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Date:

April 10, 2006

Subject:

The Organic Menace; Soybean seed activism; Building a better grape; Australia's fear of GM crops is hampering our competitiveness; Biotechnology experts tackle Cartagena Protocol options

 

Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org: April 10, 2006


* The Organic Menace
* Soybean seed activism
* Demonstrators protest use of animal testing
* Building a better grape
* GM foods condemned in global marches
* Biotechnology experts tackle Cartagena Protocol options
* Australia's fear of GM crops is hampering our competitiveness
* GM crops, drugs critical for India's development: minister
* University of California, Berkeley joins US$17.6m African Biofortified Sorghum Project
* DuPont and Syngenta form joint venture to facilitate the out-licensing of seed
genetics and biotech traits

http://bureaucrash.com/node/2575

The Organic Menace

- Bureau Crash, 2006/04/08

In 2004 Crashers went to San Francisco for the Annual Biotech Convention in San Francisco and there were nearly 1,000 protestors in the streets. The following year, 2005, the convention was in Philadelphia and there were half that number of protestors. Today Chicago hosted the Bio convention and maybe 100 people showed up to protest it. Maybe.

There can be only one reason for this – organic food is killing off hippie protestors. I know what you’re thinking – with anecdotal evidence like this who wouldn’t be convinced? The science can’t be denied. While the general, biotech loving, population is growing the organic food crunching population is decreasing… rapidly.

So the question isn’t should the government get involved but how quickly. First, every single piece of organic produce will need a warning label. Second, there needs to be a public education campaign warning people about the dangers of organic food. Third, the Food & Drug Administration will need to research the risks associated with organic food. When the results come back as I expect we will then have the evidence necessary to pull this dangerous food from the market and burn the organic fields. This sounds drastic but we must put the public good before the interest of the organic food industry – or “Big Organic” as I like to call them.
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Soybean seed activism

- By Dave Wood, April 9, 2006

The article from the ‘East African’ by Peter Gakinyua (AgBioView 5th April) lambasts Vandana Shiva and other anti-GMO activists as being neo-socialist and therefore anti-US. Peter uses with effect the watermelon analogy: environmentalist green outside and socialist red inside.

But the disguise of the innocuous watermelon is just what we are expected to see and believe. The reality is far more threatening to the agriculture of developing countries. Seed activists are more like wolves in sheep’s clothing trying to lead what they believe to be a flock of sheep-like farmers down an anti-development anti-choice path.

We have come a long way since NGOs first claimed that multinationals damage US farming. The notorious 1977 ‘Food First’ book (Lappe, Collins and Cary Fowler) was explicit. ‘Because of American multinational corporations’ ability to run away to wherever labor and other resources are cheaper, the United States imports consumer and agricultural goods that could well be produced at home.’ (p. 226). ‘At least 40 percent of all imported food that directly competes with United States farm production comes from underdeveloped countries.’ (p. 408). Brazil, Mexico and Senegal are mentioned as competing with US farmers.

Anti-development NGOs are now more subtle but cracks are showing. The ultimate insult to farmers’ intelligence is the outrageous ‘Ban Terminator’ campaign directed from the RAFI office in Ottawa. Their news release of 22nd March (http://www.banterminator.org/ see News and Updates) claimed that Terminator seeds will force farmers in some of the world's poorest nations to pay billions of extra dollars in seed costs. The figure for Brazil was calculated as US$407 million dollars a year for soybean seed.

But farmers anywhere will only pay extra for any seed if it very obviously pays for itself in increased productivity. If Brazilian farmers choose to pay $407million for seed, they will expect to harvest additional soybean yields worth far more than $407million. And farmers must be allowed to make this choice. US farmers chose many decades ago to go the hybrid corn route to prosperity: pay more for seed, buy new seed every year, and profit. It is the fear that farmers in developing countries will choose to buy quality seed to increase their production that drives the ‘Ban Terminator’ campaign.

The yield increase expected from improved seed explains the ‘Ban Terminator’ focus on soybeans in Brazil. From almost nothing 25 years ago, Brazil and Argentina together now export more soybeans than the US (2004 figures from FAOSTAT http://faostat.fao.org/faostat/: Brazil and Argentina $7.1billion; the US $6.7billion). Canada, the home of the ‘Ban Terminator’ campaign, has increased its soybean production by 66% in the past five years, now exports soybeans to the value of $295million, and has an obvious financial incentive to host RAFI.

‘Ban Terminator’ is also worried about the positive impact of Terminator wheat in Ethiopia where current wheat imports average $190million a year. US wheat exports average $3.9billion; Canadian wheat exports average $2.3billion. ‘Ban Terminator’ tries to prevent rice farmers accessing improved seed in the Philippines (rice imports averaging $186million a year) and in Iran (rice imports averaging $272million a year). The US exports an annual average of $905million rice.

Vandana Shiva tried – and failed - to prevent Indian farmers getting access to Bt improved cotton seed. The global cotton trade shows us why. India averages each year $308million cotton imports and Pakistan a further $247million. The US exports cotton to the yearly average value of $2.76billion. Obviously there would be a huge financial advantage to US cotton exporters if Shiva could prevent the spread of biotech cotton in India and Pakistan. Fortunately Indian farmers and government ignored Shiva and cotton production increased 45% in the past five years.

These astronomical figures for world crop trade demonstrate that seed activists are in no way generically anti-American as supposed by Peter. Rather the opposite. They protest not against America itself but against American-based biotech seed multinationals such as Monsanto. The reason is that multinationals, by their nature, export cutting-edge American technology. In a global economy seed multinationals provide the means for farmers in developing countries to compete, using the latest seed technology, with farmers in developed countries. North American seed activists are urgently and desperately trying to prevent this fair competition. This is not neo-socialism as argued by Peter Gakinyua but ‘trans-national Luddism’: an attempt to sabotage the rural economy of developing countries.

Pat Mooney of RAFI (now ETC – a tax exempt ‘charity’ in Canada with substantial funding from the US) presented the Ban Terminator position to a recent meeting of the Biodiversity Convention in Brazil: ‘… the CBD cannot allow governments to make their own decisions on field tests due to GURTs’ inherent dangers to humanity and human rights implications.’ (http://www.iisd.ca/biodiv/cop8/23march.htm).

What right has a Canadian NGO to promote a suicide seed circus with the aim of denying Third World farmers access to the latest agricultural technology? This is surely a breach of farmers’ human right of freedom of choice.

Brazil can now complain to the Canadian Government about Canadian NGOs meddling in Brazilian agricultural development policy. And any attempt by foreign NGOs to sabotage national agriculture and trade is certainly a breach of the level playing field dictated by the World Trade Organization.
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http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=local&id=4070031

Demonstrators protest use of animal testing

- ABC News, By Evelyn Holmes, April 9, 2006

Thousands of the world's top scientists are in Chicago for the 2006 Bio-Tech convention. Demonstrators protesting the use of animal testing distracted people attending the convention Sunday. They say bio-technology is harming humans.
Related Links

On Sunday, demonstrators gathered to protest biotechnology's use of animal testing. While organizers of the conference say animal experimentation along with other innovations are essential to discovering new ways to fight diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's, those in opposition say that is a pitfall the public can not afford to fall into.

"It does occasionally make successes. The vast majority of time you get drugs that end up murdering people," said Jay Johnson, Reclaim the Commons.

Even though police moved the protesters from directly in front of the conference activities, the outcries of the dozen or so demonstrators did draw strong reaction from those attending Sunday's job fair. They say without animal testing, many of the drugs in use today to fight diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's would be non-existent.

"It is very easy for this hippie activists to protest because it is fashionable, it is very romantic," said C.S. Prakash, Tuskegee University.

Plenty of police officers were on hand for Sunday's demonstration. This is the first year the biotechnology industry organization's conference has been held in Chicago and because 17,000 attendees will bring millions of dollars to the city, officials want to do everything to make sure it will not be the last time.

"It is a great industry and we are really honored to have them. We hope they are as happy about being in Chicago as we are that they are here," said Deputy Chief Ralph Chiczewski, Chicago Police Department.

Most of biotechnology's industry leaders attended the convention -- which boasts representation from 30 countries and nearly every state. Some of the smartest scientists and researchers in the world will display some of the newest innovations in biotechnology, including genetically altered corn and ethanol used to power an INDY race car. Still, organizers don't want hot-button issues -- like stem cell research and animal experimentation -- to overshadow the purpose of the conference.

" That is because in the Chicago area in Illinois, in the Midwest, everything you need to create a bio-tech hub is here," said Jim Greenwood, President and CEO of Bio.

Sunday night there will be a welcome reception for attendees. The real work begins on Monday when scientists and researchers get into the newest innovations in biotechnology. Protesters say they will remain vocal about what they call our growing negative dependence on biotechnology. WLS By Evelyn Holmes

April 9, 2006 - Thousands of the world's top scientists are in Chicago for the 2006 Bio-Tech convention. Demonstrators protesting the use of animal testing distracted people attending the convention Sunday. They say bio-technology is harming humans.
Related Links

On Sunday, demonstrators gathered to protest biotechnology's use of animal testing. While organizers of the conference say animal experimentation along with other innovations are essential to discovering new ways to fight diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's, those in opposition say that is a pitfall the public can not afford to fall into.

"It does occasionally make successes. The vast majority of time you get drugs that end up murdering people," said Jay Johnson, Reclaim the Commons.

Even though police moved the protesters from directly in front of the conference activities, the outcries of the dozen or so demonstrators did draw strong reaction from those attending Sunday's job fair. They say without animal testing, many of the drugs in use today to fight diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's would be non-existent.

"It is very easy for this hippie activists to protest because it is fashionable, it is very romantic," said C.S. Prakash, Tuskegee University.

Plenty of police officers were on hand for Sunday's demonstration. This is the first year the biotechnology industry organization's conference has been held in Chicago and because 17,000 attendees will bring millions of dollars to the city, officials want to do everything to make sure it will not be the last time.

"It is a great industry and we are really honored to have them. We hope they are as happy about being in Chicago as we are that they are here," said Deputy Chief Ralph Chiczewski, Chicago Police Department.

Most of biotechnology's industry leaders attended the convention -- which boasts representation from 30 countries and nearly every state. Some of the smartest scientists and researchers in the world will display some of the newest innovations in biotechnology, including genetically altered corn and ethanol used to power an INDY race car. Still, organizers don't want hot-button issues -- like stem cell research and animal experimentation -- to overshadow the purpose of the conference.

" That is because in the Chicago area in Illinois, in the Midwest, everything you need to create a bio-tech hub is here," said Jim Greenwood, President and CEO of Bio.

Sunday night there will be a welcome reception for attendees. The real work begins on Monday when scientists and researchers get into the newest innovations in biotechnology. Protesters say they will remain vocal about what they call our growing negative dependence on biotechnology.
****************************

http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=local&id=4070031

Building a better grape: Some have no taste for it, but race is on to discover ways to enhance food

- Chicago Tribune (KRT), April 10, 2006

(Chicago Tribune (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Apr. 10--An insect's acute sense of smell enables it to sniff out succulent grape vines and in turn help vintners to produce tastier wines.

At least that's the hope of Australian scientists who have begun extracting odor-detecting genes from insects with the goal of turning them into electronic sensors to help grape growers improve their crops.

"We are cloning out and setting up assays for olfactory genes from insects," said Bruce Lee, director of food futures program for Australia's National Research Flagship.

Lee is among the thousands of foreign scientists, entrepreneurs and politicians who flocked to McCormick Place on Sunday for the opening of BIO2006, the major trade show for the world's $90 billion biotechnology industry. Participants will compare notes on new ways to manipulate nature, looking for partners, investors and customers from across the globe.

The meeting, which runs through Wednesday, also is drawing critics of genetically modified foods, and police expect protests similar to those that follow the BIO trade show wherever it goes.

On Sunday, Chicago police outnumbered the dozen or so animal rights activists who chanted and screamed at biotech conferees outside of the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Protesters held signs that referred to one animal testing company as "puppy killers" and called out slogans over megaphones that included "We know where you sleep at night" and "1, 2, 3, 4, open up the cage door."

"We are making it a point to be in the streets until these murders are stopped," said Jay Johnson, 22, who is with a group called Animal Rights Chicago.

Even though consumer resistance has proven a significant stumbling block in marketing genetically modified foods, the international race to discover new ways to enhance foods is moving forward at high speed.

The grape-sniffing project is just one example. Australian researchers say they are on track to harness insects' sense of smell to produce electronic sensors that grape growers could use in just six years.

Researchers have a few possible ways to do this, and they haven't decided the best choice yet. They could identify how an insect's sense of smell works, and then build similar capability into an electronic chip. Alternatively, researchers may develop a "bio-chip" that incorporates needed genes into the chip itself.

According to Lee, the goal is to tell growers the best time to irrigate a specific crop and to help them identify the grapes that will produce high-quality wine.

Goal: Minimal alteration

Such biotechnology does not require any manipulation of grape genes to make better wine. Because of concerns of some consumers, Lee said, researchers are striving to keep such manipulation to a minimum.

Another project uses DNA information from wheat to streamline traditional crop-breeding techniques aimed at producing a strain of wheat that will help prevent colon cancer when consumed, Lee said.

"We want to produce designer wheat so our growers can move away from commodity grains," he said. In just three to four years, such wheat should be available to farmers.

By avoiding direct genetic manipulation of crops--the removal or changing of a crop's genes so that its behavior is changed--the industry won't face the regulatory hurdles that greatly extend the time lag from laboratory success to new products in the marketplace.

But some efforts to improve food involve direct manipulation and require regulatory scrutiny in order to commercialize them.

Financed by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, James Dale, director of the center for tropical crops at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, is working to create bananas that provide higher levels of vitamin A and iron. The goal is to improve the health of Ugandans who survive on diets that are roughly 80 percent bananas, Dale said.

To give bananas more nutritional diversity, Dale is importing genes from soybeans and corn as well as bringing in genes from other strains of bananas.

"Since we are only using genes from plants, we hope this won't raise the political profile of our work too much," Dale said.

If the scientific research proceeds as hoped, a healthier strain of banana could be available for planting by Ugandans in 2016, Dale said. Much of the time will be spent proving to regulators in Australia and Africa that the genetically modified bananas don't pose threats to the environment or the health of people who eat them, he said.

Critics of "Frankenfoods" have been highly successful in blocking their adoption in Europe, but far less successful in the United States, where genetically modified corn and soybeans have been widely embraced.

Most areas of Australia don't allow genetically modified crops to be planted and harvested, said Anna Bligh, deputy premier and member of Parliament of the Queensland government. Her region is the one exception.

"We made our decision based on the known science," she said. "Our community has been comfortable with that. We have a strong agricultural base in our economy."

Even so, much of the biotechnology applied in Queensland is genetic screening rather than manipulation. The screening helps farmers breed tastier cattle and prawns (shrimp) without inserting foreign genes into the animals.

Feast from Australia

To show off Queensland's fare, Bligh brought an entourage to Chicago that includes Philip Johnson, a celebrity chef who operates ecco, a bistro in Brisbane.

Johnson whipped up a meal using beef and seafood shipped from Queensland that served more than 150 people from several countries Saturday night.

"The beef was better than anything I have tasted at home," Bligh said. "We export most of our very best."

Johnson said he wouldn't hesitate to serve foods in his restaurant that have been genetically modified to improve flavor or nutrition.

"I have confidence in our regulation so that if something is approved, it just doesn't scare me," he said.

(Chicago Tribune (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Apr. 10--An insect's acute sense of smell enables it to sniff out succulent grape vines and in turn help vintners to produce tastier wines.

At least that's the hope of Australian scientists who have begun extracting odor-detecting genes from insects with the goal of turning them into electronic sensors to help grape growers improve their crops.

"We are cloning out and setting up assays for olfactory genes from insects," said Bruce Lee, director of food futures program for Australia's National Research Flagship.

Lee is among the thousands of foreign scientists, entrepreneurs and politicians who flocked to McCormick Place on Sunday for the opening of BIO2006, the major trade show for the world's $90 billion biotechnology industry. Participants will compare notes on new ways to manipulate nature, looking for partners, investors and customers from across the globe.


The meeting, which runs through Wednesday, also is drawing critics of genetically modified foods, and police expect protests similar to those that follow the BIO trade show wherever it goes.

On Sunday, Chicago police outnumbered the dozen or so animal rights activists who chanted and screamed at biotech conferees outside of the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Protesters held signs that referred to one animal testing company as "puppy killers" and called out slogans over megaphones that included "We know where you sleep at night" and "1, 2, 3, 4, open up the cage door."

"We are making it a point to be in the streets until these murders are stopped," said Jay Johnson, 22, who is with a group called Animal Rights Chicago.

Even though consumer resistance has proven a significant stumbling block in marketing genetically modified foods, the international race to discover new ways to enhance foods is moving forward at high speed.

The grape-sniffing project is just one example. Australian researchers say they are on track to harness insects' sense of smell to produce electronic sensors that grape growers could use in just six years.

Researchers have a few possible ways to do this, and they haven't decided the best choice yet. They could identify how an insect's sense of smell works, and then build similar capability into an electronic chip. Alternatively, researchers may develop a "bio-chip" that incorporates needed genes into the chip itself.

According to Lee, the goal is to tell growers the best time to irrigate a specific crop and to help them identify the grapes that will produce high-quality wine.

Goal: Minimal alteration

Such biotechnology does not require any manipulation of grape genes to make better wine. Because of concerns of some consumers, Lee said, researchers are striving to keep such manipulation to a minimum.

Another project uses DNA information from wheat to streamline traditional crop-breeding techniques aimed at producing a strain of wheat that will help prevent colon cancer when consumed, Lee said.

"We want to produce designer wheat so our growers can move away from commodity grains," he said. In just three to four years, such wheat should be available to farmers.

By avoiding direct genetic manipulation of crops--the removal or changing of a crop's genes so that its behavior is changed--the industry won't face the regulatory hurdles that greatly extend the time lag from laboratory success to new products in the marketplace.

But some efforts to improve food involve direct manipulation and require regulatory scrutiny in order to commercialize them.

Financed by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, James Dale, director of the center for tropical crops at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, is working to create bananas that provide higher levels of vitamin A and iron. The goal is to improve the health of Ugandans who survive on diets that are roughly 80 percent bananas, Dale said.

To give bananas more nutritional diversity, Dale is importing genes from soybeans and corn as well as bringing in genes from other strains of bananas.

"Since we are only using genes from plants, we hope this won't raise the political profile of our work too much," Dale said.

If the scientific research proceeds as hoped, a healthier strain of banana could be available for planting by Ugandans in 2016, Dale said. Much of the time will be spent proving to regulators in Australia and Africa that the genetically modified bananas don't pose threats to the environment or the health of people who eat them, he said.

Critics of "Frankenfoods" have been highly successful in blocking their adoption in Europe, but far less successful in the United States, where genetically modified corn and soybeans have been widely embraced.

Most areas of Australia don't allow genetically modified crops to be planted and harvested, said Anna Bligh, deputy premier and member of Parliament of the Queensland government. Her region is the one exception.

"We made our decision based on the known science," she said. "Our community has been comfortable with that. We have a strong agricultural base in our economy."

Even so, much of the biotechnology applied in Queensland is genetic screening rather than manipulation. The screening helps farmers breed tastier cattle and prawns (shrimp) without inserting foreign genes into the animals.

Feast from Australia

To show off Queensland's fare, Bligh brought an entourage to Chicago that includes Philip Johnson, a celebrity chef who operates ecco, a bistro in Brisbane.

Johnson whipped up a meal using beef and seafood shipped from Queensland that served more than 150 people from several countries Saturday night.

"The beef was better than anything I have tasted at home," Bligh said. "We export most of our very best."

Johnson said he wouldn't hesitate to serve foods in his restaurant that have been genetically modified to improve flavor or nutrition.

"I have confidence in our regulation so that if something is approved, it just doesn't scare me," he said.
*******************************

http://www.int.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=31&art_id=qw114461892321E51
6

GM foods condemned in global marches

- IOL, April 10 2006

Paris - Thousands of protesters in 70 countries demonstrated on Saturday
against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), answering a call from the
environmental organisation Greenpeace, it claimed.

