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March 7, 2006


Blossoming Markets; Bureaucracy Worries; Take That Dr. Atkins; Ten Years of Gaffes; Modest Proposal to Activists


Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org - March 7, 2006

* Seed Makers See Markets Blossom
* Biotech Crops Can Help Eradicate Hunger
* Benefits of Golden Rice Not Yet Recognized
* Take THAT, Dr. Atkins
* Ten Years of Biotech Gaffes
* Expert Sees "No Increased Danger" of GM Contamination
* Students Create Plant That Glows When Thirsty
* India - Monsanto Reduces Technology Fee
* A Modest Proposal for JIGMOD
* Learning to Speak Science
* Building Capacity for Ag Biotech in Africa


Around the Markets: Seed Makers See Markets Blossom

- Kotaro Miyata and David Whitehouse, IHT & Bloomberg News, March 7, 2006

Genetically modified food, shunned by consumers in Europe, may be winning acceptance in emerging markets. Seed producers like Monsanto and Syngenta are already reaping the rewards.

Shares of both companies reached record highs in recent weeks even as the European Union rejected new calls to open its market to seeds that are genetically altered to resist pests and diseases. Demand from countries like China is helping to offset slower sales in the developed world, said Nick Robinson at Aberdeen Asset Management.

"The world has to wake up to the fact that there are food shortages out there," said Robinson, who owns shares of Dow Chemical, which makes genetically modified seeds. "You can be reasonably confident" that seed makers will benefit from demand in developing countries.

Shares of Monsanto, the world's biggest producer of genetically modified seeds, have gained 13 percent in 2006. Syngenta, based in Switzerland, closed at an all-time high on Feb. 22, and its shares are still up 12 percent so far this year. Morgan Stanley Capital International's world index, a measure tracking stocks worldwide, is up 4.3 percent.

Monsanto last month said earnings in the year that ends in August would be at the upper end of its forecast as farmers plant more bio- engineered corn like its Roundup Ready, an herbicide-resistant seed. Syngenta last month reported that its profit increased 35 percent last year to $622 million, helped by an increased share of the North American seed market.

The companies' shares have outperformed those of competitors like DuPont, the biggest maker of corn and soybean seeds, and Bayer of Germany, a maker of crop chemicals. Monsanto and Syngenta make all their sales in agricultural products, while the other two companies have chemical businesses that are hurt by rising oil prices.

Seed producers' shares are not cheap. Monsanto sells for 40 times the company's profit for the past year, above the price/earnings multiple of 18 for the Standard & Poor's 500 index. Syngenta fetches 21 times earnings versus 16 times for the Dow Jones Stoxx 600 index.

The global market for genetically altered crops may rise 4.8 percent to $5.5 billion this year, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, a nonprofit group that provides farm technology to developing nations.

The use of biotechnology seeds will accelerate in the next 10 years as farmers in emerging economies like China seek more reliable harvests, according to the organization, which has its U.S. headquarters at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Argentina and Brazil are the biggest producers of genetically modified crops after the United States, according to the organization.

Some European governments, as well as environmental groups like Greenpeace International, have sought to curb the use of genetically modified seeds, saying the crops harm human health and the environment.
The United States, which accounts for 55 percent of the world's genetically modified crops by acreage, insists that the seeds are safe and should not be distinguished from conventional ones.

The lack of enthusiasm has not prevented a surge in earnings for seed producers. Syngenta, formed in 2000 from a merger of the farm chemicals units of the Swiss drug maker Novartis and AstraZeneca of Britain, last month increased its stock buyback program and said it would return $800 million to shareholders through dividends.

"It's a cash machine," said Jan Leroy at Petercam Asset Management. "The company is well positioned for growth in Latin America and Asia." Monsanto's earnings are expected to rise 17 percent this year and 22 percent in 2007, according to analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

For all the debate in Europe about the safety of genetically modified foods, consumers eventually may embrace them because they are cheaper, said Peter Braendle, a fund manager at Swisscanto Asset Management.


