Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: July 31, 2006
* Mycotoxin reduction in Bt corn
* AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY NETWORK FOR AFRICA
* Efforts on for production of golden rice: experts
* Panel discusses biotech for African development
* Gene-Splicing Crop Plants to Tolerate Drought Holds Great Promise
* GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS IN INDIA
* Brazilian Farmers Talk About Benefits Of GM Crops
* Biotech industry to drive agriculture
* Pollen-free corn is objective of researchers at Iowa State
* Monsanto touts performance of its Vistive soybeans
Mycotoxin reduction in Bt corn: potential economic, health, and regulatory impacts
- Transgenic Research Vol 15 Number 3, pp277-289, 01.jun.06, Felicia Wu (Via Agnet)
Environmental, Occupational Health, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburg
Genetically modified (GM) Bt corn, through the pest protection that it confers, has lower levels of mycotoxins: toxic and carcinogenic chemicals produced as secondary metabolites of fungi that colonize crops. In some cases, the reduction of mycotoxins afforded by Bt corn is significant enough to have an economic impact, both in terms of domestic markets and international trade. In less developed countries where certain mycotoxins are significant contaminants of food, Bt corn adoption, by virtue of its mycotoxin reduction, may even improve human and animal health. This paper describes an integrated assessment model that analyzes the economic and health impacts of two mycotoxins in corn: fumonisin and aflatoxin.It was found that excessively strict standards of these two mycotoxins could result in global trade losses in the hundreds of millions $US annually, with the US, China, and Argentina suffering the greatest losses. The paper then discusses the evidence for Bt corn’s lower levels of contamination of fumonisin and aflatoxin, and estimates economic impacts in the United States. A total benefit of Bt corn’s reduction of fumonisin and aflatoxin in the US was estimated at $23 million annually. Finally, the paper examines the potential policy impacts of Bt corn’s mycotoxin reduction, on nations that are making a decision on whether to allow commercialization of this genetically modified crop.
AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY NETWORK FOR AFRICA
Recently i have been going through the Agricultural Biotechnology Network for Africa( ABNETA) concept note (2006).Analysing its goals and objectives both on scientific,social and economic point of view, it has layed a very promising picture in my mind of how Africa is now not only waiting to be fed, but also going out for the hunt!
Once well established, ABNETA will lay a promising and a good foundation for Africa at large to start to effficiently utilise and benefit from "safe" applications of biotechnology in areas of food production and other useful products it can bring about, like helping to directly or indirectly combat both human and animal diseases prevalent in the continent.
"This electronic network will provide opportunity to the proffesionals and stakeholders with reliable information to enable them take advantage of these technologies for agricultural production and conservation"-( www.abneta.org) Networking is extremely essential for bringing about development and progress in any field and place, more especially in Africa where there is financial deficits and lack of infrastructure.ABNETA with its well oriented goals and objectives like facilitating opportunities to share capacities necessary for research,access equipment,exchange visits, pulling human resources in partnership and consortia as well as facilitating flow of information amongst countries with similar research objectives to reduce cost of research, will indeed pave-up way to self reliance and development in agricultural production and fo! od security-as well as in science and technology in general.
Furthermore since ABNETA is about to bring everyone on board,for example one of its critical and vital goals is to offer training opportunities on science writting for journalists-who play a very pivotal role in bridging the gap between research advancements,bills and laws regulating the use of such advancements,Overseas or Cross-boarder Protocol proceedings etc and the public or consumers.This will help to inform and hopefully bring understanding about agricultural biotechnology development and conservation to the public which will help to accelerate not only its adoption and benifits but also the implemetation of biosafety measures amongst all parties which is in alignment with the Cartagena Protocol.
In a nut shell,ABNETA,though a part of the solution, has a great potential in helping the African continent off its crisis like poverty,hunger,malnutrition... not to go much further.What remains is to take heed of these words from Kwame Nkrumah:"We face neither east nor west;we face forward"Lets stand united!
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READINGS
1) www.abneta.org -information about ABNETA
2) http:// www.biodiv.org/biosafety/protocol.shtml -information about Cartagena Protocol which many African countries are parties to.
