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September 14, 2004


Brussels approves GM oilseed rape; EC approves 17 GM varieties; Joining forces to alleviate poverty and hunger in developing countries; Researchers release tree genome database


Today in AgBioView at www.agbioworld.org; September 14, 2004

* Fertilization Program
* Brussels approves GM oilseed rape
* Joining forces to alleviate poverty and hunger in developing countries
* EC approves 17 GM varieties
* Do voters have time to master gene science?
* Researchers release tree genome database

Date: Mon, 13 Sep 2004 19:26:42 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Timur Hyat-khan"
Subject: Fertilization Program

Congratulations to all on Europes rationalized acceptance of GM Seed. I need access to the fertilizer regime for Bt Cotton and maize. This should include Macro, Secondary and Micronutrient requirements. We have these details for hybrid and other seed for many plants through the courtesy of Ms Stoller (Pakistan) Pvt. Ltd.and this includes Nutrient defficiency Guides in full color for various plants (Wheat, Corn, Rice, Tomatoes, Citrus, etc.). Can someone point the way?

Best Regards
Sardar Taimur Hyat-Khan
Khidmat Foundation (Pakistan & Azad Kashmir)



Brussels approves GM oilseed rape

- Daily Times, September 14, 2004

The European Commission said on Wednesday it favoured allowing US biotech giant Monsanto to sell a genetically-modified oilseed rape known as GT73 in the 25-nation European Union.

Monsanto wants to sell its oilseed rape for industrial processing and animal feed. The seed has been modified to resist a herbicide also produced by Monsanto. The Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said the proposal would go to EU governments, which could either approve or reject the proposal by qualified majority.


Joining forces to alleviate poverty and hunger in developing countries
FAO and European Commission forge strategic partnership to achieve development goals

13 September 2004, Brussels/Rome -- The European Commission and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today signed a strategic partnership agreement designed to reinforce their joint efforts to reduce poverty, promote agricultural development and fight hunger in developing countries.

Specific areas of collaboration will be food security, sustainable rural development and agricultural policies, food safety and quality, natural resources management, statistics and information exchange.

At today's signing ceremony, FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf said: "I warmly welcome this new agreement. Only by working together can we address the challenge of reducing chronic hunger and undernourishment, which currently afflict more than 840 million people in the world. Partnerships such as this one are essential if we are to meet the target agreed at the World Food Summit and enshrined in the UN Millennium Development Goals."

European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Poul Nielson said: "The European Commission and FAO are already close partners in promoting development and humanitarian relief all over the world. The strategic partnership we have signed today will further consolidate this long and well-established mutual cooperation and reinforce the quality of our collaboration in the pursuit of a common goal: alleviating rural poverty and hunger in developing countries."

Cooperation between FAO and the European Commission dates back to 1991. It has so far resulted in the implementation of 116 projects with a total budget of approximately 108 million euros (US$131 million). Most of the projects have provided technical assistance to developing countries in the fields of food security, agriculture, forestry and fisheries. In 2003 alone, the EC financed 21 projects for a total amount of 19 million euros (US$23 million).

Since the World Food Summit, convened by FAO in Rome in 1996, the global problem of food insecurity has been drawing increased attention. The EC has consequently increased field operations and activities directly oriented at achieving food security.

Under the new partnership, the Commission and FAO will further enhance policy dialogue at headquarters level and strengthen collaboration, particularly at country level. This will help to bring the country support strategies of the Commission and FAO's technical assistance into closer harmony, resulting in greater synergies and improved efficiency in delivering assistance to developing countries.

Teresa Buerkle
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 56146


EC approves 17 GM varieties
Seventeen GM varieties approved but coexistence decision postponed

- Truth About Trade and Technology, 9/13/2004

The Commission's decision to authorise GM maize seeds for marketing and cultivation across the EU has been criticised by environmentalists. The controversial issue of coexistence has been postponed.

For the first time since the end of the unofficial moratorium on GMOs, the Commission has authorised genetically modified maize seeds for commercial use across the EU.

The Commission's decision of 8 September 2004 concerns the approval of 17 different strains of Monsanto's 810 maize for cultivation in the EU. The parent maize, which was modified to resist certain insects, was approved for cultivation in the EU just before Member States started blocking the authorisation of new GMOs in 1998.

The GM seeds in question had already been authorised in Spain and France and the Commission was thus obliged to extend the approval to EU level. The maize varieties can now be marketed in the entire EU.

"The maize has been thoroughly assessed to be safe for human health and environment," said David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection. "It has been grown in Spain for years without any known problems. It will be clearly labelled as GM maize to allow farmers a choice."

Environmentalists, however, are not happy with the Commission's decision. "The proposals [...] will lead to the widespread contamination of Europe's food, farming and environment and take away consumers ability to avoid GM," said Geert Ritsema of Friends of the Earth.

In a separate development, Commission President Romano Prodi decided to take the controversial new proposal on coexistence off the Commission's agenda on 8 September. The Commission is known to be divided over the draft text, which allegedly foresees a threshold of 0.3 per cent for the presence of GMOs in conventional seeds. "The GMO discussion was postponed as the information available on the economic impact of such legislation was deemed insufficient. The Commission is not likely to return to this issue in the remaining months of its term," a Commission spokesperson said.

Do voters have time to master gene science?

- The San Luis Obispo Tribune, September 12, 2004, By Silas Lyons

Cal Poly Professor Daniel Peterson knows about genetic modification and engineering and such.

He has a Ph.D from Cornell with an emphasis in nutritional genomics, and he recently co-wrote and published a paper about "lipid synthesis in bovine mammary epithelial cells." The rest of the title wasn't written in plain English.

