Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org - April 21, 2006
* First Decade of GE Crops in the United States - USDA Report
* Genetically Engineered Foods Not A New Idea
* Poland Set to Approve Gene Crop Ban Despite EU
* Kenya Advances on GM Cotton
* Canada Tops the World in Biotech Crop R & D
* Buy Into the Bunk or Let Biotech Forge On
* Biofuels and Genetically Engineered Crops
* How Pesticides are Saving the Earth
* Industry reaps GM bonanza, but we will pay
* .... GMO Pundit Responds..
* Global Farmers Meet with Clinton
* UK Committee: Private Sector and International Development
The First Decade of Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States - USDA Report
- Jorge Fernandez-Cornejo and Margriet Caswell, USDA Economic Information Bulletin No. (EIB-11) 36pp, April 2006. Full report at http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib11/eib11.pdf
Ten years after the first generation of genetically engineered (GE) varieties became commercially available, adoption of these varieties by U.S. farmers is widespread for major crops.
Driven by farmers’ expectations of higher yields, savings in management time, and lower pesticide costs, the adoption of corn, soybean, and cotton GE varieties has increased rapidly. Despite the benefits, however, environmental and consumer concerns may have limited acceptance of GE crops, particularly in Europe.
This report focuses on GE crops and their adoption in the United States over the past 10 years. It examines the three major stakeholders of agricultural biotechnology and finds that:
1. The pace of R&D activity by producers of GE seed (the seed firms and technology providers) has been rapid
2. Farmers have adopted some GE varieties widely and at a rapid rate and benefited from such adoption, and 3. The level of consumer concerns about foods that contain GE ingredients varies by country, with European consumers being most concerned.
Over the past decade, developments in modern biotechnology have expanded the scope of biological innovations by providing new tools for increasing crop yields and agricultural productivity. The role that biotechnology will play in agriculture in the United States and globally will depend on a number of factors and uncertainties. What seems certain, however, is that the ultimate contribution of agricultural biotechnology will depend on our ability to identify and measure its potential benefits and risks.
What Is the Issue?
Ten years after the first generation of genetically engineered (GE) varieties of major crops became commercially available, adoption of these varieties by U.S. farmers has become widespread. United States consumers eat many products derived from these crops--including some cornmeal, oils, sugars, and other food products--largely unaware of their GE content. Despite the rapid increase in the adoption of GE corn, soybean, and cotton varieties by U.S. farmers, questions remain regarding the impact of agricultural biotechnology. These issues range from the economic and environmental impacts to consumer acceptance.
What Did the Study Find?
This study examined the three major stakeholders in agricultural biotechnology: seed suppliers and technology providers, farmers, and consumers.
Seed suppliers/technology providers. Strengthening of intellectual property rights protection in the 1970s and 1980s increased returns to research and offered greater incentives for private companies to invest in seed development and crop biotechnology. Since 1987, seed producers have submitted nearly 11,600 applications to USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for field testing of GE varieties. More than 10,700 (92 percent) have been approved. Approvals peaked in 2002 with 1,190. Most approved applications involved major crops, with nearly 5,000 for corn alone, followed by soybeans, potatoes, and cotton. More than 6,600 of the approved applications included GE varieties with herbicide tolerance or insect resistance. Significant numbers of applications were approved for varieties with improved product quality, viral resistance, and enhanced agronomic proper- ties such as drought and fungal resistance.
Farmers. Adoption of GE soybeans, corn, and cotton by U.S. farmers has increased most years since these varieties became commercially available in 1996. By 2005, herbicide-tolerant soybeans accounted for 87 percent of total U.S. soybean acreage, while herbicide-tolerant cotton accounted for about 60 percent of total cotton acreage. Adoption of insect-resistant crops is concentrated in areas with high levels of pest infestation and varies across States. Insect-resistant cotton was planted on 52 percent of cotton acreage in 2005--ranging from 13 percent in California to 85 percent in Louisiana. Insect-resistant corn accounted for 35 percent of the total acreage in 2005, following the introduction of a new variety to control the corn rootworm.