3) www.absfafrica.org/new/ -Information about the status of African countries concerning GMOs
Microbial Biotech Major,University of Queensland,Australia
Efforts on for production of golden rice: experts
- Bangladesh Observer, July 30 2006
Intense efforts are underway for commercial production of golden rice, a genetically modified rice rich in Vitamin-A, to meet nutrition needs of the people in the country, reports BSS.
Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) is conducting the research that is now in "advance level" to develop the variety of golden rice through transferring gene of beta-carotene from daffodil flowers into BRRI Dhan-29, the highest yielding rice variety, said Dr. Mosharraf Hossain, chief scientific officer of BRRI.
Talking to BSS on Thursday, he said, "We are hopeful that research for developing golden rice variety likely to be completed by 2010 and after that limited cultivation of the new rice variety would be possible following government permission."
He said extensive experiments are going on to ensure biosafety so that the variety could not pose any health hazards.
Due to transfer of beta-carotene content, the rice looks yellow in colour and hence called golden rice.
The beta-carotene, after consumption, produces Vitamin-A in the body, he said, adding that the BRRI scientists are carrying out the research for producing golden rice to provide Vitamin-A to the rice-dependent nation.
Apart from Bangladesh, research on commercial production of golden rice is going on in Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Vietnam and China.
When asked about safety aspects of the rice variety, Dr. Shamsher Ali, Head of Biotechnology Division of BRRI, said, "The variety will undergo food safety test and environment safety test before starting commercial cultivation to avoid controversy and ensure biosafety."
The golden rice will provide 17 times the amount of Vitamin-
A present in other high-yielding rice varieties available in the country.
The BRRI scientists hoped that the golden rice would help reduce Vitamin-A deficiency that caused blindness among the people, mostly in developing countries.
According to statistics, about 125 million children, most of the developing countries, suffer Vitamin-A deficiency.
Sources said research on upgradation of rice varieties enhancing the Vitamin-A content has been going on in the international arena since 1992-93.
Switz Federal Institute of Technology first started research on the project. International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Rockfeller Foundation and Syngenta Foundation later joined the research.
Panel discusses biotech for African development
Researchers in Malawi studying GM cassava varieties
- SciDev.Net, 28 July 2006, By Ochieng' Ogodo
[NAIROBI] Researchers and policymakers met in Kenya this week to discuss ways that biotechnology could contribute to the continent's development.
The meeting held on 25-28 July was the 4th gathering of the High-Level Panel on Biotechnology, set up by the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's Development to provide policy advice to African leaders.
The panel discussed a draft report, which it plans to refine and submit to the annual summit of African heads of state in January 2007. It has requested comments on the report from researchers, policymakers and the general public.
The report identifies ways of building the continent's capacity to use biotechnology to improve health, agriculture and industry, and urges African countries and regions to collaborate on biotechnology research.
The panel's co-chair, Calestous Juma of Harvard University, United States, said that people who say biotechnology is being forced on Africa have a limited view of what it is taking place and are only considering genetically modified (GM) organisms.
He pointed out that serious research in various aspects of biotechnology was already underway in African countries including Egypt, Kenya and South Africa.
Panel member Tewolde Egziabher, the director-general of Ethiopia's Environmental Protection Authority, said that biosafety issues relating to genetic modification are a small but vital component of biotechnology as a whole.
He said some industrialised countries are trying to force GM products onto African countries that have no regulatory frameworks or laws in place to mitigate adverse effects that these products could generate.
He said such countries are undermining the Cartagena Protocol, an international instrument intended to protect biodiversity from potential harm posed by GM organisms (see The Cartagena Protocol: the debate goes on).
Juma, however, is less worried about biosafety. "As far as I am concerned GM products are as safe as conventional ones, and both have risks," he said.
Link to draft report on biotechnology and African development[509KB]:
The draft report is available for public comment. Comments should be submitted by 31 August 2006 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gene-Splicing Crop Plants to Tolerate Drought Holds Great Promise
- Rocky Mountain News, July 29, 2006, By Dr. Henry I. Miller and Gregory Conko
Ask any farmer in America's major wheat-growing regions about this year's crop and you'll get an earful. A severe, prolonged drought - which in some places is in its fifth year - has cut the winter wheat crop drastically.
