Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org : Oct 18, 2005
* Transgenes in Mexican Maize: Desirability or Inevitability?
* Vote 'No' on GE-Free Ban: Anti-Biotech is Not a Liberal Cause...
* The Source of All Evil? I Think Not
* Food for Thought - by Borlaug and Carter
* Genetic Engineering and Food Security Targets
* GM Food the Key to Future Survival?
* Rounding Up All the Benefits of Biotech
* India: 14 New GM Vegetable Varieties Approved for Trial
* Philippines: UP Los Baņos Producing Bio-Engineered Eggplant
* Biotech Approaches for Alleviating Malnutrition and Human Health
* Innovation and Dynamic Efficiency in Ag Biotech
Transgenes in Mexican Maize: Desirability or Inevitability?
- Peter H. Raven, PNAS, Sept. 13, 2005, vol. 102, no. 37,
For several years, there has been uncertainty about the presence of
transgenes in maize landraces in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. The
first report of their presence in this region was that of Quist and
Chapela (1, 2), who based their results on samples obtained in 2000;
these findings were later called into doubt because of the
methodology used. However, further studies by the Mexican government
confirmed the presence of transgenes in Oaxaca in 2000 and 2001 (3,
Most recently, Ortiz-Garcia et al. (5), in an outstanding analysis,
failed to find evidence for the presence of transgenes in the same
area in 2003 and 2004. Presumably, their frequency had diminished
greatly over the course of 2-3 years, and the genes may even have
disappeared. It will be of scientific interest to monitor the
presence and frequency of such genes in the future.
What, however, is the social significance of these results in the
region concerned and in the broader context of the growing use of
transgenic crops in agriculture throughout the world? Approximately
one-eighth of the world's cropland is planted in transgenic crops,
with nearly 10 million farmers involved in their cultivation, and the
proportion of such crops is growing rapidly. Does this growth
represent a threat to maize in its center of origin, to Mexico, or to
the world? I offer the following comments as a member of the
Commission for Environmental Cooperation on the Effects of Transgenic
Maize in Mexico (6).
It has generally been accepted for about three decades that the
process of producing transgenic organisms does not pose any threat in
itself. Furthermore, no credible argument has been offered as to why
such organisms would, as a class, pose a threat to human health.
Hundreds of millions of people have been consuming foods derived from
transgenic plants for 10 years, and no health problems have been
reported, nor has any credible reason been advanced as to why such a
problem should be expected.
As for environmental problems, such as the origin of novel weeds,
none has been observed with the transgenic crops currently grown,
although such problems certainly remain a theoretical possibility for
novel genes not yet approved and introduced. Modern agriculture of
any kind, with its cleaner, more productive fields, certainly harbors
less biodiversity than more traditional, less productive forms of
agriculture, but that is not a criticism of transgenic crops.
For preserving the genetic variability of maize, a very important
crop, near its center of origin, it is important to note that maize
does not exist as a wild plant outside of cultivation. It was derived
as a crop plant from grasses of the same genus (Zea), which occur in
Mexico and northern Central America, probably starting 5,500 years
ago. Hybridization between maize and these wild relatives has been
demonstrated, but genetic barriers exist, and the extent of gene flow
has not been documented properly.
Maize exists in Mexico, as in other parts of the world where it has
long been cultivated, as a series of more or less distinctive
landraces that interbreed with one another. These races are
continually being modified by farmers through selection to produce
the kinds of plants they want. The agronomic selection of desirable
characteristics in maize throughout the world, but notably in the
U.S., has resulted in the production of additional distinctive races
with unique gene combinations. Particularly after the widespread
adoption of hybrid maize in the U.S., many races developed or
improved externally were introduced into Mexico, and very numerous
genes were introduced into Mexican landraces that were not present
there initially.Both the introduction of these new genes and the
continuation of traditional practices have led to the progressive
modification of Mexican landraces over time, and the process is a
Some of the genetic variability of landraces can be maintained by
encouraging indigenous cultivators to keep growing their distinctive
strains. To do so effectively would probably require economic
incentives for the cultivators, because they are often poor and apt
to seek alternative lifestyles outside of the areas to which they are
Maize germplasm also can be conserved in seed banks or by selective
cultivation outside of its regions of origin, but at much greater
expense than when the strains are simply cultivated by indigenous
farmers. In any event, the preservation of the genetic variability of
maize is clearly a desirable objective in a world that increasingly
depends on large-scale uniform agriculture.
Whether or not transgenes are present in landraces in Oaxaca at
present, they will inevitably be found in them as time passes,
because of the nature of the indigenous agriculture I have just
described. There they will persist if they confer a selective
advantage on the plants in which they occur, or they may disappear if
they do not confer such an advantage in the prevailing conditions.