The economic impact of GE crops on producers varies by crop and technology. Herbicide-tolerant cotton and corn were associated with increased returns, as were insect-resistant cotton and corn when pest infestations were more prevalent. Despite the rapid adoption of herbicide-tolerant soybeans, there was little impact on net farm returns in 1997 and 1998. However, the adoption of herbicide-tolerant soybeans is associated with increased off- farm household income, suggesting that farmers adopt this technology because the simplicity and flexibility of the technology permit them to save management time, allowing them to benefit from additional income from off-farm activities.
Genetically engineered crops also seem to have environmental benefits. Overall pesticide use is lower for adopters of GE crops, and the adoption of herbicide-tolerant soybeans may indirectly benefit the environment by encouraging the adoption of soil conservation practices.
Consumers. Most surveys and consumer studies indicate consumers have at least some concerns about foods containing GE ingredients, but these concerns have not had a large impact on the market for these foods in the United States. Despite the concerns of U.S. consumers, "GE-free" labels on foods are not widely used in the United States. Manufacturers have been active in creating a market for GE-free foods. Between 2000 and 2004, manufacturers introduced more than 3,500 products that had explicit non- GE labeling, most of them food products.
In the European Union and some other countries, however, consumer concerns have spurred a movement away from foods with GE ingredients. Despite the fact that some European consumers are willing to consume foods containing GE ingredients, very few of these foods are found on European grocery shelves.
The role that biotechnology plays in agriculture in the United States and globally depends on a number of factors and uncertainties. As the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture report indicates, "agricultural biotechnology sits at the crossroads of other debates on the future of American and world agriculture, on international trade rela- tions, on biological diversity and the development of international instruments related to its preservation and exploitation, on the role of the multinational corporations, and on how best to build public confidence in rapidly evolving emerging technologies in general".
One thing seems certain, however: the ultimate contribution of agricultural biotechnology will depend on our ability to identify and measure its potential benefits and its risks as well as their distribution.
Genetically Engineered Foods Not A New Idea
- Tony Lystra, Corvallis Gazette-Times, april 21, 2006
'Researcher says early farmers picked high-yielding seeds'
Worried that genetically engineered food will unwittingly make its way onto your dinner table? You’re too late. By about 7,000 years.
The director of biotech research at the University of California said Thursday evening that early Mesopotamian farmers noticed which plants yielded the most food and replanted those seeds. The result, she said, are agricultural products of vast genetic ancestry -- all influenced by humans.
During a lecture that navigated the worldwide political minefield that has become genetically modified agriculture research, Martina Newell-McLoughlin said that 90 percent of all enzymes used in large-scale food production result from recombinant DNA.
Biotechnology, she said, "is the most rapidly adopted technology since the tractor." Newell-McGloughlin, who grew up on a farm in Ireland, noted that activists in counties across California have mounted ballot-measure campaigns to stop genetically modified products from being produced.
Critics of the technology, she said, believe it amounts to "interfering with nature" and therefore is ethically suspect. Opponents also worry about the "unpredictable, irreversible nature" of the science as well as the economic changes it brings to farming, she said.
But then she showed old propaganda cartoons crying out against vaccination and the pasteurization of milk. She juxtaposed the images against an anti-biofood ad showing an ear of corn made to resemble a hand grenade.
During the lecture, hosted by the Oregon State University colleges of forestry and agricultural sciences at the LaSells Stewart Center, Newell-McGloughlin pointed to cases where 90 percent of cancer-causing bacteria had been reduced in genetically modified corn. She quoted a South African farmer who said biotechnology had graced her with disposable income for the first time. And she said the technology has resulted in less pesticide use and more efficiency.
