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August 21, 2006


We are the New Greens; Rice Safe; Protecting Chickens from Deadly Virus; Greenie Nonsense; BioVision 2007


Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org - August 21, 2006

* Spirit of the Times - We are the New Greens
* Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.
* Genetically Altered Rice Found Safe, US Agriculture Secretary says
* Japan Ends U.S. Long Grain Rice Imports
* Ag Biotech is Beneficial to Smallholder Farmers
* GM Maize Protects Chickens from Deadly Virus
* Genetically Modified Foods Needed But Caution Justified
* Greenie Nonsense Holds Up Improved Wine
* Fellowships to attend BioVision.Nxt 2007


Spirit of the Times - We are the New Greens

- Original German Version: Zeitgeist - Wir sind die neuen Grünen by Dirk Maxeiner und Michael Miersch, Die Welt, August 18, 2006 at http://www.welt.de/data/2006/08/18/1001187.html (Translated with thanks by Sigi Fischer; Forwarded by Vivian Moses)

'Ecology and saving the world are trendy again. But when Al Gore, George Clooney and Julia Roberts claim a "planetary emergency", it's the same apocalyptical rubbish the eco-fossils spouted in the 80s.'

Finally: The time of the unideological Greens has come! Dynamic, smart, without prejudice. From Vanity Fair to Newsweek, from Focus to Die Zeit (both German weekly magazines) the new type is revered, an "urban trend setter" relieved to throw overboard the last " remaining pieces of old politically left rubbish, We both were pretty happy with this, because that's meant for us!__

Maxeiner & Miersch are facing great times. "Good mood instead of bad conscience" writes Maxeiner's local newspaper, the Augsburger Allgemeine, "rescuing the world becomes smart". This is a fairly good start, even when instructions for conducting the task are rare: "It's great when you not only have fun two together in the bathtub but have a good conscience as well." So, each of us looked deep into the other's eyes and finally decided not to do so.__

Well, the movement is still new. It therefore can't know that in Germany nothing except water shortages dominates the scene and that the sewage system frequently does not work properly because of everybody is trying to save water. While two of you are sharing the bathtub upstairs, the water works pumps enormous amounts of water into the system simply to keep it functioning, to keep the pipes open and to prevent them reeking to the skies. Ideology-free, politically green as we are, we have decided to let the water run while brushing our teeth, counterbalancing the sacrilegious behaviour of our neighbours. How does new movement out it? "We've never had so much fun doing the good."_

Mostly it is the attitude which is new about the lifestyle-Greens; the thoughts are still the same. When Al Gore together with George Clooney and Julia Roberts claims a "planetary emergency" in Vanity Fair, it's indeed pretty smart but the thoughts behind his remark are the same old apocalyptical rubbish that eco-fossils such as Herbert Gruhl or Robert Jungk let off in the 80ies. The trendy people on the green designer sofa trot out the old litany: "Nature good, plastics bad. Sun good, atoms bad. Organic good, genetic engineering bad. Eco-vacation good, low budget flight bad". That's about as ideology-free as the Communist Manifesto.

That's why we want to give the movement some new ideas on how to do good as well as to have a lot of fun: Put the yellow recycling bin bag into the grey bin (that's where Germans put all the garbage which cannot be recycled - SF)! Even the Federal Agency for the Environment says that will be the best solution. Machines sort the garbage much more efficiently and cheaply than humans. If we all act like that, this new method will rapidly be adopted and we will be able to spend millions for protecting nature.__

Buy organic products! Should you find a Müller-milk product (Müller is the German dairy firm which refuses to follow Greenpeace instructions - SF) in your supermarket with a protest label stuck on it saying "gene milk", definitely ask the next shop assistant: "May I have some more of this?" This big milk producer ignores the old lefty statements and refuses to embrace an ideological anti-genetic engineering boycott.

Genetic engineering reduces the use of pesticides, leads to increased yields and thus reduced need for acreage. That benefits wildlife. Moreover, new plants may help to resolve food deficiencies among people in poor countries.

