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August 6, 2004


French Food Safety Agency Reports Benefits of Biotech; China Likely To Approve Biotech Rice; Biotech Declaration in Latin America


Today in AgBioView: August 6, 2004:

* French Food Safety Agency Reports Benefits of Biotech to Human Health
* China Likely To Approve Biotech Rice
* Opposition to Agricultural Biotech Is the Biggest Pest of All
* E-mails provide look at face of anti-biotech movement
* A Peek Into The Future
* Political Food Folly -- Putting food on the negotiating table


French Food Safety Agency Reports Benefits of Biotech to Human Health

- FAS Online, Aug 5 2004

FR4033 Highlight: According to a scientific report recently issued by the French government, the French Food Safety Agency (equivalent to the FDA in the United States), has come up with definite conclusions indicating that, under certain circumstances, biotech crops can be beneficial to human health. The reports explicitly says that the production of new crops that are resistant to insects would have a doubly positive impact on both farmers and consumers’ health by lowering their exposure to pesticides and to mycotoxins.

The entire text of the French Food Safety Agency report can be found on:


From: Ray Shillito
Date: August 6, 2004

It is interesting that a number of questions and suggestions posed by the NAS study are already being addressed by ILSI.

There is a recent publication on the safety assessment of nutritionally improved crops.

An updated version (Version 2.0) of the ILSI Crop Composition Database is now available on the Internet at [ http://www.cropcomposition.org ]www.cropcomposition.org. The database was developed by a task force of the ILSI International Food Biotechnology Committee. The task force was comprised of representatives from six agricultural biotechnology companies who agreed to share their data on crop composition.

In April 2004, an ILSI document, Nutritional and Safety Assessments of Foods and Feeds Nutritionally Improved through Biotechnology, prepared by a Task Force of the ILSI International Food Biotechnology Committee was published in an on-line journal, Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. The document is available free to the public at: http://www.ift.org/pdfs/crfsfs/crfsfsv3n2p0035-0104ms20040106.pdf as a PDF downloadable file. The Executive Summary was published in the March 2004 issue of the Journal of Food Science.

In addition, the International Life Sciences Institute published a document that provides guidelines to scientists on how to conduct animal studies to evaluate crops genetically modified for input traits, which protect the crop from disease or insect damage or that provide tolerance to herbicides. This publication, which was developed in collaboration with the Federation of Animal Science Societies (FASS), includes protocols on how to produce, handle, store, and process transgenic crops; sample and analyze the harvested and processed crop; design and conduct livestock and poultry studies; and analyze and interpret the results.

A number of organizations, ISO included, are working on harmonization of methods of analysis.


China Likely To Approve Biotech Rice

- USAgNet - 08/06/2004

Reports say China will likely approve the planting of biotech rice in the next couple years. This will potentially set off a global rush for genetically modified crops, including wheat, the author of a report on Chinese agriculture said.

Biotech versions of rice and wheat are not on the market, although research has begun in several countries. Monsanto Co., said in may it would not introduce the world's first biotech wheat because of widespread opposition to altering a key food crop.

Scott Rozelle, an agricultural agronomist at the University of California - Davis who focuses on China's farm sector, said China was in the fifth year of field trials of biotech rice. "We're fairly confident that, within one or two years, they will commercialize insect-resistant rice," Rozelle said at a presentation sponsored by the International Institute on Economics.

Opposition to Agricultural Biotech Is the Biggest Pest of All

- San Jose Mercury News, August 6, 2004, By Henry I. Miller

California is under attack by terrorists. Not political, but biological
ones: glassy-winged sharpshooters, leaf-hopping insects that are among the state's most insidious agricultural pests. They carry Pierce's disease, a lethal bacterial infection of grape vines and other major crops, for which there is no cure. Although there are technological fixes that could protect California's agriculture, local anti-biotechnology referendum measures and federal regulations are making them unavailable.

The infestation, which has been creeping northward inexorably from Mexico, threatens the San Joaquin Valley's 800,000-acres of table, raisin and wine grapes and has been found in Santa Clara, Monterey and Solano counties.

