Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org : April 3, 2006
* Soul Behind the Man
* Miracle Rice to the Rescue, Again?
* Grain Brain Pleased to Have A Lot on His Research Plate
* Fibre Leads to Genetic Breakthrough
* A Warning from Dr. Norman Borlaug
* Challenging Nature: Clash of Science and Spirituality
* India, China Sign Agriculture Cooperation Pact
* IPRs in Living Matter
* GM Maize for Bioethanol Production
* Raising False Alarm About the Food We Eat
* World Bank: Global assessment on ag science & technology
* Ag Biotech for Small Producers: Bolivia Case Study
* We Need Pesticides
* UN Partners with Greenpeace, Friends of Earth... : Green.tv
* Another Blogger Ranting Meaninglessly...
Soul Behind the Man
- C. S. Prakash, The Pioneer (New Delhi, India), April 2, 2006
Dr Norman Borlaug tells me that I can address him as Norm. But how can I bring myself to address this great man by his first name? He is a heroic figure credited with saving a billion lives. He has won virtually every important humanitarian award, including the Nobel Peace Prize.
World leaders revere Borlaug as a celebrity. Yet, he is humble, and in touch with the needs and aspirations of ordinary people one can think of.
For the past 62 years, Borlaug has worked at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico where he developed the 'dwarf' varieties of wheat, triggering the Green Revolution. Short varieties produce more grain per acre because they tap sunlight more effectively and do not collapse with the weight of the grain. Borlaug creatively combined wheat varieties from across the world to introduce the dwarfness genes into wheat grown in Mexico, India and Pakistan.
Other countries adopted his breakthrough with amazing results.
In the developing world, wheat yields that had remained at an abysmal 250 kg/ha for decades increased ten fold in the last 40 years. India, which harvested a meagre 12 million tons of wheat in 1965, now produces over 80 million tons. Similar discoveries of a dwarf gene in rice also led to a boost in this miracle crop - this time pioneered by Indian scientist Gurdev Khush, working in the Philippines.
The poorest people have been the biggest beneficiaries of Borlaug's scientific talents. Abundant grain harvests have ensured that food prices have remained low despite inflation in other commodities. The percentage of family income spent on food has declined while per capita food consumption has increased in most countries. And this has occurred despite the huge population growth.
Even so, when you meet this frail, 92-year-old scientist, he comes across more like your favourite uncle than the legend that he is. Warm, unassuming and modest, he speaks slowly but forcefully. He has an impeccable sense of humour - often self-deprecating. When I asked him once how he was doing, he replied smilingly, "at my age, just getting up in the morning and being around is good enough." Yet, Borlaug maintains a hectic work and travel schedule that would put men half his to shame.
When Borlaug turned 90 two years ago, I celebrated the life of this remarkable man, and several world leaders, including Jimmy Carter and Kofi Annan, sent notes of appreciation. M S Swaminathan, who worked with him on India's Green Revolution, said, "Norman Borlaug is the living embodiment of the human quest for a hunger-free world. His life is his message." My eleven-year old son even wrote and recorded a rap song about Borlaug that was broadcast around the world by Voice of America.
During our frequent conversations, he often reminisces about his time in India in the 1960s when the country was facing debilitating famine due to drought. During a heated debate in Parliament, C Subramaniam, then Agriculture Minister, lashed out at sceptics: "We either try these seeds of Borlaug's or we continue to starve." The first seeds of Mexican wheat were planted in CS's residence in New Delhi where former Prime Minister Vajpayee lives now.
Borlaug has fond memories of his Pusa days, and has much appreciation for the tenacity and leadership of Subramaniam and Swaminathan. However, he has no patience for naysayers such as environmentalists who oppose modern agriculture. He believes these self-styled greens are sincere but misguided, and fears that they are trying to stop scientific progress in its tracks.
He believes that continued scientific research in agriculture along with creative policies aimed at poverty reduction are essential to rid the world of remaining hunger and malnutrition.
It is this belief that leads him to support newer technologies such as genetically modified crops. Despite his awesome contribution in reducing hunger around the world, he is not a household name. His biography is due later this year. A Hollywood movie is in the works too.
Future historians, however, will acknowledge that this modest soul from America, with his firm belief in the promise and power of science, helped us walk the first step towards the 'Indian Dream' with a few humble wheat seeds.
