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Date:

November 6, 2004

Subject:

Cannot Turn The Clock Back; Holistic Science, Lamarck & Lysenko; Paraguay Joins GM Club; Italian Doc Speaks Up; Bt Cotton Sizzles; Omega-3

 

Today in AgBioView Weekend from www.agbioworld.org : November 6-7, 2004

* A Peek into the 'Mendel in the Kitchen'
* Holistic Science - Lamarckism, Marxism and Mae-Wan Ho
* Who was Lysenko? What was Lysenkoism?
* Paraguayan GMO Approval Seen as Market Milestone
* Italy's Leading Oncologist Steps Into GMO Debate
* Are there Hazards When Eating Food from GM Plants?
* Bt Cotton Helps Boost India's Cotton Output to Record Level
* Biotech Flax With Increased Omega-3 Levels Could Improve Human Health
* Biotech Crops to Help Meet Demands
-

A Peek into the New Book

"Mendel in the Kitchen: Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Food"

- by Nina V. Federoff and Nancy Marie Brown; 352 pages, 2004, ISBN 0-309-09205-; Order book or download chapters at http://books.nap.edu/catalog/11000.html . Preface reproduced in AgBioView with the permission of the authors and publisher Robin Pinnel

Preface

". . . making the yellow soil express its summer thought in bean leaves and blossoms rather than in wormwood and piper and millet grass, making the earth say beans instead of grass--this was my daily work." - Henry David Thoreau (1854)

Our civilization rests on food: on our ability to make the earth say beans, to store those beans and fruits and seeds, and to share them. Other creatures might feed their young, but as adults each one fends for itself, spending much of the day doing it. By contrast we humans have learned to farm.

Over the last few centuries, advances in science have allowed fewer and fewer farmers to feed more and more people, freeing the rest of us to make and sell each other houses, hats, and video games, to be scientists and writers and politicians, painters, teachers, doctors, spiritual leaders, and talk-show hosts. In some parts of the world, only one person in 200 grows plants or raises animals for food. The other 199 of us buy what we eat.

Whether we tote home sacks from a supermarket or dine out in a restaurant, most of us never give a thought to the growing, processing, packaging, and shipping of our food. Nor are we overly concerned about its safety. We rarely get sick from eating what we buy. We are surprisingly unaware of what it takes to create our bread and breakfast cereal, pasta and rice, those perfect fruits and vegetables, unblemished by insect bites or fungal spots. We do not know what makes our agriculture so efficient and our food so cheap. We cannot tell why it is nutritious or safe to eat. Free to live our lives with little thought for our food, we ignore the source of the gift, the source of our civilization.

Our civilization rests, in fact, on a history of tinkering with nature, on making the earth say beans, as Thoreau so eloquently said, instead of grass.

Thoreau's beans were not wild. The pod of a wild bean bursts when its seeds are ripe, flinging the beans far from the parent plant to find a new place to sprout. The bean pods we grow for food do not burst so they can no longer seed themselves. Neither can the wild grasses we have changed over the millennia into our staple food sources: rice, wheat, and corn.

To change a wild plant into a food plant requires changes in the plant's genes. To boost its yield, to make the earth say more beans, means changing the plant's genes as well. For thousands of years people have been picking and choosing plants, propagating plants with genetic changes -- mutations -- that made them better food plants.

Thoreau, of course, would not have thought of either beans or grass in terms of genes. He published his influential book, Walden, in which he describes his efforts to make the earth say beans, in 1854. Gregor Mendel's experiments with peas, which would give rise to the new science of genetics, had not yet been done. Mendel didn't publish his work until 1866, and its significance wasn't grasped until more than 30 years after that. Not until the twentieth century did farmers begin to understand that their successes and failures had to do with genes. Yet well before Mendel explained how it worked, farmers were changing plants' genes.

At the end of the Stone Age, when most people still lived in small tribes hunting wild game and gathering wild plants, the world's human population was stable at eight to ten million. Then, when farming took hold as a way of life, the population began to grow. By the time of Christ, it had risen to between 100 and 300 million. When Columbus landed in the New World and the spread of food plants around the globe increased, the world's population was about 450 million. By the late 1700s, when the new science of chemistry entered agriculture, it had doubled to 900 million. A century later, when Mendel's experiments were rediscovered, the population of the world was more than one and a half billion.