I'm not too worried about Dr. Peterson; he can probably figure out how to vote on Measure Q, the initiative that would ban most genetic engineering and the growth of genetically engineered crops in San Luis Obispo County.

Jeffrey Smith also knows a little bit about creativity with genes. He's one of the world's most vocal opponents of modified crops and wrote a frightening book called "Seeds of Deception" on the subject.

Smith was in town last week and explained to me why I should be scared of most of the stuff in my pantry. He lives in Iowa, but if he could vote here I'd say he's also probably qualified to form an opinion on Measure Q.

A few more scientists and activists out there may be part of that elite club.

That leaves the rest of us.

It's a good thing none of us have jobs, kids, grandkids, in-laws, bowling tournaments, and, well, lives. Because between now and November, we are all going to become experts on gene science and all of the ethical and economic questions that surround it.

It's the only way to make an intelligent decision on Q.

Does genetically modified food hurt you? In his book, Smith suggests strongly that it does -- or at least could. Peterson told me that all the credible research shows it is safe.

Both points are moot, because while genetically modified crops aren't yet grown in our county, they do already fill our grocery stores. Measure Q won't do anything about that.

Q promoters say genetically modified crops will infest our county and hurt the ag economy, since some countries don't buy food that isn't genetically pure. Q opponents say the prohibition will doom our chances of economic development by scaring off biotech companies, and besides, farmers may do better with modified crops, not worse.

Yes on Q: The proposal won't affect biotech companies nor anything within city limits.

No on Q: The proposal has no specific language excluding cities or private labs from the regulation.

Yes on Q: Genetic modification means more pesticides, including the plants themselves.

No on Q: Sprayed pesticides, the most dangerous kind, are reduced by the wonders of genetics.

It goes on.

Is this really what democracy was supposed to be about? Local citizens trying to parse out competing scientific theories and pre-empt federal regulators?

In the purest form, I suppose it is. But in the purest form, we would all vote on the schematic diagram for nuclear bombs.

I respect the Q folks for their grass-roots determination. I just don't think there will be enough people voting on this who studied genetics, law and economics.

More likely, we'll just vote for whichever false choice scares us least -- killer crops or economic disaster.


- Irish Independent, September 11, 2004

THE use of genetic modification will be a crucial element in feeding the world's soaring population, an Agricultural Science Association conference in Waterford was told yesterday.

Humans will consume twice as much food in the next 50 years as in the whole history of civilisation, as the population rises 50pc, but the amount of agricultural land falls by two-thirds, said Dr Clive James of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications.

GM technology was not a panacea or a silver bullet to meet increasing food demands, but it had to be part of the solution, he said.

Some seven million farmers now grow GM crops on 70m hectares of land - 10 times as much as Ireland's total land area - since the technology was introduced on a commercial basis eight years ago, Dr James said.

The US, Argentina and Canada are the biggest growers of GM crops, but around 30pc of all GM crops are now grown in developing countries.

There were concerns about corporate ownership of GM technology, but China was set to become the biggest public investor in such biotechnology.

GM technology had doubled crop productivity in some areas where it was grown and it had a beneficial environmental impact by reducing the need for pesticides to be used, as well as reducing the amount of land that had to be cleared for cultivation and stopping soil erosion.

Dr James's organisation is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to provide biotechnology to developing countries. It is supported by philanthropic organisations, aid agencies and the private sector, including agri-giant Monsanto. The acreage of GM crops grown is expected to increase by 50pc in the next five years, with Russia, Hungary, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Pakistan and Malaysia expected to be major users, Dr James said.

But the industry had done a lousy job in communicating the risks and benefits of GM technology, he said. The most significant pollutant in the world today was poverty, yet GM crops had already helped to increase income in countries where they were used.


Researchers release tree genome database

- Associated Press, Sep 13, 2004

CORVALLIS, Ore. — A database of tree genes has been released by Oregon and Swedish researchers in an effort to speed up basic and commercial research.

The database describes about 102,000 sequences of the most commonly expressed genes in the type of trees that includes poplars, cottonwoods and aspens.

The database will help scientists find specific genes in a matter of minutes — compared to the decades or even centuries it would have taken before it was available, said Steven Strauss, a professor of forest science at Oregon State University.

"This is an important fundamental step toward doing the type of genetic and biotechnology research with trees that we've been able to do with only the most scientifically well-known plants," said Mr. Strauss, co-author of an article on the database in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Genes which are "expressed" in plants or animals are only a fraction of the total DNA in their cells. But they help determine how an animal or a plant functions, such as how a tree forms its bark, leaves, roots and wood, or responds to environmental stresses.

"There's still an enormous amount we don't know about the genetic function of trees at the most basic levels," Mr. Strauss said.

The gene database will help researchers study wild plants as closely as traditional experimental species bred from rice, corn, and Arabidopsis — a tiny member of the mustard family that scientists call the "lab rat" of plants, Mr. Strauss said.

According to the database, nearly all the tree genes were similar to Arabidopsis despite different directions taken during the past 100 million years of evolution.

The database also suggests that genetic engineering of plants would not produce new characteristics, but simply modify existing characteristics, Mr. Strauss said.

Trees, which are among the most ancient plant life forms, have a very complex genetic makeup that has resisted many of the traditional genetic research techniques that are used with other plants.

Scientists say a better understanding of tree genetics could allow them to modify the structure and chemical makeup of trees for a variety of uses, including elimination of pollutants from soil, or the creation of renewable stock for bioenergy and fibre products.