A spokesperson said there had been demonstrations in Australia, Bolivia,
India, South Africa and the United States, among other countries.

In France, the chief protest was held in the west of the country, with the
organisers claiming 12 000 participants and the police putting the number
at 5 000.

The minister responsible for new legislation governing GMO crops is mayor
of the town.

Campaigner Jose Bove said operations against GMO crops would be resumed
unless the government amended its planned legislation.

Demonstrations occurred on a small scale in major French cities.
*************************

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=35383

Biotechnology experts tackle Cartagena Protocol options

- ABS-CBN INTERACTIVE, 10 April 2006

To ratify or not to ratify. To scrap or not to scrap. Biotechnology experts want more time to study the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety before making any recommendation whether to ratify it through the Senate or to scrap it and implement the country's biosafety policy and regulatory framework.

The protocol is an international agreement on biosafety. It makes clear that products from new technologies must allow developing nations to balance public health against economic benefits. In the agreement, countries can ban imports of a genetically modified product if they feel that there is not enough scientific evidence that the product is safe.

Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning Romeo Recide of the Department of Agriculture said the implementation of biosafety protocol in the Philippines should be done on a calibrated basis.

Ratify the protocol

Saturnina Halos, head of the department's biotech advisory team, said the country has already been implementing the strict biosafety policy embodied in the Cartagena Protocol since 1990, so there is no reason for the Philippines not to endorse its ratification.

"We are running out of time and we are running out of funds. The Philippines may no longer be able to get funding from the United Nations environmental program for strengthening of the country's biosafety if the government continues to delay the ratification," she said.

Eufemio Rasco, former dean of the University of the Philippines in Mindanao, argued that the protocol was drafted based on the wrong assumption that biotechnology, particularly genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is a weapon of mass destruction.

"The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was created by framers on the wrong assumption. It is already obsolete," Rasco said.

Clear-cut policy

Teresita Espino, head of the University of the Philippines' National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, wants the government to make a clear-cut policy starting with the proper identification of GMOs that are to be regulated.

"Not all GMOs pose danger to the environment. We must identify the them and draft specific regulatory framework for each," said Espino, adding that GMOs are widely accepted in advanced countries.

Some scientists believed that adopting the Cartagena Protocol might cause trade disruptions and could result in additional costs of up to US$10 million annually.
********************

Guest opinion - Australia's fear of GM crops is hampering our
competitiveness

- CANBERRA TIMES , 9th April 2006

In February the World Trade Organisation issued a preliminary ruling that condemned the European Union for its unscientific moratorium on genetically modified crops.

The finding caused barely a whimper among the Australian press, but in Europe and North America the headlines were buzzing with talk of what the possible implications of the decision might be.

The dispute, initiated in 2003 by the US, Canada and Argentina, was over whether the EU had established a de facto moratorium on approvals of biotechnology products.

Specifically, they claimed that undue delays in the approval process functioned as a barrier to trade which adversely affected the biotech crop-producing countries.

The preliminary WTO judgment stated that the EU did indeed have an effective moratorium on GM foods that violated international trade laws.

But does this now mean that Europe will welcome GM? Not likely, but the WTO ruling will have an effect, and the implications are certain to extend far beyond Europe's borders.

When it comes to biotechnology, Europe and the US are chalk and cheese. Largely socially conservative, Americans tend to be highly critical of medical biotechnology, but see great promise for agricultural applications. Europeans, with their romantic attachment to food and traditional agricultural methods, have been vocal in their opposition to GM, but supportive of biomedical technologies.

Past differences aside, the WTO ruling will be a real test of Europe's resolve. While there are many Europeans who will exercise their prerogative to avoid GM, there are no doubt many others for whom method of production is of little interest and price is the determining factor in their decision to buy.