In just the last hundred years -- an instant in human history -- the population doubled and redoubled. The number of people on Earth reached three billion in 1950, then jumped to six billion in little more than a single human generation. Yet farmers kept pace through advances in plant breeding: plants' genes were modified in ways that capitalized on the nitrogen chemists had learned to pull out of the air.

From the 1960s to the 1990s the new crop varieties and expanding fertilizer use--the Green Revolution--continued to meet the world's food needs. In 1950 1.7 billion acres of farmland produced 692 million tons of grain. In 1992, with no real increase in the number of acres under cultivation, the world's farmers produced 1.9 billion tons of grain--a 170 percent increase.

If India alone had rejected the high- yielding varieties of the Green Revolution, another 100 million acres of farmland--an area the size of California--would have had to be plowed to produce the same amount of grain. That unfarmed land now protects the last of the tigers.

Yet as the twentieth century came to a close, plant breeders began running out of breeding room. The Green Revolution had largely run its course. The increases in the yields of corn, wheat, and rice began shrinking year by year. Earth's human population, on the other hand, was still growing fast. Eight to nine billion people are expected to populate the planet by 2050. Feeding them is a problem both daunting and complex. Crop yields must be increased simply to provide all people with the same amount of food available to us today--unless more land is brought into production, unless more wilderness is plowed.

As has happened before when famines were predicted, plant scientists searched for new ways to increase the earth's yield. This time their innovations aren't called plant breeding but "genetic engineering." The new crops are not known simply as crops--as were the ones created using earlier ways of modifying plant genes--but genetically engineered, genetically modified, genetically manipulated, transgenic, or genetically altered. Most often they are lumped under the acronyms GM, for genetically modified, or GMO, for genetically modified organism.

GMOs have met with strong resistance. Before GMOs, people might have protested the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides in modern farming, but they were unconcerned about whatever it was that plant breeders had done to create high-yielding hybrid corn or brilliant red grapefruit or seedless watermelons or canola oil. Now, however, many people seem to agree with Britain's Prince Charles when he calls the new techniques of plant breeding "dangerous" and against God's plan. Why?

One reason for this resistance lies in the words themselves. Much human effort goes into changing our environment by building highways, houses, air conditioners, shopping malls, dams, or airplanes. Although individual projects might meet with resistance, few people protest this kind of engineering. Yet the notion that plants are being engineered caught people by surprise. It was rather disquieting. Plants are, after all, natural, aren't they? Might we not be messing with Mother Nature if we began to engineer plants?

Another reason is that most of us simply don't know what to make of the molecular techniques that allow scientists to change plant genes or add new ones. We don't really know, but we suspect it might be dangerous to transfer a gene from one species, such as a bacterium or a fish, to another, such as corn or tomato. Could it be morally wrong to violate the species barrier? What is a species barrier anyway?

What genetic engineering actually is and how it differs from earlier techniques of plant breeding is not understood by many outside the laboratory and breeding plot. Nor do most people understand the effects on the science of plant breeding of new interpretations of patent law and federal regulations concerning food safety and environmental protection.

People have heard that scientists themselves oppose genetically modified foods--and a few do, although they are rarely those who know this new science well. Most people lack the time--and often the knowledge--to critically examine the scientific research cited in support of the opposing views of the technology. By writing this book we seek to answer the questions that most people--whether for or against the idea of genetically modified foods--often forget to ask.

We cannot turn the clock back. The human population is too large, and the earth too small, to sustain us in the ways our ancestors lived. Most of the land that is good for farming is already being farmed. Yet 80 million more humans are being added to the population each year.

The challenge of the coming decades is to limit the destructive effects of agriculture even as we continue to coax ever more food from the earth. It is a task made less daunting by new knowledge and new--methods--if we use them wisely.

**********************************************
 
Holistic Science - Lamarckism, Marxism and Mae-Wan Ho

- Roger Kalla, AgBioView, November 6, 2004; www.agbioworld.org

Mae-Wan Ho, of the UK based Institute of Science in Society visited Australia in October and gave a series of talks on the topic of the potential risks with Genetic technologies as applied to agriculture and to medicine.

I attended one of her lectures at the University of Melbourne. Her lecture was to my mind full of incoherent arguments and based on a rather select number of studies which purportedly revealed problems with genetically modified crops and animals (she was mainly quoting the work of her own collaborators like Terje Traavik and Arpad Pusztai).