Inevitably, the premier winemaking regions of Napa and Sonoma will be next. A January 2004 report from the California Department of Food and Agriculture offered this dire assessment: ``Counting only grapes, the disease now threatens a crop production value of $3.2 billion and associated economic activity in excess of $33 billion. Other crop and ornamental plant resources such as almonds ($897 million) and susceptible species of citrus ($1.07 billion), stone fruits ($905 million), and shade trees are also aut risk.''

Ironically, this peril to California agriculture has been aggravated by federal and local regulatory policies that have been condemned repeatedly as unscientific, anti-farmer and anti-consumer. These policies prevent the newest and best techniques of biotechnology from being applied to the genetic improvement of grapes.

The meager weapons currently available to attack the sharpshooter include the inspection of plants shipped from areas known to be infested by glassy-winged sharpshooters and the testing of potential chemical and organic control agents. In the long run, however, these will fail. As acknowledged by Dale Brown, president of the Napa Valley Grape Growers Association, ``Genetic resistance is where we want to go.''

There are several ways to introduce or enhance the resistance to Pierce's disease in new variants, or varieties, of grape vines. Conventional methods of genetic improvement are notoriously slow and uncertain, and attempts to use the more sophisticated and efficient gene-splicing techniques have run afoul of the Environmental Protection Agency and local regulatory policies.

The EPA discriminates against gene-spliced varieties. Any plant that has been modified with gene-splicing techniques to enhance pest- or disease-resistance is regulated even more stringently than chemical pesticides.

This policy, which has been attacked repeatedly by the scientific community as unscientific and irrational, has badly damaged agricultural research and development. It flouts the widespread scientific consensus that gene-splicing is more precise, circumscribed and predictable than other techniques. New gene-spliced varieties can not only increase yields, make better use of existing farmland and conserve water, but -- especially for grains and nuts -- are a potential boon to public health, because the harveust will have lower levels of contamination with toxic fungi and insect parts than conventional varieties.

Yet the EPA holds genetically modified plants to an inappropriate, extraordinary standard, requiring hugely expensive testing as though these plants were highly toxic chemicals. In effect, these policies impose a hugely punitive tax on a superior, and badly needed, technology.

There is an even worse threat to the use of new, environmentally friendly,
disease- and drought-resistant plant varieties: local referendum issues that ban any cultivation of gene-spliced plants, the prototype of which was the misguided Measure H passed in Mendocino County in March.

These ballot measures, which are introduced and promoted by misinformed, misanthropic activists, are logically inconsistent, in that their strictures are inversely related to risk: They permit the use of microorganisms and plants that are crafted with less precise, less predictable techniques, but ban those made with highly precise and predictable ones. They turn science-based regulation on its head.

Most important of all, they block sophisticated genetic approaches to the eradication of blights such as sudden oak death, phyloxera and powdery mildew, as well as Pierce's disease.

Agbiotech's potential is not just theoretical. A decade ago, an epidemic of papaya ringspot virus had virtually destroyed Hawaii's $64 million-a-year papaya crop, but by 1998 biotech researchers provided virus-resistant varieties that have preserved the industry.

California is just beginning to reap the bitter harvest that activists and regulators have sown. Their anti-social agenda should be exposed, and they should be held accountable.

HENRY I. MILLER, a physician, is a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford and the author of ``The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution.'' He headed the FDA's Office of Biotechnology from 1989-1993.

E-mails provide look at face of anti-biotech movement

- Western Farm Press, August 7, 2004, By Harry Cline

My apology up front for the length of this commentary. It is longer than usual and will be continued to another page. The reason is I received a series of disturbing e-mails from a man who represents a segment of a so-called environmental activist group attempting to ban biotechnology from California agriculture. The e-mails are worth reading if California agriculture is to understand the challenge it faces in turning back this emerging statewide biotech ban battle.

The Mendocino County resident is part of the group that successfully passed an anti-Genetically Modified Organism GMO initiative last spring in Mendocino County and is backing similar initiatives that will appear on the November ballot in several other counties. There is an article in this issue about that effort.

