech Labeling and Traceability Requirements `Will Be a Serious Barrier to International Trade,'
* RE: Stricter GM Labelling
* Responses from Neal Stewart and Kameshwar Rao
* Some Still Can't Digest Idea of Biotech Food
* SCRI chief says it is wrong to write off benefits of GM
* No-till farming offers a quick fix to help ward off host of global problems
* Bt cotton hits more fields
* Brazil labels GM food
* ISAAA Articles
* Select Letters on the 'Organic Food' Debate

shes to Dr. Borlaug. In the message, sent to AgBioWorld, Mr. Kofi Annan's says

"It gives me great pleasure to add my voice to all those paying tribute to Dr. Norman E. Borlaug on his 90th birthday. As we celebrate Dr. Borlaug’s long and remarkable life, we also celebrate the long and productive lives that his achievements have made possible for so many millions of people around the world.

And as the United Nations continues its efforts to reach the ambitious but achievable Millennium Development Goal of reducing, by half, by the year 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger, we will continue to be inspired by his enduring devotion to the poor, needy and vulnerable of our world. Dr. Borlaug, for your many contributions to the work of the United Nations, please accept my best wishes on this happy occasion."

Kofi A. Annan

AgBioWorld thanks Mr. Annan for his kind gesture.
******************************

Eco-Imperialism: Reflections on Earth Day

Contact: Laura Braden Dlugacz, ldlugacz@dcgpr.com or 202-572-6231

It’s time to focus on the needs of the Earth’s poorest people, say experts at National Press Club event

Washington, DC – Environmental experts will meet on Earth Day (Thursday, April 22nd) to address the implications of eco-imperialism: policies that seek to protect the environment, but deny people in impoverished nations economic opportunities, the chance for better lives, and the right to rid their countries of diseases that were vanquished long ago in the United States and Europe.

Participants include energy, malaria, biotechnology, climate change and human rights experts, who intend to make this Earth Day a clarion call for more responsible environmentalism – both in the USA and abroad. Aspects of eco-imperialism to be discussed include:

• Energy development in developing countries, and the social and economic benefits that reliable, affordable electricity brings. • The use of DDT and other pesticides to control malaria. (Every year, 300 million people get malaria, and 2 million die – mostly women and children, and mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.) • The value of biotechnology to increase agricultural output and reduce malnutrition, which affects 800 million people and leaves many so weakened that they die of diseases they would otherwise survive. • Environmental programs that negatively affect poor people in the United States. • The human rights implications of laws and policies that stifle progress in these areas.

WHEN: Thursday, April 22 (Earth Day) 12:00 noon to 2:30 pm

WHERE: First Amendment Room, National Press Club, 529 Fourteenth Street, NW, Washington

WHAT: Light lunch, followed by press briefing and question-and-answer period

WHO:

Niger Innis (national spokesman, Congress of Racial Equality) – Commentator Paul Driessen (author of Eco-Imperialism, director of Economic Human Rights Project) John Meredith (national advisory council member, Project 21) Dr. CS Prakash (professor of plant genetics, Tuskegee Institute) Dr. Sallie Baliunas (environment-science host, TechCentralStation.com) Dr. Roger Bate (fellow, American Enterprise Institute and Africa Fighting
Malaria)

Please advise us whether you will be attending, so that we can ensure adequate food and beverage.

For interviews or more information, and to RSVP, please contact Laura Braden Dlugacz at ldlugacz@dcgpr.com or 202-572-6231
*******************************

Facilitating Biotechnology in West Africa – Communicating issues to the Stakeholders

- Abuja, Nigeria, May 3-5, 2004

A Workshop organized by the Nigerian National Biotechnology Development Agency (Abuja), Tuskegee University (USA), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (Ibadan, Nigeria); Sponsored by USAID

Purpose/Goal: To develop a consensus on how to foster the development and use of agricultural biotechnology research and products in the West and Central Africa region through networking, informed – decision making, and dialogue among stakeholders.