American farmers will harvest 1.264 billion bushels of winter wheat, down 16 percent from last year's crop, according to forecasts released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Government analysts predict that in Texas, production will be the lowest since 1971, and in Oklahoma, the lowest since 1957. The hard red winter-wheat crop, grown from Texas to Montana and used to make bread, was estimated at 659 million bushels, down 29 percent from last year.
The map of regions affected by the drought - available on the Web from the National Drought Mitigation Center at http://drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html - is sobering. It shows the severity of drought conditions from south Texas to South Dakota and Montana, including Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming. Arizona and New Mexico are also badly affected.
What the map doesn't show is the heartache of farmers who see their crops burning up.
But droughts are just acts of God, about which nothing can be done, right? Wrong. Scientists might be able to provide a partial solution - at least they might, if federal policy-makers permitted it.
Spectacular new things
Gene-splicing, sometimes called genetic modification, offers plant breeders the tools to make old crop plants do spectacular new things. In the United States and at least 17 other countries, farmers are using gene-spliced crop varieties to produce higher yields, with lower inputs and reduced impact on the environment. In spite of research being hampered by resistance from activists and discouraged by governmental overregulation, gene- spliced crop varieties are slowly but surely trickling out of the pipeline in many parts of the world.
Most of these new varieties are designed to be resistant to pests and diseases that ravage crops; or to be resistant to herbicides, so that farmers can adopt more environment-friendly no-till farming practices and more benign herbicides. Others possess improved nutritional quality.
Ability to tolerate drought
But the greatest boon of all both to food security and to the environment in the long term may be the ability of new crop varieties to tolerate periods of drought and other water-related stresses.
Where water is unavailable for irrigation, the development of crop varieties able to grow under conditions of low moisture or temporary drought could boost yields and lengthen the time that farmland is productive.
Even where irrigation is feasible, plants that use water more efficiently are needed. Irrigation for agriculture accounts for roughly 70 percent of the world's fresh- water consumption - even more in areas of intensive farming and arid or semi-arid conditions - so the introduction of plants that grow with less water would allow much of that essential resource to be freed up for other uses. Especially during drought conditions, even a small percentage reduction in the use of water for irrigation could result in huge benefits.
Plant biologists have identified genes that regulate water utilization and transferred them into important crop plants. These new varieties are able to grow with smaller amounts or lower quality water, such as water that has been recycled or that contains large amounts of natural mineral salts.
Aside from new varieties that have lower water requirements, pest- and disease-resistant gene-spliced crop varieties also make water use more efficient indirectly. Because much of the loss to insects and diseases occurs after the plants are fully grown - that is, after most of the water required to grow a crop has already been applied - the use of gene-spliced varieties that experience lower post-harvest losses in yield means that the farming (and irrigation) of fewer plants can produce the same total amount of food. We get more crop for the drop.
However, unscientific and burdensome regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture in the United States - and by the agencies of the United Nations elsewhere - has raised significantly the cost of producing new plant varieties and kept many potentially important crops from ever reaching the market.
In several European Union countries, national bans on gene-spliced varieties are in place, in clear violation of EU rules, and the European Commission has repeatedly proven itself incapable of removing the barriers. Such policies exert a chilling effect on U.S. farmers who export to the EU.
In fact, one irony of the current plight of farmers is that, fearing resistance to American gene-spliced wheat in major export markets, some wheat growers have resisted the introduction of gene-spliced drought-resistant varieties, causing Monsanto to give up its research and development efforts in 2004.
Calling for changes
Earlier this month, however, a coalition of four major wheat industry groups called for changes to make American wheat more competitive; and among these was the introduction of gene- spliced varieties.
Easier said than done. The discriminatory and excessive regulation - which flies in the face of scientific consensus that gene-splicing is essentially an extension, or refinement, of earlier techniques for crop improvement - adds millions of dollars to the development costs of each new gene-spliced crop variety. These extra costs, and also the endless (and gratuitous) controversy over cultivating these precisely crafted and highly predictable varieties, discourage R&D.
Innovation has simply become too costly and risky. That should provide food for thought as the drought continues to parch the nation's heartland, as farmers go bust, and as the price of bread and pasta increases.