Such genes are no more ''invaders'' into the populations concerned
than any other genes, and the avoidance of such value-laden terms
would presumably assist in the objective conduct of scientific
discourse about the situation. Similarly, the principles of
population genetics certainly do not indicate that they would
"disrupt" the germplasm of the maize populations they might enter,
whatever that term might be taken to mean.
As Ortiz-Garcia et al. (5) have pointed out, it is unlikely that the
presence of transgenes could reduce the genetic diversity of the
landraces in which they might occur. In general, for the landraces of
maize in Mexico or for any other populations, their genetic
characteristics should remain essentially unchanged unless there is
strong selection for whole constellations of characteristics from
radically different strains of maize, conditions that have not been
observed in southern Mexico.
My overall conclusion, therefore, is that the introduction of the
transgenes currently in use for maize poses no danger to maize near
its center of origin, to the Mexicans, or generally. It is presumably
for these reasons that President Vicente Fox of Mexico, following the
example of essentially all developing countries with an indigenous
cadre of scientists and engineers capable of providing internal
advice on the situation, recently signed a decree authorizing the
cultivation of transgenic plants, properly tested and understood, in
In my opinion, the dissemination of agronomic information among the
indigenous farmers of Mexico and elsewhere has been unbalanced to a
very unfortunate extent. Far too much emphasis appears to have been
placed on "warning" them about the supposed dangers of transgenes and
not nearly enough on explaining to them not only the agronomic
advantages of some of these plants but also the benefits of
appropriating other advanced agronomic methods and thus achieving
higher levels of food production. As a result of this unbalanced
situation, indigenous farmers are greatly worried about these
particular genes but appear to gain no benefit whatever from their
Neither the government of Mexico nor commercial firms have devoted
much effort to explaining the benefits of adopting such methods and
strains, whereas much has been made of the hypothetical dangers, to
the detriment of those being warned but not counseled properly or in
a humane way about the gains they could achieve.
1. Quist, D. & Chapela, I. H. (2001) Nature 414, 541-543.
2. Quist, D. & Chapela, I. H. (2002) Nature 416, 602.
3. Kaplinski, N., Braun, D., Lisch, E., Hay, A., Hake, S. & Freeling,
M. (2002) Nature 416, 601.
4. Ezcurra, E., Ortiz, S. Sobero'n Mainero J. (2001) in LMOs and the
Environment, Proceedings of an International Conference, ed.
Roseland, C. R. (Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development, Paris), pp. 286-295.
5. Ortiz-Garcia, S., Ezcurra, E., Schoel, B., Acevedo, F., Soberon,
J. & Snow, A. A. (2005) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 102, 12338-12343.
6. Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America (2004)
Maize and Biodiversity: The Effects of Transgenic Maize in Mexico,
Key Findings and Recommendations, Secretariat Article 13 Report, Nov.
8, 2004 [North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (Commission for Environmental
(ÝAlvarez-Morales, A., in Proceedings of the 7th International
Symposium on the Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms, Oct.
10-16, 2002, Beijing, pp. 65-66.)
* Missouri Botanical Garden, P.O. Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166
Vote 'No' on GE-Free Ban
- Elizabeth Bohan, Sonoma Index Tribune (California), Oct.18, 2005
Editor, Index-Tribune: The GE-Free (genetically engineered) Sonoma
campaign is the organization established to push through a countywide
ban on genetically modified organisms. The GE-Free campaign has been
described as a liberal cause, but as a liberal, I cannot see how this
campaign is in line with the left.
Traditionally, the liberal movement has been one of acceptance and
progress, hence the turn-of-the-century political movement, the
Progressive Party. As the 20th century closed, what it meant to be a
liberal was changing and evidently fragmenting.
The GE-Free campaign represents a part of the liberal movement that
is dragging the entire left down with it. It is the cause of a few
minds warped by the excess of the '60s. The true nature of the
liberal cause is one of embracing new technologies and using them to
do great things, in addition to making money. Liberals now face a
crossroads between what we have always stood for and what we could
Sonoma County has the opportunity to help feed the world with produce
that is more nutritious, to continue to explore new cures for
diseases, and to remaining open to possibility - if we vote "No" on
The Source of All Evil? I Think Not
- Lene Johansen's Weblog at
I visited the source of all evil today, at least if I am to believe
certain NGO's. If this is the source of all evil, then I want evil to
flood the earth to give people richer lives in all senses of the
Where did I go? I visited Monsanto's research facilities here in St. Louis.
