Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org : November 15, 2005
* Wishing for a Calamity
* U.S. Ambassador Urges Vatican to Promote Biotech to Fight Hunger
* Roses are Red, GM Carnations are Blue
* The Voters Have Spoken - Yes to Biotechnology!
* The Fate of Politically Modified Crops in Africa
* French Activist Bove Jailed for Destroying GM Crops
* Pakistan: Advances in Agricultural Biotechnology and Biosafety
* Ethiopian Biotech Institute Planned
* India: Private-Public Partnership to Make Transgenic Crops Affordable
* India: Golden Rice to Solve Vitamin-A Deficiency
* UN's War Against Innovation: Why is the U.S. Helping?
* Swiss: Second Generation GM Offers A Strong Potential to Ag
* GMA Conference on the Future of Food
* GM Crops: 10 Years On - Homerton College, Cambridge, UK
* Brazil - Repercussions of Embracing GM Agriculture
Wishing for a Calamity
'It's been 10 years since genetically modified foods came to Canada,
and environmental groups are furious no one's died yet'
- Will Verboven, Western Standard November 14, 2005 (Via Agnet)
Will Verboven writes that it has now been 10 years since the
introduction of genetically modified food products into the North
American diet, and in all those years, not a single person has gotten
sick or died from eating any food that contains a genetically
modified organism (GMO). In this case, no news is good news, but this
positive situation has driven environmental and consumer groups to
exasperation. They desperately need dead bodies or sick people to
justify their mindless campaign against genetically modified foods.
So they have, instead, had to resort to junk science and
precautionary-principle fear-mongering in a desperate attempt to keep
the anti-GMO issue alive in North America. The public remains unmoved
and common sense has prevailed, largely by default, as few consumers
have any clue what genetically modified food means, or that they've
been eating it for the past 10 years. Anti-GMO forces try to justify
their position by quoting surveys that the majority of consumers are
against GM food. Those same consumers, cif asked, would probably be
against the artificial heat shock treatment of dairy products
(otherwise known as pasteurization). Pollsters can get the answer
they want from a naive responder who doesn't want to appear ignorant.
Verboven says that if bogus surveys don't work, then environmental
groups will use as much junk science as it takes to deceive the
public. With enough money and the overbroad interpretations of
scientific evidence, they can manufacture doubt out of almost
Take the experiment, cited repeatedly by anti-GMO groups as proof
positive that GM food products are deadly, in which mice died from
eating a genetically modified potato. What the groups fail to mention
is that mice would die eating a non-GM potato. Potatoes contain too
much moisture, too much starch and too little protein for a small
rodent to survive on.
Nevertheless, the anti-GMO forces have managed to succeed in Europe.
Verboven goes on to conclude past 10 years have shown consumers are
unmoved by the issue: no dead bodies in the street from genetically
modified food poisoning, so no need for concern. Let's hope that a
common-sense perspective continues to rule the day.
U.S. Ambassador Urges Vatican to Promote Potential of Biotech Crops
to Fight Hunger
- Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, Nov. 14, 2005
VATICAN CITY -- The new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See urged the
Vatican on Saturday to promote the potential of biotech crops, saying
there was a "moral imperative" to investigate the possible benefits
of agricultural technology to feed the world's hungry.
"Nothing on its own can solve the complex problem of world hunger,"
Ambassador Francis Rooney told Pope Benedict XVI as he presented his
credentials during a Vatican audience. "But we cannot let irrational
fears stop us from investigating what could be one part of the
Benedict, for his part, urged the United States to continue its
"generous" aid to poor countries, lamenting the "crushing debt" that
can fuel poverty.
"I am confident that your nation will continue to demonstrate a
leadership based on unwavering commitment to the values of freedom,
integrity and self-determination," he said in remarks provided by the
He also told Rooney that all political decisions must be based on
ethical considerations that promote "the dignity, life and freedom of
each human person." The United States, home to major multinational
biotech companies, has for several years touted the potential of
genetically modified food to feed the world's hungry.
Critics of the technology say there is enough food to feed the world
and that what is necessary is the political will and appropriate
policies to fight hunger. They also warn the potential dangers of
genetically modified food outweigh any benefits.
While much of Europe has been skeptical or opposed to biotech crops,
Washington has found a welcome ear in some Vatican circles. The Roman
Catholic Church has no specific position on the matter. Cardinal
Renato Martino, who heads the Vatican's Pontifical Council for
Justice and Peace, has spoken favorably about the technology and
hosted an international conference on it two years ago.
Last September, he told a conference that the Vatican was open to
experimentation in the field of biotechnology, but he stressed it
must be done with prudence. In his comments Saturday, Rooney said
Washington was committed to providing aid to feed the world's hungry.
But he said the advance of agricultural science could help people in
"even the most difficult environments" produce crops to feed
"We look to the Holy See to help the world recognize the moral
imperative of a true investigation of these technologies," he said.
In his first audience with the pope, Rooney also said the United
States considered the Vatican a partner in spreading peace and
fighting religiously inspired terrorism. Rooney, a Florida
businessman and major Republican fund-raiser, was tapped by President
Bush in July to be ambassador, replacing Jim Nicholson.
