Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org : November 27, 2005
* Australia Languishes in Biotech Crop Stakes
* Junk Science and Inept Politics Compound Nature's Wrath In Zambia
* Italian Scientists Hail Biotech Benefits
* Swiss Agree to 5-year GMO Farming Ban
* Partial Knowledge
* UN's Burdensome Rules Continue to Defy Science
* Conversations about Plant Biotechnology
Australia Languishes in Biotech Crop Stakes
- Graeme O'Neill, The Age (Australia), Nov. 28, 2005 http://www.theage.com.au/
THIRD World nations are moving rapidly into the new age of biotech
crops, and the portents for Australian agriculture look increasingly
Former CSIRO Plant Industry chief Jim Peacock, who pioneered biotech
crop research in Australia, says millions of farmers in China, India
and other developing nations are growing biotech crops such as
soybeans and maize, while the EU, Britain and Australia continue to
shun them. (Australia has grown GM cotton since 1996.)
Dr Peacock, president of the Australian Academy of Science and a
former winner of the Prime Minister's Science Prize, says biotech
crops are making "an enormous difference" in developing nations.
"Food is a very personal thing, like health and medicine. In the West
we have a choice, but in the developing world there's really no
choice - the prospect of a more reliable, healthier food supply means
biotech crops are being accepted with open arms."
As Western governments, with the exception of the US and Canada,
vacillate over adopting biotech crops in the face of pressure from
anti-GM activists, Dr Peacock says the debate is approaching a
decisive phase. China, the world's biggest rice producer, is about to
release the first GM rice cultivars of what is the world's main human
China has delayed releasing new, pest-resistant biotech rice
varieties because of uncertainty caused by the EU's opposition to
biotech crops and foods, and the crop's cultural significance. But
the EU has lifted its moratorium, and with most EU politicians in
favour of ending bans on biotech crops, industry observers expect
China's decision to release new pest-resistant rice varieties to come
well before the 2008 Beijing Olympics - possibly as early as the next
Biotech rice will slash pesticide use and lift yields, as
pest-resistant GM cotton has done for millions of peasant farmers in
China and India. Already a world leader in GM crop research, China is
on track to overtake the US as the world's leading agricultural
bio-technology nation within a decade. Dr Peacock believes China's
rapid adoption of biotech rice and other crops will allay the
concerns of Western consumers and farmers about biotech crops, and
opposition will subside rapidly. It will also place pressure on
nations such as Australia to follow - or risk missing out on the
economic and health benefits of the biotech crop boom.
Australia's temperate states are to review their moratoria on GM
canola and other new GM crops in 2008. By then, many Asian nations
will be growing GM rice varieties developed in China and the
Philippines - including "Golden Rice", with vitamin A precursor beta
carotene, to prevent blindness caused by vitamin A deficiency, which
affects 400 million people in rice-eating nations.
Dr Peacock believes there is now a real chance that state bans on GM
herbicide-tolerant canola and other new GM crops will come off before
2008. "If they can find a face-saving way of getting out, they will,"
This year CSIRO researchers announced they have bred a non-GM,
low-glycaemic index barley, BarleyMax, to help reduce obesity and
type 2 diabetes. CSIRO researchers are developing a "gene tool kit"
that will enable breeders of traditional oilseed crops such as
canola, sunflower and cotton to design biotech varieties rich in
omega-3 fatty acids to protect against cardiovascular disease and
improve vision and brain function.
In the late 1970s, Dr Peacock initiated a project to salvage
Australia's moribund cotton industry, which was under siege from
New Bollgard 2 varieties developed by CSIRO synthesise two potent
highly specific protein pesticides in their leaves and green tissues,
making them almost impervious to caterpillar attack. Many cultivars
are also resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, giving improved weed
control at lower cost. In only their second year of production in
Australia, the doubly-protected Bollgard 2 cultivars accounted for 80
per cent of this year's crop, and slashed consumption of
broad-spectrum pesticides by 65 per cent.
Dr Peacock notes that Australia's anti-GM movement's critique of
biotech crops has ignored the success of Australia's only field
biotech crop, because it has delivered increased profits to farmers,
and reduced the health and environmental fallout from
pesticide-drenched conventional cotton crops.