This was followed by a call to arms against 'genetic reductionism'. She spoke about the Fluid Genome and the 'highly choreographed dance of life' that the genomes goes through apparently directed by some mystical life force that geneticists shouldn’t meddle with.
 
Mae-Wan was taken to task on the science behind her arguments by another member of the audience but my lasting impression was that she was philosophically aligning herself with the Lamarckian belief in 'inheritance of acquired traits'. According to Lamarckians the Giraffe got it’s long neck  due to short necked progenitor Giraffes stretched their necks a bit further to reach the leaves up in the trees and passed on this 'acquired trait' to their progeny rather than by natural selection of this pre-existing trait in the gene pool of the short necked Giraffe progenitors.
 
Lamarck’s ideas thus are based on direct observation and deduction of the most likely conclusion without any experimental verification. They are 'common sense’ and based on 'holistic' studies of the physiology, ecology and outer appearance of an animal or a plant.  However, they demote the value of systematic animal and plant breeding by application of genetic principles that has served us well and lead to ever increasing improvements in yield in crops since Mendel’s first description of the general laws of inheritance.  

The Lamarckian 'holistic' view of heredity sits well with 'new age' beliefs and philosophies that reject modern 'reductionistic' science and underpin some sections of the environmental and organics movement.

However, history warns us about the potentially catastrophic consequences of whole sale adoption of Lamarckian theories. During Stalin's rule of terror over the Soviet Union, Trofim Lysenko, the "barefoot scientist" and embodiment of the mythical Soviet peasant savant rose to the position of National leader of all plant breeding programs. Lysenko applied Stalin's policy of 'practice over theory' combined with the Lamarckian 'holistic' pseudo science approach to Soviet agricultural genetics for over 30 years with catastrophic consequences.

Lysenkoism resulted in the expulsion, imprisonment, and death of hundreds of scientists and the demise of genetics throughout the Soviet Union. However, they question the usefulness of fundamental insights into genetic principles and the value of systematic animal and plant breeding that has served humanity well and lead to ever increasing improvements in yield in crops since Mendel’s first description of the general laws for inheritance.  

Lysenko was a dangerous scientific charlatan but by all accounts a charismatic salesman who marketed his 'common sense' easy solutions for boosting the dwindling agricultural outputs to the demoralised peasants in the recently collectivised farms of the Soviet Union.
 
Thus he served the anti-science policy makers of the corrupt Communist regime well. The compliant Soviet media played a large part in enhancing Lysenko's reputation by reporting Lysenko's 'successes' and covering up on the catastrophic consequences in form of failed crops accompanied by mass starvation.
 
Blind faith in 'common sense' is a clear and present danger today and as scientists we have a duty to speak up if we believe that arguments based on ‘pseudo science’ are being presented in the public debate on the risks and benefits of gene technologies here in Australia as well as elsewhere.

--
Dr. Roger Kalla is a Plant Molecular Geneticist from Australia

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

Who was Lysenko? What was Lysenkoism?

- Helena Sheehan, Full commentary at http://www.comms.dcu.ie/sheehanh/lysenko.htm . Excerpts...

'Science is inextricably tied up with philosophy, politics and ideology. '

"Lysenko's theory developed in a pragmatic and intuitive way as a rationalisation of agronomic practice and a reflection of the ideological environment surrounding it and not as a response to a problem formulated within the scientific community and pursued according to rigourous scientific methods. But the impression was created that Lysenko achieved results at a time when there was a great demand for immediate results and a growing impatience with the protracted and complicated methods employed by established scientists in achieving them.

Lysenko's fame as the sort of man who would achieve results continued to spread. With it came a sympathetic hearing for whatever theoretical views he chose to express, no matter how vague or how unsubstantiated. Lysenko's practical achievements were extremely difficult to assess. His methods were seriously lacking in rigour, to put it mildly. His habit was to report only successes. His results were based on extremely small samples, inaccurate records, and the almost total absence of control groups. An early mistake in calculation, which caused comment among other specialists, made him extremely negative toward the use of mathematics in science"

"My own view of what is required in the way of an analysis of Lysenkoism is that it cannot be understood simply as a story of personal opportunism and political terror, nor as a cautionary tale against the dangers of bureaucratic interference in intellectual life or of ideological distortion of science. These are obviously elements of an analysis, but it is vital to see the emergence of Lysenkoism as no historical accident, as no imposition of alien elements (philosophy and politics) upon science.

