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Date:

July 14, 2005

Subject:

Seeds of Ignorance; Regulations Stymie Biotech; Trading on Ethics; Tree Biotech Growing; Gene for Drought Tolerance

 

Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org : July 14, 2005

* Seeds of Ignorance
* Researchers Say Regulations Stymie African Farmers Who are Ready for Biotech
* Trading on Ethics
* FAO: Biotechnology In Forestry Gaining Ground
* Antibody Against Tooth-Decay Now Produced in GM Crop
* Biotech & Biodiversity: Herbicide-Tolerant and Insect-Resistant GM Crops
* Why Activists Don't Protest Against Contaminated Food in Developing
Countries?
* New African Panel on Biotechnology
* Why Eating Organic Food Can Be Bad for You
* Get The Facts on Biotech From Several Web Sites
* Genetic Clue to Drought Resistant Crops Found
* Australia: GM Canola Detected In Victoria Safe As Conventional Canola
--

Seeds of Ignorance

- Lin Gu, South China Morning Post, July 9, 2005

'Mainland farmers are continuing to grow GM rice against both Chinese
law and the advice of concerned critics, due in part to the efforts
of an eminent scientist, writes Lin Gu'

Tian Zihai of Zhongzhou village in Hubei province was among the first
farmers to grow genetically modified (GM) rice, although China has
not approved its commercial release. He bought two kilograms of GM
rice seed in 2000 from a sales manager of the provincial seed company
who said the new seed would create cost savings on pesticide and
labour.

Mr Tian had no idea that the seed was genetically engineered to
produce inbuilt pesticide, and that state law forbids its sale. All
he knew was that the seed did prove effective in resisting pests, so
he bought more the next year. Now the Tians grow about 0.7-hectare of
GM rice a year, selling some and saving the rest for their own
consumption.

Mr Tian dismissed any note of caution about a rice mutation that even
pests dare not eat. "Look, I have eaten it for four years with no
problem at all," he said, smiling reassuringly. Encouraged by Mr
Tian's "success", the local seed station started to introduce the
"magic seed" in 2003.

Also encouraged was Zhang Qifa, China's leading biotechnology
scientist, who conducted the mainland's largest field trials on GM
rice. When interviewed by Newsweek in December last year, Professor
Zhang mentioned that farmers near the GM test areas in Hubei had
grown and eaten such rice without any side effects. The scientist was
quoted as saying: "A local company got some of the GM rice seed and
began selling it to local farmers."

The claim triggered six undercover investigations in Hubei by the
environmental group Greenpeace. Until April, when Greenpeace exposed
the illegal growing and trading of GM rice in the province, few
locals were aware that they had violated the law.

A two-day trip in Wuhan and Xianning made by this journalist in May,
a month after Greenpeace announced its findings, found four out of
the seven retailers investigated had sold anti-pest rice seed. Most
investigations identified Professor Zhang - who works at the Chinese
Academy of Sciences, and the Huazhong (Central China) Agricultural
University - as the source of the illegal grain.

Greenpeace collected rice samples from the Hubei market and sent them
to the GeneScan laboratory in Germany for transgenetic DNA testing,
which proved they had GM traits identical to those long researched by
Professor Zhang's team.

But the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) refused to accept the test
results, on the grounds that the standards might differ from China's.
The ministry said it would rely on the findings of an investigation
conducted by the local government.

In response to Greenpeace's appeal for urgent action to stop the
spread of GM rice, Fang Xiangdong, vice-director of the MOA's
bio-safety office, said: "We have to exercise extreme caution to find
concrete evidence, so that serious legal action can be taken." That
extreme caution is understandable, given Professor Zhang's prominent
status. Among his multiple titles he also serves as vice-chairman of
the China Association of Science and Technology, the mainland's
highest government -controlled civil scientific organisation.

While awaiting reports from Hubei, the MOA issued a circular on April
27, requiring a nationwide investigation into the status of GM crops
in field trials. To date, there are still no reports from Hubei and
no sign that the MOA is going to make any more public announcements.

In fact, the local authorities did take action long before
Greenpeace's investigation. One industry insider said that as early
as last autumn, Hubei authorities had already conducted
investigations into violations of bio-safety regulations and
"punished some wrongdoers according to law", although they would not
give details.