CS Prakash is a Prof at Tuskegee University, US, and President of AgBioWorld Foundation
Miracle Rice to the Rescue, Again?
- Andrew Leonard, Salon.com, March 30, 2006
Do we need genetically modified crops to survive global warming?
Here's a question for the 21st century: Can science save us from ourselves? Last week, attendees at a "Climate Change and Rice" planning workshop in the Philippines were told that global warming is already affecting rice yields in Asia. Robert Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the organizers of the workshop, said, "We need to start developing rice varieties that can tolerate higher temperatures and other aspects of climate change right now."
Researchers at IRRI have previously demonstrated that a one-degree rise in average temperatures directly lowers rice yields. The same is true for soybeans and corn. It hardly needs emphasizing how big this problem could be for the world, and in particular for poor farmers in the developing countries that are likely to feel the first impacts of climate change. So my first impulse, on learning this news, was to cheer on the researchers who are trying to develop new plant strains that will "tolerate warmer temperatures and extreme weather events, and can make use of higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to produce greater yields."
But there's a back story here. No institution is more closely affiliated with the Green Revolution that dramatically boosted crop yields throughout the world in the '60s and '70s than IRRI. The vast majority of rice currently cultivated in Asia is based on strains developed at IRRI. For many scientists IRRI's successes are one of the great contributions to human welfare made by science in the 20th century. Gurdev Khush, IRRI's lead plant breeder for some 30 years, is widely regarded in the developing world as a hero.
Or a corporate stooge. There is, of course, an alternative view of the Green Revolution, one that views its so-called successes as a trap that hooked millions of poor farmers on monocultural crops dependent on expensive fertilizer inputs and pesticides. IRRI, say the critics, is partially funded by the multinational corporations that produce those fertilizers and pesticides, such as Monsanto and Dupont. And now, IRRI wants to compound its previous errors by introducing new, genetically modified strains of rice that could present even greater dangers.
Perhaps because of negative public relations considerations, the words "genetically modified" were never mentioned in IRRI's press release -- although there is a reference to how the cracking of the rice genome in 2001 will aid researchers in creating new strains. And there's no doubt that IRRI has been heavily involved in testing G.M. rice strains. And why not? Viewed optimistically, G.M. rice is the next logical evolutionary step, a way to redress the drawbacks of the Green Revolution. Rice that uses less fertilizer and water, is resistant to pesticides, thrives in hot temperatures, and eats carbon dioxide would be a welcome miracle indeed. And isn't that how science is supposed to work? You learn from your mistakes, and deliver an improved version?
Or you create a Frankenstein monster, and are murdered by your own creation. Or progress is just a myth. Science and technology have helped to get us in the mess we're in now, 6 and a half billion people on a planet headed for devastating climate change and a potentially catastrophic energy crunch. In our rush to redesign nature so as to survive the damage we've already wreaked upon nature, will we be able to keep all the balls smoothly juggling, or will we crash?
For my part, I'm a great believer in the potential of science to alleviate misery and improve living standards. How the World Works believes in progress. I'm not at all sure I trust Monsanto or Syngenta with the responsibility of saving us from ourselves, but private sector investment and research is going to have to be part of the solution. If there is one.
On an even more personal note, I've mentioned here before that my grandfather worked for the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1960s, traveling around the world distributing funds. The Rockefeller Foundation was one of the original founders of IRRI. I learned from my mother a few weeks ago that all my grandfather's daily journals of that time are stored in a basement in a house in New Hampshire. I have been thinking for months that I would have loved it if my grandfather (who passed away 20 years ago) could have had the chance to comment on and critique this blog. Today, I'm certain that in those journals some of the same questions asked here have already been mulled. Stay tuned for future reports, from the past
Grain Brain Pleased to Have A Lot on His Research Plate
- Linda Yeung, South China Morning Post, April 1, 2006
'Dedicated biologist believes genetically modified products are the only way to go to feed the world, writes Linda Yeung'
Biologist Samuel Sun Sai-ming's passion to improve rice yields means he has had to live apart from his family for a decade. Since joining the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1996, he has been consumed with research, even at weekends, on campus.
Such is the dedication of the scientist who was the first to clone a plant gene in 1980. His wife, Piera, a scientist with the neuroscience laboratory at the University of Hawaii, only joined him in Hong Kong last year when she retired. Their son, a medical graduate from Harvard, remains in the US.