Monsanto is the biotechnology giant, they are currently working on
third generation bioengineered plants, which will have traits like
drought resistance and utilize nitrogen more efficiently; their first
generation plants have been commercially grown around the world for a
decade now. Their plants help reduce the amount of herbicides and
pesticides a farmer has to spray on his crops, because the plants
express genes that make them resistant to certain pests and
Transplanting a gene into a plant is as old as I am. A California
researcher did it in 1973 using E. coli bacteria. It is still done
using bacteria, but the common carrier for moving genes into a plant
is the Agrobacteria. It is less risky and a whole lot easier that way.
The concurrence of the birth of this technology and my own birth
might just be a fluke, but it can also be interpreted as an
auspicious blessing of my chosen career path.
Monsanto produces hundreds of thousands plants a year, the building
is one humongous plant incubator. The company has mechanized some of
the more time consuming procedures of creating and identifying the
most useful plants, and the results are showing up as increased
profits for farmers all over the world.
Farmers are a sensible lot, all over the world. They aren't going to
pay for the latest technology, just to have it. When it comes to
their fields, we are talking about money, and when we are talking
about money, they have to see that the investment in the fancy seed
is worth it on the bottom line. The numbers speak for itself,
Monsanto is selling seeds and other agbiotech companies are following
the suit, however slow.
I know American farmers, Norwegian farmers, and Indian farmers, there
might be differences in what they farm, and how they farm, but there
is absolutely no difference in why they farm. They farm to make a
living, for themselves and their families. The bottom line is what
counts, don't ever think otherwise.
The fact that Monsanto have perfected the technology of splicing DNA
into existing crop varieties, and making it cost and time efficient
to create new commercialized products from it is a boon to all of us.
It makes farming more environmentally friendly, it makes farms more
profitable, and it makes food cheaper and more plentiful. I would say
that is a pretty amazing feat.
Plant biotechnology is a source of all boons, not a source of all evils.
Lene Johansen is a native of Norway and currently a graduate student
in Journalism at University of Missouri, (Columbia, MO, USA) with
emphasis on economics, public policy, science, and ethics of medical
and plant biotechnology.
Food for Thought
- Norman Borlaug and Jimmy Carter, The Wall Street Journal, October
14, 2005 http://online.wsj.com/
The past 50 years have been the most productive period in global
agricultural history, leading to the greatest reduction in hunger the
world has ever seen. The Green Revolution, as this period came to be
known in the developing world, has kept more than one billion people
from hunger, starvation, and even death.
Many factors contributed to the Green Revolution. The doubling of the
global area under irrigation was certainly important. But at the core
was the development and application of new high-yielding, disease-
and insect-resistant seeds, new products to restore soil fertility
and control pests, and a succession of agricultural machines to ease
drudgery and speed everything from planting to harvesting.
It took around 10,000 years for the world's farmers to reach their
current production of nearly six billion gross tons of food, consumed
virtually in its entirety by 6.4 billion people annually. Within 50
years, we will have to increase this amount by at least another 50%
-- to nine billion tons. Most likely we will have to achieve this
feat on a shrinking agricultural land base, and with most of the
production increases occurring in those countries where it is to be
However, agricultural science is increasingly under attack by groups
and individuals who, for political rather than scientific reasons,
are campaigning to limit advances, especially in new fields such as
genetic modification (GM) through biotechnology. Despite this
opposition, it is likely that 250 million acres will be planted to GM
crops in 2005. Most of this acreage is in the industrialized world,
although the area in middle-income developing countries is expanding
rapidly. However, the debate over biotechnology in the industrialized
countries continues to impede its acceptance in most poor,
More than half of the world's 800 million hungry people are
small-scale farmers who cultivate marginal lands. New science and
biotechnology have the power to address the agro-climatic extremes.
Their use lies at the core of extending the Green Revolution to these
difficult farming areas. Because there are so many hungry and
suffering people, particularly in Africa, attacks on science and
biotechnology are especially pernicious. Africa is facing a pandemic
scourge of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, aR 30-year period
of continuous degradation in soil fertility, frequent droughts and a
This set of converging circumstances can lead to a human catastrophe
in Africa on a scale the world has never seen. We know it is coming.
We have the knowledge to avert it. If we put it off, solving it later
will mean the acute suffering -- and even death -- of millions of
innocents who could have been spared such a tragedy.
Messrs. Borlaug and Carter, Nobel Peace laureates for 1970 and 2002,
respectively, are members of the Council of Advisors for the World
Food Prize, which was awarded yesterday in Des Moines, Iowa.