A newsletter, printed one month ahead of Greenpeace's April
announcement, by a local agricultural technology centre in Jiangxia
district on the outskirts of the provincial capital Wuhan, said that
anti-pest rice seed is "a type of crop forbidden to grow by the
country, because it may not be good for human health, and farmers
must not buy and grow it".

Zhang Liangxing, manager of the centre, said the local government
tried to halt the harvesting and sale of GM rice last year, but the
ban was difficult to implement because farmers were so much in favour
of the seeds.

The manager said Professor Zhang initiated the field trials of GM
rice and that when the seed appeared on the market, it was at
higher-than-average prices. "Even if Professor Zhang himself didn't
sneak the seed into the market , people around him could have done,"
the manager said, adding that "as someone working for a state-owned
agricultural centre, I would never sell a GM seed before its safety
has been proven".

"China has a very strict legal system to regulate its seed market and
GM crops, and we are regularly monitoring what's happening in the
fields," said the MOA's Mr Fang.

Some, however, find that less than satisfactory. "The Hubei scandal
shows that the government failed to control GM rice at the research
stage, so how will it regulate large-scale commercialisation?" said
Sze Pang Cheung, campaigner for Greenpeace China.

Yang Xiongnian, deputy director of the MOA's science, technology and
education department, said: "We cannot guarantee the problem will
disappear, given that China has more than 90,000 seed retailers and
some profit-driven individuals may want to test the law."

Still, the man at the centre of the storm remains silent, despite
repeated media inquiries. Five years ago, Professor Zhang began the
process of applying for safety certification for his GM rice seed - a
prerequisite for commercial release. He has conducted all the
required procedures, such as field trials, environmental release
trials, and pre-production trials - large-scale farmer field trials
across Hubei's five counties. When final approval for
commercialisation will come remains anyone's guess.

Last year, Professor Zhang and 15 other scholars, including the
leading biotechnologists in the country, filed a report to the State
Council, urging early approval of a commercialisation permit and
complaining that "over -strict" bio-safety regulations had slowed the
industrialisation of GM technology and contradicted "the strong need
for new technology among Chinese farmers".

On June 22, the MOA's bio-safety committee held its biannual meeting
where experts were invited to give their views on the safety issues
involved in growing GM crops. However, to the chagrin of GM
proponents, commercialisation has remained merely a topic for
discussion.

China has ploughed millions of yuan into biotechnology, with GM crops
at the cutting edge of the research. Professor Zhang's national plant
gene centre alone received 15 million yuan from the Ministry of
Science and Technology in 2002, in addition to the 56 million yuan he
received for research into GM rice.

China's largest investment in biotechnology, however, "puts pressure
on scientists to deliver something", said James Keeley, a British
researcher studying China's biotechnology policy. "It is a problem
when you have this high-level investment, because at some point
policymakers are going to ask, 'what are the benefits of spending
this money on biotech research if we are not going to use it?'"

One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "Much of
China's rice research funding goes to Professor Zhang." Professor
Zhang has signed a contract with the Ministry of Science and
Technology, which has set a timetable for the industrialisation of GM
crops. It is possible that Hubei is being touted as a "we did it
first" model to press for official recognition, as was the case with
GM cotton in China.

That could well be the case, according to one Beijing-based
scientist. "In some countries, popularisation happened before there
were standardised regulations. It's such a nice technology, and
farmers just can't wait."

That was also the case for one of China's neighbours, according to Mr
Keeley. Indian authorities had long refused to commercialise
anti-pest GM cotton, but scientists deliberately gave the cotton
seeds to farmers and it was soon widely grown across one province.
Due to their popularity among farmers, crops from the seeds quickly
spread out of control. "Because it looks embarrassing, given that you
can't enforce regulations, or you're persuaded that since farmers
want it, you should just let them have it," Mr Keeley said.

Indeed, farmers like Mr Tian are always open to new technology,
although he has no idea whether it's legal or not. But a seed
retailer in Jiangxia sounds a cautious note: "Our country has not
clearly stated whether GM rice can do us any harm or not. Even if
we're OK, how about our children, and theirs?"
---
Lin Gu is a Beijing-based writer for China Features

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

'Food Researchers Say Regulations Stymie African Farmers Who Are
Ready For Biotech '

Africa missing out on biotech crops, researchers say

- Lance Gay, Scripps Howard News Service, July 13, 2005

Regulatory hurdles are preventing African farmers from reaping the
benefits of genetically modified foods that could relieve hunger and
lessen the need for outside food assistance, a team of international
food scientists said Wednesday.

