Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: December 21, 2004
* GM boom 'could spell economic growth for poor nations'
* Biotechnology to end use of costly pesticides — experts
* EU gets approval to import Monsanto altered rapeseed
* EU Split Over GMO Rapeseed, Awaits Default Approval
GM boom 'could spell economic growth for poor nations'
- SciDev.Net, By Catherine Brahic, 20 December 2004
Developing countries are playing an important role in the expansion of genetically modified (GM) crops, and are set to play an increasingly important role both in growing and researching the plants in the next ten years, says a report from the Council for Biotechnology Information.
The Global Diffusion of Plant Biotechnology 2004 report shows that over the past decade, the fastest growth of GM crops has been in developing countries.
Globally, planting of GM crops has increased at an annual rate of 15 per cent since they were first introduced in the mid-1990s, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). If this rate were sustained, the global market would reach US$210 billion by 2014, nearly a five-fold increase from its current US$44 billion value.
In its report, the Council for Biotechnology argues that developing nations stand to benefit most from this growth. It says the gross domestic product of poor nations adopting GM crops could increase by as much as two per cent by 2014.
Prabhu Pingali and Terri Raney of the FAO's Agricultural and Development Economics Division, told SciDev.Net that sustaining the 15 per cent growth rate would depend on the development of new crops meeting the needs of developing nations, and on ensuring such countries can access and adopt them.
Soybean, maize, cotton and canola currently make up the majority of the GM crop market. But the research community is working on several other crops, including rice, and traits such as drought- and salinity- tolerance that could be very useful to farmers in the developing world.
"The biggest question, however, is whether these solutions will receive regulatory approval and consumer acceptance," say Pingali and Raney.
Many developing nations are producing GM crops even though they have yet to adopt formal legislation to regulate their production and commercialisation.
For instance, the Brazilian senate approved a bill in October that would legalise planting GM crops (see Brazilian Senate approves biosafety law: http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readnews&itemid=1659&language=1), even though GM soybean, maize and cotton are already being planted in parts of the country.
Other developing nations are hesitant to adopt GM crops for fear that such a move would limit their capacity to export to the European Union, where some member states remain hesitant to fully adopt GM crops.
According to Council for Biotechnology Information's report, nearly one-third of the global area planted with GM crops is in developing nations and a similar proportion of the global GM crop market is held by those nations.
Argentina, Brazil and China are among the leading five producers of GM crops, alongside the United States and Canada.
The report says "there is reason to expect China to emerge as an influential force in plant biotechnology in years to come". Already, it leads the global production of GM canola and cotton, and the government has invested several hundred million dollars in research on agricultural biotechnology.
The study also says Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa show potential for future commercial adoption of GM crops and for increased research in the sector.
Prabhu Pingali is director of the FAO's Agricultural and Development Economics Division and Terri Raney edited the organisation's State of Food and Agriculture 2003/2004 report.
Read more about GM crops in SciDev.Net's GM crops dossier:
Link to full Global Diffusion of Plant Biotechnology: International Adoption and Research in 2004 (PDF):
Biotechnology to end use of costly pesticides — experts
- Philippine Star, December 20, 2004 (VIA AGNET)
A panel of Filipino scientists believes, according to this story, that there will eventually be no need for expensive pesticides among corn farmers following successful tests and subsequent cultivation of genetically modified, disease-resistant Bt corn in many farms in South Cotabato.
Led by Science and Technology Secretary Estrella Alabastro, the experts were cited as saying that Bt corn, which uses the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis and was initially cultivated in 129 hectares of farms in South Cotabato in 2002, is resistant to borers, which destroy up to 80 percent of the corn produced in the country.
Bt corn was developed to resist borers at the genetic level, meaning that its gene carry the code to reject borers. Corn borers are also the single reason why aflatoxin, a confirmed carcinogenic, has contaminated local corn. The story says that aflatoxin comes from the molds that borers create in corn.
Speaking at the weekly Kapihan sa Sulo at the Sulo Hotel in Quezon City last Saturday, Alabastro said that the cumulative savings for farmers would be great if Bt corn is cultivated in most farms nationwide.
To date, she revealed, 5,000 hectares of corn farms are now cultivating Bt corn from the initial 129 hectares allowed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) for experimental use.