Genetic Engineering and Food Security Targets
- C Kameswara Rao, Foundation for Biotech Awareness and Education,
Bangalore, India; Oc. 17, 2005
Norman Borlaug and Jimmy Carter, two Nobel Laureates, lauded the past
50-year phase of Green Revolution as the most productive period in
global agricultural history, that kept more than one billion people
from hunger, starvation and death (The Wallstreet J.). This
achievement would have eluded us without the ingenious innovations in
science and technology that were needed to a) double the area under
irrigation, b) develop high yielding, pest and disease resistant
varieties, c) restore soil fertility, d) develop chemicals to control
pests and diseases, and e) improve farm machinery.
By the year 2050, the world needs to double agricultural production
to nine billion gross tons to feed an anticipated population of nine
billion, without increasing the land base and produce it within the
consuming countries. As the conventional technologies cannot achieve
anything near these targets, we need new innovative strategies in
agricultural science and technology, where modern agricultural
biotechnology holds a great promise.
Despite the recent harvest from the one-billionth acre under
genetically engineered (GE) crops, political compulsions of some
lobby groups and Governments have hindered the pace of acceptance of
the new technology. Acceptance of GE crops by the farmers and the
consumers in the developing world is crucial for achieving the
targets for 2050. If one rejects GE crop technology, a viable
alternative should be suggested. From all present indications in
the face of vehement opposition to new technology from the anti-tech
lobby, the only alternative is starvation and death of millions of
The staunchest opposition to GE technology comes from the developed
countries. Worse, this part of the world also fans and feeds most
opposition to agricultural biotechnology in the developing countries.
The major cause is not a genuine apprehension of the public on the
safety of GE products, but the pesticide and conventional seed
industry that is under threat from innovative technology. Though
capitalist in philosophy, these western corporate groups have
successfully used the green brigade that has rejected consensus
politics and sustainable development in favor of continued
confrontation and heightened extremism of the left-wing politics.
For the anti-tech lobbies in the developing world this is a godsend
of two advantages, a left wing tag with right wing money, to pursue
their largely defunct political philosophies.
With a generally well-educated public, and an industrial production
line that ensures continued potential to meet with import costs of
anything and everything, food security of the developed world is not
at any risk. They comfortably call the shots that endanger the
livelihoods and food security of the developing world, cutting
competition at the roots.
Most objections to GE crops are raised in the context of biosecurity
(more particularly, toxicity and allergenicity), biodiversity and
comparative economic considerations. The questions raised and
arguments put forward against GE are mostly related to science.
Science has reasonably satisfactory answers to these questions. But
the anti-tech lobbies prefer junk science, science misinterpreted
and/or taken out of context, to mislead and confuse the Media and the
public. For them, when inconvenient, science is not important. Then
economic, societal concerns and/or ethics come to the fore.
Starting in the year 2000, nearly 4,000 scientists, including 25
Nobel Prize winners, 12 of whom won the prize in Physiology and
Medicine, have signed a 'Declaration of Support of Agricultural
Biotechnology'. On January 20, 2004, more than 150 scientists across
the world, including the Nobel Laureate James Watson, signed a letter
delivered to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, drawing
attention to 'the positive impact that biotechnology is contributing
to conventional agricultural practices in many parts of the world.'
Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace, left the organization on
the issue of biotechnology, more particularly GE, for which he was
called a sell out and traitor. In March 2004 Patrick Moore wrote
that, 'the biotechnology sector needs to ramp up its communications
program, and to get a lot more aggressive in explaining the issues to
the public through the media'. He considers that the main reason
for the failure of the pro-GE debate is the failure of supporters of
the technology to act decisively. Moore regards that opposition to
biotechnology in general, and GE in particular, 'has clearly exposed
the intellectual and moral bankruptcy' of the critics.
Both food security and health security can be achieved only through
new technology and without education this would not be possible.
Sound science, as it has been doing all along, will better our lives.
One should listen to the sane voices like those of Norman Borlaug,
Jimmy Carter and others, and promote deployment of appropriate and
safe agricultural technologies. Opposition to such technology, when
it is the only viable option available, and where some 800 million
people's food security is at risk, is highly deplorable.
The key to a wider acceptability of GE technology, both in the
developed and developing world, is public awareness. Agricultural
biotechnologists, product developers and others who share the
platform, should make renewed efforts to reach the public. This is a
tough job with Media that care only for newsworthiness.
GM Food the Key to Future Survival?
- CSIRO, Australia. (Forwarded by Roger Kalla)
Public concern about genetically modified (or transgenic) food is
unfounded and threatening the use of advanced technologies crucial to
feeding the world's population - projected to be nine billion by 2040.
