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Date:

October 21, 2004

Subject:

Biotech Boosting Farm Income; Combating Hunger; A Precious Instrument; Farmers' Health; Pharms Take Root; Vandana's Outrageous Claim - Crop Hybrids Caused SARS, Mad Cow...!

 

Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org : October 21, 2004

* Study Shows Biotechnology Boosts U.S. Grower Income
* Combating Hunger - US Congressman Nick Smith Speaks Up
* Feeding a Hungry World: The Moral Imperative of Biotechnology
* '04 Technology Award Finalists - Jennifer Thomson and Pew Initiative
* Genetically Modified Cotton and Farmers' Health in China
* Consumers Prefer Bt Over Conventional Sweet-corn - Study
* A Case Study of Bt Maize in Kenya
* Pharms Take Root in South Africa
* GM Foods may be Healthier than Conventional Food
* GM Crops Shown to Decrease Damage to Environment
* Fellowships for Crop Biotech Research
* Any Sweet Sorghum Experts?
* Vandana Claims that Hybrid Crops Caused SARS, Bird flu and Mad Cow!

Study Shows Biotechnology Boosts U.S. Grower Income

- AgProfessional, Oct. 20, 2004,

http://www.agprofessional.com/show_story.php?id=28157

The widespread adoption of six biotechnology-derived crops in 2003 increased farmer income, boosted yields, reduced pesticide and spurred greater use of environmentally friendly no-till agriculture, according to a new study by the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy.

Compared with conventional crops, the study suggested that the six biotech crops -- canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soybean and squash -- increased grower incomes by an additional $1.9 billion, boosted crop yields by 5.3 billion pounds and reduced pesticide use by 46.4 million pounds in 2003.

"Plant biotechnology continues to produce real gains for growers and promotes sustainable agriculture in the United States," said Sujatha Sankula, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and a researcher with the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy. "This new technology has revolutionized agriculture and is creating widespread economic and environmental benefits."

The growers who received the greatest economic gains from biotech crops in 2003 were in the principal corn -- and soybean-growing states of the Upper Midwest: Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota. But there were economic benefits in all 42 states where the six biotech crops (11 different varieties) were grown.

"Whether it was papaya in Hawaii, cotton in Mississippi or soybeans in South Dakota, the benefits from growing biotech crops were significant," Sankula said.

The study updates and reinforces the findings of a June 2002 study by the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy that focused on the same six crops (eight different varieties). That analysis of crops planted in 2001 was one of the first comprehensive studies to document the impacts of biotech crops. Compared with 2001, biotech varieties increased grower income by 27 percent, boosted yields by 41 percent and reduced production costs by 25 percent.

Sankula said one of the greatest endorsements of biotech crops was that farmers continue to adopt biotech varieties in greater numbers. Between 2001 and 2003, the number of U.S. acres planted with biotech- derived crops has increased by 26 million acres. For all six crops, the percentage of acres planted with biotech varieties increased.

Of the six crops studied in 2003: - Biotech soybeans resulted in the greatest reduction in pesticide use, 20.1 million pounds, which produced the greatest economic return for growers -- an additional $1.2 billion in income.

- Biotech corn (especially corn-borer resistant) produced the highest yield gains -- 4.9 billion pounds -- which helped put an additional $258.4 million in farmers' pockets.

- Biotech cotton also led to a significant reduction in pesticide use, 12.9 million pounds, which led to an additional $413.13 million in income for farmers.

- Biotech canola led to a reduction in pesticide use of 152,740 pounds, which helped farmers earn an extra $9 million.

The insect-resistance trait led to highest yield gains by protecting crops from insects. Nearly all of the 5.3 billion pounds of additional production gained from biotech crops in 2003 can be attributed to insect-resistant varieties such as Bt corn and Bt cotton. Herbicide-tolerant varieties accounted for about 81 percent of the additional income biotech crops generated for farmers. This is equivalent to 1.5 billion of the total $1.9 billion economic gain.