Biotech Crops Can Help Eradicate Hunger

- Marian Byron, The Irish Times, March 6, 2006

'Biotechnology enables farmers to grow crops in arid climates or salty soils, and cultivate foods that are more nutritious and contain healthier oils'

Having read Fr SeŠn McDonagh's article in The Irish Times last week, I am puzzled by his arguments against plant biotechnology.

Despite many claims to the contrary, no health threats linked to biotech crops have emerged, and last year the one billionth acre of biotech crops was planted. We have been eating these foods now for over a decade and no adverse effects have been identified.

The technology has proved to be of enormous benefit and undoubtedly, as science moves on, more advantages will come to light. Referring to plant biotechnology as an imprecise science is not accurate. Genetic modification in nature is far less precise and the outcomes far less predictable. New technology must therefore be embraced if we are to reap the rewards.

Most commentators agree that inactive lifestyles combined with poor diets have contributed to an increase in cardiac disease and diabetes in the developed world. It is ironic to note that now and in the future the best way of preventing and managing these diseases will come from biotechnological advances. Far from presenting a threat, biotechnology will provide the solutions for many of our most pressing problems.

Those who live and work in the developed world can choose to consume foods grown using organic agriculture if they so wish and they are perfectly entitled to do so. The choice faced by many who live in the developing world is much starker - they either eat and survive, or starve. Biotechnology has provided a range of innovations which tip this delicate balance in favour of survival, including drought tolerant and insect resistant crops, for example.

Biotechnology enables farmers to grow crops in arid climates or salty soils, and cultivate foods that are more nutritious and contain healthier oils. Enriched with beta carotene, "golden rice" has the potential to help combat vitamin A deficiency - a major cause of blindness in the developing world.

Plants that resist viral pests, such as a new variety of African sweet potato, can improve yields of important staple crops. Similarly, plants that resist toxic or salty soils may increase the land available for farming throughout the world. It is vital that these opportunities are exploited by those who most need them.

Fr McDonagh highlights issues he believes are contributing to world food shortage, such as global warming, destruction of biodiversity and the lack of social and economic equality. However, the article ignores the primary cause of food shortage now and in the future - unprecedented population growth.

The UN estimates that the world's population will, in time, grow to more than nine billion people. With an estimated global population of eight billion people by 2030, the need for a nutritious and safe food supply will only continue to grow.

We have an ever increasing number of people on a finite planet, where the few wealthy nations have access to a plentiful supply of food, whereas those who are disadvantaged do not. Over 800 million people do not have sufficient food supplies today. This contributes to poor health, disease, conflict and dramatically reduced productivity, trapping individuals and entire communities in poverty, war and despair. The problems are easy to identify, but what are the solutions?

In an ideal world all of us would work together to improve matters, by using less energy and resources and by living more frugally on a modest scale. But the contribution that science and new technology can make towards the solution must be championed.

We have a means to help grow nutritious food, in many cases where the nutritional value has been enhanced. Biotechnology will increase crop yields by shrinking the amount of land needed. In addition, crops that contain greater nutritional value can be grown where water is scarce. Some new crops will even grow medicines, while others will provide stronger, more rapidly renewable building material.

It is worth noting that 90 per cent of the 8.25 million farmers who chose to plant biotech crops last year came from developing countries, where the benefits of these crops can make a substantial contribution to the alleviation of poverty.

Commenting on the improvement in his crops, Seferino Cosme, a farmer from the Philippines said the type of corn he was growing had made a big difference to his life: "I want my co-farmers and all the other farmers in the country to experience the good life - just as we do." This is indicative of the real and tangible benefits plant biotechnology can bring.

