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October 27, 2005


GM Soy Study from Russia; NGO Regulation of Biotech; Scientists Remember A Field Trial; GM Canola Yields Less?


Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org : October 27, 2005

* Genetically-modified Soy Affects Posterity?
- Chris Preston Comments on a Russian 'Study' with GM Soy
* ....Andrew Apel's Further Comments
* Russian Federation Biotech - Annual Ag Biotechnology Report
* Report Cites Global Benefits from Move to Biotech Crops
* Scientists Reflect on Influential Field Trial
* Where is the Evidence that GM Canola Yields 20% Less than Non-GM Canola?

Genetically-modified Soy Affects Posterity?

- Christopher Preston

The following story is starting to do the rounds of the anti-GM
websites. The original report was published in a Russian online
newspaper in mid-October, but is only now starting to do the rounds.
The story can be found at a variety of places including
and on the NAGS website

On the surface, this study appears to indicate a major danger with GM
soy fed to rats. There was 6-fold increase in the number of deaths
and the surviving progeny were significantly smaller. The study in
question was conducted by Dr. Irina Ermakova of the Institute of
Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of the Russian Academy of
Sciences and the results released at a conference organised by
National Association for Genetic Security. Dr. Ermakova is a
researcher on brain function whose speciality is in the function
neurotransplants into the brain, and who has published in both
Russian and English journals.

From the report, it is hard to get a good sense of how the
experiments were done. There is simply not enough information given
in the report. The report states that the experiment consisted of 3
groups of 3 rats, but results are reported for 15 rats. The report
also indicates that the three groups of rats were condensed to 2
groups after birth. It is not clear from the report why or how this
was done. We are not told crucial points such as were there true
replicates or only pseudo-replication? Why did a third of the rats in
each of the control and GM soy groups not give birth? What was the
source of GM and non-GM soy and how much was included in the diet?
In the absence of answers to these questions, it is difficult to
analyse the data further. One question that does come to mind is why
the deaths are reported as total numbers instead of as means with an
idea of the variance.

This report is a stark contrast with a previously published study by
Brake and Evenson on mice (A generational study of
glyphosate-tolerant soybeans on mouse fetal, postnatal, pubertal and
adult testicular development. Food and Chemical Toxicology 2004
42:29-36.) This study looked at a generational study of mice fed a
diet containing GM soy or non-GM soy. They reported identical litter
sizes for the two groups (7.3 per female in nine replicates for both
groups) and nearly identical growth rates for the mice fed transgenic
feed and for their progeny, compared to mice fed non-transgenic feed.
The differences, where they occurred, favoured the mice fed
transgenic feed.

There are a number of other questions about the Russian research that
come to mind. Firstly: What is a neurological scientist doing
conducting feeding studies on GM food? This is always a question that
arises when someone conducts research outside his or her speciality.
In this case, it is quite easy to determine the motivation. A visit
to Dr. Ermakova's website (the English version as I can't read
Russian http://irina-ermakova.by.ru/eng), provides the clues. Under
the section "Publications" is a list of popular articles by Dr.
Ermakova. They include an open letter to the Russian President
called "Stop transgenization of the country", and "Russian roulette.
Delayed-action mine, or why generically modified organisms are so
dangerous". Under the section "Ecology and Life" is a list of "new
articles" described as "Important information". These include links
to anti-GM articles by Mae-Wan Ho and Beatrix Tappeser from 1997,
Arpad Pusztai from 2001, the "World Scientist's Statement" from ISIS,
and from bio-integrity. Clearly Dr. Ermakova has concerns about the
use of GMOs, but I suggest is quite selective in the views she

Secondly: Why report the results at a conference organised by an
anti-GM NGO? This is an important question as it is a good way of
ensuring that mainstream scientists will take the research less
seriously. The NGO involved is called 'The National Association of
Genetic Safety (NAGS)'. According to their website (the English
version again: http://www.geneticsafety.org ), their mission is
described as "NAGS considers its top priority to protect the
interests of citizens of the Russian Federation as an integral part
of the international community and to facilitate the creation of a
system of biological safety of humankind and the surrounding
environment." Their goals are described as "participating in the
development of legislation that would cover the entire complex of
biological safety issues, facilitating the development of the
National Genetic Safety Concept, taking part in international
projects on the issues of biological and genetic safety, spreading
the ideas of protection of genetic resources of the Earth, promoting
educational initiatives in the sphere of biological safety, creating
the system of public control over the market of food and food
industry raw materials, and cooperating with the media, government
bodies, political parties and public organizations in Russia and
worldwide." However, all of their public statements that have turned
up in the Western media (and internet) are on GM foods. For example,
NAGS organised a letter to the Russian President in October 2004
warning of the dangers of GM foods. In the press material, GM foods
were described as "dangerous in their unpredictability" and as
"biogenic terrorism". In March 2005, NAGS released the findings of a
study of a Moscow meat market, claiming that 50% of vendors used GM
feed. While this might be true, there is significant scientific
evidence that GM feedstuffs are not dangerous (see the list of 42
peer reviewed studies I collated last year at
). The claim is disingenuous and made simply to frighten people about
their food.