The study also indicated that biotech adoption rates will likely continue to rise as new and improved varieties are brought to market. In 2004, a variety of Bt corn that is resistant to rootworm was planted on 3 million U.S. acres - 10 times the level in 2003 when the product was first introduced. In 2004, it is estimated that rootworm-resistant Bt corn increased yields by 754 million pounds and reduced pesticide use by 1.98 million pounds.

Farmers also are increasingly recognizing the environmental benefits of biotech crops because they make it easier to employ no-till cultivation practices, which leave the soil undisturbed and reduces erosion and pesticide and water runoff. Since biotech crops were commercialized in 1996, U.S. farmers have increased their acreage of no-till cotton by 300 percent, soybeans by 45 percent and corn by 14 percent. No-till practices prevent the release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphenre thereby reducing the potential for global warming. Other benefits include reduced fuel use, machinery wear and improved habitat for birds and animals.

The complete study, "Impacts on U.S. Agriculture of Biotechnology -- Derived Crops Planted in 2003 - An Update of 11 Case Studies," is available on the Internet at http://www.ncfap.org.
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Combating Hunger

- Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich, US Fed News, October 10, 2004

Washington, Oct. 10 -- Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich. (7th CD), issued the following column:

Haunting pictures from Darfur, Sudan remind us of how blessed we are and how desperate life has become in some parts of the world. In those countries, burgeoning population, reduced agricultural productivity, ingrained poverty and political repression has led to human deprivation and death. In Africa today, 200 million people are undernourished - in some areas there is starvation. While food production is growing around the world, in Africa it has been declining.

We in the United States can make a difference, but we must better understand the problem. When 80 percent of the population in a country works to produce needed food, there is little money left to purchase goods, including high-protein food from the U.S. or other countries. As countries move from an agrarian society and develop economically, they become better customers. Such has been the case with China's dramatic increase in purchases of American wheat, soybeans, and corn.

New hybrid seed varieties and biotechnology is one area where the U.S. has excelled raising production in Africa. Our efforts are complicated by the need to find different answers in different regions. A recent study by the prestigious Inter-academy Council outlined five major crop complexes in Africa. We need drought-resistant grains in some areas and fungus-free sweet potatoes in others. This requires, as the UN Secretary General has recently noted, a green revolution adapted to local diversity. In 2001,n I predicted this need in my white paper, "Seeds of Opportunity" which looked at the safety and potential of plant biotechnology around the world.

If innovative technologies are to confront hunger and poverty in the third world, scientists who understand local dynamics must lead the charge. They will need access to the best information possible, which is why I pushed forward H.R. 2051 instituting "Plant Biotech Partnerships for the Developing World." The National Science Foundation is now implementing this bill bringing top American scientists together with researchers from the Third World. We can effectively fight hunger by information exchanges that meet real needs in a local context. In South Africa, Kenya and Uganda we are already seeing fruits of such exchanges in the development of grains, sweet potatoes, and bananas that survive better and produce more in local environments. A side advantage is that European involvement with these countries monves Europe closer to accepting biotech products.

As that happens, it adds markets for U.S. products. As stewards of U.S. taxpayers' money, we need better to coordinate and focus U.S. assistance programs. The Foreign Assistance Act specifies 33 goals, 75 priority areas and 247 directives for the several different departments of our government involved in helping the developing world. I held a hearing in June of 2003, with Speaker of the House Hastert as lead witness, to highlight the importance of biotechnology in the third world and to encourage coordinantion among USAID, Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation and others agencies addressing this issue. We must have better coordination and communication within the US government if we are to be effective in feeding the poor.

We cannot solve all the world's problems, but we can certainly make a signal contribution to feeding the hungry though practical, intelligent application of new technologies, close collaboration with third world scientists and better coordination within our own government. In the long run, it helps our international relations and our economy.
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http://vatican.usembassy.it/policy/speeches/speech.asp?id=sp040011

Feeding a Hungry World: The Moral Imperative of Biotechnology

- US Ambassador Jim Nicholson; Opening Remarks

(U.S. Embassy to the Holy See a conference presented in cooperation with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences "Feeding a Hungry World: The Moral Imperative of Biotechnology"; September 24, 2004 The Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italy)

Welcome and thank you for joining the U.S. Embassy and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences today to explore a subject of critical importance to the millions of people in our world who suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Every minute, eleven children below the age of five years die from hunger. Every day, thirteen thousand people die from hunger. Every year, over a billion and a half suffer from hunger and malnutrition. The suffering of so many in today's world of plenty is an affront to human dignity. It presents a moral challenge to people of goodwill everywhere to explore every avenue to meet this most basic need of our fellow man. In short, a hungry world needs to be fed, and biotechnology offers tremendous potential to meet this obligation to our fellow man.