Dr. Henry I. Miller is a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and was an official at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 1979 to 1994. Gregory Conko is the director of food safety policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. They are the authors of The Frankenfood Myth (2004).
GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS IN INDIA
- Byn C Kameswara Rao, July 27, 2006
Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education, Bangalore, India email@example.com, www.fbae.org, www.fbaeblog.org
In India, 65 per cent of the population is involved in agriculture, directly or indirectly. About 15 per cent are landless labour, earning less than a dollar a day. About 65 per cent of the farmers own less than one hectare of land. The past scientific and technological advances and financial inputs have hardly reached the poor farmer.
Green Revolution transformed India from a food-importing nation into a food-exporting nation. However, an overzealous and inappropriate management practices denied the country the full benefits of Green Revolution.
During the past four decades, cash crops such as cotton, sugarcane and tobacco took precedence over dry land crops like pulses, oil seeds and millets. Rice cultivation increased from 227 mill. acres in 1960, to 2518 mill. acres by 2000. Cultivation of wheat increased three times and that of cotton two times. Simultaneously, the cultivation of pulses fell from 836 mill. acres to 13 mill. acres, that of pearl millet fell down by 20 times and that of groundnut by 15 times. This trend seriously affected the small farmer and rural economy.
The Indian agriculture needs quantitative and qualitative enhancement of production without increasing arable or irrigated land. The resource poor farmer needs to be protected and the Indian farmer should put on an internationally competitive technological and commercial base. All this can be achieved only with the aid of modern technology, as conventional strategies have largely failed.
Various public and private sector institutions undertook the development of several genetically engineered (GE) crops, under a pro-active policy of the Government of India.
GE CROP DEVELOPMENT IN PUBLIC SECTOR
The Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi (IARI), Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bangalore (IHRI), National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow (NBRI), National Centre for Plant Genome Research, New Delhi (NCPGR), National Research Centre for Weed Science, Jabalpur (NRCWS), Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack (CRRI), Directorate of Rice Research, Hyderabad (DRR), Central Potato Research Institute, Simla (CPRI), and Sugarcane Breeding Institute, Coimbatore (SBI), are important public sector institutions involved in GE crop development.
Institutions such as the University of Delhi (UDSC), Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi (JNU), Madras University, Chennai (CAS), Osmania University, Hyderabad (OUH), Madurai-Kamaraj University, Madurai (MKU), Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore (TNAU), University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore and Dharwad (UASB, UASD), and some others are also involved in GE crop development.
The autonomous institutions engaged in GE crop development are the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics, Hyderabad (ICRISAT), The Energy Research Institute, New Delhi (TERI), M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai (MSSRF), and Entomology Research Unit, Loyola College, Chennai (ERLCC).
GE CROP DEVELOPMENT IN PRIVATE SECTOR
In the private sector the Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech, Mumbai (MMB), is the largest player. Meta-Helix, Bangalore, Avestagen, Bangalore, Dow Agrosciences, Bangalore, Sungrow Seeds Ltd., New Delhi, and several other companies are also developing GE crops.
CROPS AND TRAITS
There are 23 crops, involving 67 GE traits, in different stages of development. Contrary to the general belief, the public sector is involved in the development of the largest number of GE traits (39). The autonomous institutes are developing 8 traits and the private sector 20 traits.
With 12 Bt hybrids on 72,000 acres in 2002-03, Bt cotton cultivation grew to 40 approved varieties on about 4.5 mill. acres in 2006-07. Another 20 varieties with Cry 1 Ac and two gene stacked varieties with Cry 1Ac + Cry 1Ab would be commercialized next year.
In 2005-06, only 09 per cent of cotton acreage is under legal Bt cotton while 26 per cent is under the illegal Bt cotton sold as the Navbharath 151 seed. About 65 per cent cotton acreage was under spurious Bt or non-Bt cotton.
GE varieties rice are being developed for pest tolerance (Galanthus nivalis lectin, gna) by the Osmania University; by DRR for bacterial blight and pest resistance (Cry 1AC, gna); IARI for pathogen resistance (chitinase) and pest resistance (Cry 1Ac, Cry 1AB, Cry 1Aa); MKU for pathogen resistance (chitinase, glucanase) and drought resistance (osmotin); MSSRF for salinity resistance; TNAU for pathogen resistance (chitinase); and Mahyco for pest resistance (Cry 1 Ac).