Objectives:

• Support launch of West African Biotech Network (WABNET) and Nigeria Agricultural Biotechnology Project (NABP)

• Identify opportunities and challenges for capacity building to facilitate biotechnology development and its integration into agricultural research;

• Identify effective means of communicating biotech issues to stakeholders (policy- makers, regulators, scientists, media, farmer, NGOs and agri-business);

• Provide science-based information on agricultural biotechnology issues

If you are interested in attending this workshop, please contact any of the following individuals:

Dr. Christian Fatokun (c.fatokun@cgiar.org)
Prof. Emeka omaliko (cpeomaliko@yahoo.com)
Dr. C. S. Prakash (prakash@tuskegee.edu)
Dr. Louis Jackai (louis-jackai@usa.net)
***********************************

http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/04-16-2004/0002153208&EDATE=


EU Biotech Labeling and Traceability Requirements `Will Be a Serious Barrier to International Trade,' Says NFPA

- National Food Processors Association, April 16

Commenting on the European Union's new requirements for labeling and traceability of foods and feeds that contain genetically modified ingredients, which become effective on April 18, John R. Cady, President and CEO of the National Food Processors Association (NFPA), made the following statement:

"These new requirements establish a serious trade barrier that will keep many U.S. food products out of the European market. European consumers will see such labels on food products as `warning labels.' However, there is no safety or nutrition issue associated with the products of agricultural biotechnology on the market, and there is no scientific basis for requiring the labeling of biotech foods.

"Mandatory labeling should be based on the composition, intended use, and health and safety characteristics of a food product, not on the `genetic process' from which it was derived. Moreover, the traceability requirements are a classic case of regulatory overkill, putting complex and detailed new requirements on food companies, with no benefit - but with added expense - for consumers.

"NFPA has long opposed these labeling and traceability requirements by the EU. We strongly urge the World Trade Organization to address this issue, and take action to block these new, unnecessary barriers to trade.

NFPA is the voice of the food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues involving food safety, food security, nutrition, technical and regulatory matters and consumer affairs.

Visit NFPA's Website at http://www.nfpa-food.org.
*************************************

From: "Goux Sebastien"
Subject: RE: Stricter GM Labelling
Date: Fri, 16 Apr 2004 09:58:23 +0200

Reply to: "Belgium introduces stricter GM food labelling"

This is just to indicate that this article is likely to be misleading for many of your readers. Belgium did not adopt any new national law on GM Food labelling. However, the new rules on GM labelling and traceability (as defined in EC regulations 1829/2003 on GM Food and Feed and 1830/2003 on GM traceability) will effectively apply from April 18th in the whole EC (including indeed Belgium).

Sincerely yours,

Charles Crémer
Director
Division Foodstuffs and other consumergoods
DG Animals, Plants and Foodstuffs
Belgian Federal Public Service of Public Health, Food Chain Safety & Environment
*************************

From Neal Stewart:

> Introduction of GM Crops Into Crop Centers of Origin and Diversity
> C Kameswara Rao and S Shantharam, Special to AgBioView, April 13, 2004.

Given the nature of delicacy of this issue, I might caution against using such potentially inflammatory statements such as:

>> It is an absurd contention that transgenes enhance the promiscuity of
>crop plants.
>

The point of course, is that even low amounts of hybridization could
feasibly be sufficient for negative consequences given the transgene and
crop. So, CO/CD issues need to be approached with care. The amounts of
hybridization and introgression one might expect with rice, for example,
could be sufficient to produce hybrids and introgressed hybrids transgenic
for herbicide tolerance that might persist in farmer's fields.

I appreciate the urgency to take a practical approach and to weigh
potential risks and benefits and to compare transgenic traits with
non-transgenic traits. I think that many people may read more dogmatism
into the article than the author intended, and miss the practicality.

It is a contentious and delicate issue.

cheers, Neal

======

Response from Kameshwar Rao:

A lot of people who have not seen rice in the field as a crop believe
anything. In about forty years of field experience, I have not seen
anything around a rice field that can be considered a hybrid and this
includes areas where other species of Oryza grow in small pockets and of
course rice was not cultivated in the vicinity. Untended rice plants die
off soon.

Then the statement that was particularly mentioned by Dr Stewart:

>>> It is an absurd contention that transgenes enhance the promiscuity of
>crop plants.
>

This statement intends to emphasize that transgenics are no more prone to
hybridization than other varieties. Perhaps we could have stated it as 'It
is difficult to believe that transgenes enhance the promiscuity ofcrop
plants.'

