Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org - August 11, 2006
* Supporting Access to Technology – State by State
* GM Demo Ends In Bunfight at Shopping Mall
* This Isn't Farming, It's Madness
* Saving California from Californians
* Wise Use of Biotechnology Critical to Sustainable Future
* GM Attitudes Depend on Food Type
* India: GM Cotton to Double in 2007
* Biosafety Research and Environmental Risk Assessment - Symposium
* Sustainable Agriculture in Africa: From Ideas to Action
* Field Testing Workshop Proceedings Released
* Draft Report 0n Africa Biotech Available
* Risk Assessment Book Published
Supporting Access to Technology – State by State
- Terry Wanzek, AgWeb, August 11, 2006 (Jamestown, ND, TTAT Board Member)
The out-spoken opponents of biotechnology may have thought that they were on a roll a couple of years ago, when a few California counties banned the planting of GM crops. Perhaps they think they're on a roll again, with this summer's decision by the board of supervisors in Santa Cruz County, also in California, to issue its own moratorium.
These activists, however, would be wise to remember the wisdom of Winston Churchill: "Political ability is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And then to have the ability afterward to explain why it didn't happen."
That's because the anti-biotech backlash they've been working and hoping for simply hasn't materialized in the United States . In fact, it has fizzled. Aside from a few exceedingly minor successes in places such as Santa Cruz County, where farming is not a major economic presence, it has been a dud.
The friends of biotechnology certainly cannot afford to be complacent. The anti-biotech crowd is passionate and committed--its complete immunity to the facts of science, the needs of growers, and the interests of consumers means that it will stop at nothing to halt progress. And it has enjoyed distressing levels of success in Europe .
At the same time, it's obvious that we're making it clear why access to new technology is so important to agriculture in one of the most critical political venues in the nation: the 50 state capitols. A new report by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology makes this plain. Last year, state lawmakers introduced 117 pieces of proposed legislation related to agricultural biotechnology, in 33 states plus the District of Columbia. Some were pro-biotech, some were anti-biotech, and, as is typical in any legislative body, only a few of them actually became laws.
Among those that succeeded, however, a number of states now prevent localities from outlawing GM crops--in other words, pro-biotech, doing the exact opposite of what the supervisors in Santa Cruz just did. Eight states passed these 'preemption' laws: Georgia , Idaho , Indiana , Iowa , Kansas , North Dakota , Oklahoma , and West Virginia .
"Bills preempting (disallowing) local regulations regarding the advertising, labeling, distribution, sale, transportation, storage, or use of GM crops or seeds were the most notable legislative trend of 2005," says the Pew study.
Another popular category of proposed legislation sought to do on the state level what Santa Cruz did on the county level: ban genetically-enhanced crops entirely. To me, that's the ultimate type of preemption because it denies individual farmers the freedom of choice to make their own legal management decisions about what they plant, grow, harvest and market on their farms.
Whatever you call them, these bills flopped. They weren't formally rejected--bills that are bound to fail generally aren't even voted on--but they were ignored, which is its own kind of legislative death. In Arkansas and Minnesota , there were efforts to ban GM wild rice. In Massachusetts , there was an attempt to outlaw pharmaceutical crops. In Oregon , there was a bill to ban biotech plants. In total, 14 similar bills saw the light of day followed by the darkness of inaction.
Hawaii accounted for more proposed legislation than any other state. Lawmakers in Honolulu introduced 33 bills. New York was second, with 12 bills originating in Albany . The large number of bills in Hawaii reflects the importance of that state for agricultural biotechnology. Its climate makes it well suited for field tests, because plants grow quickly there and scientists can analyze the results of their research in short order. Anti-biotech activists know this, so they've concentrated on passing restrictions in Hawaii . They haven't made much progress, but Hawaii remains on the front lines of the political war over biotechnology.
