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Date:

February 20, 2006

Subject:

Zimbabwe Importing GMO Maize, Hawaii's papaya industry, Easing fears of biotech food

 

Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: February 20, 2006

* Australian Report on Ag and food Policy for the Next Generation
* Zimbabwe Importing GMO Maize from Argentina
* Biotech Gold
* Genetic engineering saved Hawaii's papaya industry
* Easing fears of biotech food
* Fear of the unknown no longer justifies GM crop bans
* Pulling EU to the harvest
* Agriculture in the Genomics Age


Australian Report on Ag and food Policy for the Next Generation

- Roger Kalla

As was treported in The Age yesterday the Australian Federal Government has through its Agriculture and Food Policy Reference Group identified the principal issues and challenges that need attention if Australian agriculture and food businesses are to be successful over the next ten to fifteen years.

The full report of the findings and recommendations of the reference group can be found at

http://www.agfoodgroup.gov.au/next_generation.html

Under the heading of competitiveness there is a large section that deals with Biotechnology.

Here is an excerpt out of the report with recommendations ....

BIOTECHNOLOGY

Although proponents of GM crop moratoriums claim there are marketing advantages in being GM free, there is little evidence that price premiums can be gained from segregating GM and non-GM canola, and GM products appear to be finding ready markets. The United States, Canada and Argentina -- major competitors of Australia in the global grain market and ubstantial producers of GM crops -- have all maintained their global market shares.

Anti-GM campaigns have focused on possible environmental and food safety concerns associated with GM crops and food products. The likely position is, in fact, the complete opposite. GM crops offer potentially significant health and environmental benefits. For example, adoption of GM varieties has transformed the Australian cotton industry’s environmental performance, reducing insecticide use by 70 per cent over the past decade. The capacity of Australian farmers to remain globally competitive is unquestionrably threatened by continued bans and restrictions on cultivating GM crops. Meanwhile, our competitors, and potential competitors such as China, continue to develop and adopt GM technology, reduce costs and produce varieties with new value adding characteristics.

For example, the prospect of new North American developed wheat varieties could threaten Australia’s historically strong position in Asian markets.

The imposition of the GM moratoriums has seen investment in vital research and development in agricultural biotechnology withdrawn from Australia, and research staff move overseas. These developments are further benefiting our competitors. Because of the long lead time required to adapt innovations to local conditions, Australia cannot simply import GM technology at some later stage.

Rather than purchasing the technology off the shelf, Australia will need to design GM crop varieties that reflect our unique environmental factors, pest and disease challenges and market requirements.

RECOMMENDATION re GMOs and Biotechnology

In view of the potentially significant human health, environmental and economic benefits from using biotechnology in agriculture and food production, and the costs to Australians of failing to capture them:

* Governments must give higher priority to communicating the benefits of current and emerging agrifood biotechnology, and to publicising the robustness of the regulatory regime for the safety of research and the resulting products

* Agriculture and food businesses should work with governments to facilitate the rapid uptake of agrifood biotechnologies that will contribute to better health, a cleaner environment and more globally competitive industries

* State governments should lift their moratoriums on the commercial use of GM crops immediately, and work with the Australian Government, industry and researchers to achieve nationally consistent traceability and tolerance protocols,

* And to clarify legal liability surrounding the use of GM organisms in agriculture and food products.
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http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=35194&newsdate=20-Feb-2006

Zimbabwe Importing GMO Maize from Argentina

- Reuters, February 20, 2006

JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwe is importing unmilled, genetically-modified (GMO) yellow maize from Argentina, despite an official ban on such products, trading sources and other monitors told Reuters on Friday.

But a senior Zimbabwean minister said his government remained opposed to unmilled maize and said he was unaware of such shipments.

"Zimbabwe is importing yellow maize from Argentina which is known to be GMO - one vessel is coming into port now to offload 7,000 tonnes in Maputo, Mozambique, and 7,400 tonnes in Beira," said one trader.

The trader said another ship was being loaded in Argentina with a similar cargo also destined for Zimbabwe.

Another source who monitors food shipments in the region confirmed the same details to Reuters.

Like many African countries, Zimbabwe is suspicious of GMO foods on the grounds that they have not been adequately tested. In the past it has said it would accept only milled GMO foodstuffs to avoid cross-breeding with local crops.

"This is definitely unmilled, bulk maize," said the trader.