This is the view of University of Houston Professor of Economics,
Thomas R DeGregori, who will visit Australia as a keynote speaker at
the third annual CSIRO Horizons in Livestock Sciences conference,
being held 2-5 October at the Gold Coast, Queensland. According to
Professor DeGregori the impressive agricultural productivity gains of
the past five decades will need to be repeated over the next half
century to feed the projected human population increase of 2.7
"The only way this will be accomplished is with biotechnology such as
transgenics and emerging sciences such as nanotechnology" Professor
DeGregori says. "The anti-transgenic forces have lost every round of
scientific argument, and every claim of adverse impact they have made
has been massively refuted. Yet, most public opinion surveys in the
US and Europe find about 70 per cent of the public believes the
scientific community is divided on the issue."
In spite of all the 'wins' in scientific argument, and despite global
growth in the planting of transgenic corn, soy, canola and cotton,
Professor DeGregori argues that activists have successfully poisoned
the public's mind, making the further use of transgenics in new food
production difficult, if not impossible. He asserts that partially
successful attempts to stop US-provided maize being used for famine
relief in southern Africa because some of it might be transgenic,
creates the impression that activists would rather see people starve
than eat food grown in violation of their ideological preconceptions.
Professor DeGregori is one of several high profile international
scientists, invited to Australia to address the Horizons in Livestock
Sciences annual conference, 'Redesigning Animal Agriculture'
organised by CSIRO.
"The explosion in genetic technologies gives us the power to
conceptualise significant transformations of animals but is this
where the Australian community wants its animal industries to head,"
asks CSIRO Livestock Industries Chief Shaun Coffey, another keynote
presenter at the conference. "The question that we need to be asking
in countries like Australia is what do we really want our agriculture
The Horizons conference program will look at how livestock production
systems can meet the growing diversity of global food demands.
Emerging technologies will be linked to societal drivers to identify
a future vision for livestock production systems.
The conference has attracted an impressive array of speakers to
Australia, including Dr Louise Fresco, Assistant Director-General,
Agriculture Department, Food and Agriculture Organisation, Italy;
Professor Paul Thompson, WK Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food
and Community Ethics, Michigan State University and Professor
Margaret Gill, Chief Executive of the Macaulay Institute in Scotland.
Full details are available at http://www.livestockhorizons.com/
Rounding Up All the Benefits of Biotech
- Liam Dann, New Zealand Herald, Oct 17, 2005 http://www.nzherald.co.nz/
For a man of science, Jerry Caulder is blessed with a healthy dose of
missionary zeal. With a burning belief in the positive power of
genetic engineering, he has a vision of a world where food is
designed to be cheaper, more abundant, healthier and safer.
It's a vision he has spent 40 years working towards - first as
scientist and executive at Monsanto and later as head of his own
biotech companies. It's also a vision that would make him an
unpopular guest at a Green Party conference ... very unpopular.
"This year, the one billionth acre [405 millionth hectare] of
genetically modified crops has been planted," he says with a smile.
"When we look back at biotechnology and the contributions it will
make to food and agriculture and human health care, the nay-sayers
won't even get a footnote."
Despite his reputation as an agricultural futurist, Caulder comes
from a traditional farming background. He grew up on the Missouri
side of the Mississippi delta - some of the most fertile land in the
US. In fact, he still owns the family farm. Not surprisingly he now
has it planted with GM soy beans and cotton. "One guy farms the
whole farm, where it used to take four or five families," he says.
Caulder's career path has gone in parallel with the growth of the
agricultural biotechnology industry. He started out with Monsanto in
the early 1970s, playing a part in developing Roundup - a product
that is to herbicides what Coca-Cola is to soft drinks. "We happened
to invent a product that became known as Roundup," he says. "We
invented it in the winter when there weren't too many green plants
around so my boss asked me if I would take it to South America and
get it tested down there.
"You couldn't do this now. I got on a plane with a litre of this
stuff, flew to South America. "Two weeks later, I called up my boss
and said this is the greatest product I've ever seen. It kills all
During the 1980s, Caulder became increasingly involved with the
venture capital part of the business. He helped steer Monsanto to
invest in several pioneering companies that have developed
genetically engineered seeds. Eventually - aged 40 - Caulder struck
out on his own. He developed a GE seed company called Mycogen which
he later sold to Dow Chemicals - reportedly making US$400 million
($574 million) on the deal.
He was in New Zealand last week in his role as a founder of Finistere
Partners - a California-based venture capital investment company that
has set up a special interest in New Zealand science. Venture
capitalists tend to invest in technologies that are at the cutting
edge of science
"Science has no borders and you get just as good an invention here in
New Zealand as you can in the US or Poland or anywhere else," he
says. "But technology isn't borderless because there are different
people who want to apply it in different ways under different
Finistere has two venture capital funds with an interest in this part
of the world - the Oceania Partners Fund and the AgResearch-Finistere
Fund. The two funds are focused on investment in agricultural science
and medical devices. They could potentially raise up to US$60
million to invest in local science.