The opponents of biotechnology scored only one substantial victory on the state level in 2005: A new law in Alaska that calls for special labels on packages of genetically modified fish. There is no scientific reason for this requirement; it is simply meant to alarm buyers. Given that their other efforts largely have failed, I'm guessing that we'll see more attempts to label GM fish.
But whatever they do, I'm reminded of an old joke: There's a fine line between fishing and standing on the bank of a river and looking like a fool.
We do not want to appear to be fools by rejecting one of the most promising technologies in history to come onto the agriculture scene. We want to be sure that nationwide, state level anti-biotech legislation efforts keep getting skunked!
Terry Wanzek grows corn, soybeans, and wheat on his family farm in North Dakota . A former ND state legislator, Mr. Wanzek serves as a board member of Truth About Trade and Technology (www.truthabouttrade.org)
GM Demo Ends In Bunfight at Shopping Mall
- Karyn Maughan, The Star (South Africa), August 10, 2006
It was meant to be a demonstration about food labelling - but it turned into the most unconventional food fight ever to hit a quiet Randburg mall.
Instead of entertaining shoppers with a skit about how to shop for non-GM (genetically modified) foods on Thursday, American researchers and members of anti-GM group, the South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering (Safeage) became embroiled in an angry confrontation with pro-GM student demonstrators.
The fight turned nasty when pro-GM demonstrator Jesse McIlwraith was hit in the face with a Safeage member's handbag.
American researcher Michael Hansen, who has spent about 20 years probing the science involved in genetic modification, said he could not understand why McIlwraith and Bio Africa - the group to which he is affiliated - had chosen to demonstrate at the event.
"All we are asking is that GM foods are labelled so that consumers can decide for themselves whether they want to buy them or not. There is a disagreement about the potential health impact of GM foods and, in light of the fact that many countries do not require GM foods to undergo any pre-market testing, it is essential that consumers know what they are buying."
According to Hansen, South Africa is one of the six countries in the world - including the US and Argentina - that does not use labels to alert consumers to the presence of GM ingredients. About 15 percent of the maize and over 95 percent of the cotton produced in South Africa is genetically modified.
"At the moment, firms are being given free rein to carry out whatever genetic experimentation they want to without fear of any response from the public. The implications of continued non-labelling include vegetarians, Jewish people and Muslims inadvertently eating products that contain animal DNA. People who suffer allergic reactions to GM foods may experience problems in trying to identify the source of that allergy."
But Bio Africa member Catherine West was not convinced by Hansen's reasoning. During a heated altercation with Hansen, she repeatedly stated there was no evidence that GM foods were harmful and accused Safeage and other anti-GM groups of effectively contributing to the starvation of Africa's poor.
Business student Matt Davey agreed with West, stating that "saying no to GM food is totally wrong". "There's nothing wrong with GM food. It can be produced more cheaply and could form part of a real solution to the massive hunger problems in Africa."
In response, Hansen said he was saddened that Bio Africa "seem to believe that poor people don't have the right to be informed about what they are consuming. Just because someone is poor does not mean they should consume whatever they are given."
This Isn't Farming, It's Madness
- John Stewart, Scotsman (UK), August 10, 2006 http://business.scotsman.com
On A broiling afternoon recently when anyone with a reasonable excuse was lying in the shade with a cold drink, I watched a performance in a Perthshire field that made me as angry as I have been in my life.
The apparatus involved wasn't much to look at, consisting of ten stretchers of the sort used by the medical corps, but covered in webbing instead of canvas and mounted side by side on a steel frame with wheels at each end. The whole thing was surmounted by a light steel frame supporting a canvas awning and hitched to a tractor.
I watched, at first incredulously, then with mounting fury, as ten workers face down on the stretchers, heads supported by a small webbing strap, were pulled slowly up the rows of an organic vegetable field to pull weeds by hand.
This, I thought, is not so much exploitation as degradation and a disgrace to Scottish agriculture. To use human beings to do by hand something that horse-drawn scufflers did a century and a half ago, or spring tine weeders were invented to do 60 years ago, is the antithesis of everything I consider worthwhile.