Roses are Red, GM Carnations are Blue
- Kirsty Needham, Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 12, 2005 http://www.smh.com.au/
A man-made blue carnation may become the first genetically modified
product to overcome consumer mistrust of gene technology and be
decreed safe by the Australian Parliament.
Florigene, a gene engineering company, has applied to have its blue
carnation placed on a register that would remove the need for
dealings in the flower to be licensed and monitored. The Gene
Technology Regulator, Sue Meek, said the register was set up under
the Gene Technology Act in 2000.
"The legislation anticipated that one day, if GM products were
accepted in the community, there may be a situation where we are so
familiar and have used them for so long that they no longer need to
have a licence," she said.
No product has made it onto the register. The application comes as
government research shows the public has a limited understanding of
how genetic modification is regulated, but wants strong regulation.
Florigene said its carnation was released in 1995, and it has sold
4.25 million of the cut flowers to florists around the world. The
Melbourne company was taken over by Suntory of Japan in 2003.
Dr Meek said it could be possible to put a product on the register
and still apply conditions. She will make a determination on the
flower by next month, which will then go to Parliament. Thirteen
public submissions have been received, ranging from "people who
object to the use of gene technology to those who are supportive".
Consumer research by Biotechnology Australia, a government agency,
has found the public is split over genetically modified food.
However, Dr Meek said there were mixed attitudes to other types of
genetically modified products. A poll for Biotechnology Australia
last week of 1067 people found that respondents considered regulation
of genetically modified products necessary.
Florigene has made a separate application to conduct the first trial
in Australia of a genetically modified blue rose, developed by
Suntory last year. Dr Meek said the regulator was looking at whether
a blue rose could be inadvertently released into the environment and
allow gene transfer, resulting in it taking over natural roses.
The Voters Have Spoken - Yes to Biotechnology!
- Dean Kleckner, Truth About Trade and Technology, Nov. 11, 2005
"Winning is like shaving," Jack Kemp once said. "You do it everyday
or you wind up looking like a bum."
This is worth bearing in mind as we think about what happened in
Sonoma County on Tuesday, when voters rejected Measure M, a ballot
initiative to ban biotech crops. In the final tally, 55 percent voted
against the referendum and 44 percent voted for it.
That's good news, because it means we don't look like a bunch of bums
who didn't shave this week.
Yet this was just a single skirmish in a much bigger war over
biotechnology on the farm. There will be many more battles, and you
can be sure that the enemies of biotechnology are already sharpening
their weapons for the next engagement. The Sonoma result may
discourage them momentarily, but they will be back and they will be
ready to fight.
We know that they are persistent. Last year, agricultural
biotechnology found itself on the ballot in four different California
counties, and our side won three of them. In all, four counties have
rejected bans: Butte, Humboldt, San Luis Obispo, and now Sonoma.
Three have enacted them: Marin, Mendocino with a vote and Trinity
through a resolution by the Board of Supervisors. (There is more to
the story - the Boards of Supervisors in 11 other California counties
have passed resolutions that support biotech enhanced crops.)
Too bad this isn't a best-of-seven series, because it would mean, as
the songs says, "We are the champions." But let's not forget that
other famous sports slogan, muttered by all the other teams--the ones
that don't win the championship - "wait till next year."
In 2006, there are sure to be more elections in other counties. It's
an even-numbered year and everyone from the most energetic activist
to the most lackadaisical voter will be more attuned to politics.
There were some unique issues at play in Sonoma County. Everyone who
followed the debate, for instance, probably learned a little bit
about how Pierce's disease threatens grapes--and how biotechnology
one day might help grape producers protect their crops.
By and large, however, the fundamental arguments for and against
these bans on genetically improved crops remain the same as they were
last year and they probably won't change much next year. The
anti-biotech activists will hurl insults about "Frankenfood" and
allege, without any supporting evidence, that modern agricultural
methods are bad for your health.
We'll do our best to respond calmly and rationally with facts that
we've learned from the actual scientific study of biotech plants:
They aren't bad for your health, and they're already beginning to
carry positive health benefits; they're good for the environment
because they allow us to feed a growing and hungry world on less
farmland and soon, with less water, than conventional crops would
require; and so on.
There is also the enforcement question: Measure M would have slapped
$1,000 fines on violators. Putting a law on the books is not the same
thing as making sure people actually obey it, of course. And checking
up on Measure M compliance would be a lot more complicated than
having the local police pull out their radar guns to catch speeders:
You can't tell the difference between a biotech crop and a
conventional crop just by looking at them. You can't tell the
difference by tasting them, either. You have to bring them back to
the lab for analysis. Unfortunately, the guys in white lab jackets
don't work on the cheap.
Counties that want to do a serious job of enforcing bans on biotech
crops--as opposed to merely passing symbolic and therefore
meaningless laws--will have to devote additional resources to
scientific testing as well as educating their law-enforcement and
regulatory officers. Will they also be willing to deal with the
fiscal consequences by raising new taxes or cutting spending
In rejecting Measure M, the voters of Sonoma County made a wise
choice. Let's hope that their fellow citizens in other counties
approach the question of biotechnology with a similar sensibility.
In the meantime, I'm going to make sure my shaver is in good working order.