When the activists indulge in such a beating on absurd science or even
non-science, it is necessary that we also are a little on the hard side. I
can provide evidence for every one of the statements we made but in a
general article it is not necessary and it would be too long for
posting/publishing anywhere.

KR
************************************

Some Still Can't Digest Idea of Biotech Food

- Investors Business Daily, By Henry I. Miller, April 15, 2004

Anti-biotechnology activists claimed recently that “genetically modified”
material (in minuscule amounts) has moved into and thereby “contaminates”
conventionally produced seed supplies. As usual, they’re way off-base. In
fact, it’s like finding Lexus parts in your Yugo.

It’s not surprising that the activists’ claims are misleading. They’re
intended to be. These findings – which have not been reported in any
journal – come from the analysis of samples unscientifically selected by
the same environmental extremists who for years have opposed (and
dissembled about) products ranging from environment-friendly crop plants
to improved rabies vaccines.

This is a continuation of activists’ efforts to disparage and discredit a
superior, proven, safe technology that just doesn’t fit the their view of
“good” research and development.

Genetic modification is not new. Virtually all of the 200 major crops in
the United States have been “genetically engineered,” or genetically
improved, in some way. Plant breeders -- not Mother Nature – gave us
seedless grapes and watermelons, the tangelo (a tangerine-grapefruit
hybrid), and fungus-resistant strawberries. In North American and European
diets, only fish and wild game and berries may be said not to have been
genetically engineered in some fashion.

Even if “genetic engineering” is used to mean only gene-splicing, the most
precise and predictable molecular techniques used for genetic improvement
– which, inexplicably, is the only target of the activists – the movement
of seeds or genes crafted with these techniques is incidental and hardly
“contamination.”

Gene flow is ubiquitous. All crop plants have relatives somewhere, and
some gene flow commonly occurs if the two populations are grown close
together. Because gene transfer is an age-old concern for farmers, they
have meticulously developed strategies for preventing pollen
cross-contamination in the field -- when and if it is necessary for
commercial reasons.

A good example is canola, the genetically improved rapeseed developed by
Canadian plant breeders a half-century ago. The original rapeseed oil was
harmful when ingested because it contained high levels of erucic acid.
After conventional plant breeding led to the development of rapeseed
varieties with low concentrations of erucic acid, canola oil became the
most commonly consumed oil in Canada. But because high-erucic acid
rapeseed oil is still used as a lubricant and plasticizer, the high- and
low-erucic acid varieties of rapeseed plants must be carefully segregated
in the field and thereafter, and the final products must meet certain
tolerances.

These applications of conventional biotechnology, or genetic engineering,
represent monumental scientific, technological, commercial, and
humanitarian successes: Its apotheosis is the Green Revolution, whose
highly productive dwarf wheat varieties have prevented widespread
starvation and malnutrition in the developing world.

But the techniques employed were relatively crude, and recently they have
been supplemented by “the new biotechnology,” a set of enabling techniques
that make possible genetic modification at the molecular level. The
prototype of these techniques, gene-splicing, is a more precise, better
understood, and more predictable method for altering genetic material than
was possible previously. An authoritative 1989 analysis of genetic
technologies by the US National Research Council summarized the scientific
consensus about the new methods: “With classical techniques of gene
transfer, a variable number of genes can be transferred, the number
depending on the mechanism of transfer; but predicting the precise number
or the traits that have been transferred is difficult, and we cannot
always predict the [traits] that will result. With organisms modified by
molecular methods, we are in a better, if not perfect, position to
predict" their traits.

Since at least 1999, gene-spliced plants have been grown worldwide on more
than 100 million acres annually, and the benefits include enhanced yields,
decreased use of chemical pesticides, and reduced soil erosion.

More than two-thirds of processed foods in American supermarkets contain
ingredients derived from gene-spliced organisms – mostly high-fructose
corn syrup from gene-spliced corn, and derivatives of gene-spliced
soybeans.

That means that Americans collectively have consumed more than a trillion
servings of foods with gene-spliced ingredients without a single mishap
that resulted in injury to a single person or ecosystem.