In June 2004, NAGS released claims about the use of GM products in
baby food. Their claims as reported in the Western Press where that
70% of samples contained GM materials and some mixes were 100%
genetically modified. Even allowing for the problems of translation
from Russian to English, this is an unequivocal statement and
certainly not true. This would leave no room for any other
ingredients including water. Even worse, NAGS claimed that some of
the dairy and vegetable mixes were entirely made of GMO. This claim
made when no GM vegetables were commercially available, unless one
counts soybeans as a vegetable. The President of NAGS, Alexander
Baranov, had claimed in 2003 that 70% of people in the US were
allergic to GMOs, a claim that hardly stands any scrutiny. With this
record behind them, it is difficult to give NAGS much credibility.

This brings me back to the question I asked: Why would you report
results of feeding studies at a conference organised by an anti-GM
NGO? Surely, if the results were that striking they would be
presented to health authorities rather than to a group of anti-GM
activists? These were similar questions to those I, and others, asked
when Terje Traavik reported his results on Bt corn at a Third World
Network sponsored conference. Indeed, this whole exercise reminds me
a lot of that episode. Now 18 months down the track from Traavik's
preliminary announcement in Kuala Lumpur, we have seen no more on the

The answer to my question lies in how science is being used in these
episodes. It is clear in both cases that the data available would not
stand regulatory scrutiny. This is why it has not been delivered
through normal channels. Presenting results such as these at an
anti-GM conference containing true believers is a good way of
ensuring affirmation of the research. The audience will believe it
because they want to believe it, whereas a more sceptical audience
might ask some difficult questions about the research. Even more
importantly, it ensures the ability to apply political pressure with
scientific research that would not stand the rigors of normal peer

(Thanks to Dr. Wayne Parrott for pointing a following, a similar but
more professional, study that clearly shows the safety of GM soybean
- CSP)

A Generational Study of Glyphosate-Tolerant Soybeans on Mouse Fetal,
Postnatal, Pubertal and Adult Testicular Development

- Brake, D.G., and D.P. Evenson. 2004. Food Chemistry and Toxicology 42:29-36

Abstract. The health safety of transgenic soybeans
(glyphosate-tolerant or Roundup Ready) was studied using the
mammalian testis (mouse model) as a sensitive biomonitor of potential
toxic effects. Pregnant mice were fed a transgenic soybean or a
non-transgenic (conventional) diet through gestation and lactation.
After weaning, the young male mice were maintained on the respective
diets. At 8, 16, 26, 32, 63 and 87 days after birth, three male mice
and an adult reference mouse were killed, the testes surgically
removed, and the cell populations measured by flow cytometry.
Multi-generational studies were conducted in the same manner.

The results showed that the transgenic foodstuffs had no effect on
macromolecular synthesis or cell growth and differentiation as
evidenced by no differences in the percentages of testicular cell
populations (haploid, diploid, and tetraploid) between the transgenic
soybean-fed mice and those fed the conventional diet. Additionally,
there were no differences in litter sizes and body weights of the two
groups. It was concluded that the transgenic soybean diet had no
negative effect on fetal, postnatal, pubertal or adult testicular

More from Andrew Apel,

Chris Preston was right to question the timing and method for the
announcement of the Russian rat findings. A partial answer may be
found below, which consists of excerpts from a larger US government
report. In short, the National Association for Genetic Safety (NAGS)
in concert with Greenpeace are credited with co-opting government
regulations and consumer perceptions in a way that facilitates trade
protectionism. Indeed, NGOs even get a place at the protectionist
government's regulatory table and in this situation, the term "green
Mafia" may apply more accurately than in most other contexts.