The particular Bt corn variety that has shown positive results is MON 810, which was field tested and later distributed by Monsanto, a US multinational.
Alabastro noted the fears expressed by farmers on the use of Bt corn has been diminished by scientifically verifiable results showing no debilitating effects among cultivators.
EU gets approval to import Monsanto altered rapeseed
- BLOOMBERG NEWS, 12/21/2004
Move comes after six-year moratorium
BRUSSELS - The European Commission on Monday got the authority to allow the import of a gene-modified rapeseed made by Monsanto Co. of Creve Coeur, Mo., as part of efforts to expand the biotechnology market after a six-year moratorium.
The European Union's executive arm was handed the power by the bloc's 25 national environment ministers, who were split at a meeting in Brussels over whether to let the rapeseed - also known as canola - be used in animal feed. Known as GT73, the product is resistant to a herbicide made by Monsanto.
"The commission will approve it - probably in January," Barbara Helfferich, a commission environment spokeswoman, said.
The commission allowed imports of a Monsanto corn variety for feed in July and food in October as well as a corn type for food made by Syngenta AG in May - the only EU approvals since 1998.
The three EU-wide endorsements followed divisions among European nations, some of which still oppose biotech foods and want the moratorium reintroduced because of health and environmental concerns.
The commission wants to speed up approvals of about 30 pending EU biotech applications, including several by Monsanto, the biggest producer in a global biotech crop market with sales of as much as $4.75 billion last year. Monsanto applied for EU approval of GT73 in 1998.
The United States, Argentina and Canada, the world's three biggest growers of genetically modified seeds, have complained to the World Trade Organization about the EU's restrictions on biotech foods. The United States said in May that it wanted applications to move "routinely."
Biotech foods range from grain to tomatoes whose genetic material has been altered to add beneficial traits such as resistance to weed-killing chemicals, limiting the number allowed in the EU to 34 until this year's Syngenta and Monsanto corn approvals.
"It's good news the commission has decided to move forward with this decision," Daniel Rahier, director for industrial affairs at Monsanto in Brussels, said by phone.
Italy, Poland, Greece, Belgium, Denmark, Malta, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Austria, Estonia and Luxembourg voted against, while the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic abstained. France, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovakia were in favor.
EU Split Over GMO Rapeseed, Awaits Default Approval
- Reuters, December 21, 2004
BRUSSELS - EU environment ministers failed to agree on Monday on authorising imports of a genetically modified (GMO) rapeseed, the ninth occasion in a row where the bloc has been deadlocked over biotech foods, officials said. Again exposing the EU's deep divisions on the issue, the 25 ministers were unable to muster a majority either to approve or reject the import request for the rapeseed, known as GT73 and marketed by US biotech firm Monsanto.
"It will go back to the Commission now, probably in January, and the Commission has to approve it," a Commission official told reporters. The date for this will probably depend on the time needed to finalise the paperwork.
Although there was no formal vote, the ministers indicated there was no change to their known positions on GT73, which were circulated at a meeting of EU ambassadors last week.
Then six national delegations -- Finland, France, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden and the Netherlands -- said they were in favour of approving the rapeseed, diplomats said.
Ireland, Slovenia, Spain, Germany, Britain and the Czech Republic said they would abstain. The remainder were opposed.
GT73 rapeseed is modified to resist the non-selective herbicide glyphosate and allow farmers to manage weeds more effectively. Monsanto's request is for use in animal feed and industrial processing, not for growing.
Under the EU's complex decision-making process, if EU member states fail to agree after three months at ministerial level on allowing a new GMO into the bloc, then the Commission -- the bloc's executive arm -- may rubberstamp an authorisation.
It will be the third GMO to be authorised since the EU restarted approving new GMO products for import in May 2004, ending a de facto biotech moratorium that began in 1998.
Since 1998 all avenues have been explored to find a consensus among states opposed to gene crops and those in favour, leaving the executive to decide.
But the EU has not yet touched the more contentious issue of allowing new GMO crops to planted in Europe's fields -- the test of whether the bloc's biotech ban is really over -- and just a handful of GMO crops have won EU approval for growing.