In 1988, Allen Kerr, of Adelaide's Waite Agricultural Research
Institute, released the world's first GMO (genetically modified
organism) into the environment: a non-virulent strain of microbe
Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which infects stone fruit and other crop
plants, causing crown gall disease. His "tame" microbe, marketed
globally as "NoGall" protects young stone-fruit trees against
infection by virulent strains of the same microbe.
Junk Science and Inept Politics Compound Nature's Wrath In Zambia
- C Kameswara Rao, Foundation for Biotech Awareness and Education,
It makes a very sad reading that the Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa
had to declare a national food disaster, appealing for immediate
donor help to feed over 1.7 million people left hungry, by crop
failures due to drought in 2005 (Reuters, November 22, 2005). The
President seems to have acted very reluctantly, putting the onus on
the Zambian Parliament, as he told the journalists that 'Now
parliament is the highest law making body in the land and in view of
this resolve, I hereby declare the current food shortages a disaster
in Zambia and I appeal for donor assistance.'
In July 2002, the Zambian government made international headlines
when they ordered the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to take back over
35,000 tones of food aid, even while three million Zambians faced
hunger caused by a severe drought, as the package contained
'potentially unsafe GM maize' (Panos). The stand of the Zambian
government received a standing ovation from the anti-GE groups the
world over and this 'bold decision' was endlessly praised making the
Zambian government the hero (see http://www.gmwatch.org, May 17,
2005, and November 10, 2005, for the latest).
In the GM debate in Zambia, a prominent issue seems to be the fear of
dominance of multinational corporations in the field of agriculture,
through GE crops and reprisals by MNCs on even accidental contract
violations. Pelum Association, Zambia, stated that 'Commercial GM
seeds are developed and commercialized almost exclusively by
multinational enterprises. The first interest of corporations is to
create profit for their shareholders, not to feed hungry people or to
worry about poor farmers and consumers who don't have the money to
buy patented GM products.' This is not a scientific concern and the
government can make suitable laws to protect the poor farmers and the
consumers from the MNCs.
Panos identified three broadly categorized powerful anti-GE lobbies
in Zambia that pressurize the government into an anti-GE stand:
a) The agricultural exporters, such as the Tobacco Association of
Zambia, the Zambia Export Growers Association and the Zambia Coffee
Growers' Association, who are mainly concerned about the potential
loss of the European market if their farms were contaminated by GE
crops. The recent approval of several GE crops by the EU should
reasonably allay these fears. Then Zambia's main exports to Europe
are only cotton and tobacco. For some time, food exports have been
out of the question and will be so for a long time to come. No
responsible government can permit food exports when millions of its
own people are starving to death.
b) The Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia, which
was worried about the effects of GE crops on sustainable agriculture.
This group blissfully ignores a very large number of articles, which
reiterated that the co-existence of conventional, organic and GE
crops is a fairly reasonable possibility.
c) The small-scale farmers, who constitute over three-quarters of all
Zambian farmers. They are afraid that GE crops could contaminate
seeds grown by them, as the so-called 'informal seed sub-sector'
supplies 80 per cent of all planting seeds in Zambia. This fear is in
ignorance of all research on gene flow issues related to the
currently commercialized GE crops.
Unfortunately, as in most developing countries, the media remained
largely a passive recipient of information. As the journalists had
very little knowledge of the issue, they could be easily manipulated
in either direction, but at this particular point of time, the
government's view prevailed. There does not seem to be any debate on
biosecurity of GE crops. Any pro-GE viewpoint quickly gets branded as
standing up to the US, as observed by Anthony Mwikita, a radio
The Zambian government went a stage ahead in its anti-GE policy by
building a modern molecular biology lab to detect GE component in
food entering Zambia. The project that began at the National
Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research, received a donation
of US$ 330,000, from the Norwegian government (SciDev.Net, May 13,
2005) and is expected to be operational soon,
What WFP had to offer contained a portion of GE maize and this was
construed as an attempt to get rid off an allegedly dangerous US
produce, which the US citizens themselves have been consuming for a
long time with no reported adverse effects.
The question now is not whether Zambian government is justified in
having an anti-GE policy, which is an entirely different issue from
accepting GE mixed food aid in a food disaster situation. The current
crisis in Zambia justifies making at least a one-time exception to
the policy to accept whatever aid is forthcoming.
One of the major concerns is that the seed from the GE component of
food aid would escape and produce GE plants causing the so-called
contamination of the native seed sources. Ground seed cannot cause
such a contamination; the Zambian government can arrange to supply
ground seed, eliminating the chance of seed escape.