Still, she also noted the technology's risks, particularly the resulting products' potential for diminished nutritional value and a lack of knowledge about its components. More specifically, she spoke of a hybrid species of salmon, engineered to reach full size at a younger age; if it reached the wild, it could interbreed with wild salmon and interfere with ecosystems' stability. "Biotech is a useful tool," she said, "not a panacea."
Poland Set to Approve Gene Crop Ban Despite EU
- Ewa Krukowska, Reuters, April 20, 2006
Warsaw - Poland's upper house of parliament may ban trade and plantings of genetically modified (GMO) seeds on Thursday and put Warsaw on a collision course with Brussels for endorsing a law that breaks EU rules.
The chairman of the Senate's agriculture committee said he expected senators from the ruling conservative Law and Justice party and several fringe groups to support the draft law, which has already been approved by the lower house of parliament. "Senators from Law and Justice will back the bill and I have not heard any objections from several other parties, so it should pass," Jerzy Chroscikowski told Reuters.
The legislation would still have to get final approval from lower house deputies after the Senate vote. It also has to be signed by the president to become law. Poland's plans for what is effectively a national GMO ban have drawn criticism from the European Commission, the EU executive, for threatening to break EU laws, especially those that aim to preserve the bloc's single internal market.
The Commission takes the view that if a region wants to ban GMO crops, such a restriction has to be scientifically justified and crop-specific -- not a blanket ban on all biotech seeds or crops. "We might have to consider excluding an individual GM product from a given area if, for scientific reasons, it genuinely could not co-exist with non-GM crops in that area," said EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel.
"But...we cannot simply ban all GM crops from an entire region because of hostility to GM products per se. Where a product has been shown not to be harmful, in principle the rules of the free internal EU market apply," she told a conference in Vienna earlier this month.
The Commission's position was put to the test a few years ago by an Austrian region whose proposed regional GMO ban was slapped down by Brussels. The Court of First Instance, the EU's second highest court, upheld the Commission's view last October.
Early last year Italy adopted a law imposing a ban on GMO crops until all its regions had agreed laws on how farmers should separate biotech crops from organic and traditional varieties. The Commission has already warned of legal action.
No biotech seeds have been planted in Poland and the ruling conservatives, who have long said they wanted to make Poland GMO-free, fear that potential future sowings of genetically modified crops could lead to contaminatation of other crops.
So-called coexistence laws -- or rules for separating biotech crops from organic and traditional varieties -- have become the most controversial area in the biotech debate across the EU. Environmental groups in the bloc say no GMOs should be grown in Europe until an EU-wide coexistence law is in place. The biotech industry sees no problems in growing GMO crops next to non-GMO types.
Deputy Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski told Reuters this month the government wanted to ban sowing of GMO plants to protect Poland's image as an enviromentally friendly state and that it might seek changes to the bloc's biotech policy.
Kenya Advances on GM Cotton
- Michael Ouma, East African Business Week, April 17, 2006 http://www.busiweek.com/
Nairobi --Kenya's move towards the introduction of a genetically modified (GM) cotton variety is reportedly moving at a fast rate as the country takes steps to revive the once vibrant cotton sub-sector.
Currently, research on the transgenic or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton is at the stage of contained field trials (CFT). The Bt subspecies being used in the trials, kurstaki, is active in controlling a number of chewing insects (Lepidoteran) pests in field plantations.
The aim of the trials, being undertaken at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute's (KARI) farm in Mwea, in central Kenya, is to establish the efficacy of the protein variety, Cry IA(c), on the target insects under field conditions where pest pressures are experienced.
With the tests, the researchers expect that as with other cotton growing countries (in North America, Australia, China, Mexico and South Africa), cotton varieties carrying this particular gene will exhibit resistance to the bollworm.
The main objectives of the project, which is scheduled to take about four months, is to evaluate the efficacy of Bt on cotton bollworms, study the effect of Bt on natural enemies and other non-target arthropods and to evaluate the risk of intercropping with Bt cotton. It also seeks to evaluate economic advantages of Bt cotton.