A GE variety of the fragrant Basmathi rice, with stacked genes to control bacterial blight and another to control post-harvest damage by Coleopteran pests, are in development.
Local varieties of Golden Rice that contain genes for â-carotene in the grain are being developed at the CRRI, DRR and TNAU.
MMB is developing GE maize for herbicide tolerance and a variety of sorghum for pest tolerance.
ICRISAT is involved in the production of a pest tolerant chickpea and pigeon pea with Cry 1 Ab and soybean trypsin inhibitor. MMB is developing a pigeon pea with Cry 1 Ac.
ICRISAT is developing groundnut varieties resistant to the Indian peanut clump virus.
Mustard is receiving a greater attention for stress resistance (IARI: CodA, osmotin), herbicide tolerance (UDSC and NRCWS: bar, barnase, barstar) and â-carotene content (TERI).
GE potato with Cry 1 Ab (CPRI) and high protein (NCPGR and JNU: Ama-1) and tomato for fungal resistance (NCPGR and JNU): Oxalate decarboxylase) and for pest tolerance (MMB, Cry 1 Ac) are being developed. The other GE vegetables are cauliflower (MMB and Sungrow Seeds with Cry 1 Ac), cabbage (Sungrow Seeds, Cry 1 Ac) and okra for virus resistance (IHRI and MKU).
Pest tolerant GE varieties of brinjal (MMB) are ready for large-scale open field trials.
A GE variety of sugarcane with resistance to the fungal disease red rot by SBI, is a recent and interesting development.
While most of these GE crop varieties would take some years before they are commercialized, the prospects for GE crops in India appear to be very bright, in spite of the cacophony of activism.
Brazilian Farmers Talk About Benefits Of GM Crops
Redesigned Web Site Makes It Simpler and Faster to View Videos Online.
St. Louis (PRWEB) July 31, 2006 -– Conversations about Plant Biotechnology (http://www.monsanto.com/biotech-gmo/default.asp) is now offering video conversations and podcasts with Brazilian farmers – bringing the total number of video segments with growers to more than 35 and representing nine of the 21 countries that grew biotech crops in 2005.
The addition of Brazilian farmers is significant because they grew more than 23 million acres (4.4 million hectares) of genetically modified (GM) soybeans in 2005, which represents nearly a 90 percent increase in acreage over 2004 and the largest increase of any country in 2005.
In addition, Brazilian farmers are leaders in the development and adoption of conservation tillage – the practice of minimizing or eliminating plowing of the soil. In a newly posted segment, Brazilian soybean farmer Armindo Mugnol describes the environmental benefits of GM crops on his farm, including the return of wildlife habitats and protection of the soil through the elimination of plowing. Visitors can also view a newly released compilation video with three Brazilian farmers, who describe the benefits of GM crops within their operations and the region.
Monsanto Company initially launched Conversations about Plant Biotechnology in October 2005 and, this week, also features its first redesign. The site now provides a state-of-the-art online video player, cutting-edge video distribution system, and more flexible, simpler navigation. The changes will make it easier and faster for visitors to view videos with growers and experts about the benefits of GM crops.
Biotech industry to drive agriculture
- The Star, By MUSALMAH JOHAN, july 31, 2006
THE biotechnology industry is expanding at an exciting and brisk pace. Like no other industry today, biotechnology offers the market potential for highly attractive products that have economic as well as environmental benefits.
Biotechnology is poised to reduce the use of pesticides, increase farmers’ revenues and improve the nutritional quality of food.
The term “biotechnology” refers to the use of living organisms or their products to modify human health and the human environment.
We can combine the genetic elements of two or more living cells by using the techniques of gene splicing and recombinant DNA technology.
Functioning lengths of DNA can be taken from one organism and placed into the cells of another organism.
As a result, we can cause bacterial cells to produce human molecules. Cows, for example, can produce more milk for the same amount of feed.
In addition, we can synthesise therapeutic molecules that have never before existed.
Food biotechnology is relatively new in Malaysia, although food and food ingredients produced by traditional biotechnology, such as fermentation technology, has brought to market products like soy sauce, dadih and tempeh.
