Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: December 9, 2005
* RE: Genetically modified field peas and reported effects in mice
* RE: Schubert - Is Plant Breeding Different from GM
* Costly harvest of ignorant GM campaign
* GM ban farce: dairy herds already eat it
* The organic label just won't stick if feds keep this up
* Study: Most Argentine farmers using biotech soy legally
* Monsanto sees 37 mln-acre europe biotech corn market
* Kellogg to use genetically modified oil
* GENE REPORTED TO CONFER DROUGHT TOLERANCE
* Consumers’ view of food biotechnology
* NZ scientists in global push to decipher potato DNA code
* New Monsanto bean promises long lasting low trans fat soyoil
From: "Hector Quemada"
Subject: RE: Genetically modified field peas and reported effects in mice; Chance accused of being anti-GM crops; Coexistence of GM and non-GM Crops in Ireland; Benn defends aid for GM crops
Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2005 15:25:04 -0500
Regarding the contribution from Roger Morton (Schubert - Is Plant Breeding Different from GM - post script): some proteomic work has already been done along these lines. For examples a recent one on GM potatoes, which I believe was brought to the attention of readers of this listserve.
From: "Bruce Chassy"
Subject: RE: Schubert - Is Plant Breeding Different from GM - post script
Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2005 12:54:49 -0600
A response to Roger and Carolyn Morton.
Both you and Schubert may have both over-looked the published literature a bit. But rejoice, there's already limited published evidence to support your claim.
See for example:
Gareth S. Catchpole, Manfred Beckmann, David P. Eno, Madhav Mondhe, Britta Zywicki, Janet Taylor, Nigel Hardy, Aileen Smith, Ross D. King, Douglas B. Kell, Oliver Fiehn, and John Draper. 2005. Hierarchical metabolomics demonstrates substantial compositional similarity between genetically modified and conventional potato crops. PNAS 102:14458-14462
This paper demonstrates that transgenic potatoes are virtually identical to their parental counterpart while assorted cultivars of potatoes display much greater metabolic variance. We should be clear, however, that this finding applies to potatoes. More research is needed is needed to determine if these findings can be generalized to all crops or if metabolomic screening could add anything to the safety assessment paradigm. It is quite another question to ask if we need any additional data to make a determination of safety. Food toxicologists, nutritionists and food safety experts who have evaluated the currently employed food safety paradigm are virtually unaminous in saying we do not. A point I will argue further on another day.
It should not be surprising that in spite of what Schubert claims, the people who are actually doing metabolic profiling feel that it is not yet suitable as a safety assessment technique. It is a technique that is both being researched and which they feel may be more useful in research than in regulation. Another way to say this is that Schubert is right in arguing metabolomics could be a powerful technique some day. What its exponents will admit is that we do not yet know for what it will be useful nor do we know how to interpret the results. One could not possibility expect them to make a stronger statement if they want continued funding for their research.
Bruce M. Chassy, Ph.D.
Professor of Nutritional Sciences
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Costly harvest of ignorant GM campaign
- The Australian, By Jennifer Marohasy, 09 dec 05
THE organic food market is growing and according to some studies this demand is being driven by increasing consumer resistance to genetically modified foods. This resistance in turn is driven by anti-GM campaigning. In Australia, state government bans on GM food crops prevent the planting of GM corn, soybeans and canola, varieties grown overseas, including in the US.
During the past two weeks the Australian organics industry has sponsored a lecture tour by anti-GM advocate and US-based consultant Charles Benbrook.
As part of this tour, Benbrook has made several claims, such as GM crops have been a failure in the US and herbicide use, particularly for GM soybeans, is at record levels. This story was picked up and run by numerous media outlets, including ABC radio.
The only problem is that what Benbrook has said is not supported by the available evidence.
Information on herbicide use is available at the US Department of Agriculture website. This data shows that during the past 10 years the area planted with GM soy has increased and that overall herbicide use has remained steady.
Last year 87 per cent of the total area planted to soybeans in the US was planted with GM varieties. Yield was a record high, at 42.5 bushels per acre, while herbicide use was equivalent to 1996 levels, the year the first GM variety was planted.