It was a movement reflecting the temper of the times and groping with very real problems. It must be understood against the background of the tasks of political and cultural revolution, the drive to create a socialist intelligentsia, the push to transform every sphere of life and thought (including science and agriculture) in a new social order. Such tasks naturally involved struggling with such issues as the ideological character of science, hereditarianism versus environmentalism, determinism versus voluntarism, the relationship of philosophy to biology, the relationship of biology to agronomy, and so on.

What went wrong was that the proper procedures for coming to terms with such complex issues were short-circuited by grasping for easy slogans and simplistic solutions and imposing them by administrative fiat. It was a tragedy parallel to other tragedies in Soviet life at this time, rooted in the same tensions opening in the yawning gap between the monumentally advanced tasks undertaken in Soviet political life and the persisting cultural underdevelopment of Soviet society - and this in conditions of hostile encirclement.

The sorts of conclusions to be drawn are: that there are no shortcuts in dealing with such intricate issues and that a certain cultural level is required to deal with them competently. The sorts of conclusions NOT to be drawn are: that science must be kept free from philosophy and from politics, that science is in essence non-ideological and that ideology is necessarily antithetical to science.

Science is inextricably tied up with philosophy, politics and ideology"

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

Paraguayan GMO Approval Seen as Market Milestone

- Martin Ross, Farmweek, November 04, 2004 http://farmweek.ilfb.org/viewdocument.asp?did=7235&drvid=102&r=0.237179&r=0.4205438

Paraguay's nod for biotech soybean production is seen as "a good symbolic move" that could boost global GMO acceptance and help close Latin America's biotech black market.

Paraguay's ag minister last week OK'd four soybean varieties that contain Monsanto's Roundup Ready herbicide resistance for commercial planting. Meanwhile, a Paraguayan industry group has approved a framework for a GMO royalty collection system designed to serve the same function as up-front "tech fees" U.S. growers pay to plant Roundup Ready beans.

Earlier this year, amid U.S. concerns about Brazilian use of bootleg bin-run bean seed and its impact on competitive production costs, Monsanto and Brazilian farm groups, grain handlers, processors, and exporters instituted a post-harvest "value capture" producer fee system.

The Paraguayan system also would assess fees at grain delivery points, but a portion of those royalties would go to crop research and germplasm improvement within the country.

Paraguay accounts only for an estimated 2 percent of global soybean production. But American Soybean Association Western Hemisphere marketing manager Mitzi Tipsword hailed its announcement as a move toward greater world biotech acceptance - a key to U.S. grain export access.

"You've got a key producer of soybeans accepting the technology," Tipsword told FarmWeek. "They've stepped up to the plate and said, 'We're going to use it because it offers an advantage to us, and we're willing to pay the cost associated with doing that.' That's a good thing. "Their (soybean export) volumes obviously are not as high as those of the U.S., Brazil, or Argentina. But to me, this is a good symbolic move."

Paraguay's action also could help spur GMO policy reforms across South America. Brazil's Senate has approved a measure that would allow for legal domestic GMO production, but the bill awaits clearance from the Brazilian lower house.

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

Italy's Leading Oncologist Steps Into GMO Debate

- ANSA - English Media Service 03-Nov-2004 A

Italy's leading oncologist Umberto Veronesi said today that die-hard attempts to defend traditional Italian agriculture from the encroachment of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were unscientific. The former health minister said that if given a choice he "would always opt to eat GMO maize" rather than traditionally-grown varieties which may contain potentially-risky toxins.

Activists against GMOs are taking an "ideological" and "demonising" stance without basing their convictions on sound scientific basis. Veronesi made his remarks at a news conference to present a document on behalf of the Italian Toxicology Society (SITOX) and 18 other scientific associations backing GMOs.

"GMOs may be dangerous or not, exactly like any other type of food. It's wrong to demonise them simply because they have been genetically modified. All crops grown today, like many of our livestock have been genetically altered through a long process which has been going on for 2,000 years."

Veronesi said the nearly 10,000 researchers represented by the 19 associations have decided to openly back GMOs in a document because if parliament approves a bill drawn up by Agriculture Minister Giovanni Alemanno, research in the field will grind to a halt in Italy.

"The law would not only block work on GMOs but also on genetic research and this would risk isolating Italy from the rest of the world," said Veronesi.

