Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on
ag-biotech.


Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives

Subscribe

 


SEARCH:     

Date:

July 29, 2004

Subject:

AGBIOVIEW: Reap What You Sow; 'Johnny Come-Lately' Intervention; Bt-cotton Works; Prince of Wails; Hope, Hype, & Reality of GM; Mendel to Monsanto

 

Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: July 29, 2004

* We Reap As We Sow
* A "Johnny Come-Lately" Intervention
* ...Indian Medical Council Wants Overhaul of GM Foods Regulation
* The Verdict Is In: Bt-cotton Really Works!
* Green Revolution for Food Security
* Royal Folly: Small Minded
* ... Prince of Wails
* Hope, Hype, & Reality of Genetic Engineering
* Food, Inc.: Mendel to Monsanto -- Promises & Perils of Biotech
* Use of Ag Science & Tech as a Development Tool in Africa
--

We Reap As We Sow

- Conrad Lichtenstein, Spiked Online, July 28, 2004
http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/0000000CA634.htm

At the National Federation of Women's Institutes' annual meeting on 9 June, 88 per cent backed the resolution: 'In the light of growing evidence that the current generation of GM crops are beneficial for neither people nor planet, this meeting strongly opposes the growing of GM crops in the UK and calls on HM Government to prohibit their cultivation.' This article is adapted from a speech given against the motion.

The eighteenth century is known as the age of Enlightenment: liberal democracies were established, science fed technological progress, the arts and literature flourished. Britain played a major role in helping to bring about the new modern world. Given this, the current widespread suspicion of genetic modification (GM) in the UK is both disturbing and mystifying.

It is disturbing, because I believe that the current antipathy to GM crops reflects an inversion of the enlightenment proposition: that human reason will triumph over superstition, ignorance and fear. It is mystifying, because we have no reason to reject the approaches that have served the modern world so well. We in the developed world enjoy prosperity and health as never before - and it is still human reason, science and technology that will continue to solve our problems, not pre-modern romanticism.

Human reason was, of course, not invented in the eighteenth century. Reason is the engine of human cultural evolution, which makes us human and separates us from the beasts. Humans have developed greater choice over how they live their lives, rather than being at the whim of the chance of nature. This has meant the choice to develop agriculture and with it civilised society instead of the chance of hunting and gathering with no control over food supply. And in a technological society, the triumph of choice over chance is even greater.

So how have superstition, ignorance and fear come to triumph over human reason in the GM debate? The superstition is not new. It began in 1859 when Charles Darwin provided a mechanism for the 'origin of species by means of natural selection'. Darwin violated the early Christian notion of the 'great chain of being', where species are immutable and created by God in a hierarchy - with humans near the top, somewhere between apes and angels.

The current superstition is a reincarnation of this belief - there is a sense that species are immutable, and that we are 'playing God' by moving genes between them. I countered this superstition with a serendipitous discovery from my own research. When I engineered GM plants that resist virus infection, I found that nature had done my experiment 25million years earlier: the very genes I had introduced into the plant I had chosen to study were already there. It turned out that these natural GM genes are present in hundreds of copies in four living plant species.

GM is a process, not a product
There is substantial ignorance about the nature of GM. One common misconception is that GM is a new type of crop product. But GM is not a product - it is a process. Each new crop variety needs to be carefully evaluated on a case-by-case basis, rather than making a blanket dismissal of the GM process, since there is nothing intrinsically dangerous about this GM process. GM is simply a new tool for plant breeding.

In developing his theory of natural selection, Darwin drew his first examples from the selective breeding of plants and animals in agriculture that had developed domesticated species from wild ancestors. For example, wolves were bred into dogs, and wild grasses were bred into wheat, rye, oats and barley. Darwin called this artificial selection, where artificial simply means by human action - by the exercise of human choice rather than by biological chance.

When a deeper understanding of the genetic basis of variation ensued in the twentieth century with the new science of genetics, selective breeding became a science rather than an art. Breeders still relied upon random mutation for the generation of variation to select from - but they sought to increase variation by stimulating random mutation, which involves subjecting plant seeds to gamma-irradiation from a radioactive source, and then selecting the few desirable mutations from the many damaged ones that ensue. Many of our crop varieties are products of such mutation breeding.

