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January 21, 2005


FAO Forum; GM Beet May Benefit Environment; China to Allow GM Soy from Brazil; GM Up in Developing World


Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: January 21, 2005

* German Law
* FAO Forum - Why should the public be involved...?
* Management of genetically modified herbicide-tolerant sugar beet for spring and autumn environmental benefit back
* China to Allow Soy Imports, Brazil Agriculture Inspector Says
* New corn variety to help China back
* Developing World's GMOs Share Goes Up
* Pact inked for test of ‘Bt’ cotton
* Farmers take to 'supercrops' at blistering rate
* Biotechnologists wish for genetically modified crops
* Scientists find common roots for thousands of plant compounds

From: Kershen, Drew L.
Sent: Thursday, January 20, 2005 6:00 PM
Subject: Thanks -- German law -- I have it

Dear Friends:

Several of you promptly and kindly responded with the information for which I was searching about the German liability law regarding transgenic agriculture. Just so everyone can benefit from the information given to me, I attach two different documents about the German law.

Both are now available at:



There is no need for anyone to keep searching on my behalf. My deepest appreciation to everyone.


Drew L. Kershen
Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law
University of Oklahoma Collage of Law
Norman, OK 73019-5081 U.S.A.

From: "Sivramiah Shantharam"
Sent: 20 January 2005
Subject: FAO Forum - Why should the public be involved...?

Dear AgBioView:

As you know, I am passionate about this whole idea of public debate on GM crops that is being championed by all and sundry in the name of democratizing biotechnology. I joined the ongoing E-conference sponsored by FAO on Rural Public Participation in Decision Making on GMOs, and was and will remain curious till the end to understand where, when and how this notion of "public participation" arose and is going to end up. Perhaps, nowhere! But, it is an interesting study.

This FAO E-Forum, as I it has unraveled so far seems to me that real dirt poor, voiceless rural masses in the developing countries don't even know about it. The same thing happened with the International Year of Rice
(2004) that just ended last month. The poor (living for less than a dollar a day) have no access to this debate. They are not the ones who are contributing to the E-forum so far. By offering E-forum, FAO, in one stroke albeit inadvertently, has disenfranchised the dirt poor. As they have no email facility. I bet they don't even know that this debate is going on the world wide web. So once again, it is the same old middle class interlocutors like many of us who continue to squabble about what is good or what is bad for the rural poor in developing countries. I guess this will necessary be the case so long as there is so much of economic disparity in the world. I cannot think any mechanism that can ensure full participation by all the poor.

FAO is making an honest to good intentioned effort to take the GMO debate as far as it can so that everyone has their say. It remains to be seen how far it will succeed. Like many other debates on GMOs this too will not settle the issues as it is not in the interests of many vested interests to settle the issue. The purpose of the game is not to win or lose, but keep on churning the pot so that everything remains unsettled and all sorts of vested activisms keep continuing for self-preservation.

As you rightly said, had there been public debate on introducing antibiotics, vaccines, and other life saving drugs and surgeries, they would not have made their way into the world even now.

Here is one of my latest postings to the FAO E-Forum (Below) that was published today (January 20, 2005). I encourage your readers to visit the FAO E-forum to see for what is really happening over there.

- Shanthu Shantharam,
Biologistics International, LLC,
Ellicott City, MD 21042.

This is Shanthu Shantharam, again.

So far, so good! It is becoming clear that everyone wants to be properly informed about GMOs and biotechnology and be allowed to participate in decision making. Who can argue against a reasonable democratic practice? There are so many words and phrases being used and that needs to be clarified. Public participation, public input, public comment, public right to know, and public decision making. I guess except for public decision making, everything else can be reasonably accommodated. But, still decision making must be left to a small group of decision makers (they could be specialist or regulators or administrators). Otherwise, only chaos will reign. In any democratic set up, it is only fair to provide for a mechanism
that will facilitate information flow.

Just look at all other fields of endeavor in all democratic societies, one does not go for public referendum for every issue. What lies at the root of all this controversy is lack of proper and responsible governance in many countries. By building trustworthy, reliable and responsible institutions, can the citizenry expect proper decisions for the welfare of the people.