Joel Cohen, a researcher at the International Food Policy Research
Institute, said many African countries are conducting aggressive
research into using biotechnology to develop disease and
insect-resistant plants, but the seeds they are developing aren't
reaching farmers because government regulatory institutions in those
countries aren't familiar with how biotechnology works.

"The resistance is not with the farmers," said Cohen, who looked at
biotech research in Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
"Farmers have been adopting this technology rapidly." Cohen said
researchers in Africa are studying how to genetically modify 20
different crops, including maize, sugar cane and bananas. Approval of
genetically modified cotton plants has taken Africa 10 years, even
though the same insect-resistant cotton already is grown in
Argentina, China, India and Mexico.

Idah Sithole-Niang, a biochemist at the University of Zimbabwe, said
the major and unanticipated bottleneck is that regulatory agencies in
African countries aren't familiar with the technology and getting the
new seeds approved for use is taking too much time. "The difficulty
is moving from the laboratory to the farmer's field," she said.

The researchers released a report on their findings Wednesday and
urged more funds to bolster the expertise of African regulatory
agencies. International agencies contend genetic modification is one
method of making Africa more self-sufficient in producing food by
reducing crop losses due to disease and insect infestation.

Genetic modification also provides other benefits to farmers, who
don't have to rely on costly pesticides and agro-chemicals for their
crops, and can grow drought-resistant crops. One goal of grant
programs to Africa is to increase food production. Economists predict
a 10 percent increase in African agricultural productivity would
result in a 7.2 percent reduction in the continent's poverty rates.

Although genetic modification of plants has sparked a controversy
over the last decade, the researchers noted that more than 1 billion
acres of crops from genetically modified seeds were planted this
year. Nearly all the crops are grown in developed countries like the
United States, Argentina, Canada, Brazil, and China

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

Trading on Ethics

- Tom Weir, Grocery Headquarters Weekly, July 11, 0025

http://groceryheadquarters.com/index.cfm?p=article&sec=in

'In the food industry's future, trustworthiness may be the most
valuable asset.'

Food retailing has become much more complicated in recent years, and
there seems to be nothing on the horizon that even remotely resembles
simplification. If you thought streamlining the supply chain,
figuring out what to do with that huge accumulation of scan data and
developing a workable HACCP program took a lot out of you, just wait
until you're grappling with the ethics of bioengineering. That day is
likely to arrive before many supermarket companies are prepared for
it.

Arthur Caplan, chairman of the University of Pennsylvania's medical
ethics department, is in a good position to know because he makes a
living studying these things. His warning: "There is a huge
revolution coming in food." Part of the revolution will be in
response to the threat of terrorism and part will flow from
bioscience and the mapping of the human genome, Caplan told his
audience during a presentation at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery
Association's annual seminar and expo held in Minneapolis last month.

The anti-terrorism angle looks a lot like food safety and probably
will be readily accepted by the public. Who would object to packaging
that can detect whether the food inside has accidentally spoiled or
been willfully contaminated, assuming the concept is clearly
explained? The fact that such a package is possible is remarkable,
but if people are to benefit from it, the public explanation may be
as important as the science. And that will go double for anything
you're expecting consumers to eat.

"Ethics is all that people care about when it comes to food," Caplan
said, adding that customers will avoid any food supplier or retailer
that isn't viewed as trustworthy. He recalled the collapse and near
destruction of the United Kingdom's beef industry in the 1990s that
was brought about by a continuing failure to forthrightly address the
epidemic of mad cow disease.

Another example Caplan cited was the mess Monsanto found itself in
because it wasn't open about making genetically modified products.
Think back to the hordes of protesters that greeted ships arriving in
European ports with cargoes of Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans, and
it becomes clear that honest public relations on the front end can
save a lot of public embarrassment on the back end. Because most
people were left in the dark about something so new and different,
they had no basis for challenging those who called it "Frankenfood."

That type of hysteria about foods made with genetically modified
organisms never made it to American shores, probably because we had a
long history of trust in our food supply, whereas people in many
countries had plenty of reason to be skeptical of theirs. GMOs are
found throughout the U.S. food chain, and consumers don't seem to
think about them very much. But Caplan predicted that doctors will be
prescribing medicines based on a patient's DNA sample in five years.
In 10 years, he said, they'll be using that DNA sample to develop a
patient-specific diet.