What makes the Russian rat news timely is that a new regulatory
body--with NGOs aboard--will be regulating biotech in Russia, and may
soon begin to exercise its authority. The NGOs in Russia have driven
science and regulatory common sense into such a steep decline that it
actually makes the situation in Britain and Europe look rosy by

"Russian Federation Biotechnology - Annual Agricultural Biotechnology Report"

- USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, Global Agriculture Information
Network (GAIN) report 7/15/2005 No. RS5054

Opposition to development of agricultural biotechnology in Russia is
driven by several beliefs, including the official concept of the
Ministry of Agriculture of possible extensive development of
"organic" Russian agriculture, based on the availability of vast
expanses of arable land. To this influence are added fear of
technology, the expense of reverting to modern, intensive crop
cultivation requiring massive capital investment and ongoing high
input costs, particularly for agricultural chemicals, and the concept
that genetic modification of crops is an unknown and unpredictable
danger to the health of people, animals and environment. The last
source of opposition is widely supported and financed by Greenpeace
Russia ."

"After a hiatus in regulatory activity that started simultaneously
with administrative reform in Spring 2004 and as a result of the
disappearance of several Ministries, the total restructuring of all
other administrative bodies, and the disbanding of previous
commissions, the framework Interagency Commission for Genetic
Engineering was reestablished. *** The new Commission has yet to meet
to discuss any issues."

"The Interagency Commission for Genetic Engineering is the main
policymaking and regulatory body for genetic engineering in Russia .
*** Members of the Commission represent the majority of federal
agencies and research institutes, and several of the NGOs, involved
in biotechnology and biotech-policy in Russia . *** If the
authorities of the Interagency Commission remain the same as its
predecessor's, then all initiatives and undertakings in the field of
bioengineering in the Russian Federation, starting from imports of
samples for field trials, and extending to laboratory testing and
registration of events and products, will be authorized by the
commission in writing with the signature of its several members, with
the authorization prepared based on the minutes of the meetings of
the Commission."

"The situation has been exacerbated by the Greenpeace Russia that has
declared products of biotechnology to be the worst of all universal
threats to the health and well-being of the Russian people now and
into the future."

"The Russian consumer is presently aware of agricultural
biotechnology, and largely in a negative light due to a combination
of widespread yellow journalism and fear campaigns orchestrated by
scaremongering anti-biotechnology NGOs. As a result the imposition of
labeling requirements, particularly of products, which may have an
adventitious presence, is causing some retailers and many processors
to shy away from products and ingredients that may contain products
of biotechnology. Moscow, the biggest consumer market in Russia , has
been affected by these fears to the greatest extent, as "organic
food" finds more and more supporters among the richest strata of
Moscow citizens, who determine the Moscow food market preferences.
Several sausage processors heavily dependent on extenders have begun
to advertise their products as " GMO - free" in order to attract
customers. The Moscow City Government also pursues an anti-
biotechnology policy, and in March 2005 established the Coordination
Council on Safety of Food Products Derived from GMO , significantly
influenced by the NGO "National Association for Genetic Safety," and
gave this Council the authority to monitor presence of GMO in food
products. The National Association for Genetic Safety, although it
does not have any legal authority, goes as far as calling for
criminal liability for those producers who voluntary or involuntary
mask the presence of GMO in their food products."

"Officials of the Russian government view regulation of imported
products of biotechnology as a means of controlling imports, and thus
are prepared to use phytosanitary regulations as a trade barrier.
They are equally prepared to waive regulations to permit imports when
it suits them."

"Compared to the resources employed by anti-biotechnology NGOs, the
resources of pro-biotechnology forces in Russia are meager when it
comes to outreach. *** Agricultural science in Russia is in a state
of decline with federal funding for basic research, even in the hard
biological sciences, practically gone, according to the president of
the Academy of Agricultural Sciences. *** The result is a level of
scientific illiteracy surrounding biotechnology that increases the
fears and doubts of what is viewed as an "American" innovation, and
which will get worse before it can possible hope to get better."


Report Cites Global Benefits from Move to Biotech Crops

- Hembree Brandon, Delta Farm Press, Primedia Insight, October 24, 2005

At about the same time world farmers were harvesting the one
billionth acre of biotech crops, a British research firm was
releasing a study showing that since their introduction in 1996,
genetically modified varieties have meant an extra $27.5 billion in
farm income.

And the report, offering the first quantifiable global look at the
impact of biotech crop production, noted significant environmental
benefits: a 6 percent reduction in the volume of pesticide use,
reduced fuel use as a result of more minimum tillage, and a decline
in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

Although nobody knows the specific location of the one billionth
harvested acre of biotech crops, the milestone event occurred Sunday,
Oct. 2, somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, according to Truth
About Trade and Technology (TATT), an organization that tracks
biotech crop acres planted and harvested around the world.