In my opinion, this controversy about GMOs is not biosafety, but mostly about political ideology and value systems. It so happens that GMOs manufactured by capitalistic multinationals have come in handy for those who oppose globalization and privatization. If one looks at the safety issues dispassionately and objectively, there is sufficient scientific evidence to show that GMOs are safe as any other variety of crops that have been introduced in the last one hundred years. If one chooses to ignore that evidence and bring in all sorts of political, metaphysical and ideological reasons to bear, we can all be arguing and debating until we are blue in our faces and the problem will not be resolved. But, let this E-forum churn on and let us all see how the issues get ferreted out.

Dr. Shanthu Shantharam
Biologistics International, LLC
9800 Old Willow Way
Ellicott City, MD 21042
United States
sshantharam (at) biologistics.us

[To contribute to this conference, send your message to biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org. Archives of the message posted are now available, at http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/c12logs.htm. For further information on this FAO Biotechnology Forum, see http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.asp]

Management of genetically modified herbicide-tolerant sugar beet for spring and autumn environmental benefit back

- Royal Society, January 20, 2005, By Mike J. May, Gillian T. Champion, Alan M. Dewar, Aiming Qi, John D. Pidgeon

When used in genetically modified herbicide-tolerant (GMHT) crops, glyphosate provides great flexibility to manipulate weed populations with consequences for invertebrates and higher trophic levels, for example birds.

A range of timings of band and overall spray treatments of glyphosate to GMHT sugar beet were compared with a conventional weed control programme in four field trials over 2 years. Single overall sprays applied between 200 and 250 accumulated day degrees (above a base air temperature of 3°C; °Cd) and band applied treatments applied at 10% or 20% ground cover within the crop rows generally gave significantly greater weed biomass and seed rain than conventional treatments, while later band sprays (more than 650 °Cd) reduced seed return. Two overall sprays of glyphosate produced low weed biomass and generally lowest seed return of all treatments but tended to give some of the highest yields.

However, the early overall sprays (200-250 °Cd) and band sprays gave as good or better yields than the conventional and were generally equivalent to the two overall-spray programme. Viable seeds in the soil after the experiment were generally higher following the early overall (200-250 °Cd) and the band spray treatments than following the conventional.

The results show that altered management of GMHT sugar beet can provide alternative scenarios to those of the recent Farm Scale Evaluation trials. Without yield loss they can enhance weed seed banks and autumn bird food availability compared with conventional management, or provide early season benefits to invertebrates and nesting birds, depending on the system chosen.

Conventional weed control does not have the flexibility to enable these scenarios that benefit both agriculture and environment, although there may be some options for increasing weed seed return in autumn.

All research was performed by researchers at the Broom's Barn Research Station, Higham, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP28 6NP, UK


China to Allow Soy Imports, Brazil Agriculture Inspector Says

- Bloomber, Jan. 20, 2005

Brazil, the world's second-biggest soybean producer, will resume shipments of soybeans and soy oil worth $2 billion to China after the countries agreed on safety standards, a Brazilian Agriculture Ministry official said in Beijing.

Shipments of more than 300,000 tons of soybeans from South America were rejected by China last year on grounds of pesticide contamination. China also raised purity standards on soyoil in October and this month suspended purchases of South American soy on concern about genetically modified beans, Brazil said.

``China said `we will continue to import Brazilian soybeans,''' said Gilson Westin Cosenza, official inspector of the Brazilian Agriculture Ministry told reporters. Brazil gave its safety documents on gene modified beans and China is ``satisfied,'' said Cosenza, citing talks this week with Li Yuanping, director-general of China's Import and Export Food Safety Bureau, under the quarantine office.

A statement on the resumption of trade will be made after the agriculture ministers of Brazil and China sign off on the agreement, said Luis Silos, counsellor at the Embassy of Brazil in Beijing. Bloomberg News faxed questions today to China's quarantine department and the State Council Information Office for comment on the talks and received no response.

China, the world's biggest soybean importer, buys soybeans mainly from the U.S., Brazil and Argentina to meet about half of its demand for the beans used to make tofu, cooking oil and animal feed.


Last year, China lowered the so-called maximum solvent residue content in imports of the edible oil by about half, to a purity level that few producers in Brazil or Argentina can meet.

``We have the statement of the director-general of food safety that they are not going to refuse Brazilian oil shipments because of the solvent residue,'' said Cosenza. ``The director- general assured us that they understand that there will be residues remaining based on standard soybean refining methods.''