As a youngster on farms, I spent hundreds of weary hours swinging a draw hoe to thin young turnips - a job known as singling - and, back bent, wielding a heuk to top and tail the same turnips when we lifted them.
No-one was happier than I when first an automatic singling machine was developed to thin them, then precision sowing eliminated the need for singling altogether. When accurate spraying and chemical miracles like pre-emergent and selective herbicides did away completely with physical weed killing, especially of the kind involving hickory shafts, my joy was almost, if not unconfined then certainly free-ranging.
Later in life I became an industrial engineer specialising in productivity improvement in manufacturing. Productivity improvement is the way to a wealthier, healthier, better society while so much about organic farming - including the scene in Perthshire - is negative and dangerously retrograde.
The science-based agriculture which has given us the best and cheapest food in human history is the result of several centuries of steady application of chemistry, biology, agronomy, botany, metallurgy and engineering and there is endless progress still to come with genetically modified crops and other developments.
It is monstrous nonsense that we are told all of this should be abandoned to pander to assorted green cranks, feather-brained "celebrities" and yummy mummies who want to claim the moral high ground by buying organic food.
I accept, reluctantly, that in a market economy and a democracy, if that is what we still have, people should be able to indulge their fantasies albeit at the expense of economic refugees from eastern Europe.
But I cannot see why we should all pay higher taxes to support an inefficient food fad. Subsidising inefficiency and deliberately reducing productivity is not a proper objective for a nation to adopt.
All forms of organic farming should be taken off the register of agricultural units and stripped of all forms of support from the public purse, right down to removal of cheap red diesel and free road licenses for their tractors. They could then return to the horse-drawn, fossil-fuel free Utopia of their dreams until the economies of the former communist bloc expand and they run out of exploitable labour.
No human being should be dragged face-down across a field doing by hand what machines can do and nobody who aspires to the moral high ground should expect them to.
Comments from readers at http://business.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1165842006
Saving California from Californians
- Henry I. Miller, TCS Daily, August 10, 2006 http://www.tcsdaily.com
Some aspects of our political and personal lives -- zoning, city planning, traffic laws, noise ordinances, conformity in architecture, composition of school boards, and so forth -- can effectively be determined at a local level. Arguably, central authorities at the state and federal level should keep hands off unless it becomes absolutely necessary.
Well, it has become necessary in California -- to save misguided anti-technology voters and local officials from themselves, and to save everyone from a tyranny of the majority. Four counties already well known for goofy, radical left-wing politics have imposed bans on the cultivation of plants genetically improved with state-of-the-art techniques. This is democracy at its worst, reminiscent of the Indiana House of Representatives passing legislation to redefine by fiat the value of pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. (The state senate refused to go along.)
To begin with, anti-biotechnology measures in California are unscientific and logically inconsistent, in that their restrictions are inversely related to risk. In other words, they permit the use of microorganisms and plants that are crafted with less precise and predictable techniques, but ban those made with more precise and predictable ones. Another inconsistency is that vast numbers of gene-spliced bacteria are released routinely from ordinary, low-containment microbiology laboratories -- such as those at the University of California, Santa Cruz, located in one of the counties that imposed a ban. A study by the U.S. EPA found that on average, approximately 50 million to 1 billion bacteria per technician per day get out on labcoats, shoes and hair, or are just blown out windows and doors (without causing harm). But for some reason, local politicians seem to be more worried about insect-resistant lettuce and longer shelf-life tomatoes.
By prohibiting the use of the most precisely crafted and more predictable -- that is, safer -- products, the bans on gene-spliced plants and seeds turn science-based regulation on its head. But there is a far more important and fundamental issue at stake: the freedom of individuals and companies to pursue lawful activities unencumbered and unharassed. All citizens should be concerned about the implications of subjecting safe, legitimate commercial products -- in this case, plants crafted with a proven, superior technology -- to surveillance, confiscation and destruction by local officials. This is the tyranny of the majority over the rights of minorities.
