Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: December 6, 2005
* INDIA: BT cotton growing area
* Pesticide use drop due to GM cotton
* Pakistan Govt to allow BT cotton farming next year according to Shaukat
* Planet-saving becomes new food buzzword
* No agreement on latest GMO athorisation
* No GMO ban for P.E.I. (Canada)
* Biotechnology spending a must
INDIA: BT cotton growing area
- BharatTextile.com, December 6, 2005
MUMBAI: According to Ministrial sources reveals that BT cotton growing area has extended from 2,30,000 acres in 2003 to 12, 13,359 acres in 2004.
In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha, Sharad Pawar, Agriculture Minister said that according to information forwarded by Bt Cotton growing states, the seed has been found cultivable in these states.
Mr Pawar added that Agriculture Ministry is compiling the area under Bt cotton crop in all states during 2005 .
Contrast to the belief that Tamil Nadu failed to cultivate Bt cotton after the crop failure in Andhra Pradesh, the state has been coming a cropper, stated Pawar.
Some Bt cotton hybrids for commercial farming have been notified by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in the Environment and Forests Ministry after evaluating the performance through several multilocation after large scale field experiments, added Pawar.
Other cotton breeds have been allotted larger areas in comparison with the Bt cotton, he also informed.
Pesticide use drop due to GM cotton
- ABC News, By Simone Cobb, Dec 6, 2005
Despite problems in the US of superweeds springing up in GM crops, the Australian Cotton Industry does not seem to be suffering the same problem.
Six years after the introduction of Round-Up Ready cotton, the herbicicide resistant variety now makes up more than 70 per cent of the national crop.
While there are a few cases of some weeds getting stronger, the Cotton CRC says the use of insecticides has decreased by more than 70 per cent due to the Bollgard varieties and herbicide use has approximately dropped by 40 per cent with Round-Up Ready cotton.
Cotton Seed Distributors agronomist David Kelly told Simone Cobb Round-Up Ready cotton is not a silver bullet for contolling weeds, but part of an integrated weed management strategy.
Pakistan Govt to allow BT cotton farming next year according to Shaukat
- CheckBiotech.org, December 6, 2005
MULTAN - Minister Shaukat Aziz has said government would allow farmers to grow BT cotton next year.
Talking to a delegation of farmers on Monday, Shaukat Aziz assured them that the government would ensure the protection of farmers’ interests.
He said the government wants to establish Mango City in Multan that would increase production and its export. He also said several other steps for progress of agro-based industries was also under consideration.
This move by Minister Shaukat Aziz confirms Pakistan's policy of being open to genetically modified crops, where there is an added value for its farmers.
Pakistan is also looking to develop its own GM crops. At the University of the Punjab, field trials of Bt basmati rice were successfully carried out this year. The enhanced basmati rice was showed full resistance to yellow stem borer and rice leaf folder. In addition, studies are also being carried out with cotton and mangoes.
Pakistan's National Biosafety Committee is in charge of ensuring that risk assessment is carried out in accordance with the biosafety guidelines for all activities that alter plants to produce novel products, solve environmental problems and treat genetic disorders.
Planet-saving becomes new food buzzword
- Des Moines Register, By PHILIP BRASHER, December 4, 2005
Some day there may be another choice to make when buying your corn flakes besides plain, frosted or organic. Call them planet-saver flakes.
They would be made from corn that was grown with less water or energy.
The people who get paid the big bucks to figure out what we'll be eating in the future think that people are going to be increasingly concerned about how much of the Earth's water and dwindling oil supplies were used to grow their food.
In other words, "sustainable" could take its place beside "organic," "low fat" or "heart healthy."
"People will care if we're a good shepherd" of water and energy supplies, said Steve Sanger, the chairman and chief executive of General Mills Inc. "I don't think that's on consumers' minds today, but it will be."
To see why, you only have to go as far as California, where farmers are increasingly having to compete for water with the state's expanding cities. Agriculture is already consuming 70 percent of the fresh water worldwide. That can't go on, not with an expanding population.
"As urbanization spreads, and agricultural land comes down, then availability of water becomes a concern," says Hugh Grant, chairman, president and chief executive of seed giant Monsanto Co.
Grant and Sanger were speakers at a recent conference sponsored by the Grocery Manufacturers Association on "the future of food."
Monsanto is in the second year of field-testing corn that has been genetically engineered to be drought resistant. A variety of cotton that needs less water also is in development.
Monsanto's Des Moines-based rival, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, expects to have a gene-altered corn that is drought resistant on the market in the next four to five years.
If you think about it, it's not hard to see how sustainability could become an issue for consumers. Just look at how the organic foods industry has boomed in recent years, outstripping the ability of U.S. farmers to fill the demand. Or consider how food companies like General Mills, with its Small Planet Foods subsidiary, have jumped into the organic business.
But the sustainability issue is down the road. The top priority for the food industry now is not drought resistance in corn but getting more healthful oils out of soybeans.
The most immediate need is to get rid of artery-clogging trans fats with new varieties of soybeans, some already on the market, that produce frying and baking oils that don't need hydrogenation.