Gene-splicing represents the state-of-the-art on the continuum of genetic
improvement. Its use is cause for celebration, not condemnation.

Henry I. Miller, a physician and fellow at the Hoover Institution and
Competitive Enterprise Institute, was an official at the FDA from 1979-94.
*****************************

http://business.scotsman.com/agriculture.cfm?id=418472004

SCRI chief says it is wrong to write off benefits of GM

The Scotsman, By FORDYCE MAXWELL, April 14, 2004

PROFESSOR John Hillman, the director of the Scottish Crop Research
Institute, believes that conventional agriculture has done a good job of
feeding most of the world’s population.

Given the chance, he says, it will continue to do so, a contribution that
cannot be replaced by organic farming, while rejecting the potential
benefits of genetically modified crops is a mistake. He warned:
"[Conventional] agriculture is relatively important and becoming more so.
Underestimate it at your peril."

He has made these points enthusiastically several times in recent months
in conference presentations and makes them again in his annual, wide-
ranging survey of world science and its implications in the SCRI’s annual
report.

Of organic farming, he says that its claims for health-enhancing qualities
cannot be validated, it is low productivity compared with conventional and
biotech agriculture, and has a high dependence on poisonous copper salts
(to control pests).

Organic production also means: blemished crops, the risk of mycotoxins and
reduced vitamin C levels, reliance on faecal fertilisers, raising concerns
about food-poisoning micro-organisms, eggs of parasitic nematodes and
pollution of water-courses; with reliance on tilling leading to soil
structure damage and release of greenhouse gases.

Organic marketing, he adds, is often based on criticism, sometimes
scaremongering, about conventional and biotech agriculture. Furthermore,
the system has high production costs and can not meet the increasing
demand of global food supply without encroaching on natural habitats.

Genetically modified production has potentially more to offer. GM crops,
he says, encompass strategies to control pests, weeds and diseases; by,
for example, eliminating allergens and anti-nutritional factors they can
modify shape, colour, size, aroma, texture, taste and yield; can generate,
at low capital cost, pathogen-free, high-value, nutraceuticals, vaccines,
antibiotics, enzymes and growth factors; engineer plants to treat wastes
and contaminated land; produce industrial feedstocks from specialist
proteins; and create renewable sources of energy.

In short, he concludes: "There is a need for comparative life cycle
analysis of all types of agriculture, but the march of innovation, the
forces of economic growth and the demands of the global population will
ensure that agriculture will continue to adapt to the opportunities
offered in the market place.

"Risk-aversion in the food-replete regions (including Western Europe) will
suppress, but not prevent, innovation."

By contrast with his view of conventional agriculture, Friends of the
Earth has demanded tough new measures to cut pesticide use, claiming that
a 2 per cent reduction between 1992 and 2002, reported in a Scottish
Executive survey, is not nearly enough.
*****************************

http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/notill.htm

No-till farming offers a quick fix to help ward off host of global
problems

- Ohio State Research News, April 16, 2004, By Holly Wagner

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Increase no-till farming practices across the planet or
face serious climate, soil quality and food production problems in the
next 20 to 50 years. That warning from scientists appeared in the journal
Science this week.

No-till farming helps soil retain carbon. Healthy topsoil contains
carbon-enriched humus – decaying organic matter that provides nutrients to
plants. Soils low in humus can't maintain the carbon-dependent nutrients
essential to healthy crop production, resulting in the need to use more
fertilizers.

A lack of carbon in soil may promote erosion, as topsoil and fertilizers
are often washed or blown away from farm fields and into waterways, said
Rattan Lal, the paper's lead author and the director of the carbon
management and sequestration center at Ohio State University.

In no-till agriculture, farmers plant seeds without using a plow to turn
the soil. Soil loses most of it carbon content during plowing, which
releases carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere. Increased levels of CO2
in the atmosphere have been associated with global climate change.

Traditional plowing, or tilling, turns over the top layer of soil. Farmers
use it for, among other reasons, to get rid of weeds, make it easier to
use fertilizers and pesticides and to plant crops. Tilling also enriches
the soil as it hastens the decomposition of crop residue, weeds and other
organic matter.