Dean Kleckner is an Iowa farmer and past president of the American
Farm Bureau. He chairs Truth About Trade and Technology
The Fate of Politically Modified Crops in Africa
- Woldeyesus Sinebo and Kazuo N. Watanabe, Plant Biotechnology 22(3),
Current GM crops may not appeal to Africa because of relevance,
proprietary issues, and a negative reaction towards GM foods in
Europe. Nonetheless, Bt cotton may hold a promise if fair access to
the technology is ensured and biosafety structures are put in place.
However, Africans may continue raising the biosafety flag in order to
avoid being cornered by unfair trade rules. Africans should not
overstretch biosafety and socio-economic concerns to the extent of
putting barriers against biotechnology adoption than the
circumstances on the ground merit.
African countries should build domestic capacity through formation of
linkages with advanced research institutes and international
organizations to make use of biotechnology. However, constraints to
coordinating the existent but fragmented domestic capacity across
organizational barriers ought to be overcome.
In Africa, the presence of vocal scientists that articulate the
merits of biotechnology and experience with the private sector are
positive signals and a strong political clout of the Ministry of
Environment a negative signal for a GM-friendly national policy. A
transparent dialogue among stakeholders should result in a shared
vision required to balance GM regulation with the need to adopt
available technologies and develop technological capability.
Biotechnology-proficient countries may need to understand the
concerns of the poor and may put the trade magic behind to reassure
Africans to see biotechnology through biosafety lenses only.
See full artilce at: http://www.jspcmb.jp/pbcontents/pdf/pb22_3/22_185.pdf
French Activist Bove Jailed for Destroying GM Crops
- Agence France Presse, Nov 15, 2005
French anti-globalisation activist Jose Bove was handed a four-month
jail sentence by an appeals court on Tuesday for destroying
genetically modified (GM) crops. The moustachioed campaigner, who has
become a cult figure within the anti-globalisation movement, was
accused of helping to uproot a field of GM maize near the
southwestern French city of Toulouse in July 2004.
Bove, who was imprisoned for five weeks in 2003 on similar charges,
was one of several hundred people who uprooted the field in Menville
west of Toulouse. He stood trial in late September along with eight
others, including Green party parliamentary deputy Noel Mamere and
euro-deputy Gerard Onesta, who were both handed three-month suspended
sentences on Tuesday.
Five other defendants were given two-month suspended sentences. The
ninth, an 85-year-old farmer, was allowed to walk free on account of
his age. Lawyers for the defence had requested that all of the 222
people who originally turned themselves in to police face charges
over the incident, but an appeal court ruled in April that only the
ringleaders should stand trial.
Appearing in court in September, Bove had reporters he was delighted
to have the chance to "alert public opinion about the dangers of GM
farming." A leader of the radical Farmers' Confederation trade union,
Bove was imprisoned for five weeks in 2003 for uprooting GM crops.
Bove came to international fame in 1999 when he was one of a group
who demolished a half-built McDonald's eatery in the southern town of
Millau. In 2002 he served a month and a half behind bars for that
attack. Recently he has let it be known he is considering running for
the French presidency in 2007.
Advances in Agricultural Biotechnology and Biosafety
- Ijaz Ahmad Rao (Bahawalpur), Business Recorder (Pakistan) Nov. 14, 2005
Biotechnology has become such a broad based and multidisciplinary
science that it is essential to clearly define the limits of the
present discussion. Since the main focus is on the biosafety
considerations of transgenic plants. It is obviously the "New
Biotechnology" involving the use of genetic engineering that has to
The use of genetic engineering in agriculture is a complex issue that
presents both potential benefits and risks to human society and the
environment, with implications at the local, national and global
levels. Over the past decade, a heated global debate has erupted over
the use of modern biotechnology because "Modern biotechnology" allows
scientists to make targeted changes in the agronomic characteristics
As such, it has been put forth as an important tool with which to
address hunger and poverty, which, despite decades of scientific,
social, and political efforts, remain widespread throughout the
In its application to agriculture, biotechnology's potential benefits
include improved crops that would be more nutritious, higher
yielding, resistant to pests and disease, and more environmentally
sustainable; while opponents of modern biotechnology disagreed such
claims; they believe that biotechnology may help to produce
high-yielding breeds, but it is possible that loss of genetic
diversity may occur, it may have negative effects on human and animal
Therefore, it is a moral mandate for scientists and policy makers to
guide modern technology to minimise the negative impacts by
setting-up a transparent and workable biosafety framework, while
maximising potential benefits.
The core function of the biosafety regulations must be to strengthen
institutions that would be dealing with Genetically Modified
Organisms (GMO) products and addressing issues regarding the use of
modern biotechnology, particularly on biosafety issues such as
health, environmental and socio-cultural and ethical impacts.
Undoubtedly, modern technology brings new challenges for the policy
and regulatory framework, therefore close co-operation on
biotechnology, biosafety issues and trade at the national, regional
and international levels is crucial and should be promoted; which
will strengthen the confidence of the common man in technology.