POLICY UNCHANGED

But Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, in charge of land reform, resettlement and food security, told Reuters that he was not aware of the shipment.

"To be honest I have never heard of that. They would have to consult with me but no one has done so. Maybe they might be ordering it for livestock but I don't think so either," he said.

"That policy (against unmilled GMO maize) is steadfast, we continue to maintain it. It has not been reviewed and my (cabinet) colleagues have not changed their position," he said.

What no one denies is Zimbabwe's pressing food needs.

Aid agencies have said about 4.3 million Zimbabweans require food aid until at least the April harvest because of a scorching drought last year.

But critics say Zimbabwe's controversial seizures of white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks have also hampered food production.

Maize from Argentina seems to be the flavour of the month.

Even regional breadbasket South Africa has imported some yellow maize from Argentina because it is cheaper than the locally grown product.

The World Food Programme has said higher South African maize prices have forced a rethink in its plans and it is looking elsewhere to buy supplies.

South Africa's March contract for yellow maize closed three rand higher on Friday at 950 rand ($156.4) a tonne.
***********************************

http://www.agweb.com/get_article.asp?pageid=125208

Biotech Gold

- AgWeb, February 17, 2006, By Dean Kleckner

If the Winter Olympics were to award medals for anti-biotech hysteria, the Europeans probably would sweep the gold, silver, and bronze. And they wouldn’t even need help from the French judge.

But this event features fool’s gold--and perhaps finally the time has come to watch it go the way of tug-of-war (which was eliminated as an Olympic sport after 1920). That’s because a momentous ruling from the World Trade Organization may help make it obsolete. According to press reports, a WTO dispute panel has determined that the European Union was wrong to impose a moratorium on GM foods for six years.

This is excellent news, because defeat would have been catastrophic. It would have meant that countries could exclude biotech products from their markets for reasons that would have made less sense than figure-skating scores.

That’s essentially what a few European countries were doing: They were letting special interests dictate their policies, rather than sound science and international trade rules.

Yet the tug of war, so to speak, between logic and illogic is far from over. The problem is, although the friends of biotechnology couldn’t afford to lose the WTO decision, the enemies of biotechnology could afford the loss. But, they certainly aren’t happy about their defeat. Groups such as Greenpeace are complaining about violations of national sovereignty, as if national sovereignty was something they cared about more than 15 minutes ago.

The loss was acceptable for these neo-Luddites because European consumers remain skittish about biotechnology. Unfortunately, many ordinary Europeans still don’t trust what modern science tells them about the safety of genetically improved products. Most of their own scientific organizations have confirmed what we in the United States already have accepted: Biotech food is perfectly safe to eat. Yet for complicated reasons, the Europeans find themselves receptive and vulnerable to the scaremongering of professional protesters.

Really, the ultimate biotech moratorium is a public that chooses to say no, even though that exercise is irrational.

Even so, the WTO ruling was vital--a necessary precondition to success in the future. I’m convinced that as biotech products take on consumer-friendly traits, grocery shoppers will begin to demand them, much in the way producers have demanded biotech products with producer-friendly traits. But they can’t demand heart-healthy soybean products if they don’t even know about them. The EU moratorium definitely would have kept people in the dark.

The ruling will matter in another way as well: It will encourage European farmers to redouble their calls for better access to products that many of them want but cannot obtain.

Indeed, among European farmers the demand for biotech crops is growing. A recent analysis by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) reports that five European nations planted GM crops in 2005: Spain, Germany, Portugal, France, and the Czech Republic. Only one of these countries--the Czech Republic--was a newcomer to the biotech club, but neither Portugal nor France had planted biotech crops for several years. So this is genuine progress. All five nations grew modest amounts of Bt corn--less than the total amount we grow in Iowa, but a welcome start nonetheless.

Europe’s adoption of biotechnology has been aggravatingly slow, but at least the continent appears to be moving in the right direction. The WTO ruling ought to keep things headed that way.

Perhaps the Europeans will respond in the near-term by approving more biotech imports. Although the WTO ruling focused on a moratorium that formally ended in 2004, the EU has allowed only four new biotech imports since then: The result isn’t technically a moratorium, but maybe we could call it a less-a-torium, because the EU’s pace of regulatory approval is less than what it should be.

