Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org ; September 1, 2004
* Community Perspective: "Biotech...Target of Self-Appointed Judges"
* A Voice for Agriculture
* Movement to Ban Modified Crops Stems From Industry's Refusal..
* Stallman: Biotech An Essential Tool for Farmers
* Thailand Cabinet Overturns GMO Approval
* ...... Preparing for a GM Future
* ..... Kingdom Must Embrace GM Research
* ..... Be Reasonable about Genetically Modified Foods
* Success Story of Transgenic Virus-Resistant Papaya
* India: Government to Promote GMO Crops
* Bt Maize and Mycotoxins, A Second Documentation
* Would You Like Rat Hair With Your Toast, Sir?
Community Perspective: "Biotech researchers...targets of the arrogant
and self-appointed judges"
- Editorial, Ka Leo O Hawaii (U. Hawaii); August 31, 2004
Honolulu -- On Aug. 4, U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra ruled in
favor of Earthjustice in their pursuit of the locations of
Genetically Modified Organism field trials here in Hawaii. All
biotech researchers, farmers and others involved with biotech field
tests should be concerned about this ruling. It has the potential to
make them all targets of the arrogant and self-appointed judges,
juries and executioners of "environmental correctness" from
EarthFirst! and the Earth Liberation Front.
Having failed to convince the public to fear the genetically modified
foods Americans have been eating without incident for over ten years,
the lawyers of Earthjustice sued to pry loose information which just
happens to be useful to the eco-terrorist groups that criminally
destroy crops, livestock and agricultural property. Judge Ezra's
ruling, which orders the identification of locations where
genetically-modified produce is being field tested, will provide a
ready-made target list to the activists of theR ELF and EarthFirst.
One need only look at the Web sites maintained by these groups to see
their agenda. Earthfirst "take(s) inspiration from Luddites," and
openly promotes criminal sabotage to rollback the industrial
revolution. They believe in a "deep ecology" philosophy in which
humans are less than equal to other species such as slime molds,
nematodes, mosquitoes, cockroaches and snakes. They even consider
"Unabomber", Theodore Kaczynski, to be a political prisoner.
The Earth Liberation Front proudly takes credit for "dozens of
actions resulting in close to $100 million in damages." Their
favorite arson targets are university researchers' labs and offices,
car dealerships, McDonald's restaurants, farms and forestry. Here is
a partial list of crimes against biotech research selected from the
hundreds of attacks proudly displayed on their Web site:
On Jan. 29, 2002, the ELF claimed responsibility for a $250,000 arson
fire at the University of Minnesota's Microbial and Plant Genomics
Research Center. They also claimed responsibility for the sabotage,
on the same day, of construction equipment at a biotech plant being
built for Jackson Labs, an animal testing business in Fairfield,
On June 10, 2001, ELF sabotaged the University of Idaho biotechnology building.
On May 21, 2001, ELF burned an office and a fleet of 13 trucks at
Jefferson Poplar Farms in Clatskanie, Oregon. ELF simultaneously
burned down the office of Toby Bradshaw, a biology professor at the
University of Washington. Total damages for both sites exceeded $5
On Feb. 20, 2001, ELF claimed responsibility for a fire at a research
cotton gin owned by Delta & Pine Land, a firm "accused" of ties to
Monsanto's genetically engineered seed program. Damages were
estimated at $700,000.
On July 21, 2000, in Rhinelander, WI, ELF targeted the U.S. Forest
Service -- Forest Biotechnology Laboratory. ELF cut down thousands of
experimental trees, mostly poplars, and spray-painted vehicles
causing $1 million damages in crop destruction and vandalism.
On Dec. 31, 1999, ELF activists torched the offices of Catherine Ives
in Agriculture Hall at Michigan State University. The offices were
doused with gasoline and set afire. According to local newspapers,
the fire caused some $900,000 in damage.
The USDA has until Nov. 2 to convince Judge Ezra that releasing the
locations of further targets would cause irreparable damage to
Hawaii's biotech industry. Since the past is the clearest indicator
of the future, this list of criminal actions claimed by ELF should be
a good starting point towards proving the potential for such damage.
If he fails to reverse his decision, I recommend beefing up the fire
department near all of the newly identified test sites and near the
University of Hawaii Manoa and UH HiRlo campuses.
A Voice for Agriculture
'SLO County Farm Bureau director speaks out for growers, ranchers as
winds of change blow through the fields'
- Leslie E. Stevens, The Tribune, Sept 1, 2004
For more than two years, Jackie Crabb, executive director of the San
Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau, has been in charge of the county's
largest and oldest ag membership organization. In that time, the Farm
Bureau has been buffeted by several changes in the agricultural
The bureau lost its long-term tenant when Farm Supply moved to its
new headquarters on Tank Farm Road in July, and mounting urban
pressures and new technologies have brought new restrictions and
increased scrutiny on the activities of the county's farmers and
ranchers. Crabb also is at the forefront of the local agricultural
community's fight against a proposed ordinance to ban genetically
modified crops from being grown in San Luis Obispo County.