Although Malaysia has not yet produced a biotechnology crop commercially, several genetically modified crops containing traits of value have been produced at the experimental stage.
At the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute, rice has been successfully modified to resist the tungro virus, and papayas manipulated to resist ring-spot virus infection and to have a prolonged shelf life.
The government will implement the strategic thrust of the National Biotechnology Policy under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.
Other crop plants such as pineapples are manipulated to resist “black heart”, bananas and papayas for delayed ripening, and chili for virus resistance.
Malaysia is also developing genetically engineered oil palm, with a focus on increasing value-added products from the palms, such as high oleate and high stearate oil, nutraceuticals (vitamin A and E), biodiesel and bioplastics.
Several animal recombinant vaccines have been produced to assist the development of animal husbandry.
In order to reduce the high costs associated with imported feed, research is also underway in Malaysia to generate cheaper domestic livestock feed, through biotechnology.
In Malaysia, the focus of biotechnology work is on the needs of the nation.
Improving food production has been, and will always be, one of the top priorities and commitments of government agencies involved in biotech.
The economic crisis of the late ’90s has prompted the Government to take a second look at, and a new stance on, the importance of agriculture, especially in food production, to the national economy.
The Government has stressed the need for producing sufficient food for national security and stability.
The huge and growing budget for food and feed imports clearly indicates the need to transform our agricultural sector, so that it can produce enough food for the people.
Therefore, the Government is well aware of the potential benefits of genetically modified (GM) crops. At the same time, their impact on consumers as well as producers is recognised.
The Government is aware and has become more cautious about food safety and the potential risks of transgenic food crops.
Consequently, it has the responsibility to assure the public of the safety and the “halalness” of the genetically modified crops, as well as to safeguard against any adverse effects on human health and the environment.
Thus, a Genetic Modification Advisory Committee was established under the National Committee on Biodiversity, Science, Technology and the Environment Ministry.
The committee’s role is to ensure that risks associated with the use, handling and transfer of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are identified and safely managed, and to advise the Government on matters relating to the GM technology and its application.
As the GMOs are relatively new to Malaysian consumers, the National Biotechnology Directorate is stepping up its efforts to implement public awareness programmes on biotechnology.
The programmes include arranging lectures at public forums and schools, preparing and distributing pamphlets about biotechnology, and promoting a better understanding of biotechnology through the media.
The biotechnology sector faces a challenging future with increasing global competition.
To make Malaysia more competitive in this industry, the Government will, under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, implement the strategic thrust of the National Biotechnology Policy, with the active participation of private sector.
The “BioNexus” concept will be adopted to strengthen the existing institutions along with a parallel development of the industry.
The biotechnology industry can become the main driving force behind growth of the agriculture sector in Malaysia.
With the recognition as the world’s halal hub, and given importance attached to the biotechnology industry, Malaysia is poised to introduce biotechnology products with GM label and halal certification.
Pollen-free corn is objective of researchers at Iowa State
- Associated Press, Jul. 31, 2006, By Amy Lorentzen
DES MOINES, Iowa – Researchers at Iowa State University say they are developing biopharmaceutical corn that doesn’t produce pollen, preventing the plants from contaminating other crops.
The team of researchers is using traditional breeding techniques to cross a male-fertile corn line with a biopharmaceutical line to produce a hybrid containing a therapeutic protein.
That protein is then crossed with a sterile corn that hampers pollination, preventing nearby traditional corn and other crops from being contaminated by the genetically modified corn.
“Pollen is one of the controllable aspects of the system, and we can do it, and do it very well,” said Kendall Lamkey, interim chairman of the Agronomy Department.
Some critics are skeptical that biopharmaceutical crops will not contaminate other crops meant for food and feed. If contamination by bio corn does happen, it could hurt exports and devastate farmers, said George Naylor, who grows corn and soybeans near Churdan in central Iowa, the nation’s top corn-producing state.
“It makes you wonder if they can guarantee that this thing is 100 percent effective ... in terms of the pollen,” said Naylor, president of the National Family Farm Coalition.