And: book cheap flights! People in Asia, Africa and Latin America urgently need the income generated by tourism. Everybody there for a vacation and using local retailers and restaurants aids those living there and helps them to avoid having to plunder their natural resources because of personal poverty. Unfortunately, the expensive eco-freaks of the green jet set rarely make use of that opportunity.


Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.

- USDA Economic Research Service, August 18, 2006 http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/BiotechCrops/

U.S. farmers have adopted genetically engineered (GE) crops widely since their introduction in 1996, notwithstanding uncertainty about consumer acceptance and economic and environmental impacts.

Soybeans and cotton genetically engineered with herbicide-tolerant traits have been the most widely and rapidly adopted GE crops in the U.S., followed by insect-resistant cotton and corn. This product summarizes the extent of adoption of herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant crops since their introduction in 1996. Three tables, devoted to corn, cotton, and soybeans covering the 2000-2006 period by State, can be found at the following websites:

Genetically engineered corn varieties by State and United States, 2000-2006:

Genetically engineered upland cotton varieties by State and United States, 2000-2006:

Genetically engineered soybean varieties by State and United States, 2000-2006:

All tables in one Excel workbook (multiple worksheets) are also available:

Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.: Extent of Adoption

Herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops, developed to survive application of specific herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds, provide farmers with a broader variety of options for effective weed control. Based on USDA survey data, HT soybeans went from 17 percent of U.S. soybean acreage in 1997 to 68 percent in 2001 and 89 percent in 2006. Plantings of HT cotton expanded from 10 percent of U.S. acreage in 1997 to 56 percent in 2001 and 65 percent in 2006. The adoption of HT corn has lagged soybeans and cotton, reaching 36 percent of U.S. corn acreage in 2006.

Insect-resistant crops containing the gene from the soil bacterium Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) have been available for corn and cotton since 1996. These bacteria produce a protein that is toxic to specific insects, protecting the plant over its entire life. Plantings of Bt corn grew from 8 percent of U.S. corn acreage in 1997 to 26 percent in 1999, then fell to 19 percent in 2000 and 2001, before climbing to 29 percent in 2003 and 40 percent in 2006. The recent increases in acreage share may be largely due to the commercial introduction in 2003/04 of a new Bt corn variety that is resistant to the corn rootworm, a pest that may be more destructive to corn yield than the European corn borer, which was previously the only pest targeted by Bt corn. Plantings of Bt cotton expanded more rapidly, from 15 percent of U.S. cotton acreage in 1997 to 37 percent in 2001 and 57 percent in 2006.

Use of Bt corn will likely continue to fluctuate over time, based on expected infestation levels of European corn borer (ECB), and the corn rootworm which are the main pests targeted by the Bt corn. Similarly, adoption of Bt cotton depends on the expected infestation of Bt target pests, such as the tobacco budworm, the bollworm, and the pink bollworm. Adoption appears to have reached the low-growth phase, as adoption has already occurred on acreage where Bt protection is needed most. Insects have not posed major problems for soybeans, so insect-resistant varieties have not been developed.

These figures include adoption of "stacked" varieties of cotton and corn, which have both HT and Bt traits. Stacked cotton reached 39 percent of cotton plantings in 2006. Plantings of stacked corn are lower, making up only 15 percent of corn acres in 2006.

Adoption of all GE cotton, taking into account the acreage with either or both HT and Bt traits, reached 83 percent in 2006, versus 89 percent for soybeans. In contrast, adoption of all biotech corn was 61 percent.

The data was obtained by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in the June Agricultural Survey for 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. Randomly selected farmers across the United States were asked if they planted corn, soybeans, or upland cotton seed that, through biotechnology, is resistant to herbicides, insects, or both. Conventionally bred herbicide-tolerant varieties were excluded. Stacked gene varieties include those containing GE traits for both herbicide tolerance (HT) and insect resistance (Bt).

