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Date:

August 31, 2005

Subject:

Benbrook's latest biotech attack; EU OKs Monsanto Rapeseed Oil; South Africa's GM production growing; 'Frankenfoods' to the rescue

 

Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: August 31, 2005

* Debunking Benbrook's latest biotech attack
* EU Office OKs Monsanto Rapeseed Oil Use
* South Africa's GM production growing
* Genetically Modified Foods: Breeding Uncertainty
* 'No evidence to show GMO a danger'
* Expert blames agric woes on poverty, food scarcity
* New hope for green biotechnology in Germany
* GMO Ag 'immense advantages'
* 'Frankenfoods' to the rescue
* Biotech boosts food production
---------------------------

From: "Alex Avery"
Subject: Call for assistance debunking Benbrook's latest biotech attack
Date: Wed, 31 Aug 2005 10:48:39 -0400

Call to action: The August issue of EHP features a cover story on the “growing backlash” against biotech crops and foods. We need help in detailing misinformation from professional anti-biotech activist Chuck Benbrook, who has come out with another negative report on a biotech crop. This time he’s been paid by a group of Western activist groups to attack glyphosate-tolerant wheat. Predictably, Benbrook misleads horrendously. A quick perusal found the following glaring example: Benbrook attacks the “assertion” that glyphosate is “relatively non-toxic compared to other herbicides, and quickly breaks down to benign chemicals” by citing a recent, though laughably irrelevant paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Benbrook states that “Recent research, however, has raised troubling questions about the safety of glyphosate and formulated Roundup herbicides. A study published in the June 2005 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, a publication of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, found that glyphosate is toxic to human placental cells at concentrations below those found with agricultural use (Richard et al., 2005).

What did this paper report? When you spray Roundup (complete with surfactants, adjuvants, etc) directly on cultured human placenta cells, they die. It’s one of those, “well, duh” papers that is totally irrelevant to the real world, unless mothers are injecting Roundup into their wombs. Nobody is exposed to Roundup in this way and one wonders why the researchers undertook the “experiment”. What was their control? After all, spraying cultured human placenta cells with any number of otherwise benign substances would result in cell death.

But EHP saw fit to publish this paper, giving the false impression to ignorant journalists and consumers that Roundup will kill unborn babies. This is exactly the sort of grist Benbrook needs for his misinformation mill and EHP delivers a steady stream of it. I’m actually a periodic reviewer for EHP and I like to think I do a thorough and fair job critiquing. I’ve recommended that every paper I’ve reviewed be published, albeit usually with major revisions. I can’t say as much about the quality of the reviews by those that reviewed the single paper that I eventually got published in EHP in 1999. I had to submit the paper 3 times and if it wasn’t for a very kind emeritus professor of medicine at Dartmouth Medical School who called the Editor on my paper’s behalf, it never would have been published.

Please help us craft a thorough and quality critique of Benbrook’s latest screed and help us find and detail every single instance of misinformation, misanalysis, and negative speculation in Benbrook’s “report.” Please forward your reviews and findings to me at: aavery@cgfi.org

Thanks for any and all help.

The report is available in PDF form at:

http://www.worc.org/pdfs/Harvest%20at%20Risk.pdf

Alex Avery
Director of Research
Center for Global Food Issues, Hudson Institute
PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421
(540) 337-6354, or -6387
aavery@cgfi.org
********************************

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/news/archive/2005/08/31/financial/f043051D57.DTL&type=business

EU Office OKs Monsanto Rapeseed Oil Use

- Associated Press, August 31, 2005

The European Commission on Wednesday gave clearance for U.S. biotechmology company Monsanto Co. to sell a genetically modified rapeseed in the European Union for use in animal feed.

The 10-year license granted by the EU head office does not give Monsanto the right to sell the herbicide-resistant product known as variant GT73 for cultivation or for human food uses in the region, however.

The product was deemed by the European Food Safety Authority to be as safe as conventional oilseed in a scientific evaluation made last year.

The EU authorization includes guidelines agreed with Monsanto on how to deal with accidental spills of the product. GT73 is grown in the United States, Australia and Canada. It is allowed for sale in those countries, plus Japan, the Philippines and South Korea.

Wednesday's approval is the second this month for Monsanto, which is based in St. Louis. The Commission gave its clearance Aug. 8 for the import of a genetically modified corn product made by Monsanto, also for use in animal feed.