Recently, she spoke with The Tribune about the Farm Bureau's views on
genetically modified crops, urban impacts on farming, private
property rights and plans to lease its neighboring property.
* Why does the Farm Bureau oppose Measure Q, the initiative to ban
growing genetically modified crops in this county?
- Every major ag organization in this county opposes this initiative.
Both the United Nations and the National Academy of Sciences have
issued two new reports saying that GM crops do not pose more health
risks than traditionally grown crops. All three federal agencies --
the USDA, FDA and EPA (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug
Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency) -- reinforce
allowing them to be marketed. We have been eating GM foods for about
10 years now. Almost all health and ag organizations worldwide say it
The other thing is that a county ban is not the way to regulate
anything. (Under the ban) you can't grow a GM vegetable in San Luis
Obispo County, yet neighboring counties can grow it and bring it in
and sell it here. GM crops are federally regulated just like
traditionally grown crops. A local ban is just not workable. The
local biotech folks also are really concerned. From their
perspective, the initiative will impact them, and county counsel
agreed. It also sends a message that we are a county that is not
* What about support for the ban by some of the county's organic
growers who are worried that drift from nearby GM crops could
contaminate their fields?
- Only about 1 percent of crops in the county are grown organically.
Those growers are bound by their certification not to grow GM crops.
You create buffer zones with your neighbors that depend on distance,
times you grow and when the crops pollinate. Crop co-existence is
nothing new, whether you are an organic grower or you are growing a
pure brand of seed. We feel we can create effective buffer
regulations if those crops ever come to our county. It is something
we have been successfully doing for some time.
The ag community was disappointed they were not approached to create
a collaboration to fashion guidelines for growing GM crops. We do not
want to see organic farms destroyed, but if the technology is there,
you are taking away other growers' rights with this ban who may want
to use this technology. We look at these things on a case-by-case
basis, the same as we do with property rights issues.
California Movement to Ban Modified Crops Stems From Industry's
Refusal to Inform The Public
- Paul Holmes, PR Week US, August 30, 2004
Agricultural interests in California are finally waking up to a
potential threat to their ability to do business in the state - a
threat largely of their own making. Two California counties have
already passed measures banning genetically modified crops, citing
their desire to protect organic crops from contamination, and the
issue will be on the ballot in four additional counties this
November. Agricultural interests are concerned about any regulation
that tells them what they can and can't grow, while others worry that
a biotech ban will simply confirm preconceptions about an anti-tech,
anti-business bias in California. So groups like the California
Cattlemen's Association, the California Rice Commission, and the
National Farm Bureau are mobilizing against the initiatives.
The attempt to outlaw genetically modified crops at the local level
is bad science and bad policy. It's bad science because much
evidence shows that fears about modified crops are misguided. In
reality, the scientific consensus on biotech is as broad as the
scientific consensus on evolution or global climate change.
(Yes, I know that forces suspicious of science still deny the
existence of both, which is why we need a bipartisan push to promote
the idea that empirical data should trump dogma in the policy arena.)
It's bad policy for both pragmatic and humanitarian reasons.
Pragmatically, if such crops do have any harmful consequences, they
are unlikely to respect county borders. On the humanitarian front,
opponents of genetically modified foods have put their own narrow,
anti-corporate interests ahead of the rather more pressing interests
of starving people the world over.
But it's also a natural consequence of the biotech industry's refusal
- in which the agricultural community has been complicit - to address
worries about this new technology. The industry has had more than a
decade to educate the public about these crops. Instead, it has acted
as if earning the acceptance of the scientific and political elite
was sufficient, that wider consumer concerns could be ignored or
That was the attitude that got Monsanto and other biotech companies
into trouble in Europe, where popular protests undermined government
support for the technology. Now it's creating a problem in
California, where local councils are stepping in to fill the
regulatory void left by federal authorities, and environmental
activists have filled the information vacuum created by industry
The industry has even opposed suggestions that biotech foods should
be labeled - a measure that would begin to destigmatize the
technology - to counter charges that it has been introduced into the
food supply by stealth. If biotech and agriculture companies want
people to make sensible choices, they'll have to trust them with more
- Paul Holmes has spent the past 17 years writing about the PR
business for publications including PRWeek, Inside PR, and Reputation
Management. He is currently president of The Holmes Group and editor
Stallman: Biotech An Essential Tool for Farmers
- Aberdeen American News (SD), August 27, 2004
Access to agricultural biotechnology is essential to improving the
profitability and productivity of America's farmers and ranchers, and
this valuable farming tool should be defended against actions
proposed by anti-biotech ballot initiatives, according to the
president of the nation's largest farm organization.