It was a bitter and hateful Mendocino County campaign waged by the elements of the anti-biotech campaign against those who opposed what was called Measure H. Political consultants hired by agriculture to manage the opposition to Measure H said it was an unusually vicious campaign. It was so vile the president of one agricultural organization cut his vacation short because his staff was fearful for their safety in the organization's office because of the hate mail they had received from those supporting the Mendocino County initiative.

California is infamous for its initiative process where anyone can get just about anything on a city, county or statewide ballot to create laws city councils, board of supervisors or the state legislature will not. Initiative debates are often heated and factually distorted. However, seldom have they been as acrimonious as the one in Mendocino County.

Some of the people behind Measure H - which has been called by the anti-biotech group "The H Bomb" - have been linked to destruction of student crops at UC Davis several years ago in a failed attempt to destroy biotech crops. They have been compared to PETA, the animal rights group with a reputation for violence. I believe it from the e-mails I received.

One comment before the e-mails. I interviewed Doug Mosel, a leader of the Mendocino County measure who will be playing a key role in the other initiatives. The man who wrote the following e-mails copied Mosel, who fervently and without hesitation apologized for the e-mails. He called them personal, inappropriate diatribes.

In interviewing Mosel, it was obvious he is sadly ill informed about agricultural biotechnology. While passionate and argumentative about his cause, however, he was courteous and respectful of people of differing opinions. He knows the e-mail writer, Jack Hayward II, as a fellow Mendocino County resident who joined the anti-biotech effort late in the campaign. However, Mosel said he does not represent the proponents of the anti-biotech movement. Nevertheless, he is part of the movement and that is troubling.

Let me set the stage for the e-mails.

I attended a grape field day in Madera County where UCCE farm advisor George Leavitt commented about biotechnology research in Australia that may genetically improve the powdery mildew resistance in varietals highly susceptible to powdery mildew. However, Leavitt said getting such technology into California would be impossible if the anti-biotechnology group succeeded in its statewide effort to ban plants that had been genetically modified.

I wrote a small article that first appeared on the Farm Press Web site and Farm Press Daily. My e-mail address was on both. The article is also in this edition of this Western Farm Press. It was a news article, not a commentary. The following is a series of e-mail exchanges between me and Hayward about the article he read on-line.


"Do you really think that all your money and all your lies are going to stem the tide that is running against the continued untrammeled contamination of the earth by the bio-tech corporations and industry?

Environmental radicals include folks across the political spectrum as you perfectly well know, neighbors, friends, people who are coming to trust one another more and more in face of the cancerous nature of big business in the world today.

Don't you people have children or grandchildren? Do you feel good about the world your brainwashed greed will leave them?


Jack Hayward II


Yes, I have children and grandchildren and I pray for the day when my 16-year-old granddaughter does not have to inject herself with insulin every day because a biotech corporation perfects a way to put insulin in the egg whites of chicken eggs so she can get the daily insulin she needs to stay alive from eating a pair of healthy eggs each morning rather than injecting a needle into her stomach every day.


Harry Cline Editor
Western Farm Press


"Oh, please, spare me the sanctimony. And don't hide global fascist greed behind your poor granddaughter. Didn't you take simple logic in school? Do none of you industry and corporate people?

What your granddaughter needs can be developed in secure laboratory conditions. In the laboratory, where all such radical experimentation, Dr. Frankenstien sp. , must take place before corporate and industry interests complete the destruction of agriculture set in motion by the agribusiness and petrochemicals industries.

Biotech is corporate not science, stupid, says a sign I carry at demonstrations. The interests of human kind and the natural world and those of the corporate world are on a devastating collision course.

No matter how dogmatically ingrained you are, if you are smart enough to use a word processor, surely you are smart enough to grasp the simple fact that is so apparant sp. to millions on millions around the world.

Wake the f... up before you bring it all down!"

Jack Hayward II


You have got to be kidding...your "logic" and thinking would have us still rubbing sticks together to create fire and living in caves. Don't bother sending any more e-mails....they don't serve the effort to hit the delete key.


"Soon you will be claiming the corporations created fire, that the First Big Corporation, not God, created it all. Some theology. As for deleting, Snoopy, DELETE you and your masters. Down, boy."

I receive a fair share of e-mails from my commentaries and I sincerely appreciate getting them - agree or disagree with me. However, I have never received anything like Hayward's e-mails and certainly not from any article I had written.

