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March 14, 2006


Why GM is Good for Us; Crop Breeding Farce; Campus Strikes Back; Prince Philip Does 180; Civil Bloggers


Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org - March 14, 2006

* Why GM is Good for Us - 'may be greener than organic'
* Crop Breeding Farce
* EC Opposes EU-wide Policy on GM Crop Co-existence
* Co-existence – Choice or Denial?
* The Campus Strikes Back
* Plants May Have Potential to Vaccinate Against HIV
* Significant Milestones In Biotech Acceptance
* Bt Cotton Makes Rapid Strides; India Well Poised..
* GM and Human Health
* Prince Philip Does Charles, and Exposes His Ignorance
* Zambia is Right to Reject GM Crops
* .... More Idiocy from Southern Africa....Zimbabwe Bans Sanitary pad Gifts from SA
* Irish Pro-GM Blogger Compared to a Nazi
* Anti-GM bloggers indulging in rational and civil discourse....

Why GM is Good for Us

Lee Silver, Newsweek, March 20, 2006 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11786176/site/newsweek/

'Genetically modified foods may be greener than organic ones'

Farm-raised pigs are dirty, smelly animals that get no respect. They're also an environmental hazard. Their manure contains phosphorus, which, when it rains, runs off into lakes and estuaries, depleting oxygen, killing fish, stimulating algae overgrowth and emitting greenhouse gases. During the 1980s, phosphorus pollution killed all aquatic life in the 42km-long Mariager Fjord of Denmark-an ecological disaster that prompted European governments to impose strict regulations on pig farming. It didn't solve the problem.

Doing away with the pig is not an option. Pigs provide more dietary protein, more cheaply, to more people than any other animal. Northern Europe still maintains the highest pig-to-human ratio in the world (2-1 in Denmark), but East Asia is catching up. During the 1990s, pork production doubled in Vietnam and grew by 70 percent in China-along densely populated coastlines, pig density exceeds 100 animals per square kilometer. The resulting pollution is "threatening fragile coastal marine habitats including mangroves, coral reefs and sea grasses," according to a report released in February by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

As it turns out, there is a solution to the pig problem, but it requires a change of mind-set among environmentalists and the public. Two Canadian scientists have created a pig whose manure doesn't contain very much phosphorus at all. If this variety of pig were adopted widely, it could greatly reduce a major source of pollution. But the Enviropig, as they call it, is the product of genetic modification-which is anathema to many Westerners.

The Enviropig is one of many new technologies that are putting environmentalists and organic-food proponents in a quandary: should they remain categorically opposed to genetically modified (GM) foods even at the expense of the environment? Pigs can also be modified to digest grasses and hay (as cows and sheep do), reducing the energy-intensive use of corn as pig feed. Elsewhere, trees grown for paper could be made amenable to much more efficient processing, reducing both energy usage and toxic chemical bleach in effluents from paper mills. The most significant GM applications will be ones that help alleviate the problem of agriculture, which accounts for 38 percent of the world's landmass and is crowding out natural ecosystems and species habitats. GM crops that can be produced more efficiently would allow us to return land to nature.

Standing in opposition to these advances are advocates of an organic food philosophy that holds to the simplistic notion that "natural" is good and "synthetic" is bad. Genetic modification is unacceptable to organic farmers merely because it is performed in a laboratory. Says Charles Margulis, a spokesman for Greenpeace USA, "We think the Enviropig is a Frankenpig in disguise."

Technically, however, all domesticated plants and animals were created by human selection of random mutations that occur in nature. High-energy cosmic rays break chromosomes into pieces that reattach randomly; in this way, nature sometimes creates genes that didn't previously exist. Lab work, however, is more nuanced than nature: scientists can make subtle and precise changes to an organism's DNA. Canadian biologists Cecil Forsberg and John Phillips, for instance, have constructed a novel DNA molecule that, when planted in a pig embryo, imbues the Enviropig with the ability to secrete a phosphorus-extracting enzyme in its saliva. The results so far are dramatic-the new pigs can extract all the phosphorus they need from grain alone, without the phosphorus supplements that farmers now use. This reduces the phosphorus content of their manure by up to 75 percent.

Of course, stringent testing is needed to show that a genetic modification works and that the product is not harmful to humans. Scientists can do both of these things with techniques that allow them to examine and compare the structure and activity of every one of an animal's genes. An added advantage with the Enviropig, in particular, is that the single extra enzyme in its saliva is also present naturally in billions of bacteria inhabiting the digestive tract of every normal human being, which suggests that the Enviropig will be as safe for human consumption as non-GM pigs.

