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Date:

February 1, 2006

Subject:

Anti-Scientific Nonsense; Media Spouts Distorted View of Biotech; Plant Vaccine Approved;; Frankenfoods or Life-Saving Staples?

 

Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org - February 1, 2006

* McGiffen's Biotech Take Anti-Scientific Nonsense
* Biotechnology from Different Perspectives
* WTO Delays Ruling in GMO Dispute Until Next Week
* US Backs Dow’s Plant Cell Vaccine
* China Treads A Careful Path Towards Biotech Future
* Safety and Public Acceptance of Transgenic Products
* Africa Urged to Promote Biotechnology
* Frankenfoods or Life-Saving Staples?
* BioVisionAlexandria 2006
* Gene Flow and Buffer Distance in Maize: Coexistence Study from Italy
* Food and Ag at BIO CEO & Investor Conference
* Drought-Resistant GM Seeds Won't Benefit Kenyans Yet
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McGiffen's Biotech Take Anti-Scientific Nonsense

- Paddy Apling (Norwich), Morning Star (UK), January 31, 2006

As a retired food scientist, I must protest over Steve McGiffen's article (M Star January 23) calling for a biotech ban, which seems to be a load of anti-scientific nonsense.

A rational approach to this question requires some historical understanding of the past of food production, which was very well put in an article in the last issue of 2005 of The Economist entitled Ears of Plenty. I have transcribed the article to my website (http://apling.freeservers.com/foods/earsofplenty.htm). It is well worth reading.

All current food items, whether of plant or animal origin, are the product of humanity's efforts at genetic modification.

The new techniques of plant breeding are the latest in a long line of developments to aid and speed this continuing necessary process, which has brought vast benefits for both the food supply and the production of pharmaceuticals.

The demand for proof of safety is a completely unreal demand, as safety can never be proven.

The proof of the pudding is simply in the eating and the complaint that these new developments result from the activities of capitalist corporations is just like complaining that most of the working class work for them.

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Biotechnology from Different Perspectives

- Harry Cline, Western Farm Press, Jan 31, 2006 http://westernfarmpress.com/

Things are changing in the ag biotech world and some things never change.

Ag biotech continues to grow - maybe faster outside the U.S. - Iran and China are becoming the most advanced countries in the commercialization of biotech rice, the world's most important food crop. The sad part of this is that the anti-biotech movement has stymied development of biotech rice in the U.S. China and Iran, where anti-biotech malcontents would find themselves in jail for doing what they do in the U.S. and other democracies, are leaving the U.S. behind the advancing biotechnology curve.

What never seems to change is the distorted view the American public is getting about biotech from the so-called unbiased mass media.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) recently released its annual report on worldwide ag biotech. Here are some of the highlights:

-- Last year, global biotech crops passed the billionth acre mark by one of 8.5 million farmers who planted a biotech crop in one of 21 countries.

-- Farmers have increased biotech crop plantings by double-digit growth every year since biotech was commercialized in 1996. Global biotech crops increased more than fifty-fold in the first decade of commercialization.

-- Global area of approved biotech crops last year was 222 million, up 22 million from 2004.

-- Four additional countries grew biotech crops last year, including three EU nations. The EU is the poster child for the anti-biotech crowd. Now Spain, Germany, Portugal, France and the Czech Republic allow biotech crops.

-- Bt rice was grown commercially for the first time in 2005 in Iran on 4,000 hectares. Rice is grown by 250 million farmers and is the principal food for the world's 1.3 billion poorest people. Commercialization of biotech rice has enormous implications for the alleviation of poverty, hunger and malnutrition. China is expected to approve biotech rice in the near future.

-- In a different report, the Vietnam News Agency reports that scientists from the Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute (CLRRI) have been able to create a nutritious rice variety through genetic modification. The rice is insect resistant and it also is rich in Vitamins A and E, iron, zinc, and oryzanol. Some evidence suggests that gamma oryzanol increases testosterone levels, stimulates the release of endorphins (pain-relieving substances made in the body), and promotes the growth of lean muscle tissue. This biotech rice will be planted in remote and disadvantaged areas of the country to raise the quality of nutrition in local communities.