By contrast, GM is artificial variation: it allows us to choose which genes we want in a new crop variety, rather than having to rely on the chance of random mutations in nature or by mutation breeding. GM is a more precise tool for plant breeding.

Anti-GM activists have claimed that GM transgenes are unstable and will escape and contaminate the environment; that GM causes cancer; and that GM transgenes can enter our cells or our gut bacteria. But there is no evidence that GM transgenes cause cancer, or that they are particularly unstable or liable to escape. All cultivated crops can cross with wild relatives; there is no particular risk with GM crops. GM transgenes are no more likely to enter bacterial cells or human cells than any other DNA we eat in our food - and if they do, they don't tend to survive.

It is also often claimed that only large multinational companies desire GM. But many people in the developing world are trying to develop and take advantage of these technologies. When I published my work on engineering GM plants that resist virus infection, a group of scientists in Pakistan invited me to collaborate with them to solve the problem of a serious endemic viral pathogen that was causing them to suffer 30 per cent yield losses in their cotton crop. Cotton and the associated textile industry bring 60 per cent of foreign exchange earnings to Pakistan, and so this loss to viral pathogens represents an annual loss of about US$500million. Using public sector funding, the scientists have recently demonstrated in field trials that GM cotton is resistant to vial infection.

So where is the evidence that the current generation of GM crops are beneficial for neither people nor planet? Modern agriculture can certainly damage the environment: over the past 50 years, the need to increase food production has resulted in the loss of one-fifth of the world's topsoil, one-fifth of its agricultural land and one-third of its forests. One solution is to develop new technologies to make agriculture more efficient. Greater efficiency means less agricultural land is required, and so more land can be left wild.

We can choose which genes we want in a crop variety, rather than having to rely on chance

Current varieties of GM crops include those that are insect-resistant and those that are herbicide tolerant. Both require lower inputs, such as spraying, and so are particularly suited to small-scale farmers in the developing world.

Modern agriculture involves the use of powerful toxic pesticides - including copper, often used by organic farmers - which enter the groundwater and can damage the environment and human water supply. Spraying pesticides requires expensive equipment and protective clothing, and can also damage the health of farmers who have to spray them. Insect-resistant GM technology here offers a biological solution that organic farmers should embrace: the Bt crop varieties, for example, express a natural insecticide that organic farmers have sprayed on their crops for many decades. Rather than using inefficient spraying, the plant is armed against its specific insect pests - for example, in maize, the corn-borer, which leads to infestation by fungal pathogens that produce mycotoxins.

Meanwhile, GM crops designed for herbicide resistance can be sprayed with a safe biodegradable herbicide. Less spraying is required, again reducing equipment and labour inputs. Another benefit is that agricultural land doesn't require such extensive tilling, which reduces soil erosion and allows more humus to accumulate in the soil.

This is just the beginning. The future holds promise for new GM crop varieties with increased tolerance of drought, heat and cold; with improved disease resistance or nutritional value; or as production systems for pharmaceutical compounds (such as edible vaccines for the developing world) and renewable industrial compounds (such as biodegradable plastics). That's why GM technology is of benefit to both people and the planet.

---
Conrad Lichtenstein is the chair of molecular biology at Queen Mary, University of London, and has over 25 years of research experience in the field of molecular biology.

**********************************************

A "Johnny Come-Lately" Intervention

- Shanthu Shantharam, BioSpectrum (India), July 13, 2004
http://www.biospectrumindia.com/content/columns/10407131.asp

'The ICMR paper on GM foods lacks scientific aptness.' (see below)

It is a welcome sign that the country's premier medical research body, Indian Council for Medial Research (ICMR) has woken up from its slumber to publish a "draft" position paper on how GM foods should be regulated. The question is where had they been all these years when controversies about the food safety of GM crops have been raging and when the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) and the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) were struggling to develop regulatory standards to determine the allergenicity and toxicity of Bt-cotton and many other GM crops that have come under their purview. May be they were there, but no one noticed.

It is really curious that the draft document does not mention anyone in authority at ICMR and nor is there a clue whether the document had been whetted by other ministries who have an interest in the subject. There is also no indication as to whom to contact at ICMR regarding the document's contents. Certainly, there is no indication that there were any wide-ranging stakeholder consultations before drafting the paper. Business as usual?

