Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org - March 13, 2006
* Italian Impasse - Your Support Needed in the Letter to EU
* 'Distracter' Son of 'Terminator'
* World Treaty on GMO Trade Set to Spark New Tensions
* Global Actors, Markets and Rules Driving the Diffusion of GM Crops in
* Yuck...Those Darned Fish Genes in My Strawberry!
* Ungrateful Indians!
Italian Impasse - Your Support Needed in the Letter to EU
European Science and Research Commissioner
European Environment Commissioner
European Agriculture Commissioner
'Field trials with Genetically Modified Organisms are basically at a
standstill in Italy since 2000. '
This situation stems from a political choice taken by the then Italian
Agriculture Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio. Following the moratorium on
the approval of the new genetically modified products, in 2000 he ordered
his officials not to authorize anymore the importation of GM seed samples
for field trials. This ban aroused the fervent protest of the Italian
scientific community, causing serious embarrassment to the outgoing
With the formation of the new government in 2001, the scientific community
was hoping for a change of political direction in regard to GMO field
trials. In the last years, representatives of the scientific world have
repeatedly expressed their claims, and the Italian leading scientific
associations have subscribed many official documents aimed to find an
agreement on GMO safety and on the necessity to resume an extensive field
trials program, in order to evaluate their impact on the Italian agronomic
system. Nonetheless, the Italian government, despite ample assurances by
the Undersecretary to the Italian Government Gianni Letta and by the
Minister of Agriculture Gianni Alemanno, has not responded to the demands
of the scientific community, perpetuating a situation of standstill by
means of a set of bureaucratic bargains involving regional governments.
Italy converted the new Directive 2001/18/EC into Decree N.224 (8/7/2003),
which responded to the following specific needs: a) to update the
authorization procedures by introducing stricter regulations on the
environmental and health factors linked to the deliberate release of GM
plants into the environment; b) to overcome the EU and National moratoria
on production and commercialization of GMOs by introducing traceability
rules on GM products. On the other hand, this decree also specifies (art.
8, 6) that its application is linked not only to the regulations defined
by EU Directive, but also to further prescriptions aimed to preserve
agrobiodiveristy and to be defined by the Minister of Agriculture (not
envisaged by Directive 2001/18).
This overregulation generated a long debate among the experts appointed by
the Minister of Agriculture. The result was the issuing of two new decrees
(Decree N.5 28/01/05 on coexistence and Decree N.72 29/03/2005 providing
prescriptions for the preservation of agrobiodiversity), whose application
must be preceded by the publication of technical protocols. To this date
the required ‘technical protocols’ are still not available. Therefore in
Italy the very procedures provided by Directive 2001/18, and implemented
by almost all member states, are actually, even though not explicitly,
The subscribers of the present document deem this situation as
unacceptable and unworthy of a country which acknowledges among the
essential principles of its Constitution the promotion of research.
Therefore we would ask the heads of the European Commission to immediately
intervene, adopting the measures provided by the concerned agreements, in
order to allow Italian researchers to resume their work
* Prof. Drew Kershen - University of Oklahoma, College of Law (Expert on
Agricultural Biotechnology Law & Policy)
* Prof. T. Michael A. Wilson - University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
* Prof. Vivian Moses - King's College and CropGen, London
* Prof. Francesco Sala – University of Milano, Italy (expert of GMO plants
and of plant biodiversity)
* Prof. Bruno Mezzetti – Università di Ancona (export of GMO trial)
* Prof. Richard T. Roush - University of California, Davis, USA (expert of
* Prof. Richard Braun - Schulweg 14, 3013 Bern, Switzerland
* Prof. C. S. Prakash - College of Agriculture, Tuskegee University,
Tuskegee, AL, USA
* Dr. Barbara Basso – C.N.R., Expert on vaccine production in GMO plants,
* Dr. Roberto Defez – CNR, Istituto di Genetica e Biofisica "A. Buzzati
* Prof.ssa Alessandra Gentile, Dipartimento di ortofloroarboricoltura e
Università di Catania, IT
* Prof. Daniele Bassi, Dipartimento di Produzione Vegetale, Università di
* Prof. Angelo Spena, Università di Verona, IT
Dear AgBioView Readers:
If you wish to be included in the above letter to be sent soon to the
Director General of Research (EU), please send an email to with your name
of your institution and field of scientific interest to:
Professor Sala at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. Bruno Mezzetti at email@example.com
'Distracter' Son of 'Terminator'
- Dave Wood - gight#btinternet.com -
Dave Isaacs wants ammunition to rebut the anti 'Terminator' campaign
(AgBioView 9th March).
