Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: June 1, 2006
* East Africa: Region Seeks Common Ground On GM Crops
* The case of the Cassava Biotechnology Network (CBN)
* GEAC spares refined GM oils mandatory pre-import test
* Reduction in BT cotton seeds price may increase yield
* European Commission told to set biotech thresholds for seeds
East Africa: Region Seeks Common Ground On GM Crops
- The East African, May 30, 2006
The impact of genetically modified foods on food production and trade in East Africa, will be high on the agenda of a meeting convened by an association of African biotechnologists that opens in Nairobi this week.
Delegates are drawn from the member countries of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa trading bloc under the auspices of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (Asareca) and the African Centre for Technology Studies (Acts).
There is a general fear that if individual countries are permitted to go forward with commercialisation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the region will become a patchwork of varied laws and regulations on the same.
Trade problems may then arise when it comes to regulations regarding the testing and approval procedures necessary to place such products on the international market and on labelling and identification requirements.
Asareca and Acts will be presenting the results of a pilot study on GMOs carried out in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Egypt and Zambia. The meeting comes against the backdrop of a raging debate as to whether or not countries in the region should mass introduce GMOs, especially in the wake of declining agricultural productivity and increasing poverty and food insecurity.
Reports in support of GMOs say that several GMO maize and cotton varieties available locally have the potential of increasing productivity, and lowering the cost of pesticides, thus reducing their impact on the environment.
However, concerns have also been raised about GMO's potential risks to the environment and human health.
Currently, there is little information on the specific potential benefits of adopting GMOs versus remaining GM-free crops.
The debates in favour of and against biotechnology have by and large polarised African countries.
Attitudes towards adoption of biotechnology in East Africa range from cautious interest to downright rejection by some interest groups
Mobilizing science and technology for development: The case of the Cassava Biotechnology Network (CBN)
- AGBIOFORUM, By Philipp Aerni, May 31, 2006
Cassava is regarded as the crop of last resort for millions of marginal farmers and their domestic animals in tropical regions.
The Cassava Biotechnology Network (CBN) is addressing the major socioeconomic and agronomic challenges of this orphan crop by bundling the scarce resources available and uniting the major stakeholders involved in cassava breeding, production, marketing, and consumption worldwide.
Based on a small expert survey, this article investigates the importance of the problems in cassava agriculture and the approaches considered to be most effective in addressing them. The author concludes that the CBN represents an innovative, demand-oriented and multistakeholder-driven crop research network that is able to effectively address the challenges in cassava agriculture that were perceived to be most important in the survey.
Its innovations could be of particular benefit to Central Africa-a region that is highly vulnerable to starvation and malnutrition and relies mostly on cassava as the main staple food. However, in order to make it happen, some major institutional bottlenecks need to be addressed in the international agricultural research system.
The above is an abstract of the full article at:
GEAC spares refined GM oils mandatory pre-import test
- Financial Express, By ASHOK B SHARMA, May 31, 2006
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has decided to allow imports of refined soyabean oil extracted from genetically modified (GM) sources without any tests. But such refined oil imports should carry a certificate from the exporting country stating that it is derived from GM sources.
GEAC giving its interim decision, however, said tests were necessary for imported crude soyabean oils. The importer is required to submit analytical reports from either of the three designated laboratories on the composition of the crude oil both at pre and post processing stages, determination of glyphosate in the oil and its residues.
The three designated labs are Central Food Technology Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad and the Delhi-based Sri Ram Laboratories.
In case of imported crude oils from GM sources, GEAC insisted on test certificates from any importing country like Japan, China, India, The Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and the European Union. The oil trade industry association on behalf of all importers may seek one time approval of the GEAC for import of oils from GM sources.
The samples may be drawn as per norms under Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) rules.