Caulder is aware of how the sudden interest in this county might look
to cynics. "Oh my gosh, here's another American who's going to take
our intellectual property go make money with it and we'll never see
anything," he says.
He sees New Zealand as having good science but needing international
partners to get the best out of its IP. He says the partnership with
AgResearch is a bold attempt to take IP from New Zealand and IP from
the outside world and make one plus one equal three.
New Zealand stands to make enormous economic gains. In an economy
based on a lot of commodities, small changes to production can make a
huge difference. "What would happen to the New Zealand dairy
industry if you are able to genetically engineer cattle that produced
no trans-fatty acids - no cholesterol. Or you were able to engineer
milk which gave you the anti-bodies to make you resistant to certain
He sites China as an example of a GE success story. Until a few
years ago, China was a big net importer of cotton. "Under the old
system, they couldn't possibly recognise the insect problems,
requisition the proper pesticide, get it delivered and put it on the
crops in time to save the harvest," he says. By inserting a gene
that controls the cotton bollworm in its seeds, China has quickly
become a net exporter of cotton.
GE critics have highlighted potential environmental problems in China
which could be caused by the demise of the bollworm and changes to
the ecological balance.
But Caulder is not convinced. "The doomsday scenarios painted by
some people just aren't occurring," he says. "From an environmental
point of view, I think biotechnology is the solution not the
problem." The potential for misuse exists for any new technology.
"Society has to try and make as few mistakes as possible, but the big
mistake you don't want to make is censoring the science itself."
Jerry Caulder * Age: 62 * Born: Missouri, US * Education: PhDs in
physiology, biochemistry, agronomy. * Career: Worked for Monsanto
until the age of 40. Started his own biotechnology company and sold
it to Dow Chemicals in 1998 for US$400 million. * He is a founding
of partner of venture capital company Finistere.
India : GM Crops - 14 New Veggie Varieties Approved for Limited Trial
- Ashok B Sharma, Financial Express, Oct. 17, 2005
Fourteen transgenic food crops have been approved for contained and
limited field trials in the country. The trials are being conducted
by both public and private sector institutions, according to a recent
document prepared by the department of biotechnology (DBT).
The target traits of these crops include insect tolerance, herbicide
tolerance, viral and fungal resistance and stress tolerance. The
transgenic food crops approved for contained field trials are the
brinjal varieties developed by the Indian Agricultural Research
Institute (IARI), Delhi and the Mumbai-based private seed company,
Mahyco. IARI has developed the transgenic brinjal with the insertion
of cry 1 Ab gene, while Mahyco has developed their variety with the
insertion of cry 1 Ac gene.
Mahyco and Sungrow Seeds Ltd, Delhi have developed their varieties of
cauliflower with the insertion of cry 1 Ac gene. Sungrow Seeds has
also developed transgenic cabbage with the insertion of cry 1 Ac
gene. The International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid
Tropics (ICRISAT) which is headquartered in Patencheru near Hyderabad
in Andhra Pradesh has developed transgenic chickpea, groundnut and
chickpea varieties which are in various stages of contained field
trials. Icrisat's transgenic chickpeas contain cry 1 Ac and Cry 1 Ab
genes. Its transgenic groundnuts contain IPCVip and IPCV replicas.
The transgenic pigeon-pea developed by Icrisat contain cry1 Ab and
SBTI.Monsanto has developed transgenic maize containing CP4 EPSPS
which is also under contained field trials. Transgenic varieties of
mustard are developed by IARI, NRCWS, Jabalpur, TERI, Delhi and UDSC,
Delhi. IARI's transgenic mustard varieties contain CodA and osmotin.
The mustard varieties developed by NRCWS and UDSC contain bar,
barnase and barstar. The transgenic mustard developed by Teri has
Ssu-maize Psy and Ssu-tpCrtl. It may be recalled in context that
transgenic mustard varieties earlier developed by ProAgro having bar,
barnase and barstar was rejected by the Genetic Engineering Approval
The Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI) has developed transgenic
potato with cry1 Ab gene while NCPGR, Delhi has developed transgenic
potato with Ama-1 gene.
Rice is an important staple crop and seven organisations have
developed transgenic rice. The Hyderabad-based directorate of rice
research has developed rice varieties for bacterial blight resistance
and sheath blight using Xa-21, Cry1 Ab and gna gene. Osmania
University, Hyderabad has developed transgenic rice using gna gene.