During a grassroots meeting of Farm Bureau members and others
involved in an effort to defeat the anti-biotech Measure D in Butte
County, Calif., American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob
Stallman said that farmers must have continued access to agricultural
"America's farmers are the world's most productive," Stallman said.
"Each U.S. farmer produces food and fiber for 144 people, both here
and abroad. Access to biotechnology is essential to this high level
of productivity, which is the basis of our nation's strength and food
Stallman, a rice producer from Texas, said anti-biotech groups -
which have failed at furthering their agenda on the national level -
are initiating local biotech bans, such as Measure D in Butte County,
which is up for a Nov. 2 vote. "Local biotech bans threaten
agricultural production one county at a time," Stallman told
attendees at a "No On D" rally. He also called on members of the
Butte County Farm Bureau to talk with their friends and neighbors
about what biotechnology means on their farms.
"You are activists for agriculture," Stallman said.
Debunking a misconception about biotechnology, Stallman said many top
foreign markets for U.S. ag products have readily embraced
biotechnology, including Japan, China, Canada and Mexico.
Stallman also told the group that "research conducted by scientific
bodies around the world strongly supports biotechnology." He cited
recent studies by the National Academies and the National Research
Council, which conclude that there is no reason to believe that
biotech foods pose a greater threat to human health than conventional
foods. In addition, Stallman said these scientific institutions
reported that there have been no documented cases of adverse health
effects that could be attributed to consumption of foods enhanced
The United States is the leader in planting biotech crops. Around the
world, 7 million farmers in 18 countries have planted crops derived
Thai Cabinet Overturns GMO Approval
- Trirat Puttajanyawong, Reuters, August 31, 2004
Bangkok - Thailand's cabinet decided on Tuesday to keep a three-year
ban on planting crops using genetically modified organisms (GMO),
overturning a decision by a panel chaired by Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra. Instead, it decided to set up a panel to hear the
arguments for and against GMO crops from state agencies and biotech
lecturers at all Thai universities, Science Minister Korn Dabbaransi
"We will have academics from all universities to hear their view on
three options - 1) to promote GMOs freely in Thailand, 2) to allow
the co-existence of GM and non-GM crops, or 3) to ban GMOs
completely," Korn said after the weekly cabinet meeting.
Tuesday's decision reversed one made by Thaksin's committee only
little more than a week ago to allow open-field trials alongside
non-GMO plants. The following day, Thaksin used part of his weekly
radio address to laud Thailand as a country technologically capable
of developing GMOs.
"If we don't start now, we will miss this scientific train and lose
out in the world," he said.
The debate on biotech grains has intensified worldwide, with
advocates saying they could lead to a more secure future for food,
while opponents say they could produce new toxins and allergens,
affecting the health of consumers. Following Thaksin's decision,
anti-GMO activists, including Greenpeace and organic food growers,
went out on the streets to urge the government to reverse its
decision, fearing the country's organic food export industry would be
Anti-GMO advocates said by adopting open field trials, Thailand was
heading towards promoting GMOs freely as the government had no
measures to prevent GM crops from contaminating non-GMO crops. Korn
said the government would not change its GMO policy until a law on
biotechnology had been passed.
Planting of GM crops is now done in government laboratories for
papayas, chillies and eggplants, while imports of genetically
modified soybeans and maize for animal feedstock and other commercial
uses are legal, officials said.
A consumer group reacted warily to the cabinet decision and urged the
government to allow anti-GMO activists to take part in the drafting
process of a new law on biotechnology. "We hope this government
didn't keep the ban because they were afraid of losing their
popularity ahead of the general election," said Sairung Thongplon of
the Confederation of Consumers' Organisations. "We hope it will not
lift the ban after the elections" due by the end of March.
Thailand: Preparing for a GM Future
- Dr Nares Damrongchai, The Nation (Thailand), August 30, 2004
Interested people could not have missed the angry anti-genetically
modified organism (GMO) campaign last week following the announcement
of the government's policy on the issue. Everyone agrees that rushing
into indiscriminately approving all GMOs is a bad idea, though no one
has suggested doing so. Nevertheless, having no clear policy on this
issue will damage the country in the long run, and neither
indiscriminately promoting GMOs, nor instituting a blanket ban on
them is the answer. Here's why:
Opponents of GMOs continue to publicise erroneous information about
such products to scare people. They invented the word "Frankenfoods"
and have released posters of a naked woman connected to a cow milking
machine to scared consumers in the EU. These visual and verbal
attacks never go unnoticed by the media, but they hardly convey the
correct picture to the public.