"Ten years of use and a billion acres harvested around the world have
clearly shown the economic benefits of biotech crops," said Ross
Korves, economist and policy analyst for TATT. "Documented analyses
of producer experiences in both developed and developing countries
indicate increased economic return and environmental benefits as a
direct result of biotech crop production."

More than 8.25 million farmers in 18 countries around the world have
adopted biotech crops, according to the British study, "GM crops: The
global socio-economic impact ? the first nine years, 1996-2004." The
$27.5 billion increase in global farm income came from a combination
of enhanced productivity and efficiency gains, and is equivalent, the
researchers say, to adding 3 percent to 4 percent to the value of
global production of the four main biotech crops.

Herbicide-resistant soybeans racked up the greatest gains, with more
than $17 billion in increased income, while biotech cotton added
another $6.5 billion over the nine-year period. Growers in the United
States and Argentina reaped the greatest gains, about $10.7 billion
and $10.1 billion respectively, while cotton farmers in China had a
$4 billion increase.

In addition to "greatly enhancing the way farmers produce food, feed,
and fiber," widespread adoption of biotech crops has also brought
environmental benefits, said Graham Brookes, director of PG
Economics, and one of the authors of the study.

These include a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
from agriculture, resulting from 475 million gallons less fuel used
by farm equipment, and additional soil carbon sequestration due to
reduced plowing or improved conservation tillage.

"This is the equivalent of eliminating more than 22 billion pounds of
carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or removing 5 million cars from
the road for one year," he said. "As the world is increasingly
focused on the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is clear
that biotech crops are already making an important positive
contribution toward achieving that goal."

The volume of pesticide spraying has been reduced globally by 6
percent since 1996, the researchers say -- the equivalent of 380
million pounds, or 1,514 railcars of pesticide active ingredient. The
largest environmental gains from changes in pesticide application
have been from biotech soybeans, 19 percent, and cotton, 17 percent.


Scientists Reflect on Influential Field Trial

- Southwest Farm Press, October 25, 2005

When Ernie Jaworski became the leader of Monsanto's first
biotechnology team in 1979, he had no idea that 25 years later
farmers would be planting 200 million acres of genetically engineered
crops. For all Jaworski knew, he and his team were embarking on a
search that could have led them to a dead-end that would jeopardize
their scientific careers and waste millions of dollars of Monsanto's

"Could you put corn DNA in a plant and keep it stable? Could a trait
that you put in a plant be inherited? All of those were unknowns at
the time," he said. "It took several years of hard work to find out
whether we could solve the scientific issues that made all this

Jaworski and other members of the team had a chance to reminisce
about those early days at a recent ceremony at the Jerseyville
Agronomy Center near Jerseyville, Ill. The Monsanto facility was the
site of the first agricultural biotechnology field trial in June 1987.

The team members - Jaworski, Robert T. Fraley, Robert B. Horsch and
Steve Rogers - received the National Medal of Technology for their
work in 1999. Jaworski and Rogers are retired while Fraley is
executive vice president and chief technology officer at Monsanto and
Horsch is vice president for international development partnerships
at the company.

Only place "This was the only place in the country where you could
see genetically engineered crops for several years," said Rogers,
referring to the expanse of soybeans behind a metal building where
the team members spoke along with representatives of farm groups from
the United States, Spain and South Africa. "The first time we came
here to put in the first genetically engineered crop - tomatoes - we
had a lot of questions, and we got a lot of questions from
neighboring farmers over the next few years," said Rogers.

"Our work actually started in petunias," said Horsch, who specialized
in tissue culture research for the team. Horsch, Rogers and Fraley
were among the first scientists to successfully transfer a resistant
gene (kanamycin) into a small portion of a petunia leaf.

"This work revolutionized biology," he noted. "It's been estimated
that an extra 5 billion pounds of food and fiber are being grown
today as a result of this research. Something like 82 percent of
research papers now involves some form of plant transformation." From
petunias, the team's research evolved to tomatoes and eventually to
corn, soybeans, cotton, alfalfa, wheat and other crops.

Someone with Monsanto took photos of that first field trial being
planted at Jerseyville in 1987. Horsch is shown along with Rogers
riding on the planter and loading transplants into the feeder tray.
Another photo shows Rogers; Roger Beachy, a scientist with Washington
University in St. Louis who worked with Monsanto on the project;
Horsch; and Fraley. (Jaworski, who joined Monsanto in 1952 and worked
on Lasso and other herbicides before leading the biotech team,
retired before the field trials began.)