Fortunately, state legislators have introduced a bill, SB 1056, that would preempt local regulation of seeds and nursery stocks in the future. It would ensure consistency of regulation throughout the state, and obviate the need for farmers to navigate a county by county patchwork of differing restrictions and requirements. Not surprisingly, the bill has the support of virtually all major agricultural organizations, including the California Farm Bureau, Western United Dairymen, California Women for Agriculture, Western Growers Association, the Wine Institute, and more.
By outlawing the cultivation of insect-resistant crops developed with the assistance of biotechnology, county officials have ensured the increased use of chemical pesticides and persistence of these chemicals in their ground and surface water. (It will also result in increased occupational exposures: Let's not forget that homo sapiens is part of the environment.)
Most important of all, the county prohibitions block sophisticated genetic approaches to the eradication of blights such as sudden oak death, phyloxera, powdery mildew and Pierce's Disease, a bacterial infestation carried by a leaf-hopping insect, the glassy-winged sharpshooter, that threatens a variety of crops in many of California's most productive agricultural areas. Genetic improvement of plants may well prove to be the definitive solution -- one that should not be denied to local farmers and home gardeners merely because of the willful ignorance of political "leaders" (loosely defined) or even misguided voters.
Biotechnology's potential is not just theoretical. By inserting a single gene into squash, sweet potatoes and other crops, scientists have made them virus-resistant. Gene-spliced papaya varieties have resurrected Hawaii's $64 million-a-year industry, which was moribund a decade ago because of the predations of papaya ringspot virus. In addition, because of the way that gene-splicing enhances the resistance of plants to pests and disease, the natural environment already has been spared the use of scores of millions of pounds of chemical pesticides.
The future holds out even greater hope. The technology makes it possible to remove dangerous allergens from wheat, peanuts, milk and other commonly allergenic foods. Gene-splicing will allow crop varieties to thrive in conditions of drought or near-drought. Imagine the boon to water-distressed regions -- and to California during our next drought: Irrigation for agriculture accounts for roughly 70% of the world's fresh-water consumption (and the proportion is even higher in agriculture-intensive regions).
For years, activists (who, of course, oppose the legislation) have relentlessly promoted The Big Lie about gene-splicing -- namely, that it is unproven, unwanted, untested and unregulated. After more than 20 years, none of the hypothetical concerns about safety has been substantiated. Crops made with gene-splicing techniques are currently grown by 8.5 million farmers in 21 countries on more than 100 million acres annually. California farmers currently plant almost a million acres of gene-spliced crops annually, primarily corn and cotton.
Americans have consumed more than a trillion servings of foods that contain gene-spliced ingredients. (That is not a misprint.) Throughout all this experience, there is not a single documented case of injury to a person or disruption of an ecosystem. Scientists are virtually unanimous that gene-splicing techniques are essentially a refinement of earlier ones, and that gene transfer or modification by molecular techniques does not, per se, confer risk. Like robotics, fiber optics and supercomputers, gene-splicing is no more than a widely applicable tool -- a better, more precise and predictable tool than its predecessors.
Irrational regulation -- especially when it is as nonsensical and counter-productive as California's anti-biotech measures -- makes a mockery of government and diminishes all of us. Letting ideology and misguided activism trample science and common sense is antithetical to sound public policy. That's why we need SB 1056.
Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a fellow at the Hoover Institution. Barron's selected his most recent book, The Frankenfood Myth, as one of the 25 Best Books of 2004. He headed the FDA's Office of Biotechnology from 1989-1993.
Wise Use of Biotechnology Critical to Sustainable Future
- Editorial, California Agriculture, July - Sept 2006 http://californiaagriculture.ucop.edu/0603JAS/editover.html
As the Earth approaches its carrying capacity for human activity, we must adopt more sustainable ways to generate, distribute and consume resources. Considering the magnitude of the challenges we face, we should use all tools that can contribute to our long-term sustainability. The ability to adapt plants, animals and microbes using the traditional and new tools of biotechnology has already had an impact and will certainly play an increasing role in agriculture. Conservation of the Earth's biodiversity and its natural resources is similarly important for the future; it is our belief that the conservation of biodiversity and the judicious use of biotechnology are not mutually exclusive.
Agriculture faces many challenges including the protection of natural resources and the food supply. Just as society is concerned about the threat of emerging diseases such as avian flu and HIV to human health, we should also be concerned about the threat of diseases and pests to the sustainability of natural resources and the food supply. Those who live in California's coastal areas, and have watched the damage to oak stands by sudden oak death (SOD), can understand the vulnerability of more than just public health to emerging diseases. Scientists recently sequenced the genome for the SOD pathogen, a development that promises more rapid and conclusive diagnoses. Similarly, some scientists and growers believe that the best long-term answer to the bacterium responsible for Pierce's disease of grapevines is to develop vines that are genetically resistant to the microbe.
A number of ecological and socioeconomic crises now loom on the horizon. Global climate change may lead to changing local conditions and the need to adapt crop varieties. Changes in international and domestic farm policies, as well as world markets, pose continuing threats to many of the world's farmers.
Just as most oil production takes place abroad, ammonia-based fertilizers -- a major part of the cost of agriculture -- are increasingly purchased from foreign producers. Potassium and phosphorous supplies will likely be less stable in the future as well, and the production and application of all fertilizers are energy-intensive. All of these issues beg for biotechnical solutions to help farmers adapt and conserve precious resources.
Until the dawn of the industrial era, agriculture and forests provided the food, fiber and most of the energy necessary to sustain civilization. Given today's increasingly unsustainable consumption of energy resources, agriculture will once again be called upon to significantly contribute to civilization's energy needs. The world's population will likely increase by about 50% in the next 50 years, and the standard of living worldwide is increasing. These trends will result in heightened world demand for food, fiber and energy.
To meet this demand, U.S. agriculture is on the cusp of a transition equivalent to when plant breeding and synthetic fertilizers led to corn and soybeans becoming dominant crops. To meet this challenge, there will likely be a transition to genetically adapted crops with a variety of input and output traits; the new agriculture will also focus on yet-to-be-developed "energy crops" that can be used for biomass or the production of liquid fuels such as ethanol.
One of the questions that California must address is what role our agriculture will play in producing the new energy crops. Biotechnology offers appealing opportunities to develop energy crops that are markedly different from food and fiber crops. They will be drought-resistant, use nitrogen efficiently and, ideally, be harvestable during much of the year. While the cost of production in California may preclude the cultivation of crops grown more efficiently in the Midwest, biotechnology could lead to the creation of energy crops adapted specifically to regions of our state that currently struggle to be economically competitive.
Biotechnology has not yet had an impact on California's wide array of specialty crops, but research is being conducted to learn how to manipulate the genetics of these economically important crops (see California Agriculture 58; "Fruits of biotechnology struggle to emerge"). These crops are the basis of California's competitive agricultural economy, and it is critical for UC to do the research that will keep this sector of our state's economy competitive in global markets. The potential exists to provide consumers with specialty crops enhanced by biotechnology, and managed with scientific understanding of the risks and benefits.
We are proud of the accomplishments of the faculty, staff and students at the campuses and county offices of the UC Agricultural Experiment Station and UC Cooperative Extension. Our scientists are leaders in the development and adoption of agricultural biotechnology. Ultimate decisions about how this important technology is used by our society will involve a full airing of the societal and political implications of these new crops. It is our hope that we always have faculty at the forefront of developing technology, and providing insights into its implications.
This edition of California Agriculture addresses a number of issues surrounding the risks and benefits of agricultural biotechnology, including transgenic plants, fish and animals (pages 116?–139), and provides a glimpse of some of the important work being carried out in UC laboratories and field stations to address both.
Read these articles at http://californiaagriculture.ucop.edu/0603JAS/editover.html
GM Attitudes Depend on Food Type
- Food Navigator, August 11, 2006 http://www.foodnavigator.com
A recent study into public attitudes towards genetically modified foods has confirmed that attitudes change significantly depending on the type of food being considered.
Speaking at the 2006 Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference in Melbourne, Craig Cormick, manager of public awareness for Biotechnology Australia, said that "consumer attitudes relating to GM foods are complex and studies that simply ask if people would or wouldn't eat GM foods don't do justice to the complexities of public attitudes."
Such findings put into perspective some objections to GM food in the EU. While some campaigners remain categorically against the whole concept of GM technology, some consumers might prove more receptive to certain types of food. This could have implications for food manufacturers, especially those importing goods into the EU from markets such as the US.
"For example, Australians claim they are more likely to eat packaged foods containing GM ingredients and GM cooking oils than they are likely to eat GM vegetables," said Cormick.
The study found that while 37 per cent of people stated they were likely to eat any type of GM food (with 54 per cent not likely to eat GM foods), when the question was asked in terms of the actual GM foods that are available, the responses changed.
Some 48 per cent of respondents stated they were likely to eat packaged food containing a small amount of a GM ingredient such as GM soy or GM canola, and 48 per cent stated they were likely to eat GM cooking oils (44 per cent unlikely to eat either).
"Added to this is people's propensity to say one thing in food-related surveys but actually behave differently when shopping, which has been supported by focus group findings and other studies - indicating that the number of people in Australia who would eat the types of GM foods that are on our shelves is actually higher than indicated in this survey," he said.
The study also found that 90 per cent of consumers support the labelling of products to ensure consumer choice and 69 per cent supported continued research into which types of GM crops are suitable for Australian conditions.
The study was conducted by ACNielson and involved a sample size of 1410 persons.
India: GM Cotton Cultivation Expected to Double in 2007
MUMBAI: The coming season, cultivation of genetically modified cotton in India is expected to double over the next year, said K F Jhunjhunwala, president of the East India Cotton Association here on August 10.
The president further pointed out that farmers are opting for more disease-resistant seeds amid a rise in the total cotton production in the country.
Jhunjhunwala said that of the total area of 8.8 million hectares under the crop in the year to the end of Sept 2006, 1.3 million were planted with transgenic Bt cotton and the coming season it should be around 3.2 million hectares.
However the total area under cotton cultivation was likely to remain around 9 million hectares as over a period of time, Bt cotton may touch 70-75 percent of the production. The switchover to genetically modified seeds was seen as the main reason for the increase in production as it offered protection against major pests.
During 2002, India allowed farmers to plant transgenic cotton containing a gene from bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium species, which causes lethal paralysis in the digestive tract of bollworm. Jhunjhunwala also informed that total cotton crop in the season ending September 2006 would be 24.5 million bales, slightly higher than the 24.3 million produced a year ago.
Further exports would surge to a record 4.5 to 5 million bales from 1 million during the same comparable period because of carryover stocks and a good harvest. Whereas production next year could easily touch 27 million bales, if there was a slight increase in yields, he added.
Biosafety Research and Environmental Risk Assessment
- 9th International Symposium on Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms
- Jeju Island, South Korea; September 24-29, 2006 http://isbgmo.niab.go.kr
The 9th International Symposium on Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms(ISBGMO), organized by the International Society for Biosafety Research (ISBR), will explore the relationship between biosafety research and environmental risk assessment. Scientific research is the foundation for expanding the knowledge base used in risk assessments and, as such, is essential for performing robust and credible assessments necessary for making sound decisions.
Biosafety research is largely funded and performed to provide concepts, models, and data that allow biosafety issues to be defined and analyzed and uncertainty to be understood. Understanding the potential for adverse environmental effects from GMOs and the characterization of associated risks depends not only on quality of biosafety research but also on ongoing interaction between risk assessors, regulators and researchers.