Meeting this obligation is essential because hunger and malnutrition are an affront to human dignity, and the advancement of human dignity is the most basic goal of a civilized world. It is also the foremost objective of American foreign policy, because we recognize that when we commit ourselves to combating hunger and malnutrition, we can make our world more peaceful, more secure. We know that feeding a hungry world today means nourishing the cause of liberty and freedom for tomorrow. Peace, as Pope John Paul II never tires of telling the world, must be built on foundations of truth, justice, liberty and love. And all of these forces compel us to help others meet their most basic needs - and none is more basic than food.

Saint James taught the early Christians that if a brother or sister lacks their daily nourishment, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed, and be filled' without giving them what is necessary for the body, what good does it do? Today, we are called to heed these words and answer that call by sharing with others the nourishment they need to live with dignity.

The United States has been answering that call for over half a century. Fifty years ago, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower launched the Food for Peace program which has provided more than 106 million metric tons of American food at a cost of about $33 billion to more than 150 countries. At the time, he pointed out that "the peace we seek can be fortified not by weapons of war, but by wheat and cotton, by milk and wool, by meat and timber and rice." This response to the world's needs he launched continues today. The United States is the largest contributor to the World Food Programs humanitarian relief efforts providing over half, and sometimes as much as two-thirds, of all food support every year.

Sadly, however, the international community's ability to respond to Saint James' call to assist those in need was imperiled two years ago when anti-biotech activists sowed fear among African governments and convinced them to reject World Food Program assistance provided by the United States. The government of Zambia even ordered food that had been delivered to be packed up and shipped out of the country -- this while hundreds of thousands of Zambians were at risk starvation.

In the midst of this spectacle, some Catholic activists even suggested that it would be better for thousands to die than to risk eating the same corn that Americans have been eating in billions of servings over nine years. This seemed to me quite a long way from Saint James instruction, and it brought home to me the importance of working with the Holy See to promote a clear, science-based understanding of biotechnology so that people in developing countries who can benefit from its promise are able to do so.

Thankfully, this effort has been greatly facilitated by the commitment of our co-host, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. From the outset, the Academy has taken a careful, balanced, and open approach to biotechnology, closely studying the risks and the potential of the new technology, and concluding that "genetically modified food plants can play an important role in improving nutrition and agricultural products, especially in the developing world." The cause has also benefited greatly from the interest and openness of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Council for Health.

A Conference organized by Cardinal Martino of the Council for Justice and Peace last November did much to build understanding of this subject. Cardinal Martino told that gathering that man was called by God to be cultivator and custodian of creation, and was given the capacity to discover the causes, the laws, and the mechanisms governing creation. Cultivating, His Eminence observed, meant "to intervene, to decide, to make, and not to allow plants to grow randomly. Cultivate means to enhance and perfect, so that we have better and more abundant fruit. " Continuing the Holy See's focus on feeding the hungry, Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano participated this week in a United Nations Summit to study the effectiveness of strategies to combat hunger and poverty. In his address to the Summit, Cardinal Sodano similarly urged government leaders to ensure that appropriate technologies to alleviate hunger be shared with the developing world.

At the end of the November Justice and Peace conference, Cardinal Martino pointed out that we have to continue efforts to understand the potential of biotechnology, and encouraged all to do so. We are here today to continue this important work of understanding, of seeking the truth. In fact, we will have the opportunity to hear from some of the most preeminent scientists in the world working on biotechnology and ask them about their research.