Unfortunately, agriculture must now confront the mentality expressed by Hayward as they are forced to defend biotechnology in an arena where decency is non-existent. It is such an unnecessary exercise. Biotech crops have undergone unprecedented government, academic and corporate scrutiny. Biotechnology is accepted by agriculture worldwide. The barriers erected by the radicals are coming down.

This exercise is not only ludicrous, but scary if Hayward represents a significant segment of the anti-biotech movement.


A Peek Into The Future

- Truth About Trade & Technology, By Dean Kleckner, August 6, 2004

“I never think of the future,” said Albert Einstein. “It comes soon enough.”

Now, I’m not going to argue with one of the smartest people who ever lived, but I will say this: Sometimes I think the future can’t come soon enough - especially when I have a chance to sit back and think about what’s in the “biotech pipeline”.

Incidentally, the world’s most credible scientists are agreeing about the safety of biotech foods. In the U.S., the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Science (NAS), has given a green light to gene enhancement, saying there is nothing inherently hazardous about it. The technique used in developing new foods shouldn’t matter, they say. Safety evaluations should always be there for all ‘future foods’, regardless of the process.

Now that science is saying “move ahead”, let’s take a quick look at a few of the most exciting and interesting developments. Lots of people inside the world of agricultural biotechnology haven’t even heard of them--but they will.

Better health: Japanese scientists have taken genetically enhanced cells from tobacco plants to create antibodies that fight the hepatitis B virus. “Our plant-derived [antibody] has the potential to be a cheap and effective pharmaceutical for the prevention and treatment of HBV infection”, said Dr. Akira Yano, in an interview with Reuters. With the rising cost of prescription drugs, who isn’t happy about that? Pharmaceutical farming--or “pharming,” in the lingo--is in its infancy. It may become one of the great economic and public-health developments of the 21st century. The next generation of wonder drugs won’t be made in labs; they’ll be grown in fields.

Better broccoli: Granted, some people just don’t like the taste of broccoli. The first President Bush famously declared, “I’m president of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!” I suppose that was his prerogative. Those of us who do enjoy broccoli, however, will be glad to know that soon it will be easier to grow. Currently, broccoli requires fairly cool temperatures. A new genetically-modified version can survive in hotter environments. “Broccoli can’t normally stand over 80 [degrees],” said Robert Barham, a seed researcher. “This was almost like going to color TV from black and white. It can take 110 if you give it enough water. It’s amazing.” That means fresher and cheaper broccoli--definitely good news if you don’t have certain presidential taste buds.

Better corn: Just as one team of researchers is discovering innovative ways to help broccoli endure hot temperatures, another one is finding out how to help corn withstand the cold. Maize is originally a tropical plant. An unexpected frost can really hurt corn farmers – ask me about that some time. A group from Iowa State and Harvard is learning how to take a gene from tobacco that will give corn a virtual fur coat--aiding producers in obvious ways, as well as consumers when they review their grocery-store receipts.

Better bananas: Black Sigatoka would be a great name for a villain in a summer action movie. As it happens, it’s not just a figment of Hollywood’s imagination, but a form of banana fungus that imperils one of the developing world’s staple crops. Some 400 million people rely on bananas for basic nutrition because they are rich in vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and fiber. They are also an export crop for nations that don’t have much else to sell in the world marketplace. The spread of black sigatoka threatens all this. So, it’s a good thing researchers are in the process of learning to transfer a rice gene that acts as a fungicide against the deadly blight. Which give me an idea for how our summer action movie can end: The permanent vanquishing of the sinister Black Sigatoka. No sequels, please.

There’s lots more food in the genetic enhancement pipeline that will make us all healthier. What about our enjoyment of life from an aesthetic point of view? How about these examples for starters:

Better golf courses: Have you ever seen a putting green ruined by splotches of thick yellow grass? In a few years, it may be a thing of the past. Research has developed a form of creeping bent grass that resists weed killers. The United States Golf Association has endorsed its usage. The federal government hasn’t approved the grass yet, but when it does, golfers everywhere will rejoice.