• GEAC insisted on test certificates from any importing country like Japan, China, India,the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and the EU
• The oil trade industry association on behalf of all importers may seek one time approval of the GEAC for import of oil from GM sources
• The shipment should carry the name of the importer and contact details, name of the exporting country, declaration that it is extracted from GM sources and the approval date and number
Subsequent to GEAC approval, the shipment should carry the name of the importer and contact details, name of the exporting country, declaration that it is extracted from GM sources and the approval date and number.
GEAC pulled up Cargill India for importing without its approval.
In the last GEAC meeting the CFTRI director, however, pointed out that detection of DNA/protein is not feasible in highly processed food like oil with the level of present technology. GEAC should, therefore, ask for tests for normal oil as per PFA norms.
He also objected to the concept of one-time clearance by GEAC.
'Reduction in BT cotton seeds price may increase yield'
- NEWINDPRESS, May 31 2006
Guntur: Andhra Pradesh Cotton Growers Association president Gorantla Punnaiah Chowdary and general secretary Kandimalla Nageswara Rao said on Tuesday that the State Government's decision to reduce the price of BT cotton seeds to Rs 750 would increase the cotton yield in the state.
Speaking to newsmen here, they said the association is going to conduct awareness programmes on BT cotton seeds throughout the state. They warned the farmers against fake seeds.
The association leaders said that in spite of increase in cotton yield the spinning and garment industries are unable to cope up with the buffer stocks due to lack of modernisation.
They said the cotton is being cultivated in 90 lakh hectares in the country. While the cotton yield is 1,600 kg in Israel, 1,200 kg in Australia, 1,000 kg in America, the yield in our country is only around 330 kg. The association leaders said that the farmers are producing 150 lakh bales per year and it was expected to reach 250 lakh bales next year.
They said there was a demand for export of garments as the garment industry workers are on strike in Europe and America. While China bagged 50 per cent export market, India and Pakistan bagged 25 per cent each of the export market.
European Commission told to set biotech thresholds for seeds
- FOOD CHEMICAL NEWS, May 31, 2006
Farm ministers last week sent a clear message to the European Commission to come up with labeling thresholds for the adventitious presence of transgenic material in seed lots, reported Food Chemical News.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas has been resisting moves to set thresholds despite pressure from seed producers, the biotech industry and even fellow commissioners. Member-states weighed in on the issue at a May 22 Agriculture Council meeting in Brussels. The ministers were nearly unanimous in urging the commission to set limits, with only Greece abstaining. Dimas served as a minister in the Greek government before taking up his post in Brussels in 2004.
According to Food Chemical News, the question now is whether Dimas will finally yield to the pressure and produce a proposal - either for the 0.1 percent limit favored by green advocacy groups, a 0.3 percent threshold seen as middle ground, or the 0.5 percent limit backed by industry. The Agriculture Council stressed that the threshold "should not create a disproportionate burden for any group of operators."
Currently seed producers must comply with the 0.1 percent detection limit by default, because the lack of a threshold means a product with the slightest trace of transgenic material has to be labeled as containing GMOs (genetically modified organisms). A 0.9 percent adventitious presence threshold applies to food and animal feed under the EU's traceability and labeling regulation, reported Food Chemical News.
The council also called on the commission to beef up 2003 guidance on coexistence that member-states use to draft national rules. The council backed the commission's view that geographic, climatic and farming conditions in the 25 member-states are too varied to allow harmonized EU rules. However, the council said national governments need more in-depth technical guidance, and the EU should consider adopting common principles on coexistence as well as providing advice on practical crop-specific coexistence measures that take into account costs as well as technical effectiveness.
The council made clear that farmers should be able to choose biotech crops, and consumers should have a choice among biotech, conventional or organic foods. The council acknowledged strong consumer demand for organic and traditional products but added that it is in Europe's economic interest to avoid lagging behind in biotechnology.
According to Food Chemical News, the council's conclusions triggered a furious response from Friends of the Earth Europe, which said the ministers would "allow irreversible contamination of Europe's food and environment." For its part, the trade association EuropaBio welcomed the conclusions, noting that successful coexistence partly depends on seed limits.