We will be able to hear from farmers from Africa and Asia who will share their experiences in using biotechnology and describe the opportunities and benefits it has brought with it. We will hear theological and ethical perspectives concerning how biotechnology should be applied to help meet the moral obligation to feed the hungry and to use our scientific skills, discoveries and talents for the betterment of human kind. And we will hear from the Director of America's Food and Drug Administration regarding the rigorous testing to which biotech foods are subjected in the United States, and how the benefits of this testing can be shared with governments in the developing world. Finally, at the end of the day, we will have a chance for an open discussion with all of our presenters that will help us arrive at a better understanding of biotechnology and how it can help the developing world.

It is my hope that our program today will help inform this debate with sound science, genuine experience, and respect for human dignity. As Cardinal Martino pointed out, God has blessed mankind with great capacity to shape a better world. Through our God-given talents, farmers and scientists throughout world history have improved plants to be heartier, to produce more, and to provide more nutrition. In fact, most foods we eat today did not exist naturally in their current form. Today's scientists are continuing this tradition and have developed another tool to fight hunger and malnutrition that has proven to be safe and effective. With this tool, we have the ability to create crops that resist extreme weather, diseases and pests, and therefore use less water, require fewer pesticides, and can be more nutritious than conventional crops. This strikes me as something that is contributing to the common good. That is why scientists the world over - including in the developing world - have attested that genetically modified foods can be a crucial element in the fight against hunger.

In the face of this potential, some environmentalists, consumer groups and members of churches have challenged the overwhelming scientific evidence on the benefits of biotechnology and have succeeded in sowing fear among some governments in the developing world. Now I don't object to people having the ability to chose not to eat a genetically modified food, just as some people chose to eat only organic foods. But I believe that farmers and consumers in the developing world should also have the opportunity to become more productive, to raise their standard of living, and to use all the tools available to the developed world as they work to feed themselves and people in their own countries. The worst form of cultural imperialism is to deny others opportunities we have to take advantage of new technologies to raise up our human condition. Farmers should be able to decide for themselves whether a new seed generates more crops and income, reduces the cost of their pesticide, and allows them to become more self-sufficient. To do this, they need to be presented with truth, with facts, and I hope today's discussions will help disseminate the information needed to make intelligent choices.

In this effort to build understanding, I believe the Holy See's moral voice on food safety and on the potential of new technologies to help end world hunger and malnutrition can play a vital role in underdeveloped regions. Misinformation and fear can be just as deadly as drought and pests. Lives are put at risk just as much by diminishing people's capacity to feed themselves as they are by war and disease.

To meet the challenge of hunger today, the United States and the Holy See understand that the fight against hunger and malnutrition requires long-term strategies. Sending planeloads of food aid into crisis areas may feed the hungry today, but it does not resolve the deeper issues of permanent food security for the future. Biotechnology is part of the permanent answer. It is not a panacea. Poverty, wars, droughts, disease and other factors that contribute to hunger must also be addressed. But biotechnology does offer a real opportunity to foster the development of all countries, particularly the neediest. John Paul II has stated that technology, correctly applied, offers "a precious instrument" useful to resolve problems of hunger and disease. Keeping this instrument from the world's neediest, I believe, would be a grave injustice. ===

Remarks and presentations of all speakers of this meeting at:

http://vatican.usembassy.it/policy/events/biotech.asp
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Jennifer Thomson and Pew Initiative on Biotech Among 2004 Technology Award Finalists.

See complete list at http://www.wtn.net/new/awards/2004/winners.html

From http://www.scidev.net : In the biotechnology category, Jennifer Thompson of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, was nominated for her research into genetically modified (GM) maize.

"Maize is the staple diet of many Africans, often being eaten three times a day," says Thompson. "Two of the greatest scourges of maize in sub-Saharan Africa are the maize streak virus, and stresses such as drought and heat." Thompson's team is developing GM maize able to resist the virus -- which can wipe out entire crops -- and to tolerate environmental stresses such as drought conditions.