This week's talks follow a visit to Brazil by Chinese President Hu Jintao's in November, when the soy trade dispute was discussed. Agricultural officials from both countries are expected to next meet on talks over the residue level of carboxin, a form of pesticide, Cosenza said, without giving a timeframe.

On Oct. 1, China limited the hexane level in soyoil imports to no more than 100 parts per million in unrefined soyoil, higher than the industry standard of 600 parts, according to the American Soybean Association. Hexane is a derivative of petroleum used to extract soyoil.

Brazilian soy oil typically contains about 600 parts to 800 parts per million, Cosenza said.

China is forecast to import 22 million tons of soybeans in the year ending Sept. 30, 30 percent more than the 16.9 million tons in the year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Brazil's soybean crop may be 23 percent bigger than last year at a record 64.5 million tons this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said this month.

New corn variety to help China back

- China Business Daily News, January 19, 2005

BEIJING - With many years of tests and experiments, China has now developed its own new generation corn with independent intellectual property rights.

The new generation corn with high yield and high quality is expected to improve the country's grain production, with arable land decreasing at present. It is another important scientific and research project following new generation rice in China's agricultural industry.

Four varieties of corn have been selected out after evaluation. The yield of them reaches 900KG per mu (1 hectare = 15 mu), merely 100KG less than that required for standard new generation corn in the world.

Corn is the second major foodstuff in China. For the moment, 400 million mu of corn will be planted yearly. But the average yield per mu is less than 400KG. It is estimated that the country will gain 6 million KG of corn in addition, if 40 million mu of the new generation corn is planted annually.

Agricultural scientists said China has independent intellectual property rights over the technologies in developing, evaluating and planting the new generation corn.


Developing World's GMOs Share Goes Up

- The East African Standard (Nairobi), January 21, 2005, By John Oyuke

The area of land under cultivation of genetically modified crops in developing countries has increased by 35 per cent, an international report indicates.

According to the report, this is a clear indication of how fast the poor nations are embracing technology in their fight against poverty and hunger.

The report prepared by International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) says the market value of GMOs is also rising steadily.

It says the accumulated global value of biotech crops for the period between 1996 and 2004 stood at US$24 billion. This year alone, the value of biotech crops is expected to hit US$5 billion.

"The continued adoption of biotechnology, especially among small, resource-poor farmers, signals a strong vote of confidence in the benefits that farmers are around the world are deriving from these crops," Dr Clive James, chairman and founder of the ISAAA, says in the report.

He identified China, India, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa as countries that have significantly increased the proportions of their farms that are under biotech crops.

The five countries now account for one-third of the total global acreage under transgenic crops.

Adoption of GMOs remains controversial in many countries. Its supporters say it is a development that could boost the world's food output thereby eliminating extreme forms of hunger.

Its opponents however argue that food security, particularly in Africa is the product of a complex interplay of factors that mere introduction of GM foods cannot resolve.

The ISAAA report however notes that many African countries are now showing a keen interest in biotech crops but remain encumbered by inadequate human and scientific capacities as well as the general lack of enabling bio-safety laws and regulations.

In Kenya, the report observes the technology enjoys wide support from the government and farmers and that the country has steadily moved towards developing bio-safety laws and policies to facilitate commercialisation of genetically modified crops.


Pact inked for test of ‘Bt’ cotton


If fully developed, the local Bt-cotton industry will save the country an estimated $86 million in importation costs yearly.

To realize this, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the Cotton Development Administration (CODA) Wednesday entered into an agreement to test and evaluate locally produced Bt cotton.

The memorandum of agreement is expected to open new doors to the introduction of the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton into the commercial market.

Government agriculturists explained that Bt cotton is a variety developed through genetic engineering.

“It has shown highly improved production in 16 Bt-cotton-growing countries like Australia, Canada, Argentina, India, Indonesia, Thailand and the United States. Bt cotton has the ability to control the dreaded bollworm,” director Alice Ilaga of the Department of Agriculture-Biotechnology Program Implementing Unit, said.

She explained that the Bt cotton is also known as an insect-damage-immune crop that contains the naturally occurring substance of Bt protein.