In October 2005, a workshop on "Awareness Building on the Recent
Advances of Agricultural Biotechnology and Biosafety", held at the
Rural Development Academy (RDA) Bogra, Bangladesh; organised by
Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council (BARC) & South Asia Biosafety
Programme (SABP); in which a large number of participants from
agriculture extension, representatives from Bangladesh Agricultural
Research Institute (BARI), Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI),
different NGOs and other organisations have attended and exchanged
their ideas regarding the potential benefits, risks transgenic crops
and issues of biosafety of plant biotechnology in the region.
In three of the years it was less than 1 percent. The goal of food
self-sufficiency by 1990, was asserted as part of the Third Five Year
Plan, but it could be achieved only under optimal conditions.
Bangladesh was still importing an average of 2 million tonnes of food
grains each year to meet the minimum needs for the subsistence of the
population. Most of the imports were on a grant or concessional basis
from the United States, the World Food Program, or other food aid
donors (U.S. Library of Congress).
Cotton is the major cash crop of Pakistan, which earns nearly 60% of
the foreign exchange. With the recent disaster resulting from the
cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV) spread, a major national effort has
been underway for the last few years to cope with this problem.
Significant amounts of financial resources and manpower have been
committed for developing transformation technology for local cotton
It needs to be pointed out that in view of the economic
considerations, efforts to obtain transgenic plant varieties have
been given the highest priority. Biotechnology is one of the main
battlegrounds; the Pakistani government has placed great emphasis on
trying to develop its own biotechnology sector, and public spending
in research and development has trebled in the last few years.
Pakistan's government has invested US $ 17 million in biotech
research, there are now about 70 scientists working in 19 cenaters
conducting biotech research on different crops at various institutes.
Our scientists have grabbed headlines with experiments in the area of
genetically modified crops like Cotton and Rice; this is one area of
biotech where we are competing at the top level.
In April 2005, the government of Pakistan approved its Biosafety
Rules and the Pakistan Atomic energy Commission (PAEC) has provided
the basic seed of transgenic cotton varieties "IR-FH-901",
"IR-NIBGE-2", "IR-CIM-448" and "IR-CIM-443" to a few seed companies
for its multiplication and sale. This is a big achievement for our
scientists, as in Asia, so far, only three countries China, India and
Pakistan have successfully developed indigenous Genetically Modified
The Center of Agricultural, Biochemistry and Biotechnology (CABB),
University of Agriculture, Faisalabad is the only institute which
offers postgraduate degree programmes in Agriculture Biotechnology;
while the National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic
Engineering (NIBGE) Faisalabad has been awarded the status of an
affiliate Center of the International center for Genetic Engineering
and Biotechnology (ICGEB); research activities of NIBGE relate to
agriculture, health, industry and environment, at NaIBGE, research on
bio-fertilisers has reached a stage where it is commercialised with
the name "Bio-power".
Ethiopian Biotech Institute Planned
- Wagdy Sawahel. The Scientist, Nov. 15, 2005 http://www.the-scientist.com
'Center, slated to cost $1.8 million, has goal of fighting hunger and
poverty in the region'
Ethiopia will get its first Agricultural Biotechnology Research
Institute (ABRI) by next year, with the goal of exploiting the
region's biological resources, and providing sustainable economic
development. Many scientists said that the institute can provide
long-term solutions to problems plaguing the country, including
poverty and hunger.
"We cannot just beg and keep distributing food to the people
forever," said Tilahun Zeweldu, former coordinator of Ethiopia's
program for capacity of national agricultural biotechnology, who
helped to plan ABRI. The new institute could present long-term
solutions by, for instance, improving plant products through
modification, thereby boosting Ethiopia's farming and exports, he
said. "We should start giving (Ethiopians) the means to produce
food," Zeweldu told The Scientist in an Email.
The ABRI is part of the overall agricultural research capacity
building project funded by a World Bank loan, and will be part of the
Hotela Agricultural Research Center, about 45 kilometers from Addis
Ababa. Its goal is to train African researchers, and supply them with
resources for experiments. In addition, scientists hope the ABRI will
serve as a central facility for research in molecular biology,
genetic transformation, diagnostics, genomics and bioinformatics --
in turn, advancing agricultural biotechnology development and
protecting plant genetic resources. One advantage of having a
biotechnology institute in Ethiopia is its location, known to be rich
in biological diversity, scientists said.
But some scientists questioned the institute's apparent focus,
stressing the need for addressing local problems and concerns.
Delphin Diasolua Ngudi, a senior researcher at the Ministry of Health
in the Democratic Republic of Congo, told The Scientist that the new
institute must investigate solutions to African's problems, not the
Western World's -- for instance, work on creating plants that are
resistant to heat, not to cold. An African biotechnology institute
"must focus on problems such as improving food security, increasing
productivity, reducing pest management costs and, finally, fighting
hunger and poverty," he said. Zeweldu, however, insisted that the
institute will focus on Ethiopia, not the outside world, adapting
"biotechnology tools developed in the west to solve Ethiopia's
agricultural problems," Zeweldu said.