IARI's transgenic rice varieties contain Bt, chitinase, Cry1 Ac and
Mahyco's transgenic rice variety contains Cry1 Ac gene. The
transgenic rice varieties developed by MKU, Madurai contain
chitinase, B-1, 3-glucanase and osmotin. The Chennai-based MS
Swaminathan Research Foundation has developed transgenic rice by
borrowing genes from mangrove species. The Tamil Nadu Agriculture
University has used chitinase in developing their transgenic rice
Philippines: UP Los Baņos Producing Bio-Engineered Eggplant
- Madel R. Sabater, Manila Bulletin, Oct. 9, 2005
In its bid to help eggplant farmers in crease their produce and
profit and further prove the benefits of modern biotechnology,
particularly in agriculture, the University of the Philippines Los
Baņos Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB-UPLB) is working on producing
the country's first bioengineered eggplant with resistance to fruit
and shoot borer.
Dr. Desiree Hautea, IPB-UPLB director, said eggplant is one of the
top vegetables in terms of production. "It is also profitable that
(farmers) still recover from the loss even with the use of
In 2004, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics showed that eggplant
comes second after squash in terms of production by volume, with
squash having 16 percent and eggplant, 11 percent. Dr. Hautea said
eggplant producers earn up to P 175,000 per hectare in net income.
But because of fruit and shoot borer, increased production cost due
to pesticide has become a common problem among eggplant farmers. "You
need to spray the insects to control the virus, and that means too
much expenses," she explained.
Dr. Lourdes Taylo of the Entomology Laboratory in IPB-UPLB, said that
eggplant fruit and shoot borer contribute to loss of up to 60 percent
in yields. She said that pesticides cannot do much about the eggplant
fruit and shoot borer because pests only make pin-prick holes and one
would not be able to notice the damage until he cuts the eggplant in
half, said Taylo.
Hautea said the IPB's production of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)
eggplant in the country, which is in collaboration with India and
Bangladesh, will be a "win-win situation".
The Bt eggplant, Dr. Taylo said, originated from India and is
expected to be commercialized by 2007. Meanwhile, in the Philippines,
planting materials for the Bt eggplant is still subjected for
approval by the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines
(NCBP), but Hautea said that two Filipino scientists had already been
sent to India and Bangladesh to conduct field testing on the Bt
"So we (would) known that this product works, and we will spend a
matter of time and have our own product in the market," she said.
Hautea said that it has high anti-oxidant properties and is also high
in fiber. It is produced mainly in Ilocos region provinces,
Pangasinan, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, and Quezon, she
Biotechnology Approaches for Alleviating Malnutrition and Human Health
- January 9-11, 2006 at Bangalore, India http://www.nutritionforall.org/
India, in spite of remarkable accomplishment towards self-sufficiency
in food, is yet to alleviate the problems associated with extreme
levels of malnutrition that exists in both rural and urban
population. Women and children are most vulnerable to nutrient
deficiency disorders. There is a need for improving the nutrient
quality of food and dietary intake of rural Indian population, which
is largely comprised of vegetarians. The proposed International
symposium explores the ways in which technology can help to improve
human nutrition. The potential of biotechnology and educating the
rural masses, especially women and children to alleviate the
nutritional deficiencies of rural India will be explored.
The symposium will be conducted under the USAID-ALO sponsored higher
educational partnership between Purdue University and University of
Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore whose objectives are:
* Enhance institutional capacity through the development of
collaborative programs in Biotechnology Education and Research at
University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore
* Development of integrated research and educational training program
to generate genetically modified plants for improving human health
and nutrition in India and
* Increase the awareness of (a) nutrition among the rural population,
particularly women and children, and (b) farmers and policy makers
about the potential of biotechnology in improving nutrient value of
University of Agricultural Sciences is the premier institute in state
with distinct vision of achieving excellence in agricultural
education, research and outreach activities. University of
Agricultural Sciences is located at Gandhi Krishi Vignana, Kendra (on
Bangalore-Hyderabad National Highway) Bangalore. Bangalore is well
known as Garden City and Information Technology capital of India.
Bangalore is said to be an air-conditioned city, which enjoys ideal
weather conditions through out the year. Purdue University has a
long-term commitment for development of International collaboration
and promoting the use of cutting edge technology in improving
agriculture and human health.
Innovation and Dynamic Efficiency in Agricultural Biotechnology
- Oehmke, J.F., Pray, C., & Naseem, A. (2005). Innovation and dynamic
efficiency in agricultural biotechnology. AgBioForum, 8(2&3), 50-51.
Innovation is the key to firm survival and growth in many industries,
but nowhere more so than in agricultural biotechnology. Understanding
the causes and consequences of biotechnology innovation requires
negotiating a complex thicket of economic, policy, and technical
themes. These themes include questions of optimal patent policy,
market structure, and antitrust policy in both the innovation market
and the output market, public-private collaboration, public-sector
research and development (R&D) in agricultural biotechnology, and the
management of intellectual property owned by universities and
government research organizations.
