Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: January 20, 2005
* Bright Shines Spotlight On Benefits Of GM
* GM not to blame for sterile sugar beet
* Biotech companies enjoy global growth in GM crops
* Dioxin Found in Organic Eggs from Free-range Chickens
* China drags its heels on GM rollout
* Six Tsunamis
Bright Shines Spotlight On Benefits Of GM
- Farming Life, by Richard Halloran, 19th January 2005
A recently-published independent report shows that genetically modified herbicide - tolerant (GMHT) crops in a farming rotation offer economic benefits to farmers, with no detrimental impact on biodiversity or farming methods.
The BRIGHT ( the Botanical and Rotational Implications of Genetically Modified Herbicide Tolerance) project, a four-year programme initiated in autumn 1998, looked at the implications of growing GMHT crops both for agriculture and the environment by simulating different rotational scenarios, at a number of sites around the United Kingdom.
Key findings from the report include: * No significant difference between GM and non-GM crops in terms of weed diversity.
* Over a four-year rotation, all GM crops showed an increased weed seed bank.
* Improved flexibility and options for weed control.
* Equivalent or better levels of weed control in GM crops.
* No problems controlling GM volunteers in subsequent rotation crop.
* Clear economic advantages in the form of reduced weed control costs.
Commenting on the report, Agricultural Biotechnology Council deputy chairman, Tony Combes, said: "BRIGHT illustrates that the flexibility allowed by GM crops will ensure that they can, and will, be grown in a manner that benefits the environment and farmers' bottom line. "These results confirm our belief that farmers should not be denied the range of benefits that GM technology can offer.
"We believe this report buries the myth that these two GM crops pose any new problems for farming or the environment."
BRIGHT was a four-year project initiated in autumn 1998. The crops involved with the project were genetically modified herbicide tolerant sugar beet and genetically modified herbicide tolerant winter oilseed rape (WOSR).
The research for the BRIGHT project was partiallyfunded by the UK Government under the Sustainable Agriculture LINK Programme and industry; and was carried out by independent scientists at sites in England and Scotland. It involved the use of Monsanto's and Bayer Crop Science's GM winter OSR and sugar beet.
The project had the objective of determining the implications of growing genetically modified herbicide-tolerant (GMHT) oilseed rape (canola) and sugar beet both for agriculture and the environment in a realistic set of rotations, together with conventional non-GM vari
GM not to blame for sterile sugar beet
- The Guardian, January 20, 2005
Growing genetically modified sugar beet can have positive environmental benefits as well as producing an increased yield, according to research in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
Mike May and colleagues at Broom's Barn Research Station in Suffolk looked at how different management practices affect the amount of weed that grows underneath the sugar beet. Previous farm scale evaluations showed that growing GM sugar beet resulted in fewer weeds at the end of the season and hence, fewer seeds for birds.
The new study has shown that moderating the applications of herbicides removed this problem. "If the spraying is only done once, and early in the season, then enough weeds come through and the crop still produces a high yield," says John Pidgeon, one of the authors.
Biotech companies enjoy global growth in GM crops
- New Scientist, 22 January 2005
MUCH of Europe may still be resisting the introduction of genetically modified crops, but elsewhere in the world an area larger than the UK is planted with modified maize, cotton and soybeans, according to the latest industry figures.
Last year saw the biggest rise in new planting since 1998 as the troubled agribiotech sector bounced back from environmental and health concerns with a 20 per cent increase in acreage. More than 90 per cent of the 81 million hectares now planted with GM crops are still in the Americas, with the US and Argentina leading the pack. China and India are growing GM cotton, while South Africa and Spain - the only significant European Union grower - are growing GM maize.
Though the area under GM crops has doubled since 2000, it is still less than 2 per cent of the world's fields. According to Clive James of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, who compiled the data, last year was the first in which the area under GM crops grew faster in developing countries than in the rich world.
Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2005 16:17:27 -0600
From: "Dr. Tom DeGregori"
Subject: BBC - Dioxin Found in Organic Eggs from Free-range Chickens
Previous research elsewhere in Europe (Denmark) has found that 100% of the meat from free-range organic chickens was contaminated with Campylobacter jejeuni compared to 30% for those for conventionally grown chickens. In this case, proper preparation is required for any chicken dinner and cooking and careful handling can solve the problem.To the extent that the dioxin in the chickens is harmful, there is nothing that one can do to reduce the contamination. As far as one is concerned with food safety from microbial contamination, "free-range" is not the way to raise chickens as they are exposed to rats and other outdoor disease vectors. Pity that some people are paying more for a product that has greater contamination by their standards while thinking that it is a safer and more nutritious ALTERNATIVE. Pity!
Dioxin found in German eggs
- BBC, 17 January, 2005
Germany has called for higher environmental standards on farms after free-range eggs were found to contain the cancer causing chemical dioxin.
Eggs with high dioxin levels were found in several German states because hens were allowed to roam on land contaminated with the chemicals.
The German Agriculture Minister Renate Kuenast has called for tighter controls on free range eggs.
"We must have a firmer environmental policy," she told the Berliner Zeitung.
"We need to ensure that dioxin levels are reduced and that it vanishes from our environment."
German consumers are worried by media reports that expensive organic eggs from free range hens are more likely to be contaminated.