SITOX Chairman, Professor Giorgio Cantelli Forti, said he failed to understand how "Italian public opinion accepts the innovations which biotechnology brings to medicine but expresses strong reservations when these same innovations are introduced in the agricultural sector."

The document was hailed by Assobiotec, the Association of Italian Firms for the Development of Biotechnologies and by Federchimica, the association of chemical industries. Assobiotec Chairman Roberto Gradnik said it was proof that the country's leading research associations believe that GMO products are safe and that the caution called for by anti-GMO activists is unwarranted.

Green party Senator Loredana De Petris said she was surprised that an "authoritative physician and former health minister had said such a bunch of silly things." Alemanno's bill will be the subject of a meeting this week with Premier Silvio Berlusconi, Deputy Premier Gianfranco Fini, Production Activities Minister Antonio Marzano and Health Minister Girolamo Sirchia.

If approved, the bill will then be placed on the agenda of the next cabinet meeting. The government postponed a decision on the issue several times last month, fuelling the ire of opposition MPs, enviromentalist organizations and farmers' associations.

According to Green party leader Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, the bill - which sets guidelines on GMOs - is constantly being sidelined by the cabinet because "the pro-GMO lobby is very strong right now."

The government postponed the measure after some ministers and Premier Silvio Berlusconi objected that it was "too restrictive" and infringed on farmers' freedom of choice. Alemanno says his measures take an "extremely prudent" stance on GMOs in a bid to "defend made in Italy products and the agricultural sector."

The bill would ban the cultivation of GMOs in open fields, in a bid to prevent the contamination of traditional crops. But it will not outlaw restricted and protected testing of GMOs. "Experimentation will continue. It will not be endangered by this decree," Alemanno has said.

Enzo Ghigo, chairman of the conference of regional presidents, has said that Italy's 20 regions want the right to decide whether GMOs should be allowed on a local level and expect the government to provide guarantees on co-existence between traditional and biotech agriculture. Hundreds of municipalities and 12 regions have already declared themselves GMO-free, showing the grass-roots support for Alemanno's bid.

Biotech agriculture has met with particular resistance in Italy where organic and 'traditional' produce are growing money-spinners. In fact, Italy has a higher turnover from organic farming than any other EU nation.

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

Are there Hazards for the Consumer When Eating Food from GM Plants?

- Union of the German Academies of Science and Humanities. Commission Green Biotechnology. InterAcademy Panel Initiative on Genetically Modified Organisms. 1-22 2004.

On the basis of existing scientific literature this report examines the potential risks for people who consume products of genetically modified (GM) plants. Taken into account are toxicity, the potential of causing cancer and food allergies, and the effects of consuming foreign DNA, including the DNA of antibiotic resistance genes.

The report reaches the conclusion that in consuming food derived from GM plants approved in the EU and in the USA, the risk is in no way higher than in the consumption of food from conventionally grown plants.

On the contrary, in some cases food from GM plants appears to be superior in respect to health.

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

Bt Cotton Helps Boost India's Cotton Output to Record Level

-Indo-Asian News Service, Nov 5, 2004
http://athens-olympics-2004.newkerala.com/?action=fullnews&id=41109

Monsanto's Bt cotton has been a significant contributor to India's record cotton production this season, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said here Friday.

"The Bt cotton yield was definitely better in quality and quantity, boosting production by 30-35 percent in areas it was sown. Gujarat has benefited the most from higher production," Pawar told IANS on the sidelines of the annual Social Editors' Conference here.

The higher yield and better cotton quality derived from Bt cotton could well be an incentive to look at other genetically modified agriculture crops being developed, the minister stated. "The results certainly encourage us to look at other GM crops," he said.

As against the average 16-17 million bales (of 175 kg each) production, India is this year expecting record production of about 20 million bales, said Mangala Rai, director general of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The officials did not have data on the increase in the acreage sown this year under Bt cotton nor the share of the genetically modified cotton in the total production.

"The low incidence of pest this year plus favourable precipitation of monsoon at the right time as also the performance of the Bt cotton all helped in a record production this year," said Rai.

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

Biotech Flax With Increased Omega-3 Levels Could Improve Human Health

- Full story and references at http://www.whybiotech.com/index.asp?id=4744

Enhanced flax seeds could bring the benefits of fish oil to vegetable-based cooking oils.