This issue of AgBioForum leads the reader through these themes as it
seeks to answer the question: What is the relationship between
innovation and dynamic efficiency in agricultural biotechnology? The
papers contained in this issue arose out of an IFAFS grant
(#00-52100-9619) and the capstone conference for this grant,
"Innovation and Dynamic Efficiency in Agricultural Biotechnology"
(Oct. 14-15, 2004, Washington., DC). Both the grant and the
conference were designed to address these multiple and complex
questions. The papers in this issue represent the culmination of
three years of work, including construction and application of a new
agricultural biotechnology patent database.
In the Introduction to the Research Issues (article 1), Pray, Oehmke,
and Naseem set out the conceptual underpinnings of the innovation
market approach to analysis of R&D and market structure issues. They
bring patent, field trial, and deregulation data to bear on the
issues as they paint an overview of the innovation market and define
a set of researchable questions.
In the section entitled "Who Is Doing What?", Lesser (article 2)
investigates the types and administration of intellectual property
protection available to the US agricultural biotechnology community.
He examines charges brought against the current intellectual property
rights (IPR) structure, including that the US Patent and Trademark
Office has lowered its standards in the granting of patents resulting
in many patents of dubious quality that could potentially block
further inventive activity.
King, Heisey, and Day-Rubenstein (article 3) delve into the explosion
of agricultural biotechnology patents since the 1980s, examining both
the type of public-sector and private-sector organizations that are
patenting and the types of agricultural biotechnology innovations
that are patented. King and Schimmelpfennig (article 4) examine the
patent holdings of the six largest agricultural biotechnology firms.
They find that these six firms obtained most of their patents through
acquisitions of smaller firms with relatively large numbers of
Brennan, Pray, Naseem, and Oehmke (article 5) detail the structure of
agricultural biotechnology innovation markets and try to ascertain
whether there are relationships between the innovation markets and
the levels of inventive activity, including whether concentrated
ownership of patents diminishes innovation. Naseem, Oehmke, and
Schimmelpfennig (article 6) turn their attention to a different form
of IPR, plant variety protection, and its effects on crop yields.
Focusing on cotton, they present econometric evidence that plant
variety protection increased cotton yield growth, contrary to prior
studies on other crops.
The section entitled "What Are the Current Effects of Industry
Structure?" examines the effects of IPRs and market structure on the
benefits generated by agricultural biotechnology innovations. Pray
and Naseem (article 7) present case studies on the platform
technologies of rice genomics research and plant transformation
techniques. They find that the public sector played crucial roles in
developing these techniques, that patents played a necessary role in
getting the private sector to adopt these techniques, and that
despite some patent thicket issues overall the social benefits have
Kesan and Gallo (article 8) compare the development of genetically
modified corn and soybean industries in Argentina and the United
States, focusing on differences in IPR systems. They conclude that
appropriate IPR systems facilitate commercialization of the
genetically modified crops, but not all types of IPR are appropriate
for all types of crops. Acquaye and Traxler (article 9) analyze the
effect of monopoly power over a new technology in relation to the
pricing of that technology, with application to Bt cotton. They find
that international price discrimination would allow greater
developing-country access to new innovations.
The final section of this special issue asks the question "Whither
Biotechnology Research?" Day-Rubenstein and Heisey (article 10)
examine public-sector technology transfer to the private sector,
especially by the USDA. They find that the administrative mechanisms
used for technology transfer have changed somewhat, but the general
research topic priorities have changed little. Jefferson-Moore and
Traxler (article 11) examine the distribution of benefits from crop
varieties genetically modified to improve quality, using high-oil
corn as an example. They find that farmers will not benefit nearly as
much from quality-improved crops as they did from the first
generation of insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant crops.
In summary, the papers in this issue generally show that the pace of
inventive activity in plant biotechnology has been and continues to
be strong. There are examples of where the IPR system has been
imperfect, but generally the IPR system has facilitated and in some
cases has been necessary for the commercialization of
biotechnologies, with limited observable negative effects on the pace
of future innovation. Market structures in the innovation and output
markets are increasingly concentrated.
The pace of genetically modified variety deregulation has diminished
as the innovation market has become more concentrated, but this has
not prevented new firms from entering the industry. Concentration in
the output market has not prevented farmers and consumers from
capturing economic benefits from genetically modified crops, although
a "second generation" of crops modified for improved quality traits
may not prove to be as beneficial. In addition to providing legal
infrastructure and policy support, the public sector has played and
continues to play a pivotal role in the development of new
agricultural biotechnologies and their transfer to the private sector.