The objectives of the 9th ISBGMO are to:
1. Promote discussion and broader understanding of current theory and practice of risk assessment among biosafety researchers, risk assessors and regulators in order to enable each to understand the contribution of the other in the risk assessment process.
2. Facilitate risk assessments by emphasizing the types of information needed.
3. Present the latest research on topical issues and new developments in the field of environmental biosafety.
This 9th ISBGMO comprises more than 30 invited talks (consecutive) and contributed posters. Each session will have an introduction on a selected aspect of risk assessment. This will be followed by invited papers on the types of biosafety research that inform this aspect of risk assessment and then a panel discussion on the science that addresses the risk assessment. The panel discussion format will facilitate the exchange of information about both the scientific research and the use of this research in risk assessment.
The unique value of the ISBR and these ISBGMOs is in providing an international context for dialogue between researchers and those involved in risk assessment and regulation, as well as in promoting exchange of information among a broad range of interested parties.
Since 1990, an ISBGMO has been held biennially to provide the opportunity for stakeholders with diverse perspectives, interests and areas of expertise to share information and exchange ideas on matters concerning the biosafety of GMOs. The ISBGMO series is designed for scientists, policy makers, regulators, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and industry representatives interested in recent scientific research on risk assessment issues for GMOs.
Highlights of the Symposium include: Sessions: * Biosafety Research and Risk Assessment
International and national guidance on risk assessment provide critical direction about the types of scientific data needed to evaluate GMOs. This guidance is strongly influenced by the results of biosafety research. National and regional research priority areas are identified based upon close collaboration with risk assessors.
Sustainable Agriculture in Africa: From Ideas to Action
- August 16, 2006, Johannesburg, South Africa
Most African countries currently suffer from very low agricultural yields compared to the rest of the world. Since a large proportion of the continent’s inhabitants are subsistence farmers, these low yields contribute to a lack of economic development, poverty, and high levels of infant mortality and premature childhood deaths.
At the same time, opponents of modern agriculture – including both domestic and foreign NGOs, ideologues and policymakers – have promoted policies that perpetuate the low yields and returns which are characteristic to subsistence agriculture. Similarly, African government policies towards agriculture have tended to be biased towards the politically connected elite rather than poor rural producers.
This half-day conference sponsored by the Sustainable Development Network will focus on issues and challenges relating to the practice of sustainable agriculture in Africa, including
* The use of modern agricultural technologies or lack thereof.
* Successes and failures in terms of enhancing productivity, food security and nutrition and economic development relating to agriculture.
* Public policies towards agriculture and farmers both domestic and external.
Although participation is free, seating is limited. You must confirm your attendance by phone or email: Lyn Stidworthy, Free Market Foundation; +27 11 884 0270, events.at.sdnetwork.net
New Reports and Books on AgBiotech
- From ISAAA's CropBiotech Update, August 11, 2006 http://www.isaaa.org/kc
Field Testing Workshop Proceedings Released
The proceedings of a workshop on "Criteria for Field Testing of Plants with Engineered Regulatory, Metabolic, and Signaling Pathways" has been released. Sponsored by the Information Systems for Biotechnology, the workshop promoted a multidisciplinary discussion about field testing and management of plants that contain the "newer," more complex genes emerging from plant genomics projects. Download the proceedings at http://www.isb.vt.edu/proceedings02/the_proceedings02.pdf
Draft Report 0n Africa Biotech Available
Freedom to Innovate: Biotechnology in Africa’s Development is the draft report of the recently concluded meeting between the High-Level African Panel on Modern Biotechnology of the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). Download the complete report at http://www.nepadst.org/doclibrary/pdfs/abp_july2006.pdf.
Risk Assessment Book Published
"Environmental Risk Assessment of Genetically Modified Organisms, Volume 2: A Case Study of Bt Cotton in Brazil" focuses on transgenic cotton in Brazil and addresses both environmental and agricultural impacts. It draws out some general risk assessment guidelines and demonstrates the need for case-by-case analysis. Order the book at