Organic farmers have always boasted that their approach to agriculture is, by its very nature, better for the environment than so-called conventional farming. The European Commission states that "organic farmers use a range of techniques that help sustain ecosystems and reduce pollution." But if you think that concern for the environment will ever persuade organic farmers to accept the Enviropig or any other animal modified to reduce pollution, you'd be wrong. According to self-imposed organic rules, precision genetic modification of any kind for any purpose is strictly forbidden. If conventional farmers begin to grow Enviropigs, organic pig farms will cause much more pollution per animal-unless environmental protection agencies step in and shut them down.

Even in the realm of health, organic food doesn't measure up to the hype. Consumers tend to assume that all organic crops are grown as advertised without chemical pesticides. This is false. Organic farmers can spray their crops with many chemicals including pyrethrin, a highly toxic pesticide, and rotenone, a potent neurotoxin recently linked to Parkinson's disease. Because these substances occur in nature-pyrethrin is produced by chrysanthemums and rotenone comes from a native Indian vine-they are deemed acceptable for use on organic farms.

In fact, although all commonly used pesticides dissipate so quickly that they pose a miniscule health risk to consumers, allergic food reactions to natural products kill hundreds of children each year. Genetically modified foods could greatly reduce this risk. U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist Eliot Herman has already created a less-allergenic soybean-an important crop for baby foods. Through genetic surgery, Herman turned off the soy gene responsible for 65 percent of allergic reactions. Not only was the modified soy less allergenic in tests but, as Herman explained, "the yield looks perfectly normal, plants develop and grow at a normal rate and they seem to have the same kinds of protein, oil and other good stuff in them."

Other scientists have reported promising results in shutting off allergy-causing genes in peanuts and shrimp. Should these advances be turned into products, organic soy or peanut products will be certifiably more dangerous to human health than comparable nonorganic products.

Unfortunately, this won't happen any time soon. Because no society has ever banned allergenic foods, conventional farmers have no incentive to plant reduced-allergy seeds. And many members of the public have been led to believe that all genetic modifications create health risks. In this climate, much of the needed research isn't being pursued. Chances are, farmers will continue to grow their polluting organic pork, their allergenic organic soy and their neurotoxin-sprayed organic apples. Worse still, they will make sure that no one else gets a choice in the matter of improving the conditions of life on earth-unless, that is, others rise up and demand an alternative


Crop Breeding Farce

- David James (Maidstone, Kent, UK) New Scientist, March 11, 2006

Your article on synthetic wheats suggested that one way to avoid the genetically modified label for new strains was to double the chromosome numbers of infertile triploid plants (three chromosomes) by treating them with the chemical colchicine (11 February, p 8).

I'm afraid that, as someone who has led UK research teams that produced polyploid crop plants by this method and by gene transfer using Agrobacterium bacteria, I very much disagree. More importantly it seems that the European Union does too: in 2001 it defined a genetically modified organism (GMO) as, with the exception of human beings, one in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.

The phenotypic changes brought about by chromosome doubling are often much more radical than any produced by gene transfer. In many cases, any member of the public would be able to distinguish chromosome-doubled plants from their parents.

Consider consumers confronted with a dark-green, larger-headed lettuce with greatly increased numbers of teeth on the leaf margins. Being told "it's alright, it's not GM - it's just had its chromosomes doubled by applying chemicals", they would not, I think, be reassured.

It might help to know, however, that a third of Italy's pasta is made from the Creso variety of durum wheat which came directly from a mutation breeding programme in the 1960s. Under the EU definition of GM that means that the whole of Europe has been consuming GM wheat for decades along with thousands of other crop plant varieties.

In other words, the GM crops issue is a complete and utter farce.


EC Opposes EU-wide Policy on GM Crop Co-existence

14/03/2006- The development of EU-wide legislation on the co-existence of genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming is not currently justified, according to a new report from the European Commission.

The report, published on Friday, says the EUs experience with the cultivation of GM crops is limited, and that the introduction of national co-existence measures must first be completed before EU-wide measures are undertaken.

Co-existence measures are the subject of a Commission Recommendation from July 2003. According to the EC, they are designed to ensure that GM crops can be grown along with non-GM crops without negative economic consequences caused by accidental mixing of the two.

The development of efficient and cost-effective strategies to ensure co-existence is vital to ensure a practical choice between GM and non-GM produce for farmers and consumers. This is not a question of health or environmental protection, because no GMOs are allowed on the EU market unless they have been proved to be completely safe, said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for agriculture and rural development.

To ensure that consumers know exactly what they are buying the EU has developed an advanced labelling and traceability system for GMOs. Segregation measures must be in place to ensure that accidental traces of GMOs in conventional or organic products are kept within the strict ranges defined by EU legislation. Growing conditions are very varied from country to country and experience with GM crops is still limited in Europe. It therefore does not seem appropriate to propose unified EU rules at this time.