It is of course vital that public concern about plant biotechnology is taken on board and consumers are completely confident in the technology. It is therefore important that independent assessment and regulation of the technology, the products, and the uses are stringently maintained and enforced. In doing so, we can embrace the opportunities and contribute towards a healthier and more sustainable planet.
Marian Byron is director of the Irish BioIndustry Association


To Help Malnourished People: Benefits of Golden Rice Not Yet Recognized

- Delta Farm Press, March 3, 2006

It could be another five years before farmers in developing countries can grow Golden Rice to help malnourished people, according to the German biochemist who started work on the project 15 years ago. "I'm hoping we can be effective in one or two countries by 2010, said Peter Beyer, professor from the University of Freiburg, Germany.

Beyer came to the LSU AgCenter's Rice Research Station last summer to collect maturing Golden Rice for nutritional analysis. Field trials for Golden Rice, a genetically modified plant, started last year at the Rice Station at Crowley, La. It was the first time the new variety was grown outside of greenhouses anywhere in the world.

Golden Rice got its name from the yellowish color in the rice from its high level of beta carotene, a nutrient converted to vitamin A after it is eaten. People deficient in vitamin A can develop blindness and become more susceptible to disease and infection. The Humanitarian Board overseeing the Golden Rice project estimates that as many as 500,000 people become blind annually because of a vitamin A deficiency.

Work started on the project in 1990 after its proposal by the Rockefeller Foundation. Beyer said the LSU AgCenter's Rice Research Station was chosen for trials because it was recommended by the agricultural company Syngenta. Beyer said the recommendation was a good one. "When possible, I would prefer to have these field trials at this station," Beyer said.

David Boethel, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for research, said the program speaks well for the Rice Research Station's stature. "The fact that our Rice Research Station was chosen to conduct these trials is a testament to the respect the research programs at the Rice Station have among the international rice research community," Boethel said.

"The Rice Research Station has a great deal of experience and expertise in research with transgenic rice," Steve Linscombe, the LSU AgCenter's regional director for Southwest Louisiana, said. "We feel our contributions to this research can expedite delivery of this technology to areas where it can have the greatest benefit while perhaps changing some perceptions on the value of GMOs (genetically modified organisms).".

This year, the second planting of the rice at the Rice Station is being analyzed by nutritionists from Tufts University who will determine the shelf life for the beta carotene in Golden Rice. The original version drew criticism that large amounts of it would have to be eaten to get enough vitamin A to overcome a deficiency. Beyer said the current form of Golden Rice has an increased amount of beta carotene - perhaps 23 times as much as the original form. That advancement was accomplished by using a gene from maize.

For the initial version, Beyer used two daffodil genes to produce beta carotene in rice. Opposition came quickly from critics who said Golden Rice may be tainted because a chemical in daffodils includes a poisonous alkaloid, Beyer said. But Beyer said the poisonous substance is not expressed by the daffodil genes used in Golden Rice.

The new form of rice, which uses American long-grain rice as a basis, has to be developed into a pure line that produces a consistent and uniform plant. Beyer said efforts also will be made to develop Golden Rice to contain iron to combat anemia, which is suffered by as much as a third of the world's population. The German scientist said once those steps are accomplished, the new rice will be crossed with rice varieties suited for India and Southeast Asia because "Golden Rice is intended for developing countries.".

Since the project is a humanitarian endeavor, numerous companies such as Syngenta have waived 70 intellectual property rights for technology used to develop this genetically modified rice, Beyer said. Once Golden Rice is released, farmers will not have to pay a technology fee for the seed, and they will be allowed to keep seed to plant for the next crop.

Beyer said the United States was chosen to start the process to avoid governmental red tape that would have bogged down the project in many other countries. He admits that, after 15 years of work, he gets frustrated with the regulations that have hindered progress.

"The regulations in many countries, I think, are overdoing it," he said. China is eager to adopt genetically modified plants, he said, but that's not the case for European nations.

"I am not worried about the science," he said. "I'm worried about the bureaucracy.".

Under current regulations, Beyer said, some countries would have had to ban potatoes and tomatoes because they are the result of genetic alterations through selective breeding or deliberate mutations.

Beyer said needless regulations and unfounded fears are standing in the way of helping millions of malnourished people. "We have millions of people losing their sight and quality of life from vitamin A deficiency," he said. "It's the same as several tsunami waves a year.".