According to NASS, the States published in the data tables represent 81-86 percent of all corn planted acres (depending on the year), 89-90 percent of all soybean planted acres, and 81-92 percent of all upland cotton planted acres. The acreage estimates are subject to sampling variability because all operations planting GE varieties are not included in the sample.

The tables will be updated with 2007 GE adoption figures in July 2007 once the survey data become available at the end of June 2007.

Many people are interested in information about the global GE acreage. USDA does not collect these data. Estimates are produced by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and can be found in the report, Global Status of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2005. (http://www.isaaa.org/kc/bin/briefs34/cbu/index.htm)


Genetically Altered Rice Found Safe, Agriculture Secretary says - Trace amounts detected in commercial long-grain rice supplies

- Howard Cincotta, US Dept. of State, August 19, 2006 http://usinfo.state.gov/

Washington - Trace amounts of a genetically engineered rice strain have been found in U.S. supplies of commercial long-grain rice, but authorities have determined that there is no danger to human health, food safety, or the environment, according to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and other senior officials, speaking at a press conference on August 18.

Johanns said that the company Bayer CropScience notified the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it had found small amounts of the genetically engineered (GE) rice strain called LLRICE 601 in commercial long-grain rice. The 601 strain is one of several products designed to resist certain types of herbicides.

Two similar rice strains have already been evaluated and approved for use in food but have not been commercialized. Although LLRICE 601 has not been through a similar approval process, both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have determined that the GE rice is safe for humans and the environment.

"The protein found in LLRICE 601 is approved for use in other products," Johanns said. "It has been repeatedly and thoroughly scientifically reviewed and used safely in food and feed, cultivation, import and breeding in the United States, as well as nearly a dozen other countries around the world."

In a separate fact sheet, USDA pointed out that genetically engineered crops have long been developed for a variety of traits that benefit both farmer and consumers around the world.

"For example, GE crops can tolerate drought conditions and herbicides, resist insects and viruses, and provide enhanced quality and nutrition for consumers. GE crops are being developed by private companies, universities, and other researchers," according to the fact sheet.

Asked about countries that import U.S. rice, Johanns said, "The best way to deal with trade issues is to deal very, very directly with your trading partners, and we are doing that. We are engaging them. I have indicated to them that we will provide whatever information they need."

The U.S. produces more than 100 commercial varieties of rice valued at almost $1.9 billion, according to USDA statistics. About half of all U.S. production is exported, amounting to 12 percent of world rice trade.

The United States currently ranks forth in world rice exports behind Thailand, Vietnam, and China, although India has exported more rice than the U.S. in some years.

For more information, see the USDA Web site for more information, including Johanns' statement regarding genetically engineered rice (http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=2006/08/0307.xml ),
transcript of remarks by Johanns and Dr. Robert Brackett, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=2006/08/0308.xml),
and the fact sheet on genetically engineered rice http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=2006/08/0306.xml.


Japan Ends U.S. Long Grain Rice Imports

- New York Times, August 19, 2006 http://www.ndtvprofit.com

Tokyo - Japan has suspended imports of U.S. long-grain rice following a positive test for trace amounts of a genetically modified strain not approved for human consumption, a news report said Sunday.

Japan's Health Ministry imposed the suspension on Saturday after being informed by U.S. federal officials that trace amounts of the unapproved strain had been discovered in commercially available long-grain rice, the Asahi newspaper said.

The genetically engineered rice was detected by Bayer CropScience AG. The German company then notified U.S. officials. The strain is not approved for sale in the United States, but two other strains of rice with the same genetically engineered protein are.


Agricultural Biotechnology is Beneficial to Smallholder Farmers

- James Wachai, August 20, 2006 http://www.gmoafrica.org

Anti-biotech activists are fond of casting genetically modified (GM) crops as a domain for stinking-rich farmers. They have vainly tried to ingrain in the minds of many that smallholder farmers have nothing to gain from GM crops cultivation.

But a research published last month by Marnus Gouse and Johann Kirsten, both of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, Carl Pray (Rutgers University, U.S.A.), and David Schimmelpfennig (United States Department of Agriculture Research Service), showed that smallholder farmers in South Africa have benefited from genetically modified maize cultivation, just like their large-scale counterparts.

Last week, Mexican researchers published yet another study that will further reinforce the argument that agricultural biotechnology is geared towards poor-resource farmers.

Octavio Guerrero-Andrade of the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV) in Guanajuato and colleagues, in their article in the online edition of Transgenic Research, explain that a gene from the Newcastle disease virus will be inserted into maize DNA. Chicken that eat the genetically modified maize will produce antibodies against the Newcastle disease virus.

There is no doubt that this new maize variety will be a big boon to poultry farmers, especially in developing countries. They will no longer worry about expensive vaccines.

Poultry farming is a common practice in many developing countries. In many rural areas, whole families derive their livelihood from poultry farming. In countries such as Nigeria and South Africa, poultry farming plays an integral role in national development.

This new genetically modified maize, inarguable, will be the most effective and convenient tool to control the Newcastle disease. The existing vaccines for New Castle disease are out of reach of poor farmers. These farmers live on less than a dollar a day. Such income will be hardly enough to buy vaccines. Moreover, such vaccines require refrigeration, yet electricity is non-existent in most rural areas.

Farmers in developing countries must go for the new genetically modified maize. It will definitely boost their income.


GM Maize Protects Chickens from Deadly Virus

- Wagdy Sawahel, SciDev.Net August 18 2006

Mexican researchers have genetically modified maize to create an edible vaccine against Newcastle disease, a major killer of poultry in developing countries. The scientists, who published their findings online in Transgenic Research on 12 August, hope their approach can help small-scale poultry farmers protect their flocks.

Vaccines against the disease that can be given to poultry on food already exist, but are not usually available in the small quantities required by single families or villages. Octavio Guerrero-Andrade of the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV) in Guanajuato and his colleagues inserted a gene from the Newcastle disease virus into maize DNA.

Chickens that ate the genetically modified (GM) maize produced antibodies against the virus. The maize provided a level of protection against infection comparable to that of commercial vaccines. "The disease is important and a big killer," says Frands Dolberg of the Network for Smallholder Poultry Development, which works with partners in developing countries to promote poultry farming as a way of improving livelihoods.

"There is a big problem in delivering the vaccine to the many millions of poor poultry keepers around the world, and the GM maize could be a possibility," he told SciDev.Net. Dolberg says that its success would depend on how accessible the GM maize was to poultry farmers.

But he points out that the poor, the landless and women - the main groups that keep poultry on a small scale in the South - generally struggle to access new technologies.


Genetically Modified Foods Needed But Caution Justified

- African American Environmentalist Association, August 16, 2006 http://aaenvironment.blogspot.com

The Washington Post reported that a few traditional environmental groups have sued to prevent additional tests of genetically modified (GM) foods in Hawaii. Isn't there a disconnect between mainstream environmental groups implicit support of stem cell research and opposition to GM foods? Of course if you believe that plants and animals are the equals of humans then it probably makes sense.

AAEA believes GM foods can provide signfiicant contributions to feeding the hungry, particularly in certain African and other undeveloped countries, via drought resistant crops. Moreover, new therapeutic drugs can be produced through GM crops. Mainstream enviro groups oppose all GM foods and use every opportunity available to kill the technology. We believe there should be strict regulation and oversight of all GM foods.

The Hawaii experiment involves Agriculture Department (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) permitting of a project using corn and sugar can plants to produce drugs for vaccines against AIDS and hepatitis B. Opposing groups are complaining that the oversight did not include potential impacts on endangered species. It was an open air test on 800 acres on four Hawaiian islands and opposing groups maintain that such tests should remain in laboratories.


Greenie Nonsense Holds Up Improved Wine

- John Ray, August 16, 2006 http://awesternheart.blogspot.com/

The U.S. wine industry has entered the world of genetic engineering as some vintners experiment with a strain of yeast designed to eliminate chemicals in red wine that are believed to trigger headaches, including migraines, in some people. Scientific research, much of it conducted at the University of California, Davis, has long played an important role in improving the quality of grapes and wines produced in California and around the world. But genetic modification -- in this case inserting two genes into the DNA of a yeast species -- marks a new threshold for the industry.