The WTO decision also carries symbolic importance, because it affirms our biotech future--and that’s a message that developing nations, especially in Africa, need to hear. Right now, they’re participating in the Gene Revolution about as much as they’re participating in the Torino games. The sooner they reverse course, the better--and the WTO may help do some convincing.

But the real key to future success will be to keep on going for the gold, at the WTO, on the farms of Europe, in the capitals of Africa--and most especially in the hearts and minds of consumers everywhere.
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http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Feb06/AAAS.Gonsalves.papaya.sd.html

Genetic engineering saved Hawaii's papaya industry -- so why aren't other countries following suit?

- Cornell Chronicle, By Sarah Davidson, Feb 19, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- Genetically engineered papaya that resists the devastating papaya ringspot virus (PRSV) has saved Hawaii's papaya industry. But efforts to grow PRSV-resistant papaya in developing countries are stalled, and researchers aren't sure why, according to a retired Cornell University plant virologist.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science today (Feb. 19), Dennis Gonsalves, now director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo, Hawaii, and professor emeritus of plant pathology at Cornell, reviewed how the transgenic papaya was successfully developed, deregulated and commercialized in Hawaii.

"But despite our efforts to produce and implement PRSV-resistant papaya in such developing countries as Venezuela, Thailand, Brazil, Jamaica and Bangladesh, deploying the crop in these countries has been nearly aborted or delayed," said Gonsalves.

His presentation, "Transgenic papaya for developing countries," was part of a symposium on "Agricultural Biotechnology in the Public Sector: Overcoming Challenges to Reach Developing Country Markets."

"The technology works beyond a doubt," said Gonsalves. "It is safe, but it has not been transferred to a point where it's available to the people. Our challenge now is figuring out why and to determine how we get it to the end user in a timely manner."

The papaya industry in the Puna district of Hawaii, where 95 percent of the state's papaya is grown, would not be in existence today, Gonsalves said, without genetically engineered PRSV-resistant papaya. "The situation was devastating," he said.

Gonsalves said that studying Hawaii's experience in saving its papaya industry with genetically engineered PRSV-resistant papaya hopefully will shed light on why developing countries aren't following suit.

"It is a case worthy of study to see if more universities or governmental agencies can do this kind of work," Gonsalves commented. "If you want to look for an ideal case, it's tough to beat the papaya. Big corporations are not involved -- we're just small university or government scientists doing the work, and the growers control it in the case of Hawaii. It's a great model, so why is progress being delayed?"

The papaya in Hawaii, he said, also can serve as a test case for genetically engineered food crops developed in the United States for other countries, such as Japan.

"With the papaya, people will be choosing a product that they will consume fresh, unlike nearly all of the currently genetically engineered corn and soybean," he said.
*************************************

http://www.sacbee.com/content/business/story/14211377p-15037501c.html

Easing fears of biotech food

Why industry opposes labels for genetically modified crops

- Sacramento Bee, By Paul Kitagaki Jr., Feb 20, 2006

Nineteen months ago Sean Darragh, a former U.S. defense, national security and trade official, became a leading promoter and new public face of the global agricultural biotechnology industry.

Representing more than 1,100 biotech companies, academic institutions and state research centers, Darragh travels the planet as head of food and agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization in Washington, D.C.

As chief spokesman for a decade-old and still controversial technology used on 1 billion acres of farmland worldwide, Darragh tries to reassure a sometimes skeptical public that genetically modified food is both safe and good for the environment.

U.S. farmers grow mostly herbicide-resistant corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, squash and papaya on 123 million acres.

Darragh recently stopped by The Bee to talk about pressures to label biotech food for consumers, continuing safety concerns of public interest groups and his own faith in biotech science.

Q: Tell us what you do.

A: My role is to talk to folks and talk about the technology. We recognize as an industry that things are evolving quickly in biotechnology and that anytime you have a new technology folks want to be sure that it's safe and it's something that they're comfortable with. Part of what we do is try to make people comfortable with it.

Q: Does your industry advocate labeling products if biotech products are put in them?

A: We do not support the labeling of biotech products. The idea being that scientists, the American Medical Association and all the regulatory bodies in the U.S. and the European commission that oversee this, have all said the technology is safe.

Our concern with putting on a label saying that the products were made with genetic modification is that it raises, from our perspective, the concern that there must be a reason.

It's almost like a warning sign. If science says genetically modified products are safe and our government is saying they're safe, what is the reason for putting a label on it that says they're genetically modified other than to say there's some reason why?