Take THAT, Dr. Atkins

- Erik Stokstad, ScienceNOW, Feb. 28 2006


Pasta, bread, crackers: Supermarket shelves are lined with products made from wheat. And that's not necessarily a good thing. When wheat is highly processed, the body converts its starches into sugar, potentially contributing to obesity and diabetes. Now a team of researchers has engineered a new variety of the grain that avoids those drawbacks by holding onto its starch as fiber.

Starch consists of a mix of two kinds of molecules: amylopectin and amylose. Amylopectin is a branched molecule that remains fairly soluble in the digestive tract, allowing enzymes to break it down quickly into sugar. The long chains of glucose that make up amylose, in contrast, form clumps that resist digestion. Plant breeders have successfully created corn with less amylopectin and more amylose, which has been marketed as health foods because the body is less able to turn it into sugar.

The starch level of wheat has been tougher to manipulate. But recently, a team led by Matthew Morell of CSIRO Plant Industry in Canberra, Australia, has discovered which genes impact starch formation in an experimental variety of wheat. When they damped down the expression of two of these genes, called SBEIIa and SBEIIb, the relative amount of indigestible amylose in the starch rose to almost 75%, compared to 25% in typical grain. "We were pretty excited," says Morell.

The team then milled the grain, made pellets, and fed them to six rats for 13 days. Compared to six rats that ate standard wheat, these rats had signs of healthier bowels, such as more than twice as much short chain fatty acids--one kind of which may lower the risk of colorectal cancer. Next, the group plans to conduct feeding trials in pigs. They hope to use the findings, reported online today in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, to help traditional wheat breeders achieve the same results without the controversy of genetic engineering (ScienceNOW, 20 January 2004).

The popularity of this new wheat will depend on the quality of the flour, says Alan McHughen of the University of California, Riverside, who has worked on wheat. "Any genetic change to the wheat starch will impose a change to the flour characteristics. And this will raise a red flag to the millers and bakers, a notoriously conservative group who view any change to their 'perfect' food with great suspicion." Morell says his team has concocted a few breads and bakery products, and the flour "is pretty good to work with."


Ten Years of Biotech Gaffes

- John Hodgson, Nature Biotechnology Commentary; Published online: 1 March 2006; Excerpt below...; Full text (subscription) at http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060306/full/nbt0306-270.html

'Much of biotech's success has been built on lessons learned from mistakes. But the past ten years has also witnessed mistakes many in biotech would prefer to forget.'

On the occasion of Nature Biotechnology's 10th anniversary, it would seem right and proper to celebrate some of biotech's greatest achievements. But I shall leave the plaudits to others, elsewhere in the journal.

This article is about biotech's memorable gaffes, the deeds or events that their doers would rather forget. In a field of human endeavor where so much is about transforming something that is hardly known into plausible products for unserved markets, it would be surprising if no mistakes were made along that tricky way. From the appointment of the wrong executives to the misworded legal document, most biotech companies are replete with everyday errors, the kind of mistakes that could happen to anyone and which are readily and rapidly correctable, almost before anyone finds out. I will be leaving such trifles unconsidered.

What I deal with here are the 'bio-bloopers' that mattered, the events that had, or still have, repercussions for the life science industry or for those who depend on it.

This is not a definitive list of the errors and idiocy prevalent in this industry and the gaffes are presented in no particular order. Other goofs should doubtless have been included, and I encourage readers to send feedback on major omissions to the journal.

Gaffe 3: Muddled messages in agbiotech

Gaffes in the agbiotech area could probably fill an entire article on their own; last year's cockup in which Syngenta (Basel, Switzerland) admitted that it has been selling an unapproved transgenic corn seed, Bt10, to US farmers between 2001 and 2004, being a recent example. But industry is not wholly culpable for lukewarm public acceptance and stigmatization of transgenic crop technology.