However, before any decision is taken, an EC conference to discuss the issue, co-hosted with the Austrian presidency, is to be held in Vienna on 5-6 April. Following the conference, the Commission will decide if any further action needs to be taken at EU level.

Co-existence and cross-contamination of conventional and organic crops by GM material has led to heated discussions at both national and European levels with environmental groups pushing for zero tolerance of the material in GM seeds. Opponents to GM crops believe allowing GM seeds will lead to contamination of the food chain that will be difficult to control by farmers and food makers.

And setting the threshold of unavoidable' traces of GM seeds in other products - how much GM material may be tolerated without labelling in batches of conventional seed has been at the core of discussions in Brussels.
Commercial cultivation of GM crops in the EU has so far been limited to two types of GM maize. In Spain, GM maize cultivation amounted to 58,000 hectares in 2004, or about 12 per cent of total Spanish maize cultivation. In other Member States, cultivation is limited to a few hundred hectares. In Spain, GM maize has been grown since 1998 under a non-binding code of good practice.

The Commissions 2003 Recommendation provides guidelines for the development of national strategies and best practices, to help member states develop national legislative or other strategies for co-existence.
Most EU countries are still developing national approaches, with specific co-existence legislation adopted in four member states- Germany, Denmark, Portugal and six of the Austrian Lnder- by the end of 2005. But the EC says that monitoring programmes still have to be set up and implemented in order to verify the effectiveness and economic feasibility of the measures taken.


Co-existence – Choice or Denial?

- Press Release, Brussels, March 13, 2006, http://www.europabio.org

On March 10th 2006, the European Commission reported (1) on the national measures to ensure co-existence of genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming and concluded that the development of EU-wide legislation on the co-existence of genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming "does not appear justified at this time".

What is clear from the Commission report is that while some member states have set in place reasonable science based rules to achieve a fair co-existence regime, others have clearly developed disabling rules that are aimed at denying choice to farmers and consumers.

"We note that the Commissionss report makes reference to these discriminatory and disproportionate measures. We look to the Commission to ensure that the rules which Member States put in place meet the Commission’s own guidelines (2) on co-existence published in July 2003. These guidelines provide a rational basis to set in place procedures to meet the statutory labeling requirements," says Simon Barber, Director of the Plant Biotechnology Unit at EuropaBio – the EU Association for Bioindustries.

Co-existence is not a new issue; many studies and farming practices have been dealing with issues of growing one crop along side another crop (3). The EU has set in place thresholds of 0.9% for GM material found in non-GM crops, under this threshold there is no obligation to label harvested crops as containing GM. The recently published Joint Research Centre Study (4) provides the background scientific and technical data that indicates co-existence can function in the EU and that the Community’s labeling standards can be reasonably achieved. The report concludes that crop production at the 0.9 % threshold set by the EU is feasible, with few or no changes in agricultural practices.

"Those opposed to GMOs should stop using co-existence as a means to deny freedom of choice to Europe's farmers and consumers. The record of successful co-existence between GM and non-GM in Spain since 1998 is proof that co-existence between different farming methods works," concluded Simon Barber.

(1) Commission report on co-existence

(2) Commission guidelines on co-existence

(3) Co-existence of GM and Non GM crops
EuropaBio fact sheet

(4) JRC study - New case studies on the co-existence of GM and non-GM crops in European agriculture


The Campus Strikes Back

- Jeremy Slater, TCS, Mar, 14 2006. Full commentary at

An article of faith for Europe's alternative mindset has been questioned recently, giving some hope that opposition to it is growing along with much-needed support for science over scare-mongering.

At a recent demonstration in Oxford, students, teachers and others showed their support for the building of a biomedical research laboratory to carry out scientific tests on animals. Pro-Test, the group that organized the demonstration was formed by a 16-year-old student, Laurie Pycroft, to counteract the vicious campaign of bullying and intimidation carried out by antivivisection groups such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). These groups have targeted researchers and their families in unpleasant attacks that have included letter bombs being sent to their homes.

However, such intimidation has worked before and public opinion is ignored by campaigners who seek to terrify those that work in laboratories into submission. This has led to scientists leaving the U.K. for work in other countries such as the U.S., as they feel their contribution to society is being ignored. This hurts Britain's science base as well as the economy.

Perhaps the science community should have spoken out before, but too many in it seemed to have hoped someone else would instead. This lack of engagement in open debate has allowed an anti-science culture to establish itself in the U.K. and other parts of Europe and affect advances in other fields of science.

If a stronger case had been made for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture, the take-up might have been as strong in Europe as it has been in the U.S. However, Green lobbying has been highly effective, with the European Union currently maintaining a near-total ban on GMOs in farming. Scientists are arguing more strongly now than before that GMOs offer a chance to feed the world, but their lack of vocal support previously has meant the argument in Europe is lost. Last week a specialist committee set up by the European Commission advised that a decision to start a greater use of GMO crops be put off until 2008 at the earliest.