-- The ISAAA also reports the U.S., followed by Argentina, Brazil, Canada and China, remains the leader in total acreage with 55 percent of the total biotech area.

-- Ninety percent of the biotech-beneficiary farmers were resource-poor farmers from developing countries.

Admittedly, the industry-supported ISAAA issued a pure PR piece touting its own growth. AP biotechnology writer Paul Elias dutifully reported many of the ISAAA facts in a widely distributed article. However, there were obvious biases in the article under the guise of objective reporting.

For example, in the second paragraph of the report, the writer cites "anti-biotech activists and other observers" as complaining that the biotech industry "isn't helping alleviate world hunger as it has long promised." The reporter offered his criticism of genetically engineered crops by saying none were "nutritionally enhanced" and biotech crops grown last were for "animal feed."

I sure would like to know who those anti-biotech activists were because I would like to remind them that they are the ones on the front row with their scare tactics to stop development and commercialization of nutritionally enhanced biotech crops. Herbicide-resistant wheat, vitamin A rich Golden Rice, herbicide resistant vegetables, biotech sugar beets and countless other crops are on the shelf because companies and food suppliers are fearful of marketplace backlashes generated by the radical, lying biotech movement. The reporter neglected to mention these facts.

What do these biotech activists (and Mr. Elias) believe is done with biotech corn and soybeans if not at least some of it is consumed by hungry people.

The reporter says biotech crops are used for "animal feed." Obviously, Mr. Elias has not been around many farms or ranches. The reporter must think farmers and ranchers keep animals as pets and not for meat and milk and other insignificant products like leather.

Apparently one of his sources for the non-attributed facts in the article was the Center for Science in the Public Interest. He quotes Greg Jaffe, biotech director of the non-profit public interest group who complained that the biotech movement is driven by 10-year old technology and he would like to see "others in the food chain aside from farmers benefit."

Of course the article contains the potshots at Monsanto and other biotech corporations and points out that the ISAAA group is partially funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

What he fails to point out is that guess who else is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation ($280,000) as well as the Rockefeller Family Fund ($250,000). You guessed it, the "non-profit" group called the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The Rockefellers must have enough money to burn on both sides of an issue.

These facts were not in the article nor was there an explanation of who is this group whose name implies it is looking out for your best interest and my best interest.

There is a group called the ConsumerFreedom.com network, "committed to providing detailed and up-to-date information about the funding source of radical anti-consumer organizations and activists." This is done by analyzing IRS documents to create a database about the so-called activists groups.

According to this group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest spends about $16 million a year protecting you and me. How? Here is what Consumer Freedom says it does.

"The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is the undisputed leader among America's 'food police.' CSPI was founded in 1971 by current executive director Michael Jacobson, and two of his co-workers at Ralph Nader's Center for the Study of Responsive Law. Since then, CSPI's joyless eating club has issued hundreds of high-profile - and highly questionable - reports condemning soft drinks, fat substitutes, irradiated meat, biotech food crops, french fries, and just about anything that tastes good.

"CSPI fancies itself a 'watchdog' group but behaves more like an attack dog, savaging restaurants, disparaging adults' food choices, and discouraging even moderate alcohol consumption. It famously dubbed fettuccine Alfredo a 'heart attack on a plate.' Its nutrition nags encourage the public to 'just say no' to fried mozzarella as though it were an illegal drug.

"The Center for Science in the Public Interest repeatedly attacks groups for accepting industry funding to conduct research. But CSPI itself took $50,000 from the Helena Rubenstein Foundation to fund an attack campaign against the fat substitute Olestra.

"CSPI's 'Integrity in Science' project is ostensibly concerned with the potential conflict of interest that researchers might have when their funding comes from industry. But many of CSPI's own campaigns - including those heavily reliant on junk science - are equally susceptible to conflict of interest charges. In addition to its $65,000 incentive to bash the fat substitute Olestra, in 2001, the reliably anti-alcohol Robert Wood Johnson Foundation gave CSPI's campaign against social drinkers $749,999."