During the trials, several biosafety safeguard measures have been put in place. These include: 500 metre separation from the nearest conventional cotton farm; all seed from the genetically modified (GM) trials and seed from the conventional cotton forming part of isolation barriers will be incinerated on site.
Basically, most of the material from the trial will be destroyed on site as it has a lot of destructive potential if allowed to integrate into other neighbouring farms. Follow up inspection will be done 2, 6 and 12 months after the initial trial and no cotton will be planted on the trial site in the following year.
The trial sites will also be inspected periodically by members of the National Biosafety Council (NBC) as well as Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS).
Cotton production in the country has recorded a decline since 1986, when production was at an all time high of 70,000 bales to just 20,000 bales in the 2000. The decline is attributed to several factors, the main one being damage caused by cotton pests which account for losses of up to 32% of the total cost of production to the farmer. The cotton bollworm, the pest targeted by Bt cotton, can on its own cause damage leading to the loss of an entire crop of cotton if left unchecked.
Other factors responsible for the decline of the crop's production were liberalisation of the sub-sector that led to diminished regulatory and monitory functions of the Cotton Board of Kenya.
There was also the removal of subsidies to cotton growers by the government which has meant that local farmers sell their produce in the same market with farmers from countries where the sub-sector is accorded a lot of support by the government.
Even though the introduction of Bt cotton on its own will not solve the myriad of problems of the cotton farmers and the industry in general, proponents of the technology are convinced that its application will go along way in helping reduce production costs. This is because it enables plants to express toxins of Bt in order to protect them from key target insect pests. The insecticidal proteins produced by Bt are also toxic to major lepidopteron pests.
"Because Bt proteins are much more persistent and effective, _expression of Bt toxins in cotton plants can greatly reduce the need for application of broad-spectrum insecticides", says Dr Charles Waturu, the project's principal investigator.
After the country has put in place the requisite policy and regulatory framework and eventual conclusion and release of the technology to the farmers, Kenya will then be join the group of the world's17 countries whose farmers are currently applying biotechnology to attain food security.
According to figures from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA), in the past 9 years, more than 8 million farmers have planted nearly 1 billion acres of biotech crops.
Canada Tops the World in Biotech Crop Research and Development
- Council For Biotechnology Information, April 19, 2006 http://whybiotech.ca/
In the global game of high-tech agriculture, where 18 countries have already adopted biotech crops and another 45 are testing them, Canada is clearly a gold medal winner. According to a recent study, Canada has researched more field crops than any other country.
Prepared by Ford Runge, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for International Food and Agricultural Policy, the report goes on to say that "Canada clearly has the R & D infrastructure in place to continue as a biotech leader, both through publicly funded institutions such as Agriculture Canada, Genome Canada and Plant Biotechnology Institute, as well as its leading research institutions such as the University of Guelph, University of Saskatchewan and Laval University.
"Biotech agriculture is a high-stakes game with the annual commercial value pegged at almost $US50 billion, most of which comes from five countries: the United States ($27.5 billion), Argentina ($8.9 billion), China ($3.9 billion), Canada ($2 billion) and Brazil ($1.6 billion).
With 49 crops already approved for commercial use, Canada's prominent role in this emerging industry is partly due to its unique position as the only country to regulate on the basis of the traits expressed and not on the basis of the method used to introduce the traits. This means that plants with novel traits may be produced by conventional breeding, mutagenesis or recombinant DNA techniques. Field trials in 2003, for example, included alfalfa, brown mustard, canola, corn, lentils, potato, safflower, sugarbeet, tobacco and wheat, some of which were non-food crops being tested for pharmaceutical production of proteins. All of these crops of course come under rigorous regulatory scrutiny from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada.
Given the huge value gap between American and Canadian commercialization, Canada is clearly punching above its weight on a global scale. "This is primarily due to the very strong regulatory system and the vibrancy of small to mid-sized technology ventures in Canada," says Gord Surgeoner, president of Ontario Agri-Food Technologies. "Canada has always invested a lot in research, but right now we have a number of companies, such as Performance Plants, Linnaeus Plant Sciences, and SemBioSys doing world-class work in this field.
