Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: June 9, 2006
* ISAAA's CropBiotech Update
* WTO faults European Union for blocking genetically modified food imports
* Brazil Soy Farmers Use Biotech Seeds To Fight Pests, Rust
* GM food just as safe
* BASF, Australian Research Centre invest 17 mln eur to develop modified wheat
* Will agbiotech applications reach marginalized farmers?
* Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety should not lose focus
* Is it organic?
* GE tomato resistant to leaf curl disease
ISAAA's CropBiotech Update
- First Board Meeting of Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources
- Indonesia Government Urged to Increase Support to Agri-Biotech
- Statement on GM for Development Countries
- Biotech is Priority Focus of Indo-U.S. Knowledge Initiative
- Women Play Role in Restoring Drylands, IFAD Research Finds
- Vietnam Approves Funding for Biotech
- COMESA Endorses Regional Policy on GMOs
- Brazil, Opinion: Who Will Pay the Price?
- Kenyan Minister Asks Journalists to Highlight GM Benefits
- Public-Private Partnership for First Biopesticide against Potato Moth
- GM Plants Discussed In Forum
- Hepatitis B Antigen Expressed in Potato Root
- Norway to Build “Noah’s Ark” For Seeds
- Study Compares U.S, Chinese Sorghum
WTO faults European Union for blocking genetically modified food imports
- Associated Press, By BRADLEY S. KLAPPE, June 9, 2006
The World Trade Organization has upheld a ruling that European countries broke international trade rules by stopping imports of genetically modified foods, officials said Thursday.
The WTO's verdict, handed out confidentially late Wednesday, found that the European Union had an effective ban on biotech foods for six years from 1998. The WTO sided with the United States and two other countries who said the moratorium was illegal under the commerce body's rules, according to officials who have reviewed the report.
The ruling essentially confirmed a 1,050-page preliminary report issued in February, which concluded that the EU had breached its commitments with respect to 21 products _ including types of oilseed rape, maize and cotton.
February's report also said individual bans in six EU member states _ Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg _ violated international trade rules, but it did not rule on whether current EU legislation was illegal, and sidestepped the issue of whether biotech products were safe. The ruling, which is not expected to be made public for many weeks, can still be appealed.
An EU official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it is a confidential report, said the substance had not changed from the preliminary ruling.
Genetically modified foods have created controversy on both sides of the Atlantic. European governments such as Germany and France, as well as a number of environmental groups, contend that many such crops are unsafe for humans and the environment.
But the complainants _ Canada, Argentina and the United States _ say that there is no scientific evidence for the EU's actions and that the moratorium has been an unfair barrier to producers of biotech foods who want to export to the EU.
U.S. farm groups say that they were losing hundreds of millions of dollars annually in export sales of genetically modified crops to the EU.
The EU says it ended its moratorium in 2004 when it allowed imports of a modified strain of sweet corn, grown mainly in the United States. The 25-nation bloc has approved the import of further biotech crops since 2004 and says the current rules are in line with its WTO obligations.
Peter Power, spokesman for EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, told reporters in Brussels that he could not comment on the ruling, but noted that the complainants did not challenge the EU's current regulatory framework.
"Nothing in this panel report will compel us to change that framework," Power said. "Europe will continue to set its own rules on the import and sales of GM foods."
But Washington has said it will continue with its WTO case until it is convinced that all applications for approval are being decided on scientific rather than political grounds.
Brazil Soy Farmers Use Biotech Seeds To Fight Pests, Rust
- Dow Jones Newswire, 6/8/2006
LONDRINA, Brazil (Dow Jones)--Brazil's soy farmers are increasingly turning to genetically modified soy to combat insect disease and soybean rust, farmers and seed manufacturers said Wednesday during a soy conference in Parana.
"The tendency is for Brazil to rely more on GMO soy going forward. There's a psychological factor at play here - farmers think that GMO soy helps them control Asian soy rust," said Odilio Balbinotti, president of Sementes Adriana, the largest soybean seed producer in Mato Grosso.
Mato Grosso is the No. 1 soy producer in Brazil. Roughly 26% of the 2006-07 soy crop will likely be transgenic soy, compared to 10% in the 2005-06 crop, according to Balbinotti's calculations. Others put the number much higher.
GMO seeds are produced in laboratories by crop scientists manipulating the DNA material of plants, often including DNA proteins from other plants and introducing them to soybean seeds.
There is no GMO soy totally resistant to Asian soybean rust, an airborne fungus that that can be far more damaging to Brazilian soy crops than dry weather. Soy rust, which attacks the foliage of soy plants effectively starving them, has expanded over the last two crop seasons.
Many farmers in Mato Grosso lost yields in the 2005-06 crop because of soy rust. Balbinotti expects yields around 31 60-kilogram bags per hectare, one of the lowest yields ever for Mato Grosso. The state usually produces 40 bags per hectare on the low end. Low yields means farmers need to harvest more soy to fill a bag than they needed to harvest in the past.
GMO soy helps control weeds, which in turn opens up space between soy plants and thus reduces the humidity levels that the fungus requires to spread. Soybean rust can worsen drastically in a period of a week, making it difficult to control, according to researchers at Embrapa, Brazil's official crop science institute.
Jose Tadashi Yorinori, an Embrapa researcher in Parana, estimated that Brazil farmers lost 6.6 million metric tons of soy in the 2005-06 crop to soy rust. Brazil should harvest 53.8 million tons of soy, according to official estimates released Monday. Estimates earlier in the year had the crop at roughly 58 million tons.
"My entire soy crop next year will be GMO," said Paulo Pinto, a farmer at Coprossel in Parana. Parana is the No. 2 soy producing state. Pinto grows soy for the local seed market. In 2005-06, 50% of his crop was GMO soy.
"Everyone I know will double their GMO plantings next year," Pinto said about the 2006-07 soy season.
Brazil is the world's No 2 soy producer and exporter. GMO soy was permitted in Brazil only recently due to farmer demand, but the topic remains controversial as some states like Parana have tried to ban GMO from its port in Paranagua.
GM food just as safe
- OTTAWA CITIZEN, June 8, 2006
Re: Many illnesses linked to eating GM food, June 1.
Roderick Taylor's letter perpetuates a common misconception and demands attention. Several years ago, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine were prompted to investigate the various rumours of illnesses from eating genetically modified foods. They struck a blue-ribbon committee of science and health experts, drawn mainly from public academic institutions.
After a two-year investigation, in which the committee solicited and analyzed any and all information relating to adverse health incidents from GM foods, it issued its peer-reviewed report (Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods, available online at http://www.nap.edu/books/0309092094/html).
The committee was unable to substantiate or verify any of the rumours of illness caused by eating GM foods. This group of experts working for the public good concluded that current GM foods were just as safe as other foods in the market.
Alan McHughen, Riverside,California,University of California
BASF, Australian Research Centre invest 17 mln eur to develop modified wheat
- FORBES, 08 Jun 2006
BASF, Australian research centre invest 17 mln eur to develop modified wheat
Ludwigshafen, Germany - BASF AG said its Plant Science unit and Australia's Molecular Plant Breeding Cooperative Research Centre will invest 17 mln eur in developing high yielding wheat varieties.
The objective is also to genetically modify the wheat to become more resistant to fungal diseases and adverse environmental conditions such as drought.
The joint program is scheduled to last seven years and involves 25 scientists based at the Australian research centre.
Will agbiotech applications reach marginalized farmers? evidence from developing countries
- AGBIOFORUM, By David J. Spielman, Joel I. Cohen and Patricia Zambrano
Findings from two studies on agricultural research indicate that although developing countries invest in agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified crop research, their policy and investment environments inhibit the contribution of such research to agricultural development and poverty reduction. Findings suggest that valuable private-sector resources are not being brought to bear on the development challenge, thus slowing the pace of innovation. For such research to benefit developing countries, greater effort is needed to enhance the international exchange of safety and efficacy information, remove the isolation of public research institutions, and overcome barriers to public-private research collaboration.
The full paper is available from
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety should not lose focus
- PUBLIC RESEARCH & REGULATION, June 2006
The costly and time consuming process of the Meetings of the Parties (MOPs) to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety needs to refocus if the Protocol is to serve its role in facilitating international collaboration in modern biotechnology. Modern biotechnology is a crucial tool in fighting poverty, malnutrition, poor human health and environmental degradation in developing and developed countries. These are some of the observations of a report released by the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI).
PRRI offers public researchers a forum through which they can participate in international negotiations that are relevant for modern biotechnology, such as MOPs. Participants in MOPs engage in discussions that will set the scene for the implementation of the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety. Since it's foundation in 2004, PRRI participated in MOP2, MOP3, and in the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP8), with many scientists from public research institutions in countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia, North America and Europe. A primary goal of PRRI is to inform the negotiators of the concerns of the public research sector with the potential impact of the Protocol on public research in biotechnology
For its participation in MOP3 and COP8, PRRI has prepared statements on topics such as capacity building, risk assessment, liability, and GURTs. A report of PRRI's positions on the topics of the agenda and an analysis of the results of MOP3 and COP8 is available at www.pubresreg.org.
The PRRI reports urges the negotiating Governments to refocus the debate to ensure that the CPB can do what it originally was intended to do, i.e., to help to "provide for effective participation in biotechnological research activities" as described in Article 19 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is the basis for the Cartagena Protocol.
The PRRI strongly supports the development of workable and transparent rules and guidelines for the development and commercialisation of crop varieties developed through biotechnology. These include crops that require fewer applications of harsh pesticides, and crops that require reduced amounts of water and chemical fertilizers, and that have enhanced levels of vitamins and minerals. However, the PRRI strongly objects to the repeated attempts to propose bans for scientific research that have no demonstrated scientific basis. Future generations are not served by simply putting bans on possible avenues of scientific research and development if there are no clear indications that those developments will pose actual risks that outweigh the numerous benefits.