Professor Sun, formerly with the department of plant molecular physiology at the University of Hawaii, has made relentless attempts to increase the yield of rice crops and their nutritional value by infusing them with genes from other plants. His work has won international recognition, despite environmentalists' opposition to tampering with nature, or genetic engineering.
"I believe this is one of the technologies we can use in the future," he says. "I foresee we won't have enough food after 30 years with the traditional methods, less land and water.
"No food is 100 per cent safe. In the US, 75 per cent of processed foods have genetically modified products. If we believe we cannot do these things for religious reasons, I accept it. But if you are talking about food safety, I would have to debate with you. To me, the transferral of gene from bacteria into plants happens all the time. There are virus and bacteria genes in our genome. We are not that pure."
But Professor Sun supports food-labelling laws to help consumers make informed choices when buying genetically modified products.
He is determined to step up his research until he retires. CUHK extended his service by five years when he reached the official retirement age of 60 three years ago.
"The final goal for me is to produce rice with good quality and high yield. In China, we have good rice but the land is shrinking while the population increases, so we have got to increase the yield," he says.
Professor Sun began his research on rice when he returned to Hong Kong from the US with funding from the Research Grants Council. In 2000, he travelled to Changsha , in the hope of collaborating with the "father of hybrid rice", Professor Yuan Longping, of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and the director of the China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Centre, who achieved worldwide fame for his technique that improved rice production by 20 per cent.
The pair, now close friends, aim to increase the yield by 10-15 per cent over the existing super-hybrid rice by transferring a combination of four genes from corn into the rice to enhance its photosynthesis efficiency. The transgenic plant is now being grown in the CUHK greenhouse.
Professor Sun has other projects on his plate. One is a collaboration with scientists at CUHK and Washington State University to develop stress-resistant rice with soyabean genes, which can withstand the threat of viruses, disease, drought or a salty environment. He hopes the transgenic approach will make rice cultivation possible in seashore areas and northwest China, where the land is salty and dry.
In another effort, he undertook field trials in China last year on the production of high-nutrient rice infused with genes from winged beans, which resulted in a 40 per cent increase in the protein-rich nutrient lysine. This is part of an "area of excellence" research project funded by the University Grants Committee, and is a collaboration involving scientists from the University of Science and Technology, the University of Hong Kong and Baptist University.
Born in a poor hillside village in China during the Sino-Japanese war, Professor Sun had first-hand experience of food scarcity, which contributed to his urge to help people with little access to nutritious food. "We did not have enough rice and had to add sweet potatoes to it. We ate meat maybe once a year," he recalled.
"Poor nutrition contributes to half of the almost 11 million deaths among children under five each year. Rice feeds half of the world population, and its deficiency in vitamins A and E, iron, zinc and lysine causes tremendous malnutrition problems."
This explains his involvement in another project, under the Grand Challenges for Global Health project funded with US$450 million in 2003 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It seeks to develop technologies and products to alleviate the health problems in the developing world.
One of the challenges is creating a "nutrient-rich staple plant". For that purpose, four projects were selected from proposals worldwide, and given US$11 million funding between 2005-2010. Professor Sun is the sole scientist from China involved in one of them, joining hands with counterparts from Germany, the US, the Philippines and Vietnam. Their mission is to generate rice enriched with pro-vitamin A, vitamin E, iron, zinc and high-quality protein.
Professor Sun moved to Hong Kong at the age of 12 to join his father. The deprived days during his childhood had inspired him to be a doctor so he could "help people in the shortest period of time".
Yet he found another vocation after failing to get into the medical faculty at HKU in the 1960s due to his limited English. He opted for biology at CUHK instead, followed by a master's in botany at HKU. He pursued his PhD in botany/horticulture at the University of Wisconsin, when molecular biology was an emerging science in the US. While other scientists experimented with cloning animal genes, he focused on plants.
Professor Sun's hope is that people will be able to consume lyzine rice by 2012. The Bill Gates Foundation project will drive him towards that goal.
"He [Bill Gates] said he wanted something that he could give to poor people. It will be distributed free to poor people. All the participants in the project have to waive their patent rights. This is the thing I really want to do. It serves a humanitarian purpose; I can help many people - and not for the sake of making money."