Q: Have you done studies over a long period of time to say whether people who eat more genetically modified foods get more cancers or get more of other diseases than people who eat more organically grown food? Have those sorts of studies been done?

A: Ten years have gone by without one documented case of any problem associated with the technology. ... I've never met anybody with a science degree, who has a Ph.D. in biology, ever, who was not comfortable with the safety of biotechnology.

Does that mean you shouldn't be cautious? I'm not saying that. ... We have been modifying plants for tens of thousand of years. In biotech we're going in and saying this is the gene we want to transfer, and we're ensuring that it transfers and nothing else does. It's a more precise way of doing what (19th century Austrian monk and founder of genetics Gregor) Mendel did with peas moons and moons ago.

Our fear is that by putting a label on it that says GMO (genetically modified organism) it's like a skull and crossbones. We don't think the science justifies it.

Q: The government has approved things that it said were safe and later were found to be harmful.

A: If I had a conversation with anybody with a Ph.D. in biology and they could articulate why they were concerned about it and why this technology is any different than the stuff that's been happening for years - like Mendel's peas - then I could understand. But there's nobody out there. I think part of the problem is we haven't done a very good, or as good a job as we could, with making people feel comfortable with the technology. I think it's a failure on our part.

Q: Many Europeans cite the precautionary principle. They say, "Prove it's safe rather than tell us it hasn't been proved unsafe."

A: Part of the problem existing today in Europe is they had a number of failures in their system, whether it was BSE (mad cow disease) or other things.

It appears they weren't transparent with their population and there were a number of regulatory and governmental organizations charged with safety that lost credibility with the population. ...

I think as a whole most Americans think the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) does a good job doing their best to keep our food supply safe and good. And the Europeans don't have the same faith in their food safety system that we do. That's why it's a little easier here for the technology than it is in Europe.

Q: With labeling, isn't there a fear that groups like the Center for Food Safety would ramp up a campaign and urge people to boycott those foods?

A: Here's an analysis. Just the other day in the Wall Street Journal was an article by (former U.S. President) Jimmy Carter talking about the technology. Most Americans think Jimmy Carter is a straight shooter. He's going to tell you what he believes, and it comes from the heart.

He's coming out and saying he's a mainstream American leader, who has proven his worth to the nation and the world, and he's coming out and talking about it. I think there will be more politicians and thought leaders that come out in the next few years that will do something similar.

Q: Sonoma County voters just rejected a ban on biotech crops. What was your reaction to that?

A: I think Californians and people in general should choose their destiny. That's what we are about. We want to have freedom of choice. Am I happy the vote went the way it did? Yes.

Q: What do you fear most that could bring this technology to a halt?

A: I have faith in the scientific community, and if you look at challenges we're facing, feeding the world or providing fuel for the future, biotechnolgy is a major part of the solution to that. We need to move forward and have appropriate regulatory regimes to make sure we don't have problems. But we have challenges we have to deal with, and this is a path that is going to get us where we need to go. I don't think I'm going to wake up in the morning, and there's going to be something that's going to stop it.
**********************************

http://www.theage.com.au/news/editorial/fear-of-the-unknown-no-longer-justifies-gm-crop-bans/2006/02/19/1140283944554.html

Fear of the unknown no longer justifies GM crop bans

- The Age, February 20, 2006

Genetic engineering is one of the great scientific innovations, one that still seems new and mysterious for many people. GM foods are regarded with deep suspicion in Australia, as well as Europe and Japan. It may come as a surprise, then, that 18 years have passed since the world's first release of a GM organism - a bacterium released in Australia to control crown gall disease in stone fruit and other crops - and to realise how pervasive imported GM food is, particularly as public resistance has prevented further local releases since GM cotton was introduced 10 years ago. GM cotton comprises about 90 per cent of the national crop and is the source of about a third of the vegetable oil consumed in Australia.

Yet cotton is the exception to GM policy. GM canola won federal approval but commercial use has been blocked until 2008 by all states except Queensland. Why are cotton and canola treated differently? A report by a federal taskforce that reviewed farming policies has recommended an end to the moratoriums. Two years ago, The Age made the same call. The fact is, arguments that we do not have enough information to assess the risks grow weaker by the year. Tens of billions of meals with GM foods have been eaten. This real-world experiment, Australian Academy of Science president Jim Peacock observes, has had no documented ill effects on human health.