The position paper cannot seem to distinguish between market dominance and market monopoly, and goes on to talk senselessly about how certain biotech companies will control the food chain and how small farmers will be denied access to the technology. These kinds of socio-economic concerns do not belong in the realm of ICMR's competence and should not have been dealt with in such a cavalier manner. This is a good example as to why a regulatory authority of any technology should not be in-charge of judging socio-economic impacts of a technology. They should be left to real experts who live and work in the academia and without a doubt will be finally decided by the market place once the technology products hit the market.

The document asserts a regulatory role for ICMR in assessing the food safety of GM foods, but do they know that RCGM and GEAC are already doing it by the seat of their pants? Does the ICMR know a new report on regulatory reforms has been submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture by MS Swaminathan panel? ICMR seems to know not! Scientifically the document is inept at best, throws up the much hackneyed "genetic pollution", have no knowledge of the fact that there has not been any observed field based resistance to Bt-toxin and certainly is oblivious to the fact that GM pollen has not destroyed any biodiversity. Wonder why all these seemingly environmental issues needed to be brought forth in a document that purports to deal with GM food safety?

Surprisingly, it does not talk of any international standards used for assessing food safety. The document suggests that available biochemical, toxicological and molecular techniques are not sensitive enough to assess health risks is a clear betrayal of lack of any information and knowledge of the subject matter on the part of the author(s) of the document. It is appalling that such an important paper as the one dealing with the regulation of GM foods be published by a premier body like ICMR at a time when there is so much misinformation, disinformation, and baseless scare-mongering is going on about the GM technology around the world. ICMR, instead of being a source of sound scientific information and knowledge, in its first document on the subject missed out a great opportunity to better inform the public.

- Shanthu Shantharam, Biologistics International LLC, Ellicott City, MD 21042

*********

> ICMR Wants Overhaul Of GM Foods Regulation
- Indian Business Insight, July 26, 2004

As Genetically Modified Potatoes Show Potential To Cause Toxicity And Rice And Soybean Can Cause Nutritional Imbalances)

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has called for overhaul of safety regulations on genetically modified (GM) foods. It has reported in its study titled 'Regulatory Regime for Genetically Modified Foods: The Way Ahead', results of experiments with GM foods. GM potatoes show potential to cause toxicity. GM rice, soybean and rapeseed can cause nutritional imbalances in consumers. The study observes that 0.1 percent of GM crops in the world are developed for improvement in yield and enrichment of vitamins. It also observes that 73 percent of GM crops are developed for herbicidal tolerance, 18 percent for resistance to insects and eight percent for both. The study cites GM cotton and soybean to show that these crops can develop resistance in target organisms. ICMR has cautioned against intellectual property protection leading to monopoly and exploitation of small farmers.

It has also expressed concerns over related issues like safety of health, genetic pollution and pollen movement. ICMR has suggested development of GM crops that are resistant to drought, temperature, soil stress and pests, crops for eliminating naturally occurring toxins and crops for increasing nutrition and productivity.

**********************************************

The Verdict Is In: Bt-cotton Really Works, Beneficial Every Which Way Look At It†

- Shanthu Shantharam, Biologistics International, Ellicott City, MD 21042, USA. sshantharam@biologistics.us. †

Bt-cotton MECH-162 in India seems to be a hands down winner according to a peer reviewed scientific paper by Bambawale et al in the June 2004 issue of Current Science (Vol. 86: No12; 1628-1633; See below). This research report must be the first independently conducted study by Indian agricultural scientists on the performance of Bt-cotton. It ought to put an end to any more debate on whether Bt-cotton works or not or is it beneficial to farmers or not or whether it yields better or not.