The Commission cleared the import of both products after the EU's 25 member states failed to make a decision on the issue. Under new EU rules, the commission has authority to decide on clearing new biotech crops if member states reach a stalemate.

The EU ended a six-year moratorium on accepting applications for new genetically modified foods in May 2004, under strict approval procedures and labeling regulations, but several EU nations remain reluctant to authorize biotech crops because of public health and environmental concerns.
**************************************

http://www.news24.com/News24/Technology/News/0,,2-13-1443_1762145,00.html

South Africa's GM production growing

- News24.com, 30/08/2005 15:16

Parliament - Genetically Modified Organisms food production is growing worldwide despite vigorous anti-GMO campaigning, according to major agricultural seed and pesticide company Monsanto.

Addressing the National Assembly's science and technology committee on Tuesday, Monsanto Sub-Sahara Africa managing director Kobus Lindeque said despite the anti-GMO campaign to stop the production of GM crops to produce food, more than 18 million hectares of GM crops were grown in 17 countries by 8.25 million farmers on all continents last year.

South Africa planted 400 000 hectares of GM crops, and a large percentage was grown by smallholder emergent farmers.

GM crops had been escalating in South Africa every year since the first crops were planted six years ago.

GM food had gone throughout the South African food chain during the past six years and been consumed by 40 million people, without any ill-effects.

Thousands of job opportunities

Commercial farmers producing GM maize on dry land realised higher yields on average of 400 kg/ha. GM cotton farmers producing under irrigation also increased yields by 400 kg/ha. Pesticide application was substantially reduced.

Although South Africa was currently the only country on the African continent growing GM crops commercially, there was a strong outcry from African leaders in west Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Ethiopia for the adoption of GM crops.

"President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya summed up the need very effectively when he announced that Kenya lost up to $75m annually in maize production due to the stalk borer and claimed that agricultural biotechnology could minimise these losses," Lindeque said.

Agricultural biotechnology was on the threshold of unprecedented new developments with immense economic advantages and vast employment opportunities.

Eight ethanol plants processing maize would be constructed at a cost of R2.4bn, reducing South Africa's dependence on imported fuel.

This would be one of the biggest economic injections to date into the agricultural industry. Thousands of job opportunities would be created, mainly in rural areas, Lindeque said.
************************************

http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2005/113-8/focus.html

Genetically Modified Foods: Breeding Uncertainty

"Genetically modified (GM) crops first appeared commercially in the mid-1990s to what seemed a bright and promising future. Resistant to pests and the herbicides used to control weeds, these new crops were so popular with farmers that millions of acres were planted with them by the turn of the millennium. Today, GM crops are grown commercially by 8.25 million farmers on 200 million acres spread throughout 17 countries, reports the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), an international nonprofit that advocates for the technology. The world's top five producers--the United States, Argentina, Canada, Brazil, and China--account for 96% of global GM cultivation; of this, more than half is in the United States.

"Yet these impressive numbers tell only part of the story. Fully as notable as the growth of GM agriculture is the relentless backlash that has developed against it. Although GM supporters insist the technology raises harvest yields, reduces agrochemical use, and will eventually even produce high-nutrition food that can grow in depleted soils, skeptics counter that the risks of GM foods--made with gene splicing methods from biotechnology--are unknown and poorly addressed by current testing methods. They also worry that the spread of GM crops, which are supplied mainly by a handful of multinational companies, fuels corporate ownership of the seed supply and threatens the purity of indigenous crops, with which GM varieties can breed by cross-pollination."
====================================

http://iafrica.com/news/sa/477622.htm

'No evidence to show GMO a danger'

- IAfrica.com, Aug 30, 2005

There is no scientific peer proven evidence anywhere in the world to show that food from GM crops poses a danger to humans or animals and to the environment, University of Cape Town molecular and cell biotechnology academic Professor Jennifer Thomson said on Tuesday.

Addressing the National Assembly's science and technology committee, Thomson said she resented claims by anti-GMO (genetically modified
organisms) activists that scientists were reluctant to condemn GMOs because they were dependent on grants from the GMO industry.

"I totally reject this. Let me make it very clear: I am an independent scientist. I have never received a grant or financial support from any GMO company or the industry.

"There is no scientific peer proven evidence anywhere in the world to show that food from GM crops is a threat to human or animal health or will contaminate the environment, as is often claimed by activists," she said.