Critics of GM crops seized on the abandonment last year of a CSIRO trial of peas that were made weevil-proof, and thus 30 per cent more productive, by the insertion of bean DNA, because of ill-health in mice that were fed the peas. But researchers know what went wrong. The gene is safe to eat in beans, but insertion altered its shape, which triggered an immune response. What this illustrates is that every GM crop must be rigorously assessed.

Despite the need to monitor identified concerns such as genetic drift and impacts on wild populations, the worst fears for the environment have also not been borne out, while proven benefits include lower water and pesticide use (the latest cotton varieties cut spraying by more than 80 per cent).

It is the economic benefits that have driven the adoption of GM crops such as canola, corn and soy in the US, Brazil, Canada, Argentina and China (which is releasing the first GM cultivars of rice, the world's most important food crop). US agriculture authorities say this increased farmers' annual revenue by $2.3 billion; the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics warns Australia's failure to grow GM crops will cost it $3 billion by 2015. This estimate has been legitimately criticised for discounting consumer resistance in Australia and its export markets in Japan and Europe (although the European Union has lifted a moratorium on GM foods).

One lesson from overseas experience is the need to ensure GM crops are not allowed to contaminate the crops of "clean and green" producers who serve a growing, albeit niche, market. Consumers have a right to choose for themselves, which requires full disclosure of GM products. The same opinion polls that find resistance to GM crops find greater acceptance when the result is better drugs or foods offering health benefits - such as "golden rice" that stops blindness linked to vitamin A deficiency, or oilseed crops rich in omega-3 fatty acids that reduce cardiovascular disease and improve eye and brain function. That shifts the balance of need and concern closer to that of the developing world. We have enough to meet our needs; they don't.

Eleven of 17 countries with commercial GM crops are developing nations that account for a third of the GM crop area. The numbers and crop areas are likely to double by 2010, because there is little more arable land and few countries have the luxury of being able to reject high-yield, pest-resistant crops. Feeding their people and alleviating poverty depends on the GM crops already being grown by more than 8 million farmers - 90 per cent of whom are resource-poor. This is not a reason to abandon all caution, but Australians do need to be aware of the broader global picture. With a population set to increase from 6 billion to 8 billion by 2050, how else does the world feed itself? More immediately, how are Australian farmers to compete with overseas growers of more productive GM crops? These are not questions Australia can continue to ignore.

One lesson from overseas experience is the need to ensure GM crops are not allowed to contaminate the crops of "clean and green" producers who serve a growing, albeit niche, market. Consumers have a right to choose for themselves, which requires full disclosure of GM products. The same opinion polls that find resistance to GM crops find greater acceptance when the result is better drugs or foods offering health benefits - such as "golden rice" that stops blindness linked to vitamin A deficiency, or oilseed crops rich in omega-3 fatty acids that reduce cardiovascular disease and improve eye and brain function. That shifts the balance of need and concern closer to that of the developing world. We have enough to meet our needs; they don't.

Eleven of 17 countries with commercial GM crops are developing nations that account for a third of the GM crop area. The numbers and crop areas are likely to double by 2010, because there is little more arable land and few countries have the luxury of being able to reject high-yield, pest-resistant crops. Feeding their people and alleviating poverty depends on the GM crops already being grown by more than 8 million farmers - 90 per cent of whom are resource-poor. This is not a reason to abandon all caution, but Australians do need to be aware of the broader global picture. With a population set to increase from 6 billion to 8 billion by 2050, how else does the world feed itself? More immediately, how are Australian farmers to compete with overseas growers of more productive GM crops? These are not questions Australia can continue to ignore.
***********************************

http://washingtontimes.com/commentary/20060218-100153-9372r.htm

Pulling EU to the harvest

- Washington Times, By Gilbert Ross, February 19, 2006

A commission of the World Trade Organization has held the European Union's 1998-2004 moratorium on planting and importing genetically-modified food and cotton was not based on science. Hooray.

Or "duh," as my kids would say. The U.S. has utilized GM crops since 1996, with millions of acres planted and millions of tons of GM crops harvested and consumed since then -- with no adverse effect seen on health or the environment.

But while that seems pretty powerful evidence of safety, it hasn't been enough for those intrepid devotees of the precautionary principle across the pond. This principle states that unless a product or chemical is shown "safe" (by often scientifically baseless definitions), it should be banned or restricted until such evidence of its safety has been obtained.