In fact soybean production in 2004 totalled 3.14 billion bushels, making it the largest soybean crop in US history. It is difficult to reconcile these statistics with an out-of-control weed problem as claimed by Benbrook.
While the statistics indicate that herbicide use has not declined in soybeans, there has been an almost complete shift to the more environmentally friendly herbicide glyphosate. In this regard the GM technology has been spectacularly successful.
Earlier this week a report from the US National Centre for Food and Agricultural Policy sang the praises of GM technologies, claiming that GM varieties increased yields, decreased production costs, and provided $2.3 billion in additional revenue to US farmers. Interestingly Australia was the first country to release a GM organism, the crown gall bacterium, in 1988. Since then we have made only one other release, GM cotton, first planted in 1996.
Now grown on 90 per cent of cotton farms, the latest GM varieties have reduced pesticide use by an average 88 per cent, allowing beneficial insects to return to fields and reducing the risk of pollution.
About 35 per cent of the vegetable oil we consume in Australia is from cotton seed. Most of the rest of our vegetable oil is from canola. A Greenpeace anti-GM campaign deceptively targeted GM canola as the first GM food crop and ignored GM cotton as an existing source of vegetable oil. This campaign led to the state bans on GM food crops, with only cotton exempt on the basis it is grown primarily for fibre.
Incredibly, in Australia we have banned GM varieties that could help us reduce our ecological footprint, through the use of more environmentally friendly herbicides in the case of soybeans and canola.
Ironically, while the Victorian Government has banned GM food crops, Victorian farmers import large quantities of GM soybeans from the US to feed their dairy cows. Europe is supposedly GM free but imported $858 million worth of GM soy last year, also from the US.
Benbrook's tour has added to the confusion and fear and included claims at odds with the official statistics. The misapprehension is likely to reinforce opposition to GM technologies and increase market share for organic farmers.
The Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics has reported that failure to commercialise GM crops will cost Australian agriculture $3 billion by 2015. Executive director Brian Fisher has said growth in GM crops overseas will disadvantage Australian grain and oilseed producers as non-GM varieties are more expensive to produce. Furthermore, he has said present bans are harming innovation and research in Australian agriculture.
Misinformation from anti-GM campaigning comes at a significant economic and environmental cost. Benbrook and the organic food industry may unintentionally be playing an expensive game with Australian agriculture.
Jennifer Marohasy is director of the environment unit at the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne.
GM ban farce: dairy herds already eat it
- The Australian, By Rick Wallace, 09 dec 05
AUSTRALIAN dairy cattle are being given genetically modified feeds despite most state governments declaring themselves GM-free and banning GM food crops for human consumption.
The cattle are fed imported GM soybean meal and cotton meal despite fears over the effect it might have on the animals and their milk.
No evidence has emerged of the feeds harming the stock, however anti-GM food campaigners have called for a ban.
Green activists say independent studies show GM stock feeds cause organ damage and other major health problems in animals. But their opponents say any tightening of rules would be giving in to green hysteria and put farmers at a disadvantage.
One prominent pro-GM scientist called for an end to the moratorium on GM crops in Victoria, calling the Government's stance a "double standard" and a "crock".
Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner Jeremy Tager said the only five independent studies of the effect of GM foods on stock had found immune deficiencies, failure to gain weight and damage to certain organs.
"We are absolutely opposed to GM stock feeds," he said. "The question of how cattle digest GM feeds is something that needs serious study."
But David Tribe, a specialist in immunology and microbiology at the University of Melbourne, said the GM feeds were as safe as any other kind.
"The ones that have been regularly tested, I don't think they are any less safe than conventional feeds." He said wheat crops had effectively been genetically engineered over the past 50 years through crossing varieties and no harm had resulted.
"It (soybean meal) is the major cattle feed supplement in the world and it would be rather silly of Australia to write off using it, particularly with a drought where Australia may be unable to feed its cattle and sheep," he said.
Dr Tribe said that given the widespread GM soybean imports, Victoria's moratorium on GM canola - which is used for human consumption - was a double standard.