About Pew Initiative - The debate over agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified foods continues to mount as voices both for and against the technology get louder. As the debate is increasingly characterized in the media by the extremes, it has become more and more difficult for uninformed Americans to gather objective and credible information about this rapidly changing technology. The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology was established with this in mind and through its programs, reports, polls and research, it seeks to provide a "safe haven" of credible information to help consumers and policymakers make informed decisions about this transformative technology.

.....The Pew Initiative strives to provide a fact-based neutral platform to provide information from all sides of the debate, distill that credible information gleaned from experts and researchers and convey it to the many stakeholders in the debate. The Initiative's web site provides free access to original reports, issue briefs, poll data, and other pertinent research in an easily accessible format for download and discussion.
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Genetically Modified Cotton and Farmers' Health in China

- Hossain, F., Pray, C., Lu, Y., Huang, J., Fan, C., Hu, R. 2004. Int J Occup Environ Health. 10: 296-303.

This study provides the first evidence of a direct link between the adoption of a genetically modified (GM) crop and improvements in human health. Estimation of the impact of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton adoption on pesticide use from data from a survey of cotton farmers in northern China, 1999-2001, showed that Bt cotton adoption reduced pesticide use.

Assessment of a health-production function showed that predicted pesticide use had a positive impact on poisoning incidence. Taken together, these results indicate that the adoption of Bt cotton can substantially reduce the risk and the incidence of poisonings.
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Agronomic and Consumer Considerations for Bt and Conventional Sweet-corn

- Powell, D., Blaine, K., Morris, S. 2003. British Food Journal. 105(10): 700-713.

In this farm-to-fork trial, genetically engineered (GE) Bt sweet-corn and Bt potatoes were grown side-by-side with conventional varieties in the 2000 growing season at a farm and market in Hillsburgh, Ontario, Canada. The Bt sweet-corn required no insecticides. From an economic perspective, only the first planting had pest pressure high enough to warrant the higher seed cost of the GE variety. The sweet-corn harvested throughout the trial was segregated and labeled, and direct consumer evaluation of purchasing preferences was conducted.

Overall, the Bt sweet-corn outsold the conventional sweet-corn by a margin of 680 dozen (or 8,160 cobs) to 452.5 dozen (or 5,430 cobs). A limited number of intercept interviews were conducted after consumers made their purchasing decision. The majority of consumers interviewed said they were more concerned about pesticides than genetic engineering; however, taste and quality also had a strong influence on purchasing decisions.
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A Case Study of Bt Maize in Kenya

- Environmental Risk Assessment of Genetically Modified Organisms, Volume 1: - Edited by A Hilbeck, Geobotanical Institute, Swiss Federal College of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland, and D Andow, Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota, USA; October 2004 304 pages HB; ISBN 0 85199 861 5; Price 60.00 (US$110.00)

http://www.cabi-publishing.org/bookshop/BookDisplay.asp?SubjectArea=&Subject=&PID=1766

Key Features

* Essential reference for those interested in the environmental impact of GMO's
* Original and unique scientific contribution to this controversial issue
* Written by internationally-recognised experts

The book aims, using the case study of Bt maize, to detail generic approaches to the evaluation of environmental impact of GM technologies. This book focuses on transgenic maize in Kenya. This maize includes genetic material derived from the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which naturally produces proteins that are toxic to some insects. The book explores both the environmental and agricultural impacts of transgenic plants. It draws out general risk assessment guidelines, and demonstrates the need for case-by-case analysis. Although focused on Kenya and Bt Maize, the book's findings and recommendations are relevant and applicable to a multitude of nations and GM crops.
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http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/0,1286,65401,00.html

Pharms Take Root in South Africa

- Megan Lindow, Wired, Oct 20, 2004

Cape Town, South Africa -- Most people probably wouldn't associate the leafy green tobacco plant with saving lives. But to Dr. Blessed Okole, the maligned cash crop is a potential gold mine of affordable medicine and vaccines for the overlooked diseases afflicting the developing world.

In the laboratories of the Council for Science and Industrial Research, or CSIR, South African researchers are honing techniques for turning genetically engineered tobacco and other crops into factories for producing drugs for HIV and tuberculosis. With a bit of genetic engineering, Okole says, plants' cellular machinery can be tweaked to produce antibodies on a large scale and far more cheaply than conventional drug-manufacturing methods allow.