Poor people who are starving to death need food from whatever sources
and not exercises in counting the teeth of the gift horse.The Zambian
government should not stand on a misconceived notion of prestige at
this moment of crisis.
Even if the Zambian government relents on GE food imports, the issue
is not that simple, as WFP now requires an additional US$ 35 million
to purchase food for 800,000 people (Reuters, November 22, 2005).
Italian Scientists Hail Biotech Benefits
- ANSA (Rome), Nov. 24, 2005 http://ansa.it
Biotechnology can help save lives and boost Italian exports, one of
the country's leading research institutes said here on Thursday .
ENEA, a national research institute specializing in energy and the
environment, called for private industry to work with the public
sector, stressing the benefits to be gained from investing in genetic
research and modification .
"We have to work on developing research and technology that help
strengthen our capacity for technological innovation and
competitiveness, both at a national and an international level," said
ENEA's special commissioner, Luigi Paganetto . The most important
aspect of ENEA's work is its contribution to the so-called "green
vaccines", he said .
Regular vaccines work by injecting a small quantity of the virus into
the human body. This triggers the antibodies and white blood cells
needed to fight the virus, teaching the immune system to respond more
quickly in the event of a "real attack" . Green vaccines work the
same way, but the viral material is manufactured inside plant DNA .
First, human and animal material with the relevant virus is injected
into plants. Plant viruses then carry the human infection around the
stems, leaves and roots, until eventually the entire organism is
"contaminated" . The plant can either be harvested and used in other
preparations or eaten directly, such as in spinach leaves . The
resulting vaccine is simpler to administer, safer, easier to
transport and, often crucially, far cheaper to produce .
ENEA has played an important role in the European Commission-funded
Pharma-Planata consortium, which is seeking to develop plant-derived
pharmaceuticals that meet stringent EU safety standards . At the
moment, the project is researching treatments for prevention of HIV,
rabies, tuberculosis and diabetes, although it will be some time
before plant products will be available on the market .
But biotechnology should not just be dismissed as futuristic science
with a long-term goal in mind, said the institute's biotech director,
Luigi Rossi. Instead, it offers immediate solutions to current
problems. It can help Italians make the most of past traditions, by
pinpointing improvements within "conventional" agricultural products,
he said .
"Understanding gene expression allows us to make the most of the
nutritional and sensory qualities of typical Italian products," he
explained . "In turn, this better equips businesses to meet consumer
and market demands." ENEA is involved in a number of European
projects on food safety and promotion .
Among these are Truefood, which is studying the composition of
certified products in a bid to improve quality, Flavo, focused on
flavonoids, a group of plant substances beneficial to human health,
and EU-SOL, dedicated to the study of the solanaceae group of plants
- potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines - which thrive in Italian
Swiss Agree to 5-year GMO Farming Ban
ZURICH - Switzerland voted in favor of a five-year ban on the use of
genetically modified plants and animals in farming on Sunday, putting
in place some of the toughest measures in Europe. Results of the
referendum, compiled by Swiss television SF DRS, showed that 55
percent of voters had accepted the proposal to place a five-year
moratorium on GMO crops and the import of genetically modified
A majority of Switzerland's 26 cantons had also accepted the ban, SF
DRS said. Officials are expected to confirm the national result later
on Sunday. Final results take months to be published.
The measures will force the Swiss government to put in place some of
the toughest legislations on GMOs in Europe. In the 25-nation
European Union that surrounds Switzerland, restrictions apply to
specific crops only and are temporary in nature, rather than the
blanket ban proposed by Swiss ecologists and consumer groups.
The proposal is supported by Swiss farmers, many of whom are
considering moving into the booming organic farming business in
response to moves to cut traditional agricultural subsidies.
Under the country's legislative system, the Swiss electorate is
regularly asked to vote on major decisions.
However, while the vote has a symbolic meaning, a ban will mean very
little change from current practice, said those who opposed the
- Klaus Ammann, Checkbiotech, Nov. 25, 2005 http://www.checkbiotech.org
The plant ecologist, Klaus Ammann, is "calling on heavy scientific
ammunition" with regards to the Swiss initiative that calls for a
moratorium on green biotechnology.