So, perhaps those plucky hundreds in Oxford were not just protesting against the terror tactics used by their opponents, but against a world in which science and reason has lost out to other forces and a future in which many could die needlessly of disease or starvation. Such a future is, I am sure, not the one that most of those who are against animal testing or GMOs would want. It's a possible future that should appall us all.


Plants May Have Potential to Vaccinate Against HIV


UK scientists have developed a new kind of molecule that they believe could allow for cheaper biopharmaceuticals and ultimately lead to the development of a vaccine against HIV using genetically modified tobacco.

Writing in Plant Biotechnology Journal, Dr Patricia Obregon and colleagues from St George's, University of London and researchers at the University of Warwick say they have overcome a major barrier that has so far frustrated attempts to turn plants into economically viable 'bioreactors' for vaccines.

By creating fusion molecules, the researchers have found a way to make plants produce more of the molecules (antigens) needed for vaccines. At the same time, they may also have discovered a way of producing better targeted vaccines.

Dr Obregon and colleagues are working with the p24 core protein of the HIV virus. This protein plays a central role in eliciting the immune response to HIV infection, and is therefore likely to be an integral part of any multicomponent vaccine for HIV.

Plants have already been used to produce many types of vaccine molecules, but a consistent problem has been achieving adequate levels of protein expression in order to make them viable as bioreactors for vaccines.
Dr Obregon and her colleagues have found a way to significantly boost HIV-1 p24 protein production in plants by producing an entirely new molecule - a fusion of the HIV-1 p24 protein and part of another protein, human immunoglobulin A (IgA) - a major component of the immune system. The team found that the HIV-1p24 antigen produced in this way elicited appropriate immune response in mice.
The results have important implications for the economic viability of using plants as bioreactors to produce vaccines against HIV and other diseases.

According to Dr Obregon: "Using antibody-antigen fusion molecules may represent a generic strategy to increase the expression of recombinant proteins in plants. It could open the door to cheaper biopharmaceuticals. Plant-derived pharmaceuticals are of great interest because of their enormous potential for economy and scale of production. This technology could lead to production of modern medicines that will also be accessible to poor populations in developing countries - which is where these medicines are needed the most."

The results could also lead to the development of more effective vaccines. By using specific immunoglobulin sequences in the fusion molecule, antigens could be targeted to specific cells in the immune system, the researchers say.


2005 Featured Significant Milestones In Biotech Acceptance

- Tom C. Doran, AgriNews, March 14, 2006 via http://www.truthabouttrade.org

Des Moines, Iowa — This past year featured some "significant milestones" regarding worldwide biotech acceptance – and that trend will continue.

Thomas West, vice president of biotech affairs and business support at Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., called the trend "the most rapid adoption of technology in agriculture's history. It doesn't always feel that way because we're living on a day-to-day basis, but if you look back, steady progress has been made and take note because 2005 had some pretty significant milestones."

West made his remarks to media representatives at Pioneer's "The Science of Solution" event Feb. 22. His presentation was entitled "Managing Worldwide Biotech Regulatory Acceptance."

"We have a spectacular technology that is just beginning to apply, and stewardship is really going to give us the right to use this technology – stewardship by the industry, including ourselves, stewardship by all of the growers throughout the world who take advantage of it," he noted.

Critical milestones in biotech acceptance this past year included the adoption of a new biosafety law and regulations in Brazil, and the adoption of a biosafety law in Mexico where regulations for maize are currently being drafted.

"Mexico already had biosafety legislation for cotton and soy, but they did not have safety legislation maize until this year. That is critical to U.S. growers. It's critical because they are major exporters and importers.

"Brazil obviously is the number two exporter. They are going to be growing, even around corn. What they do and what we do in the United States will have a large impact on how open the import markets are around the world, because it's critical that Brazil makes this change and that they move from the situation they had of illegal brown bag soybeans and the potential for the same in other crops, to a government instituted safe protocol that is science/risk based and enforced.

"Mexico is important because it's white corn, not yellow corn. That's going to, in turn, allow the white seed corn market in the United States, a large portion of which is exported to Mexico, to switch to biotech," he explained. "Mexico is kind of the first domino that has to change, and it will be changed in the next couple of years."

In the United States, the FDA's adventitious presence (AP) regulation was delayed when commissioner Lester Crawford resigned. "In talks to government officials around the world, it's pretty difficult to talk to them about an AP policy in their country when we don't have one. It's absolutely critical that the FDA get this policy out. It was originally promised about a year ago. It's still being promised. It's an important U.S. policy that we hope will guide and help us talk to governments around the world.