'GM food is safe for humans'

The European Union Commission had conducted 81 scientific research projects over a period of 15 years at a cost of R640- million, financed by the EU, and had come to the conclusion that "GM food is both safe for humans and the environment".

The Royal Society of London and eight other academies of science from the world's leading countries concurred.

Thomson said apart from food production GMOs offered unlimited scope for agricultural growth and vast new applications in the field of medicine.

Known as pharming, vaccines against numerous infectious diseases were now being developed from crops grown on the farm as an alternative to injections at a fraction of the cost, she said.

A cholera vaccine, produced in a plant, could be given to a child at a cost of 80 cents compared to normal treatment costing R500.

Using transgenic tobacco and potato plants, German scientists were developing a vaccine against cervical cancer, the third most common cancer in women.

These vaccines were not only being developed for human health, but also for diseases threatening cattle.

Drought tolerant maize

Thomson is a member of a group of scientists at UCT who are in an advanced stage of developing a drought tolerant maize.

"We have developed a number of strategies to isolate genes that are functionally important in drought stress. We have isolated some 60 genes that could potentially be used to improve drought tolerance in crops," she said.

National African Farmers' Union (NAFU) secretary general Sabina Khoza, told the committee trials were conducted in the 2004/05 season on six plots in six provinces with GM and non-GM maize planted side by side on one hectare plots to compare yields.

The project was initiated by NAFU, Ikageng Women's League, Buhle Farmers' Academy at Delmas, Cedara Agricultural College in KwaZulu-Natal, the provincial departments of agriculture, and AfricaBio.

The GM maize on the six sites had an average yield increase of 40.5 percent over the conventional maize. The highest increase was 61 percent on Khoza's own plot at Zuurbekom, Gauteng.

"This new technology is what Africa needs to overcome famine and give us food for security. The small-scale maize farmer, like myself, is not only a producer, but also an on-the-spot consumer.

"We start by eating corn on the cob and end with maize meal porridge. My family and friends have been eating GM maize food for the past three years and nobody has taken ill. We don't feed our children poison," she said.
*******************************************

http://www.thetidenews.com/article.aspx?qrDate=08/31/2005&qrTitle=Expert%20blames%20agric%20woes%20on%20poverty,%20food%20scarcity&qrColumn=BUSINESS

Expert blames agric woes on poverty, food scarcity

- Tide Online, by Kinika Mpi, August 31, 2005

Poverty and food insufficiency have been identified as major problems militating against the economic progress of Nigerian as a nation.

The Programme Manager, Total Development International Foundation (TODEV), Dr Wole Fatunbi, made the assertion in a position paper titled “Agricultural Biotechnology, an intervention with a great promise,” presented at the awareness workshop on Agricultural Biotechnology held at the Obi Wali Integrated Cutural Centre recently.

According to him, greater efforts must be geared towards sustainable food production which when achieved would sound like on shop solution to the already known problems, stressing that when a nation is still battling with the problem of food insufficiency, such people cannot progress to advance thoughts on human development.

Dr Fatunbi pointed out that the introduction of biotechnology has accelerated the development of crop pest, thereby reducing the use of agro-chemicals that could have harmful effect on the environment and human health, adding that it could provide diagnostic tools and vaccines that could control devastating animal diseases.

He said that it could improve the nutritional quality of staple foods such as rice, cassava and create new products for health and industrial uses, as well as provide the possibility for achieving developmental fantasies in agriculture such as developing apple varieties that would be cultivated in Nigeria or growing wheat in the warm and humid parts of Nigeria.

The TODEV Programme Manager, said that the identified areas in biotech effect range from medicine, pharmacy, pharmacology, food production, food processing, energy production, environmental conservation and agriculture in general.
********************************

http://www.checkbiotech.org/root/index.cfm?fuseaction=news&doc_id=11125&start=1&control=220&page_start=1&page_nr=101&pg=1

New hope for green biotechnology in Germany

- Handelsblatt, 31 Aug 2005, By Catrin Bialek, (Translated by Rupert Schutz, Checkbiotech)

DÜSSELDORF - Green biotechnology has so far led a shadowy existence in Germany. Scientists and entrepreneurs now see their chance. The German Christian Democratic and the Liberal Parties want to change the rigid course.