Checks in several states have shown that free-range eggs contain higher dioxin levels than battery eggs.
In Lower Saxony state, 28% of all free-range eggs produced in the last two years were above European Union limits for dioxin levels, one report claimed.
Thomas Isenberg of the National Association of Consumer Advice Centres has called for all eggs with high dioxin levels to be removed from the market.
However he stressed that there is no need to panic.
"Keep on eating your eggs for breakfast, there is no acute danger to health," he told the Dutch newspaper Expatica.
China drags its heels on GM rollout
- AP-foodtechnology.com, 20/01/2005
China, potentially one of the most promising markets for genetically modified (GM) crops, is stalling the adoption of transgenic plant cultivation as a cautious government ponders their safety reports Anand Krishnamoorthy.
The government is unlikely to take a decision “anytime time soon” on the introduction of more GM crops and “it has less interest on the issue than a year ago,” said Paul French, an analyst with market intelligence provider Access Asia based in Shanghai.
The Chinese government had been expected by many to grant permission for GM crops but Beijing has thus far only allowed the cultivation of transgenic cotton, with all other GM crops banned. The import and export of GM produce is also not permitted.
In some ways the GM issue is one that “the government does not want to get involved in,” explained French, not least because there is considerable opposition to GM crops in China as there is elsewhere in the world, primarily from environmental groups.
Currently, only test crops and pre-production trials are permitted for a handful of cereal crops such as corn. The area under such cultivation is also coming down as there is preference towards hybrid crops rather than the GM ones. Nonetheless, according to some reports, China has about three million hectares under transgenic crops.
Any move by China on the GM front will have global ramifications, and could impact decisions of other countries like India with the potential for major GM crop production. The addition of large volumes of Chinese GM crops on global commodity markets would also have a major impact on prices, with transgenic crops considered to be cheaper to produce than traditional varieties.
- Tech Central Station, By Angela Logomasini, 01/20/2005
Imagine that every year the world suffered from six or more tsunamis producing the horrific death toll recently experienced. That's how many people die every year from malaria alone, and the tsunami may contribute to even higher rates this year. That disaster has created new habitat suitable for the proliferation of malaria and other disease-carrying mosquitoes.
Public health officials can take steps to reduce the impact, one of which involves using the controversial pesticide DDT. Since the 1960s green activists pushed bans of the substance around the world based largely on false claims about its health affects. The result was a public health disaster -- contributing to skyrocketing malaria rates.
Yet finally, two environmental leaders reluctantly admitted that nations may need to use DDT to save lives in tsunami-affected regions. Recently, quoted by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, Greenpeace's Rick Hind explained that the organization was "all for" DDT use "if there is nothing else and its going save lives," while the World Wildlife Fund's Richard Liroff noted that it has "saved lots of lives" in South Africa.
DDT is the best tool for controlling the spread of malaria. It can be applied in and around huts and other homes that don't have screens and other devices that effectively keep out mosquitoes. Used this way, DDT repels mosquitoes from entering the homes. This approach is effective because malaria-carrying mosquitoes feed largely at night when people are inside.
DDT has a proven record of effectiveness. Many nations, including the United States, eradicated malaria-carrying mosquitoes using DDT. South Africa nearly did the same, but it stopped using DDT under political pressure. After halting DDT use, cases rose from about 4,100 in 1995 to more than 27,000 by 1999, according to a study conducted by researchers Amir Attaran and Rajendra Maharaj. In recent years, South Africa resumed DDT use, and cases have dropped 85 percent according to Roger Bate of Africa Fighting Malaria.
Despite anti-DDT activist claims, DDT has not been shown to have any adverse impacts on human health. According to A.G. Smith of the scientific journal the Lancet: "If the huge amounts of DDT used are taken into account, the safety record for human beings is extremely good. In the 1940s many people were deliberately exposed to high concentrations of DDT through dusting programmes or impregnation of clothes, without any apparent ill effect." Additionally, limited use of DDT for malaria control does not affect wildlife because of it is not used widely in the environment where animals could be exposed.
Given these realities, world policymakers should rescind the Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs Treaty) -- the international treaty that seriously restricts DDT use and will ban it in the future along with 11 other chemicals. The POPs treaty -- ratified by some nations and awaiting U.S. ratification -- is based on the faulty assumption that world regulators need to take products off the market to protect the public, even though some nations and individuals find them valuable.
The DDT ban reveals the dangers of such policies. As nations debated the POPs treaty, one- to two-million people -- mostly children -- have been dying annually from malaria. Another 400 million suffer from the devastating effects of the malaria disease. POPs treaty supporters defend their position by noting that the treaty has a limited exemption to allow limited use of DDT use for malaria control. But the treaty -- along with nation-level bans of the substance -- eliminates incentives for its production, limiting its production and supply. DDT production is now limited to the efforts of a few governments. In addition, the treaty applies bureaucratic red tape to nations that seek to use DDT, making it more difficult and more expensive to access. Finally, the treaty provisions call for an eventual all-out ban.
The tsunami disaster certainly warrants emergency use of DDT -- as some environmental activists admit. But equally clear is that the annual malaria disaster in Africa and other parts of the world warrants its use around the world today and as long as it is needed in the future.