Over that same time period, agricultural scientists and manufacturers
will be developing bioengineered foods intended to sustain and
improve health by genetically adding beneficial characteristics and
eliminating harmful ones. Here's where ethics will become the most
important aspect of food manufacturing and retailing, because that
same science can be used for less noble purposes.

Caplan raised the question of what happens if bioengineering is used
to make foods more irresistible or even addictive. Well, it would
certainly help sales--at least until the public found out about it.
The vast majority of companies would not choose to go that route.
Many would dismiss it as unethical; most others, weighing the risks
of litigation and loss of reputation against the benefits of moving
more cases, would come down on the side of caution.

But you just know some fool will think this is a good idea. When the
truth comes out about why people just can't seem to get enough of
whatever his company makes, it will put everybody who makes or sells
food under a cloud of suspicion. Imagine how much regulatory
legislation will be introduced in Congress within the first 24 hours
after the story runs on CNN. Imagine how much more will follow.
Imagine what a windfall this will be for activists whose suspicion of
GMOs has so far been generally disregarded.

How the industry and individual companies come out of this will
probably depend on how much honest effort has been made to build
public trust with every new advance in food science. A company's
biggest competitive advantage could turn out to be having an
established consumer base that's convinced it's ethical.

It's obvious that because of its broad implications for the entire
food industry this issue demands a lot of communication and
cooperation between retailers and manufacturers. As bioengineering's
role in the food supply continues to grow, consumers will want more
and more information about it, and they're not going to be happy with
any retailer or supplier who can't help them out. Now is the time for
every company in the industry to commit to a dedicated effort to get
on top of the issue and stay there.

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

UN Global Study Finds Biotechnology In Forestry Gaining Ground, Calls
for Systematic Assessment of Genetically Modified Trees

ROME, (FAO) - Research and applications of biotechnology in forestry
are advancing rapidly, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
said today.

A significant majority of forest biotechnology activities, around 70
per cent, is taking place in developed countries, according to a new
global study of biotechnology in forestry conducted by the FAO, with
the United States, France and Canada being the most active players.
India and China are the most active of the developing countries and
countries in transition.

While forest biotechnology activities have spread to at least 140
tree genera, the great majority of activities (around 60 per cent)
has been focused on only six (Pinus, Eucalyptus, Picea, Populus,
Quercus and Acacia). Of the over 2,700 biotechnology activities
reported in the world over the past 10 years, genetic modification
accounts for around 19 per cent only.

Overall, genetic modification activities in forestry are taking place
in at least 35 countries, with the vast majority apparently
restricted to the laboratory, with some supporting field trials, the
FAO said. Worldwide, more than 210 field trials of genetically
modified trees are currently under way in 16 countries; most of the
trials are being conducted in the United States and are restricted
largely to Populus, Pinus, Liquidambar and Eucalyptus. Only China has
reported the commercial release of genetically modified trees: around
1.4 million plants on 300-500 hectares in 2002.

Weighing Benefits and Risks

"Genetic modification is not intrinsically good or bad", said Pierre
Sigaud, a forest genetic resources expert at the FAO. "A regulatory
framework to govern research and application of genetically modified
forest trees on a case-by-case basis is essential. The issue goes
beyond the country level, since pollen flow and seed dispersal do not
take account of national boundaries, and since wood is a global
commodity", he added.

The potential traits of interest for genetically modified trees are
increased wood production, improved wood quality, and resistance to
insects, diseases and herbicides. In addition, production and
processing costs of wood or chips could be reduced, as well as
financial and environmental costs for pulping.

But deploying genetically modified trees is not without risks, the
FAO warned. Transgene instability, plantation failure, poor wood
quality, development of tolerance to the modified trait by insects or
disease organisms, and the escape of modified genes into natural
ecosystems are potential risk factors.

"Given that genetic modification in trees is already entering the
commercial phase with GM Populus in China, it is very important that
environmental risk assessment studies are conducted with protocols
and methodologies agreed upon at national and international levels.
It is also important that the results of such research are made
widely available", the study stated.