This is his means of opposing what he considers a systematic campaign
of disinformation led by certain organizations against genetically
engineered crops. He makes no claim that science has absolute proof,
but he refers to scientific studies showing that genetically modified
foods are safe.
We still hear from the biochemist, Arpad Pusztai, who asserted that
rats were harmed by genetically manipulated potatoes. We have heard
him complain about how he was mobbed by the "bad" biotech industry.
That he was dismissed from his last research project (after
appointment as an Emeritus) certainly remains questionable. For many,
this is reason enough to accept his experiments on rats and
genetically modified plants, done in 1998, without criticism. The
reason being that in the meantime he, like Canadian farmer Percy
Schmeiser, who is regularly promoted by Greenpeace because his
rapeseed was allegedly "contaminated" by genetically modified
"rapeseed", has been transformed into European and worldwide folk
Hysteria without reason
In both of the above cases it would be quite disturbing to examine
the scientific literature, because it would soon become clear what
the facts are. Between then and now the numbers of publications
relating to Pusztais' statements have grown to above 400.
The number of major studies concerning the safety of these kinds of
foods published by experts in peer-reviewed journals has grown to
about 30. And they all convey the same message: genetically modified
foods are harmless1.
These "doom-sayers" should finally acknowledge that several reports,
based on millions of dollars of research by the World Health
Organization and the European Union, all came to that same result.
The source material is easily obtained through Google. The problem
here is that the average European, who thoroughly rejects American
politics (but not their culture), is too eager to fall for these
presumptions of disaster. One prefers to remain in the realm of
Among nutritional science experts, the experiments done by Pusztai
are being unanimously judged as inconclusive and incorrectly
designed. This is a paradox when one considers that Pusztai normally
has an excellent reputation where publications are concerned.
In the case of the rapeseed farmer, Percy Schmeiser, one cannot help
but notice that, according to the publicly available court
transcripts, he changed his story three times. First he pleaded not
guilty because the contamination was a consequence of pollen spread.
Then he said he had inadvertently mixed up the bags of seeds. In the
third version he was found guilty of sowing huge quantities of
genetically modified rapeseed. In all proceedings he was pronounced
guilty. The opponents of biotechnology do not Eseem to grasp this and
are locked in to their world of partial knowledge because the
plaintiff and the firm that was proven right is Monsanto and
therefore so Schmeiser must be their innocent victim.
"Bio" and "GM" crops are healthy
All foods offered in Switzerland are healthy and harmless. This is
also valid for the products of organic farming, including "Bio" milk
that has come under recent scrutiny . However, further detailed
research into this product has not given proof of anything negative.
The announcement of the "Bio" milk study follows the same pattern.
which resonates with our population that loves to think about
disaster scenarios: "It just could be, that?.!". This resurrected
hysteria being celebrated amongst spoiled and sEystematically
frightened consumers is causing a dramatic drop in the consumption of
poultry - as if the avian flu transmittable from man to man already
A study by Kurt Bodenmueller (www.internutrition.ch) shows that
products obtained through different farming methods in Switzerland
show no systematic quality difference. This is equally true when
comparing genetically modified corn and non-GMO corn, because our
storage conditions are impeccable. This can not be said for several
third world countries. In their case, several measurements and
statistics show a correlation between certain corn-diet disease
patterns, which in the case of poor storage conditionsE show a higher
level of the dangerous carcinogen, Mycotoxin, in the non-GMO corn.
(Johnny Gressel in "Crop Protection" Volume 23, Page, 661-689,2004)2.
The knowledge gap of certain Development-Aid Organizations
Even Swiss council member Sommaruga (SP) prefers to remain in the
realm of partial knowledge and asserts in a presidential newsletter
of Swissaid, over which she presides, that genetically engineered
plants have but one purpose in developing countries, which is to
secure the profits of big companies.
For her to make such reckless announcement might be the result of the
encouragement of her assistant, Tina Goethe, whose pamphlets can be
read in "Konkret"7 (2005).
The fact that the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization)
publications and reputed scientific journals say the opposite does
not seem to bother this politician and her assistant. The fact is
that 86 percent of green biotech projects are supported by public
funding; whereas private funding accounts for about 1 percent
GM Free Switzerland - "A Fairy Tale"
What is particularly irritating about the current moratorium
initiative up for vote in Switzerland, is the resounding name: GM
free initiative. It conjures up a fairy tale image of a GM free
Switzerland. The fact that all imported foods are excluded from this
initiative only becomes clear in reading the fine print as well as
the clarifications by some of the initiative's proponents, not to
mention all the genetically engineered ingredients that enter the
country through the back door.