Forget it, Dave! The old 'Terminator' campaign is dead. The only supposed
damage that Terminator seed can do to biodiversity is already being done
by a massive acceptance of hybrid seeds, clonal crops such as most fruits
and root crops, and sterile fruit such as seedless oranges and, for more
than a thousand years, naturally Terminated bananas, all of which require
farmers to source new planting material to grow superior products. And if
farmers choose to buy superior seed free of weeds and disease in ordfer to
get better yields, then NGOs will be unable to stop them, as evidenced by
Indian farmers using Bt cotton and farmers worldwide growing Green
The real reason for the current 'Terminator' campaign has nothing to do
with protecting poor farmers or even attacking Monsanto. Its timing gives
the game away. It is now the 'Distracter' campaign. A tired
anti-Terminator campaign has been taken off the shelf, dusted down, and
used to as a tub-thumping time-waster specifically targeted at decision
makers with a tight agenda at the eighth Conference of the Parties (COP)
of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to be held in Brazil March
Why all the synthetic fuss? Because COP, held every two years, is within a
whisker of withdrawing the mandate it once gave to the Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN to regulate access to samples of
key crops in international genebanks. A dozen years ago FAO took the CBD
mandate for crop genetic resources and ran with it. A new FAO Treaty (the
International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources) ignores the country of
origin of samples; establishes a 'multilateral system' that will favour
member states; and taxes use of samples only if patents are claimed on
derivatives. These terms were supposedly negotiated in harmony with the
CBD, yet run strongly counter to the intention of the CBD.
A pre-Conference meeting in Montreal has already recommended that the
Conference of the CBD, rather than FAO, should regulate access to all
samples (the meeting report UNEP/CBD/COP/8/3 from
The full conference will now debate this and could kick the FAO Treaty
It was this possibility that rang alarm bells in RAFI headquarters in
Ottawa. The 'Ban the Terminator' campaign was the result. Delegates to the
CBD COP 8 in Brazil will be browbeaten by endless NGO posturing over
'Terminator'. This distraction of conference delegates is now RAFI's stock
in trade. As RAFI expects, attention will be focussed away from the real
agenda of COP: endorsing rules for access and benefit-sharing over crop
genetic resources to specifically benefit developing countries.
There is now a stand-off between developing countries – with most of the
diversity of valuable crop genetic resources – and developed countries
that need continuing access to crop resources for their plant improvement
programmes. The CBD has 188 parties – that is, almost all countries. The
FAO Treaty has 89 parties, still with a disproportionate number of
developed countries who are trying to get something for free.
Very simply, RAFI is using the usual rag-bag of protest NGOs to protect
free access by Canadian plant breeders and farmers to crop genetic
resources from developing countries. This should come as no surprise: RAFI
has a history going back to 1994 of manipulating CBD meetings with the aim
of placing international crop genetic resources within an FAO system,
rather than accepting national sovereignty.
And now Vandana Shiva has joined the NGO circus act (AgBioView March 10th).
1) Mooney PR 1994 The World Bank transforms a bio-Conventional proposal
for intergovernmental oversight into a bio-adversity battle over
governance of the CGIAR. Diversity 10 (2), 5-8.
World Treaty on GMO Trade Set to Spark New Tensions
- Jeremy Smith, Reuters, March 10, 2006
BRUSSELS, - Europe may be on a collision course with its major trading
partners as debate heats up over a treaty to regulate the global flow of
genetically modified (GMO) foods, largely rejected by Europeans.
The European Union's sceptical stance on GMOs has long poisoned relations
with biotech-friendly countries like the United States, Canada and
Argentina, where many consumers shrug off claims the products pose health
or environmental risks.
And the EU may have lost moral ground after its GMO import policy was
criticised last month at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in a case
filed against it by the three major GMO growers. But that has not changed
the view of most Europeans who shun GMO maize, soybeans and other crops as
"Frankenstein Foods", leading retailers to keep them off shelves.
>From the WTO, the biotech battleground now shifts to a U.N. treaty, the
Cartagena Protocol, which came into force in 2003 and aims for
transparency and control in world GMO trade The protocol obliges exporters
to provide more information about GMO products like maize and soybeans to
recipient countries to help them decide whether to accept them.