The recent highlighting of the supposed connection between GMOs and
FTAs (free-trade agreements) is another topic much loved by
conspiracy theorists, despite the fact that GMO policies have been
under study by relevant public agencies and some scholars since
before FTAs became a subject of debate, and even before this
government came into power. Opponents of GMOs and FTAs have pursued a
cleverly laid-out strategy of fear and anger by using guilt by
association: if A is in some way connected to B, and B is a bad
thing, then A must also be equally bad. But a calm thinker must ask
two things: where is the connection, and does it prove anything?
The majority of relevant international organisations, including the
UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Health Organisation,
the American Medical Association, the British Medical Association,
and the International Council for Science, have said there are no
unique risks associated with eating genetically modified foods. After
nearly 10 years of study, there has been no clear evidence to prove
that GM foods are unsafe. They are as safe as other foods. Still,
these organisations have proposed that further research and
surveillance is recommended, which is a reasonable position. After
all, humankind has never studied any food for so long to determine
the long-term effects of eating, conventional and GM alike. The only
exception may be that GM foods are the most rigorously tested foods
and if anything is wrong within our diet, GMOs will likely be the
first to be studied. Surely naturalness is not a guarantee of safety
when it comes to food.
The environmental impact and biodiversity assessment of GMOs is more
challenging. Any meaningful assessment must keep in mind the dynamism
of nature itself and has to be done in the context of a comparison
between GMO fields versus conventional agricultural systems. Numerous
studies have been conducted, including the recent UK farm-scale
evaluations of GM crops (2004). The results were different for
different crops with the same trait (herbicide tolerant crops, in
this case). This reinforces the general conclusion that the impact of
GM crops must always be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Look at the
facts and we will see that the global planting area of transgenic
crops has continued to grow for the seventh consecutive year
(increased 40-fold, from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 67.7 million
hectares in 2003). So wouldn't it be a much wiser idea for Thailand
to figure out how to cope with GMOs in the coming future, including
building the capacity to assess their impact by ourselves, rather
than trying to> close the door and sleep on it?
There is one interesting trade-related argument, though. Some people
say that keeping the country GMO-free will secure our organic food
markets and strengthen Thailand's position in the world market.
Unfortunately, Thailand is already importing GM corn and soybean from
the United States and Argentina among other products, so we are not a
GMO-free country, whether or not we plant them ourselves.
Surprisingly, our current status as a producer of non-GM foods and
our industries are doing fine as far as the GM>/non-GM issue is
concerned. But will our future market be jeopardised? There may be
good reasons why campaigners want us to keep feeding the rich (which
the consumers of organic products generally are) by securing our
organic market while neglecting our own population, parts of which
are still suffering from forms of malnutrition, like iron-deficiency,
that could be prevented by the same technology that created GMOs. But
for now let's look at the facts.
In Thailand, at least three groups of scientists in public
universities and agencies have developed a GM papaya to help farmers
in areas of the country that have long been troubled by viruses.
These home-grown GMOs can help local farmers avoid the use of
ineffective and risky pesticides, allowing an increase in
productivity and at the same time being healthy and environmentally
friendly. They will need to pass rigorous safety assessments by our
own competent authorities, but the current situation has led our
researchers to feel they have come a long way only to find a
political dead end.
Therefore, a total-ban policy will only make things worse. If we see
the appearance of a black market for GM products, it is a sign that
there is a demand for certain goods that has to be managed in a
healthy manner. The spread of Bt cotton (a worm-resistant GM cotton
variety) and possibly GM soybean through the black market in some
areas of the country, despite the existence of our Plant Quarantine
Act, is a prime example that restrictive laws alone are not enough to
cope with strong demand. Brazil, for e>xample, decided to legalise GM
soybean cultivation on a temporary basis after turning a blind eye to
the existence of its black market. This is why we have to seriously
consider a situation in which we coexist with, and properly manage,
GMOs in the near future. Essentially, the recently announced policy
stressed, more than anything else, that this technology is to be
developed under appropriate management and statutory controls. It is
disappointing that public debate over this issue has spent so much
time >and energy arguing over whether we should allow farm-scale
field trials or not. We should allow such trials only after we have
an appropriate and transparent management strategy and
infrastructure, including legal measures on redress and liability.