"The economic value of forest products in global trade is far less
than that of agricultural products, and the economic rationale for
employing biotechnology in forestry has not yet been clearly
demonstrated", Mr. Sigaud said. "It is not possible yet to reach
conclusions on the potential impacts of genetically modified forests
because of the lack of reliable information." "Since some 95 per cent
of the world's forests are natural or semi-natural, plantation of
genetically modified trees is likely to remain relatively limited",
Mr. Sigaud added.

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

Antibody Against Tooth-Decay Now Produced in GM Crop

http://www.in-pharmatechnologist.com/news/printNewsBis.asp?id=61277

US firms Large Scale Biology Corp and privately-held Planet
Biotechnology have expanded their biomanufacturing program to extract
and purify the latter's lead product, CaroRx, a plant-made antibody
to control dental caries.

LSBC biomanufacturing approach relies on the use of tobacco plants as
biological factories. The company inserts the genetic sequence coding
for the desired compound - in this case a secretory immunoglubulin A
(SIgA) - into a virus that infects tobacco plants. This tobacco
mosaic virus is based on RNA, so it does not combine with the tobacco
plant's genetic material. This does away with the need to genetically
modify the plant, avoiding the high cost and length of time taken to
develop transgenics and also bypassing environmental concerns about
GM material.

Using LSBC's process, regular tobacco is planted and sprayed with the
virus once the plants have emerged. The tobacco is then harvested as
normal, and further processing takes place to extract and purify the
target protein.

Making pharmaceuticals in crop plants such as tobacco is an
attractive proposition because they are inexpensive to grow, and
could produce vast quantities of drugs or vaccines at low cost,
potentially making it possible to make drugs that were not
economically feasible before. But moves in this area have been met
with dismay by environmentalist groups, alarmed that the GM traits
could find their way into the food chain.
CaroRx is claimed to be the world's first recombinant plant-made
antibody - or 'plantibody' - and has been shown in clinical studies
to prevent the adhesion to the tooth surface of decay causing
bacteria.
Planet's tobacco plants expressing the proprietary CaroRx Protected
SIgA will be extracted by LSBC at its Owensboro, Kentucky,
manufacturing facility. CaroRx is currently approved for sale as a
medical device in the European Union.

"This new phase of bioprocessing work that we have commissioned at
LSBC continues last year's successful production of developmental
clinical and analytical lots of CaroRx," said Planet's CEO, Elliott
Fineman. The new batches will be used in marketing efforts in Europe
and to supply a clinical trials programme in the US, he added.

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

Effects of Biotechnology on Biodiversity: Herbicide-Tolerant and
Insect-Resistant GM Crops

- Klaus Ammann, Swiss Botanical Garden, Berne, July 13, 2005

Biodiversity is threatened by agriculture as a whole, and
particularly also by traditional methods of agriculture.
Knowledge-based agriculture, including GM crops, can reduce this
threat in the future. The introduction of no-tillage practices, which
are beneficial for soil fertility, has been encouraged by the rapid
spread of herbicidetolerant soybeans in the USA. The replacement of
pesticides through Bt crops is advantageous for the nontarget insect
fauna in test-fields. The results of the British Farm Scale
experiment are discussed. Biodiversity differences can mainly be
referred to as differences in herbicide application management.

Read the report at
http://www.botanischergarten.ch/TIBTECH/Ammann-TIBTECH-Biodiversity-2005.pdf

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

Why Activists Don't Protest Against Contaminated Food in Developing Countries?

- Shanthu Shantharam

See the article in an Indian newspaper at
http://www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/jul102005/district175331200579.asp

After reading this byline, I could not help wonder about all the
protests about the lack of food safety testing about GM foods? This
is one of hundreds of reported and thousands of unreported foods that
are unsafe and adulterated served to millions of hapless school
children under mid-day meal scheme in India, and often sold to the
public all over developing countries. Somewhere there must be
statistics of deaths due to food adulteration and food poisoning, but
one will be hard pressed to find any confirmed deaths due to GM foods
so far.

But Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and hundreds of their cohorts in
India and elsewhere do not even as much as squeak in protest, but cry
endlessly about the lack of safety of GM foods that undergoes much
more rigorous regulatory review and biosafety tests. If they question
the safety of GM foods in any objective way as being untested or not
tested sufficiently, how about all these untested non-GM foods that
is sold so brazenly around the developing world without any
oversight. If they are truly concerned about food safety, then they
should also be concerned about safety of non-GM foods as well.