Fibre Leads to Genetic Breakthrough
- Sydney Morning Herald, April 2, 2006 http://www.smh.com.au/
Cereals manipulated to be higher in fibre could soon be on the menu following a breakthrough in genetic research. Australian scientists have identified the genes which produce fibre in grains such as barley and wheat allowing the amount of fibre to be changed.
The genes help produce beta-glucans, an important component of dietary fibre, which also help prevent cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. "Cereals are a big part of diets worldwide, so research into what makes them so nutritious is essential," said research scientist Geoff Fincher from the Waite Campus of the University of Adelaide.
"I'm excited that we now have the chance to improve grain quality. "We've solved a problem that has perplexed large international research laboratories in both the private and public sectors for more than 30 years."
Dr Fincher and his fellow scientists from the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University have worked on the fibre puzzle for the past five years in a project linked to the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics.
A Warning from Dr. Norman Borlaug, "Father of the Green Revolution"
- Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., M.P.H., Health Facts and Fears, March 30, 2006
Yesterday ACSH had a surprise visit from someone who might best be described as the person who has done more to alleviate hunger than anyone else alive today: Dr. Norman Borlaug. Known as the "Father of the Green Revolution," he received the Nobel Prize in 1970 for his work in creating a new strain of wheat and is a member of ACSH's Founders Circle.
We were happy to have a couple hours' notice on his visit, since we knew that this past weekend he celebrated his 92nd birthday -- and we had sufficient time to bring in a birthday cake and all the trimmings.
Dr. Borlaug talked of many things, including the tragedy of resistance to agricultural biotechnology in countries around the world. It was a very sobering warning, one which reinforced our long-time concern that Americans are simply too complacent about the availability of food, overconfident that in modern times there is nothing that can imperil food supplies here or anywhere else.
Dr. Borlaug spoke of his serious concern about a new strain of wheat rust, a fungus with the potential to wipe out wheat crops around the world. Its spores are carried by the wind and can be spread even by adhering to boots and other clothing. It has already been identified in areas of eastern Africa and has damaged wheat crops in Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia. The most immediate danger, Dr. Borlaug said, is that this new fungus will spread to the intensive wheat-growing areas of Asia. The impact that this pathogen could have on a food staple like wheat is enormous. The words "crisis" and "emergency" were part of his description of the growing threat -- unless science and technology are called upon to stop the spread of this threat by creating new resistant genotypes. Dr. Borlaug noted that any significant decline in wheat production would have a major impact on global food security.
Threats to the food supply are real -- yet we never read of them in the media. We are literally overwhelmed by reports of the "coming avian influenza pandemic," even though the disease now is largely confined to birds, and the type of mutation that could allow person-to-person transmission may or may not happen. Wheat rust epidemics have destroyed wheat supplies as far back as the days of the Roman Empire, and it is something that we must constantly be vigilant about even today.
Accelerated vaccine research and production is the logical response to bird flu, but what is the wisest means of protecting the world wheat supply? Science and technology, including agricultural biotechnology, which will allow us to create genetically-modified wheat that can resist this devastating plant pathogen.
How ironic that so many -- both in the developing and developed world -- resist fertilizers, pesticides, and genetic modification of food crops, celebrating "organic" food, when we are in a constant battle with nature to create sufficient food to feed the world.
Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan is president of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH.org, HealthFactsAndFears.com).
Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life
- Lee M. Silver, $16.98, Hardcover: 464 pages, Publisher: Ecco (June 1, 2006). ISBN: 0060582677
"Lee Silver exposes the often dangerous consequences of a passion for spiritual and religious explanations that is innate in the minds of some people. His book is imbued with courage, suffused with humanity and written with grace." -- Matt Ridley
"A provocative and sorely needed book, Agree or disagree with his conclusions, the rich array of arguments he presents in Challenging Nature will force you to think afresh about many cherished preconceptions. In this often-muddled area, that has to be a very good thing indeed." -- Peter Singer
"A superb and sensitive account of the scientific facts" -- Lord Robert May
"A spectacular and riveting book that puts those who reason by assertion of prior traditions on the run. Professor Silver takes no prisoners and yet offers an upbeat and positive view of the human condition. Many people may not agree with his argument. But no one can deny he shakes things up and makes you think and rethink the most basic questions about the nature of human existence. I say Bravo!" -- Michael Gazzaniga
Biotechnology is arguably the oldest, most widespread, and most powerful of human inventions. Indeed, cows, dogs, apples, tomatoes, corn, and nearly every other living thing that we eat or exploit simply didn't exist until early humans invented them. For many millennia, however, the tools used to manipulate and control life's creative processes for human benefit were crude, and their implementation was opaque. Today, the science of molecular biology brings both precision and transparency to the actual genetic and cellular modifications that modern biotechnologists can accomplish. But ironically, to practitioners, biotechnology is more contentious than ever.