Still, the benefits of switching to no-till farming practices outweigh
those of traditional planting.

Since the mechanization of agriculture began a few hundred years ago,
scientists estimate that some 78 billion metric tons – more than 171
trillion pounds – of carbon once trapped in the soil have been lost to the
atmosphere in the form of CO2.

Lal and his colleagues estimate that no-till farming is practiced on only
5 percent of all the world's cultivated cropland. Farmers in the United
States use no-till methods on 37 percent of the nation's cropland, which
results in saving an estimated 60 million metric tons of soil CO2
annually.

"If every farmer who grows crops in the United States would use no-till
and adopt management practices such as crop rotation and planting cover
crops, we could sequester about 300 million tons of soil carbon each
year," said Lal, who is also a professor of soil science at Ohio State.

"Each year, 6 billion tons of carbon is released into the planet's
atmosphere as fossil fuels are burned, and plants can absorb 20 times that
amount in that period of time," he said. "The problem is that as organisms
decompose and plants breathe, CO2 returns to the atmosphere. None of it
accumulates in the soil."

Lal admits that full-scale no-till farming practices are a short-term fix,
but it's one that will give researchers enough time to find alternatives
to fossil fuels.

"There needs to be a global effort to adopt no-till farming practices
soon. Governments need to mandate these practices or to provide financial
incentives to farmers to adopt them," said Lal, adding no-till methods may
reduce a farmer's annual crop yield by 5 to 10 percent, at least for the
first few years.

It's also tough to ask farmers who lack the necessary financial resources
to switch to no-till methods, especially in African and Asian countries
where no-till levels are the lowest, Lal said.

"No-till isn't readily practiced in most of these areas due to the lack of
available financial resources and government support," he said. "Farmers
often lack the seeding equipment necessary to drill through crop residue.
And many farmers use leftover residue from the previous year's crops for
fuel or animal fodder. So the cultivated soil gets compacted or eroded by
water and wind."

Topsoil is also a lucrative commodity – an acre of it can bring in $1,300
for a farmer in India, where the first few feet of soil are often removed
for brick making.

"No-till farming isn't a substitute for finding alternatives to fossil
fuels," Lal said.

"No-till is definitely a short-term fix, but it may buy us up to 50 years
to find alternatives to fossil fuels. If we don't heed this warning, our
planet may change drastically. There's no other choice."

Lal co-authored the paper with Michael Griffin, Jay Apt, Lester Lave and
M. Granger Morgan, all with Carnegie Mellon University.

Contact:
Rattan Lal, (614) 292-9069; Lal.1@osu.edu

Writter:
Holly Wagner, (614) 292-8310; Wagner.235@osu.edu
**********************

http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=45127

Bt cotton hits more fields

- Indian Express, April 16, 2004, By Ashok B Sharma

NEW DELHI - The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the country’s
regulatory authority for transgenic crops, has given the green signal for
largescale field trials and seed production for 12 varieties of Bt cotton
hybrids developed by Rasi Seeds, Ankur Seeds and Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds
Company (Mahyco).

These Bt cotton hybrids contain the Bt cry 1 ac gene developed by the US
seed multinational, Monsanto. While Mahyco is Monsanto’s partner in India,
Rasi Seeds and Ankur Seeds are the sub-licensees of Monsanto.

In its meeting on Thursday, the GEAC allowed Rasi Seeds to conduct
largescale field trials of RCH 118 Bt and RCH 559 Bt in Central India and
also procure seeds of the same. Rasi Seeds has also been allowed to
conduct largescale field trials and produce seeds of RCH 368 Bt in South
India and of RCH 317 Bt in North India.

Ankur Seeds has been shown the green light for largescale field trials and
production of seeds of Ankur 651 Bt and Ankur 2534 Bt in North India and
of Ankur 651 Bt and Ankur 09Bt in Central India.

Mahyco has been given the go-ahead for largescale field trials and seed
production of MRC 6301 Bt and MRC 6160 Bt in Central India and of MRC 6301
Bt and MRC 6322 Bt in South India.