Among other things, this is also because last year, the Second Genetic Engineering Act further tightened the conditions for cultivation of genetically modified plants.

“Under laboratory conditions one can do almost everything here, but to move to outdoor tests isn’t feasible at the moment,” states Ricardo Gent, managing director of the German Association of Biotechnology Industries.

With a possible change of government, scientists and entrepreneurs now see a gleam of hope. Politicians from the German Christian Democratic and the Liberal Parties announced that they want to correct the current rigid policy regarding green biotechnology.

For the advocates of the green biotechnology, its advantages are quite obvious: by means of green genetic engineering, food and fodder crops can become resistant to parasites and herbicides, they can endure extreme temperatures such as heat or cold better and bring a higher yield altogether.

In principle, modern genetic engineering pursues the same aims as the traditional plant breeding à la Gregor Mendel.

It’s with the help of Mendel’s laws of inheritance, discovered around 1900, that plant breeders try to combine as many positive characteristics of a line as possible.

The genebank in Gatersleben plays an important role in Germany in preserving the natural genetic diversity of the plants. It is one of the world’s largest collections of agricultural and horticultural plants, in which approximately 150,000 plants are archived. Every year, approximately 13,000 samples are given to plant breeders and enterprises free of charge. “We pursue a protective role that is rather the opposite of green biotechnology,” states Andreas Garner, director of the gene bank.

The traditional breedering has reached its limits, a fact that agrarian scientist Garner also knows well. For example, with the help of green biotechnology, it is possible to purposefully bring a single gene into an organism, as in vitamin E into rapeseed for example.

“Green biotechnology is the next logical step in plant breeding”, says Gerhard Wenzel, president of the Society for Plant Breeding.

Garner supplemented the gene bank with a molecular-genetic analysis of these plants. Therefore, green genetic engineering nevertheless still entered the gene bank, if seemingly through the backdoor. At present, researchers in Gatersleben are occupied, for instance, in decoding the genome of barley - a genome, which by the way is far more complex than that of humans.

“We need genome research to understand the functioning of a plant,” Garner said.

Rice is one plant whose genome has already been decoded. This new knowledge aided researchers in developing the so called Golden Rice variety. It is a genetically modified rice variety with elevated vitamin A levels. In developing countries, many individuals go blind due to a lack of vitamin A. But the global hurdles are high - so far no approval for commercial use has been granted for this designer rice.

In Germany, hurdles are particularly high as well, where only parasite resistant Bt corn is cultivated - on a manageable area of about 300 hectares. Originally more than 1,000 hectares of Bt corn were announced for this year, but due to protests and damages, farmers have reset their projects as the coordinating federation Innoplanta in Gartersleben informed.

Opponents of genetic engineering, such as Greenpeace, are concerned about the allegedly non-calculable risks of this new technology. Gent, from the industrial union of biotechnology, cannot understand such arguments. “Genetically modified plants pass a very strict approval process, in which all risks are eliminated,” he said. “This incidentally doesn’t take place with conventional varieties.”

But hardly anyone makes it to the approval stage in Germany. In part, because of the need for outdoor tests, which are almost impossible to carry out in Germany due to liability regulations and low threshold values.

The consequences: scientists often continue their basic research which was successfully begun in Germany in other countries. As a result, a while ago, a project to produce rapeseed oil with elevated vitamin E content, shifted from Germany to Canada. Recently, outdoor tests were performed, varieties were registered and these plants are now marketed out of Canada.

Cultivation world-wide

Up to now, more than 90 different transgenic varieties were certified for commercial use. The majority of cultivation come from genetically modified varieties of soy and corn (62% and 21% respectively), followed by transgenic cotton (12%) and rapeseed (5%).

Global cultivation of transgenic plants rose from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 67.7 millions of hectares in 2004. The size of the global market for transgenic seed was of approximately USD 4.5 billion in 2003 – a buoyant market.

Approximately 99 percent of the global cultivation of transgenic plants comes from six main farming countries: USA, Argentina, Canada, Brazil, China and South Africa. With its several hundred of hectares, Germany lies far behind.
***************************

http://www.truthabouttrade.org/article.asp?id=4345

GMO Ag 'immense advantages'

- Truth about Trade and Technology, 8/30/2005

Genetically modified organisms (GMO) food production is growing worldwide despite vigorous anti-GMO campaigning, according to major agricultural seed and pesticide company Monsanto.