Blue roses: You’ve heard the famous poem that starts, “Roses are red, violets are blue...” Well, pretty soon the roses will be blue, too. A Japanese firm has discovered a way to import a natural blue pigment from pansies into roses. It may become commercially available in the next three or four years.

No word yet on red violets. But as Einstein might say, they’ll come soon enough.


Political Food Folly -- Putting food on the negotiating table

- National Review, By Roger Bate, August 6, 2004

India has rip-off drug makers, China sweatshop textile tycoons, southern Africa its mineral magnates, and all, naturally, have different concerns when it comes to World Trade Organization negotiations. But in global public-policy terms, there is one issue that pulls all developing countries together, and nearly everyone in the rich world too — the misery caused by Western agricultural subsidies.

Until 2001 there was little chance of improvement, owing to French and German intransigence and developing-country disorganization. But things began to improve at the 2001 Doha WTO summit and then in 2002 at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development: when developing countries finally agreed to fight the West's protection of its farmers. President Bush's rhetoric extols free trade but his farm bill continues to support wealthy U.S. farmers. Nevertheless, there has been a continual, if slothful, move in among richer countries to reduce their farm subsidies, since issues of food security (which was the main justification for subsidies in the first place) have receded.

But not all food subsidies are so obviously odious. Many subsidies funded by the world's taxpayers are designed to increase access of the poorest of the poor to basic nutrition. For example recent food aid and funding from the rich world's aid agencies to southern Africa has saved millions from malnourishment. However, some countries, such as Zambia, are still being picky about the food aid they accept and are actively harming their citizens.

There are less-obvious subsidy failures as well. Unfortunately, according to Per Pinstrup Andersen, the 2001 World Food Laureate, many subsidy programs are defended on the basis that they help the poorest, but instead often just help the middle classes. I first spoke to Dr. Andersen in 2002, and I recently spoke with him again.

Dr. Andersen, who has worked on food-policy issues for 32 years, says that in the early 1990s the Egyptian government spent 25 percent of its annual budget on providing food either for free, or very cheaply, to the poor. But the subsidy rolled into the pockets of well-off farmers and other middlemen, meaning the poor gained little from the program. Andersen and other policy experts encouraged the Egyptian government to redirect the funds, so now the subsidies are at a far lower overall level and the poor have greater access to food. For this and other work Andersen won the World Food Prize.

However, the problem of allocating funds to the correct people is sometimes the death knell of programs. Under pressure from Andersen, the Colombian government's allocation was successfully retargeted away from special interests and towards the poor. But the program was cancelled when the politicians responsible for it changed portfolio. Andersen says that owing to this experience he now reluctantly endorses programs where some political constituency (like farmers) benefits by extending the subsidy.

In 2002 Andersen was concerned that the Zambian president decided not to allow genetically modified food aid. At the time, agriculture minister Mundia Sikatana said, "In view of the current scientific uncertainty surrounding the issue...[the] government has decided to base its decision not to accept GM foods in Zambia on the precautionary principle." Andersen said that the Zambian government was being "unreasonable" since the government has been using the food to feed Angolan refugees in the country. Today he still believes this to be the case.

The refusal sparked a fierce debate in the capital, Lusaka, with opposition politicians coming out against the decision. Thousands of tons of American food aid were removed from the country — aid workers were taking food away from the mouths of starving children. This was just one more example of the folly of the "precautionary principle," and how it is killing poor people in Africa.

When I spoke with the head of U.S. Agency for International Development, Andrew Natsios, in 2002 he dismissed any notion that the Zambians had made the right choice. He was clear: "it's their choice to make, but we've been eating and shipping this food around the globe for seven years, there is no real risk." Furthermore, he had offered the Zambians wheat and sorghum. Unlike American corn, which is not separated between non-GM and GM, GM-free wheat and sorghum could have been provided, but "they wanted corn," said an obviously exasperated Natsios.

So the Zambian government demanded corn when there were alternatives, later decided not to accept it, so harming hundreds of thousands of severely malnourished people. Back then I said that "President Levy Mwanawasa does not yet have the dastardly track record of his southern neighbor, Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, but many more policy decision like this and he will deserve the same international opprobrium." Today he does deserve the disdain of international media and especially his own people, since perhaps as many as 20,000 Zambians died as a result of his policies.