Bambawale et al conducted a participatory field trial with MECH-162 variety of Bt-cotton in Nanded district of Maharashtra spread over 33 hectares of irrigated area under the integrated pest management (IPM) conditions. Compared to other conventional cottons and non-Bt MECH cotton, MECH-162 did exceedingly well in every aspect of its agronomic performance. MECH-162 suffered significantly lower bollworm and sucking pest infestation, took four sprays less of insecticide, and yield increased up to 12.4 quintals per hectare and a net return of Rs. 16,231 per hectare in spite of the initial cost of the seed being higher. (1$ = Rs. 44)

The quality of field data and the rigor of the analysis in the paper speak for itself, and there should not be any more doubts about it. If people still donít believe that Bt-cotton is a superior variety, then it is best to just ignore them and let the technology march on as it will and should.†

The results of Bambawale et al should not surprise any of us who have critically and objectively evaluated its performance in China, USA and South Africa. Bambawale et al findings readily support AC Nielsen ORG-MARG study has reports that Bt-cotton is a real winner. The fact that Bt-cotton planting acreage today stands at almost 900,000 acres is a testimony to its superior performance. It seems Gujarat is one hundred per cent Bt-cotton for the past year.

Almost eighteen Indian seed companies have now sub-licensed the same Bt-cotton technology from Monsanto. Nuzveedu and Rasi seed companies have been authorized by GEAC to sell their Bt-cotton varieties from next year. The competition is hotting up as it should. Competition will no doubt bring down the price of Bt-cotton, a natural market phenomenon. It is believed that these newly authorized Bt-cotton varieties will give a run for Monsantoís MECH varieties because of superior genetic background. The new varieties will be a boon for the cotton farmers with more choice of seed varieties.

One need to ask to why the Bt-cotton acreage is increasing year after year in India, and why more and more seed companies are buying license to get the Bt-cotton technology. The reasons are not too far to fetch. They all have seen on the ground how Bt-cotton works and how the growers are happy to pay for this new technology, and they donít want to miss the opportunity to benefit from it. †

I have no doubt those activist groups who have no love for GM crops will once again criticize this good scientific paper by Bambawale et al as some ploy of private sector, and try to discredit GM technology. So be it. I suggest that anyone who is really interested in the truth of the matter compare the data and reports put out by activists who are trying to discredit GM crops technology and compare it with what AC Nielsen and Bambawale et al have published determine for yourself as to which report is more authentic and scientific. If you donít have the expertise to judge it for yourself, take them to one who does and get a first hand opinion on them. †

The real good news is that newer and superior varieties of Bt-cotton are coming to the market and that is proof positive that the technology works and it is beneficial. What is appealing in Bambawale et al paper was that the study was conducted with farmerís participation and under IPM conditions. This once again proves the point that Bt-cotton technology can be managed efficiently under environmentally safe conditions. Verifiable and authentic results from elsewhere in the world clearly demonstrates that Bt-cotton has substantial and consistent benefits to the resource-poor farmers. The urban myth that GM crops do not benefit poor farmers in India and elsewhere is just that. Eventually farmers will decide what is good for them, and decide they will. It is simply a matter of time, and good technology will prevail and the rest fall by the way side. Hail to Bt-cotton!

---
Original research paper in Current Science (86: No.12; 1628-1637, June 2004) on the performance of Bt cotton in India at
http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/jun252004/1628.pdf.

**********************************************

Green Revolution for Food Security

- Martin Trancik, Checkbiotech.org, July 28, 2004 (via Agnet)

With population growth on the rise around the world, and especially in developing countries, Dr. Gurdev Khush calls for a Green Revolution through improvements to rice.

In the world, 50% of humanity depends on rice as a dietary source. Among the three main crops feeding the world's population (rice, wheat and maize) rice is by far the most important. Of all calories consumed by human beings, 23% are derived from rice, whereby this percentage is even higher in traditional rice countries such as Vietnam, Myanmar or Bangladesh with 66%, 76% and 77% respectively. Rice, by any standards, is important enough to be talked and thought about. It was the main topic of a speech delivered by Dr. Gurdev S. Khush on Friday, July, 16 in Basel entitled "Green Revolution for Food Security: Achievements, Challenges and Role of Biotechnology."

Dr. Khush spent 34 years working as a scientist for the International Rice Research Institute IRRI and retired in 2001 as head of the IRRI's plant breeding program. Throughout his career, his path has been filled with research accolades due to his accomplishments with bettering rice cultivation.