American consumers often do not get the full picture about this biotech issue from the mass media. Hopefully this is a little clearer picture.

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WTO Delays Ruling in GMO Dispute Until Next Week

- Planet Ark, http://www.planetark.com/

Geneva - the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has again delayed a ruling, due on Wednesday, in a closely watched dispute over the European Union's policy on genetically modified foods and crops (GMO), diplomats said on Monday.

They said the preliminary decision in a row pitting the EU against the United States, Canada and Argentina was now expected on February 7. "They have told us that it will not be out on Wednesday," said one diplomat from a country involved.

In 2004, Brussels officially ended a 6-year embargo on biotech crops and foods to allow some imports. But its opponents in the case say that EU states are still restricting entry of GMO's, and in some cases banning them. Growers in Argentina, Canada and the United States say the EU stance limits their right to trade and the policy is not scientifically based, as WTO rules demand.

Trade sources said the ruling in the complex case is going to be one of the longest ever issued by the Geneva-based trade watchdog, with the text running to several hundred pages.

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US Backs Dow’s Plant Cell Vaccine

- Clive Cookson, Financial Times (UK), January 31 2006 http://news.ft.com/

The world’s first vaccine made in plant cells has received regulatory approval in the US.
The pioneering vaccine, developed by Dow Chemical with a consortium of US research institutions, works against Newcastle disease in poultry but the company says the technology could be applied quite quickly to other diseases – with avian flu a prime target.

There have been several research efforts to produce vaccines in genetically modified plants, growing in fields or glasshouses, but these have run into trouble on reliability and environmental grounds. Dow took a different approach, using cultures of GM plant cells contained in steel fermenters.

The company said its Concert plant cell approach removed “the challenges associated with making vaccines in whole plants or food crops”, while retaining the advantages of a production system that can make large amounts of vaccine completely free of animal or bacterial contamination. All existing systems are based on animals, birds or microbes. Butcher Mercer, head of Dow’s animal health business, said the company applied for a product licence for the Newcastle disease vaccine, through the US Department of Agriculture’s Centre for Veterinary Biologics, to prove that it could win regulatory approval for a plant-made vaccine.

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China Treads A Careful Path Towards Biotech Future

- Clive Cookson, Financial Times (UK), February 1, 2006 http://news.ft.com/

Plant scientists see China as a global leader for the future. The country has set agricultural biotechnology as a research priority, with spending estimated at around $200m this year and rising fast.

Clive James, chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications, says the development of genetically modified crops "is primarily as an issue of food, feed and fibre security" for the Chinese leadership. Commercial considerations come well behind security as a motive for the country's agribiotech programme, which employs an estimated 2,000 scientists.

But even in China the route to GM crops is not straightforward. The government is far from united in its commitment to GM. Some officials in the agriculture ministry are more interested in building exports of non-GM crops, particularly soya, to markets where there is strong consumer resistance to biotech foods. And the State Environmental Protection Administration co-operates with China's surprisingly vigorous Greenpeace organisation, whichis campaigning against GM crops.

Chinese farmers have grown insect-resistant "Bt" cotton since 1996, when the commercial planting of GM crops also started in north America. Today, almost 70 per cent of China's cotton comes from GM plants. Jikun Huang, director of the Centre of Chinese Agricultural Policy in Beijing, says GM cotton has benefited 6m Chinese farmers through increased yields and greatly reduced insecticide use.

However, Monsanto, the company that pioneered the worldwide commercialisation of Bt cotton, has not benefited as much as it had hoped from China. The country introduced its own Bt cotton, developed at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, at the same time as the Monsanto product arrived. Originally the American company had 70 per cent of the Chinese market, says Mr Huang, but last year the Chinese products overtook it.

"Monsanto [executives] are not happy," Mr Huang observes. "They complain that the government limited them to a few provinces and they complain that they cannot control their own varieties in China."