ABRI's research programs are expected to include a variety of fields,
including propagation of local plants using plant cell and tissue
culture technology, production of improved local crops using genes
isolated from natural resources, investigations into animal health
and reproduction, and the production of bio-fertilizers and
Ferman Lambein of the Institute for Plant Biotechnology for
Developing Countries in Belgium noted that ABRI could also help the
region with bioeconomy, or developing and commercializing new
biotechnology products. In Ethiopia and the rest of Africa, simply
giving people emergency food is not a long-term solution to
Ethiopia's problems, Lambein noted. Moreover, local farmers will be
more likely to accept high yielding and good quality plant varieties
- sometimes genetically modified -- developed at home than varieties
developed under high intellectual property-restrictions in other
regions, even if distributed freely as aid, he added.
Still, in order to succeed, the institute must establish a reliable
infrastructure, Lambein told The Scientist. "A biochemical needed
today and arriving six or twelve months later, a failure in
electrical power supply, and unreliable supply of gas for laboratory
work can spoil the work of previous months or years," Lambein
explained. "Without such stable facilities, a trained biotechnologist
will not stay in an environment where he loses his 'market value' by
not publishing regular progress, brain drain will continue, and ABRI
will only be a big show."
India: Private-Public Partnership to Make Transgenic Crops Affordable
- R. Balaji, Business Line (India), Nov. 14, 2005
Coimbatore - A public private partnership between Mahyco, academic
institutions and private sector seed companies in India, Bangladesh
and Philippines aims to make transgenic crops affordable to more
farmers in the region.
Under the USAID-supported project, a number of varieties and hybrids
of genetically modified eggplant (brinjal) resistant to fruit and
shoot borers are being developed. Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co Ltd
(Mahyco) is providing the technology to the Tamil Nadu Agricultural
University ; University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad; Indian
Institute of Vegetable Research, Varanasi; University of Philippines,
Los Banos; Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute and a private
sector seed company, East West Seeds, aBangladesh.
They are all members of the public-private partnership, Agricultural
Biotechnology Support Project II, led by Cornell University of the
US. It seeks to make the transgenic crop accessible to a wider
section of farmers in this region. The coordinator for the project in
India is Sathguru Management Consultants Pvt Ltd, Hyderabad, which is
Cornell's representative in India. The University of Philippines will
handle the implementation in the South-East Asian region.
Addressing newspersons, on a tour of the project sites organised by
Sathguru, Mr K. Vijayarghavan, its Director, said through the
partnership, the transgenic eggplant developed for different regions
would be available to farmers at an affordable cost. The public
institutions would aim at cost recovery, while the private players
will price it on a benefit-sharing basis. More than 30 members were
partners in the project, under which work is on in 10 transgenic
crops across the region.
The eggplant was selected based on extensive consultation, which
identified that this crop would benefit several farmers in the region
- over 25 million. Dr Usha Barwale Zehr, Joint Director of Research,
Mahyco, said in India alone, over 5.1 lakh hectares were under
brinjal cultivation and the annual production was estimated at about
8.2 million tonnes. The fruit and shoot borer, an insect pest,
affects over 50-70 per cent of the crop even after continuous
Using transgenic technology will prevent such wastage and increase
marketable yield. Apart from the varieties under development by the
public sector institutions, Mahyco itself is developing four
transgenic hybrid brinjal varieties.
There would be enough varieties and hybrids to cover most of the
brinjal-growing regions in India, she said. The limited trials, in
its second year now, and statutory safety tests had been completed.
Once the appropriate clearances were received, they would be able to
go in for large-scale trials, which would be followed by commercial
sales. Work on the crop started in 2000, she said.
While the benefit to the public institutions is obvious, what value
does Mahyco derive from this partnership? Mr Raju Barwale, Managing
Director, Mahyco, said it was in the wider reach of the technology
and the increased level of awareness of biotechnology and transgenic
crops. This would lead to increased acceptability if more farmers
directly experience the benefits of the technology. The company was
targeting release by late 2006 or in 2007, once the authorities gave
the approvals. The tests were positive and there was a basis for
optimism, he said.
India: Golden Rice to Solve Vitamin-A Deficiency
- Sify (India), November 13, 2005 http://sify.com
New Delhi: Intense efforts are underway in India for commercial
production of 'Golden Rice', an upgraded rice variety rich in
vitamin-A to overcome high-level nutritional deficiency in most
Three agricultural institutes - Indian Agriculture Research Institute
(IARA), New Delhi, Directorate of Rice Research, Hyderabad, and Tamil
Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, have started research in
"Technology has been developed by international institutes on
enriching vitamin-A content in rice. Our institutes are doing
research on using the technology for our locally grown varieties. A
lot of tests on safety aspects have to be conducted before commercial
cultivation," Director General of Indian Council of Agricultural
Research (ICAR) Dr Mangala Rai told PTI.
Research on upgradation of rice varieties enhancing the vitamin-A
content has been going on at the international arena since 1992-93.
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology first started research on this
project. International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Rockefeller
Foundation and Syngenta Foundation later on became associated in this
Former head of 'Golden Rice' research project at IRRI and recently
adjunct professor at California University Dr G S Khush, who was here
recently, told PTI that the new rice variety was produced by
introducing specific gene from maize, which make Beta-carotene in the
available rice varieties. Due to increase in Beta-carotene content,
the rice look yellow in colour and hence called golden rice. The
Beta-carotene, after consumption, produces vitamin-A in the body, he
said. Research on commercial production of the variety is going on in
six countries, Khush said. They are Indonesia, India, Philippines,
Bangladesh, Vietnam and China.