Many foods can only be produced worldwide thanks to the efficiency of
genetically engineered additives. Further, in the realm of livestock
feed, agricultural biotechnology can hardly be avoided. Consequently,
the "purists" among the opposition to agricultural biotechnology are
now demanding transparent labeling. However, transparency in labeling
requires evidence, which, in the case of animals fed with
genetically-engineered foodstuffs, is impossible.
Numerous studies have shown that bioengineering leaves no detectable
traces in either milk or other foods. Here again, the wonderful
conundrum of partial knowledge among consumers, wholesalers, and a
few laboratories still prevails. Indeed, one wants to take consumers
seriously, but one nonetheless insists on mandatory labeling of
biotechnology despite its absurdity and impossibility.
I argue that consumers should really be taken seriously, that is,
that they should be told that this will only incur higher costs due
to complicated and unwieldy procedures. The label "GM free" only has
a meaning for its adherents and should instead be handled like kosher
foods, for example.
The hypocrisy around the notion of freedom of research
The slogan that research will not be affected by the moratorium
sounds good but is unreliable. In the text of the Initiative, this is
not explicitly stated and part of the initiators are strong
adversaries of biotechnology- the same people - with arguments later
proven wrong - who strongly opposed the successful experiment with
genetically modified wheat done by the ETH Zurich. One can read about
the efforts to derail the experiment on the website, Swiss Federal
Department for Environment, Forests and CounEtryside (BUWAL).
The courageous Head of Research, Christof Sauter, after fighting for
years and after completing a successful experiment in the field, has
given up, discouraged. For example, he was forced to conduct an
individual protocol on each of the 1,600 wheat seeds, and to dig up
every single seed that did not germinate. A humiliation forced upon
him by the fundamentalists and the Buwal. This discouragement is
experienced by many young researchers who either leaves the science
of plant biotechnology or their country.E Should this moratorium pass
it would give yet another negative signal.
A digression from scientific knowledge
If heavy scientific ammunition is brought forth here it is only with
the objective to counter the systematic campaign of disinformation
advocated by some organizations, and not to advance any absolute
scientific certainty. However, it is striking to see how easily one
notes the lack of any scientific evidence in a situation where many
serious studies would be available.
The distrust existing in the population, due to, among other things,
the scandal of mad cow's disease makes it easy for many opponents to
claim, endowed with a certain "trust bonus" from the public, that
research, where security is concerned, is insufficiently advanced.
Further, we can add those who, in their own interest, would like to
implement expensive research projects. These ecologists plead for
investigations that may elicit scientific interest but that have very
little to do with security in agricultural production. I suggest that
the security issue be clarified based on the scientific literature
that already exists in abundance (cp. Overview of the consequences of
agricultural biotechnology on biodiversity in: "Trends of
Biotechnology", volume 23, 8, Pages 388-39E44).
The effects of genetically engineered plants on the environment and
food are among the best researched security questions in science - it
would be about time for the opponents of genetic engineering to
acknowledge this fact.
For a fair and balanced assessment of risk
This certainly does not imply that we should discontinue
investigating security questions, rather that we should learn to
distinguish between necessary applied security research and basic
research, which though interesting, is irrelevant where the effect on
agriculture and nutrition is concerned. In addition, the time has
come to compare the risks with other agricultural strategies. Only
then will we get a fair assessment of the risk. It would also be
urgently necessary to investigate the negative effects Eof "organic"
pest control, because in this field, proven irreversible damage has
already been done: a parasite deposited on a known pest agent
surprisingly jumped host, in this case to a rare, consequently now
extinct, type of moth5. One can only imagine the howling and grinding
of teeth by the fundamentalists if the blame could be laid on a
genetically modified plant.
Dr. Klaus Amman is a plant ecologist and Director of the Botanical
Garden in Bern.