Although cotton is still the only GM crop grown commercially in China, a dozen others are being field tested. The main focus of attention is rice, the country's principal food crop. Four types of Chinese-developed GM rice - three to prevent insect damage and one to resist bacterial blight - have undergone extensive field trials yet none has won a commercial production licence, in spite of a series of applications going back to 1998.

Environmental campaigners are fighting hard to prevent the commercial planting of biotech rice in China - and may delay approval for a few more years - but the crop's proponents are confident that the food security arguments and GM's agricultural benefits will win the argument eventually. It might then be adopted widely in Asia.

However, GM soya, one of the key biotech crops in the Americas, is not likely to be planted commercially in China for a long while. While the country imports large amounts of GM soya, the agriculture ministry perseveres with its policy of growing only non-GM soya, for export at premium prices to Europe, South Korea and Japan.

Although research is getting under way, GM soya will not be commercialised until China has its own varieties, Mr Huang says. "Biotech crops in China depend on what technology is developed in the country."

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Safety and Public Acceptance of Transgenic Products

- Patrick F. Byrne, Crop Science. 46:113–117 (2006). (Patrick.Byrne.at.ColoState.edu). Excerpts reproduced in AgBioView with the permission of the author.

Abstract: Public acceptance of transgenic (genetically engineered, GE) products is influenced by the perception of direct or indirect risks and benefits and the credibility of regulatory agencies that evaluate food and environmental safety. In North America acceptance of GE foods is holding steady, while knowledge about them remains low. Development of transgenic foods with improved nutritional properties or other quality factors will likely be better received than products that primarily benefit the grower or developer of the product. There is continuing unease about biopharming and the association, by some members of the public, of GE crops with corporate agriculture. Several recent reports have reviewed the U.S. regulatory system for transgenic crops and called for a more coordinated and transparent process that allows for greater public participation. For society to benefit from GE crops, we must move away from the polarized positions that have defined the transgenic debate in the past, to positions of mutual respect that allow a rational discussion of the technology's merits and risks.
---
Given the amount of published data, analysis, and opinions on the public acceptance and safety of transgenic crops, I will not attempt to cover these topics in depth here. Rather, my observations will highlight a few areas that I find particularly significant, based on several years of experience with an agricultural biotechnology outreach program.

One of my most memorable outreach experiences has been serving on a technical advisory committee in Boulder County, Colorado, to recommend policies for growing genetically engineered (GE) crops on countyowned land (Byrne and Fromherz, 2003). The 10 committee members were from a variety of occupations and displayed a broad range of attitudes toward GE crops. The committee included two "extremists,'' one at each end of the continuum. One of these members advocated nothing less than a complete ban on GE crops, while the other would not accept any restrictions on their use. During the 18 mo that the committee met, while most members engaged in give and take on the complex issues surrounding transgenic varieties, these two members never budged from their initial positions. In fact, one of them declared that no matter what he learned about GE crops, he would never change his mind about them.

The result was that the extremist members did not contribute to the work of the committee, which was to craft a compromise policy that addressed valid concerns in a rational and fair-minded way (Byrne and Fromherz, 2003). This experience reinforced my belief that the zealous "pro'' and "con'' viewpoints that tend to dominate the public debate on transgenic crops interfere with the process of reaching reasonable decisions on how to benefit from GE crops while avoiding their pitfalls.

Public Knowledge and Attitudes .About GE Foods Looking at Hollywood's view of genetic engineering, one must conclude that the technology is a terrifying development. The films "Spider-Man,'' "The X Files,'' "Frankenfish,'' and "Corn'' all involve the consequences of genetically modified organisms (GMO) that escape fromthe laboratory or cultivation as key ingredients in the plot. In the remake of "The Manchurian Candidate,'' the evil brainwasher started his career as a genetic engineer of tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.).

Although the science behind these films is fuzzy, if not downright ludicrous, the impression presented is that modifying DNA is extremely risky and will inevitably lead to disaster. Images and innuendos presented by Hollywood can be especially persuasive for topics with limited public understanding, which certainly applies to genetic engineering. Recent surveys report what many of us can state anecdotally, that American consumers' knowledge of GE food is low.