The PRRI report and further information about PRRI can be obtained from: Kim Meulenbroeks at firstname.lastname@example.org
Is it organic?; the label is popping up everywhere, and consumer confusion is growing
- SACRAMENTO BEE, By Gwen Schoen, June 7, 2006
Two apples. One has a few bird nibbles and a tiny bruise. The other is perfect. The color is deep red, the peel shiny and unblemished.
Which would you choose?
Pat Henegar would take the shiny one, the one grown with fertilizer and pesticides, thank you.
"I do not use organic produce," says the Natomas resident. "I haven't quite convinced myself that there are enough safety measures in place to make organic safe."
"Well, they use raw materials for growth fertilizers and pest control, and I am not comfortable with the processes used for cleaning and sanitizing. Particularly for things you eat raw, like strawberries. Just giving them a quick rinse isn't enough.
"I'm just fine with the regular produce I find."
Henegar's concerns about produce labeled "organic" are not uncommon. But the numbers show organic foods are accepted by more Americans every year.
"Almost three-quarters of the United States population consumes organic foods or beverages at least occasionally, and that number is growing rapidly," says David Moore, director of quantitative research for Hartman Group, a market-research firm in Bellevue, Wash.
He says people are "picking and choosing" rather than being dedicated to a complete organic lifestyle.
"The main area of strong growth is in organic dairy products," Moore says. "Parents with small children are concerned about growth hormones in milk. Parents also buy certain kinds of organic fruits and vegetables because they have learned about high levels of pesticides."
According to the Organic Trade Association, based in Greenfield, Mass., organic food sales in the United States totaled nearly $14 billion in 2005, which represents 2.5 percent of all retail sales of food. The association predicts that sales of organic foods will reach nearly $16 billion in 2006.
Moore says that many people are confused about what the term "organic" means, and for that reason they can't see the benefit of buying organic products.
"They tell us that they just can't tell the difference," he says. "As for the USDA organic sticker, a high percentage of consumers are not aware of it, and many who are aware just don't know what it means."
A major part of the Organic Food Production Act, which went into effect four years ago, was standardizing the organics industry and creating a USDA certified organic label. Manufacturers who meet the USDA organic standards, including an annual inspection, have the option of using the label on their products.
The USDA now defines organic as food produced without the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, weed killers and fertilizers, irradiation, sewage sludge and genetic engineering.
But Lorraine Ivey of Foothill Farms is still unclear about the true meaning of organic.
"I assume it means that produce is grown more naturally and without pesticides and chemicals," says Ivey. She says she buys organic foods occasionally but doesn't limit her choices to strictly organic labels.
"I am concerned that our food is overtreated with chemicals just to make it look pretty. I am a firm believer that all these added preservatives do have a long-term effect on us. Not that I think all of them are bad, but overprocessing concerns me."
The USDA makes no claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food. Organic simply refers to the way it is grown, handled and processed.
"Basically it means more manual labor for the grower," says Maisie Jane Hurtado, who owns Maisie Jane's California Sunshine Products. She grows and processes organic almonds on her farm near Chico.
"With organic farming we can't spray for weed control, for example. Which means we have to have more workers in the orchard cutting weeds down. We also can't use fertilizers, which means lower crop yields," says Hurtado. "And we can't use insecticides, so we have to bring in beneficial bugs to eat the bad bugs. And there are fees to pay to be certified, which also requires more clerical work. All of those things add to the expense of producing organic food and that expense is passed on to the consumer."
Recently, organic meat has entered the marketplace.
"Like organic produce, organic meat means that animals are grown without the use of growth hormones and antibiotics," explains Theo Weening, meat coordinator for Whole Foods Market. "Animals are fed organic feed, and they can be traced back to where they were born so we know their exact origin."
As with organic produce, organic meat comes with a higher price to consumers, Weening said.
"It costs more to raise animals this way," he said. "The animals are in the feed lots longer, but the result is higher quality, more volume and a more consistent quality.
"Organic, whether we are talking about meat or produce, is a more responsible way to produce food," said Weening. "In the end, organic methods take better care of our environment. They also means higher quality and safer food, which is good for everyone."
http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2006/news06.jun.htm - jun0603
GE tomato resistant to leaf curl disease
- ISB NEWS REPORT, By Anupam Varma and Shelly Praveen, June 2006
These studies have opened up possibilities of developing transgenic tomato for resistance to begomoviruses. However, much more research is required before this technology is ready for practical use. A primary concern is the variability in the viral genomes of different viruses causing ToLCD worldwide and the emergence of new variants of these viruses through mutations and genomic recombinations. We plan to target conserved sequences for homology dependent gene silencing for deployment through RNAi to obtain broad spectrum resistance to begomoviruses in tomato. We also plan to develop tomato with resistance to multiple viruses as, apart from the begomoviruses, cucumo- and tospoviruses are also causing serious economic losses in tomato cultivation in India.