"Could this new science be applied to agriculture and have any fit?
That's what brought this team together," said Fraley. "That was part
of the challenge ? to bring a group together to do something no one
had ever done."

RR Flex cotton From that first trial in 1987, Monsanto's scientists
went on to the testing and introduction of genetically engineered
crops such as Bollgard cotton in 1995 and Roundup Ready corn and
soybeans in 1996. Then came Yieldgard corn and Roundup Ready cotton
and alfalfa. The company recently launched its second generation of
Bt cotton, Bollgard II, and is planning to introduce its new Roundup
Ready Flex cotton in 2006.

Genetically engineered crops are now being planted on between 200
million and 250 million acres of cropland or about 10 percent of the
world's arable land, according to Fraley. But scientists are still in
the beginning stages of the new science.

"Where we are today is like being in computers in the 1960s," he
says. "One of the best parts of my job is to see the new products
that are in the pipeline. The other exciting part is talking to
farmers who are using this technology all over the world. "I've
talked to farmers in India who used to make 15 or 20 sprays before
they switched to Bollgard cotton. Now they're making more money, they
can buy a house and they can send their kids to college."

Part of the observance in Jerseyville included remarks by Leon
Corzine, president of the National Corn Growers Association; John
Long, former president of the American Soybean Association; Jose
Manuel Pomar, a farmer from Spain; and Thandiwe Myeni, a farmer from
South Africa.

"When we planted our first bag of Roundup Ready soybeans 10 years
ago, I told myself this will change the way we farm," said Long, a
cotton, soybean and corn producer from Newberry, S.C. "I had
forgotten the word Lasso until today. "Since 1997, we've grown 100
percent Roundup Ready soybeans, 100 percent Roundup Ready cotton and
96 percent Bt cotton, and we're now 100 percent no-till" Long noted.

"Next year I plan to qualify for Level III of the Conservation
Security Program. I couldn't do that without no-till, and I couldn't
do that without biotech crops." "It has been marvelous to see the
growth in biotechnology," said Jaworski. "We had a lot of fun in
those early days. Could we have predicted these results? Not in our
wildest dreams."


Where is the Evidence that GM Canola Yields 20% Less than Non-GM Canola?

- Christopher Preston

The subject of crop yields often comes up in the debate about GM
crops. Promoters of the technology often talk about how yields can be
increased. Just as often we hear from the other side that GM does
not lead to higher yields and frequently that GM crops yield less.
Recently, Julie Newman of the Network of Concerned Farmers in
Australia has been quoted in the Australian press making statements
that GM canola yields 20% less than conventional varieties in
Australia. Having seen trials and crops of both Roundup Ready and
InVigor canola, I found this assertion somewhat surprising and chose
to investigate its basis in data.

Having sifted through the Network's web site, I found a document
authored by Julie Newman called "Bayer Cropscience's GM Invigor
Canola" (http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/news_details.asp?ID=1992 ),
which seems to be the basis of these claims. Reading through the
document I found her claim is made based on a passage from the Office
of the Gene Technology Regulator's risk assessment. To quote:
"Invigor hybrid canola displayed approximately 15% better vigour than
a conventional open pollinated variety, but 20% less vigour than a
conventional hybrid variety". From this it appears Julie Newman can
confidently assert that "actual trials of GM canola have produced
yields of up to 20% less than non-GM varieties" (as cited on the ABC
20th September 2005). It seems somewhat of a stretch to turn data
about vigour differences when you are not sure of the basis of
measurement between varieties into actual yield trials.

In addition, Julie Newman fails to quote the first part of the
passage from the risk assessment. This part refers to actual yields:
"InVigor canola varieties have displayed yield increases of 10-20%
over conventional open pollinated varieties in Australia and greater
than 20% in CanadaŠ". As well as ignoring that statement, Julie
Newman further supports her stance on yields being less for InVigor
canola by citing trial work from Western Australia where InVigor 40
had the same yield as a conventional TT variety (InVigor Hybrid
Canola, WA Crop Updates available from
). What Julie Newman is not telling is that InVigor 40 is a mid-late
season variety, the trial quoted was sown late and therefore, the
early-mid season varieties had a distinct advantage. Where growing
seasons are short, later flowering varieties are often at a
disadvantage because of the higher temperatures and lack of moisture
in late spring and early summer. Even worse, Julie Newman fails to
mention two experimental InVigor varieties grown in the same trial,
both of which are early-mid maturity and both significantly out-yield
InVigor 40 and all conventional varieties. Likewise, a comparison of
trials from eastern Australia shows InVigor 40 yields generally
similar to those of Hyola 60 (a conventional hybrid) and far above
those of a conventional and a TT variety. Yields of InVigor (109%)
were below those of Hyola 60 (120%) in 2001, but greater in 2002
(122% compared with 112%). Further trial work in 2003 produced
identical yield results for these two varieties
Clearly, there is a fair bit of cherry picking of data to make the
case that Julie Newman is confidently asserting.

