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May 11, 2006


EU Broke the Rule; Challengers in the Field; Catholic Priest - A Biotech Researcher; Disrupt Research But Shape Policy; What's Up with GMOs?


Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org - May 11, 2006

* EU 'Broke Trade Rules' on GM Food
* EU Genetic Food Ban 'Broke Rules'
* Re: Prakash Commentary on Golden Rice
* Greenpeace Sows Spinach In GM Maize In an Asinine Hope that It Would Takeover
* No Problems with European GM Trials
* Challengers in the Field
* Transgenic Plant Science Priorities
* Face to Face with Father Leo, Priest and Biotechnologist
* Should Science Always be Publicized?
* Cassava Breeding, Biotech and Ecology
* Do We Need Antibiotic-resistance Gene in GM Foods and Biopharma Crops?
* A World of Change: Biotech-Derived Animals, Plants, and Microbes
* Changing for the Better - What's Up with GMOs?

EU 'Broke Trade Rules' on GM Food

- BBC News, May 11, 2006 http://news.bbc.co.uk/

The European Union acted illegally in stopping imports of genetically modified foods, the World Trade Organization has reportedly ruled. Diplomats have leaked details of the WTO's confidential final verdict, not due for public release until late June.

According to reports, the decision is "substantially" similar to a preliminary verdict issued in February. The case was instigated by the US, Canada and Argentina who were critical of an EU moratorium on GM food crops.

The trio of nations argued that the ban, in place from 1998 to 2004, was about protectionism rather than science. It is reported that in the 1,000 page ruling, the WTO also criticises Austria, Belgium, France, Germany Italy and Luxembourg for banning several genetically modified organisms (GMOs) already cleared by the European Commission.

However, the verdict is not thought to address the issue of whether GMOs are safe or if they can be compared to naturally occurring products. Anti-GMO protesters said that this meant the report would have no impact on EU policy . "It is clear that the US, Canada and Argentina will not be able to use this ruling to bully other countries to accept GMOs," said Eric Gall, political advisor to environmentalist group Greenpeace in Brussels.

Two years ago the moratorium was lifted and a modified strain of sweet corn, grown mainly in the US, was allowed onto the market. But Washington continued with the WTO case because it wanted to be sure approvals for GMO sales were being decided on scientific rather than political grounds.

Biotech crops, including corn and soybeans that have been genetically modified to resist insects or disease, have been widely grown in the US for years.


EU Genetic Food Ban 'Broke Rules'

- Reuters, May 11, 2006

The World Trade Organization (WTO) confirmed in a final ruling that the European Union broke trade rules with its six-year moratorium on approving genetically-modified (GMO) foods, diplomats said on Thursday.

The confidential verdict, which had been widely expected, also condemned six member states -- Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg -- for applying individual bans on a number of GMO products previously approved by the European Commission. "The substance of the ruling has not changed," said one diplomat with knowledge of the finding. The WTO issued a preliminary verdict in February.

But the decision, in a case brought by the United States, Canada and Argentina, the world's biggest GMO producers, did not touch on the sensitive issue of whether GMOs are safe or whether they can be considered comparable to conventional products.

As a result, European diplomats and anti-GMO activists say it will have no impact on policy in the 25-state bloc where consumers are deeply suspicious of what are often called "Frankenfoods."

The moratorium was lifted two years ago and manufacturers have withdrawn from the market virtually all the products covered by the individual state bans with the exception of a couple in Austria. "It is clear that the U.S., Canada and Argentina will not be able to use this ruling to bully other countries to accept GMOs," said Eric Gall, political advisor to environmentalist group Greenpeace in Brussels.

The 1,000-page report, which will not be officially released for some six weeks, found that the effective EU moratorium between 1998 and 2004, during which time Brussels approved no new GMO products, amounted to "undue delay" and therefore violated trade rules.

In addition it said that the six had given no scientific evidence to justify their banning GMO products -- mainly maize and rapeseed -- which the EU had already declared safe.

Science-based. GMO-making companies such as Monsanto applauded the February ruling because they said it underlined the need for decisions affecting trade to be based on science. "We are encouraged by the international trading community's support for science-based regulatory approvals," said Christian Verschueren, director-general of CropLife International, a global federation representing manufacturers.

The United States, which said its farmers lost $300 million a year because of the EU action, also welcomed it. Washington says it could help overcome reservations about GMO crops in other parts of the world, particularly developing countries which are potentially big markets.

Since lifting the moratorium, the European Commission has approved a handful of GMO products for sale but opposition remains strong in a number of member states. So-called final rulings rarely depart from WTO interim findings, and in this case the panel of trade judges held no further hearings, making it even more unlikely there would be significant changes from the February 7 decision. Both sides can appeal and it could be six months or more before the case is concluded.


Re: Prakash Commentary on Golden Rice

- Prof. Niha DeSilva; desilvanihal.at.yahoo.com, Medical Biotechnology, St. Louis, MO, USA

Dr. Prakash: In your recent article about genes introduced in golden rice to increase the vitamin content (20-fold) you say the genes are all rice and wheat related! I beg to differ and tell you that the genes for the b-carotene was from a plant unrelated to rice, which you know better!

So as scientists please don't try to mislead the public in believing that all biotech work is free of problems. Vitamin A alone would not solve India's problems of night blindness, etc, there are other serious issues like poverty, etc which may also have to be addressed urgently!

Please respond to this email,

Response from Prakash:

Prof. DeSilva:

The First generation Golden Rice was developed using genes from daffodils. However, in an attempt to improve the provitamin-A content, scientists found out that similar genes from maize and corn (not wheat as you write) produced better results. (See Paine JA, Shipton et al. A new version of Golden Rice with increased pro-vitamin A content. Nature Biotechnology 23:482-487.). See below for summary of that paper. Either way, it does not matter where those genes came as their biosafety depends on what they do.

No one here is misleading the public here. A little familiarity with the latest literature could have helped you to avoid making such a baseless accusation.

You are welcome to specifically point out what problems crop biotech had lead to. There is none.

I am not sure what you mean by saying "Vitamin A alone would not solve India's problems of night blindness".

I agree with you that serious issues like poverty need to be addressed and would like to hear any creative ideas from you on that. However, as the old saying goes "Journey of a thousand miles....."

- Prakash
A New Golden Rice Generation


The first generation of Golden Rice was a valuable proof of concept, but it was recognised that to combat vitamin A deficiency more efficiently higher beta-carotene accumulation levels would be required. As only two transgenes are required in the process, the logical approach was to identify the bottleneck of the biosynthetic pathway and fine-tune the enzymatic activities of the two gene products involved, phytoene synthase (PSY) and carotene desaturase (CRTI). This can be done by replacing the genes with homologues from other sources or modifying their regulatory regions.

In most multi-step biosynthetic pathways there is a rate-limiting step. Making a long story short, the bottleneck in this case was the enzymatic activity of PSY. After trying with PSY genes from different sources it turned out that the maize and rice genes gave the best results (Paine et al., 2005). In the process Golden Rice lines were obtained that accumulated up to 37 microg/g carotenoid of which 31 micro g/g is betacarotene (as compared to the first generation Golden Rice where only 1.6 micro g/g were obtained.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A for 1-3 year-old children is 300 micro g (half the RDA is enough to maintain vitamin A at a normal, healthy level). Based on a retinol equivalency ratio for beta-carotene of 12:1, half the RDA would be provided in 72g of the new-generation Golden Rice. This is perfectly compatible with rice consumption levels in target countries, which lie at 100-200g of rice per child per day.


The Netherlands: Greenpeace Sows Spinach In GM Maize

- Weekblad voor Wageningen UR, May 11, 2006

Greenpeace activists sowed spinach in a test field of genetically modified maize early in the morning of 3 May. The activists hope that the spinach will overwhelm the maize. Wageningen UR has reported vandalism to the police.

Heading the research is Dr Bert Lotz, who is disappointed with the Greenpeace action. "It's a shame, and strange that they have disrupted this trial. The trial is intended to make a contribution to consumers’ freedom of choice."

The Mon810 maize that has been planted contains a gene from the Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria, which makes the maize resistant to the European corn borer. This insect causes a lot of damage, especially in southern Europe. The genetically modified maize is already grown on a large scale in Spain.

Lotz is using the transgenic maize to examine the spread of transgenic characteristics through pollination. Organic farmers are worried about crossing occurring with genetically modified varieties. According to European guidelines, conventional crops may only contain a maximum of 0.9 percent genetically modified material, otherwise the product must be specially labelled.