Under its provisions, a nation may reject GMO imports or donations -- even
without scientific proof -- if it fears they pose a danger to traditional
crops, undermine local cultures or cut the value of biodiversity to
indigenous communities. As of early March, 132 countries had signed the
But the United States, where companies like Monsanto are large producers
of GMO seed, has not signed and looks unlikely to do so anytime soon.
Along with major GMO exporters Canada, Australia and Argentina, the United
States says GMO crops are safe, can increase yields and resist destructive
Europe, more cautious on biotechnology, thinks differently and has
introduced tough rules on GMO traceability and labelling in food and
animal feed that go beyond the Cartagena provisions. Diplomats say
developing nations, mostly those in Asia and Africa that need food aid,
are caught between the two powers. Although many African nations are prone
to food shortages, countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique have
voiced concerns about accepting biotech maize donations.
Slow Progress. Negotiations on the treaty's implementation and enforcement
have moved very slowly, with the next meetings set for Curitiba in
southern Brazil starting next week. Key issues to be debated will be
economic liability and documentation of GMO shipments. Little progress is
expected on liability, where discussions have focused recently on areas
like handling and transport of GMO cargoes, defining "damages", and how
far any responsibility should lie with the exporting or importing country.
"We are not saying 'no' to liability, but are concerned that there still
appears to be a push for an all-encompassing, unworkable and unmanageable
regime under the protocol," said Michael Leader at CropLife International,
a Brussels-based federation representing the global plant science
industry. "A lot still needs to be spelled out," said Leader, CropLife's
international regulatory policy manager for agricultural biotechnology.
The Brazil meeting instead should focus on paperwork and labelling
requirements. These are a big concern for biotech companies, which
complain they would face hefty extra costs for testing export cargoes for
the presence of gene-altered grains. "Documentation is the big issue, the
key thing to trigger the whole protocol, for whether it works or not --
and whether countries have the right to know what's being imported," said
Adrian Bebb, GMO campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.
So far, shipments of GMOs destined for use in industrial processing, food
and animal feed, must be labelled as "may contain GMOs". Green groups are
very keen to tighten this requirement, as are some Third World importers
Biotech companies do not agree, saying the wording is already tough enough
and anything more might hamper trade. Other unresolved areas are the
threshold for the percentage content of GMO material that may exist by
chance in a non-GMO cargo and compliance, where the EU is believed to want
legal and financial penalties for anyone flouting the treaty's provisions.
The New Global Biosociety: Innovation, Security and Development
- Special Issue in International Journal of Biotechnology (IJBT), Volume:
8 - Issue: 1/2, 2006
Global Actors, Markets and Rules Driving the Diffusion of GM Crops in
- Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, International J Technology and Globalisation (IJTG),
Vol. 2, No. 1/2, 2006; - sakiko.fukuda-parr#undp.org -
Abstract: The theme of this special issue - genetically modified (GM)
crops - goes to the heart of the process of globalisation, technology and
development. This introductory essay explains how this new technology is
being driven by the actors (multinational corporations), markets (large
global markets) and rules (intellectual property) of globalisation. But
it is also shaped by the other national and global actors (farmers,
research scientists, anti-globalisation and environmental NGOs), markets
(national priorities) and rules (national biosafety).
The papers in this issue address some policy questions for developing
countries: markets that are too small for corporate sector, or to be kept
GM free, or dominated by monopoly products; the rules of intellectual
property rights and the enforcement of biosafety regulation. Developing
countries need to develop policy approaches that are specific to its own
unique set of circumstances.
See also "Are Genetically Modified (GM) Crops a Commercial Risk for
Africa? by Robert Paarlberg" at
Yuck...Those Darned Fish Genes in My Strawberry!
- GMO Pundit Blog, March 11, 2006
'Natural GMOs Part 14 - Surprise on The Trans-Siberian Express'
Are you worried about scientists putting animal genes into plants to
develop GM crops?
Are you horrified when you see Greenpeace's ad vilifying GM food by
showing fish genes in strawberries?
The whole topic of genes being moving between different species seems to
give most people the shudders. Its the modern equivalent of Darwin saying
that humans are descended from monkeys to devout believers in the literal
meaning of the Bible.
But worry no more... Mother Nature has been doing it all along, for
example in the fruit-fly whose scientific name is Drosophila melanogaster.