2 Gressel, J., Hanafi, A., Head, G., Marasas, W., Obilana, B.,
Ochanda, J., Souissi, T., & Tzotzos, G. (2004) Major heretofore
intractable biotic constraints to African food sec urity that may be
amenable to novel biotechnological solutions. Crop Protection, 23, 8,
3 Diese Sachlage hat der Schreibende nachgeprüft und auf der
öffentlich zugänglichen Website der neuen Nichtregierungsorganisation
«Public Research and Regulation Initiative» zusammengestellt, diese
Tabelle wächst noch ständig ( http://pubresreg.org/ > Working
Groups, > Information, oder direkt:
) Dazu noch zwei wichtige Hintergrund-Publikationen:
Cohen, J.I. (2005) Poorer nations turn to publicly developed GM crops
(vol 23, pg 27, 2005). Nature Biotechnology, 23, 3, p 366.
Dhlamini, Z., Spillane, C., Moss, J., Ruane, J., Urquia, J., &
Sonnino, A. (2005). Status of Research and Application of Crop
Technologies in Developing Countries, Preliminary Assessment, FAO pp
62 FAO Reports Rome.
4 Ammann, K. (2005) Effects of biotechnology on biodiversity:
herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant GM crops. Trends in
Biotechnology, 23, 8, pp 388-394.
und: Henneman, M.L. & Memmott, J. (2001) Infiltration of a Hawaiian
Community by Introduced Biological Control Agents. Science, 293,
5533, pp 1314-1316
UN's Burdensome Rules Continue to Defy Science
- Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2005
Hartwig de Haen's letter Agency Seeks to Form World Food Standards,"
Nov. 14) unwittingly illustrates my point -- namely, the unscientific
approach and lack of rigor of United Nations' institutions, programs
and senior officials. Without offering a shred of evidence to bolster
his assertions, he assures us that the U.N. is committed "to the
contribution of biotechnology to eradicating world hunger," and to
"developing standards for foods on the basis of scientific evidence
and risk analysis."
The facts argue otherwise. Like trying to build a bridge or an
airplane using the incorrect value of the Greek letter "pi," when the
basic assumptions that underlie a project are flawed, everything that
follows is distorted. A long-standing scientific consensus and 30
years of experiments confirm that gene-splicing technology and its
products are not, in fact, distinct categories amenable to
generalization; gene-splicing techniques are essentially an
extension, or refinement, of earlier, less precise, less predictable
techniques to accomplish genetic improvement -- not unlike the
improvement of automobiles' performance and saBfety with radial tires
and disk brakes.
But the U.N.'s deliberations -- including those under the imprimatur
of Codex (a creature of WHO and FAO) -- continue to defy science by
devising burdensome new regulatory requirements and procedures that
apply only to the pseudo-category of foods from gene-spliced
organisms. This turns the logic of regulation on its head: In the
U.N.'s distorted world of regulatory oversight, there is an inverse
relationship between degree of regulation and risk. The result is
vastly inflated R&D costs and diminished diffusion of superior
techniques and products -- especially to poorer countries, which need
It is easy to declare support for the U.N.'s Millennium Development
Goals. What's harder is to resist activists' placing anti-scientific,
politically motivated obstacles in the way of meeting them. At this,
the U.N. and Mr. de Haen are failing miserably.
- Henry I. Miller, M.D., The Hoover Institution, Stanford, Calif.
Conversations about Plant Biotechnology
- Monsanto Co., Nov. 2005 http://www.biotech-gmo.com
After a decade of use on more than one billion acres worldwide, plant
biotechnology delivers proven economic and environmental benefits, a
solid record of safe use and promising products for our future. 8.25
million farmers--90 percent of whom farm in developing
countries--choose to plant biotech crops.
Farmers in 17 countries on six continents are using plant
biotechnology to solve difficult crop production challenges and
conserve the environment. Over the past decade, they've increased
area planted in genetically modified (GM) crops by more than 10
percent each year, increased their farm income by more than $27
billion, and achieved economic, environmental and social benefits in
crops such as soybeans, canola, corn and cotton.
To date, total acres of biotech crops harvested exceed more than one
billion with a proven 10-year history of safe use. Over the next
decade, expanded adoption combined with current research on 57 crops
in 63 countries will broaden the benefits for growers, consumers and
Biotech crops are among the most studied and reviewed foods in the
world. Using well-established, inter- nationally accepted standards
of risk assessment, regulatory authorities worldwide have reviewed
all biotech crops now on the market and determined that they pose no
more risk than crops produced through traditional breeding methods.
A proven 10-year history of safe use supports the conclusion that the
regulatory process has been successful. Experts estimate more than
one trillion meals containing ingredients from biotech crops have
been consumed with no reliable documentation of any food safety
issues for people or animals.