"Basically, the Victorian Government's position that it is GM-free is a crock," he said.
All states, with the exception of Queensland, have placed moratoriums on GM canola after a vigorous campaign from opponents of genetic engineering.
The campaign claimed its health effects were unknown, it would harm Australia's "clean and green" image in international markets and windblown seeds would contaminate neighbouring non-GM crops.
But pro-GM scientists and farmers argue GM crops are more productive and allow the use of more environmentally friendly herbicides. They also argue that bans put Australia behind in the food technology race.
Many Australians consume GM foods in products imported from the US, Argentina, Canada and China. Labelling laws are intended to allow consumers to make an informed choice, but critics argue that loopholes allow cooking oil to be sold even though it is made from GM cotton.
Cotton escaped the states' moratoriums on GM food crops because GM cotton plants were introduced more than a decade ago and were originally purely a fibre crop.
The organic label just won't stick if feds keep this up
- Chicago Tribune, BY JULIE DEARDORFF, Dec 9, 2005
Whenever I see the green and white "USDA Organic" label on food, I make two assumptions: The product will cost a fortune, and it won't contain artificial or synthetic ingredients.
But organics often do contain a small percentage of additives. And thanks to a last-minute amendment slipped into an agricultural spending bill without public discussion or debate, the standards for what constitutes "organic" could be diluted even more than they already are.
After "organic" was finally defined and national standards were hammered out in 2002, a product could use the two-tone "USDA Organic" label if at least 95 percent of its ingredients are organic. The remaining 5 percent could be artificial or synthetic if they were on an approved list and the necessary organic ingredients were unavailable or in short supply.
This infuriated Arthur Harvey, an organic-blueberry farmer from Maine, who sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture, charging that the standards were too lax. Earlier this year, he won, meaning that food labeled "USDA Organic" would not be able to contain any artificial ingredients. The ruling also meant that several dozen approved synthetic substances used since 2002 would be banned, additives such as pectin, a thickening agent used in jam and yogurt, and ethylene, used to accelerate the ripening of harvested fruit.
But the controversial rider, part of the 2006 agricultural appropriations bill, changes the picture in two important ways: First, it weakens organic standards because it reverses the Harvey court decision that banned the use of synthetics. Worse, it gives the agriculture secretary the power to approve new synthetic substances if no organic substitute is available, without getting a review from the National Organic Standards Board advisory group.
This means hundreds of new chemically derived processing ingredients could appear in food labeled "USDA Organic" without any public discussion. The Organic Consumers Association says industry already has requested that 517 more synthetics be approved, including some called "food-contact substances" such as boiler additives and disinfectants.
Some compromise is necessary, especially as the industry expands. Non-organic substances such as baking powder, carbon dioxide (for carbonation) and ascorbic acid have been reviewed and are relatively harmless. Consumers who want to stay pure to the organic faith can look for the "100 percent organic" label.
But in this period of tremendous growth, the organic industry shouldn't forget where it came from and one of the reasons people buy organic: It's an ecologically sound alternative to conventional food and farming practices.
Unlike regular agricultural products, organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that haven't been injected with growth hormones or antibiotics. Organics are grown without using most conventional pesticides, sewage sludge or ionizing radiation. They are not genetically modified.
And they've been produced by environmentally conscious farmers who care about the biodiversity and sustainability of the soil.
The Organic Trade Association, which pushed for the legislation that watered down the standards, still represents some small-scale farmers. But members also include food giants such as Dean Foods and Kraft, which often use synthetics in processing.
The USDA, meanwhile, backed by powerful agribusiness interests, shamelessly has tried to dilute standards in the past by proposing that genetic engineering, food irradiation and use of toxic sludge be permissible on organic farms. It also has made moves to allow the use of antibiotics in organic dairy cows and synthetic pesticides on organic farms.
There's no question the organic community needs to come together to protect consumer confidence. But ultimately, it will be up to consumers to get educated, so they can make the right decision about what to buy.