But to argue that only one act to cover these issues is needed is too
simplistic, like driving a car with an excellent brake system but no
The GMO frenzy will eventually disappear from the news. What will be
left for us after the dust settles is a big challenge over the longer
term. Neither calling GMOs evil and advocating a total ban, nor
waiting for a law to be enacted, will help us. Instead, while making
a serious effort to draft a law, Thailand should at the same time
create a stronger management regime and appropriate infrastructure to
both support our own research and development and to protect our
farming system and industry in the very near future by evaluating all
GMOs on a case-by-case basis.
Both extreme choices ? full-bore promotions and a ban ? are not
favourable in this view since neither strongly encourages us to
prepare ourselves for the coming future (which has already arrived in
part) in terms of management. We should take the middle path and
proceed with caution. The question is not whether we should jump on
the train or not; the train is already heading our way. When the time
comes we should be ready to manage GMOs properly, and be left with
the option to reap their benefits and avoid> their pitfalls. And
that's what coexistence really means.
Dr Nares Damrongchai is a policy researcher at the Apec Centre for
Thailand: Kingdom Must Embrace GM Research
- The Nation (Thailand), August 31, 2004
The government's move to revise regulations on genetically modified
(GM) crops has led to fierce debate on the side-effects of the
controversial technology. Sakarindr Bhumiratana, the new director of
the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) and a
leading biotechnology expert, talks to Pongpen Sutharoj of The Nation
about the ramifications of the new technology.
* Given the public's concerns about the potential side-effects of GM
crops, could you please explain the genesis of GM technology?
- GM technology was developed from hybrid technology that was created
to improve crop breeding. While hybrid technology focuses on
selecting plants' strongest characteristics to fertilise them across
the breed, GM studies the plants at a genetic level to culture the
best genes to produce better, stronger and more productive plants
that are resistant to disease and environmental hazards.
* Despite improvements in crop breeding, what risk does genetic
engineering pose to consumers?
- GM technology has been with us for over a decade now. We've used
the technology to treat diabetic patients by using microorganisms
that were produced through genetic modification to produce insulin
for injection into the patient's body. We use similar GM technology
to produce various kinds of enzymes that are beneficial to the food
and pharmaceutical industries. So, we can apply the same scientific
process for testing GM products in crops that we use to test food or
* Could you please compare the two technologies (hybrid and GM) in
terms of producing better plants?
- We know that people are afraid of genetic engineering, but
theoretically, both technologies can have positive and negative
results. Scientists must first ascertain which breeds are not harmful
to humans or the environment and work on improving them.
* As a biotechnology expert, what do you think about the progress of
GM research and development in Thailand?
- This kind of research is essential here. We need to know about the
technology to prepare ourselves for the future, and we need to
educate people and offer them the individual right to accept or
reject GM products.
* What is the situation in other countries that are exploring the new
- Around 18 countries have already planted GM crops - even in
European countries where healthcare is of paramount importance.
* What tests does Thailand offer?
- We have the National Biosafety Committee, which was set up a decade
ago. It will evaluate the safety of biotechnology products and send
recommendations to related ministries. This mechanism will
effectively regulate the use of GM products here.
* What are the latest domestic developments on GM technology?
- The National Biotechnology Policy Committee is in the process of
submitting a proposal to the Cabinet asking that Thai people be given
the right to choose or reject GM products. The proposal also calls
for new laws to oversee GM crops, from the infant stages of research
to product commercialisation, and the establishment of a
product-testing measurement system.
* In your opinion, do we have to embrace the development of this
potentially hazardous technology?
- If we don't, we will not have enough knowledge to cope with changes
as they come. It is very important that we create our own knowledge
base and technology so that we can make our own decisions on whether
to adopt GM technology.
Be Reasonable about Genetically Modified Foods
- Sue P (Chai Nat), The Nation (Thailand), August 27, 2004
Deejay Songtian's letter on August 23, ['GM crops could be a real
nightmare'] is a real 'eye opener' - a 'wake-up call' for all of us
who have been confused by the scientific evidence regarding GM foods,
which we have eaten for years. Rest assured, now that Deejay has had
a bad dream about GM foods . . . the truth has been shown. Or could
it be that Deejay's dream was simply the result of all the paranoid
media coverage Deejay has been reading lately?
The fact is, people have been eating GM foods longer than most think
and 'low-tech' GM foods through selective breeding and cross breeding
for even longer, so far with no long-term ill effects for approved
products. Science and research are used to approve or disapprove new
products via the FDA.
There was the incident involving GM farm-feed corn that somehow got
mixed into human corn supplies in the US, but this product was never
approved for human consumption. The corn was found to cause digestive
problems in humans - a short-term and non-lethal effect. The reason I
bring this up is that it shows that it is possible to detect and
disapprove products that don't meet the rigors of FDA approval. I am
not saying we should blindly accept GM foods 'carte blanche', but
science should be the determining factor, not dreams or superstition.