"Europe clearly is beginning to lift the moratorium. A lot has happened. We have a number of products that are approved for import, but we have yet to have the first approval for cultivation. In fact, our Herculex 1 dossier will be the first one to come up for cultivation. I think that's going to be a very significant step. That will be a telling tale."

Another biotech milestone was with rice, West continued. Iran has approved and commercialized biotech rice. China has a least four dossiers for GMO rice waiting final approval.

"Rice is important because it's the largest food grain. It's important because traits are coming from China, not from the United States. That's going to be important for acceptance in Asia, and once China moves, India will move very quickly. That opens up for biotechnology in food crops because today, with the exception of corn and soybeans, cotton, a non-food crop, is really the only thing that's approved for cultivation. So within the next year or two most of that would expect that tipping point to occur," West said.

He stressed the importance of stewardship in achieving greater biotech acceptance, as there have been reports of an accidental release by a U.S. source of a non-registered maize product by one company. It was also reported that Bt rice was found at grain wholesalers in certain areas of China.

"There's a lot going on that's challenging the industry's stewardship. It's not a safety issue, but it is a quality issue that reflects on the industry and it simply has to be controlled. That's where stewardship comes in. It demands world-class stewardship by the industry and everyone involved. We need that to be able to have the confidence in consumers around the world.

Several other challenges also remain along the path toward worldwide biotech acceptance.

"We had some crop trials destroyed in France this year. We've had it in prior years. I put it down here because there's been a significant shift from prior years. The response to field crop destruction this year by the local media, local elected officials, by French legislators have been entirely different than in past years, and it's a very positive thing. It's a good sign, not that the trials were destroyed, but that the response has been gratifying and quite different than the past."

West added that the "regulations on stacks, with our cultivation dossier for Herculex I coming up in Europe, is really going to be a critical milestone." Biotech challenges also include the potential impact of local referendums. Swiss voters approved a five-year moratorium. Sonoma, Calif., voters and Prince Edwards Island, Canada, voters both rejected moratoriums.

Overall, there has been ten years of double-digit growth in the amount of acreage where biotech crops are planted.

"Twenty-one countries are now planting biotech crops for cultivation – eight and a half million farmers. More than 90 percent of the farmers that plant biotech are in developing countries. They are subsistence farmers. They have a plot that's smaller than this room.

"The most powerful thing that that tells us is that this is perhaps the first technology in the history of agriculture that's size-neutral. Almost every other technology that has come along, from mechanical harvesting to larger tractors to GPS units, even the chemical application because of the capital required to spray, almost every other advance required for rewards larger farms, more capital. To put that technology into a seed, that seed acts the exactly the same whether it's a subsistence farmer in South Africa that literally has a plot the size of this table or in (a large field) Iowa."

West predicts that in a couple of years, biotech use by developing countries will surpass use by industrial countries because of Brazil with corn and soybeans and China for rice production due to the size neutrality. "That's a good thing for the U.S. farmer, because in the end we really won't get complete adoption for our export markets until it's grown in that country.

"We've proven time after time in markets if you really want consumer confidence, you're really going to have to have that available in that country, as well," he stated. "That will open up more export markets for U.S. farmers."

In terms of what is in the biotechnology pipeline, West said the "next three to five years will generally look different than the last three to five years – the kinds of products that are out and the range of products that are out."

Biotech products are now in the second generation of pest and weed control with multiple pest/weed control traits. Other agronomic traits will include stress reduction and yield increases, and there will also be improvements in feed quality and food quality and taste.

West noted the global regulatory status of various Herculex products. "I might add that in the European Food Safety Website, we at Pioneer/DuPont now have the largest number of dossiers of any company in the world. That's all crops, all species. All of ours happen to be corn."

Among the recent developments by DuPont is a bio-based method that uses corn, rather than conventional petroleum-based process, to produce polymer for use in clothing, carpets and other materials.


India: Bt Cotton Makes Rapid Strides

- Hindustan Times, Narch 10, 2006

Despite misgivings and criticisms, Indian farmers are finally cottoning on to the virtues of Bt cotton. The area under Bt cotton cultivation has increased from 500,000 hectares in 2004-05 to 1300,000 hectares in 2005-06 and is expected to touch 3500,000 hectares in 2006-07. Soon India could be having Bt brinjal, groundnut, cauliflower? you name it.

At a conference on Biotechnology in India: Ushering in a Revolution, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry, former head of TERI's plant molecular biology division, Malathi Lakshmikumaran, gave out the numbers to show this transformation on the field. Bt brinjal is almost ready for approval, following which it will go in for commercial production, she said. A number of other vegetables and crops are in an advanced stage of development at various institutes in the country. Soon there could be biotech rice, mustard, maize, tomato, potato, cauliflower, cabbage, chickpea, you name it.