"The researches being carried out in these countries pertain to
upgradation of local varieties using the technology," he said. Since
this is genetically modified variety, food right activists may raise
question about the safety aspect of the grain. "To avoid any
controversy and ensure safety, this variety will undergo food safety
test and environment safety test before starting the commercial
cultivation," he pointed out.
A K Singh, the chief scientist of 'Golden Rice' project at IARI here,
said that research was at an initial stage.
"We have selected some specific Indian rice varieties like Swarna,
Samba Masuri etc for applying the technology," he said. Vitamin-A
deficiency among people world over is an area of concern. Nearly 400
million people including about 100 million children across the globe
are suffering from vitamin-A deficiency. | Read more Finance news.
The situation in India is very similar. About 40,000 children go
blind every year in India, while about 2.5 lakh kids lose their eye
sight in South Asia annually due to vitamin-A deficiency.
The UN's War Against Innovation: Why is the U.S. Helping?
- Henry Miller, MD Tech Central Station. November 14, 2005
The leadership of the United Nations is truly the gang that can't
shoot straight. Even if the recent incidents of corruption and
profiteering -- exemplified by the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal -- are
anomalies, as defenders of the UN would have us believe, it is hard
to explain away the anti-social outcomes of business as usual.
Secretary General Kofi Annan professed recently that he hoped concern
for "intellectual property" wouldn't "get into the way" of producing
and distributing drugs for a potential avian-flu pandemic. In other
words, companies that make drugs and vaccines should abandon their
intellectual property at Mr. Annan's whim. This kind of hostility to
property rights, which is precisely the reason we now have a shortage
of vaccines and drugs to confront the potential pandemic (as well as
other epidemics that occur regularly), is only one manifestation of
the inability of UN officials to understand the relationship between
public policy anCd innovation.
Nothing the UN has inflicted on innovation and research and
development is worse than its record on biotechnology applied to
agriculture and food production. The work of the UN's Task Force on
Biotech Foods (which operates under the auspices of something called
the Codex Alimentarius Commission, itself a creature of the World
Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization) continues
to be no more than bureaucratic slapstick -- in which American
taxpayers and scientists are getting the pies in thCe face. No
serious, coherent defense of its work is even remotely possible. Its
scope is unscientific, and its projects largely pointless and
gratuitous. It more closely resembles a Marx Brothers film than a
serious international negotiation.
U.S. Government and private resources expended on the meetings of
this Codex task force, which have gone on for years, are not
insignificant (there were no fewer than 15 representatives of various
American government departments and agencies at a task force meeting
this autumn in Japan), and they are poorly and unconstructively spent.
Why unconstructively? Because the more "successful" are the projects
of the task force, the more entrenched becomes unscientific and
discriminatory regulation that is an obstacle to wider diffusion and
to public acceptance of the new biotechnology applied to agriculture
and food production. In other words, the work of the task force
ignores the Rule of Holes: When you're in a hole, stop digging!
The collaboration of U.S. Government agencies in the work of the task
force is especially repugnant, because the comments of our delegation
have continued to reinforce and perpetuate the unscientific and
insupportable scope of the exercise -- only those foods made with the
most precise and predictable technologies are circumscribed for
discriminatory standards and treatment. At the September task force
meeting, USDA bureaucrat Bernice Slutksy, the official U.S. Delegate,
went out of her way repeatedly to rCemind the participants that only
recombinant DNA-modified products are encompassed by the work of the
task force. Unwittingly or otherwise, she was doing the bidding of
the EU and other regulatory reactionaries. Not only is this scope
unwise and unscientific, but it conflicts explicitly with overarching
U.S. policies published in 1986 and 1992. The work of the task force
is directly detrimental to farmers, consumers, academic researchers
and industry, and it will make nearly impossible future evolution of
Cdomestic policies toward a more scientific and less regulatory
The collusion of the U.S. government in this and other UN projects on
biotechnology regulation violates the social contract between civil
servants and the public. Bureaucrats are granted lifetime tenure, in
return for which they are supposed to resist external pressures and
make decisions that are dispassionate, rational and in the public
interest. But this collection of bureaucrats has failed miserably to
How ironic that the two UN agencies involved in this debacle are the
World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization,
which should be expending every available resource -- every
bureaucrat-hour and every dollar, Euro, peso and pound -- on coping
with the outbreak of avian influenza that is spreading over much of
the planet and threatening a human pandemic, and on the care and
feeding of the victims of the earthquake in Pakistan. Instead, they
perseverate endlessly about foods made with superior genetic
techniques. Especially memorable at the task force meeting in Japan
were the repeated entreaties from Jorgen Schlundt, the head of the
WHO department concerned with food safety, zoonoses [diseases that
spread from animals to humans] and infectious diseases, who from his
honored position on the dais kept exhorting the group to consider
biotech foods' ethical concerns. He was more like a John Cleese
character in a silly Monty Python skit than an official entrusted
with serious international responsibilities.
But that is what we have come to expect from the United Nations:
Stupidity, incompetence, self-interest and utter cluelessness (which
should offer a lesson about entrusting to the UN anything critical
concerned with an avian flu pandemic). The organization does score
high on political correctness, however, and the wine cellars in their
commissaries are reputed to be excellent.