Dr. Khush began his presentation by outlining the challenges the scientific community was facing with regards to rice in the early 1960s. Predictions in that decade gave the bleak prospect of serious food shortages and rice related famines by 1975. The task to assure a more secure food supply had to be tackled from various angles.

The first aspect in this research process was to improve the yield potential of various rice plants. Here, an increase was achieved by the introduction of a dwarfing gene into the plant, causing a greater ratio of grain to rice straw. Research dealt also with the plant's nitrogen responsiveness to fertilizer. This development lead to a considerable decrease in duration of he plant's growing season. An older variety such as Ptb 21 for example, took 180 days to mature, whereas the new IR 44482-9 variety was ready within 95 days.

Considerable attention was also devoted to the fight against diseases, insects or parasites such as the Grassy Stunt, Tungro or the brown plant hopper nymphs. The general aim, of course, was to boost the plant's resistance. With regard to Grassy Stunt, this was achieved by transferring a gene from a naturally resistant variety of wild rice called Oryza nivara. In this case, hybridisation and cross breeding was used to obtain rice varieties that were resistant to insects, parasites or disease.

The combined effect of all these developments was an increase in rice production from around 200 million tons in 1961 to 1500 million tons in 2003. In addition, the higher intensity of cropping, brought about by the multiple improvements to rice, meant that these 1.5 billion tons were produced on an area of 130 mio ha. Using traditional rice plants would have meant that, in 2003, an area of 300 mio ha would have been needed to achieve the same production.

Accordingly, Dr. Khush's interpretation of future challenges takes into account ecological constraints: en ever increasing world population forces farmers to produce even more food, however, this must happen in a way that uses less water, land, labor and chemicals. It is here, that genetic engineering in addition to methods such as conventional, ideotype or hybrid breeding will play a crucial role. Dr. Khush emphasized, "I think genetic engineering is the area that holds the most potential."

In Japan, genetic engineering was used, for example, to create varieties of transgenic rice with a more efficient photosynthesis. In order to accomplish this, four genes from a variety of maize were introduced into rice, turning the latter from a C3-photosynthesis plant into a C4 variety. The resulting enhanced C4 variety was able to increase its photosynthesis efficiency from 25-30%. Since photosynthesis is the mode by which plants obtain energy, Dr. Khush showed how the enhanced C4 variety grew faster, and produced more rice over the C3 varieties - an effect that helped the researchers obtain their goal of increasing rice yields.

In the crucial area of insects and diseases, Dr. Khush noted that genetic engineering is used with the aim to provide resistance against damaging organisms. With the addition of one gene, past results demonstrated that insects and microbes have been able to overcome the resistance. Here, the addition of 3 to 4 new genes to rice seems to promise the best results.

Other aspects of research into genetic engineering that Dr. Khush highlighted dealt with new rice varieties with tolerance to submergence and, on the other extreme, tolerance to drought and salinity. Both drought and salinity are two closely related areas of particular importance. Dr. Khush emphasized, " Water is quickly becoming the limiting resource globally. This is a very big problem, since 50% of the world relies on rain-fed rice." However, Dr. Khush noted how new transgenic varieties have been developed that allow for the cultivation of rice in salty environments, as well as survive periods of drought. Both improvements increase the yield and dependability of rice farming.

Methods of genetic engineering were not only applied in dealing with issues of intensity or efficiency of cropping. They can also have health care implications. According to Dr. Khush, 400 million people in the world are at risk of Vitamin A deficiency. Lately, genetic engineering was used in order to boost the rice plants Vitamin A synthesis. Here, three genes were introduced: Psy and lyc from daffodil (Narcissus) and Cryt1 from the bacterium Erwina uredovora. This new variety of rice is called Golden Rice and was made available in 2003. The research was lead by Dr. Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology's Institute for Plant Sciences (appointed by Dr. Khush to head the vitamin A rice project) and Dr. Peter Beyer of the Center for Applied Biosciences, University of Freiburg, Germany.

Dr. Khush gave an impressive overview over the biotechnological improvements to rice. Research in this area does not represent a mere intellectual or scientific game. There is hardly anything as vital as the creation of secure and improved food supplies in a world where the risk of famine and malnutrition is still painfully real.

Martin Trancik is a Journalist for Checkbiotech, and is studying Law at the University of Basel.