In the Netherlands the agreement is that there must be a minimum distance of 250 metres between a field of transgenic maize and a field of organic maize. Lotz is conducting his trial to see whether this distance is big enough. "This trial is part of a larger European programme. We are collecting data that will be entered in models that describe the spread of transgenic traits." Another five fields in the Netherlands have also been sown with transgenic maize.

Greenpeace is not impressed with Lotz' good intentions. Spokesman André van der Vlugt: "We are against the presence of all genetically modified crops in the open. It’s going wrong all over the world. We only know ten percent of what we need to know to be able to make safe us use of the technology. These tests could just as easily be done with non-modified maize." Wageningen UR used the Mon810 maize because there are sensitive tests available to indicate the presence of the introduced gene.

Neither Wageningen UR nor Greenpeace has heard from the authorities yet. Van der Vlugt: "We aren’t worried either. We haven’t destroyed anything as far as we’re concerned. We kept to the tractor tracks"

Greenpeace hopes that the spinach will overwhelm the maize. Lotz is not afraid that this will happen. "We are keeping a close eye on the field and we’ll notice if we need to weed out the spinach."

Comments from Prakash:

It is sad state of affairs when an agronomically-ignorant group -- which believes that spinach would overrun a maize crop -- is helping shape the agricultural policy in EU and many developing countries.


No Problems with European GM Trials

- Meath Chronicle (Ireland), May 13th 2006 http://www.unison.ie/

Dear sir - These days Meath farmers face serious problems on many fronts. Now to add to their worries they have to listen to the fear mongering of GM Free Ireland who claim the GM potato research trials will cause contamination of their crops that will be “impossible to reverse for thousands of years to come” (Meath Chronicle, May 3, 2006).

Such over the top claims have no basis in science. The concept Ireland can be GM free is a non starter as Ireland lost its GM free virginity between 1997 and 1999 when experimental trials of GM sugar beet were carried out. These trials were EPA approved and did not lead to the rejection of Irish exports, Ireland’s image as a green nation, nor cause crop ‘contamination’.

It should be remembered the research trials of the blight resistant GM potatoes proposed for Co Meath are one of 200 GM potato trials that have occurred across the EU (under Directive 01/18) from a total of over 1,800 trials of different GM crops. No problems have been reported in any of these regulated trials.

Michael O’Callaghan (GMFree Ireland), who is now calling on Meath County Council to ban the research trials is correct when he states: “it is up to local communities and county councils to take responsibility.” There are many opinions on GM crops but a few recent comments from county councillors in Ireland taking ‘responsibility’ are worth noting. For example, according to the Carlow People newspaper (April 18, 2006) a GM Free motion was not supported by Bagenalstown Town Council. Colr Arthur McDonald (FFF) speaking against the failed motion stated: “This is about stopping trials. If you don’t have trials for cancer and things how would we find out what happens. This strikes me as Green gobbledy gook.” Statements made on a similar failed GM Free motion at Carlow Town council meeting by Colr Jim Townsend (Lab), who is a farmer and candidate for Labour in the next general election, echo the above sentiments.

As for the 5000 petition signatures that GM Free Ireland claims to have, this petition remains unpublished. In the meantime, I successfully added Bertie Ahern, Gerry Adams, Bono‚ and my dead grandfather to their online petition - no email check or confirmation was ever done.

The words from Dr Patrick Moore, an environmentalist and a founding member of Greenpeace, who served for nine years as President of Greenpeace Canada and then seven years as a Director of Greenpeace International are also worth noting: “The campaign of fear now waged against genetic modification is based largely on fantasy and a complete lack of respect for science and logic. The environmentalists’ campaign against biotechnology in general, and genetic engineering in particular, has clearly exposed their Fintellectual and moral bankruptcy.” (The Age Newspaper, February 16, 2004).

I know full well that there are no easy votes in GM crops. However, I still believe there are votes in responsible research and development and local representatives standing up to blatant misinformation. It is the least the farming community in Meath deserves.

Yours, Shane Morris BSc,


Challengers in the Field

- Colin Macilwain, Nature Online. May 10, 2006. www.nature.com

The agricultural biotechnology industry is ten years old, and the story of its first decade has largely been about one company selling crops with single transgenic traits. Monsanto, based in St Louis, Missouri, still dominates the sector -- but that could be about to change.

A deal struck last month between Monsanto's two fiercest rivals will, they hope, presage a second era characterized by a more even spread of market share and the production of multiple traits 'stacked' into single plants.

Syngenta, based in Basel, Switzerland, and Pioneer Hi-Bred of Des Moine, Iowa -- a subsidiary of DuPont -- last month formed a 50–50 venture which, they believe, will give Monsanto a run for its money.

The venture, GreenLeaf Genetics, is based in Omaha, Nebraska, and plans to license traits from both Syngenta and Pioneer to the host of small, long-established local companies that supply many farmers with corn (maize) and soya-bean seeds. "For the farmer, this means he'll be able to get the benefit of technology from both of these companies from his local seed company," says Ron Wulfkuhle, GreenLeaf's president.

The approach is a change of direction for Pioneer, the world's oldest and largest seed company, which until now has sought to sell its transgenic seed directly to farmers. Plant strains with stacked traits will follow as new traits become available over the next few years. "GreenLeaf will allow us to present a broader suite of products," says Pioneer's president, Dean Oestreich.

About one-third of America's $2.8-billion corn-seed market is supplied through independent companies, and Monsanto has scored major success by licensing its transgenic technology to them. It also sells direct and licenses genes to rivals, including Pioneer -- with the result that up to four-fifths of all transgenic corn and soya beans contain Monsanto traits.

GreenLeaf's challenge is to break this dominance. Its initial emphasis will be on corn for North America, which accounts for more than half of the total area of genetically modified (GM) crops planted worldwide, according to the ISAAA, a Philippines-based organization that promotes the technology in developing countries.

GM seed now produces about 60% of the world's soya beans and 16% of its corn. The technology has yet to make substantial inroads in wheat or rice and, although genetic modification has spread rapidly (see graph), consumer resistance has held it back in places. There is no cultivation of GM crops in Japan or Britain, very little in the rest of Europe, and the only transgenic crop grown in China is cotton.

Clive James, a prominent plant scientist and chair of the ISAAA, predicts that the total planted area of GM crops will grow from 90 million hectares this year to at least 200 million hectares in ten years' time. If transgenic rice takes off in Asia, he suggests, that alone could add 250 million hectares or more.

But perhaps the most significant development is the increasing spread of multi-trait crops. Most of these seeds currently have two traits, although future plants could incorporate resistance to weedkillers and to drought with insecticides, for example, and with specific nutritional benefits.

GreenLeaf will make multiple traits available to seed companies, says Wulfkuhle. One such trait will be higher-yield herbicide resistance based on Pioneer's Optimum GAT technology, which makes plants resistant to the weedkiller glyphosate and will be ready in 2009.

James also expects to see the commercial arrival of traits that are more useful to farmers in poor countries. That would answer critics who say early traits only addressed the demands of the world's richer farmers.


Transgenic Plant Science Priorities

- David Pelletier, Nature Biotechnology 24, 498 (May 2006). www.nature.com/nbt ; reproduced in AgBioView with the permission of the editor.

To the editor: A letter by Vain in the November issue (Nat. Biotechnol. 23, 1348–1349, 2005) reports a study of two major science literature databases and tracks broad trends in plant transgenic science knowledge from 1973 to 2003. The study identified 30,624 papers, of which 14.8% related to technology development, 71.3% related to applications of technology and 13.8% related to development of genetically modified (GM) crops or feed. The author expresses the concern that the expanding gap between technology applications and development since the 1980s may limit future transgenic science and the ability to address issues related to GM crops.

One of the issues related to GM crops is food safety. Vain's study did not seek to quantify the literature on this topic, but some studies using a more limited database have done so. One study's author searched the US National Library of Medicine Medline publications and documented 101 papers containing the terms 'food safety' and 'genetically engineered foods.'1 Only eight of these papers reported findings from original rodent studies, with most of the remaining papers offering opinions and commentaries without supporting data.

A search of the US Department of Agriculture's Current Research Information database (http://cris.csrees.usda.gov/) from 1994 to 2002 identified 3,041 funded research projects related to plants and to biotech and/or transgenics, of which 145 related to toxins and 19 related to allergens2. Examination of these abstracts revealed that most of the toxin studies focused on enhancing pest protection through the use of plant toxins. Two of the toxin studies and five of the allergen studies were specifically using transgenic methods to study or alter known human toxins, allergens or allergenic foods. Two projects in 2001 sought to develop an animal model to test for unexpected allergens in GM foods.

None of the 3,041 transgenic plant projects related to the appearance of unintended toxins or allergens in GM foods. It would be of interest to use Vain's more comprehensive databases to further characterize the empirical science on the safety of GM foods.

The paucity of studies on food safety has hampered national and international efforts to develop regulations and has been noted by two committees of the US National Academy of Sciences, both of which have recommended expanded research in this area3, 4. Similarly, a paucity of experimental studies related to ecological risks has been documented5 and led an Academy committee to identify a number of high-priority research topics to better inform the development of regulations6.

More broadly, these findings both document that transgenic research has overwhelmingly emphasized technology application over basic or risk-related research and suggest a need to examine transgenic funding priorities.

1. Domingo, J. Science 288, 1748–1749 (2000).
2. Pelletier, D. Nutrition Reviews 63, 210–223 (2005).
3. National Research Council. Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants: Science and Regulation (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2000).
4. Institute of Medicine. Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2004).
5. Wolfenbarger, L. & Phifer, P. Science 290, 2088–2093 (2000).
6. National Research Council. Environmental Effects of Transgenic Plants: The Scope and Adequacy of Regulation (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2002).
Cornell University, Division of Nutritional Sciences, 378 MVR Hall, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA; dlp5-at-cornell.edu


Reply to Transgenic plant science priorities

- Philippe Vain, Nature Biotechnology 24, 499 (2006)

Philippe Vain responds:

I am pleased that my analysis of plant transgenic science and technology literature over the past 30 years stimulated debate about science priorities. In my study, publication statistics indicated a dramatic increase in GM crop-related studies during the past decade, a sustained expansion in the publication of non-GM crop applications and, since the early to mid-1990s, a slowdown in the production of studies focusing on technological development.

A further study1 reinforces the idea that efforts in technology development proportionally influence plant transgenic science as a whole and that continued weakening in the publication of technology development might well erode the scientific base needed to improve and evaluate GM crops.

However, this further study1 also shows that publication practices in the GM crop literature differ significantly from those of the other fields of plant transgenic research (technology development and non-GM crop applications). The GM crop literature includes a lower percentage of scientific journal articles (53.8%) than do the other fields of plant transgenic science (79.3%). This reflects the fact that the GM crop debate, often conducted in platforms other than peer-reviewed research articles, represents a large percentage of the GM crop literature. This trend could explain the paucity of research articles on food safety highlighted by Pelletier. A rapid survey of my group's pool of bibliographic records on GM crops shows that more than 1,200 publications focus on biosafety and more than 300 focus on food safety issues. We intend to analyze these bibliographic records further to provide a picture of the scale, composition and evolution of these subfields of the GM crop literature.

1. Vain, P. Trends Biotechnol. 24, 206–211 (2006).


Face to Face with Father Leo, Priest and Biotechnologist

- New Indian Express, May 11 2006. Full interview at

When I was first told to interview Father Leo D’Souza, I was little bit apprehensive. Here was a leading scientist, educationist who was heading one of the pioneering research laboratories in Biotechnology in the country and I was nervous.

Climbing the countless number of arduous steps of St Aloysius College, I knew the secret of how most of the Aloysians remained slim and trim.

Anyhow meeting Fr Leo was worth the climb. Seated in a reading Hall at the Fr’s Residence amidst books, I was expecting to meet some harried looking priest. But instead was in for a pleasant surprise.

My first impression about father was of a simple, humble, down to earth and a person who kept a low profile. Born on 1 March 1932, Father Leo D’Souza, the 74-year-old Mangalorean Jesuit priest spends most of his time in the Lab of Applied Botany carrying out research work in plant tissue culture.

Fr Leo has not only spent his formative years studying over there but has also been the Principal of St Aloysius College for many years. Excerpts from the interview: -

Some say that Biotechnology has not been able to match the boom in IT. In addition to that it has not been to help Horticulture much. When Biotechnology started people had a lot of dreams that it would generate lot of employment but many of these dreams have not been fulfilled. There are many reasons. People could use Tissue Culture to produce medicines in the laboratory. It was easy, as we do not have to collect plants from the field.

Though we can produce callus, secondary metabolites etc. Its been a success at the Laboratory level but not on an industrial scale. A lot of pharmaceutical industries had invested money in drug discovery but because they were not able to make the gains they expected, they withdrew.

* What kind of research work is being carried out ?

- We are working with forest trees like Gaganamallika( Milingtonia), flame of the forest (Butea Monosperma), Pride of India (Lagerstroma flooregina), Softwood tree grown on roadsides named Matchhwood (Ailanthus), Cashew, Coconut, Ragi(finding markers to identify the Indian from the African variety and also trying to introduce disease resistance genes) and endangered plants such as Pnetum (which is between the angiosperms and gymnosperms).

We have also multiplied some ferns (Drynaria querifolia) and ornamental and medicinal plants. We are also trying to extract the active principle or compound from certain medicinal plants and also studying their anti-bacterial properties.

* Father, aren’t science and religion conflicting in nature? Some people say where religion ends logic begins? Is that true?

- It’s all a matter of perception. Both science and religion seek truth. God is just a deeper need felt by the humans.

* Your views on genetically modified crops?

- Genetically modified crops have been here from time immemorial. Take Maize and Wheat, which are crosses of wild grasses. People have certain fears but mostly they are exaggerated.

In USA, a major chunk of genetically modified crops such as wheat, potato, soyabean are being consumed. There have been no untoward incidents reported. People were afraid, as some were allergic to it. It is a matter of choice. If you are allergic to a particular food, you can best avoid it.

Today we have sufficient food grains to eat, only because of the plant breeding works which were carried out. Thanks to the green revolution we have enough to eat. In African countries like Nigeria there are so many people starving to death, dying out of hunger, but President Mugabe had refused to accept GM food from America saying that it has animal genes.

People drink milk, which is not vegetarian in the true sense. There are always two sides to a coin. Is there anything in this world to which people do not have opposition? Even in the newspapers you can always read views and counter-views.

* Father tell us something about yourself?

- I like reading articles in scientific journals like ‘Science’. Religion and Theology fascinate me. Though its been some years since I have read fiction. Recently I read a German book ‘The Rain God’. Its about life in Africa. I love western instrumental music including Beethoven and Mozart.


Should Science Always be Publicised?

- Pallab Ghosh, BBC News, May 11, 2006. Full story at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4761425.stm

The Royal Society has called for scientists to consider the public interest when deciding whether to talk about their research results. In a report published today Britain's National Academy of Sciences has said slip ups in the past have led to distorted reporting of issues such as MMR and GM crops.

Scientists often blame the media for distorted reporting of science stories. But does the misreporting have its origins in the research community?

A couple of years ago, scientists organising a major European fertility meeting invited a researcher to present evidence that a group of women seeking fertility treatment were more likely conceive if they were hypnotised.
It was a fantastic story and prominently reported across the world.

The problem was that the research was dubious. The hypnotised group were much younger and so more likely to be fertile than - than the un-hypnotised group.

A problem arises though when controversial research designed to provoke a debate within the scientific community is reported as gospel. But what was the excuse of the organising committee - which added credibility to the research by having it presented at their scientific meeting?

The problem is that this isn't a one off or even a rare event. Those cynical of the media might expect that. It happens with great regularity. But media cynics may be surprised to learn that - as in the case of the hypnosis study - the stories generally have their origins in the scientific community. Concerns over the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine began after a study was published in the Lancet - a respected medical journal.

The GM crop scare started after a professor at a respected institute said his experiments showed that genetically modified potatoes had stunted the growth of lab rats.

A problem arises though when controversial research designed to provoke a debate within the scientific community is reported as gospel by the general media.

At best, it reduces trust in scientists and the media.

At worst, it can lead to people making poor choices and harming their health - as in the case of MMR.

That's why the Royal Society has asked researchers to take more care. The worry though, is that this might lead to a form of self-censorship and ultimately stifle scientific debate.


Cassava Breeding, Biotechnology and Ecology - International Meeting

- University of Brasilia (Brazil), November 11 to 15, 2006 http://www.geneconserve.pro.br/meeting2

The invited speakers and their plenary talks are:
1. Cassava improvement in the tropics: a lesson from Sub-saharan Africa - Rodomiro Ortiz (CGIAR).
2. Overcoming the challenge of cassava breeding in India - S.G.Nair (India)
3. New trends in cassava biotechnology - Claude Fauquet (USA)
4. Manipulation of cassava genetic resources for the crop improvement - Nagib Nassar (Brazil).
5. Potential of biotechnology and mutagenesis in genetic improvement of cassava - Shri Mohan Jain (Finland).