"We feel it is going to be cheaper to produce the drugs in plants, and also easier for local communities in Africa to have access to them," says Okole, who is business area manager of the CSIR's plant biotechnology group.

This practice, called "pharming," could dramatically boost the availability of drugs in the developing world, Okole says. This is the stated aim of the Pharma-Planta Consortium, a European research group and CSIR partner. Launched in July with 12 million euros in funding from the European Union, the project hopes to produce plant-derived drugs ready for clinical trial within five years.

Scientists with CSIR are already working to produce in plants two antibodies that scientists have found -- one that neutralizes HIV, the other tuberculosis. The first product -- which will probably be grown in maize plants -- is likely to be a cream containing antibodies to HIV, which could be used to help prevent transmission of the virus during sex. But the technology is still highly experimental.

The first field trials are still several years away, Okole says. Nevertheless, proponents of pharming are touting the technology as the latest genetically modified form of salvation for Africa. Around 3.3 million people die each year from diseases for which vaccines are available. But the high cost of producing vaccines -- roughly $100 million to get to the clinical trial stage -- is often a barrier to new research on diseases that primarily affect the poor.

"There's a pile of so-called orphan vaccines, where the potential to make a profit is almost minimal," says professor Ed Rybicki, who heads the Plant-Based Vaccines Group at the University of Cape Town. "The big companies are not getting involved because people in Alabama don't need them, but people in the Sudan do."

Increasingly, African countries are developing biotech facilities that will enable them to manufacture plant-based vaccines themselves -- at somewhere between a tenth and a hundredth of the cost of conventional vaccines, researchers say.

Making large quantities of vaccines by normal fermentation or cell-culture methods is difficult, and distributing them to remote areas is a challenge because they require refrigeration. Plant-based pharmaceuticals should solve both problems, since the plants will in theory produce these complex pharmaceutical compounds as part of their regular growth cycles.

In addition, plants are able to produce large quantities of proteins, says Rybicki, which means that pharming should most likely be small-scale. A mere 2.5 acres of tobacco will produce enough vaccine protein for 4 million doses, he says.

The prospect of pharming in Africa alarms local anti-GMO activists, however. After a local newspaper reported that the CSIR had offered to grow the first field trial crops in South Africa -- safe from the angry scythes of European protesters -- local activists denounced the project, charging that South Africa is being used as a dumping ground for unsafe technology.

"We have an appallingly weak and opaque regulatory regime, that is devised more to facilitate the introduction of GMOs than to regulate them," wrote Glenn Ashton, co-coordinator of the anti-GM group SafeAge in a letter to the editor. "This appears to be yet another case of shifting another dirty industry to a developing nation so that we bear all of the risks, while the northern developers reap the genetically engineered fruits."

Organizations like GM Watch accuse biotech companies and industry-sponsored groups of browbeating African governments into accepting weak safety regulations, while aggressively mounting slick PR campaigns to force their products on an unsuspecting population. Despite its noble-sounding intentions, the Pharma-Planta project is merely the next step in industry's GM conquest of Africa, they say.

One of the greatest concerns with pharming is that bioengineered food crops like maize -- which is a staple for many Africans -- will mix with normal crops, contaminating the food supply. Certain pharmaceutical proteins in plants could prove toxic to people if they are touched or eaten.

"For us it seems inevitable that there will be cross-contamination," says Haidee Swanby, a spokeswoman with the organization Biowatch. Pharming could easily be carried out in inedible plants as well, but Okole says the CSIR has considerable experience working with maize already, and the plant is known not to be toxic to humans.

To the chagrin of environmentalists, South Africa has emerged as one of the world's keenest adopters of GM technology, approving hundreds of field trials and importation permits for GM food and crops, including most recently a controversial U.S. project to grow GM potatoes. In addition, a national biotechnology strategy commits roughly $70 million toward developing the local sector over the next three years, identifying biotech as an important means of addressing the country's development needs in areas such as drug research.