Twenty-five Nobel Prize winners and 3,400 prominent scientists have
expressed their support for plant biotechnology as a "powerful and
safe" way to improve agriculture and the environment. Numerous inter-
national organizations also have endorsed the health and
environmental safety of biotech crops, including the Royal Society
(UK), National Academy of Sciences (USA), the World Health
Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations, the European Commission, the French Academy of Medicine, and
the American Medical Association.
Each year, global population grows by more than 70 million, and
agriculture is required to produce more food with limited land and
water resources. Scientists believe biotechnology holds great
potential to help farmers produce more food--and healthier food--with
Over the next decade, biotechnology promises to deliver products that
address land and resource limitations, such as improved drought
tolerance, saline tolerance and increased yields. The research also
will deliver products with direct consumer benefits such as enhanced
nutrition, convenience and taste. For example: * Food ingredients in
which the major allergenic proteins are modified or eliminated. *
Rice enriched with beta-carotene, which stimulates production of
vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency causes blindness in 500,000 children
and up to two million deaths annually. * Plants that can tolerate
stress from harsh environments--such as arid or saline soils, cold
environments or low nutrient availability--and continue to produce
Economists predict full adoption of GM crops globally would result in
income gains of $210 billion per year within the next decade, with
the largest potential gains occurring in developing countries at a
rate of 2.1 percent gross national product per year. Farmers have
decreased pesticide applications by 172,000 metric tons.
Consumers consistently rank a reduction in pesticide applications as
the most valuable benefit of plant biotechnology--which is important
since farmers have significantly reduced pesticide use, while
conserving the water and fuel otherwise depleted with tillage or
plowing. The planting of biotech crops has reduced the "environmental
footprint" of cotton, corn, soy and canola by 14 percent, as
calculated using an established environmental index quotient (EIQ)
that compares the potential impacts of pesticides used in a
conventional field to a field planted with a biotech crop.
* Since 1996, the use of GM soybeans has been one of the largest
contributors to reduced pesticide applications, accounting for
cumulative reductions of 41,000 metric tons. * Yieldgard corn
rootworm corn is expected to eliminate 1 million plastic containers,
68,845 gallons of aviation fuel, 5 million gallons of water used in
insecticide formulations, 5 million pounds of insecticide active
ingredient, and 5 million gallons of diesel fuel per year. * Chinese
farmers decreased pesticide applications on insect-protected (Bt)
cotton by 57 percent, with reductions in reported pesticide
poisonings (Hossain, 2004). * Indian farmers averaged 3.68 pesticide
applications in conventional cotton, compared to 0.62 applications in
Bt cotton (Qaim, 2003).
* Annual reductions of 46 million pounds of pesticide have been
recorded in the United States on four primary crops.* Australian
farmers used 50 percent fewer pesticide applications on Bt cotton
Farmers growing biotech crops increased their income by $27 billion.
Farmers have increased income through higher yields and lower
production costs--including fewer pesticide applications and the more
efficient use of farm labor. Research indicates an increase in income
is consistent worldwide with significant economic benefits realized
by small- and large-scale farmers alike.
* Farmers are marketing more than $44 billion of GM crops to
processors and consumers around the world each year. Food, feed and
fiber markets are open and available for biotech crops. * In 2004,
farmers planting biotech crops earned an additional $4 billion due to
increased crop yields and/ or decreased production costs. * Chinese
farmers planting Bt cotton realized a net economic returns of $332
per hectare compared to conventional cotton farmers. * Bt cotton
farmers in South Africa consistently experienced higher yields and
increased revenues of $86 to $93 per hectare compared to conventional
cotton. * Hawaiian farmers planting ringspot-resistant papaya
increased their incomes by more than $3,000 per hectare due to
average yield increases of 44 percent over conventionally bred
varieties, and saved their industry.
GM crops benefit the environment and conserve natural habitat for
wildlife. Biotech crops reduce the need for tillage or plowing,
allowing farmers to adopt conservation or "no-till" practices. In the
United States alone, these practices and other conservation measures
are reducing soil erosion by one billion tons and saving consumers
$3.5 billion in water treatment costs annually.
Biotech crops also have played an important role in boosting the
productivity of existing farmland-- enough to allow for the
protection of at least 400 million acres of prairies, forests and
other natural areas from cultivation over the past decade. These
areas provide food and shelter for wildlife and preserve biodiversity.