"Adding value to the research pipeline, Canadian farmers continue to be ready adopters of commercial biotech products, planting a record 13 million acres in 2004. Of the 12.7 million acres planted to canola, about 77 percent was from biotech seed according to JoAnne Buth, vice-president, Production, Canola Council of Canada. This is well above the five-year average of 11.2 million acres and represents a healthy increase over the 63 percent adoption rate in 2002. Additionally, a record 3 million acres went into soybeans in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba, and just over 3 million acres were planted to corn. AGCare president Greg Hannam estimates that 50 to 55 percent of these crops consisted of biotech-improved varieties, up slightly from last year.
Quebec farmers however are pulling up these averages by aggressively adopting biotech corn: about 70 percent of this year's crop was either herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant. A testament to this trend is Dominic Gregoire, a major cash crop farmer with 500 acres of corn and 600 acres of soybeans at his Napierville, Quebec farm. "This is the fifth year I've planted biotech corn because I see a difference in yield," says Gregoire. "Sometimes it's a five to 10 percent higher yield, depending on insect pressures, enough to justify the investment.
"Canadian farmers are already looking to the gains from the next generation of biotech seed products, which profile consumer benefits. Farm journals are reporting on soybean and canola products with improved oil profiles that will address trans fatty acid health concerns. About 500,000 acres of heat-stable, high-oleic canola oil was contracted in 2004, mostly to meet Japanese demand for heart-healthy cooking oils. With trans fatty acid nutritional labeling looming in North America in 2006, the demand will expand.
As might be expected with all this good news, Runge's report unearthed a trend to watch in China's move from fourth to third place in world rankings of acreage planted to biotech crops. Although this appears to be mainly due to the exploding adoption of insect-resistant cotton, continued expansion into commercial food crops such as rice could significantly impact Canada's position. The Chinese government has been investing heavily in biotech research, and is now second only to the US in annual research spending.
Buy Into the Bunk or Let Biotech Forge On
- Jennifer Marohasy, April 20, 2006 http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/articles86.html
Early this year a professor from the University of Queensland predicted 60 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef would bleach this summer because of global warming. Then a few months later, at the end of summer, Professor Ove Hoegh-Gieldberg revised his estimate down to just one per cent.
In some ways global warming is a bit like genetically modified food, there is an awful lot of hype. A couple of years ago Jeffrey Smith published Seeds of Deception claiming that genetically modified (GM) food is unsafe. I heard Mr Smith on radio when he was over here promoting his book.
When asked for an example of an unsafe food on the supermarket shelves, he made some reference to how GM foods had not been properly tested. A second book by Mr Smith about how GM foods are going to kill us will be published in August. Called Genetic Roulette, it will apparently document the health risks from GM foods, which is interesting because I thought that was what the first book was all about.
In fact, I feel Mr Smith should tell us right-a-way what the health risks are. Why should we wait until August, unless it's all hype?
I am starting to wonder whether people buy books about global warming and GM foods because they want to be titillated? These two issues are particularly popular with people who like to have something frightening to chatter about.
The trouble is that politicians are often looking for something to legislate and I suspect that Mr Smith’s last book, which was promoted by Greenpeace and subsequently frightened people, helped create enough angst for the NSW government to put in place the current bans on GM food crops.
In the meantime, Australian scientists recently made a major breakthrough finding an anti-freeze gene in a grass from Antarctica. They claim that through genetic modification, this gene could be used to frost-proof grain crops. The finding was announced this month at a Biotechnology Conference in Chicago, but what the audience wasn’t told was that GM food crops are banned in all Australian States except Queensland.
Interest in the anti-freeze gene has drawn attention to the extent of agricultural losses from frost – an ironic topic in this age of concern over global warming.