The U.S. Government should pull the plug on this task force -- for
the good of food biotech, in the interest of sound public policy, and
to save the United Nations from itself. More generally, federal
officials should pursue projects only if they will benefit American
interests -- and oppose and reject those that don't. They should
adhere to the simple principle that no agreement is better than one
that damages the long-term interests of the United States. And here's
a novel, overarching concept: GovernmenCt leaders should lead.
As a federal official myself for more than 17 years, I am familiar
with the bureaucratic traditions of inertia and unwillingness to
admit when you've made a mistake, so I have little expectation that
the regulators on the delegation from USDA, EPA and FDA will do the
right thing without prodding. But the interested observers and
participants inside and outside the government who are concerned with
trade issues, who understand the folly of achieving a level playing
field that is hip-deep in mud, or who possCess a modicum of common
sense, could be a force for revisiting U.S. participation in the work
of the Codex task force on biotech foods.
It is evident that the Executive Branch agencies will need plenty of
pressure to turn them around on this no-brainer issue. Interested
stakeholders who have relationships with influential members of
Congress should urge them to apply it.
It has been said that we get the government we deserve. Where did we fail?
Henry I. Miller, a physician, molecular biologist and fellow at the
Hoover Institution, was an NIH and FDA official from 1977-1994.
Barron's selected his most recent book, "The Frankenfood Myth..." as
one of the 25 Best Books of 2004.
Swiss: The GMO of Second Generation Offers A Strong Potential to Agriculture
- LE TEMPS, November 9, 2005 (Les OGM de deuxième génération offrent
un fort potentiel à l'agriculture
https://www.letemps.ch - Improved automatic translation - from Prof.
Since the time of the Neolithic era 10,000 Years ago, man has
endeavoured to improve plant varieties. These efforts intensified
over the centuries and made it possible to obtain the field crop
plants which we know today. However these plants do not resemble to
their ancestors any more and would never have been born without the
active intervention of the man who did not cease selecting, to cross
and maintain these plants. With the passing of years the tools of the
modern genetics were refined and made it possible to obtain varieties
which combine several favorable features such, for example, as a high
output and an increased resistance to climatic conditions and
GMO technology of the fits directly into these efforts aiming at
improving agronomic qualities of the plants. The originality of this
approach lies in the fact that it is possible to establish a genetic
element, a gene, of one species in another. Is this crossing of
barrier of the DNA between species a truly new process invented by
the man? The answer is clearly negative because there exists in
nature the transfers of genes between species. Let us quote as
example the case of certain soil bacteria which are able to inject a
part of their DNA into plant cells. It is interesting to note that
the researchers took as a starting point this example to develop
technology to produce plants GMO.
The genetic modifications produced by genetic engineering are more
controllable than those caused by the traditional techniques such as
mutagenesis with ionizing radiations. Since the creation of the first
transgenic plant twenty-two years ago, the techniques for GMO
manufacture have been greatly refined. With 2nd generation GMOs it is
possible to get rid of today's antibiotic resistamce marker genes.
Moreover, while resorting to chloroplast transgenesis, a cellular
compartment where the reactions of photosynthesis take place, it is
possible to control perfectly the site of integration of the
transgene in the genome of the plant (see figure). Another advantage
of this new technology is that the chloroplasts in the majority of
the field crop plants of are not transmitted by pollen. Thus the risk
of dissemination of transgenes in the environment is strongly
reduced. However as for all new technology, it should be applied with
prudence. On this subject we have in Switzerland one of the most
severe laws in the aworld which rigorously regulates the application
of the genetic engineering to the plants and which returns the as an
initiative on its use on 27 November.
In Switzerland the application of the genetic engineering is
especially interesting for the fight against pests and the diseases
of the plants. The traditional methods use many pesticides and
fungicides which dangerously pollute our land and our rivers and
which are not without risks for the consumer. Just for the year 1996,
1748 tons of active biocide ingredients were sold in our country
(fungicidal, weedkillers, insecticides). Fruit trees undergo between
15 and 20 plant health treatments per year. For thae vine there is
10-12 treatments and for corn up to 6 treatments. GMO plants offer
interesting possibilities to increase their resistance to the pests,
insects and viruses and this makes it possible to appreciably
decrease the use of these polluting and aggressive chemical agents.
In this direction GMOs have an important ecological potential and
their development should be a top priority to protect harvests
effectively. It is surprising that the ecological groups in
Switzerland are insensitive to these efforts.
The initiative is not only useless, but is dangerous because it
compromises search in plant biology in Switzerland. There is indeed a
continuity between fundamental research, its developments and its
applications. It is illusory to develop research programs applied for
the improvement of field crop plants of if the use of the products of
this search is impossible in Switzerland.