The rest of the continent is following suit. The first of four bioscience "centers for excellence" will soon open in Nairobi, as part of an initiative of The New Partnership for Africa's Development to promote scientific research on the continent, for example.

Capacity in Africa to produce and regulate pharmed and other GM crops is now limited, Okole says. But as Europe and North America offer funding and expertise, this gap could narrow within a decade, he says.

Unlike in Europe, however, the locations of GM field trials are kept secret in South Africa, making it impossible to monitor biosafety, Swanby says. Earlier this year, Biowatch filed a lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture and Monsanto, demanding greater transparency in the process of granting permits to grow and import genetically engineered food and crops.

Scientists agree that strict oversight is necessary, but insist that the dangers of biopharming are small. It is also likely that pharma crops will be grown in contained greenhouses, rather than in open fields, further reducing the risk of contamination, says Rybicki.

But Swanby says the public simply needs more information about the risks. "People will say, 'How can you deny Africans cheap medicines?'" she says. "That's not what we want to do, we just want all of the information in front of us."
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GM Foods may be Healthier than Conventional Food - New Report

http://www.ahbfi.org/gmhealthier.asp

Genetically Modified food many be healthier than conventional food is the message presented according to a new report by the Union of the German Academies of Science and Humanities. The report, released in Cologne, Germany, during the AgBiotech International Conference (ABIC) boldly declares that "GM products offer the advantage that they have been exceptionally thoroughly tested with respect to health risks".

Although the report - keen to maintain scientific accuracy - says that "present scientific knowledge indicates that consumption of genetically modified food poses no increased health risks compared with consumption of conventional foods", it also adds that the developed world has been consuming food containing GM "with no proven reports of undesirable health effects".

The report was compiled from information derived from publications in peer-reviewed journals, where contributions are checked according to scientific criteria. The report demystifies the myth of "absolute food safety" whether it is produced conventionally, organically or through genetic modification. It explains that the original source of allergens is nature which has provided plants with a huge variety of defense chemicals to protect themselves from damage caused by insects, bacteria or fungal infections; as evidence, the report says most of the ingested cancer-causing substances swallowed in the Western world are in fact believed to come from conventional food.

The report says that since absolute safety is not possible, the basis for the approval of food products containing GMOs is the evidence that they are at least as harmless and nutritious as the equivalent products from conventionally grown crops. It says GMO products are put through highly stringent allerginic tests.
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GM Crops Shown to Decrease Damage to Environment

- Society of Chemical Industry, October 20, 2004; From Agnet

Between 1995 and 2000, the amount of GM Canola grown increased from 10% to 80% of the total Canola area, causing herbicide use to decrease by over 40%. The environmental impact of the herbicides, calculated from human and animal toxicity and persistence in the environment, was found to have decreased by 36%

"This is a useful quantification of the direct effects [of growing HR canola]" says John Pidgeon, Member of SCI's (Society of Chemical Industry) Agriculture and Environment Group. These results confirm that in terms of pesticide use, growing HR Canola does benefit the environment.

The decrease in herbicide use was attributed to the fact that herbicide resistant crops require only one or two applications of a single broad-spectrum herbicide such as glyphosate, while unmodified crops need several applications of combinations of herbicides. In addition, the powerful broad-spectrum herbicides can be targeted specifically to weed-infested areas while the crop is growing, rather than being applied to the whole field before planting.

These findings challenge the view of some environmental pressure groups that herbicide-resistant crops will increase the reliance on herbicides. Although broad-spectrum herbicides have come under criticism for higher toxicity, the small amounts applied compared to other herbicides result in a net benefit to the environment. The reduction in herbicide use also reduces re-cropping restrictions, as there is a lower herbicide residue in the soil.