Subsidies, and especially food aid, have their place, but they are often captured by vested interests, or emasculated by crazy policy decisions. In the past ten years over 14 billion GM meals have been eaten by Americans with no ill effect. But in the perverse world of public policy that hasn't mattered a great deal. The forces of stupidity and malign political self-interest continue to hold sway in many parts of Africa, undermining the good work their politicians are doing to reduce Western agricultural subsidies.


- CropBiotech Update, August 6, 2004

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) has added India to its network of Biotechnology Information Centers (BICs) located in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. ISAAA's network of BICs and institutional links in the developing world comprises the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology (KC), the core center being based at the ISAAA Southeast Asia Center in the Philippines.

ISAAA believes that knowledge sharing activities in crop biotechnology in India would allow India to share with the rest of the world its experiences in this area. The potential for the technology and the resulting economic, environmental and social benefits in India is enormous and promotion of first hand experience could serve as powerful example for other developing countries.

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has agreed to co-host the India Office at its liaison office in New Delhi. Its first major project is the international conference on “Agricultural Biotechnology Ushering in the Second Green Revolution” to be held jointly with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the MS Swaminathan Foundation from August 10-12, 2004. For more information on the India knowledge sharing initiative, email knowledge.center@isaaa.org. Details of the international conference can be viewed online at http://www.ficci.com/


- CropBiotech Update, August 6, 2004

Swarna Bharat Biotechnics Private Ltd (SBBPL), in Hyderabad, India, a consortium of seven Indian seed companies, has received licenses for two genes derived from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which protect cotton against bollworm and tobacco caterpillar.

P. Janaki Krishna of the Biotechnology Unit, Institute of Public Enterprise in Hyderabad, India, reported in the Information Systems for Biotechnology News Report that the genes are licensed from the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow, India, over a three year period and a royalty of three percent. SBBPL will also likely to get license for a third gene (LecGNA 2) that directs production of lectin, a protein lethal to sucking pests such as aphids, from the publicly funded Centre for Plant Molecular Biology (CPMB), Osmania University, Hyderabad, India.

Krishna added that the consortium's aim is to toward self-sustaining agribiotech development. The profit generated by public sector institutes through licensing will help support reinvestment in developing more agri-biotech products to serve local needs. The technology access fee will be shared by members of the consortium. In addition, Indian partners help with the regulatory process to obtain product approval.

See the full article online at http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2004/news04.aug.html#aug0405. Contact P. Janaki Krishna at jankrisp@yahoo.com.


- CropBiotech Update, August 6, 2004

Participants of the 5th Latin American and Caribbean Meeting on Agricultural Biotechnology (REDBIO 2004) declared their support for the responsible and rational use of biotechnology to improve the quality of human life. In the participants' declaration of support, they mentioned the need to use the applications of biotechnology in the context of a sound regulatory framework.

Other concerns that countries needed to address were the following: strengthen communication efforts across various sectors of society, particularly in disseminating the benefits of the technology; foster greater investment in biotechnology especially in the access, development and validation of technological packages; and highlight the need for a critical mass of scientists in the biological sciences.

For the full declaration in Spanish, visit http://www.redbio.org/rdominicana/redbio2004rd/Memoria_REDBIO_2004/index.htm


- CropBiotech Update, August 6, 2004

Uganda's outgoing minister for agriculture, animal industry and fisheries, Dr. Wilberforce Kisamba-Mugerwa, has challenged the country's parliament to pass the national biosafety law to facilitate the use of biotechnology to ease problems faced by the country's agriculture sector.

Speaking to reporters in Kampala, Kisamba who has been appointed to head Ethiopia-based International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR), said delay in passing the law has hindered the introduction of Bt cotton and other genetically improved crops into the country. He lamented that two government projects aimed at improving banana and cotton productions in the country have been put on hold due to lack of biosafety regulations.

Meanwhile, the executive director of Kampala-based Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), Mr Godber Tumushabe, has urged the business community in East Africa to take keen interest in biotechnology and biosafety policy developments in the region, reminding them that such policies “may in future affect your business”/Kenya Biotechnology Information Center.