Lakshmikumaran said various Indian companies are rapidly releasing Bt cotton hybrids. Farmers are going for Bt cotton because the insect-resistant plant requires only a few sprays of pesticide. Which helps them save those precious pennies and increase production. Seventy per cent of pesticides being used in the country is only on cotton. She said there are 21 countries where biotech crops are being grown with the total number of hectares under biotech cultivation in 2004-2005 standing at 9 million hectares, with 14 countries reaching "mega country status" by planting more than 50,000 hectares.

India Well Positioned To Achieve Biotech Potential By 2010
10-Mar-2006 Hindustan Times

New Delhi, March 10 -- India is well positioned to achieve its potential in the biotechnology sector by 2010, claimed Rajesh Jain, the Chairman, Biotechnology Sub-committee, CII Northern Region and Jt. Managing Director, Panacea Biotec Ltd.

Addressing participants at the two-day conference on biotechnology in India titled "Ushering in a New Revolution", Jain said that the biotech industry holds a nine billion dollar global market potential across various segments.

He said that by the year 2010, the potential in India could be in the range of Rs 25,000 crores. "India is in fact well positioned to achieve this potential with its intellectual pool of resources - biotechnology graduates and numerous research and academic institutes, many of which have already started generating leading edge research outputs", he added.

Jain defined agriculture, pharma biotech and industrial applications as the key avenues with significant potential for India. Talking about the micro areas in the domain of these key avenues, he mentioned food security, pest resistant crops, high nutrition transgenic crops, vaccines, recombinant therapeutics, monoclonal antibodies,biofertilizers and enzymes as having vast opportunities. Deliberating on the subject further, Jain said: "We have all the requisite genes for success: people, opportunity and capability.

He, however, said that it is necessary to complement theoretical knowledge with sound practical learning. "It is vital to create a conducive environment that enables backward integration with innovative work at the Industry level. We need to create the best regulatory framework to facilitate the fruits of industrial research reach into the market place," Jain said.

Biotechnology being a capital intensive and knowledge-based industry, Jain stressed on the urgent need to have enablers i.e. close association of government, academia and biotechnology industries.

Sheetal Ranganathan, Group Manager - Business Research, Evalueserve, in her theme address, stressed on how biotechnology was closest to meeting the requirements of India in the 21st century, particularly in agriculture; where the need to introduce a new technology regime was critical.

Nutritional security was important from the health perspective and health research and where India was already playing an important role in the global context. "A revolution is taking place in the knowledge base of biotechnology, opening up enormous applications in the health care, agriculture, food production, and environmental protection. This is in addition to the basic scientific discoveries that are being made globally, and in India as well", she further stated.


GM and Human Health


Foods made from genetically modified plants must be considered safe – otherwise they would not have been authorised. All GM products are tested to see if they could trigger allergies or contain other substances that could possibly be dangerous to human health.

Foods made from GMOs must be considered safe – otherwise they wouldn’t have received authorisation. But assessing safety is easier said than done. Like any food, genetically modified or other novel foods are complex mixtures of thousands of different substances in varying proportions. With trusted foods that have been eaten for generations there is little concern. They are considered safe based on experience, not necessarily based on scientific proof.

For novel or genetically modified foods, proving safety is a legal obligation. This burden of proof is often a high hurdle to leap.

Safety evaluation in two steps
According to laws that apply to all EU member states, a GM food can only be allowed onto the market if it can be documented using scientific data that it is just as safe and healthy as a comparable conventional product.

When evaluating the safety of food from a genetically modified organism, two areas are looked at in particular:
(1) The safety of the novel GM trait
When a new gene is introduced into a plant, the general outcome is the formation of a new protein. These proteins are oftentimes new for human consumption. Effects on human health are not out of the question.

The safety of a particular protein regarding toxicity is assessed using animal feeding tests. For food additives or herbicide residues, these kinds of tests are routine. When results from animal trials are applied to humans, considerable extra safety measures must be taken.

Safety evaluations must include tests to find out if the new protein could trigger allergies. Several criteria are known that suggest allergenic potential. If one or more of these criteria are met, the GM plant expressing this protein is unlikely to receive clearance in the EU.

(2) Unforeseen changes in plant metabolism as a result of gene transfer
When a new gene is transferred to a plant, no one can automatically rule out the possibility of unforeseen "side effects". This has to do with the fact that a new gene can interact with existing genes. For instance, a new gene could deactivate an existing gene, thereby causing shifts in a plant’s metabolism. In certain cases, this kind of change could potentially impact human health.
To see what types of unforeseen changes may have taken place, two types of tests are carried out: an analysis of the most important chemical components of the GM plant and animal feeding trials.

In order to minimize the possibility of harmful, unforeseen effects, genetically modified plants and derived foods are subjected to thorough analyses.