You also shouldn't worry that scientists have deliberately put human or
animal genes in food, as there are none in current commercial GMO foods.
Readers may well be questioning my sanity in mentioning the fruit-fly
Drosophila in a blog primarily devoted to agricultural technology. "What's
this nut up to now", you'll be thinking. But bear with me, after briefly
getting even more wacko I will arrive at a surprising and important ending.
My tale starts with a recent remarkable publication describing the genetic
content of the fruit fly, which reports the work of Slavic scientists
Vladimir Kapitonov and Jerzy Jurka who did a comprehensive computer
investigation of fruit-fly's genes.....
- 'Untrustworthy Indians' Chandrabhan Prasad, The Pioneer (New Delhi,
India), Sunday, March 12, 2005
Can India trust the United States? "No", said 61 per cent Indians in a
nationwide poll conducted by a Delhi based publication. The question
is-has US ever betrayed India or broke a promise which she had had given
to India? If not, then what makes a majority of Indians think that the 'US
As a matter of fact, the US has been exceptionally magnanimous toward
India. After partition, Western Punjab, India's wheat bowl, had gone to
Pakistan. A food crisis awaited India. A spell of successive bad monsoons
aggravated situation even more.
By 1955, India was faced with a sever food crisis. Memories of Bengal
famine (1943) were still fresh. Over three million people had died in
Bengal famine. During famine, people had begun eating leaves, banyan
fruits hitherto eaten by animals and birds.
India had ran out of options. Chinese were already dying of starvation.
Russia didn't have any grain to spare. The war ravaged Europe was in no
position to help others. Even if there was food available in the world
market, India didn't any foreign currency to buy it.
India in 1955 thus had only two options - either leave millions of its
people to starve, or some Goddess came in with millions of tones of food
as a free gift. It was at this point of time the US came to rescue. India
signed a PL 480 wheat import deal with US in 1956.
The US was to supply 3.1 million tones of wheat annually for three years.
Since India didn't have foreign currency to pay for even the
transportation cost. The magnanimous US agreed to accept the money in
By 1966, volume of PL 480 wheat import had gone up to 10.36 million tones
By 1971, US was faced with a very moral dilemma as one fifth of India's
currency had accumulated in the US account in New Delhi. The US didn't
know what to do with that Himalayan money.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the then US Ambassador to India, requested his
Government to write off this debt as India was neither in any position to
pay it in foreign currency, and nor the US has any usefulness of the
Approved by the Government, Mr Patrick issued a cheque worth $1.26 billion
(about Rs 50 billion) to the Government of India writing off that massive
debt. That cheque is considered as one of the largest amount of donation
given to any nation.
The US however, knew that the PL 480 free feast was no solution to India's
food problem. India too recognised that reality. If India had to become
self-sufficient, there must be a revolution in its agriculture. But who
would help accomplish that task?
Again, US stepped in to transform India. Sponsored by Rockefeller
Foundation, America sent agronomist Norman E Borlaug, Father of the Green
Revolution, to replicate his Mexican experiment in India. He successfully
produced Sharbati Sonora variety of high yielding wheat. With that,
Borlaug had implanted a Green Revolution for India as well.
During 50s' and 60s', over three thousand American agro-scientists had
worked in India. Over six thousand Indian scientists were trained in
American during the same period.
American agro-scientists helped India to establish chain of agricultural
universities in States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan,
Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. "Over
300 American Professors gave more than 700 teaching years of service to
India", says an India supportive website.
The present day Punjab, Haryana, and West UP became motherland of the
Green Revolution. This highly fertile landmass however, had neither water
and nor electricity.
To make this region green one needed to make a Bhakra Dam over Sutlej.
But, who would do it? On a personal initiative of Pandit Nehru, US sent
Harvey Stocum to build Bhakra Dam.
Completed by early 60s', three times taller than Qutub Minar, Bhakra Dam
is considered one of the greatest engineering marvels of the 20th Century.
The US thus, turned a famine prone India into a food exporting nation in
less than half a century. US saved millions of Indians from dying, and
saved India's honour by transforming a perpetual food importer to a food
exporter nation. A million and half Indians are having fun in the US, and
another million got jobs due to outsourcing phenomenon.
Yet, 61 per cent Indians can't trust America. How untrustworthy Indians
Read more about green revolution and Norman Borlaug at
and also at: