Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org - May 5, 2006
* Up from the Dead - GMOs Keep on Growing
* Oil Attack - German GM Safety Research Completely Destroyed by Vandals
* Poor Countries Advised to Adopt Biotech Despite EU Restrictions
* Kenya - Intrigues Behind Biosafety Bill
* Food Biotechnology: GM/GE/LMO
* Public Goods and University-Industry Relationships in AgBiotech
* US-Indian Agbiotech Deal Under Scrutiny
* Genetic Engineering: Solution to Hunger and Disease in the Developing World Inch
Up from the Dead - GMOs
- The Economist May 6, 2006
'Genetically modified foods keep on growing'
A DECADE ago, Franken-foods mauled Monsanto. The American agribusiness firm had hoped its fancy new seeds, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) designed to reduce pesticide use, would win over farmers the world over. In the event, a consumer backlash fomented by environmental activists in Europe scuppered those plans and even led to the fall of Robert Shapiro, the company's previously high-flying boss.
GMOs remain controversial. Despite a WTO ruling in February striking down Europe's moratorium on GM food, the European Commission pushed the EU's food-safety agency to make its GMO-evaluation process even stricter in April.
Another controversy erupted last month when British officials admitted that more than a hundred genetically modified trees are being grown in secret locations around the country. That reversed the government's previous position, and embarrassingly came on the heels of a rancorous UN meeting in Brazil where representatives warned that fast-growing GM trees could "wreak ecological havoc" by crowding out other species.
Companies that pursue GMOs are also still being hounded. On April 26th, DuPont faced a shareholder resolution at its annual meeting demanding that the firm "disclose any potentially material risk or 'off-balance sheet liability'" related to its push into GM foods. The measure failed, but activists have vowed to try again next year--and to pursue Dow Chemical and other firms keen on this technology with equal vigour.
So is this Monsanto all over again, and are GMOs really destined for the rubbish heap of history? Not at all. In fact, there is even reason to think they are at last ready for prime time. One reason is that while the EU has dithered, other parts of the world have forged ahead with GM crops. The technology is now accepted in more than 20 countries, including India, China, South Africa and Iran. Last year the billionth acre was planted, and growth rates remain in the double digits. On one estimate, GMOs made up more than half the world's soya crop by area, a quarter of its corn and over a tenth of its cotton.
Monsanto still dominates the $5.6 billion market for agricultural biotechnology. As the market for conventional seeds stagnates, however, rivals are taking aim. Last month, DuPont announced a cross-licensing deal and a joint venture with Syngenta, a Swiss seed giant, to sell GM corn and soyabean technology to seed producers. Peter Siggelko of Dow sees GMOs as such a big business opportunity that he vows his firm will remain steadfast in the face of activist shareholders: "We don't intend to budge—this is better and safer for farmers."
Activists complain that GM crops put farmers in the clutches of big business, but farmers in many countries do like them because they are pest-resistant or give better yields. Researchers at Monsanto and elsewhere are working quietly on the next potential breakthrough in agriculture: drought-resistant crops, which are meant to help farmers cope in an increasingly water-scarce world. The best news for boosters of GMOs is that a wave of innovative new foods is now coming out of the laboratories with properties that should directly benefit consumers.
Researchers in Pittsburgh have recently raised GM pigs that produce omega-3 fatty acids. These compounds, which help reduce the risk of heart disease, are typically derived from fish, and so taste unpleasant to some and carry the risk of increased mercury consumption. If pork is not to your taste, Monsanto and BASF will soon offer you soyabeans enriched with omega-3. Researchers in Arizona have just come up with an oral tuberculosis vaccine produced from a GM crop, while a rival team has come up with an oral vaccine produced in GM tobacco plants that can fight the E. coli bacterium (a common source of food poisoning).
Such "nutraceuticals" are undoubtedly impressive, but the biggest GMO success may come from a product that virtually every home owner with a lawn or garden will appreciate. Scotts Miracle-Gro, an American lawn-care firm, recently announced that it is developing genetically engineered strains of grass that are pest-proof and that grow so slowly that they may require no mowing.
Yet even this breakthrough could prompt criticism--for it could mean that the only form of exercise taken by many middle-aged men will soon be history.
German GM Safety Research Completely Destroyed by an Oil Attack
- Wissenschaftlerkreis Grüne Gentechnik E.v.; May 4, 2006; Improved automatic translation from German by Prof. Vivian Moses
Frankfurt/Main - At least 20 litres of mineral oil were recently buried by persons unknown on about 160 square meters trial plot at the Technical University of Munich. The result was that GM plants being used for classical safety research were totally destroyed. The soil over the entire area was contaminated with acute danger to the groundwater; the test results could not be interpreted and doctoral work was lost.
As part of a network project, the Technical University of Munich as well as other institutes has for some years been carrying out research at the possibility of enriching potatoes with the carotenoid zeaxanthin with a view to the possible preventing an age-related eye disease frequently resulting in blindness. These experiments have several times been the target of deliberate destruction attempts always unidentified vandals.
In previous years, zeaxanthin potatoes were cultivated in those fields now destroyed. In order to examine whether and how their cultivation might possibly affects subsequent crops, conventional wheat should have been grown there this year. The analyses of these investigations with respect to safety research, something repeatedly and vehemently demanded even by critics of genetic engineering, has now been prevented by sullying the environment with mineral oil.
In view of such mindless acts, ask yourself about the mental attitude of the perpetrators and the depths of their motives. We also particularly regret that this renewed destruction of a scientific research project results in considrered responses neither from politicians nor from respectable environmental organisations. Are such criminal and absurd offenses to be regarded in the meantime as harmless crimes?
In the sense of the frequently proclaimed role of research in Germany we urgently hope the fact that this is not the case. It demands above all that political decision-makers condemn such acts clearly consistently and publicly.
Prof. Klaus-Dieter, Jany Vorsitzender Wissenschaftlerkreis Grüne Gentechnik e.V. (WGG), Frankfurt
Prof. Jens Freitag, Genomanalyse im Biologischen System Pflanze (GABI)
Prof. Andreas Schier, Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Umwelt Nürtingen-Geislingen
Prof. Ulrich Wobus, Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung
Prof. Lothar Willmitze Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Pflanzenphysiologie
Prof. Heinz Saedler, Max-Planck-Institut für Züchtungsforschung, Köln, Direktor
Prof. Wilhelm Boland, Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie, Jena, Direktor
Profs. Bernd Müller-Röber & Thomas Altmann, Universität Potsdam, Institut für Biochemie und Biologie
Poor Countries Advised to Adopt Biotech Despite EU Restrictions
- Food Chemical News, May 1, 2006 via http://pewagbiotech.org/newsroom/summaries/display.php3?NewsID=1005
Agricultural biotechnology has the potential to offer higher incomes for farmers in developing countries and lower-priced and better-quality food, feed and fiber despite import restrictions in the European Union and elsewhere, according to a paper published in the International Journal of Technology and Globalization, reports Food Chemical News.
Kym Anderson, an economist with the University of Adelaide's Center for International Economic Studies, and Lee Ann Jackson, an economist in the World Trade Organization's agriculture and commodities division, contend that ag biotech holds much promise for countries willing to adopt new crop varieties, especially fortified varieties such as Golden Rice. The estimated gains to developing countries are only slightly lower if the EU continues to restrict imports of biotech crops from countries that grow them.
According to Food Chemical News, the authors note that European farmers see little benefit from adopting biotech crops, and EU chemical companies would rather sell environmentally-friendly pesticides than compete with insect-resistant or herbicide-tolerant crops engineered by U.S. firms. "[European] interests therefore are better served by EU foot-dragging on agricultural biotech policy than by the more-liberal regulations adopted in North America," they write.
Anderson and Jackson stress that developing countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa don't gain if they impose their own bans on biotech crop imports, because the loss to their consumers far outweighs the small gain in greater market access to the EU.
According to Food Chemical News, the stakes in this issue are very high, the authors say, because countries willing and able to adopt biotech crops could alleviate poverty directly and substantially. "Developing countries need to assess whether they share the food safety and environmental concerns of Europeans regarding GMOs ," they say, continuing:
"If not, their citizens in general, and their poor in particular, have much to gain from adopting GM crop varieties. Unlike for North America and Argentina, who are heavily dependent on exports of [corn] and oilseeds, the welfare gains from GM crop adoption by Asian and Sub-Saharan African countries would not be greatly jeopardized by rich countries banning imports of those crop products from the adopting countries."
China may be reluctant to approve biotech food crops for domestic production because it wants to restrict approval to its own biotech varieties so as to capture intellectual property earnings. However, Anderson and Jackson hope that such varieties will be ready soon, and that India and other countries will be willing to use Chinese or other foreign biotech varieties rather than cause further delays while their own biotech researchers catch up.
The authors say labeling policies could provide a more efficient mechanism than trade moratoria for accommodating consumers' preferences for non-biotech food. They acknowledge that labeling involves a cost to the global economy – and especially to developing country exporters – because of the necessary segregation and identity preservation systems. However, replacing the current de facto EU ban on most biotech crops with labeling would provide both rich-country and poor-country consumers with greater choice than at present, they say.
Anderson and Jackson acknowledge that more economic modeling is needed to calculate the costs of segregating biotech and non-biotech products and to explore the incidence of the identity preservation cost between biotech and non-biotech farmers, between farmers as a group and others, and between rich and poor countries. The more costly the IP systems needed to meet rich-country labeling standards, the more those systems will disadvantage exports from poor countries relative to rich countries, reports Food Chemical News.
Kenya - Intrigues Behind Biosafety Bill
- Arthur Okwemba, Africa News, May 4, 2006 http://allafrica.com/stories/200605040079.html
Nairobi - Local scientists have been unable to transfer GM crop research technology to farmers since there is no clear legal framework for their commercialisation.Research on genetically modified crops in Kenya has moved ahead of politicians and soon, scientists will either have to stop and wait, or see their work go down the drain.
Although talk on biosafety has been on since the late 1990s, nothing solid has come of it, while research on transgenic maize, cotton and other products is almost complete. But the products and the research will be worthless since there is no policy or guideline for taking the crops to farmers for commercialisation.
The country has four genetically modified crops- Bt maize, Bt cotton, transgenic cassava, transgenic sweet potatoes and a recombinant rinderpest vaccine at various stages of study. Confined field trials on Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) maize are going on in Kiboko, Makueni, while that on Bt cotton are taking place in Mwea.
The second harvest of the GMO maize, supposed to be resistant to stem borers, was done two weeks ago. Bt cotton, with a gene to make it resistant to the bollworm, is flowering. The harvested maize has been retained for breeding before it is destroyed. These technologies are expected to help a farmer cut-down on the costs of production.
Multinational companies that have developed varieties in the country are also finding it difficult to transfer the technology since there is no clear legal framework on how they should engage. "Without the existence of a Biosafety Act, this technology will remain a research project and will not reach farmers because there will be no legal framework provided for its commercialisation," says Kinyua M'Mbijiwe of Monsanto, a US based organisation.
M'Mbijiwe said Monsanto has developed a GM maize species for the Kenyan market but cannot commercialise it. Partly due to the lack of such a framework, Kenya lost the chance to host one of Africa's biggest GMO programmes - the development of a super sorghum funded by the Melinda, Gates Foundation - to South Africa.
Dr Stephen Mugo, a plant breeder at International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), says although there are rules and regulations on the development and testing of GMO products in the country, they cannot support certain trials that are necessary for moving the technology to farmers.
The government has been responding with guidelines at every stage of research on a need-based basis, especially when scientists present it with requests for further trials on such organisms. When such requests are made, the National Biosafety Committee (NBC), which directs research in this area has been forced to borrow from guidelines used in countries such as South Africa and Canada.
Scientists fear that the government is moving slowly in establishing a policy and law to guide the research. Currently, research is guided by the Science and Technology Act Cap 250, which does not cater for transgenic crops as it was enacted before they became a global issue. The government is said to be very cautious especially on matters concerning the growing and commercialisation of GMO crops in Kenya.
Sources at the NBC said the government does not want to rush the matter then burn its fingers or hurt other stakeholders. "We are moving at the right pace because these are sensitive and emotive issues, which have to be addressed cautiously," said one of the sources.
A Biosafety Bill is now waiting to be brought to Parliament for debate and enactment into law. Regulations on its implementation including manuals for use by regulatory agents dealing with GMOs and awareness materials targeting the public have been developed and finalised.
The NBC officials say the policy is likely to be adopted by the Cabinet by June 2006. While this is going on, the government is finding itself in a tricky situation as the US and some European countries have vested interests in the proposed Biosafety law and regulations. They are said to be behind the scenes, trying to influence the government to either put or remove certain things in the proposed Biosafety policy and law to accommodate their interests.
US, the leading producer of GMO products worldwide, has in the past expressed disquiet with certain requirements including labelling of products to indicate that they are genetically modified. The European Union, carrying out 11,000 studies on GMOs, is for these restrictions being put in place.
The US and Canadian governments argue that such restrictions go against the principles of trade espoused by World Trade Organisation. WTO's rules, in a departure from the Cartegena Protocol's precautionary principle, require scientific justification for restrictions on imported commodities. It proposes that countries use the least trade restrictive options.
Created in 2000 and officially functional in 2003, the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety is a legally binding agreement that addresses potential risks posed by GMOs.
Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Uruguay are among countries, which by end of last year had refused to ratify the protocol. The fear created about GMO crops is making it difficult for some countries to allow their importation, thereby affecting the exports of countries dealing in these crops. Developing countries, particularly in Africa, have expressed fears that they may not have the capacity and resources to implement the Cartegena Protocol when they have other competing and pressing needs subch as health, education, and shelter.
Scientists trained in biochemistry, molecular genetics, and plant breeding are needed to assess and manage the risk of GMOs to humans and the biodiversity. In Kenya, the Global Environmental Facility, a component of the United Nations Environment Programme to operationalise the protocol, is helping the government. The government is now torn between donors who are for and against certain requirements of the Protocol.
An official at the NBC says some of the issues being raised by US and Europe are the sticking points in international debate, and the country cannot make a decision to put them in law before a global consensus on the same.
These issues include two provisions of the Cartgena Protocol: Article 18, which deals with handling, transport, packaging and identification of GMO products, and 27, which talks about liability and redress for damage resulting from transboundary movements of GMOs. Locally, many vested interests in GMO products, some using these articles to explain their positions are said to be delaying the enactment of the Bill.
Food Biotechnology: GM/GE/LMO
Food biotechnology is also known as genetically modified (GM) food or genetically engineered (GE) food or living modified organisms (LMO). Regardless of which term one uses it is food products that have been modified with recombinant DNA technologies. Modifying plant DNA is not new. Man has been modifying plant DNA for thousands of years. This group of techniques is far more precise than any method of plant breeding used in history. Critics have claimed products of these technologies are very dangerous. But the research says something completely different.
Twenty plus years of research has shown these products offer tremendous environmental benefits (tens of millions of pounds of insecticides not used each year). Greater yield on less land is a well-documented benefit of these crops. Every food biotechnology product is extensively evaluated for safety BEFORE it is allowed to be commercialized. Not a single case of harm has been documented after over two trillion (million million) meals.
Food biotechnology is not a panacea. It will not solve the worlds' agricultural problems by itself. Nor is it the evil creation some would have the public believe. However, food biotechnology will become one of the main tools to combat the upcoming global water shortage, salinization of soil and pressures from the increasing human population.
A great deal of the web-based information on this subject is inaccurate, misleading or blatantly false. This site provides links to world experts in agriculture, health and science to allow the public easy access to accurate information.
The debate on this issue will not go away anytime soon. It is important for the public to learn what is real and what is pseudo-science as public policy based on pseudo-science is bad public policy.
Education is Power
Public Goods and University-Industry Relationships in Agricultural Biotechnology
Plant and animal biotechnologies are poised to be the leading driver in the next generation of agricultural development. However, the development process shaping this first generation of biotechnology products is very different from the agricultural research revolutions of the 19th and 20th centuries. Because of key legal and institutional changes, the private sector has assumed a much larger role than before, yet at the same time relies heavily on university collaborations. The shift in agricultural research and technology development has generated some public concerns.
The project proposes to build on current knowledge by collecting detailed primary and secondary data on university-industry research relationships in agricultural biotechnology. This information will help establish one of the first baseline pictures of the relationships and allow an in-depth examination of the factors affecting university collaborations with agricultural biotechnology firms.
US-Indian Agbiotech Deal Under Scrutiny
- K.S. Jayaraman, Nature Biotechnology, Advanced Online Publication May 1, 2006; doi:10.1038/nbt0506-481; Reproduced in AgBioView with the permission of the editor.
When US President George Bush visited India in March this year a land mark deal on agriculture and biotech that went virtually unnoticed is now at the center of a controversy.
When US President George Bush visited India in March this year the media focus was on a nuclear agreement that he and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had signed. But another landmark deal on agriculture and biotech that went virtually unnoticed is now at the center of a controversy. Opponents fear that the deal could open the door for US agbiotech companies to take control of India's homegrown agbiotech research and expose the local companies to more direct US competition than before while opening the door to allow US genetically modified (GM) products into India.
Although only a broad framework of the agreement called the "Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agricultural Research and Education" is available, a Dehli-based nongovernmental organization (NGO), Gene Campaign, has sought more details under the newly enacted Right to Information Act. So far it's known that the deal requires the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to provide free access to its entire network of 47 agricultural laboratories and universities so that US companies and research institutes can carry out joint research with ICAR in biotech areas "that have the potential for rapid commercialization."
India expects transfer of transgenic crop technology to grow high yielding, drought- and pest-resistant crops, and improve cattle and fish according to the ICAR draft proposal. India has already committed $100 million over the next three years for this particular initiative with 75% of it for genetic engineering and biotech products. Meanwhile, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has committed $24 million over the same period, as well as in-kind resources.
ICAR's official draft sees the Indo-US deal as a perfectly rational solution for breaking out of the low-productivity trap. Indian farmers produce about three metric tons of rice on one hectare of land whereas China grows 50% more. The wheat yield is 29% lower than in China. Most Indian crops also depend on the fickle monsoon rains. That's where Bush's offer of introducing a public-private partnership on biotech research—that can potentially help develop drought- and pest-resistant crops—would become crucial. Mangla Rai, director general of ICAR says: "the conventional research approaches need to be supplemented by the cutting edge technologies [available in US companies and institutions]."
So far, the Indian public sector has not commercialized a single transgenic technology as they lack resources and infrastructure. In addition, Indian public sector scientists, who have been attempting to develop their homegrown transgenic technology, still rely heavily on genes that are owned by foreign companies. For example, a previous attempt to develop homegrown Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton has been constrained by Monsanto's ownership of the key genes (see [ http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nbt0304-255 ]Nat. Biotechnol. 22, 255–256, 2004). One typical case is that of Dharwar University near Bangalore, which was ready after four years of research to release a Bt rice variety containing a Bt gene donated by the Rockefeller Foundation. Monsanto stopped the release by saying that it owns the Bt gene.
Some in the country's agbiotech industry are worried that the deal will pave the way for takeover of public sector research by US multinationals because the agreement is between unequal partners. Krishan Bir Chaudhary, chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj, a farmers' body, fears that ICAR scientists who have been working for the interests of the country's farmers "will now be forced to work for the US agriculture and dance to the tune of multinationals."
What critics resent most is the presence of Monsanto, the second largest GM seed producer in the world, and Wal-Mart, the word's largest retailer, on the board of the new initiative. "With them on the board, the US multinationals are all set to determine the Indian agricultural research agenda," warns Devinder Sharma, a food policy analyst. In the name of the new initiative, the US partner companies can intervene in the entire gamut of the Indian agricultural sector including education, R&D, intellectual property rights, biosafety and food safety.
Indeed, the initiative is steered by a 14-member board, seven from each side--cochaired by Ellen Terpstra, administrator at the foreign agricultural service of the USDA, and Mangla Rai, chief of ICAR--that will set the agenda for collaborative farm research. "[Monsanto's inclusion on the board] is indeed a matter of concern to us," says Sateesh Kumar, managing director of Prabhat Agribiotech, an Indian seed company located in Hyderabad. "This deal is the beginning of the process for killing the local agri-biotech industry," comments Kumar. He expects to see a replay of the 'cola war' of the 1970s when Indian soft drink makers lost ground with the entry of giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
Though ICAR claims that the views of all stakeholders were considered before launching the initiative, Kumar retorts that "it is not a fact." He adds, "Monsanto came to India as a technology provider gradually becoming a seed supplier." Now, "the new deal will help it further consolidate its hold on farmers."
Monsanto, who has joint ventures in India, attributes its strong presence in the country to the licenses that it has been giving out to Indian agbiotech companies to conduct their own research trials. Finally, under the guise of collaborative research, Wal-Mart and Monsanto have been accused by opponents in NGOs of using the universities and their extension centers to take their products directly to farmers, Sharma says. That's because the US partner companies have asked for removal of all import restrictions, which Sharma says will open the doors for entry of GM crops and foods into India, as part of the deal. NGOs think this will lead to dumping of GM foods on Indian consumers. On March 15, hundreds of farmers held a protest rally in the capital led by none other than Vishwanath Pratap Singh, a former prime minister.
Announcing the deal in Hyderabad on March 2, Bush said that "by working together, the United States and India will develop better ways to grow crops and get them to market and lead a second green revolution." Clearly, not everyone agrees. "The technology for green revolution in 1960s was publicly owned and freely available," Suman Sahai a geneticist who heads the Gene Campaign, a Delhi-based NGO, points out. The second green revolution is all about transgenic technology owned and controlled by just six corporations, according to Sahai. She believes this technology creates private goods that can be accessed only at significant cost.
Genetic Engineering: Solution to Hunger and Disease in the Developing World Inch
- William Tarbush; william.tarbush.at.us.army.mil (Biotechnology paper written for the course SID:112 ENG101-7635 Winter Semester, 2005. Please comment on it)
Inch by inch, row by row,
Gonna make this garden grow,
Gonna make this deeo and low,
Gonna mulch it fertile ground,
Inch by inch, row by row,
Please bless these seeds I sow. Please keep them safe below.
'Til the rain comes a-tumbling down.
Plant your rows strait and long,
Season with a prayer and song,
Mother Earth will make you strong,
If you give her loving care.
--Written by David Mallett, Performed by Arlo Guthrie "Garden Song"
These are beautiful words in the song above, but nature needs help. Hunger and disease are plaguing the developing world and science can fill the gaps where nature needs it. Genetic engineering is a science that could revolutionize much of our world. In a very basic way, it is the science of transferring genetic material between organisms of different species. It could drastically change medicine and agriculture, but it is not without controversy. Some say that the changes it could make are worth the risk, but others state that we are not ready for those changes and others yet to come.
It is the purpose of this paper to show that genetic engineering should be further researched and distributed because they will feed the world, provide extra nutrition, and to prevent disease.
The conception of transgenic plants, plants which contain extra genetic material, was pioneered recently in the early 1980s at the Max Plank Institute for Breeding. First, a plant bacteria was stripped of the DNA which causes disease and replaced with antibiotic resistant DNA. Then, the defanged bacterium was then put into crops, making them bacteria resistant. This has safely been used in many biotech foods, however opponents state that disaster will occur if we pursue this science.
In 2002, the United States offered a shipment of corn to alleviate the hunger caused by the worst drought in the history of southern Africa. Yet, it was rejected by the President of Zambia, Levy Mwanawasa, who said that his people did not want genetically engineered crops. Jeremy Rifkin, director of the Foundation for Economic Trends, stated in a 1991 interview that life is too dynamic to know what changes will take place if we continue to pursue genetic engineering into the future. He states that, "the question of whether we should embark on a long journey in which we become the engineers of life is, perhaps, the most important ever to face the human family'' (Patton) and could change the biological status quo forever. The FDA disagrees, however, stating that cross-breeding and GE are basically the same.
To this date, there have been no disastrous incidents resulting from crossbred crops. Genetic engineering is not harmful to the environment. The World Bank states that biotech could increase production by twenty-five percent, saving land and precious natural resources. Furthermore, it also requires less chemical pesticides. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization showed research stating that biotechnology "reduced chemical use by 67 percent and in South Africa by 58 percent" (Biotech Knowledge Center). There has been research showing that animals are not harmed or are benefited by genetically modified organisms. However, this was a small scale study and proof may be years down the road.