Julie Newman makes other comments about yields of InVigor canola
including an odd comment that GM hybrid vigour is less than non-GM
varieties. To quote (it is in both bold and underlined in the
document): "The vigour displayed by F2 progeny would still be at
least 25-30% less than that in some non-GM canola varieties." This
comment either shows a lack of understanding of the process of hybrid
creation or is deliberately intended to mislead. Hybrid crop
varieties are always sold as the F1. That is the seed of a cross
between two divergent parents. The heterosis created from such
crosses overcomes problems caused by inbreeding depression. As the
parents are divergent (otherwise there is no benefit to creating
hybrids) the F2 will segregate and lose the advantage of hybrid
vigour. The F2 will also segregate for all other traits that differ
including disease tolerance and time to flowering and would be
useless for commercial production. This is why growers of hybrid
crops need to buy new seed every year. To talk about what might
happen with yields of the F2 is pointless, as growers will never be
growing the F2.

I found a second document, also authored by Julie Newman, which
touches on yields of Roundup Ready canola in addition to InVigor
canola ("Will GM canola yield more in Australia?"
www.non-gm-farmers.com/news_details.asp?ID=914). Early on this
document has the bold statement that "Šit appears there are yield
penalties with glyphosate resistant crops." and directs the reader to
a news report from the website of "The Scientist" as the
authoritative source of information. The document further goes on to
say: "Monsanto's Australian trials revealed the real performance of
GM Roundup Ready compared with unnamed non-GM varieties (and perhaps
deliberately selected low yielding varieties). The best yields
revealed on Monsanto's website are dismal by any farmers comparison
(1.055tonne/ha) and actually equates to 17% less than the Australian
average canola cropŠ". The last section is all in bold. The rest of
the discussion of yields of Roundup Ready canola focuses on this
1.055 tonne/ha and compares it unfavourably with specific individual
trials conducted elsewhere and promotional literature of trial
results. In one case, a comparison is made with a trial conducted
elsewhere and the statement is made "GM Roundup Ready trials yielded
almost 5 times less than non-GM canola trials." As different trials
are conducted in different places with different sowing and
harvesting dates and different rainfall patterns, it is pointless to
compare individual results from different trials in this way.
However, it is a good way to ensure such statements are likely to be
taken out of context for use elsewhere.

Aside from being pointless comparisons, the yield data selected by
Julie Newman are all higher than state average crops for those areas.
For example, the CSIRO trial conducted in NSW had yields of 3.6 to
5.2 tonne/ha in 2001. The NSW state average canola yield in 2001 was
in fact 1.5 tonne/ha according to the Australian Oilseed Federation
Likewise, the promotional brochure from Pioneer Hi-Bred has yields
for 2003 of its varieties at various sites in Western Australia
ranging from 2.16 to 2.96 tonne/ha. The WA state average for 2003
was 1.53 tonne/ha. Clearly many farmers will be unable to achieve
the yields quoted and so comparisons with such trials are meaningless.

In addition to all the other problems of comparing trial results to
Australia's average canola yield, there is one additional particular
problem for GM canola trials. The regulatory system in Australia has
been such that approvals for planting trials in the past half a dozen
years have come quite late in the growing season, meaning that many
trials are not planted at the optimal time. This greatly reduces the
yield potential of the trial. Trials sown at the appropriate time
and grown in better conditions will yield better. Therefore,
unfortunately there are few trials available from Australia where one
could test Julie Newman's claims of lower yields for Roundup Ready

There is one set of trial results published for Australia for Roundup
Ready canola. These are in "The Benefits of Roundup Ready canola for
Western Australian Farming Systems" from WA Crop Updates (available
They show yields of a conventional variety, a triazine tolerant
variety and a Roundup Ready variety averaged across six trial sites
in 4 states. The yields are about 1.56 tonne/ha for conventional
canola, 1.86 tonne/ha for Roundup Ready canola and 1.49 tonne/ha for
triazine tolerant canola. No statistical analysis is provided, so it
is impossible to determine whether any differences are significant.
These trials, where the same varieties were grown on the same site at
the same time, clearly do not support Julie Newman's claims.