One way is to start looking for additional label claims such as "no synthetics used in production" if you're trying to buy as organic as possible, said Urvashi Rangan, senior scientist and policy analyst for Consumers Union. "If you're buying dairy products, look for something that says "animals have continuous access to pasture," or something that has to do with animal-welfare practices, like "certified humane," she said. "They can add value to the products."
Also, when buying organic, keep in mind that there is no such thing as "organic" fish or seafood. If you see it advertised as "organic," keep in mind it could have significant levels of contaminants such as PCBs and mercury.
Study: Most Argentine farmers using biotech soy legally
- St. Louis Business Journal, Dec 9, 2005
A recent survey of farmers in Argentina showed that two-thirds were using genetically modified soybeans legally without paying royalties.
Reuters reported that a survey by the Argentine government showed the farmers were following Argentine law that allows them to cull and reuse genetically modified seed. Argentina requires royalties to be charged when seeds are sold, but not when they are harvested, the report said.
St. Louis-based Monsanto (NYSE: MON) stopped selling the Roundup Ready soybean seeds in Argentina last year because it was unable to collect royalties and said the business was unprofitable. Argentina is the world's third-largest soybean producer behind the United States and Brazil. An estimated 95 percent of the crop in Argentina is planted from genetically modified seeds, most of which are bought in the black market.
Earlier this year, Monsanto began filing suits in June over the shipment of Argentine soybeans to the European Union, claiming that most Argentines do not pay royalties to Monsanto for the Roundup Ready soybean seeds. The suits are designed to force Argentina to set up a payment system that would require Argentine farmers to pay royalties to Monsanto when they plant the seeds, reports said.
Monsanto sees 37 mln-acre europe biotech corn market
- BLOOMBERG, By Jack Kaskey, 07 Dec 2005
Monsanto Co., the world's biggest developer of genetically modified crops, said farmers in five European Union nations this year planted engineered corn, boosting the potential EU market to 37 million acres.
Farmers in France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and the Czech Republic this year planted seed engineered to resist the corn borer insect, Brett D. Begemann, Monsanto executive vice president, said today in a presentation on the St. Louis-based company's Web site. He didn't say how many acres were planted.
"I'm not here to tell you biotech is being accepted in Europe," Begemann said. "It definitely shows a sea change in the attitudes toward biotechnology in Europe."
The EU last year lifted a six-year moratorium on the use of biotech crops. The European Commission, the EU's executive body, is battling countries including Austria and Greece that have unilaterally banned some genetically modified plants, citing safety concerns. The U.S., Canada and Argentina have complained to the World Trade Organization that the EU is unfairly inhibiting trade.
European farmers this month are seeking greater access to biotech seeds to improve yields as they face reduced government subsidies at global trade talks in Hong Kong, Begemann said.
"Farmers are demanding now that they get access to biotech," he said.
Less than 1 percent of world biotech crops are harvested in the EU's 25 countries, compared with the two-thirds share held by the U.S. Food-safety advisers from European governments today failed to approve the import for human consumption of a modified corn variety developed by DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co. amid squabbles over the merits of the technology.
The so-called 1507 corn, which resists the corn borer pest, didn't win sufficient support for use in the European Union, European Commission spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich told reporters in Brussels. Ministers from the EU's 25 governments now get to vote on the crop.
The U.S., Brazil, India and Australia will drive near-term demand for seeds altered to resist pests and weed killers, Begemann said.
The European market for corn modified to resist Monsanto's Roundup herbicide is 24 million acres, Begemann said. That's the same acreage of Roundup Ready corn planted this year by U.S. farmers and greater than the 20 million-acre Brazilian market potential, Monsanto said. The U.S. market potential is 60 million acres, the company said.
The EU market for seed engineered to resist the corn borer insect is 8 million acres, and the EU potential for corn modified to resist the rootworm is 5 million acres, Begemann said. That compares with U.S. market opportunities of as much as 60 million acres for corn borer resistance and 30 million acres for rootworm resistance, he said in the presentation.
The figures may double-count some acres, as farmers in the U.S. and other countries can buy seeds with so-called "stacked traits" that combine resistance to multiple insects and weed killer, spokesman Lee Quarles said.
Monsanto's genetics were planted on 197 million acres this year, including licenses to rival companies such as DuPont's Pioneer seed unit, the company said June 29.
EU government ministers on Dec. 2 failed to approve for animal feed a Monsanto corn variety containing stacked traits that resist the corn borer and rootworm. The technology still may be approved by European Commissioners, responsible for the day-to-day running of the EU.
Shares of Monsanto rose 18 cents to $77.57 at 4:02 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. They have gained 61 percent in the past year.
Kellogg to use genetically modified oil
- Associated Press, December 9, 2005
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) - Kellogg says it will begin using oils derived from genetically modified soybeans in some products to lower fat content beginning next year.
The world's largest cereal maker will begin using an oil named Vistive, made from Monsanto's genetically modified soybeans. Kellogg says it is one of the first food manufacturers to use the oil to lower levels of trans fat and saturated fat in its products.
Because there is a shortage in low-linolenic-acid soybean oil, Kellogg will also work with the another group to increase production of Nutrium. That's another oil made from genetically modified soybeans, to be used beginning using in 2007.
Kellogg isn't saying what products would first be made with the oil. Its product line includes Keebler cookies, Pop-Tarts, Eggo waffles, Cheez-It crackers, Nutri-Grain and Rice Krispies cereal.
GENE REPORTED TO CONFER DROUGHT TOLERANCE
Abscisic acid is a plant hormone that regulates growth, and transcription factors associated with a plant’s response to it play a key role in allowing plants to survive under drought stress. One such transcription factor is AREB1, and Yasunari Fujita and colleagues from Tsukuba, Japan find, from their research, that “AREB1 Is a Transcription Activator of Novel ABRE-Dependent ABA Signaling That Enhances Drought Stress Tolerance in Arabidopsis.”
In their paper, which appears in the latest issue of Plant Cell, researchers report that under normal growth conditions, the intact AREB1 gene is insufficient to induce the expression of genes. They thus created an activated form of the gene, called AREB1 QT, and over expressed it in Arabidopsis in the laboratory. Researchers found that the plants were hypersensitive to abscisic acid, and showed enhanced tolerance to drought. Plants without the gene were insensitive to abscisic acid, and displayed reduced survival under dehydration.
Subscribers to Plant Cell may read the complete article at
Other readers may access the abstract at
Consumers’ view of food biotechnology: a proactive approach to marketing and public policy.
- Advances in Consumer Research, 2005, Vol. 32, p670-677, December 8, 2005 (Via Agnet)
Abstract: This paper takes a proactive approach to consumer oriented policy making and investigates consumers’ views of and expectations from various key social institutions of the food system with respect to food safety and food biotechnologies. These social institutions include regulatory agencies, food manufacturers, farmers, the scientific community, consumer activist groups, and media. The paper aims to answer questions such as can the social institutions of the food system be trusted/distrusted and what does that trust/distrust mean.
NZ scientists in global push to decipher potato DNA code
- Crop & Food Research, December 8, 2005 (Via Agnet)
An international research programme which will provide information to more quickly improve the flavour, colour and nutritional value of New Zealand potatoes is underway with participation by this country’s leading potato scientists.
Drs Tony Conner and Jeanne Jacobs, of Crop & Food Research, were invited to join the international Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium. This consortium, involving scientists from eight countries, aims to sequence the potato genome by 2010.
Crop & Food Research has made a $5 million commitment to participate in the $36 million programme; this investment ensures New Zealand gains early access to information about the potato genome. This information will be used to breed new potato varieties.
Crop & Food Research’s general manager, research, Dr Prue Williams, says the importance of the potato both internationally and nationally should not be underestimated.
“Potatoes are the fourth largest crop in the world; they are New Zealand’s highest value export crop. This country grows more than 500,000 tonnes each year and exports are worth more than $80 million.
“New Zealand is a fantastic producer of high quality vegetables and our potatoes, and potato products, are in demand in Australia.
Dr Williams says investment in the potato genome consortium supports a sound food strategy for New Zealand. “We are a food producing nation and if we develop unique attributes in our important crops, such as potatoes, we can use those crops to develop internationally-significant new products.