As a result, the new biotech yeast is getting a wary reception in a wine industry that sells itself on its artisan reputation and is anxious not to ruffle export markets touchy about genetically modified foods. Experts also say the new yeast alters the flavor of wine. "As an industry, we're definitely interested in research when it comes to genetic engineering. But I don't think we're prepared to look at genetically modified products yet," said Paul Dolan, a winemaker and chairman of the Wine Institute, the California industry's leading advocacy group.

Still, the new yeast offers a promising way around the wine-headache problem. About 13 percent of Americans suffer migraines, according to the National Headache Foundation. Migraine patients are commonly told to avoid red wine, said Marco Vespignani, a naturopathic doctor at the Institute for Restorative Health in Davis.

At least a few wines made with the so-called ML01 yeast already are reaching consumers this year, according to Jason Rodriguez, wine products specialist for American Tartaric Products Inc., the California distributor of the yeast. He declined to identify any specific brands, though, and the wines aren't required to carry a special label.

In Northern California and Europe, where genetically modified foods have sparked controversy and strict regulation, a move to the new yeast could simply be trading one headache for another. The growing of genetically modified crops has been banned by voters or county supervisors in Mendocino, Trinity, Marin and Santa Cruz counties. And in Europe, nearly all foods made with significant amounts of genetically modified ingredients must carry a label. That requirement has driven U.S. food companies to avoid the use of such ingredients in products exported to EU countries. U.S. regulations don't require labels detailing whether a food contains genetically modified ingredients.

Wary of backlash in sensitive export markets, Australia's wine industry -- a key international competitor with California -- in November took an official position against the use of the new genetically modified yeast. On Monday, the Wine Institute, which represents many, but not all, of California's wineries, did the same, issuing a statement declaring "that no genetically modified organisms be used in the production of California wine." The institute, however, does not have the authority to keep wineries from using the new yeast.

More at http://awesternheart.blogspot.com/2006/08/greenie-nonsense-holds-up-improved.html


Grad Students and Postdocs! - Fellowships to attend BioVision.Nxt 2007 - March 10-14, 2007 at Lyon, France

- Please contact -abigail.gemo(at)biovision.org- Details at http://www.biovision.org/

BioVision.Nxt will take place within the context of The World Life Sciences Forum 2007, and will bring together 100 of the most promising PhDs, Postdocs and MBAs from leading universities and research institution around the world.

BioVision.Nxt is the starting point of a unique network of Tomorrow’s Bioleaders. The building of this initiative within the framework of The World Life Sciences Forum will not only give the young generation recurrent and regular access to key leaders involved in the development of Life Sciences, it will also 'force' these leaders who are shaping tomorrow to listen to, reflect upon, and factor into their visions for the future the three key, interdependent questions:

* What can Science do?
* What is Society prepared to accept?
* What can Industry ethically produce?
Following the success of the first World Life Sciences Forum BioVision in 1999, it was decided to further integrate the concerns and expectations of the younger generation of PhDs, Postdocs and MBAs. Consequently, the BioVision.Nxt initiative was launched with the support of the European Commission to further the careers of the most promising talents in Life Sciences worldwide.

The successful debut of BioVision.Nxt in 2001 offered "Tomorrow’s Bioleaders" exposure to Nobel Laureates, key scientists such as Craig Venter and Francis Collins of the Human Genome Projects, and many renowned experts in healthcare, agriculture and nutrition and the environment. They were also introduced to decision-makers from large corporations, opinion leaders from society-at-large, international institutions, and NGOs.

The World Life Sciences Forum BioVision will support all direct costs with regard to accommodation and participation of the "Class of 2007" Fellows in all BioVision-related events. The BioVision.Nxt Fellow will cover the cost of her/his travel expenses.

Applications should be submitted electronically no later than September 1, 2006 to: abigail.gemo.at.biovision.org