But food manufacturers are also eagerly waiting for vegetable oils that will be high in heart-healthy, omega-3 fatty acids, which are found naturally in fish.
Foods high in omega-3 oil "will be hot," said Sanger. And there will be a spinoff benefit for farmers and agribusiness companies. Those healthier crops will give consumers a reason to see a benefit from biotechnology, he said.
"Those kinds of things will really advance the acceptance of the technology among a broad public," he said.
Pioneer doesn't expect to have its Omega-3 soybean, which is engineered with algae genes, ready for market until after 2012.
It struck me after checking out the Frisbee-sized chocolate chip cookies at the local deli that there is a way that consumers could address both the issues of health and declining natural resources: Eating less.
But I don't think that's what these companies — or their customers — have in mind.
No agreement on latest GMO athorisation
- EUPolitix.com, Dec 6, 2005
The European Council of environment ministers failed to reach consensus on authorising imports of genetically modified (GM) maize product, type MON 863 x MON 810.
The requested use for the maize, a hybrid strain, is for processing into animal feed, not for food uses or cultivation.
The European food safety authority (EFSA) already adopted the opinion that the GM maize was unlikely to have an adverse effect on human or animal health or the environment.
Based on this opinion, the European commission submitted a draft decision to the regulatory committee, who failed to reach a qualified majority.
In accordance with the comitology procedure, the commission then submitted a proposal to the council, who had three months to take a decision.
As the council failed to reach a qualified majority, required to adopt or reject the proposal, the commission will now be able to adopt the decision on their own accord.
The council did recognise the need to have further discussions on GM issues, and after an initial policy debate, which they will continue during the next presidency in 2006 (which is held in the first half of the year by Austria - who interestingly is fervently opposed to GMOs).
No GMO ban for P.E.I. (Canada)
Prince Edward Island won't be the first province in Canada to ban genetically modified organisms.
Premier Pat Binns appointed a special committee a year ago to investigate the pros and cons of banning GMOs. The final report was tabled on Thursday, saying the province would only encourage producers to properly identify GM products to consumers.
The legislative committee began with the premise that a GMO-free province might be a good marketing tool. If it decided in favour of the ban it would have been the first jurisdiction in Canada to do so.
The idea brought out many people and lobby groups from both sides of the debate. Over 15 hearings, the committee heard 138 presentations.
MLA Wilbur MacDonald, who chaired the committee, said the group did not see any economic advantage to banning the GMOs. Instead, it has recommended that produce companies are clear about the origins of their products.
Two of the eight recommendations focused on labelling. The committee wants P.E.I. to support the use of labels on GMO products. It also wants to work with the federal government to develop international standards for those labels.
"It's a bit of a cop-out on the province's side," said Sharon Labchuck, a member of a coalition against GMOs. "Because they're not really in a position to enforce mandatory labelling. That's a federal responsibility."
Only Liberal MLA Richard Brown voted against the committee's report.
Final report :
Biotechnology spending a must
Export markets will demand more quality
- BANGKOK POST, By Aranee Jaiimsin, 6 December 2005
Agro-industrialists must invest in biotechnology soon to overcome non-tariff barriers erected by developed countries against agricultural products classified as containing toxic chemicals.
Global consumers have become very health-conscious and soon only organic food will be able to enter markets in some developed countries, says Charoon Putthajunya, chief of the Industrial Biotechnology Working Group for the House of Representatives.
Mr Charoon said biotechnology should become a must in agro-industry because it creates better quality products using microorganisms _ bacteria, fungi and yeast _ over chemicals.
As well, he said, the technology reduces fermentation times, which could lead to higher yields in certain areas.
One success story is that of Tim Thaithawee, the owner of Thaithawee Orange Farm and an adviser for the integrated agribusinesses of the Charoen Pokphand Group.
After 15 years of using biotechnology _ replacing chemical fertilisers with organic ones _ his soil became more nutritious, bearing beautiful, tastier oranges, and his products met the import standards of many countries abroad.
According to Mr Charoon, around 50 companies use biotechnology in Thailand, but most are large enterprises, manufacturing monosodium glutamate, yoghurt, wine, beer, sauce and fish sauce.
"The main obstacle for SMEs to building a biotech business is the huge investment,'' he said.
He said, for instance, a fermentation tank costs around 25 million baht to cultivate desirable microorganisms. However, a local inventor has recently said he could make the tanks for four million baht, said Mr Charoon.
Microorganisms can be found everywhere and several different categories of bacteria exist in soil. Organisms can even be purchased from laboratories in Thailand.
However, controlling the quality of microorganisms is difficult because they have short lives and are inclined to mutate.
"To develop a biotech industry, businesspeople should work with the assistance of bio-engineers,'' said Mr Charoon.
Surachai Kampalanonwat, executive vice-president of the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand (SME Bank), said the bank would help SMEs establish biotechnology businesses by providing expertise and information. The bank has a 45-billion-baht lending budget in 2006, from which around 5.75 billion baht would be released to the food cluster to which biotechnology businesses belong
In addition, the bank may assist SMEs in biotechnology not only in terms of credit, but in terms of joint ventures, said Mr Surachai.