Other sources of information to test are the data sets on trial
results from elsewhere in the world. Both Canada and the US have
grown GM canola crops for some years. In both countries variety
trials include both GM and non-GM varieties. The results of the
trails are published each year. As these trials are extensive,
involve a number of different varieties with different traits, you
can compare within trials to get an idea of whether the claim that
Roundup Ready canola crops have built in yield penalties.

In Canada, the trials are now conducted as the Prairie Canola Variety
Trials. These have been conducted for the past 2 years and data are
available from Provincial Seed Variety publications and from the
Canola Council of Canada
(www.canola-council.org/growing_trials.html). The trials are split
across the three zones with different season lengths on the Canadian
Prairies and within each zone the same varieties are grown at each
site. In 2003 there were 7 reporting stations in the short season
zone, 12 in the mid-season zone and 11 in the long season zone. In
2004 there were 8 reporting stations in the short season zone, 16 in
the mid-season zone and 12 in the long season zone. Within years and
zones, the same varieties were grown, but these did differ between
years and zones. All data is reported as % yield of a single variety
46A65. The varieties are separated by herbicide resistance type:
none (= conventional varieties), Clearfield (resistance to
imidazolinone herbicides), Roundup Ready and Liberty Link (resistance
to glufosinate). The Clearfield types are herbicide resistant, but
non-GM. The distribution of varieties was 6 conventional, 3
Clearfield, 4 Liberty Link and 30 Roundup Ready. In 2004, the
distribution was 2 conventional, 11 Clearfield, 4 Liberty Link and 29
Roundup Ready.

A comparison of different herbicide resistant types yields the
following results. In 2003, the average of conventional varieties
was 104, 105 and 105% respectively of the yield of 46A45 for the
short, mid and long-season zones. In contrast, the yield of
Clearfield types was 93, 95 and 93% of the yield of 46A45 for the
same zones. The average yield of Roundup Ready types was 98, 100 and
101% of the yield of 46A45. Lastly, the yield of Liberty Link types
was 115, 127 and 128% of the yield of 46A45 for each of the zones.
The LSD for the trials varied from 4% to 21% depending on site.
Therefore, one could conclude that the differences between Roundup
Ready and conventional are unlikely to be statistically significant.
In contrast, the Liberty Link varieties were likely to have
significantly higher yield than the conventional, Clearfield or
Roundup Ready types in these environments.

Similar effects were observed in 2004. The yield of conventional
types (albeit based on only two varieties) was 109, 107 and 106% of
the yield of 46A45 for the short-, mid- and long-season zones
respectively. The yield of Clearfield types was 99, 96 and 102% of
the yield of 46A45 for the same regions. The average yield of
Roundup Ready types was 106, 102 and 100% of the yield of 46A45.
Lastly, the yield of Liberty Link types was 133, 122 and 120% of the
yield of 46A45 for each of the zones. The LSD for the trials varied
from 8 to 14% across zones. This means, the differences between the
conventional, Clearfield and Roundup Ready types are unlikely to be
significant. However, the Liberty Link varieties were likely to have
significantly higher yield than the other varieties in these

North Dakota and Minnesota are the two main canola-growing states in
the US. Universities in both states conduct canola variety trials at
several locations within the states. In North Dakota variety trials
are available for several years
(www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu/aginfo/variety/2005/index.html and links
therein). I have looked at the last two years, 2003 and 2004. In
each year there were trials at 4 sites. These trials are organised
and reported differently to those in Canada. The varieties are
sorted and reported by Roundup Ready and "conventional"; however the
"conventional" group contains Clearfield and Liberty Link types as
well as non-HT types. At most sites, the trials were sown and
harvested on the same day and appear to have been grown in the same
soil type with the same nutrient analysis. Therefore, I believe
comparisons are acceptable. At one site, the Roundup Ready and
"conventional" trials were planted on different dates, so I excluded
that site from analysis. There were 8 conventional varieties, 48
Roundup Ready varieties, 6 Clearfield and 6 Liberty Link varieties
sown in 2003. Except for Liberty Link, these were a mix of open
pollinated and hybrid types for all varieties. In 2004, there were
10 conventional, 49 Roundup Ready varieties, 4 Clearfield and 12
Liberty Link varieties sown across the trials. In 2004, these were a
mix of open pollinated and hybrid varieties for all types. The
varieties sown varied between sites and years and actual yields are
reported rather than comparison to a check variety.