Do We Need Antibiotic-resistance Gene in GM Foods and Biopharma Crops?

- Ramanjini Gowda -ramanjini.at.yahoo.com, University of Agricultural Sciences, India

There is a lot of resentment in use of antibiotic genes in GM crops. GM crops are boon to reduce the pest and disease problems and do goodfor the environment. The non-edible GM crops are accepted without any probelm in developing countries. Now they are convinced that crops like Bt cotton is useful to the farmers.

At this time introducing the GM edible crops may generate more backlash from activists on the GM technology. It is the time to evolve GM crops without any antibiotic-resistance marker gene.The Food and Drug administration in India may not approve any food crop containing such marker gene. There is a need to check the long term effects of antibiotic-resistance gene on animals and humans. The best solution is not use any antibiotic gene when developing GM crops and seek alternate methods.


A World of Change: Biotech-Derived Animals, Plants, and Microbes

- Your World Magazine, Spring 2006 Issue

The entire Spring 2006 issue–"A World of Change: Biotech-Derived Animals, Plants, and Microbes" – of Your World: Biotechnology & You, the educational biotechnology magazine for 7th-12th grade students, is now available online for free. The issue helps students understand the science, safety assessment, and regulatory processes involved with the development and production of genetically modified organisms and how potential risks are addressed and resolved prior to commercial use.

To download the issue, go to

Changing for the Better
The Nitty Gritty of Genetic Modificatio
And This Little Piggy Saved a Life!
Going Forward Cautiously
Biodiversity and Biotech: Entwined for Life
Building Better Bugs
Career Profile: Norman Borlaug
Little Ms. Muffet Biotech

Changing for the Better - What's Up with Genetically Modified Organisms?

You’re holding a magazine made of paper. No duh. Maybe you don’t know how tough on the environment making paper is--or how altering aspen trees could help the situation.

Separating the useful tree fibers--the cellulose--from the stuff that binds them together, called lignin, requires harsh alkaline chemicals and high heat. It’s surprisingly expensive, pollutes the air, takes enormous amounts of water that reduce fresh water sources for fish and other organisms, and raises the temperature that they live in to unsafe levels.

But modifying the output (expression) of two genes in aspen trees can reduce the lignin by about half, produce more cellulose, and make the trees grow faster. Producing fast-growing, low-lignin trees as 'crops' would also help conservationists save existing forests.

This technology is called genetic modification, and its products sometimes are called genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

A dazzling variety of organisms have been genetically modified (GM) and in as many different ways. Plants, animals, and microbes that have been changed include soybeans, corn, tobacco, mice, fruit flies, and Escherichia coli. Sometimes genes from one species's genome are inserted into the genome of another species. Sometimes a gene is changed to make it produce more, less, or a different product than it would naturally.

What do you think about eating foods that have been bioengineered? It’s been happening for a long time. Because genetic modification has become so useful in developing hardy crops, most packaged foods contain the products of biotechnology.

Uses of bioengineering include boosting production; protecting species from disease (including human illnesses), pests, or extinction; and protecting the environment. In agriculture, researchers have used bioengineering, for example, to increase the vitamin A content of rice, to allow corn to produce a natural insecticide known as Bt toxin, and to make soybeans resistant to weed-killing chemicals.

In animals, among other things, transgenic mice are helping scientists as they search for answers to biological questions. Transgenic sheep and goats can produce human and other specific proteins in their milk. Biotech chickens can synthesize human protein in their eggs. A GM bacterium might serve as an oral contraceptive for feral cats, humanely solving the problem of animal overpopulation. The possible applications go on and on.

Controversies surround scientists' ability to modify the organisms' genomes. Some people worry about food safety; others predict nightmare scenarios involving humans. Genetic modifications are heavily regulated by the federal government, however. But this technology has also been used to save lives, feed expanding populations, and offer scientists insights into the workings of life. Changing an organism's genome is therefore one of the most important, and one of the most visible, parts of modern biotechnology.