“The production of this protein directly by cotton plants has virtually revolutionized insect control,” she explained.

The demand for Bt cotton is said to have increased as more and more countries have shifted to its propagation.

There has been a significant upswing in the export of Bt cotton.

The Philippines continues to import 95 percent of its cotton requirement from the US, Australia and Pakistan. With China entering the market as supplier of the transgenic crop, the country will also be dependent on the Chinese Bt cotton as the local market grows.

Ilaga said nearly half of the country’s cotton imports comes from Bt-cotton-growing countries. In 2002, more than 20 percent of total cotton planted all over the world was Bt cotton, with Australia and the US among the most significant planters.

“The agreement between PhilRice and CODA marks the start of our local testing and evaluation of the Chinese transgenic-cotton hybrids,” Ilaga said.

The DA biotech program facilitated the acquisition of the technology from China and this will be the first time to test it under local growing conditions.

“If found safe, we will go ahead [with the planting of Bt cotton],” Ilaga added.

PhilRice executive director Leocadio Sebastian signed the agreement together with CODA administrator Eugenio Orpia Jr.

Ilaga noted that the role of PhilRice is to provide shuttle research of Bt cotton at its existing biotechnology facilities in Muńoz, Nueva Ecija, and other CODA research stations all over the country.

The DA, through CODA, can now introduce Bt cotton as an alternative to conventionally bred cotton varieties. “If this happens, farmers can increase their income from planting Bt cotton and textile millers will have a local source for good-quality fiber,” Ilaga said.


Farmers take to 'supercrops' at blistering rate

- Business Day, 20 January 2005

CAPE TOWN SA and China are increasing their plantings of genetically modified crops at the fastest rates in the world, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of AgriBiotech Application .

SA's acreage of genetically engineered crops rose to 500000ha last year, up 25% on 2003, placing the country among the top 14 growers of genetically engineered varieties, according to the organisation, which promotes biotechnology in the developing world.

The plantings for this year are expected to be between 700000 and 1-million hectares.

An estimated 8,25-million farmers planted 81-million hectares of the controversial crops in 17 countries around the world last year, up almost 20% on the 67,7-million hectares planted in 2003.

Worldwide, there are only four commercially planted genetically engineered crops soybeans, maize, cotton and canola.

All except canola are grown in SA, and China is expected to approve genetically engineered rice later this year.

China is now the world's largest producer of Bt cotton, engineered to be insect resistant.

Plantings increased from 2,8million hectares in 2003 to 3,7million hectares last year (66% of China's total cotton area of 5,6million hectares planted in 2004).

India had the largest year-onyear growth in Bt cotton plantings, up 400% from 2003 to 500000 hectares.

The crops are decried by activists worried about their safety, but have been embraced by the US, Canada and some developing countries such as SA, Brazil, India and China.

Last year, 15% of the 2,6-million hectares of maize plantings in SA were modified to have builtin resistance to insects, according to figures provided by biotech industry consultant Hans Lombard.

Seventy percent of the soy plantings were engineered to be herbicide tolerant, and 85% of the cotton was insect resistant, he said. In 2003, 13% of the maize, 35% of the soy and 80% of the cotton plantings were genetically engineered varieties.

"SA's regulations are bent towards the producers, and this is the result," said Glenn Ashton, spokesman for lobby group Safeage, which calls for a ban on all genetically engineered crops. "We want a ban until they are demonstrated to be safe."

Ashton said Safeage was also concerned about job losses caused by the shift towards genetically engineered crops.

Globally, soybeans covers 48,4-million hectares, maize 19,3million hectares, cotton 9-million hectares and canola 4,3-million hectares. The global value of these crops was estimated at 44b n in 2003.


Biotechnologists wish for genetically modified crops

- Daily Times (Pakistan), January 21, 2005

FAISALABAD: Biotechnologists have demanded a policy shift on genetically modified crops and mechanised farming plus an efficient marketing system to achieve an eight percent increase in agriculture. Scientists of the Biochemistry and Biotechnology Department University of Agriculture in Faisalabad have said the target being set by the prime minister can be easily achieved by reprioritising its goals, having long- and short-term objectives. They say the increase in the wheat support price before crop cultivation will encourage wheat growers to cultivate more land and harvest a bumper crop. “The transfer of crop production technology to the public is yet another area which needs immediate attention,” they said and added that there was a wide gap between crop yield realised by the progressive growers and small-scale farmers, making for a stagnant produce. They have urged farmers to strengthen their crop breeding programmes under modern biotechnology tools, saying that most seeds of open pollinated varieties have always been imported. Doctors Iftikhar Ahmad Khan and Asif Ali Khan said the bio scientists had been trained to identify a gene for a certain trait and transfer only that gene into the DNA of a plant cell to achieve a specific result. They claimed that modern science would revolutionise the conventional crossbreeding and make the process much quicker and precise.