Addressing the National Assembly's science and technology committee on Tuesday, Monsanto sub-Sahara Africa managing director Kobus Lindeque said in spite of the anti-GMO campaign to stop the production of GM crops to produce food, more than 18-million hectares of GM crops were grown in 17 countries by 8,25-million farmers on all continents last year.

South Africa planted 400 000 hectares of GM crops, and a large percentage was grown by smallholder emergent farmers. GM food had spread throughout the South African food chain during the past six years and been consumed by 40-million people, without any ill-effects.

Commercial farmers producing GM maize on dry land realised higher yields on average of 400 kg/ha. GM cotton farmers producing under irrigation also increased yields by 400 kg/ha. Pesticide application was substantially reduced.

Although South Africa is currently the only country on the African continent growing GM crops commercially, there has been a strong outcry from African leaders in West Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Ethiopia for the adoption of GM crops.

"President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya summed up the need very effectively when he announced that Kenya lost up to $75-million (R488-million) annually in maize production due to the stalkborer and claimed that agricultural biotechnology could minimise these losses," Lindeque said.

Agricultural biotechnology was on the threshold of unprecedented new developments with immense economic advantages and vast employment opportunities.

Eight ethanol plants processing maize will be constructed at a cost of R2,4-billion, reducing South Africa's dependence on imported fuel.

This would be one of the biggest economic injections to date into the agricultural industry. Thousands of job opportunities would be created, mainly in rural areas, Lindeque said.
*************************************

'Frankenfoods' to the rescue

- The Taipei TimesMonday, August 29, 2005, By Johnjoe McFadden

The world's population is expanding by 86 million a year - but GM rice can save us from famine.

While we in the West are preoccupied with cloning sheep, pigs, dogs and, of course, ourselves, scientists in the developing world are focused on an organism of far greater importance: rice. According to a Chinese saying, "the most precious things are not jade and pearls, but the five grains." Earlier this month the genome of one of those five grains was laid bare when the complete genome sequence of rice was published in the journal Nature.

Rice is the staple food crop for 3 billion people, mostly in Asia. But most of those dependent on the crop still go hungry. About 800 million people don't have enough to eat, many of them children, and about 5 million will die of diseases related to malnutrition.

And with the world's population increasing at a rate of about 86 million people a year, things could get a lot worse. It is estimated that rice production will have to increase by about 30 percent in the next 20 years to keep pace with population growth and economic development. Where is all the food going to come from?

There are two principal ways to boost food production: increasing the amount of land under cultivation or increasing yields. Until the 1960s the favored strategy was putting more land under the plough, resulting in the loss of much of the world's wilderness and native forest.

But in the 1960s plant breeders such as Norman Borlaug pioneered a new strategy, increasing crop yields through a mixture of seed improvement and technological inputs: the green revolution. As crops of the new varieties were planted, first in Mexico and then throughout the world, particularly in Asia, harvests soared and have continued to rise at a rate of about 2 percent a year.

But the green revolution is grinding to a halt. There have been only small yield increases in recent years, and it is thought that rice grown on the most productive irrigated land has now achieved maximum production levels. The challenge for the future is to increase yields in more marginal lands, where much of the crop ends up in the bellies of insects or is devastated by drought or disease.

Many scientists (including Borlaug) believe that the only way to provide food security for the world's poorest people is to genetically engineer crops that are more resistant to nature's ravages.

The potential value of GM crops was highlighted earlier this year with the publication of the results of a Chinese study that demonstrated a 10 percent increase in yield for farms that planted an insect-resistant GM variety of rice.

In quite an understatement, Jikun Huang, the director of the Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said: "The performance of insect-resistant GM rice in trials has been impressive." Not only were yields up, but the use of pesticides dropped by 80 percent and farmers reported a dramatic reduction in pesticide-related health problems.

But inserting a single gene is just tinkering. What the rice genome project provides is a blueprint of the entire genome and the capability to engineer the crop to meet the needs of farmers throughout the world.

The rice genome was sequenced by the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project, a unique collaboration of researchers in Japan, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Korea, the US, Canada, France, India, Brazil, the Philippines and the UK.

The project, with its insistence on making its data immediately available to scientists anywhere in the world at no cost, is a glowing example of one of the positive benefits of globalisation: internationally collaborative science that can benefit the entire world. Even before publication, researchers had already mined the rice genome data to identify novel genes.