For example, only 24% (Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 2003) and 31% (Hallman et al., 2004) of respondents believed that they had eaten GE foods, despite the fact that GE ingredients are present in 60 to 70% of supermarket products in the U.S. (Genetically Engineered Organisms Public Issues Education Project, 2004). Only 9% of respondents knew that the following statement was incorrect: "Ordinary tomatoes do not contain genes while GM tomatoes do'' (Hallman et al., 2004). Forty-two percent believed that tomatoes engineered with catfish genes would probably taste fishy (Hallman et al., 2004).

Opinions about the safety of GE foods appear to be evenly split. In the survey by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 27% of U.S. consumers agreed that GE foods are basically safe, while 25% disagreed (Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 2003). A similar question in the study by Hallman et al. (2004) provided nearly identical results, with 27% approval of plant-based GE products and 23% disapproval (Hallman et al., 2004). It is noteworthy that nearly half the respondents in both surveys (48 and 49%, respectively) were either uncertain or neutral. In the Pew survey, when respondents were told that more than half of supermarket products involve some form of biotechnology or genetic engineering, opinions of food safety improved: 44% agreed that GE foods were safe, while 20% disagreed. This result provides at least some support for the regulatory process; if GE foods have been approved for sale, then almost half of consumers believe they are safe to eat.

For the record, a recent analysis of the safety of GE foods confirmed that no negative health effects due to GE foods have been documented in humans (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2004). However, the report stated that unintended effects can arise from all forms of plant improvement, and therefore, that appropriate safety assessments are necessary. Consumers are far more comfortable with genetic engineering of plants compared to modification of other organisms. .

Questions that are pertinent for regulation of food and feed safety

1. Should premarket notification of FDA be required before a food is commercialized? Such notification is not mandatory at present, although it is routinely done.

2. Should FDA add an affirmative finding of safety to the transgenic foods it reviews? Currently, FDA informs the developer that it has "no further questions'' about the safety of the product, which is a very passive statement of food safety.

3. Should FDA apply food additive provisions to GE food, or to some classes of GE foods? Declaring food additive status would trigger a formal, indepth safety review of the product.

4. Should there be a mechanism for early food safety reviews to minimize risks of unapproved crops undergoing field testing?

Finally, two publications with similar themes address the need to consider safety issues at the earliest stages of GE product conceptualization. Kapuscinski et al. (2003) describe a "safety first'' approach, involving public–private partnerships for "transparent development of proactive safety standards that anticipate and resolve safety issues as far upstream of commercialization as possible.'' The authors are optimistic about such a process because it should benefit multiple stakeholders, including biotechnology companies and those concerned with food and environmental safety. Doering (2004) also calls for more attention during the design phase of GE crops to ensure that they meet national goals for food safety and agricultural sustainability. Examples of GE crop design that incorporate safety concerns are more precise gene insertion, better control of gene expression, and elimination of unnecessary DNA sequences from the inserted gene. Crops that address sustainability goals include those that use chemicals, energy, and water more efficiently, or that are planted for phytoremediation of contaminated soils.

Summary and conclusions
In summary, public acceptance of GE foods in North America is holding steady, while knowledge of these foods remains low. Consumers will likely respond positively to products with improved nutritional quality, and at least a few such products may be introduced in the next several years. There is continuing unease about biopharming and the association of GE crops with corporate, and/or unsustainable agriculture. Improvements to the regulatory system are needed to address valid concerns and bolster public confidence in GE foods.

For society to benefit from GE crops, the most important step forward is to move away from the polarized positions that have defined the transgenic debate so far, to positions of mutual respect that will allow a rational discussion of both the merits and risks of the technology.

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Africa Urged to Promote Biotechnology

- People's Daily, February 01, 2006 http://english.peopledaily.com.cn

African countries should form smart partnerships to share knowledge on biotechnology applications in agriculture, health, industry and food technology, an expert said on Tuesday in Zimbabwe. Visiting Biotechnology specialist, Thomas DeGregori of the University of Houston, in the United States, said this soon after meeting Vice President Joyce Mujuru.