The yields of all conventional (non-HT) varieties average 2.62 t/ha
at Langdon, 2.98 t/ha at Minot, and 1.53 t/ha at Williston in 2003.
Roundup Ready types yielded at 112, 103 and 110% of the average yield
of conventional types at Langdon, Minot and Williston respectively.
Clearfield types yielded at 84, 90 and 85% of conventional types at
the three sites. Liberty Link types were not grown at Williston, but
at the other two sites yielded 127 and 109% of the conventional
types. In 2004, the average yield of conventional varieties averaged
2.96 t/ha at Langdon, 1.66 t/ha at Minot and 1.60 t/ha at Williston.
Roundup Ready types yielded at 105, 130 and 120% of the average yield
of conventional types at Langdon, Minot and Williston respectively.
Clearfield types yielded at 109, 90 and 101% of conventional types at
the three sites. Again, Liberty Link types were not grown at
Williston, but at the other two sites yielded 122 and 124% of the
conventional types. The coefficient of variation across the trials
ranged from 7 to 10.7% in 2003 and from 8 to 26.4% in 2004. The high
coefficient of variation in 2004 means it is difficult to conclude
any type was significantly better that the others without going back
and analysing the original data. However, there are consistently
high yields for the Liberty Link types at all sites in all years.

In Minnesota, trial data were organised and reported as for North
Dakota. I accessed data from 2002 and 2003 as 2004 data was not
available from the website
Non-Roundup Ready varieties were not grown at all sites, so those
sites were excluded from the analysis. In addition, one site in 2002
was excessively damaged by hail leaving only a small number of
non-Roundup Ready varieties, so I excluded that site as well. This
left two sites in each of two years for comparison. In 2002 there
were 5 conventional varieties, 34 Roundup Ready varieties, 6
Clearfield varieties and 5 Liberty Link varieties. The Roundup Ready
and Liberty Link varieties were a mix of open pollinated and hybrids,
the conventional varieties were all hybrids and the Clearfield
varieties were all open pollinated. In 2003, there were 2
conventional varieties, 23 Roundup Ready varieties, 3 Clearfield
varieties and 6 Liberty Link varieties. In 2003 the Roundup Ready
and Clearfield varieties were a mix of open pollinated and hybrids,
whereas the conventional and Liberty Link varieties were all hybrids.

Average yields of conventional varieties were 1.35 t/ha at Kennedy
and 1.70 t/ha at Grygla in 2002. Average yields of Roundup Ready
types were 120 and 111% of the average yield of conventional types in
the two locations. Average yields of Clearfield types were 86 and
90% of conventional types, whereas average yields of Liberty Link
types were 103 and 105% of conventional types. In 2003, average
yields of conventional varieties were 2.69 t/ha at Roseau and 2.38
t/ha at Kennedy. Average yields of Roundup Ready types were 107 and
106% of the average yield of conventional types in the two locations.
Average yields of Clearfield types were 102 and 93% of conventional
types, whereas average yields of Liberty Link types were 115 and 113%
of conventional types. For the Minnesota trials, the coefficient of
variation ranged from 9.7 to 13.6% in 2002 and from 4.5 to 6.9% in
2003. Therefore, it is probably unlikely that yields of Roundup
Ready or Liberty Link varieties were significantly greater than the
conventional varieties in 2002, but Liberty Link may have had
significantly greater yield in 2003 - despite all conventional
varieties being hybrids. Clearfield varieties likely had lower yield
in 2002, but were unlikely to be significantly different in 2003.

In conclusion, from the available variety trials one can conclude
there is no detrimental effect on yield of Roundup Ready canola
compared to conventional varieties. Liberty Link types generally had
higher yields than conventional types, even when all the varieties
being compared were hybrids. This effect was obvious in the trials
from Canada and North Dakota, where at the vast majority of sites and
years the highest yielding variety was a Liberty Link type. Liberty
Link types were also always in the top 3 yielding varieties in the
Minnesota trials.

For Australia, there is too little data available to come to any
definite conclusion about yields of GM versus non-GM varieties.
However, the limited trial data that is available generally points to
the GM varieties having the same, or possibly higher, yields than
comparable non-GM varieties. This means there is no good evidence
for a decrease in yield associated with the GM varieties. The claim
that "actual trials of GM canola have produced yields of up to 20%
less than non-GM varieties" is not generally true of Australia,
Canada or the USA.