Of course, many aid organizations -- often heavily influenced by Western green campaigns -- have attacked the emphasis on GM technology, calling it a "technical fix" that does little to address the real social and economic causes of world poverty and hunger.

They said the same several decades ago when widespread famine was predicted to follow a population explosion. The population explosion materialized but the famine didn't. The reason was that while others argued for social reform, pioneering plant breeders launched the green revolution and saved millions from starvation. The Human Development Report 2001, commissioned by the UN development program, concluded that "many developing countries might reap great benefits from genetically modified food crops and other organisms."

Some 1.2 million people live on less than one US dollar a day, and that dollar usually buys rice. But the crop is prone to many diseases, pests and unpredictable climate change. Genetic engineering of crops to generate new varieties resistant to disease, pests, drought and salinity could revolutionize third-world farming. The release of the rice genome sequence places a powerful toolkit in the hands of researchers eager to improve crop yields.
**********************************

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/static/dav/2003/05/16/feat/biotech.boosts.food.production.html

Biotech boosts food production

- Sun Star, By Henrylito D. Tacio, May 16, 2003

CURRENT biotechnology can increase crop yields and reduce production costs, even for small-scale farmers in developing countries, who make up a large part of the world's poor and hungry population, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

"Biotechnology can help even the landless poor by enriching staple foods, such as through the addition of essential vitamins," says the FAO report, "Biotechnology and Food Security."

The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity defines biotechnology as: "any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use." This even covers traditional techniques to make wine and cheese.

However, modern biotechnology generally means modification of living organisms (plants, animals and fish) through the manipulation of genes. A gene is the smallest complete unit of coded information in an organism.

This constitutes the "source code" of the organism, just as sequences of 1 and 0 define a computer file or program.

The UN food agency identifies two main types of biotechnological processes.

The first uses genetic information to speed up and improve conventional plant or animal breeding. The second -- and more advanced -- modifies the genetic pattern of a plant or animal to create a new organism. Research being conducted in the Syrian Arab Republic to improve cold tolerance of lentils is an example of the first. "Instead of crossing varieties of lentils, then slowly growing them and testing their performance until an improved type emerges, scientists are speeding up the processes by using marker-assisted selection to identify lentil genes that are cold tolerant," the FAO report explains.

The scientists will then use the variety containing that gene in conventional breeding programs.

The development of insect-resistant crops is an example of the second. Scientists have genetically modified (GM) crops such as cotton and corn by inserting a bacteria gene. The new varieties produce an insect-killing toxin, thus reducing the need for pesticides.

"Biotechnology development are largely protected by patents or other forms of intellectual property rights," FAO says.

One key issue is the extent to which the right of small-scale farmers to reuse genetically engineered seeds fro their harvest for the next planting season will be respected.

Most biotechnology research and development is in the hands of commercial interests, FAO notes. "If the technology is to serve all people, the public sector needs to play a part in its development and work to ensure fair access by the poor and hungry."

The FAO report admits there are still many unknowns regarding genetically engineered products. This is particularly true to their potential risks. Among these are:

* Inadequate controls. Although safety regimes are being improved, control over genetically modified organism (GMO) releases is not completely effective. In 2000, for instance, a corn variety cleared only for animal consumption was found in food products.

* Transfer of allergens. Allergens can be transferred inadvertently from an existing to a target organism and new allergens can be created. For example, when a Brazil nut gene was transferred to soybean, tests found that a known allergen had also been transferred. However, the danger was detected in testing and the soybean was not released.

* Unpredictability. GM crops may have unforeseen effects on farming systems - for example, by taking more resources from the soil, or using more water than normal crops.s

* Undesired gene movement. Genes brought into a species artificially may cross accidentally to an unintended species. For instance, resistance to herbicide could spread from a GM crop into weeds, which could then become herbicide-resistant themselves.

* Environmental hazards. GM fish might alter the composition of natural fish populations if they escape into the wild. For instance, fish that have been genetically modified to eat more in order to grow faster might invade new territories and displace native fish populations.

Meanwhile, many developing countries are involved in GMO research. In Asia, field-testing of GMOs is under way in China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines. These countries are testing one or more of the following: GM tobacco, aubergine, tomato, cotton, sorghum and bananas.

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