In the US there are more crop loses to frost than any other weather phenomenon. But the problem is we also have people like anti-GM campaigner, Jeffrey Smith, and the professor who wrongly predicted the reef would bleach this year, who are expert scaremongers.
Some may be titillated by their dire predictions, but it is important to understand whether their claims have any basis in reality and what we can do about them.
Australian farmers have never had much influence over the weather, but Australian farmers do have some control over issues of genetic modification.
Farm organizations can chose to buy Jeffrey Smith’s doomsayer predictions about the safety of this already proven technology, or they can start insisting that the current bans on GM food crops are lifted and research like that into the anti-freeze gene is fast tracked here in Australia.
Biofuels and Genetically Engineered Crops
- John Cook, April 21, 2006 http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/venture/archives/102789.asp
One of the great things about my job is that I get to pop in and out of various industries, tracking where the venture capitalists are placing their next big bets. For example, I had no idea that I would be writing about genetically modified soybeans, sugar cane and corn this week.
But that's the topic of today's column in which I report on Seattle-based Targeted Growth and its recent $10 million oversubscribed financing round. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/venture/267522_vc21.html
Founded in 1999 with technology from the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Targeted Growth believes it can increase the yields of canola, sugar cane and other "energy crops" by more than 20 percent. If successful -- and there are a lot of hurdles in the way -- Targeted Growth could become a big player in the emerging alternative fuel sector. It is an area that has attracted a lot of interest recently from wealthy investors, including venture capitalist Vinod Khosla and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.
Targeted Growth Chief Operating Officer Thomas Todaro, who has the strange resume of former PayPal executive and Canadian dairy farm general manager, thinks the 15-person company can improve alternative energy supplies in the next five years through its genetically engineered crops.
"Whoever controls the best plant, controls the kingdom," he said. "Building a better ethanol-producing factory is not as defensible as having a crop that can produce the highest yield. It is the equivalent of having the land underneath where the petroleum sits."
How Pesticides are Saving the Earth
- Patrick Moore, National Post (Canada), April 20, 2006
Back at the time of the first Earth Day in 1970, I was a grad student at the University of British Columbia, preparing to go on the ocean voyage against U.S. hydrogen bomb testing that would result in the birth of Greenpeace. For the next 15 years, I would lead Greenpeace on a range of campaigns, finally leaving in 1986.
A lot has changed since those days, not least a significant improvement in agricultural technology. So there should be no shame in thinking this Earth Day about ways in which science and technology have improved our ability to raise crops and put food on our tables.
More importantly, continued research and development in genetic science, fertilizers and pesticides has enabled us to dramatically increase both the quantity and quality of food production without increasing the area of land required. The result is greater wilderness protection and a more bio-diverse world.
Pesticides are a key part of modern agriculture, contributing to the dramatic increases in crop yields achieved in recent decades. Through the use of pesticides, farmers are able to produce crops profitably in otherwise unsuitable locations, extend growing seasons, maintain product quality and extend shelf life.
In fact, it's better pesticide science that has allowed North America to triple its food production while maintaining the same amount of forest cover as existed a century ago.
But activist groups with an anti-pesticide agenda continue to disseminate misinformation designed to scare and confuse the public. From the Environmental Working Group's 1989 campaign against the growth regulator Alar (a campaign which nearly destroyed the U.S. apple-growing industry), and continuing today with the likes of the Sierra Club and David Suzuki, the misguided bid to demonize pesticide use continues.
Ironically, the result is that people who listen to the anti-pesticide message tend to put themselves and their children at greater risk of cancer by avoiding eating fresh fruits and vegetables.
Professor Bruce Ames of the University of California, Berkeley, has been trying for years to tell the world that pesticide in food is not a significant health issue. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and a National Medal of Science recipient for his research on cancer, especially in connection with chemical toxicity, Dr. Ames has found that natural pesticides plants produce to protect themselves from insects and fungus are just as toxic as the synthetic pesticides applied in agricultural production.