Transgenic Virus-Resistant Papaya
'The Hawaiian 'Rainbow' was Rapidly Adopted by Farmers and is of
Major Importance in Hawaii Today'
- Carol Gonsalves, David R. Lee, Dennis Gonsalves; Full paper at
Rainbow is the premier example of a genetically engineered
horticultural crop that made it to market. It is a dream come true
for scientists who wished to provide a virus-resistant papaya
cultivar for the people of Hawaii. But it is also a dream come true
for farmers who had lost so much papaya production to Papaya ringspot
virus (PRSV) that they were "almost broke already!"
Farmers had waited patiently, kept abreast of the latest news from
the scientists, and went to observe the ongoing field tests. One of
the farmers mused, "Rainbow, the only hope." Gonsalves et al. wrote
about that hope in 1998, "Transgenic Virus-Resistant Papaya: New Hope
for Controlling Papaya ringspot virus in Hawaii, then again in 2004,
"Transgenic Virus-Resistant Papaya: From Hope to Reality for
Controlling of Papaya ringspot virus in Hawaii".
Gonsalves, a professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at
Cornell University at the time he helped develop, test, and
commercialize the genetically engineered Rainbow and SunUp
PRSV-resistant papaya varieties, and his wife Carol Gonsalves, who
worked in his laboratory as a volunteer, decided it was imperative to
go beyond the scope of plant pathology in order to measure whether
farmers in their home state of Hawaii would adopt the transgenic
varieties. In this article, we report on the extremely high initial
rate of farmer adoption of Rainbow papaya, based on our survey of
essentially all of the registered commercial papaya farmers in the
Puna area of Hawaii, the Big Island, where up to 96% of the state's
crop (fresh and processed) was grown.
Rainbow is a papaya variety that was genetically engineered to resist
infection from a virus which weakens and eventually kills papaya
trees. Papaya ringspot virus entered Puna, Hawaii's major papaya
growing area, in 1992, and by 1994 all farming areas in Puna, where
up to 96% of Hawaii's papaya crop was grown, had become infected.
Papaya ringspot virus has been credited as the major factor for
production losses in the Puna area, which dropped from 53 million
pounds of fresh fruit in 1992 to 27.8 million pounds in 1997.
Due to a foresight of this problem occurring, scientists had already
developed the Rainbow hybrid and its transgenic parental line, SunUp,
and these were being tested in a field trial in Puna. Rainbow and
SunUp became commercially available to farmers in May 1992, and
provided an opportunity whereby farmers now had a choice to grow
either the susceptible varieties or the resistant ones. Data from our
farmer adoption study on Rainbow show a phenomenally high and rapid
rate of adoption of this transgenic Rainbow variety. Farmers also
were satisfied with the horticultural characteristics of Rainbow.
Additionally, statistical reports show that Rainbow is a major
variety grown in Hawaii today.
Overall, Rainbow has been enthusiastically adopted by farmers and
stably integrated into consumer markets in Hawaii, Canada, and the
India: Genetic Manipulation Will Raise Agricultural Yield
- The Hindu (India), August 30, 2004; Via Vivian Moses
Enhancement of agricultural yield through genetic manipulation is the
only option to meet the food requirements of the growing population
in the future, said E.A. Siddiq, national professor, Directorate of
Rice Research, Hyderabad.
Delivering the 35th Fr. Balam Memorial Lecture on 'Sustained Food
Security: Research Strategies for Progressive Enhancement of Genetic
Yield Levels in Cereals', at St. Joseph's College, he said India had
not achieved food security in the real sense of the term. Physical
availability of food did not correspond to economic accessibility for
all sections because of the low pace of income growth and low
An additional one billion tonnes is required in addition to the
amount of food available now, to meet the current per capita
consumption. Achieving this is not easy because of the declining
yield and because there is no more land for cultivation.
To handle this situation, Prof. Siddiq suggested breeding strategies
such as enhanced and extended exploitation of hybrid vigour,
tailoring of new plant type varieties, identification and
exploitation of still uncovered yield genes in primary and secondary
gene pools, and exploring the prospects of manipulation of starch
biosynthesis. He cited China's successful experiment with rice
(achieving a yield advantage of 15 per cent over inbred crops) in 15
million hectares during the late 1970s, and advocated exploitation of
cytoplasmic-genetic male sterility-fertility restoration system for
wheat and rice as in the case of open pollinated millets.
Development of commercial hybrids in oilseed brassica using
genetically engineered male sterility-fertility restoration system is
a significant advancement in crop improvement research. This has
proved to be a catalyst in extending the strategy to crops where
hybrid technology is still a distant dream for want of usable
cytoplasmic male sterility-fertility restorer sources or where the
hybrid seed production system needs diversification.