In Challenging Nature, Professor Silver argues that fear and loathing arise from deeply rooted, cultural-religious convictions in the existence of real and proscribed limits to human knowledge and power over the natural world. Molecular biology -- as a field of knowledge -- challenges traditional belief in animating spirits. More significantly, biotechnology -- the practical child of molecular biology -- gives 'man' nearly-unlimited power as a God-like animator who can alter and create new forms of life. In different cultural milieus, however, spiritual beliefs confer acceptance or rejection of different realms of biotechnological application.
Catholic and Protestant fundamentalists -- who believe human beings alone are ensouled by God at conception -- reject embryo stem cell research as murder, but are generally supportive of agricultural biotechnology. Meanwhile, many post-Christian Europeans and Americans have transferred their spiritual allegiance from a God in heaven to a fuzzy Mother Nature goddess within the biosphere below. Tinkering with plant genes is imagined, however unconsciously, as an attack on "Her" sovereignty.
On the surface, fundamentalists and post-Christian organic food devotees seem to have little in common. Yet, both kinds of minds are formed within monotheistic Western cultures where the maxim against "playing God" is deeply embedded. In contradistinction, "playing God" has no meaning in cultures molded by Eastern spirituality, where neither a Master of the Universe nor a "Master Plan" exist, and where every spirit is transcendent, eternal, self-determining and self-evolving. As a result, in the short term, Asian countries are poised to leap ahead of the West in all contentious realms of biotechnology.
In the long term, biotechnology and rational control over the biosphere will be required to protect humanity and to develop a system of life on which our descendants can depend for sustenance and spiritual comfort. And slowly, inevitably, over centuries or millennia, Human Nature will remake all of Mother Nature -- domesticated and wild -- in the image of the idealized world that exists within our own minds, which is what most people have always wanted.
India, China Sign Agriculture Cooperation Pact
- Ashok B Sharma, Financial Express, March 31, 2006 http://www.financialexpress.com/
India and China have signed an agreement for cooperation in agriculture with exchange of germplasm and development of transgenic crops top on the agenda. The agreement was signed after official level talks between agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and his Chinese counterpart Du Qinglin. Mr Qinglin alongwith a six-member official delegation is presently on a visit to India.
According to an official press release issued on Wednesday, the agreement identifies many areas of cooperation like crop production, agriculture biotechnology, farm mechanisation, exchange of plant and animal germplasm and collaborative research. Detailed modalities of cooperation are to be worked out by a joint committee headed by secretary in-charge of agriculture on each side. They will be assisted by a team of experts in drawing up a detailed action plan.
It was agreed that the joint panel and experts will meet in China in June or July to carry forward the agenda of cooperation. The pact identifies areas like crop production, agriculture biotechnology, farm mechanisation, exchange of plant and animal germplasm, etc Modalities of the cooperation will be worked out by a joint committee headed by secretary in-charge of agriculture on each side
Both India and China agreed that trade in agriculture, horticulture, fishery and other relevant produce should play an ever increasing role in economic relations between the two countries. They felt that private enterprises should be involved in the process.
IPRs in Living Matter
-Kershen Drew (dkershen#ou.edu), Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law, Univ. Oklahoma
Dear AgBioView readers: In a number of instances, I have been asked a question like the following: What are the intellectual property rights in living matter in [the name of a country]?
I began a project two years ago whereby University of Oklahoma law students pick a country. The student then writes three short descriptive comments about the status of intellectual property rights in living matter (bacteria, plants, animals) in the chosen country. Thus far students have written these descriptive comments for ten countries: Australia, Canada, China, Egypt, European Union, India, International Agreements, South Africa, South Korea, and the United States. Comments for all ten countries have recently been published on my personal website.
I invite you to read these student working papers at the URL following: http://jay.law.ou.edu/faculty/kershen/rs_iprlm.cfm . The student work is of a very high quality. I am proud of my students and pleased to direct this project. Next fall I hope to have students focusing on countries in Latin American (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and Mexico in particular). I hope eventually to have descriptive comments about the laws of 25 to 30 countries.