Economic modelling by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics shows that, for low-income developing countries, the lower production costs of GM crops could lead to increased margins for farmers. Australian opponents of GM crops often cite Europe's unease as cause for stymieing GM production here, but the latest developments at the WTO cast
doubt on how long Europe's doors will be closed. With GM moratoriums in all states except Queensland, Australian farmers are currently denied accessp to all GM crops other than cotton and carnations.

Despite scientific assessment and subsequent approval of a number of GM crop varieties by the federal Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, the states maintain GM moratoriums.

These are not only damaging Australia's international competitiveness, but in a debate that has been characterised by misinformation, they also reaffirm the widespread suspicion among Australia's metropolitan community that there is something unduly ''risky'' about GM crops.

It will probably come as a surprise to many that GM crops have been endorsed by some of the most eminent health and agricultural organisations in the world.

Last year the World Health Organisation issued a report acknowledging the potential of GM crops to enhance human health and development. The report found that GM foods were not likely, nor had been shown, to present risks for human health.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has also found no verifiable reports of health or environmental harm from GM crops.

Several state moratoriums are up for review in the next year or so, and this time GM is likely to have a few heavyweight supporters.

The recently issued report by the Agriculture and Food Policy Reference Group, chaired by National Farmers' Federation president Peter Corish, slammed the state governments and recommended lifting the moratoriums immediately. Australia's newly appointed chief scientist Jim Peacock is also a supporter, and placed GM firmly back on the agenda, calling for
increased dialogue and improved community understanding of GM technologies.

Both see GM as a means of improving Australia's agricultural competitiveness. No doubt both are mindful of the rapid GM adoption rates among Australia's competitors.

Last year more than 8 million farmers in 21 countries planted more than 90million hectares to GM crops.

Since the first commercial plantings a decade ago, adoption of GM has increased by double-digit growth rates every year. Many of the farmers growin g these crops are from developing countries. Because GM crops reduce the need for pesticides and tillage (and therefore fuel) they are being embraced by farmers in areas where such inputs are prohibitively
costly.

With the WTO decision raising the potential for increased access to European markets, fears among growers of trade barriers are starting to dissipate, and even higher adoption rates are likely to ensue.

What Australia chooses to do in response to these developments may affect our competitiveness for years to come.


Dr Tong is chief executive of the Molecular Plant Breeding Cooperative Research Centre, which conducts research into biotechnology-based approaches for cereal and pasture improvement at research sites in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Mexico. http://www.molecularplantbreeding.com
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http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060410/bs_afp/usindiafarmbiotechnologypharmaceutic
als_060410051026;_ylt=A86.I1EHDzpEeUYALgnPOrgF;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNh
dA-

GM crops, drugs critical for India's development: minister

- YAHOO NEWS, 19th April, 2006

Chicago - Biologically engineered crops and pharmaceuticals are critical to the long-term economic and agricultural security of India, the science and technology minister said.

While some nations like France may be wary of genetically modified food, India cannot afford not to invest in technologies that will boost production and can also serve to address the nutritional deficiencies of India's largely vegetarian population, Kapil Sibal said.

"We can't close our eyes to biotechnology for agriculture," he said at a biotechnology conference in Chicago.

"At the same time we cannot deviate from the goal of sustainable development in terms of environment and the basic interest of the farmer and consumer safety. So our approach is a case by case basis."

Yields in India are significantly lower than in most other nations and the current production growth rate will have to triple if India will be able to feed its growing population.

Scientists are currently working on creating crops enriched with a significantly higher iron content that will allow the 70 percent of South Asians with iron deficiencies improve their hemoglobin counts.

India has been producing genetically modified cotton for three years now and 13 other crops - including rice, chick peas, potatoes, cauliflower and eggplants - ought to be approved in the near-term.

"We have to be very, very careful about safety standards," Sibal said. "We must ensure that the regulatory procedures are such that we don't damage our biodiversity and that in fact we make our biodiversity a source of innovation rather than destroy it."

In the health sector, India companies must invest in biotech research to find new treatments and cures for the "diseases of the poor" like malaria which are being ignored by large multinational corporations, Sibal said.

India aims to develop its life sciences industry in the same way it has developed its information technology industry.

This will create much-needed jobs but will also help drastically reduce the price of treatments because of India's low production costs. India already produces about half of the world's vaccines at just pennies a dose.