Iowa State’s Plant Science Institute initiated the research, which is also supported by the College of Agriculture. Lamkey said it will take about five growing seasons to conduct all of the crossbreeding that’s necessary for the project.
Lamkey, director of the Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding, leads the breeding portion of the work and researcher Kan Wang, director of the Center for Plant Transformation, engineered the corn to produce the therapeutic protein.
Lamkey said corn is easy to manipulate from a breeding perspective because it has large tassels that can control pollination.
“From a molecular biology and biochemistry point of view, we know so much about corn,” Wang said in a statement.
Hay, here’s a handout
A Kentucky farmer who learned through family of the difficulties facing Vermont dairy farmers is offering free hay to help them recover from heavy rain.
Tricia Houston of Warsaw, Ky., contacted Vermont officials to offer 53 large round bales of hay to any Vermont dairy operation that could pick it up.
“It made sense to me to offer it up,” she said. “I would network to get more if farmers needed it.”
Frequent rain in May and June made it difficult and sometimes impossible for Vermont farmers to gather their hay crop. The U.S. Agriculture Department declared a disaster, making it possible for farmers to apply for assistance.
Agricultural economists have warned that farmers are facing a crisis this summer because of the weather, which has been compounded by low milk prices and high fuel costs.
Houston said she owns a 30-acre farm with her husband. They raise grapes and are planning to expand their vineyard and build a winery on about 20 acres, where they just cut hay.
“We are grateful for the offer,” said Mark Bosma, spokesman for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. “It is just a question of whether it makes economic sense to bring it here.”
The agency has been working with the Vermont Farm Bureau to let farmers know that the hay is available if they can afford to get it.
“There may be someone out there who can make this work,” he said.
Monsanto touts performance of its Vistive soybeans
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, By Rachel Melcer, 07/29/2006
Monsanto Co. says its Vistive soybeans, which produce oil that is more heart-healthy and better for food processing, are performing better than expected.
On Wednesday, the Creve Coeur-based biotech seed giant said Perdue Farms Inc.'s Grain & Oilseed Division will process its first-generation Vistive soybeans next year.
The deal brings the crop to Delaware and Maryland, and makes more of the resulting oil available to food processors.
Vistive 1 soybeans, which are bred for a reduced level of linolenic acid, produce oil that is shelf-stable without being partially hydrogenized -- a process used by food makers to avoid spoilage, but which creates unhealthy trans fats. Monsanto said Vistive 1 is growing on 500,000 U.S. acres this year, and demand from the food industry is outstripping oil supply.
Nutrium low-linolenic soybeans, a similar product produced by Monsanto's Johnston, Iowa-based competitor, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., are growing on 200,000 U.S. acres this year. Pioneer said it expects to see 550,000 acres planted in 2007.
And such products are just the beginning of the story for heart-healthy soybeans. Both companies are breeding soybeans with increased oleic acid content, which further improves shelf stability and makes it better suited for frying -- again, without the creation of trans fats. Monsanto calls these Vistive 2 and anticipates a launch in two to five years; the second-generation Nutrium product is expected within five years.
Monsanto also said this month its Vistive 3 soybeans, genetically modified to reduce unhealthy saturated fats on top of the benefits found in Vistive 2, are doing well in the lab and showing commercial promise.
These beans, which will produce oil comparable to olive oil in terms of heart health, could reach farmers in three to seven years for the production of bottled oils for consumers.
"We're seeing some really good deliveries," said Timothy Conner, senior director of oil seeds and food technology. As a result, Monsanto is planning "a more dramatic launch … with more impact" for Vistive 3.
It will be rolled out in top-quality seeds, in more regions and to a greater number of farmers than other new products. At full market penetration, typically four years after launch, Vistive 3 could be planted on 12 million to 15 million U.S. acres, the company said.
It also could launch concurrently with Vistive 2, increasing the options for farmers and food processors -- and the value to Monsanto, said Chief Executive Hugh Grant in a recent conference call with analysts.
Vistive 3 could be the first commercial biotech seed launched with consumers in mind. Some observers question acceptance of genetically modified soybean oil by the public and food processing firms.
But at Monsanto, "there's a good deal of optimism," Conner said. "Because the American public [is] getting a little bit more aware of healthy diets every year" and that's what Vistive is meant to provide.