In November 2001, Nature published a paper by David Quist and Ignacio Chapela of the University of Berkeley, California, that purported to show that transgenic DNA constructs had been found in farmers' landrace maize varieties cultivated in remote parts of Mexico, the center of genetic diversity of the crop. This work caused consternation in environmental circles, with renewed calls from activist organizations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth for moratoria and outright bans on transgenic crops. The Mexican government reacted to the paper by amending its genetic modification regulations, making bench researchers liable for breaches of the rules and by banning the export or import of any form of recombinant DNA.

It subsequently transpired that the Quist and Chapela paper was technically flawed. The method of inverse PCR used to detect the transgenes was suspect, and Quist and Chapela were unable to provide samples to enable other researchers to analyze their findings. By April 4, 2002, Nature itself had disavowed the paper (although the authors still stand by their findings) with an editorial note that indicated it would not have published the paper had the criticisms that arose after publication arisen during the review process. A subsequent study of 150,000 samples from Mexican maize failed to find a single sample in which transgenes were detected, this despite the analysis having been carried out by Genetic ID (Fairfield, IA, USA), the favorite DNA diagnostics company of Yogic flyers.

The fallout. With so many of the groups ideologically opposed to transgenic crops able to exploit the media, scare the public and perpetuate myths and conspiracy theories about genetic engineering over the Internet, prestigious journals should be aware of the long-lasting damage resulting from their willingness to widely publicize results that may be contentious or equivocal. Reviewers and editors at journals also have a responsibility to ensure that peer-reviewed data are reliable. Scientific gaffes such as this one, and media distortion of the results of a laboratory study of the effects of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin on Monarch butterfly larvae published before it, certainly contributed to the decline of European agbiotech (from 264 field trials in 1997 to 35 field trials in 2002).

Gaffe 4: European 'novel food' regulation

After years of indecision and wrangling between European Union (EU) member state governments, the European Council agreed on regulations for 'novel foods' in May 1997. A novel food was one, the legislation said, that was not "substantially equivalent" to something already on the market. The logical thinkers in science and industry concluded that many genetically modified (GM) foods would be substantially equivalent to existing types and therefore they would escape additional and meaningless labeling. However, the EU Novel Food Regulations had not defined how equivalence or nonequivalence would be determined or indeed how big 'substantial' is.

In the event, substantial turned out to mean that if any smidgeon of protein product or recombinant DNA could be detected, then the food would fail the "substantial equivalence" test. Substantial thus meant "detectable by the most refined genetic or protein test." Improved PCR-based methods, often developed in collaboration with the European Commission's Joint Research Centers in Ispra, Italy and Geel, Belgium, meant that any food over which a GM grain or bean had breathed was no longer substantially equivalent, not withstanding the fact that the genetic modification in question had no material impact on the product. Consequently, all food containing any amount of GM flour or GM rapeseed oil had to be labeled "contains GM ingredients" or "may contain GM ingredients."

The fallout. The opponents of genetic modification were quick to act within the logical void. They tested unlabeled food products and publicized the results. They promulgated boycotts of supermarket chains and retailers throughout Europe and the United States until each of the companies signed up to a GM-free policy. One-by-one these giant corporate pussycats not only bowed to this unreasoned pressure but made marketing capital from it. 'GM-free' labels now shout out emptily from every supermarket floor in Europe.

The take-home lesson: don't expect political fights to be clean and don't expect big business to support logic when markets are at risk.


Vienna Expert Sees "No Increased Danger" of GM Contamination

- Der Standard (Austria) http://derstandard.at ; Translated by Checkbiotech.org

Vienna - Austrian Professor criticizes the low threshold values for the contamination of ordinary seeds with transgenic seeds. Vienna expert Josef Gloessl, Professor at the Institute of Applied Genetics and Cellular Biology at the Agricultural University (Universitaet fuer Bodenkultur), sees "no increased danger" due to cultivation of transgenic organisms (GMO).

The advocate of genetic engineering criticizes the low threshold values for the mixing of ordinary seeds with genetically modified seeds. These low threshold values would significantly increase the cost of controls Ė in case the cultivation of transgenic plants was allowed in Austria.