Nutritional value and vitamin content are measured along with levels of toxins that occur naturally in some foods. An increase in toxin content to unsafe levels is not permissible. If any other measurements are different from the plant’s conventional counterpart, it would suggest that problematic, unintended effects could exist. The health consequences of such differences would need to be thoroughly investigated.

Feeding tests
In many cases, feeding test results are submitted to authorities along with an application for the authorisation of a product in the EU.
In these tests, the whole food is fed to animals such as rats or chickens over an extended period of time. It is anticipated that any dangerous "side effects" of the GM food would be made noticeable by changes affecting, for instance, the animal’s immune system or its internal organs.

Feeding tests: Common practice
Toxicological assessments on test animals are not explicitly required for the approval of a new food in the EU or the US. Independent experts have decided that in some cases, chemical analyses of the food’s makeup are enough to indicate that the new GMO is substantially equivalent to its traditional counterpart. Feeding tests are only requested in cases of doubt.

Nonetheless, the results of animal tests are routinely presented to the European safety assessment authorities. In recent years, biotech companies have tested their transgenic products (maize, soy, tomato) before introducing them to the market on several different animals over the course of up to 90 days.

Negative effects have not yet been observed.
GMO critics claim that feeding studies with authorised GMOs have revealed negative health effects. Such claims have not been based on peer-reviewed, scientifically accepted evaluations. If reliable, scientific studies were to indicate any type of health risk, the respective GMO would not receive authorisation.

The experts
A scientific committee of the European Food Safety Authority called the GMO Panel sets benchmarks and provides guidelines for testing.
Read on at http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/safety/human_health/42.efsa_gmo_panel.html

More allergies because of GMOs?
There are widespread fears that if genetically modified foods with foreign proteins are introduced to the market, food allergies will become more and more widespread. This common fear actually has little to do with reality. Tests for identifying potentially dangerous allergens are becoming more and more reliable.
Allergies, what's behind them?
Do GMOs mean more allergies?
The allergy check

A contentious issue: Antibiotic resistance
Antibiotic resistance genes: they’re found in many genetically modified plants. These markers are an important tool in the laboratory, but they have caused great concern in the public debate. Many antibiotics are gradually losing their medical effectiveness as more and more diseases become resistant. Will this problem worsen with the widespread cultivation of genetically modified plants carrying genes for antibiotic resistance in their cells?
Why antibiotic resistance?
Antibiotic resistance genes: a threat?
Limited use: The position of the European Food Safety Authority
Alternatives: New marker systems have already been developed

Links to the above questions at http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/safety/human_health/


Prince Philip Does Charles, and Exposes His Ignorance

'Duke queries genetic modifications' - AAP, March 14, 2006 http://www.news.com.au/

THE Duke of Edinburgh has questioned genetic modifications to food crops and agricultural sustainability during a visit to Australia's national science headquarters.

In surprisingly candid comments, Prince Philip revealed his views while he toured the CSIRO in Canberra this morning. The Duke raised his concerns about genetically modified organisms during a presentation on the peak science organisation's agricultural research.

The development of GM plants – a key plank of CSIRO's research – was a big issue in Europe, he said.
"So much is dependent on politics," he said during the presentation by CSIRO chief executive Geoff Garrett and Plant Industry chief Jeremy Burdon.

"It's seen by governments as being desirable and yet it may not be appropriate. "What farmers need to know is what the alternatives are."

Prince Philip also quizzed the scientists about agricultural sustainability, observing that Australia had "not a very reliable climate" for production (sic).

Dr Burdon explained that the CSIRO was doing everything it could to help minimise the environmental impact of agriculture, but said the concept of total sustainability was "almost an oxymoron".


Zambia is Right to Reject GM Crops

- Father Peter Henriot 14 Mar 2006. Full commentary at http://www.peopleandplanet.net/doc.php?id=2692

Last October the Zambian Government finally decided not to accept a donation of genetically modified food for nearly three million of its people facing famine. Here a Jesuit priest, working in that country argues that the decision was right. Meanwhile fresh food shortages threaten much of sub-Saharan Africa.

The smile on Mutale’s face taught me an important reason for the wisdom of Zambia’s rejection of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) coming into our country. There simply are plenty of alternatives to the GM approach being vigorously pushed by the United States.

The US government argues that global hunger can best be dealt with by introducing GM technologies that are supposed to increase agricultural yields. Yet high technology, associated with an industrial model of agriculture (huge investments, large plots of land, sophisticated mechanisation), characterises the GM approach.

More than 80 per cent of Zambia’s food is grown by small-scale farmers and they would face immense problems with the introduction of GM crops. Dependency on external inputs (most GM seed is controlled by US corporate giants) is just one of the difficulties.

Pro-GM advocates argue that their products can also offer inexpensive health remedies for people in poor countries. One example is a GM rice with a gene for making beta-carotene, a substance that the body can convert to vitamin A. But very large amounts of this modified rice would be necessary every day, and it would have to be accompanied by adequate amounts of zinc, protein and fats – elements often lacking in the diets of poor people.