The same goes for adulterated poor quality non-GM seeds, adulterated
and spurious agri-chemical inputs sold by all sorts of unscrupulous
formulators and dealers. All of these are happening in broad day
light right under their noses, but these worthies chose to ignore
them as they seem to have a higher calling for GMOs. It seems they
will not be able to raise funds and get opportunity to galavant
around the world if they go after some local food adulterer. If they
applied their idea of "precautionary principle" here, then they will
realize that the food supply chain as it exists now will vanish, and
nothing replace it. It is not uncommon that if one scans the
developing world press, one is sure to encounter at least a dozen
stories of deaths and sickness due to unsafe food consumption.

The anti-GM brigade, if they are truly objective in their cause to
ensure safe food supply, they should be intellectually more honest in
protesting against the safety of all these adulterated non-GM foods
as vehemently as often. But, will they?

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

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

New African Panel on Biotechnology

The African Union (AU) Commission and NEPAD have established a panel
of eminent scholars, industrialists and policy-makers, the African
Panel on Biotechnology (APB), to design an African policy and
strategy for biotechnology and to provide comprehensive and
independent science policy advice to the AU.

The appointment of the Panel was made by Dr. Alpha Oumar Konare,
Chairperson of the AU Commission and former President of Mali.

It will be co-chaired by former World Bank Vice-President and
Director of the Library of Alexandria Dr. Ismail Serageldin of Egypt
and former Executive Secretary of United Nations Convention on
Biological Diversity and co-ordinator of the Task Force on Science,
Technology and Innovation of the United Nations Millennium Project
Prof. Calestous Juma of Kenya.

"The creation of this high-level advisory group is a clear
manifestation of Africa's determination to take a common informed
approach to address issues pertaining to modern biotechnology and its
applications for health, agriculture, industry, mining and the
Environment," Dr Konare said. The APB will identify and recommend
specific ways of building Africa's capacities to apply and safely
handle modern biotechnology.

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

Why Eating Organic Food Can Be Bad for You

- Julian Morris, The Independent (UK), July 12, 2005
http://comment.independent.co.uk/

From a talk given at the Royal Society of Arts in London by the
director of the International Policy Network

Over the past 50 years, improvements in agricultural technologies
have led to a dramatic increase in food output and this can be seen
in terms of the reduction in the price of food over that period - the
cost of food has fallen by about 75 per cent.

In the meantime, world population has risen by about double, so there
are now twice the number of people on the planet as there were 50
years ago, and yet food availability per capita has gone up by 25 per
cent. In the poorest parts of the world, it's risen by nearly 40 per
cent.

Organic agriculture risks turning back the tide. With some
exceptions, organic agriculture is substantially less efficient than
the most modern agricultural technologies that are available,
precisely because it eschews those technologies.

Let's look at some of the science that's been done on understanding
the way that humans respond to the chemicals that are in our food.
According to Professor Bruce Ames, who's among the most cited
scientists in the world, 99 per cent or more of the chemicals we eat
are natural. What's more surprising, perhaps, is that he says 99.99
per cent of the pesticides we eat are natural chemicals that are
present in plants to ward off insects and other predators. Plants
contain their own pesticides.

It is well-known and well-demonstrated that eating several portions
of fresh fruit and vegetables every day provides protection against
diseases, including cancer, heart disease and many other diseases
associated with aging. The protective effect of the micro-nutrients
and vitamins in conventionally produced fresh fruit and vegetables
vastly outweighs any harmful effect that might result from the
residues of pesticides.

For families with limited food budgets, buying more expensive organic
food may reduce the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables that they
eat. The consequence of that may be that you are less able to respond
effectively to disease agents, you're more likely to be harmed by
natural things and by the aging process because you're eating organic
food and therefore not eating as much fruit and vegetables as you
might have done.

Over the past 50 years, improvements in agricultural technologies
have led to a dramatic increase in food output and this can be seen
in terms of the reduction in the price of food over that period - the
cost of food has fallen by about 75 per cent.

In the meantime, world population has risen by about double, so there
are now twice the number of people on the planet as there were 50
years ago, and yet food availability per capita has gone up by 25 per
cent. In the poorest parts of the world, it's risen by nearly 40 per
cent.

Organic agriculture risks turning back the tide. With some
exceptions, organic agriculture is substantially less efficient than
the most modern agricultural technologies that are available,
precisely because it eschews those technologies.