How to attract the best researchers and to motivate our young people
under these conditions? The number of students in this branch fell in
a worrying way during these last years and risk a reduction in the
subsidies and an unquestionable decline of this science. The current
climate in Switzerland towards plant biotechnologies worsened with
the delocalization of the research and the development of the plants
of field crop abroad (Syngenta), the end of research in plant biology
in the IMF in Basle and the diassolution of the team of genetic
engineering of Agroscope de Changins. However this team was very
powerful and had played a pioneer part in the installation of the
vegetable genetic engineering in Switzerland and was about to develop
new strategies for the fight against nematodes. These decisions are
regrettable and testify to a lack of vision afflicting with our
It is certain that second generation GMOs of offer new possibilities
to Swiss agriculture to produce plants with high added value
(bio-plastic, pharmaceutical products, vaccines). For the moment our
country still occupies an enviable position in the field of plant
biotechnologies since it is at 5th place in the world. However the
competition is severe in this very promising field. It is essential
to stimulate the innovation and to maintain optimal conditions as
well for basic search for its applications. Let us not wait until it
is too late and that the employment qualified in this field is
created outside our borders.
GMA Conference on the Future of Food
- Nov 29 to Dec. 1, 2005; Washington, DC
It starts on the farm. Scientific and agricultural leaders will
discuss commodity and specialty crops, advancements in agriculture
technologies and product traits, water use and environmental
concerns, and trade opportunities Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 in Washington,
D.C., at the GMA Conference on the Future of Food.
Explore future forces in agriculture with Gary Martin, president and
CEO of the North American Export Grain Association; Jerry Steiner,
president of Food Traits and executive vice president of the Monsanto
Company; Dr. Channapatna S. Prakash, professor of plant molecular
genetics at Tuskegee University; William L. Jorgenson, senior
managing director of John Deere Agri Services, and Mary Kay Thatcher,
director of public policy at the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Nourish your appetite for knowledge at the inaugural GMA Conference
on the Future of Food. Join expert panelists in a provocative
discourse on the future of the food industry. Learn how health and
wellness, market access, regulation, emerging science and innovation
are coming together to form a world that revolves around consumers.
For more information and to register, visit
http://www.futureoffood.org, or call 202-337-9400.
GM Crops: 10 Years On
- Dec. 14-16, 2005; Homerton College, Cambridge, UK
Organised by Nigel G Halford and Martin A J Parry, Rothamsted Research
In the mid-1990s plant biotechnology emerged from the laboratory into
world agriculture. It began not only a second 'green revolution'
that continues to gather pace but also one of the great public
debates of our time. Ten years on leading scientists from academia
and industry from around the world will gather in Cambridge to look
back over the last ten years and forward to the next. Topics to be
covered will include:
* The global status of GM crops and their current and potential
impact in different parts of the world, from the USA to Africa
* GM traits currently in use in commercial agriculture
* The next ten years - from edible vaccines to pharmaceutical oils,
advances in the laboratory that could lead to the next generation of
* Gene flow, co-existence, safety and regulation
Confirmed speakers so far include:
Sajutha Sankala (Washington), Sagadevan Mundree (Cape Town), Peter
Shewry (Rothamsted), Johnathan Napier (Rothamsted), Ed Cahoon (St
Louis), Jennifer Thompson (Cape Town), Clare Mills (Norwich), Jim
Dunwell (Reading), Peter Lutman (Rothamsted), Rachel Drake
(Syngenta), Vivian Moses (London), N. Raghuram (Delhi) and Steve
Brazil at a Crossroads - Repercussions of Embracing Genetically
- Nov.17, 2005, 10:00 am -12:00; Washington DC - Woodrow Wilson
Center, Ronald Reagan Building One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, 1300
Pennsylvania Avenue, NW; http://www.wilsoncenter.org/lbrazil
Robert Paarleberg, Associate Professor of Political Science,
Wellesley College; Gerardo Eugenio, Director, EMBRAPA (Brazilian
Ministry of Agriculture) TBA, Representative, International Food
Policy Research Institute ; Commentator, Michael Rodemeyer, Senior
Consultant, Pew Initiative on Food and
Second only to the United States, Brazil is one of the world's
largest soybean producers. Unofficial statistics estimate that 30
percent of Brazil's current soy crop is black market genetically
modified (GM) soy. Although the Brazilian government has
traditionally turned a blind eye toward the contraband trade of this
GM soy, in 2003, the administration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da
Silva officially admitted that illegal genetically-modified soy
planting was taking place on a wide scale. Rather than face the
daunting task of destroying up to a third of the national crop, the
government issued a decree decriminalizing the sale of
genetically-modified soy until January 2004, after which it became
While the Workers' Party is opposed to the use of GM crops, the Lula
administration is under pressure from many groups to give in to the
GM trend and open Brazilian agriculture up to genetically-modified
crops. Echoed in the halls of Brazil's Congress as well as the World
Trade Organization, this subject is provocative for its domestic as
well as international implications. The repercussions of such a move
would be far-reaching, possibly causing the price of non-GM soy to
skyrocket. This could increase Brazil's net output and propel the
country's production past that of the United States, while raising
the possibility of environmental degradation. This seminar hopes to
raise questions about Brazil at a crossroads and spur debate on the
country's possible paths.
Sincerely, Thomé Nicocelli, Director, Brazil @ the Wilson Center;
Geoffrey Dabelko, Director, Environmental Change and Security Program
RSVP, acceptances only, to Daniel Budny at Daniel.Budny@wilsoncenter.org