"Africa needs all the knowledge it can get together on biotechnology," he said. DeGregori said there was growing concern in Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa on the failure to produce adequate food to feed the people.

He said Africa was the only continent in the world that had experienced a decline in food per capita over the past 15 years. "African farmers are taking more nutrients out of the soil than they are putting, making agriculture not sustainable," he said.

Biotechnology was the solution to the challenges that African countries were experiencing and governments should listen to what their scientists were telling them about the science, said DeGregori. African scientists had been promoting biotechnology long before outsiders started talking Genetically Modified Organisms, he said. They had been developing seed varieties that were drought resistant, high yielding and adapted to local conditions.

The Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences, in conjunction with the Research Council of Zimbabwe, invited DeGregori to deliver a public lecture on Applications of Biotechnology to Agricultural Productivity, Health, Industry and Food Technology at the University of Zimbabwe on Wednesday.

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Frankenfoods or Life-Saving Staples?

- Feb 14, 2006 at Washington, D.C.

'AEI Author Jon Entine to Discuss Upcoming WTO Biotech Verdict'

Jon Entine, adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute’s National Research Initiative, scholar in residence at Miami University in Ohio, and a contributing author and editor of 'Let Them Eat Precaution: How Politics Is Undermining the Genetic Revolution in Agriculture' will be hosting an event on the upcoming WTO Biotech verdict on Tuesday February 14, 2006 at the Wohlstetter Conference Center in Washington, D.C.

According to Jon Entine, more than one million children die each year and another half million go blind or suffer from infections, measles, or malaria because of a lack of Vitamin A. Yet a revolutionary solution to this malignant crisis -- a vitamin-enhanced version of the world’s most popular staple called Golden Rice--remains unutilized, the victim of trade disputes and anti-genetic science advocacy groups even though it has been proven to be safe and it is being developed patent-free by scientists from around the world.

Entine and his British and American co-authors explain why the fate of millions of the world's poor and malnourished hangs in the balance as the World Trade Organization prepares to issue its long awaited landmark ruling on the six-year embargo on biotech crops by the European Union. Expected on February 7th, the WTO verdict on the case filed by the United States, Canada, and Argentina, and joined by many of the world's leading farming countries, may determine whether innovative technologies will continue to suffer from the effects of the "precautionary principle" -- the controversial notion that innovation should be shelved unless all risks can be avoided.

Among the key points made in Let Them Eat Precaution:

* Cultural politics and trade disputes, not science, pose the biggest hurdles in developing genetically modified products.
* Countless independent scientific studies have shown that biotech farming can dramatically reduce reliance on costly and environmentally harmful chemicals, with results as safe and healthy as organic products.
* Bioengineering has created new kinds of soybeans, wheat, and cotton that generate natural insecticides (making them more resistant to pests and drought and increasing yields); nutrition-added fruits, vegetables, and grains; and futuristic "farmaceuticals"--life-saving medicines made by melding agricultural methods with advanced biotechnology.

* Even though the National Academy of Sciences issued a report two years ago calling the fears of anti-biotechnology "scientifically unjustified," noting that genetic engineering is "not an inherently hazardous process,” opponents--including well-funded environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth; organic advocates; religious groups such as Christian Aid; and "socially responsible" investors--argue that the U.S. government and multinational corporations are ushering in an age of "Frankenfoods."

* Ironically, while the political battle simmers in Europe and North America, fast-growing countries such as China, India, Brazil, and even Iran are growing record amounts of genetically modified (GM) cotton and rice altered to resist insects which reduces the use of chemical pesticides. The acreage devoted to GM crops is growing at double-digit rates, increasing to 222 million acres last year, although growth in the U.S. and other major farming countries is slowing because of political opposition.