An international panel of cancer experts organized by the National Cancer Institute of Canada has reached much the same conclusion. Evaluating over 70 published studies, it concluded that contrary to allegations by some activists, it was "not aware of any definitive evidence to suggest that synthetic pesticides contribute significantly to overall cancer mortality. "Dr. Ames notes that 99.99% of the pesticides we eat are natural chemicals -- something anti-pesticide activists never tell the public.
So those who turn to organic food are not avoiding most of the pesticides humans ingest, because most of these pesticides are naturally occurring -- and like their synthetic cousins, they pose negligible risk to human health.Eliminating synthetic pesticides would mean giving up the huge productivity gains we have made in agriculture. It would mean turning wilderness and parkland to farmland and reducing biodiversity, at tremendous environmental cost and with no real benefit.
Worse, eliminating pesticides would make fruits and vegetables more expensive, thereby decreasing consumption and increasing the risk of disease. A research analysis titled Benefits of Crop Protection Technologies on Canadian Food Production, Nutrition, Economy and the Environment (SafeFood Consulting, Inc., 2005) found that without the use of pesticides, crop yields would drop by 30% to 50%, largely because of losses to insects and pests, and retail food prices would jump by at least 27%.
Agricultural science and technology have changed our world for the better. Pesticides have played an important role.
As we celebrate Earth Day and commit ourselves to a more sustainable future, let's confront activist misinformation and scare tactics by remembering how much we've achieved through the science of agriculture.
Industry reaps GM bonanza, but we will pay
- Mairi Anne Mackenzie, The Age (Australia), april 15, 2006
".....decisions about GM take only short-term economics into account, and both sides of the debate are simplistic. For example, CSIRO researcher Bruce Lee thinks that a successful, GM-facilitated strain of slowly digestible wheat will "confound the critics", by being medically beneficial for overweight people.
This seriously underestimates the kind of problem we are dealing with, and makes the debate sound like a schoolyard tit-for-tat. Critics don't doubt that GM works in the paddock. But they might argue that GM projects reinforce the idea that we can - and should - mould nature to perpetuate the impossible: endless physical economic growth.
"We seem prepared to lock into this imposing technology because of our expectation of greater material wealth. As farmers, our expectation of growth in productivity deems variety after variety "unproductive". And yet there is nothing wrong with today's, or yesterday's, crop varieties.
It is our idea of "improvement" - that is, ever higher yields - that is faulty and our economic aims that need fixing. As usual, we are fixing up the world instead of adjusting our expectations. We have the kind of progress that is making us overweight, and that ensures a nutritionally deficient diet for those in the developing world."
Read all of at
GMO Pundit's response to this socialist fantasy utopia at
Farming Utopia Gets a Run in The Age newspaper.
A great summary of anti-GM attitudes and assumptions has just appeared in an opinion piece carried by The Age, Melbourne. The piece has so many disputable assertions that almost every sentence deserves a rejoinder- it's absolutely tailor made for a blog commentary. In the Pundit's opinion, it falls in the "so bad it's good" category......
Global Farmers Meet with Clinton
North Dakota Farmer Among Global "Voices of Biotechnology" to Meet with Clinton
- Growers for Biotechnology, askogen#growersforbiotechnology.org
A dozen farmers from across the world shared their positive experiences in growing biotech crops at BIO 2006, held recently in Chicago. A record 19,479 attendees from 62 countries attended BIO, the annual meeting of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and the largest international biotechnology conference in the world.
Speakers included actor Bernie Mac and NBA legend Earvin 'Magic' Johnson, who related how biotech-driven medical and health care advancements have made a difference in their lives. Mac suffers from sarcoidosis, a rare autoimmune disease, and Johnson stunned the sports world in 1991 when he announced his retirement because of the AIDS virus.
Former President Bill Clinton keynoted the conference, discussing the importance of biotechnology in addressing food security in the developing world, as well as health concerns, energy needs, and environmental issues, such as global climate change.