References at http://www.monsanto.com/biotech-gmo/world.htm
Conversations about Benefits
Hear farmers around the world talk about the specific benefits of
plant biotechnology. (total running time 6:25) at
Conversations about Benefits: Video Transcript:
Dr. Norman Borlaug. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. His
central role in the green revolution is credited with increasing
agricultural yields and saving millions from starvation.
Dr. Norman Borlaug: I have devoted my life to the global challenge of
providing adequate food production for a growing world population.
... Over the past decade, we have been witnessing the success of
plant biotechnology. This technology is helping farmers throughout
the world produce higher yield, while reducing pesticide use and soil
erosion. The benefits and safety of biotechnology has been proven
over the past decade in countries with more than half of the world's
population. ... helping meet the growing demand for food production
while preserving our environment for future generations.
Farmers talk about plant biotechnology.
Jesus (Jay) Gavino, Philippines: To us farmers, biotech is really
important because it has benefited us with bigger harvests. With
bigger harvests, we get higher incomes.
Al Skogen, United States: We saw our production costs go down and our
yields go up.
Seferino Cosme, Philippines: After seeing this biotechnology, I
decided to try it myself ... When I planted one hectare, it yielded
150 cavans - which is more than double what I harvested before.
Juan Julio (Johnny) Avellaneda, Argentina: I like investigation. I
like farming with new expectations.
Bethuel Gumede, South Africa: With this new cotton, I was able to
build a house ... and as you can see, my family is healthy. ... So
with this genetic technology, my life has changed completely. Since
1996, farmers have increased their net incomes by $27 billion growing
Kavita Keshavrao Pawar, India: We feel happy that our parents have
been rewarded and had to work less. Because with the other cotton
seeds, they had to spray the crop again and again.
Jay Hardwick, United States ... we're just doing less spraying. For
example ... It was very customary for us to spray a cotton crop 12,
15 times. But now, we're only spraying it for pests, in terms of
insects, maybe three times ...
Roman and Adelaida Bernal, Philippines: Before I planted YieldGard,
I'd be so tired I could not even bring myself to give her a hug -
especially after spraying. Now there's no problem like that ... I
can even kiss her now.
Betsy Turner, Australia ... the production of Bollgard has allowed
more life to live on our farm. We have life in our crops. We have
life around the crops. ... It's a quality of life issue. And, it's
if you choose to be in agriculture, you can choose to live without
Pesticide applications have been cut by 172,000 metric tons. Al
Skogen, United States: Most of the tillage that we did, we did to
kill weeds. That's why we were out there tilling the soil, and
tilling it over and over again ... Today, we virtually don't do any
tillage for weed control.
Art Enns, Canada: Our land stays in place. And again, it's back to
a stewardship of land ... So this really helps.
Terry Wanzek, United States: Through minimum till or no till ... we
no longer have to ... use more diesel, and jeopardize the soil to
more erosion. It just has eliminated ... the number of trips over
Al Skogen, United States... it's not just a small benefit to the
environment through this new technology. It really is huge.
Greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by nearly 10 million metric tons.
Pedro Lerin, Spain: Biotechnology means a lot to me and my family.
... It takes much less worrying. ... And this way, we have a lot of
peace and tranquility.
Keshavrao Bhaurao Pawar, India: If we keep making profit, I can help
my son and also my daughter become a doctor. ... If I keep getting
income like this, I can do all these. If the yield will be good, we
can do everything. Rodolfo Tosar, Argentina: It's brought a very
important cultural development to the area. It's had an effect on
the standard of living for many of the people here. ... The first
thing we need to think of is human beings.
Thandiwe Myeni, South Africa ... we need partnership, working
together with those continents or countries that are well ahead with
agriculture because every human being needs food in the stomach.
Gordon Wassenaar, United States: Most people in the world - and we
have to remember we're a small part of the world - ... they have to
worry about feeding their families and their future generation. ... I
just don't think the old conventional way of farming is going to do
it. ... We're going to have to continue to use biotech.
Biotech crops have been proven for more than a decade. 9 out of 10
farmers planting biotech crops are in developing countries. Millions
of farm families are living proof of a promising future. Plant
Biotechnology. Proven. Promising Special thanks to the farmers and
their families for their time and cooperation. They received no
compensation for participating in this project.