The GEAC also decided that, ordinarily, largescale field trials in
transgenic cotton would be conducted in 80 representative locations per
genotype per zone. However, wherever felt necessary, considering facts of
the case, the number can be further increased.

The GEAC also approved seed production of the above hybrids in an area of
maximum 100 hectare for each variety.

Earlier on April 1, the GEAC approved RCH 2 Bt developed by Rasi Seeds for
commercial cultivation in the central and southern parts of the country.
With this, RCH 2 Bt becomes the fourth transgenic cotton crop to be
approved for commercial cultivation.

In March 2002, GEAC had approved Bt Mech 12, Bt Mech 162 and Bt Mech 184
varieties developed by Monsanto in collaboration with its Indian partner
Machyco for commercial cultivation in central and southern India.

At present, there are 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.

According to government estimates, the area under Bt cotton is still
negligible, being only 92,000 hectare out the total of over 9 million
hectare under cotton. 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, the year of 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.
********************************

http://www.scidev.net/news/index.cfm?fuseaction=readnews&itemid=1329&language=1


Brazil labels GM food

- SciDev.net. April 16, 2004, Luisa Massarani

RIO DE JANEIRO - All human and animal food sold in Brazil that contains
more than one per cent genetically modified (GM) ingredients must now be
labelled under a law that came into force this month.

The law states that the packaging of GM products should be labelled with a
'T' — for 'transgenic' — no smaller than about 1 centimetre squared. It
also imposes fines of between US$65 and US$1 million on producers that
flout the new regulations.

Three organisations will be responsible for enforcing the law: the
Ministry of Agriculture and the National Health Surveillance Agency will
take care of agricultural and industry matters, respectively;

PROCONs, the state consumer-protection organisation will control commerce
of GM products.

At present, it is illegal to grow GM crops for commercial purposes in
Brazil. The only exception is GM soya illegally grown in 2003, which was
granted special permission to be sold for both animal and human
consumption.

Paradoxically, however, the new law does not require products containing
the 2003 GM soya be labelled. Rather, the law states that the labels of
such products should include the information: "this may contain
ingredients produced by GM soya" or "this may contain GM soya".

The law has received a mixed reaction in the scientific community. Silvio
Valle, a biosafety expert at Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro,
questions why the legislation is stricter for products that are unlikely
to be found on the Brazilian market, such as GM maize, than it is for
illegally grown GM soya, "which is a reality in our country".

He says that the law does not make clear whether imported GM products must
also be labelled. And he adds that it very unlikely that any labelled GM
products will appear in Brazilian supermarkets this year.

This is not the first time that Brazil has legislated on labelling GM
food. The government of ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso introduced
a law that products with more than 4 per cent GM ingredients should be
labelled, a limit that was reduced to one per cent in April 2003 by
president Luiz Inácio 'Lula' da Silva. However, neither of these laws was
ever put into practice.
**************************

The following articles are from International Service for the Acquisition
of Agri-biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA), and AgBiotechNet:

TANZANIA TO DRAFT GM GUIDELINES

A multi-sector group of Tanzanian experts will draft the policy guidelines
and regulations on genetically modified (GM) crops for the country. The
EastAfrican newspaper quotes Tanzania's Minister for Agriculture and Food
Security, Charles Keenja, as saying that the country had taken "no clear
position" on GM products but that it was important to “put in place
mechanisms and guidelines on how it would be introduced, including
preparing a Cabinet paper for the purpose.”

Keenja said Tanzania was having discussions with the South African
government over how to adopt GM technology. He noted that the two
countries have a similar environment and have laboratories for research on
GM organisms. Likewise, he added that "As of now we are self-reliant for
over 90 per cent of our food, but by going about this issue systematically
and critically, we would in future reach a point where we will decide on
how to adopt GMOs."

View the EastAfrican newspaper at this link:
http://www.nationaudio.com/News/EastAfrican/current/index.html.
****************************

PHILIPPINES APPROVES 17 GM TRANSFORMATION EVENTS

Last February 4, 2004, the Philippine Department of Agriculture's Bureau
of Plant Industry has approved 17 transformation events (TEs) for GM crops
intended for use as food, feed or processing material. One TE was also
approved for commercial planting in the Philippines. This was according to
a report from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign
Agricultural Service’s Global Agriculture Information Network (GAIN).