A new semi-dwarf (100 cm) plant type of rice is now being tailored
with 7 to 8 productive and synchronised tillers, very strong culm
with upright foliage, and heavy panicles with high grain number and
high test grain weight. Prof. Siddiq attributed his achievements to
the interest initiated in him in genetics, 40 years ago, by Fr. Balam.
Presiding over, the Principal, S. John Britto, observed that this
year was significant for the college, which had been identified by
the University Grants Commission as an institution of potential for
excellence. The college has achieved the national award for spreading
environmental education, he added.
Hunger, poverty and deprivation in third world countries, Fr. Britto
said, could be countered not by thinking of what we can or cannot do,
but by deciding on what we are going to do.
India: Government to Promote GMO Crops
- Reuters, September 1, 2004
New Delhi: The (Indian) govt is planning a new policy promoting
speedy approval of GMO crops to boost yields and feed its growing
population, Kapil Sibal, Science and Technology Minister said on
Wednesday. The policy, which should be in place within eight to nine
months, would also promote foreign and private sector investment in
the biotechnology sector.
"We intend to have a biotech policy as quickly as possible to supply
to the farmers pest-resistant and drought-resistant seeds with high
nutritional values," Sibal told in an interview.
The debate on biotech grains has intensified worldwide, with
advocates saying they could lead to a more secure future for food,
while opponents say they could produce new toxins and allergens,
affecting the health of consumers. India opened the door to
genetically modified organism (GMO) technology in 2002 after years of
trials and allowed Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co (MAHYCO), in which US
biotech giant Monsanto Co owns a 26 per cent stake, to sell
It may take many years for the approval of a second GMO crop. Sibal
said at least seven GMO crops, including rice, potatoes and mustard,
were being field-tested in India. "But these products are six to
seven years down the line," he said, adding that the government would
seek to speed up the approval process for biotech products. The new
policy would emphasise the use of biotechnology to increase foodgrain
production to take care of India's growing food needs, the minister
"By 2025, we will have to produce 420 million tonnes of foodgrains to
feed our population. That means we have to increase our (crop)
productivity twice just to meet the demand of our people," Sibal
said, adding that any surplus could be exported.
India, with more than 1 billion people, produces about 200 million
tonnes of foodgrains every year. Sibal said the government would like
to collaborate with foreign entities in setting up joint ventures for
research and development of biotechnology in the country.
Crop yields have been falling in India since the 'green revolution'
of the 1960s, he said, adding that hybrids were no longer an option
to boost farm output as excessive use of fertilisers had changed soil
composition. The green revolution helped the country lift grains
production by using hybrid seeds, fertilisers and pesticides in
fields that were largely irrigated. Nearly two-thirds of India's
cultivable land depends on monsoons for irrigation.
"If we apply best agricultural practices, we can in fact double our
food production, but that also will not be enough." Sibal said the
government planned to restructure the Genetic Engineering Approval
Committee, which has representatives from the ministries of science
and technology, environment and health.
The government was equally keen to have bio-safety standards in
place, and would only welcome private companies if such standards
were complied with, the minister said. "Biotechnology and bio-safety
must go hand in hand," he said.
Bt Maize and Mycotoxins, A Second Documentation
- Klaus Ammann, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Debate 2004'0822: Bt maize and reduced mycotoxins provoced lots of
comments and additions, which are summarized here, including an
enhanced bibliography, it grew from 500 to nearly 1000 references.
Thanks to all the contributors.
See the previous Berne Debate about maize and mycotoxins under:
Correction: Ustilago maydis, Corn Smut in the US, Huitlacoche in
Mexico are not containing toxic fumonisins. Huitlacoche (or
cuitlacoche) and fumonisins are not related. I was not able to find a
single bibliographical record where any of the mycotoxins in question
was related to Ustilago maydis, but there is a lot of misleading
information on the internet, see for instance:
"Corn smut in the US a disease, in Mexico its a delicacy", but this
does not mean, that the US consider corn smut as a disease because
its toxic, only because there is no real market to sell the infected
cobs which they sell in Mexico for a much higher prize (recently
efforts in this direction have been made in the States). Huitlacoche
(or as a variant cuitlacoche) is caused by a fungus with the name of
Ustilago maydis, its a basidiomycete Ustilaginales, Ustilaginaceae,
the Genus Ustilago (Persoon) Roussel 1806 From the Ustilago maydis
database located and maintained at the Broad Institute at the MIT.