**********************************************

Royal Folly: Small Minded

- The Economist, July 15th 2004 http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=2922728

Prince Charles puts his big foot in tiny matters

Last weekend, readers of the Independent on Sunday were treated to an article warning them over the risks posed by the science of nanotechnology. Authors of such pieces rarely find their words echoing around the globe; but this one did, because it was none other than Prince Charles.

Before last Sunday, only 30% of people in Britain recognised the term nanotechnology. More probably do now. Prince Charles has given them, and everybody else, something new to worry about.

Why is the prince agitating about a broad area of study where the common thread is things that are a billionth of a metre in size? Remove the "nano" prefix and you probably get to the heart of his concerns: technology. Or rather, what he termed in his article the "so called 'technological advances' of recent years".

Over the years, Charles has expressed concerns over genetically modified food, and promoted alternative medicine and organic food (which, fortuitously, he also produces under his Duchy brand). He provoked controversy recently when he suggested that a cancer patient was cured by a regimen of vegetable juice and coffee enemas.

Whether the royal brow furrows in response to technological innovations or contemporary architecture, the prince's theme appears to be a fear of modernity. Innovation has, of course, ensured a longer and less painful life for the prince as well as to the commoners. But progress has probably benefited the peasants more than it has the aristocracy. And change is, on balance, hazardous for the next incumbent of an office built on mystical tradition and continuity.

Prince Charles's adherence to traditional ways is understandable as a self-preservation mechanism, and has served him well when it comes to making biscuits. It does not, however, make him a suitable commentator on some of the more innovative things his subjects get up to.

***********

Prince of Wails

The Guardian. July 15, 2004 http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/opinion/story/0,,1261163,00.html

As usual, Prince Charles displays his ignorance of a subject that is beyond his scope (Prince sounds new nanotech alert, the Guardian, July 12). His comments on aesthetic architecture had the benefits of being an artistic impression. His comments regarding nanotechnology are at best uninformed and at worst dangerous for a burgeoning technology.

As usual the crackpots are jumping out of the woodwork saying how terrible it would be if we don't all live as our great grandparents did. The potential benefits of nanotechnology are huge. Already we have the potential for cheaper computers and televisions, quantum dots etc. Perhaps Charles should talk to his plants and leave the science to people who know what they are talking about.

- Dr Gary Barrett, Maryland, US

**********************************************

The Hope, Hype, & Reality of Genetic Engineering: Remarkable Stories from Agriculture, Industry, Medicine, and the Environment

Author: John C. Avise, Amazon.com price $35, Hardcover, 242 pages, Oxford University Press; 2004, ISBN: 0195169506

An introductory tour into the stranger-than-fiction world of genetic engineering, a scientific realm inhabited by eager researchers intent upon fashioning a prodigious medley of genetically modified (GM) organisms to serve human needs.

From Book News, Inc. "By any standard," notes Avise (genetics, U. of Georgia), "the potential benefits to be derived from genetic engineering range from the trivial to the momentous, as do the hazards." Primarily writing for a lay audience, he profiles a range of genetic modification technologies and their products, explaining the basic science and assessing likely benefits or dangers using a "boonmeter" measuring the societal merit of the particular project on a scale ranging from "boon" to "boondoggle." Monsanto's "Terminator" seeds and attempts immunocontraception for pest species such as rabbits are rated "boondoggles," while GM mice as research models and genetic molecular screening for humans earn the rating "boon." Some 65 separate technologies are profiled in all. Copyright © 2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

**********************************************

Food, Inc.: Mendel to Monsanto -- The Promises and Perils of the Biotech Harvest

- Author: Peter Pringle, Amazon. Com Price $16.80, Hardcover
356 pages, Simon & Schuster; (June 10, 2003), ISBN: 0743226119

For most people, the global war over genetically modified foods is a distant and confusing one. The battles are conducted in the mystifying language of genetics. A handful of corporate "life science" giants, such as Monsanto, are pitted against a worldwide network of anticorporate ecowarriors like Greenpeace. And yet the possible benefits of biotech agriculture to our food supply are too vital to be left to either partisan.