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The New Precautionary Culture, the Politics of Fear, and the Risks to Innovation

- February 14, 2006, 9:00 AM-4:30 PM; AEI and UK Institute of Ideas
http://www.aei.org/event1246

Our culture is in the grip of the "precautionary principle," and from agricultural biotechnology and biomedicine to geopolitics and international business, risk aversion has become a defining and paralyzing ethic of our time. This conference will promote discussion of why so many aspects of contemporary life have been affected by our aversion to risk, and suggest that only by challenging the wider risk-averse culture can we hope to rediscover a sense of purpose about progress and a desire to experiment with new ways of doing things.

Introduction: Jon Entine, AEI

The Politics of Fear - Frank Furedi, University of Kent; Roger Bate (discussant and moderator)

Culture and Education - Claire Fox, UK Institute of Ideas; Christina Hoff Sommers, AEI; Charles Paul Freund, Reason (moderator)

Law and Business - Philip K. Howard, Covington and Burling; Jon Entine, AEI; Robert Pollock, The Wall Street Journal (moderator)

Keynote Address: The Precautionary Principle and the International Conflict over Agricultural Biotechnology
- Lester Crawford, Policy Directions, Inc., former FDA commissioner

Media and Science - Tony Gilland, UK Institute of Ideas, James K. Glassman, AEI, Ron Bailey, Reason, Jon Entine, AEI (moderator)

Can We Rediscover Our Purpose and Commitment to Innovation?- Frank Furedi, University of Kent, Alan Wolfe, Center for Religion and American Public Life, Boston College, Tony Gilland, UK Institute of Ideas (moderator)

WHERE: Wohlstetter Conference Center, Twelfth Floor, AEI, 1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036

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BioVisionAlexandria 2006

- Alexandria, Egypt. April 26- 29, 2006 http://www.bibalex.org/bioalex2006conf

Entitled 'The New Life Sciences: Changing Lives', BioVisionAlexandria 2006 is an international conference organized in partnership with The World Life Sciences Forum - BioVision http://www.biovision.org/.

It is specifically attentive to the needs and capabilities of the lesser-developed nations of the world. Cooperation and coordination are essential for advancement; therefore, the conference will strive to foster the sharing of information between developed and developing nations including knowledge management and technology transfer.

Initiated with a 'Nobel Day' dedicated to Nobel Laureates, the conference will focus on three main themes: 1. Health Discoveries 2. Agri-food, and 3. Environment Discoveries

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Food and Ag Economic Impact Panel Added to BIO CEO & Investor Conference

- http://www.ceo.bio.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 31, 2006) – Graham Brookes will be the expert speaker for the first agricultural biotechnology focus session to be included in the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s (BIO) CEO & Investor Conference in its eight-year history.

The conference, to be held February 14 and 15 in New York City, is designed to educate new investors and media on the value, risks and rewards offered by the industry and to fuel continued industry growth and investments in 2006. It will take place at the Waldorf=Astoria. Complimentary registration is open to qualified investors and members of the media at http://www.ceo.bio.org .

Brookes is a U.K.-based agricultural economist who specializes in examining the impact of policy, trade agreements and technology change on agricultural and related sectors. He is the author of “GM Crops: The Global Economic and Environmental Impact - The First Nine Years 1996-2004,” and has been analyzing the impact of policy and technology change, with special reference to European agriculture for the last 20 years.

The agricultural focus session, "Agricultural Biotechnology: Early innings in a new game changing the face of agriculture," will be held from 9 a.m. to 10:25 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14. Following Graham’s talk, representatives of small, medium and large biotech companies will each provide their perspective on where the industry has come from, and where it’s headed. Other speakers include:

Kevin McCarthy, moderator, Banc of America Securities LLC
Hugh Grant, Monsanto Company
Dr. Richard Hamilton, Ceres Inc.
Andrew Baum, SemBioSys Genetics Inc.

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Gene Flow and Buffer Distance in Maize: Coexistence Study from Italy

'Buffer zones of 20 metres between adjoining maize crops limit gene flow to values of lower than 0.9%, Indicated by the EU as the threshold for the coexistence of GM, conventional and organic crops.'