Scientists find common roots for thousands of plant compounds

- Purdue University, January 19, 2005

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Just one cellular pathway produces the raw ingredients plants use to make thousands of compounds, from molecules with anticancer properties to the active ingredient in catnip, according to a team of researchers at Purdue University and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology.

This finding challenges long-held assumptions about how plants produce these commercially important products. The research also could have important implications for researchers trying to harness plant pathways to produce essential oils, often used as flavor additives in food and medicine or as fragrance in body-care products, said Natalia Dudareva, professor of horticulture and lead researcher of the study.

"Our research has applications in the future metabolic engineering of essential oil production," Dudareva said. "The yield of these compounds depends on the amount of materials available in the cell, and knowing where these compounds come from and which pathway produces them is the place to start."

Dudareva and her colleagues report in the current issue (Tuesday, Jan. 18) of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that the molecular precursors to a group of compounds called terpenoids - the largest and most diverse family of natural products - come from a single plant pathway, located inside the same part of a cell where photosynthesis occurs.

Terpenoids are made from compounds called precursor molecules, which are a kind of molecular raw material. Just as a potter can transform five identical spheres of clay into five unique pieces of art, identical precursor molecules can transform into unique compounds by following different molecular pathways.

Scientists previously discovered that two independent pathways, located in different compartments within a plant cell, use these precursor molecules to produce terpenoids. Most scientists assumed that both pathways were capable of producing these precursor molecules as well.

The discovery that only one pathway produces these precursors is a significant breakthrough, Dudareva said.

"We never expected to find this," she said. "This is the first time anyone has realized that only one of the two available pathways operates to make the precursor."

She also found that while some of the precursor molecules remain in the compartment where they are made, some travel through the cell to another compartment, where they enter a second pathway in terpenoid production.

The process can be likened to a manufacturing plant with an assembly line that makes a car part, such as a steering wheel. Some of those steering wheels remain on-site to be added to cars manufactured at that plant. Additional steering wheels are transported to another plant that, instead of making its own steering wheels, uses those from the first plant to produce its product.

Just as delivering steering wheels from one manufacturing facility to another requires some kind of transportation, molecules also rely on vehicles to travel around the interior of a cell. Exactly how the precursor molecules in this system travel from one compartment to another, however, remains a mystery.

"This work hints at the existence of a transporter to carry precursor molecules across the cell," said David Rhodes, Purdue professor of horticulture and a collaborator on the paper. "We already know that plants have a huge number of compartments that exchange materials. Now we need to figure out how these compartments facilitate this one-way flow of precursor molecule."

Dudareva used snapdragon flowers in this research, a model plant system she also uses in her studies of floral scent regulation.

While limited to this one species, she suggests similar results might be found in other plants.

"Others have previously shown indirectly that the same pathway that's not functioning in snapdragons is also blocked in basil plants and in mint," she said. "This opens the question of how widespread is this phenomenon?"

The finding also raises intriguing questions in plant evolution.

"We still don't understand why plants have duplicate pathways in different parts of the cell," Rhodes said. "And if one of these pathways is not operating, why haven't plants lost it over the course of evolution?"

Dudareva's collaborators also include Irina Orlova at Purdue University, as well as Susanna Andersson, Nathalie Gatto, Michael Reichelt, Wilhelm Boland and Jonathan Gershenzon at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany. Funding was provided by The National Science Foundation, Fred Gloeckner Foundation, German Academic Exchange Service and Max Planck Society.

Writer: Jennifer Cutraro, (765) 496-2050, jcutraro@purdue.edu

Sources: Natalia Dudareva, (765) 494-1325, dudareva@purdue.edu

David Rhodes, (765) 494-1312, drhodes@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
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