It is believed that the global population will increase by two billion over the next two decades. Fourteen percent of the global population is malnourished. Food production is inadequate in our world let alone in a future where the population will increase by a third of the present population. Nevertheless, critics of genetic engineering state that we have plenty of food and "if the world's food supply were equally distributed everyone could have an adequate diet'' (Pro Global). Equal distribution will probably never happen due to corrupt regimes in the third world and the excess the developed world enjoys.
The United Nations Hunger Task Force says that halving world hunger is possible over the next decade, and their proposals depend of biotechnology. Indeed, genetic engineering will create crops tolerant to extremes and decrease water usage by eliminating leaves and increasing yields. Biotechnology has saved many forests and lands used by animals by increasing yields of cultivated lands. Also, biotech will lower the workload needed to produce food. Kenyan plant scientist Florence Wambugu, "We could liberate so many people if our crops were resistant to herbicides that we could then spray on the surrounding weeds. Weeding enslaves Africans; it keeps children from school" (Wallach). In addition, it will also cheapen the price of the grain so that developing nations can farm their own food.
Genetic engineering can be used to increase the nutritional qualities of staple foods. For Instance, poor farmers use staples in excess because of the price, but many of them are stripped of vitamins in processing. Scientists ``have now developed milled rice which accumulates vitamin A to provide one means of facilitating increased dietary intake of vitamin A from staple foods'' (Pro Global) to prevent the eye disease xerothalmia. Equally, vitamin A deficiency causes as many as a quarter of a million cases of blindness a year. Likewise, a mutated pea plant with high iron content has also been created to combat anemia. "Iron deficiency afflicts 400 million women of childbearing age, which leads to higher levels of premature birth, perinatal mortality and growth and mental retardation" (Wallach). These plants and many others could provide higher quality nutrition for the third world.
Biotech crops could be used to give vaccines in developing countries. To illustrate, using crops to vaccinate humans has been shown to be possible with cholera and hepatitis. Funding is growing in some developed countries as shown in this passage:
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) has granted $180,000 to researchers in Adelaide and Melbourne to use biotechnology with traditional plants to develop a vaccine against lethal diseases such as measles and cholera. The project will use bananas, potatoes, peas and other common fruits or vegetables as vaccine agents (Pro Global). However, many of these vaccines are still in the developmental stages. The Norwalk Virus is a virus that can be deadly to infants and to the elderly. It recently came into the spotlight when passengers on cruise ships came down with it for no apparent reason. Likewise, Cornell University has created a potato that immunizes against the Norwalk Virus. Vaccines in injection form are difficult to store in the third world, and medical personnel are required to give them. Vaccines in food would be the perfect solution to production and allocation of these medicines.
In conclusion, biotechnology could greatly help the developing world, as well as our own, by providing higher quality nutrition, easier vaccinations, and increasing food yields. We would only be holding our world back by avoiding this technology out of fear.
Other new sciences have brought fear to the narrow minded for centuries. Genetic engineering will open a whole new world for developing nations, and changes made so far are only the beginning .
Phillips, Susan. Genetically Engineered Foods.'' The CQ Researcher Online 5 August 1994 14 Dec. 2005 .
Pro Global Web Site. 17 July 2000. Pro Global. 29 November 2005 .
Biotech Knowledge Center. 2005. 15 November 2005 .
Wallach M.D., Stanley. Biotechnology- A Tool to Help End World Hunger. 15 November 200
William Tarbush (US Army) is a student at Rio Salado Community College in Arizona and posted at Ft. Carson, Colorado where he lives with his wife and son. He is interested in a biotechnology career. He welcomes your comments on his paper: william.tarbush.at.us.army.mil
Excellent paper, you've got an "A" coming unless your instructor/professor is a greenpeacer or a "Monsanto will eat the world" conspiracy theorist or new-age true-believer neolithic-diet organicker.
I suggest you submit your paper to AgBioWorld.org for publication--it'll probably get in.
- Posted by Schiller on Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 4:45 AM