Let's look at some of the science that's been done on understanding
the way that humans respond to the chemicals that are in our food.
According to Professor Bruce Ames, who's among the most cited
scientists in the world, 99 per cent or more of the chemicals we eat
are natural. What's more surprising, perhaps, is that he says 99.99
per cent of the pesticides we eat are natural chemicals that are
present in plants to ward off insects and other predators. Plants
contain their own pesticides.

It is well-known and well-demonstrated that eating several portions
of fresh fruit and vegetables every day provides protection against
diseases, including cancer, heart disease and many other diseases
associated with aging. The protective effect of the micro-nutrients
and vitamins in conventionally produced fresh fruit and vegetables
vastly outweighs any harmful effect that might result from the
residues of pesticides.
For families with limited food budgets, buying more expensive organic
food may reduce the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables that they
eat. The consequence of that may be that you are less able to respond
effectively to disease agents, you're more likely to be harmed by
natural things and by the aging process because you're eating organic
food and therefore not eating as much fruit and vegetables as you
might have done.

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

Get The Facts on Biotech From Several Web Sites

- Harry Cline, Western Farm Press, July 2, 2005 http://westernfarmpress.com

The public debate continues to heat up in Sonoma County where the
radical anti-biotech element is making another stand - hopefully like
the one Custer made. The radicals are facing stiff opposition from a
initiative-opposing coalition out of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.

A Bay Area CBS Television affiliate put out an article recently
detailing how the group led by Lex McCorvey, executive director of
the Sonoma County Farm Bureau is responding effectively to the
scare-monger tactics from the anti-GE bunch. McCorvey did a good job
of pointing out, for example, that the GE moratorium initiative to
appear on the November ballot in Sonoma County would prohibit the
sale of West Nile Virus vaccine in the county.

All the anti-GE crowd could argue back was the killer tomato ruse
that allowing GE crops in the county would overrun the countryside,
and the only people who benefit from GE crops are Monsanto
stockholders. My e-mail supply from the radicals has dried up so I
am having to rely on the lame arguments they peddle to the mass
media. They have decided - correctly - that I am either not
convincible or they know I will print their whacko comments.

However, I still receive e-mails on the subject and recent ones have
been civil and inquisitive about some of the claims regurgitated by
the anti-GE crowd on subjects like pollen drift. For the most part,
people are asking for scientific resources to do their own research.

I have given them Dr. Patrick Moore's Greenspirit Web site as well as
asking them to search on the Web for Norman Borlaug's comments about
the current anti-GE movement.

There are some excellent Web sites that can provide solid, scientific
information on the subject, including the Web site of the University
of California Seed Biotechnology Center, the Biotechnology Program at
UC Davis, International Food Information Council, UC Biotechnology
Research and Education Program, California Science Teachers
Association, AgBiotechNet and many others. Google or Yahoo any of
these for information as well as links directing you to more
reputable Web sites.

On one site, there is an interesting analysis piece authored by Kent
Bradford, head of the UC Seed Biotechnology Center. The report notes
the cost of meeting regulatory requirements and market restrictions
guided by regulatory criteria are "substantial impediments to
commercialization of transgenic crops.".

The scientists did not want to toss caution to the wind when it comes
to GE crops, however, they argue that some regulatory requirements
prudent initially could now be changed without compromising safety.

"Long-accepted breeding methods of incorporating new diversity into
crops, experience from two decades of research on and
commercialization of transgenic crops, and expanding knowledge of
planting genome structure and dynamics all indicate that if a gene or
trait is safe, the genetic engineering process itself presents little
potential of unexpected consequences that would not be identified or
eliminated in the variety development process before
commercialization.".

That represents quite a different viewpoint than the anti-GE crowd's
"needs more study" argument.

As you go to these Web sites, it becomes obvious that GE crops have
been scrutinized like no other agricultural technology. Literally
thousands of scientists have looked at the technology and there is
unanimity that the benefits far outweigh risks.

Anti-GE radicals counter that the huge body of scientific research
that has found no fault with GE crops is all from scientists in
Monsanto's hip pocket.

Monsanto must have one heckuva payroll is all I can say.

Check out those Web sites.

