Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: June 12, 2006
* Sponsorship Scandal: GM Free Ireland's lies exposed
* The Cow Dung Deception
* Pricing of Bt cotton should be market-driven, says Monsanto
* India: Growing Bt cotton acreage adversely affects pesticide sales
* GM hybrid peppers developed in Israel
* INDIA: Monsanto to introduce new cotton varieties
* Probing the benefits of GM rice
Sponsorship Scandal: GM Free Ireland's lies exposed
- GMO Ireland Blog, June 10, 2006
THIS WEEK THE ANTI GM GROUP GM FREE IRELAND WAS INVOLVED IN A SPONSORSHIP SCANDAL.
Having ran sponsored events in the past, such as the first public debate in Ireland on GM foods in 1997 (hosted by University of Limerick and sponsored by the Sunday Business Post), I know that when you are trying to raise sponsorship the key is to get one big respectable name and then other sponsors will follow.
This week GM Free Ireland was caught misrepresenting Bord Bia's (the publicly funded agency for the promotion of Irish food) involvement in their up and coming conference for which they are offering sponsorship deals for up to 25,000 Euro!
GM Free Ireland and Michael O'Callaghan (media spokesperson for GM Free Ireland and Director of the company (Global Vision Consulting Ltd) arranging the forthcoming conference) were claiming Bord Bia was an official sponsor of their event. They had posted this claim on their website and potential sponsors were led to believe that Bord Bia were backing the conference (and presumably its goals!!!).
This claim was exposed as a lie this week. One might assume the false claim was presumably concocted in an attempt to lure more sponsporship cash from the unsuspecting Irish public as Bord Bia is highly respected and is the official food promotional agency in Ireland. It is funded by the Irish tax payer.
When exposed GM Free Ireland and Michael O'Callaghan quietly and with out explanation removed the bogus claim from their website without an apology!! So much for good business ethics or reliable information.....
The email below is from Bord Bia officials and is what led to their exposure......
Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2006 11:52:30 +0100
From: "Muiris Kennedy" Muiris.Kennedy@BordBia.IE
To: "Shane Morris"
CC: "Byrne, Marian" Marian.Byrne@agriculture.gov.ie
Dear Mr Morris,
Bord Bia is not a sponsor of the conference and following clarification with the organisers the reference has now been removed from the Website.
I have agreed to make a presentation about Ireland The Food Island and the marketing of Irish Food at one of the workshops on Saturday afternoon and will be one of a number of international speakers at the event.
Thank you for advising us about the reference and am pleased to have had the opportunity to clarify the situation.
Director Marketing Services.
The Cow Dung Deception
- By Tawanda Zidenga, Graduate Student from Zimbabwe, June 12, 2006
Modern agriculture has been marred by controversy, not only related to biotechnology, but also to chemicals and hybrid seeds coming out of the green revolution. These debates have stunned developers, scientists and engineers, especially those without a farming background. Among the major points of arguments related to modern agricultural systems is that they are not environmentally sustainable and are socially unacceptable.
The latter argument is justified by some need to “protect heritage” (which happens to have been changing for thousands of years). There have been arguments that the “good old days” when people used to fertilize their fields with cow dung should be the standard upon which we build. Radical groups have advocated a return to these systems, and a preservation of that status in areas where they are still practiced. There exists a fantasy, especially amongst the urban elite, that rural life is exceedingly wonderful, cheap and sustainable; that traditional methods were essentially error-free, sustainable and beneficial to all. This misguided fantasy culminates in what I will call the cow dung deception – the endless attack by radical groups of modern technology in favor of a ‘good-old-days’ that never was.
The logical absurdity of this reason is not its greatest fault – it is the desire to fight progress under the guise of precaution that threatens us today.
When the aspects of the life have a meaning to our culture, we tend to hold on. Human beings are known for resisting change. We hold on to our past because it made us who we are. We have created museums and monuments to preserve part of our past which, even though it no longer has a place in the modern world.
Perhaps you once had a professor who disliked the use of kits in molecular biology, referring to the good old days when people used to do everything themselves (and, of course, take far much longer). Many of us are familiar with how computers were criticized, not only for “taking human jobs” (I’m serious!) but for alienating us from one another. Yet when you look at the modern society today, you almost cannot understand a world without them. The possible costs of using a technology remain from generation to generation, changing only in form depending on the nature of the technology and our understanding of it. In many societies cow dung was central to culture, as were the cows themselves. But the claim by some activists, that cow dung is the key to sustainable agriculture is nothing less than an act of social fraud – an attempt to convert communities into large museum where enviro-tourists can visit and marvel – then return to the comfort of their air conditioned high-energy consuming city dwellings (add to that the making of a good documentary for the Discovery Channel). Cow dung was part of a sustainable way of agriculture – under a different set of circumstances. As were a number of methods, tools and systems that we have put behind in favor of more efficient quicker options. There is a modern misconception that something that is natural is safe.