"The maximal 'contamination' is set at zero percent, which makes the cultivation of transgenic varieties practically impossible, because, depending on the species, it would make it necessary to maintain wide spaces between fields with transgenic and conventional varieties," said Gloessl in an interview with APA.

"Should one accept the recommendation of the European Commission, which suggests a threshold of 0.9 percent, then both types of agriculture could coexist side by side and enable the freedom of choice for the farmers," Gloessl noted.

No negative influences
Professor Gloessl rejected suggestions that genetically engineered plants have negative influence on the environment. "You can only talk about an effect on nature where there are naturally occurring related varieties, which could cross with transgenic varieties. This is clearly not the case with corn, since in Europe, corn has no living relations. Therefore no crossing can occur," said Gloessl.

However, with rapeseed, crossing could take place, and that is why even the transportation of transgenic rapeseed is being viewed with a critical eye, since the possibility of crossing could occur. Gloessl supports case-to-case and region-to-region evaluation of the risks and usefulness of transgenic varieties. The result of these evaluations could differ from species to species and from region to region.

Advantages for conventional agriculture.
Gloessl also referred to possible advantages of GMOs in conventional agriculture. "Due to their herbicides resistance, farmers could use sprays more selectively, instead of the usual 'prophylactic' weed eradication. The herbicides could be used also at a later time, due to the built-in genetic resistance of the transgenic varieties. That would reduce the total amount of herbicides being used."

"In addition, Bt-corn varieties - which produce a protein that stops the Corn Borer - would give users additional advantages," said the scientist. "The control of the bug infestation would on one side, increase yield-security, and at the same time, decrease the occurrence of poisonous fungi in corn. So called Fusariem create mycotoxins whose prolonged consumption is harmful to our health."


Students Create Plant That Glows When Thirsty

- Reuters, March 7, 2006

SINGAPORE - Some people like to talk to their plants. Now, students at Singapore Polytechnic say they have created a plant that can communicate with people -- by glowing when it needs water.

The students said on Tuesday that they have genetically modified a plant using a green fluorescent marker gene from jellyfish, so that it "lights up" when it is stressed as a result of dehydration.
The light is hard to detect with the naked eye but can be seen using an optical sensor developed in collaboration with students at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University. The development of such plants could help farmers to develop more efficient irrigation of crops.


India: Mahyco-Monsanto Reduces Technology Fee on Authentic Bollgard I Cottonseed

C Kameswara Rao, March 6, 2006, Foundation for Biotech Awareness and Education, India; krao#vsnl.com,http://fbae.blogs.com

Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech (MMB), the holders of the technology rights for Bollgard I, the bollworm tolerant Bt cotton in India, have decided to reduce the technology fee on Bollgard I containing Cry 1Ac gene, in the coming cotton season of 2006. The Bollgard technology is currently sub-licensed by MMB to about 20 seed companies in India.

In the 2006 cotton season, technology fee will be Rs.900 per 450 g packet of Bollgard I cottonseed adequate to sow in an acre, about 30 per cent less than the cost in the last season. In 2005 farmers paid about Rs. 1,750 for a 450 g packet of authentic Bt cottonseed, which also contained the required quantity of non-Bt seed for planting the refugium.

As there is no official policy to control the pricing of seed sold to the farmers in India, the seed companies price their produce as per their own compulsions. In 2005, the cost of authentic Bt cottonseed ranged from Rs. 1,600 to 1,800, depending upon the sub-licensee company, when they were expected to charge a trade margin of about 17 per cent on the MMB price of Rs. 1,450. The illegal Bt cottonseed was sold between Rs. 800 to 1,000, and non-Bt cottonseed costs about Rs. 450 to 500 per packet.