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Genetic Clue to Drought Resistant Crops Found

- Sonja van Renssen SciDev.Net , July 14, 2005

The 'erecta' gene in Arabidopsis could play a key role in developing
drought-resistant crops, say researchers

A gene shown to determine how well plants conserve water could help
scientists develop drought-resistant crops, say Australian
researchers.

Josette Masle and colleagues at the Australian National University
isolated a gene that helps a plant called Arabidopsis minimise water
loss as it grows. Their work was published online by Nature on 10
July. The gene, called 'erecta', determines how many pores the plant
has on its leaves. Plants use these pores to take in carbon dioxide,
but lose water through them whenever they are open.

"There is a trade-off: gaining carbon dioxide means losing water,"
explains Masle. As well as determining the density of pores on the
plants' leaves, erecta also helps determine how efficient the cells
beneath the pores are at converting carbon dioxide into sugars plants
use for growth. It is the first gene shown to affect both processes.

Masle's team found that by changing the structure of erecta they
could create plants with a different balance in the trade-off between
losing water and gaining carbon dioxide. Knowing this means
researchers could help crops, such as rice and wheat, be more
'economical' with their water, by giving them a version of erecta
that strikes the right balance for the environment they grow in.

Already, the team has found genetic sequences similar to erecta in
rice and wheat. The crops could be modified using either conventional
breeding methods or modern genetic engineering. This is likely to
become increasingly important as climate change leads to drier
conditions in many parts of the world.

The research offers the potential to increase yields both in areas
already cultivated and on land previously too dry to farm. Boosting
plants' ability to deal with insufficient water might also enhance
their ability to overcome other challenges like extreme salt levels,
Masle told SciDev.Net. Better use of water is one way of combating
drought, but other methods include developing plants with a more
extensive root system or the ability to retain more water by
accumulating dissolved salts.

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Australia: GM Canola Detected In Victoria Safe As Conventional Canola

The Australian Government Gene Technology Regulator, Dr Sue Meek,
today issued an assurance that canola found in Victoria to contain
genetic material that could only have been introduced using gene
technology is as safe as conventional canola for both people and the
environment.

Dr Meek said testing of canola seeds conducted by ABB Ltd, using new
and highly sensitive analytical techniques, has detected extremely
low levels of the genetic material in samples of supposedly
conventional canola.

"The "DNA fingerprint" of the genetic material tells us that canola
containing this particular modification (known as Topas 19/2, which
confers tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate ammonium) was trialled
in Australia under the former voluntary system, prior to the
introduction of the national regulatory system for gene technology in
2001," she said.

This system was overseen by the Genetic Manipulation Advisory
Committee, and their guidelines contained similar containment
provisions to limit the spread of GMOs and their introduced genetic
material as those imposed in intentional release licenses issued by
the Regulator.

"However, Topas 19/2 has subsequently been comprehensively assessed
by both Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and the Gene
Technology Regulator and approved for human consumption and
commercial release."

Dr Meek said Topas 19/2 was among a number of lines that Bayer Crop
Science Pty Ltd (Bayer) included for evaluation in its application
for a commercial release licence for InVigorŪ canola that was issued
by the Regulator in 2003.

"Bayer has advised that this line also has approvals in a number of
other countries, including Europe, China, the USA, Canada and Japan.
However, the company has stated that it has chosen not to develop it
further in Australia," she said. "While there are number of ways in
which the genetic material could have been inadvertently incorporated
into conventional canola plants, trials conducted under Commonwealth
or State legislation do not seem to be a likely source."

None of the limited and controlled releases that have been, or are
being, conducted with genetically modified canola under licenses
issued by the Gene Technology Regulator have introduced genetic
material which matches that found in the independent tests.

The industry test results also show the genetic material found in
what were thought to be conventional crop samples is different from
that in the InVigorŪ lines authorised for use in the trials Bayer is
currently conducting in accordance with the Victorian Government's
moratorium legislation. The small scale of the trial of Topas 19/2
that was conducted in Victoria prior to the establishment of the
national regulatory scheme for gene technology makes it unlikely that
the genetic material came from there.

"My Office is providing technical assistance to the Victorian
Department of Primary Industries to help attempt to determine how and
when this situation may have arisen," Dr Meek said. "The most
important message is that this genetic modification has been
thoroughly assessed and approved for unrestricted release as it does
not pose risks to human health and safety or the Australian
environment."

Media contact: Kay McNiece, Media Adviser to the OGTR, 0412 132 585

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