First introduced in 1996, biotech crops came of age during the Clinton Administration. The benchmark of billion acres of commercial biotech crop production experience across the world was reached in 2005. The 42nd President of the United States said he supports the development of biotechnology applications in agriculture, with results evaluated under proper testing and continuous monitoring. "I think that we should be driven in America by science, evidence and argument, not by assertion and fear" he said.
Clinton said he did not believe there's anything inconsistent with organic farming and supporting genetic developments. He also believes that in the next decade, biotechnology can replace energy as the main source of new jobs. "We will be able to apply it to all kinds of diseases and conditions, develop vaccines, develop preventive strategies, be producing all kinds of products and services that we never even dreamed of before."
Al Skogen, a Valley City, N.D. farmer and chairman of Growers for Biotechnology, was among the dozen biotech crop producers to meet with Clinton before his speech at BIO. "I expressed to him that I thought this technology holds the greatest opportunity to provide food and fiber for the world, and that biotech crop applications will eventually be recognized as providing more benefit to our earth and environment than any technology before. And he said, ŒI agree."
Other farmers in attendance came from Canada, Romania, South Africa, France, Portugal, Argentina, Spain, and India. Besides meeting with Clinton, the international group of growers shared their thoughts and experiences on producing biotech crops with the media and many attendees at BIO.
Skogen says he enjoyed the interaction with producers from other countries. "The desire to lower input costs and increase yields is a common thread we all seem to have in common," he says.
"I think one of the most remarkable stories is Ravinder Brar, a widow who has been able to continue farming successfully in India, in part because she switched to growing Bt cotton, which has allowed her to drop her insect pesticide costs and increase yields. In fact, she considers growing Bt cotton to be an organic practice, since it has allowed her to drop insecticide use."
'Private Sector and International Development'
Memorandum Submitted to UK Parliamentary Committee (House of Commons - International Development)
- Prof. Calestous Juma, Harvard University. Feb. 3, 2006. Excerpt below... Full report at:
"I hold the view that the private sector represents the most efficient way to transform scientific and technical knowledge into goods and services."
"The private sector is being increasingly recognized as a driving force in economic development in general, and welfare improvement, in particular. However, much of the focus on development cooperation still focuses on the role of the public sector as the central organizing principle. This model relies on public agencies and non-governmental organizations as providers of critical services to local communities.
An alternative approach is to shift the locus of responsibility for improving human welfare to the entrepreneurial capabilities of the people. The goal should be to enable individuals to solve their own problems by transforming knowledge into goods and services. This entrepreneurial function should help guide the reinvention of UK development cooperation philosophy.
The emphasis on entrepreneurship will alter the role of the state from being a provider of services to being an enabler and promoter of business development. In other words, developing countries should become "entrepreneurial states" whose main function is to promote human welfare through emphasis on the role of the private sector, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.
This is not to rule out the role of the public sector in development, but to argue that the main function of an entrepreneurial state is to create a viable environment and offer the support needed to empower the people to meet their needs by finding creative solutions to local problems." -cut-
Conclusions: The central role of the entrepreneurial state in a developing country is to unlock the potential to turn science, technology, and innovation into business opportunities. Such a state would need to undertake a number of core activities. These include providing broader incentive structures to all firms while creating an institutional environment that encourages entrepreneurship, rewards innovation, fosters start-ups, and sustains existing firms with injections of capital. Creating links between knowledge generation and enterprise development is one of the most important challenges developing countries face.
A range of structures can be used to create and sustain enterprises, from taxation regimes and market-based instruments to consumption policies and sources of change within the innovation system. International cooperation aimed at leveraging these activities is a critical element in the success of such efforts.
In other words, leaders in development cooperation agencies will need to be equally entrepreneurial and seek to use their resources and influence to promote rather than suppress local initiatives. The real challenge for the UK is therefore undertaking fundamental reform in international cooperation by defining entrepreneurship as driving force in development.