One area which India hopes to specialize in is genomics-based preventative medicine which will develop therapies tailored to subgroups said Maharaj Bhan, secretary of the department of biotechnology at the ministry of science and technology.

The Indian government has undertaken a number of measures to jump-start research and development, Bhan said.

It has revised its patent protections to meet global standards, has a goal of doubling the number of students entering life science PhD programs in the next two years and will open 50 centers of excellence over the next five years which will focus on cross-disciplinary research in the life sciences.

But more help is needed from abroad, Sibal said.

"It's very important for the scientific community to remember that yes they should make profits but they have to share knowledge," Sibal said. "Sometimes there is a clash between societal interests and proprietary interests and the world scientific community has to remember that."

Cutting prices in order to make products affordable to developing nations can ultimately result in profits, Sibal said.

A few weeks ago he met with Monsanto and convinced the agricultural product giant to cut its royalty fees by 30 percent on genetically modified cotton seeds.

That will help production of GM cotton to nearly triple from about 13 million hectares in 2005-06 to a forecasted 35 million hectares in 2006-07.
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University of California, Berkeley joins US$17.6m African Biofortified Sorghum Project

A Project of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges for Global Health

Contact: Daniel Kamanga, Communications Director, Africa Harvest
International: +27 82 787 4799; Email: dkamanga@supersorghum.org

NAIROBI, Kenya, April 10, 2006 – The University of California, Berkeley has joined the African Biotechnology Sorghum (ABS) Project, a Grand Challenges for Global Health initiative funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dr. Florence Wambugu, the CEO of Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International and the ABS Project leader said, “UC Berkeley will focus on the digestibility portion of the project, based on studies that have been underway for over a decade in the laboratories of Professors Bob Buchanan and Peggy G. Lemaux.”

Professor Buchanan is professor of plant and microbial biology while Professor Lemaux is Cooperative Extension specialist in plant and microbial biology. Their contribution will complement approaches being pursued by other ABS project consortium members.

“University of California, Berkeley’s efforts provide a second avenue to ensure success in achieving the important goal of increasing digestibility, and we are extremely happy to offer our expertise and materials for this important project for the public good,” stated Lemaux.

“The seeds the UC Berkeley scientists will develop should have enhanced protein and starch digestibility so people can obtain improved nutritional value from their sorghum consumption,” said Buchanan.

The ABS project consortium was one of more than 1,500 applicants for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges in Global Health (GCGH) initiative, which seeks to harness the power of science and technology to dramatically improve health. The Grand Challenges initiative is supported by $450 million from the Gates Foundation (which includes a $200 million commitment managed by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health), $27.1 million from the Welcome Trust, and $4.5 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The ABS Project brings together nine organizations, of which seven are based in Africa: Africa Harvest, project lead; African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF); International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT); South African-based Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); Agricultural research Council (ARC); University of Pretoria; and Ghana-based Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). The two U.S. organizations are Pioneer Hi-Bred, International, Inc., a subsidiary of DuPont, and the University of California, Berkeley.

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The Africa Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) Project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges for Global Health, which seeks to harness the power of science and technology to improve the health of the world’s poorest people. With the goal of improving nutrition to promote health, the ABS project focuses on developing a “super sorghum” that grows well in harsh climates and contains high levels of essential nutrients for the people in sub-Saharan Africa. The project is a 9-member consortium of public private and academic organizations led by a Project Steering Committee, which includes Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International (www.ahbfi.org); DuPont, through its subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. (www.dupont.com, www.pioneer.com); and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (www.csir.co.za). For more information on the ABS Project, visit www.supersorghum.org
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DuPont and Syngenta form joint venture to facilitate the out-licensing of seed
genetics and biotech traits

Wilmington, Delaware, USA, and Basel, Switzerland 10 April, 2006

DuPont and Syngenta today announced in Chicago, Illinois the formation of a joint venture and licensing agreements that will bring expanded choice to North American farmers through broader access to the companies' proprietary corn and soybean genetics and biotechnology traits.

for more information:
http://www.syngenta.com/en/media/article.aspx?pr=041006&Lang=en


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