-- Influence of herbicide-resistant canola on the environmental impact of weed management - Theresa A Brimner, Gordon J Gallivan and Gerald R Stephenson; Pest Management Science: Volume 60, online September 2004; http://www.interscience.wiley.com/pestmanagementscience
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Fellowships for Crop Genetic and Biotech Research

- Generation Fellowship - Deadline 30 November; More information at: http://www.generationcp.org/latestnews.php?i=145

Fellowship opportunity for scientists from developing countries to conduct research outside their home countries for 3 mos.-1 yr. The are two fellowships per subprogramme (Genetic Diversity of Global Genetic Resources, Comparative Genomics for Gene Discovery, Trait Capture for Crop Improvement, and Bioinformatics). For more information, see the guidelines and application on the GCP website: http://www.generationcp.org/latestnews.php?i=145

2005 Generation Fellowship: The Generation Fellowship is established to grant awards to carry out innovative research related to the running theme of the Challenge Programme, i.e. unlocking genetic diversity of crops for the resource-poor. It aims at scientists that want to conduct research outside of their home countries for a period of three months to one year.

The Generation Fellowship will emphasize the areas of research that compose the four thematic sub-programs: genetic diversity of global genetic resources, comparative genomics for gene discovery, crop improvement and gene transfer, and genetic resource, genomic and crop information systems. Two fellowship opportunities will be available for 2005 for each of the four subprogrammes. The maximum award per fellow will be US$25,000 which is intended to cover travel, stipend, bench fees, equipment, conference participation and so on. The fellow may be invited to participate in the Annual Meeting of the Generation Challenge Programme. One of the fellowships will be supported by Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc.

All proposals should deal at least with one of the crops that ensure worldwide food security according to the FAO (rice, maize, barley, wheat, sorghum, millet, cassava, potato, sweet potato, yam, banana, plantain, chickpea, cowpea, beans, lentil, pigeon pea, soybean, coconut and groundnut) and they should be closely linked with ongoing research in the GCP. In all cases, quality of the research proposed, scientific suitability of the applicant and appropriateness of the host institute will be carefully assessed.

Eligibility of Applicants: Applications are invited from nationals of developing countries,* holding a masters degree (or equivalent) and/or doctorate in a relevant subject area. Applicants should prove to be engaged in a related ongoing research activity in their home country and demonstrate the willingness to return to the home institution.
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Any Sweet Sorghum Experts?

- Please Reply to "Patrick Moore"

I have a colleague who is working on a project to determine the feasibility of growing sweet sorghum in the Caribbean for biofuel, oil, and building materials. He needs to find someone who can advise on locations that would be suitable re climate and soils for such an enterprise. Does any one know a consultant in this field?

I would appreciate any information or contacts of experts in sweet sorghum

- Cheers, Patrick Moore, Greenspirit. www.greenspirit.com

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"Vandana Shiva Claims that Hybrid Crops Lead to SARS, Bird flu and Mad Cow"

- Sivramiah Shantharam

See this interview with Vandana Shiva in Deccan Herald (http://www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/oct092004/metro3.asp) in which she claims that super viruses are spread by hybrid crop varieties.

It is not just the Noble Laureate Maathai, but very many scientifically illiterate environmentalists like Vandana Shiva who keep espousing this new conspiracy theory that products of green revolution and modern agricultural biotechnology are responsible for ever so many human epidemic diseases. It is really laughable that hybrid crops are the channels for super viruses like SARS and HIV.

This kind of wanton misinformation campaign by the environmental activists goes unchallenged by the scientific community. Media should know better to check the veracity of so many of such statements by these activists before printing them. The least that the media should ask them is to provide some credible evidence for their scientifically erroneous statements or claims. It is high time that such factually incorrect campaign of misinformation be exposed to the public.

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

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Vandana's Quote:

"Yes. Consumption of hybrid varieties of food crops have transferred resistant viruses in our bodies, creating super viruses. How else do you explain Sars, bird flu or mad cow disease. Till now diseases never travelled from plant to animals to humans. We have created a tunnel allowing movement of dreaded viruses."

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Comments From Prakash:

Looks like our friend Vandana is getting ready to vie for a Nobel Peace Prize with her wacky and crazy theories. She is also competing with Mathaai on who can come up with the most stupidest and scariest claims! Hybrid crops are responsible for SARS, Bird flu and Mad Cow? I still believe that our friend Mae Wan Ho can outbeat both women!

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