Fr Roland Lesseps, a Jesuit priest from the USA with a doctorate in plant biology, encourages farmers to plant the so-called ‘vegetable tree’ (moringa tree), whose leaves are rich in vitamin A as well as protein, vitamin C, iron and calcium. Besides providing a full range of nutrients, the leaves are delicious, especially when cooked in a traditional Zambian way with powdered groundnuts.

Why promote GM crops when natural alternatives are cheaper and more readily available?
Those of us who have been involved in the debate in Zambia have also raised some religious and ethical concerns about the GM approach. Because we humans are fellow-creatures with the rest of creation – members of the earth community – we must show due respect for the integrity of creation.

Manipulation of the forces of nature through biotechnology is not a neutral or purely technical matter. It has its limits in terms of overall effects on nature and must continually be subjected to ethical evaluation.
Helpful to that ethical evaluation are the principles and norms found in Catholic social teaching. These include, for example, the principles of the common good (all should benefit from advances in science), option for the poor (special concern should be shown for impact on the poor and vulnerable), subsidiarity (decisions should be made by those immediately affected), and solidarity (promotion of inclusive community and not exclusive isolation).

For the time being, Zambia continues to honour a pledge to keep out GMOs. It is finding that with the good agricultural practices of farmers like Mutale, the people can be fed and their health promoted, the environment can be protected, and God’s good earth can be respected.

* The United Nations reported in February 2006, that upwards of 16 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are facing the threat of famine this spring. And the International Red Cross warned this month that recent droughts are the worst to hit the region in more than a decade, threatening at least 23 million people.
* Alongside Malawi, where as many as five million are facing the threat of famine,areas of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia and Burundi and Zambia are also affected.
* In Zambia, the Red Cross says food rations will be distributed to 32,000 people. Packs of wheat, vegetable seeds, beans and fertilizers will be distributed to 5,000 families in Lesotho and 3,000 families in Zambia. Thousands of families have received similar agricultural packs in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Swaziland. But more funds are needed.

Source: Fr Heriot's article is taken from Interact magazine (Winter 2005/6. It is a shortened version of the original which first appeared in Sojourners magazine. It was distributed by Third World Features.

Fr Henriot is a Jesuit priest and political scientist. and director of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Lusaka, Zambia.


More Idiocy from Southern Africa....

'Sanitary pads stuck in Jo'burg as Harare demands duty'

- Zim Online, March 14, 2006

In case you were wondering what is the connection, read full story at http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/KHII-6MV492?OpenDocument

HARARE - A consignment of sanitary towels donated to Zimbabwean women by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and other groups remains stuck in Johannesburg because Harare wants duty paid for the goods.

The severe shortage of sanitary towels - just like the shortage of nearly every basic survival commodity in Zimbabwe - is because of the country's unprecedented economic meltdown that has forced many manufacturing companies to either close down or relocate abroad.

But this is not the first time that the Harare administration has put obstacles in the way of aid given by South African groups. The Zimbabwe government last year blocked for several weeks tonnes of food that had been donated by South African churches for victims of its controversial home demolition exercise that according to the United Nations left at least 700 000 people without shelter or means of livelihood after police bulldozers razed down shanty towns and informal business kiosks.

The food was only allowed into Zimbabwe after South Africa's department of agriculture issued certificates confirming that it was not genetically modified.


Irish Pro-GM Blogger Compared to a Nazi

'To be compared to a NAZI!!...Thanks Joe Cummins' - Shane Morris, March 12, 2006 http://www.gmoireland.blogspot.com/

Does my right to disagree on some issues really upset the ANTI's so much they have gone off the deep end? However, maybe its pure desperation??

To this end, Mr. Cummins a supposed "academic" whose arguments are seemingly so deep and supportable now has reverted to Nazi comparisons of me see http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/Ban-GEF/message/6424.

My Jewish wife is thrilled!!!..........Happy Purim Joe!!

and now away from the spin and lets get back to the facts!!!

Next post: Irish Chefs and GM food........

P.s. I think Mr. Cummins may want to be reminded of an ISP May 10th, 2003 commitment he seemingly sighed: Promotion of Science for the Public Good commitment part of which states:
Maintaining the highest standards of integrity and impartiality in science - There should be open peer-review for published work [which he has not done in his so called "independent" Irish musings], and respect and protection for those whose research challenges the conventional paradigm or majority opinion. Scientific disagreements must be openly and democratically debated.

Maybe I'm just dim but I don't see where hatchet jobs and Nazi comparisons fall into this????.........sad........


Anti-GM bloggers influencing the debate with rational and civil discourse....

(Note: Offensive language; Not safe for work)