The cost of Bollgard I seed has become a highly contentious issue in recent months. The Minister for Agriculture, Government of Andhra Pradesh, stated that Monsanto was collecting technology fees of about Rs 34 in China, Rs 108 in US and Rs 1,250 in India. While the veracity of this statement regarding China and US has to be verified, the cost of a packet of Bt cottonseed required for one acre in India and elsewhere cannot be directly compared, as in India cotton hybrids are used while in other countries open pollinated varieties are used, each requiring a different seed rate. In India cotton is planted in rows and the quantity of seed required to sow in one acre varies from country to country, depending upon agronomic practices.

The Government of Andhra Pradesh is reported to have sued MMB before the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) in the matter of seed prices in India as well as certain conditions in the agreement between MMB and the sub-licensees. This petition is of interest to the Bollgard I sub-licensees, since they can avoid payment of the technology fee, if the petition was successful.

The reduction of technology fee by MMB is a welcome decision since it takes some wind out of the anti-tech campaign on the basis of seed costs. The sub-licensees should now adopt a uniform policy on pricing Bollard seed and pass on the margin of reduction of technology fee to the farmers. This will reduce the difference in seed cost between authentic and illegal Bt cottonseed and would encourage the farmers to go for authentic Bollgard. Since there are 20 different genuine tested Bollgard varieties to suit every major cotton growing area, the chances of the farmers opting for Bollgard will be very high. The Bt cottonseed companies should ensure high seed germination percentage and upgrade their management advisory services to the farmer, to reduce errors that affect the yield.

The Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB), which also conducts market surveys on behalf of the Government of India, conducted a survey of the performance of Bollgard I Bt cotton in 2004 and their report for the 2005 cotton seasons is under processing. Preliminary information from IMRBís survey that covered 4,000 cotton farmers indicates that in 2005 Bollgard I was grown on about 3.1 million acres, in nine States. It is estimated that there was a 64 per cent increase in Bollgard yields over non-Bt cotton. This works to about Rs. 6,727 as additional income per acre, with expenditure on pesticides down by 25 per cent.

In view of the bright prospects for Bt cotton in the 2005 season, MMB and their sub-licensees should do everything possible to create a credible market situation for Bollgard seed and gain the confidence of the farmer in the coming season.

The decision to reduce technology fee by MMB is described as a business decision undertaken every year, in order to best meet current market conditions. In spite of several suggestions to reduce Bollgard seed costs, it was not done earlier, may be for business compulsions. However, such a move has now become inescapable for three reasons:

a) The mounting charge that Bt cottonseed costs are excessive.
b) Bollgard II containing two stacked genes, Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab, is expected to be available for the 2007 season, if not earlier. The costs of Bollgard I have to come down before Bollgard II hits the market. Technological superiority alone will not entice the farmer; the seed costs of Bollgard II also should be affordable and commensurate with the benefits.
c) 2006 is seeing a specific combination of factors such as the acceptance of the technology, large scale availability of approved Bollgard seed and the less than acceptable performance of illegal Bt seed in the country, all of which make it possible for the technology to penetrate the market in a big way, with the new price.

It is in the interests of MMB and its sub-licensees to stick together, to be transparent and credible, in order to face the onslaught on technology and to deliver a functional technology at reasonable costs.


A Modest Proposal for JIGMOD

- Tom DeGregori, Professor of Economics, University of Houston - trdegreg#uh.edu -

I note that listed under Performers at at the BioETHICS 2006 Conference Schedule is an event title "Raw Organic Creations by local raw chefs." Does this mean that some people like their Chefs to be cooked along with their food? If so, what is served with them? And are they creating it or preparing it? The thought of "Organic" food created by Chefs frightens me!

I see that with the big JIGMOD Jamboree that the anti-GM organic agriculture proponents have joined forces with the raw food folks. If you are an organic agriculture enthusiast as part of being a rebel against modern science, technology and the civilization that they have helped to create then why stop at going back to 19th century agriculture. Whatever else, our 19th century progenitors did believe in cooking. If one is moving rapidly backwards then why not go all the way to the emergence of our species. If one is going to back a century or more, why not go back 100,000 years or more. Now that is really cutting edge.