GMO-Compass Newsletter Issue 4, 31/03/2006
The vast majority of biotech crops grown around the world today are either herbicide tolerant, insect resistant, or both. This year, however, GMO regulatory agencies in Europe have been confronted with a new generation of genetically modified crops. In January, Renessen LLC submitted an approval application for a GM maize line with enhanced lysine content. In March, EFSA released a positive safety assessment for a transgenic potato with optimised starch content. Now, Syngentia Seeds has added yet another crop with altered composition to the list. It is seeking approval for a transgenic maize line with a heat stable version of the enzyme alpha amylase.
While high-lysine maize is intended for livestock feed and amylopectin potatoes are intended for industrial processing, amylase maize will be used for producing renewable energy. The novel amylase enzyme will remain active at higher temperatures, making it easier to produce ethanol from maize. Ethanol is an important biofuel that may be mixed with petrol at a ratio of up to five percent.
The use of antibiotic resistance marker genes has led to considerable controversy in the debate on GMO safety. Both high-lysine maize and amylase maize are free of antibiotic resistance marker genes. Find out why antibiotic resistance genes exist in some GMOs, what scientists think about their safety, and what alternatives are now available:
GM Maize for Bioethanol Production
The Swiss agribiotech company Syngentia recently submitted an application to the EU for the authorisation of a new line of GM maize intended to facilitate ethanol fuel production. This transgenic maize line (3272) possesses a gene isolated from a heat tolerant bacterium, which codes for a heat stable version of the enzyme alpha amylase. Alpha amylase breaks apart starch, which is the first step in ethanol production. The heat stable form of alpha amylase will remain active at high temperatures, accelerating the ethanol production process. The resulting ethanol will mainly be used as fuel, which can be mixed with petrol at a ratio of up to five percent.
The applicants are seeking authorisation for import and processing, but have chosen not to seek authorisation for cultivating 3272 maize in the EU. The scope of the application also covers use in food and feed. Animal feed is made from plant by-products of ethanol production. Authorisation for food use is being sought to exclude risks to human health in the event of unintended mixing.
Raising False Alarm About the Food We Eat: Letter Sent to the Guardian (UK)
- Anthony Trewavas FRS, Academia Europea, Professor in Plant Biochemistry, Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, Edinburgh
Sir, The report that the public were again at risk from the food we eat (Scientists warn parents on pesticides and plastics, 21st March) because of traces of synthetic pesticides omitted crucial information necessary for the reader to gain a balanced view. The major chemical exposure of all human beings is not to synthetic chemicals but to the thousands of natural chemicals that we consume in food every day.
The majority of these when tested toxicologically, turn out to be carcinogens; others are nerve toxins, teratogens (damage the foetus), oestrogen mimics, genotoxins or induce fertility, skin, blood or thyroid damage. Even though we consume these in thousands of fold the amount of synthetic chemicals we do not go mad or bubble up in tumors every time we eat because the amounts consumed are still too small to have any effect. Even though synthetic chemicals toxicologically have similar properties to natural chemicals, the traces consumed are simply irrelevant to human health.
The public need to be aware that a small minority through financial or ideological investment now backed up with PR experts, have a continuing interest in raising alarm about the chemical content of food we eat. They are best left to the scientific community to handle who are fully aware of the very limited scope of their support and the falsity of their claims.
Eating organic will do nothing to reduce pesticide consumption because the primary exposure by some tens of thousands of fold is to the pesticides put in by nature.
> Scientists warn parents on pesticides and plastics
> Professor John Toy, Cancer Research UK medical director, said: "People should not be alarmed by this study - it is a review of previously reported research and does not present new findings. The authors suggest that it is feasible that certain chemicals could be a factor in causing cancer but do not find compelling scientific evidence to prove a link."
World Bank: Global assessment on agricultural science & technology gets new boost
Unique process involves governments, private sector, and civil society from around the world
The World Bank today approved a $3 million Global Environment Facility (GEF) grant for the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), a unique global effort that will evaluate the relevance, quality, and effectiveness of agricultural science and technologies - from organic to indigenous and traditional practices, to biotechnology and transgenic approaches.