We have established industries and created jobs, based on attacking the global corporate system and its evils. We have countless non-governmental organizations in poor communities, promoting ‘sustainable development’ – yet decades after their initial presence, the communities remain poor and even more dependent. Insanity is when you do the same thing the same way over and over again expecting different results. We demonize profits everyday, failing to acknowledge in the very least, that most of the major breakthroughs we enjoy today came as a result of someone trying to make profit. We have brandished all modern technologies profit-driven, and therefore unsuitable for poor communities. We magnify the dangers of modern technologies, forgetting that there is an inherent danger in all systems. In most cases, we, the so-called educated elite, have taken to making decisions for these communities – deciding that they will do better with cowdung than with ammonium nitrate fertilizer. The result is those communities still need food aid, still remain entrapped in a cycle of poverty while we experiment with them, guided by misguided dogma that never had a scientific basis yet found it’s way into college textbooks. We have fought globalization – we’ve even formed internet communities and web rings to fight globalization in a classical contradiction of a globalized fight against globalization. We have given undue credence to demonstrators – we assume that anyone waving a placard must know what they are talking about. We have allowed fearmongers, intimidators and outright liars to perpetuate perhaps the greatest con of the century – the condemnation of biotechnology and overblowing of advantages of organic food.
What I find troubling is a cult-like approach on an age-old system – a desperate attempt to use an age-old human friend, cow dung, to fight technology, denying it to the poor who could use it. It is not troubling when a topless placard waving fanatic somewhere in California decides to sing about cow dung. But the power and unquestioned authority that the environmental movement has gained over the years is influencing policy in developing countries – defensive policy that undermines research capacity and widens the gap between rich countries and poor countries.
Graduate Student from Zimbabwe
The Ohio State University
Pricing of Bt cotton should be market-driven, says Monsanto
`Farmers, not Govts, should judge the price of private company seeds'
— Hindu Business Line, By G.R.N. Somashekar, June 9, 2006
Monsanto, whose pricing of the genetically modified Bt cotton is under attack, has said free market and the farmer should judge the price of private companies' seeds and not governments.
The pricing of Monsanto's Bt cotton should be market-driven and any State intervention would go against the interest of farmers, Mr Felipe Osorio, Managing Director of Monsanto for India, said on Friday.
He said confusion had been created over the pricing issue, with the Andhra Pradesh Government fixing the price at Rs 750 against the company's Rs 900-950 per packet of 450 gm of seed.
OPEN FOR TALKS
The State has referred the issue to the MRTPC, while Monsanto had challenged the move in the Supreme Court. The company was open for discussions and an amicable resolution of the issue, Mr Osorio added.
Mr Osorio's statement at a news conference on the concluding day of Bangalore Bio comes even as agriculture ministers of the southern States met in Hyderabad, with Bt cotton on their agenda.
Justifying the domestic pricing, he said it was lower than in China and the two practices were different, with China requiring almost 18 times the seed per acre compared to India. Also, Chinese Bt cotton would amount to Rs 1,100-1,250 per packet.
Domestic farmers could reap Rs 5.80 per rupee of investment in Bt seeds. "Farmers measure the value of Bollgard technology by the acre, not by the kilogram of seed. (They) have clearly seen the benefits of Bollgard cotton for the past four growing seasons and continue to plant more acres each season," Mr Osorio said, adding that, "Let the farmer decide what is best for him."
At the Agri Biotech Day address, the Union Minister of State for Commerce, Mr Jairam Ramesh, said public funding of agri-biotechnology should improve. China's agri-biotechnology, he said, was largely led by government funding and in India by the private sector. "Indian agri-biotech needs two locomotives. The one in the front should be funded by public institutions and the back one funded by the private sector."
On Bt cotton, he said cotton production in the last five years has grown though only 8 per cent of 8.5 million acres is under Bt cotton.
The Chairperson of the Karnataka Vision group on Biotechnology, Ms Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, made out a case for moving beyond Bt cotton and giving speedy approvals for genetically modified soya, corn and other crops.
Dr Villoo M. Patell, Founder and CEO of Avesthagen, said, "Farmers across the world must have access to current high yielding crop-production methods as well as new biotechnological breakthroughs that can increase the yields."
India: Growing Bt cotton acreage adversely affects pesticide sales
- Fiber2Fashion, June 12, 2006
During the 2005-2006 period the total land under cultivation came up to around 140 million hectares of which 9 million is used for cotton production with about 1.5 million hectares for Bt cotton.
However, the land under the cultivation of Bt cotton is expanding steadily, which is led to reduction in the usage of pesticides.
While the production of Bt cotton rises, the demand for pesticides drops as the crops do not get attacked by insects like bollworm or caterpillar.
Pesticide sale during the 2005-2006 fiscal year is estimated to be lower at Rs35 billion from the previous year’s sales of Rs38-40 billion.
Nevertheless, the problem will be much bigger when the almost 20 million hectares of land will be used to produce genetically modified crop.