It is generally recognized in Anthropology that the use of fire and cooking played a central role in the in the biological and social evolution of our hominid ancestors. Cooking and other forms of food preparation have played a vital role in regularizing food supply, making more foods accessible (e.g. making more of the living matter of the environment food for humans), unlocking more of the nutrients in the food that was eaten, and making it safer.

"Eating closer to nature" has become the latest imperative of the food faddist. Eating raw organic food is what was intended for us by good old Mother Nature. This means of course eating food raw (not irradiated) whenever possible which carries considerable risks particularly if you have a preference for using manure instead of fertilizer and you are against using chemical protection against microbial infestation. Whatever "nature intended," our biological endowment tells us otherwise as Homo sapiens dentation and digestive tract clearly indicate. These changes in physiology were part of a process that produced larger brains and erect posture, freeing the hands for tool making and it is highly likely that control of fire and cooking played a critical role in this evolutionary transformation.

If the folks at JIGMOD really want to be cutting edge, they can carry their beliefs to their logical absurdity. What has to be close to the ultimate in anti-modernism thought, if you can dignify it by calling it thought, comes John Zerzan who argues that humankind made a "monstrously wrong turn" with the development of speech and symbolic thinking (John Zerzan, Future Primitive in Limited Wants, Unlimited Means: A Reader on Hunter Gatherer Economics and the Environment edited by John Gowdy, Washington: Island Press, 1998). Of course, it does not seem to bother Zerzan that he uses symbolic thinking and language to express his disdain for symbolic thinking and language. Quite possibly, JIGMOD could add a session titled "Back to the Paleolithic and Beyond" in which the participants could take off their Butterfly costumes and rail against the use of symbols - Up with Feelings, Down with Thinking!

Some additional program suggestions for JIGMOD program:

1) Change the date to April 1st and ask the Governor of the State of Illinois to declare that it is officially April 1st for the duration of their meeting.

2) Have the delegates from Mendacino Country where they passed a resolution that defined DNA as a "complex protein found in every cell in the body" give a seminar in molecular biology and genomics to the science departments of one of the Universities in the Chicago area. I am sure that they would wish to learn about this Nobel Prize caliber discovery.

3) Bring in Mae Wan Ho and her ISIS Homeopathy advocating associates also to present a University seminar on the mechanism by which "molecules have memory." I am sure that this would be of great interest to the scientists. Chuck Benbrook undoubtedly can provide the statistics to prove it and has probably advised the last five U.S. Presidents on its significance.


Learning to Speak Science

- Chris Mooney, Seed, Feb/March 2006. Excerpt below... Full article at http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2006/01/learning_to_speak_science.php?page=all&p=y

'Chris Mooney offers a few suggestions on how the scientific community can win back its political influence in America.'

"What we defenders of science must realize, if we want to combat political attacks effectively, is that we have much to learn about political communication and strategizing. Ideally, and in the best spirit of science, we should view the current political quandary as a problem to be addressed through trial and error--empirical attempts to determine what actually works when it comes to translating science for the general public.

Those of us who care about science had better learn to address and win over this audience, and not just on specific issues like evolution and climate change. We must also explain the nature of the scientific method and the societal importance of scientific knowledge. "One of the biggest explanatory holes thatís waiting to be filled by somebody is: What is the role of science in a democracy?" notes Cultural Logic's Joseph Grady.

It's a massive challenge, but then, so was every other challenge that scientists have faced. Luckily, the scientific method has led to spectacular successes. Now we must apply that method to the greatest and most crucial challenge of all -- teaching the American public."


Training Workshops on Building Capacity to Set Priorities for Ag Biotech in West and Central Africa

- Dakar, Senegal - May 1-5, 2006; CORAF/WECARD

The West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD) will be organizing two training workshops in March and May 2006, aimed at building capacity for priority setting on agricultural biotechnology in the West and Central Africa (WCA) sub-region.

Details at http://www.coraf.org/documents/Call%20for%20candidate%20participants%20En.pdf