"Agriculture is vital for the health and well-being of the world's poorest people," said Robert T. Watson, World Bank Chief Scientist and Director of the IAASTD project, "seventy-five percent of whom live in rural areas. We need to make informed decisions now in order to meet the future needs of growing populations and changing diets, and to improve the health and well-being of poor people. These decisions must also protect the environment and ensure broad-based economic growth, as little in our lives would be the same without the agricultural products that nourish and enrich us."
The IAASTD process brings together representatives from governments, UN agencies, the private sector, the scientific community, and civil society organizations from around the world to work together to give decision makers the tools and information they need to answer policy questions and to shape the future of agriculture. Over 400 experts from around the world are involved in the preparation of the IAASTD, which will:
-- Analyze new and existing technologies, and their impact on development,
-- Highlight key uncertainties and risks, and
-- Point to where research and investment are most urgently needed.
For further information on Bank's GEF program, visit http://www.worldbank.org/gef For further information on GEF, visit http://www.gefweb.org
For more information on the IAASTD, please see the website: www.iaastd.org
Management of the Appropriate Agricultural Biotechnology for Small Producers: Bolivia Case Study
- Teresa Avila and Juan Izquierdo, Electronic Journal of Biotechnology, Vol. 9 No. 1, January 15, 2006
The Bolivia study is part of an ongoing multiple case study organized by the FAO’s Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean as part of the activities of the Technical Cooperation Network on Agricultural Biotechnology (REDBIO/FAO).
Full paper at http://www.ejbiotechnology.info/content/vol9/issue1/abstract/4/index.html
We Need Pesticides
- Mary Anne Pankhurst, Cornwall Standard Freeholder (Ontario), March 31, 2006
Todd Hambleton's column on pesticides was a welcome read particularly after leaping from the story about frog feminization and its presumed but scientifically unproven cause: weed killer.
Bottom line, the 'ban-this ban-that' mindset Hambleton draws our attention to could hurt more than help us in the 21st century.
Primarily because the human population will top the 8 billion mark by 2035. And if we are to avoid mass starvation -- especially in the face of climate change -- agro-chemicals and biotechnology (which may include the safety-net of terminator seed production) are arguably essential.
Organic farming, even while well intentioned, destroys more acres of wildlife habitat because of lower yields. Besides, it produces food that is more expensive and no more nutritious.
Most importantly, we need pesticides and certain GMOs to keep affordable disease-fighting fruits and vegetables on our plates. Especially for the poor and young.
So let's make sure we (government) support our farmers! Eating junk food and watching TV are what's poisoning us.
- Mary Anne Pankhurst, Glen Walter
UN Launches Online Video Portal in Partnership with Greenpeace, Friends of Earth and Organic Industry...
"The land that we all live on is the solid part of the Earth's surface known as the lithosphere. The surface of the Earth is shaped by a combination of natural processes, including volcanoes, shifts of rocks and sediments, and flows of river and ice.
Increasingly, human activity, agriculture, cities, mining, logging - also shapes the texture of the land.
The stories in green.tv's land channel will cover the wonder and the blunders of life on land."
Environment channel goes on air
- Press Trust Of India http://www.ibnlive.com/
Green.tv, the world's first broadband TV channel on environmental issues, was launched on Saturday. Green.tv aims to become a one-stop information shop on environment, covering everything from climate change to children's stories on wildlife.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which helped develop the channel, said Green.tv will be available as podcast on iTunes and have a front-page listing, courtesy Apple computers. The channel will air films from around the world produced by NGOs, community filmmakers, public sector bodies and companies with an interest in protecting the environment.
"Green.tv has the potential to become a broadband reference point or benchmark in this field," said Eric Falt, Director of UNEP's Division of Communications and Public Information.
Green.tv will combine this with the best elements of the Internet, giving users access to online chat rooms and the ability to watch video-on-demand, said Falt.
Another Blogger Who Exposes Her Ignorance Through Meaningless Rant
"..plants are a product of (depending on your viewpoint) God/nature/the universe, not people. Who the heck do these people think they are, modifying it to be regulated and rationed according to their profit-making standards? And let's not forget the now age-old debate about whether genetically modified foods are even safe for human consumption."
"With 13-18 million people dying from starvation and its complications every year, and 85 percent of them children, it takes a special kind of b@stard to want something like this. I'm disgusted to be classified in the same species as these people."
... read on...