- Davide Ederle, Technology Transfer & Communication, Lodi - Italy; www.tecnoparco.or, www.biotecnologi.org

Full text in Italian at http://www.cedab.it/mediaroom/documenti/StudioCoesistenza.pdf

Cremona, 27 January 2006 – In Northern Italy (Padana Plain), the gene flow of maize, in optimal conditions, falls below the critical threshold of 0.9% at a distance of 17.5 metres from pollen sources, and to below 0.5% at a distance of 30 metres. Amongst the measures that can be used to limit gene flow, the use of buffer zones and the use of varieties that have different blossoming times has proved to be particularly effective. The use of open spaces between the different crops is less efficient and is able to reduce gene flow only in the absence of wind or when more than thirty metres of empty space separates the crops.

These are some of the results collected by researchers in 2005 in Lombardy (northern Italy), within the most extensive cooperative experiment ever conducted in Italy, and one of the largest in Europe. Its aim was to evaluate gene flow between adjoining maize crops, and the results were presented today at the Vegetalia Expo, an agricultural fair held in the city of Cremona. For experimental purposes, traditional coloured maize was used, as experimentation with genetically modified plants in open fields is banned in Italy. The results of the experiment will be available on http://www.cedab.it alongside the Podcast of the seminar.

The experiment was conducted in Lombardy by researchers and technicians, both from the public and private sector. They simulated the behaviour of pollen and gene flow in maize using conventional varieties with coloured kernels. These conventional varieties are homozygous for kernel color (100% of pollen has the marker gene) and, therefore, the resulting values has to be considered overestimated if compared to homozygous varieties, as in the case of many genetically modified varieties, where only 50% of the pollen has marker gene.

The research was conducted in order to integrate and verify, in the context of agriculture in the Padana Plain, the information available for coexistence in maize. In particular, four different types of experimental trial were carried out to measure the gene flow in maize and to verify the effectiveness of some measures in order to limit it, including the adoption of open spaces within the crops, the use of "buffer zones" which hinder the pollen flow, as well as the use of varieties with different blossoming time.

In terms of coexistence, maize is the most relevant crop for Italian agriculture as it covers 1.4 million hectares and occupies slightly over 10% of the total national agricultural surface. Maize represents 38% in value of the total Italian production of cereal crops.

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Drought-Resistant GM Seeds Won't Benefit Kenyans for the Next Decade

- Kevin J. Kelley, The East African (Nairobi) January 31, 2006

US bio-engineers working to develop drought-resistant seeds say Kenyans should not expect to benefit from such "miracle crops" for at least eight to 10 years.

Those currently starving in parts of the country and those likely to suffer hunger if drought conditions persist will have to look to emergency food aid rather than to agricultural self-sufficiency, the scientists say.
Maize and other biotech crops able to thrive despite scant rainfall will not be planted in the United States until about 2010, says Christopher Horner, a spokesman for Monsanto, one of the world's leading developers of genetically modified seeds.

Such crops "will be introduced initially in the United States well before they become available in other countries," Mr Horner adds. But he notes that Monsanto is striving to "enable Africa to benefit in more of a parallel fashion rather than a sequential fashion from breakthroughs such as drought-resistant seeds.
"Kenya may be one of the first African countries where these seeds are introduced, he adds.
"Kenya is a priority for us. We know they're trying to put in place a regulatory system for this kind of technology," Mr Horner says.

The first generation of genetically modified crops was engineered to resist insecticides and herbicides, notes Robert Horsch, Monsanto's vice president for international development partnerships. Seeds designed with these properties have proven easier to develop than those tolerant of drought conditions, he says. "The genome of plants and factors such as water uptake make for a more complicated challenge in regard to drought tolerance," Mr Horsch explains.

Farmers in drought-prone areas should meanwhile lessen their reliance on maize and plant more crops such as sorghum, cassava and sweet potatoes that can better withstand lack of rainfall, Mr Horsch suggests.

Farmers struggling with temporary shortages of rainfall can meanwhile prevent maize yield losses of up to 25 per cent by planting currently available drought-tolerant hybrid seeds, adds an official with Pioneer, a company affiliated with US-based DuPont

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