The companies claim to be leading a new agricultural revolution that will save the world with crops modified to survive frost, drought, pests, and plague. The greens warn that "playing God" with plant genes is dangerous. It could create new allergies, upset ecosystems, destroy biodiversity, and produce uncontrollable mutations. Worst of all, the antibiotech forces say, a single food conglomerate could end up telling us what to eat.

In Food, Inc., acclaimed journalist Peter Pringle shows how both sides in this overheated conflict have made false promises, engaged in propaganda science, and indulged in fear-mongering. In this urgent dispatch, he suggests that a fertile partnership between consumers, corporations, scientists, and farmers could still allow the biotech harvest to reach its full potential in helping to overcome the problem of world hunger, providing nutritious food and keeping the environment healthy.

From Publishers Weekly
Imagine a world where yellow beans are patented, aromatic basmati rice has lost its fragrance because of genetic tinkering and Canadian farmers are sued by multinational behemoths because pollen from GM (genetically modified) crops somehow got into their fields and fertilized their plants. You don't have to imagine it: this, says Pringle, is the world we live in today.

A widely published journalist, Pringle (Those Are Real Bullets) paints a troubling picture of the world's food supply. Multinational corporations are able to patent genes from crops that have been cultivated by farmers for centuries; governments of starving African nations refuse GM food they fear is poisonous; scientists hastily publish research that is blown out of proportion by the news media; and "green" activists vandalize greenhouses and fields where scientists are conducting GM research.

Pringle roundly castigates all sides. Scientists, he says, have been remarkably inventive in their endeavors to improve the food we eat, using a gene from daffodils, for example, in growing golden rice with high levels of vitamin A that can help prevent blindness in the undernourished. But large corporations, he asserts, have squandered the public's good will toward GM products as they rushed so-called "Frankenfoods" into stores without adequate testing or disclosure of what makes it different. Pringle gives some glimmer of hope for the future through time-honored methods of cross-pollination, but his main story is of an industry with great potential for feeding starving millions and reducing our reliance on chemical pesticides, but that has instead created a global mess. - Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

**********************************************

Effective and Efficient Use of Agricultural Science, Technology and Research as a Tool for Development in Africa

- September 16 - 18, 2004, Miami, USA

http://www.democracy-africa.org/africando2004.aspx

The Foundation For Democracy In Africa; To discuss how science and technological advances can impact agricultural production and social and economic development in Africa

Agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa remains low. With a population growth rate of 3% and approaching 800 million people, food production has been growing at only a 2% rate. Food insufficiency, malnutrition, unemployment, HIV/AIDS and resultant poverty are the major challenges and realities facing sub-Saharan-Africa today. Cognizant of these challenges, the Head of State and Government of the African Union declared to invest and support programs that will use modern science and technology to reduce hunger through the optimization of Agricultural efficiency (increasing yield / productivity) so as to improve the nutritional standard of living for all the African people therefore reaffirming the commitment to the principles and the objectives stipulated in the Constitutive Act of the African Union and its program Ė NEPAD.

AfrICANDO 2004 aims to support that reality by creating a forum to address the agricultural challenges and opportunities facing Africa. The symposium will promote the use of scientifically sound, efficient, and effective agricultural technology as the first step towards solving Africa's domestic food production challenges. By employing the appropriate technology and strategies over time a growing and robust African agricultural economy will emerge as a major tool for the continents economic and social development.

For more information and booth reservations, please contact The Foundation for Democracy in Africa at:

Tel 202-331-1333; E-mail: info@democracy-africa.org; Website: www.democracy-africa.org

The select objectives of AfrICANDO 2004 are as follows:
* To promote the strengthening of the agricultural related Centers of Excellence, related tertiary and research institutions' research capabilities in biotechnology (including genetically modified organisms)
* To strengthen the institutional capacity of genetic resource banks for agricultural and livestock development and production and promote their establishment where they don't exist.
* Identify strategic agricultural commodities and other key economic and industrial activities for development and production thereby reducing the dependence on exports.
* Establish an information network in the field of agricultural production for food security and trading of commodities between markets and countries.
* To encourage the establishment of trade partnerships and business linkages with U.S. food companies that import fruits and vegetables to the United States and to work with same U.S. companies in the exportation of the horticultural equipment and services to help develop the agricultural industry in Africa


###