A team of researchers led by Ernst Heinz from the University of Hamburg in Germany has successfully developed a genetically enhanced flax (or linseed) plant that has boosted levels of healthful long chain polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that are believed to reduce the risk of heart disease,cance, Alzheimer's and many other diseases.

As reported in the October issue of The Plant Cell, Heinz and his team inserted genes from algae and moss into flax plants to produce nutritionally significant amounts (about 5 percent) of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Often referred to as "healthy" fats, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential building blocks the body needs for tissue growth and normal functioning -- especially the eyes and the brain. Omega-6 fatty acids are readily available from a variety of foods (including almost all vegetable oils), but, at present, the best dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids is coldwater fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna.

Unfortunately, many people don't consume enough fish. And pregnant women and young children are often advised to avoid eating certain kinds of fish that have traces of mercury and PCB's, even though these elements are at very low levels and pose minimal risks.6 Further, global fish stocks are in decline.

"Our research should lead to the creation of a sustainable source of these very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that are required for human nutrition," says Heinz. "At present the only reliable source is fatty fish, but these marine resources are declining dramatically."

By the mid 1990s, 70 percent of the wild ocean fisheries were already so heavily exploited that reproduction couldn't keep up or could just barely keep up with demand. Heinz himself eats fish weekly to obtain the health benefits. And he counts himself among those who could benefit even more by eating genetically enhanced flax plants.

Healthier oils and meat. The most direct route for Heinz's research to improve human nutrition would be through the development of cooking oils from genetically enhanced oilseeds. Using cooking oils with a healthier fat profile -- and a properly balanced ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids -- would definitely be a step in the right direction.

"What's really exciting about this research breakthrough is that it opens the door to reducing the risk for a number of chronic diseases with a minimum of behavior modification," says Moore, who notes that history has proven it can be extremely challenging to convince people to alter their diets. "One of the greatest benefits of biotechnology is that it allows us to introduce these benefits transparently. Any time we can improve the nutritional profile of the foods people eat without having to convince them to change their habits -- that's a good thing. It's a real winner." Heinz couldn't agree more.

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

Biotech Crops to Help Meet Demands

- Aaron Duhon, The Lafayette Daily Advertiser, November 6, 2004

It’s been a running joke that when asked her mission if crowned, every national beauty pageant contestant responds "to end world hunger," but world hunger is no joke and neither is the biotech science that might one day solve it.

In the next 40 years, the world population is expected to nearly double, but it’s unlikely the number of the world’s farmers will do the same. It stands to reason that farmers who remain will have an even greater responsibility to feed a growing population.

How will farmers, farming less land with fewer inputs and smaller profit margins, meet the growing demand? Through biotechnology. Technology, regardless of its applications, is moving forward. Short of global annihilation, farmers will never go back to planting seeds with a stick. Instead, they will look to biotech crops and science to feed the growing world.

This technology is being developed right here in Louisiana. The Louisiana State University AgCenter is working with a humanitarian organization on a genetically engineered product known as "Golden Rice," which could help reduce malnutrition in developing countries.

The rice was grown in tests at the LSU AgCenter's Rice Research Station in Crowley this summer and has been genetically modified to produce beta-carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin A. Its distinctive amber hue from beta carotene led to its name.

In many countries, vitamin A deficiency causes numerous health problems, including a form of blindness and a weakened immune system. In 1999, scientists in Europe successfully inserted genes from daffodils and bacteria into rice DNA. That process caused the rice to express beta-carotene. In 2001, scientists in Japan inserted the genes into the "Cocodrie" rice variety. Since Cocodrie was developed at the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station in 1998, it has become the most widely used variety of rice grown in the United States.

"This is the first field evaluation where golden rice actually has been grown on any level in the field anywhere in the world," said Steve Linscombe, the LSU AgCenter’s regional director for southwestern Louisiana and its chief rice breeder. The test, conducted in cooperation with the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, also included golden rice varieties from the Philippines and Taiwan, he said.

While it may be a while before Louisiana farmers plant golden rice, it’s only a matter of time before these varieties become commonplace.

The LSU AgCenter has donated its rights to Cocodrie for use with Golden Grain for humanitarian reasons, Linscombe said. "We’re looking at it more from the standpoint of humanitarian, long-term, indirect research with field evaluation with genetically enhanced lines," he said. "We also think this is a very important mechanism to inform the public of the value of genetic engineering."
--
Aaron Duhon is president of the Lafayette Parish Farm Bureau.

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