“Potatoes are an important crop and the knowledge we gain from being part of this consortium will help ensure New Zealand is positioned as a high quality food producer in international markets in the future.”
In addition to improving traits of importance to consumers and processors, information will also be obtained to help grow potatoes with reduced pesticide inputs, so improving the sustainability of potato production.
The consortium is being led by Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands. Scientists at Wageningen and in China and will each sequence two of potato’s 12 chromosomes.
Crop & Food Research will sequence chromosome 9. Canada, Scotland, Poland, Russia, Brazil, the US and India will each sequence one chromosome.
New Monsanto bean promises long lasting low trans fat soyoil
- FOOD NAVIGATOR, By Lorraine Heller, 07 Dec 2005
Biotech giant Monsanto is to develop new versions of its reduced trans-fat Vistive soybean with the aim of improving shelf life and flavor of soy oil, lowering saturated fat content and enhancing the bean with Omega-3.
The company has three modifications of the bean in the pipeline, the first of which, Vistive mid-oleic, is due to be developed by 2009, said Monsanto's vice president for commercial acceptance Jerry Steiner at a farm conference on Monday.
Monsanto's Vistive low-linolenic soybeans, which claim to reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids in soybean oil, were launched last year, after ten years in development. According to the company, the beans, which contain less than 3 per cent linolenic acid, compared to 8 per cent for traditional soybeans, have enjoyed significant success on the back of an industry move to slash the trans fat content of foods.
The new mid-oleic bean is expected to "expand the applications in which food companies are now using Vistive low-linolenic by offering additional stability and shelf life," Monsanto's Christopher Horner told FoodNavigator-USA.com.
Monsanto also plans to develop a Vistive low saturates bean, which it claims will provide "a heart-healthy combination of lower saturated fats, lower trans fats and improve stability." According to Steiner, this bean will be ready by around 2012-2013.
The company said the oils derived from these beans can be used in a variety of snacking and baking applications where frying is currently used, as well as in formulated foods in which liquid oils are typically used.
Trans fatty acids (TFAs) are formed when liquid vegetable oils go through a chemical process called hydrogenation. Common in a range of food products - biscuits, chips, doughnuts, crackers - the hydrogenated vegetable fat is used by food processors because it is solid at room temperature and has a longer shelf life.
But research suggests that trans fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, causing the arteries to become more rigid and clogged. An increase in LDL cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease.
As a result, the food industry is gradually slicing out their use as more consumers look for alternative products. As from 1 January 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will require all food companies in the US to label the amount of trans-fat in their products.
According to ACNeilson, US sales of products already labeled 'no trans fat' increased 12 percent to $6.4 billion for the 52 weeks ended October 2, 2004, compared with the previous 52-week period.
Because Vistive soybeans have low linolenic acid levels, they reduce the need for partial hydrogenation, helping food companies reduce the presence of trans fatty acids (trans fats) in their products.
According to Monsanto, Vistive mid-oleic beans and Vistive low saturates beans "have the potential of further reducing the need to partially hydrogenate oils or utilize more expensive process technologies such as fractionation and interesterification to provide desired shelf life."
"These oils would not only reduce the amount of trans fatty acids in the diet, but also reduce the amount of saturated fat," it added.
Vistive Omega-3 is another modification in the pipeline, due to become available around 2011-2012. According to the company, the "enhanced oils represent an environmentally sustainable, economical source of Omega-3s, providing consumers with new options for omega-rich foods."
Sales growth for the vistive soybean oil is not only tied to the trans fat alternatives, but also to health concerns that are currently driving the market for soybean oil as ongoing research suggests soy not only lowers cholesterol, but can also have a preventative effect on breast cancer and other hormone-related cancers. Both the UK and the US have approved a health claim for soy.
Today, soybean oil - together with palm oil - accounts for over half of all oil consumed in the world. A recent report from analysts Business Communications Company suggests that US production of major crude vegetable oils is slated to reach 8.6 million metric tons in 2008, with soybean oil accounting for nearly 87 per cent of the major vegetable oil production at 7.4 million metric tons.