maydis, the causal agent of corn smut disease, has been used for over
100 years as a model system for studying genetics and pathogen-host
interactions. Recently, the fungus has emerged as an excellent
experimental model for the molecular genetic analysis of
phytopathogenesis, particularly in the characterization of
infection-specific morphogenesis in response to signals from host
Mycotoxins: Informative webpages with lots of links:
Just one example on fumonisins: Fumonisins are toxins produced by
Fusarium species that grow on several agricultural commodities,
mainly corn, in the field or during storage. The disease, Fusarium
kernel rot of corn, is caused by Fusarium verticillioides and F.
proliferatum, common producers of fumonisin. More than ten chemical
forms of fumonisins have been isolated, of which FB1 is the most
prevalent in contaminated corn and is believed to be the most toxic.
Fusarium is also important in human medicine
So far the story (the previous debate infos not repeated here) about
the Bt crops reducing mycotoxin contents.
A much wider, excellently documented perspective is given in Gressel,
J., Hanafi, A., Head, G., Marasas, W., Obilana, B., Ochanda, J.,
Souissi, T., & Tzotzos, G. (2004) Major heretofore intractable biotic
constraints to African food security that may be amenable to novel
biotechnological solutions. Crop Protection, 23, 8, pp 661-689
see my comments in: http://www.facultyof1000.com/article/nonpub48839/evaluation
It should be noted that in developing countries the mycotoxin
problems are serious due to infections in the field, but also due to
the serious problems of post harvest diseases.
and finally a link to the enhanced, nearly doubled bibliography, it
contains mycotoxin papers related to agriculture.
Would You Like Rat Hair With Your Toast, Sir?
- Simon Collins, New Zealand Herald, August 31,2004
Don't look too carefully at your toast this morning - American
regulators have cided that it can safely contain one rodent hair for
every 50g of the flour that goes into it.
Your cup of coffee can contain 14 allegedly rodent-sourced
carcinogens. And the canned tomatoes that you might have with your
bacon are allowed up to either two maggots or 10 fly eggs in every
AgResearch food safety scientist Guill Le Roux told New Zealand's
annual food safety summit in Takapuna yesterday that people who
objected to genetically modified food did not seem to realise that
all food involved risks. "You can't have zero risks," he said. "Some
degree of contamination of all foods is inevitable and regulations
allow certain levels which, fortunately for the general public, is
not well known."
New Zealand laws ban any food that is "unfit for human consumption or
contaminated". The Food Safety Authority said the law did not define
allowable levels of contamination. But Mr Le Roux said the US Food
and Drug Administration defined "levels of natural or unavoidable
defects in foods that present no health hazards for humans".
The list on its website is disarmingly explicit. Maggots, for
example, present "no health hazard" as long as they average less than
one maggot in every 250ml of orange juice, two in every 100g of
tomato juice or 20 in every 100g of mushrooms.
Rodent hairs are allowed at the rate of up to one in every 100g of
peanut butter, one in every 450g of popcorn or 4.5 hairs in every
225g of macaroni or noodles. Wheat can contain up to 9mg of rodent
droppings in every 450g of grain.
"Rats get into grain silos and get processed during milling, and rat
droppings get into the grain. You just can't prevent it," Mr Le Roux
said. "Any vegetables and fruit have a certain level of maggots, and
if you reduce the pesticides you'll have an increased level of
He said people who tried to protect their children from bugs by
making their houses into completely sterile environments might
actually increase their children's chances of developing allergies
such as asthma, because they had built up no natural immunity.
Mr Le Roux blamed the media for "distorting" the dangers by giving
huge attention to GM and toxic substances in food. Toxins accounted
for 32 per cent of news stories about food safety in the US, but
caused only 3 per cent of deaths. Tobacco (18 per cent), bad diet and
inactivity (17 per cent), alcohol (5 per cent) and bugs such as
salmonella and campylobacter (4 per cent) were much bigger killers,
but got far less media attention.
NZ was "both the campylobacter and salmonella capital of the world",
with the country's 15,000 cases a year of campylobacter alone making
our rates two and a half times those in Britain and five times
Canada's. "One of the reasons is that we have a very good
surveillance system. Doctors report these diseases instead of just
giving people antibiotics and telling them to go home," Mr Le Roux
said. "But we also still have very high rural contact.
He said all human beings ate "transgenic" food from other species
every day, unless they were cannibals.
"There are other hazards that are more of a problem than the minor
issues associated with foreign genes. I mean, people eat rats. If you
put rat genes in a potato, well, people eat both of them." Sanitarium
finance manager Blair Jackson and Heinz Wattie's spokesman Paul
Hemsley both said their companies did not set US-style levels of
acceptable contamination because they had policies of "zero
tolerance" of contaminants.