Corn, soybeans, canola, potato and cotton were the agricultural crops
covered by the 17 TEs. Based on the official registry, importers can now
bring in shipments of these agricultural commodities for use within the
Philippines as long as they contain amounts as stipulated in the approved
TEs. At present, the approval covers most of the corn and soybeans
currently shipped from the United States to the Philippines.

Specific details of the approval are provided at
http://www.fas.usda.gov/gainfiles/200403/146105878.pdf
******************************

SALT-TOLERANT RICE NEEDS CAREFUL SELECTION

Under sub-optimal conditions, the best way for rice breeders to improve
the rice harvest is to produce varieties which are not fertilizer
dependent. However, specifically modified varieties need to be developed
for rice growing under saline conditions said the Netherlands Organization
for Scientific Research. This has implications for many rice planting
countries in Asia and Africa where salinity is a major problem.

Gambian researcher Baboucarr Manneh investigated variations in the rice
yield and the possibilities for increasing this under a variety of
environmental circumstances by means of plant breeding. He could
accurately predict the rice yield with the help of DNA markers. Manneh
also found that the crop growth model ORYZA1 accurately predicted the
biomass and grain yield of the rice. Using this model he could also assess
the possibilities for increasing the yield by manipulating the
physiological characteristics of the rice plant.

The research was funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific
Research. For more information contact Baboucarr Manneh of the Department
of Plant Sciences Wageningen University and Research Centre at
Baboucarr.manneh@wur.nl or baboucarrmanneh@yahoo.com.

View the full press release from the Netherlands Organization for
Scientific Research at
http://www.nwo.nl/nwohome.nsf/pages/nwop_5x5bvh_eng.
****************************

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,564-1074385,00.html

Healthy Eating: Select Letters on the 'Organic Food' Debate

- THE TIMES (UK) April 15, 2004 (Forwarded by Vivian Moses)

Britons are spending more than £1 billion a year on organic food. Do the
benefits outweigh the cost?

Protecting crops

I WOULD be happy to pay a premium for food produced in an environmentally
sustainable way. I do not buy organic food because the rules for organic
certification appear to be more concerned with an arbitrary definition of
"natural" than they are with environmental sustainability. Naturally,
plants do not want to be eaten. Natural plants are poisonous, tough,
indigestible and spiney. We have spent thousands of years breeding these
natural defences out of them in order to make them more healthy to eat.
This ids one reason crops need so much protection from pests and diseases.
Organic farming methods do not provide crop protection in the most
environmentally sustainable way.

I would like to see a new, evidence-based set of criteria for the
certification of environmentally sustainable food production. This would
give consumers interested in the environment a genuine choice.

- Ottoline Leyser, Professor of Plant Developmental Genetics, University
of York ----- Intensive controls

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ON PRINCIPLE I never buy organic food. Granted, home produce grown slowly
with limited fertiliser can taste better, but if we all turned our backs
on intensive agricultural production we would need to plough up most of
the remaining grassland and woods of Europe to feed its population.

Controls in the chemical industry are very tight and agricultural
chemicals are continually being improved to meet tighter regulations to
ensure environmental and consumer safety. Although the chemical industry
is working for profit, so too are many of those who scare the uneducated
into buying organic food at vastly marked-up prices.

Mark Selby, Burley in Wharfedale, West Yorkshire

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It's not worth it

WHY would I want to support a system which, at its own admission, requires
between 30 and 50 per cent more land to produce the same amount of food
and therefore uses more fuel energy (for cultivation and other field
operations) per tonne of produce. The Food Standards Agency tells me that
organic food has a shorter shelf-life than conventional food and, as a
consequence, more is wasted. Figures shown at a recent meeting of the
British Association for the Advancement of Science indicated that organic
food ids far more likely to be rejected as unfit for human consumption
because of high levels of micotoxins.

Add this to the crazy practice of flying in certain organic food from
places such as Kenya for us rich Westerners to eat (and by so doing
polluting the atmosphere) and I have come to the conclusion that organic
food isn't worth it.

- Jonathon Harrington, (agricultural and environmental adviser), Brecon