Experts defend that the continuous rains also contributed to the fall in pesticide sales as the crops were mostly pest free.
GM hybrid peppers developed in Israel
- UPI, June 12, 2006
Israeli researchers have produced genetically modified hybrid peppers that can be raised with minimal protection under moderate winter conditions.
The robust pepper varieties were developed by a research team headed by Yonatan Elkind of the Robert Smith Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Elkind is to be presented an innovation award Tuesday during the Hebrew University's 69th Board of Governors meeting.
The researchers said the improvements embodied in the genetically enhanced peppers widen the ecological conditions under which they can be grown and also facilitate the use of simple greenhouses and netting instead of expensive structures.
The peppers, in various colors, have been raised to produce high yields under night-time conditions as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much lower than previous hybrids that required temperatures higher than 64 degrees Fahrenheit and needed costly heating to grow and develop, the scientists said.
The new hybrids are characterized by high yields, a long growing season, resistance to viruses, firm fruit, good vine storage capacity, long shelf life and low sensitivity to cracking.
INDIA: Monsanto to introduce new cotton varieties
- Bharat Textile, June 12, 2006
BANGALORE: Monsanto, a multinational seed company is all set to introduce two more genetically modified crops, Boll guard 2 and new Corn seed in the country, Felipe Osorio, Managing Director of Monsanto for India said here on June 12.
The MD further clarified that the company has got approval for the latest Boll Guard technology and commercialising of the seed is expected to start during this season which will enhance the quality of the seed.
Both the new genetically modified varieties will undergo a field trails at 14 places in the country and right now company is in process of deciding best states were actual test can be perform.
Felipe Osorio also said that company has left on farmers to judge the seed as they know what they want and on the value of price they know what they can afford and what they cannot.
Probing the benefits of GM rice
- Independent Online, June 12, 2006, By Catherine Brahic and Hepeng Jia
An ambitious project to measure the environmental impacts of producing rice in south-east Asia has been announced in Vietnam, according to a report on the Science and Development Network website.
In a collaboration between the non-profit International Rice Research Institute (www.irri.org) and the ten countries belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (www.aseansec.org), scientists will devise a series of indicators to assess the sustainability of rice production. The indicators relate to production, biodiversity, pollution, land degradation and water, and will allow nations to compare and improve the way they produce rice.
Just looking at rice productivity in different Asian nations has already generated some interesting results, an International Rice Research Institute spokesperson told the online Science and Development Network (www.scidev.net).
Thailand, for instance, produces just 2,3 tonnes of rice per hectare compared with 4,2 tonnes in Vietnam. This suggests that there is considerable potential for Thailand to increase its yields, said the spokesperson.
But beyond these initial findings, much work on the indicators remains to be done.
KL Heong, a Malaysian researcher who is leading the project, says the productivity index will ultimately measure how much rice is produced per hectare and how much is spent on producing it.
This could show policymakers whether their farmers are spending more or less to produce the same amount of rice as in neighbouring countries.
Significant differences between nations could trigger studies into the underlying reasons, such as overuse of pesticides.
Nguu Nguyen of the International Rice Commission (www.fao.org/ag/irc) which falls under the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation, applauds the initiative.
The International Rice Research Institute says the proposal has attracted more attention than anticipated. In particular, some bilateral aid agencies have expressed an interest in the biodiversity indicator.
Researchers have been trying to devise ways of measuring biodiversity and how it is affected by human activities for many years. The United Kingdom's Royal Society concluded that "the living world is disappearing before our eyes". And 188 nations, all parties to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (www.biodiv.org), pledged "to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level".
Meanwhile, genetic modification may help rice farmers in the developing world resist two important diseases.
Research published last month suggests that just one gene is both friend and foe to rice. A single gene has evolved to regulate both the plant's fertility and its ability to resist a major bacterial disease, bacterial leaf blight, one of the plant world's most devastating bacterial diseases.
The finding could help scientists develop rice varieties with higher yields which are simultaneously better able to resist the disease, says lead researcher Wang Shiping of Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan, China.
The newly discovered gene can have both positive and negative effects, according to research in the journal Genes and Development. The most common form of the gene makes rice plants more susceptible to bacterial leaf blight but also makes them produce more pollen. According to Wang, one way for researchers to maximise the gene's benefits would be to block its activity in leaves while boosting it in flowers.
In a separate study, researchers led by Zhu Lihuang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (the equivalent of the Academy of Science of South Africa) genetically modified rice to resist the single most important rice disease, rice blast disease, caused by a fungus. Zhu's team modified rice plants using a local variety that resists all 156 Chinese and Japanese strains of the fungus. His research was published online by The Plant Journal.
Work specific to this continent is expected to be announced at the Africa Rice Congress (http://www.warda.org/africa-rice-congress/) which takes place from July 31 to August 4 2006 in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. For more information, contact Dr Ashura Luzi-Kihupi at the Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute in Tanzania.