The WTO panel found the EU ban was based on old-fashioned trade competition and politics, not science. Score one point for the forces of agro-science, and score several more points for the malnourished people of Asia and Africa.

The real victims of environmental activists and prosperous European farmers, fattened on subsidies, have been (as usual) the poor of the developing world. Are the fattened First-World naysayers really fearful of the alleged health effects of GM agriculture, or is their antipathy based mainly on their own economic self-interest? They don't care, it's the same to them either way: They've kept Yankee gene-spliced food out of Europe and reaped (sorry) economic benefits, while telling the public they're protecting everyone from "Frankenfood."

Unfortunately, this agenda denies African and Asian subsistence farmers equal access to these new technologies -- which are proven to increase crop yields and ward off starvation. These technologies can directly enhance nutrition (for instance through "golden rice," GM rice engineered to increase vitamin A intake for the billion or so people who subsist on rice). And this is but a foretaste of a brighter future.

Best of all, GM agriculture reduces the need for pesticide inputs, an issue allegedly near and dear to the hearts of the activists whose mantra is "organic, now and forever."

So why do the so-called "environmentalists" oppose GM food for the starving billions? Who really knows? Their opposition is certainly not based on any real health threats.

And now even the WTO has pulled down the curtain and exposed the EU wizards for the charlatans they are. Their technophobic, neo-Luddite discrimination has thwarted African health and agriculture officials who desperately want GM seed but legitimately fear trade embargoes if they use them.

This is analogous to the pesticide DDT, banned due to superstition and anti-science agendas only after insect-borne plagues were eradicated from North American and Europe. Malaria continued ravaging the African south until today, and the ban remains. Similarly, the de facto ban on GM food will likely go on despite the WTO ruling (which won't even be final for some months, and is then subject to appeal and even defiance).

Why do we allow a small number of junk-science devotees and trade-barrier-supporters to dictate public health policy to the rest of the world, at a cost of millions of lives?

Ingo Potrykus, inventor of golden rice, recently said: "Blanket opposition to all GM foods is a luxury that only pampered Westerners can afford."
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http://www.fb.org/views/focus/fo2006/fo0220.html

Agriculture in the Genomics Age

- Farm Bureau, February 20, 2006, By Stewart Truelsen

Two of the hottest areas of science and technology today involve agriculture – the genomic mapping of plant and animal species and the transition from fossil fuels to renewable fuels.

What does this say about the future of U.S. agriculture? For starters, agriculture is right at the forefront of important research and stands to benefit tremendously.

While genomics (the study of genes and their functions) and renewable fuels are two distinct fields, there are some connections. At Iowa State University, a $1.25 million IBM supercomputer labeled BlueGene is being used to sequence the corn genome.

The genome is a complete set of an organism’s genetic material – the sum total of all the information in cells that determines whether we are human or a corn plant. All that information is derived from studying the arrangement of DNA and genes.

Even with the aid of this supercomputer it will take scientists about three years to sequence the corn genome. The results could lead to the development of corn varieties that yield more ethanol or produce better biodegradable plastics or tolerate drought better.

Iowa State researchers consider the corn genome one of the most complex sequencing projects to date. In 2005, the rice genome was mapped and projects are under way to sequence soybeans and sheep.

One of the most recent announcements was a project to map the swine genome. Two University of Illinois researchers will head it up, and like the Iowa State project, it is a collaborative effort with researchers at other universities.

Mapping the swine genome will lead to better animal health and management and more nutritious meat products, but it could yield much more. According to the University of Illinois, “Because the pig and human genomes are similar in size, complexity and organization, researchers expect comparisons will lead to biomedical advances, including pig-to-human transplants and disease treatments.”

Obviously, genomics brings up a number of moral and ethical questions that must be dealt with, many of them concerning the use of information from the human genome which was sequenced a few years ago. Most people would agree that human cloning is off-limits. But genomics could lead to cures for cancer and heart disease and will probably be the key to humans living much longer.

In agriculture, we have witnessed the reluctance of the European Union to accept biotech crops while the United States and most of the rest of the world recognize their value to producers and consumers.

The Genomics Age is here, whether some like it or not. And, any effort to impede potential benefits that genomics offers humankind – from more and better food to breakthroughs in health and life-saving medicine – should raise moral and ethical questions that are even more serious than those surrounding the science itself.

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