Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: September 8, 2006
* The bogus furor over GM rice
* Regulated Rice
* GMO in rice: time for level heads to prevail
* Robinson: Zero tolerance is the problem
* USDA moves to deregulate controversial Bayer rice
* Southern Africa: Boost Capacity for GMO Testing, SADC States Told
* New hybrids drive Egypt's world-beating rice yield
* Predicting the future of the world's food supply
* Brazil to swap illegal GMO soy for legal GMO in S State
* French Fried Reactionary Still Hurting Poor People
* Dry weather in southern US - not Bt crops - threaten Monarch butterflys
The Snap, Crackle and Pop of Doom?
The bogus furor over GM rice
- Reason Magazine, By Ronald Bailey, September 8, 2006
In August, Bayer Cropscience reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that some of the American long grain rice crop had been commingled with its genetically modified (GM) LL-601 rice. LL-601 is the abbreviation for the gene that confers resistance to the Liberty Link herbicide. LL-601 rice, which has not been approved for human consumption, was field tested between 1998 and 2001 and was dropped by Bayer when other varieties proved more productive and it judged that the time was not ripe for introducing GM rice. No one currently knows how the LL-601 rice got commingled at a rate of six grains of LL-601 to about 10,000 grains of conventional rice.
The announcement by the USDA and Bayer produced a predictable furor. Japan immediately banned imports of American long grain rice (but not short grain rice). The European Union restricted U.S. rice imports to only those that have been tested for the offending gene. Ireland banned U.S. rice exports outright. Gleeful anti-biotech activists called for imposing a worldwide ban on imports of U.S. rice.
Before the flap over "contaminated" U.S. rice could die down, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth declared that they had tested Chinese rice products in Britain, France and Germany and had detected the presence of rice genetically modified to resist insects. The Chinese government responded that no genetically modified rice varieties had yet been approved for commercialization. Which is true, but recent research shows that genetically modified rice offers a potentially great benefits to China's farmers and commercialization appears to be only a matter of time.
So should you dump the boxes of Rice Krispies and Uncle Ben's in your pantry into a biohazard receptacle? Nope. First, keep in mind that you've probably already have been eating foods made with ingredients from Liberty Link crops. The USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have found that LL-601 gene and the protein it produces are safe for consumers and the environment in such crops as corn, soybeans and canola. As USDA Secretary Mike Johanns declared, "It is important to note that the protein found in this regulated rice line, LL Rice-601, is approved for use in other products. It has been repeatedly and thoroughly scientifically reviewed, and used safely in food and feed, cultivation, import and breeding in the United States. It is also approved for use in nearly a dozen other countries around the world." Of course, inevitably some American rice farmers are suing Bayer over their lost sales to the regulation-happy Europeans and Japanese. It's a pity they can't sue foreign regulators for lost sales due to stupid directives.
What about that Chinese rice? My guess is that if Europeans are finding traces of GM rice in food products imported from China, it's likely that enterprising anti-biotech activists will soon announce the same allegedly dire findings here. The Chinese rice has apparently been modified using the long familiar technology of incorporating a gene from bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which acts as anti-caterpillar insecticide. Bt is non-toxic to humans and animals and does not kill insects that leave crop plants protected by it alone. So it unlikely that whatever traces of GM rice that make it into foods imported from China will harm Americans who have been eating foods made from ingredients derived from crops protected by Bt for more than a decade now. It is estimated that at least 70 percent of all processed foods on American grocery shelves are made using ingredients from biotech crops.
However, both the Bayer and Chinese cases point up how activists misuse the current case-by-case regulatory approval system.There has to be a better way to protect public health while permitting the swift introduction of safe and beneficial agricultural technologies. In fact, Drew Kershen, a professor of law at University of Oklahoma, offers a three point plan for wending our way out of the current international biotech regulatory morass.
First, GM crops and non-GM crops should be regulated in the same manner for similar or identical risks. If a regulatory system would cover a specific trait were it in a conventionally bred crop, then it should also regulate that same trait in a GM crop. If not, then it should not be regulated in a GM crop either.
Second, once a trait has been approved, it should be approved for all varieties and all crops. There is no need to make a trait go through the regulatory system again and again and again. This would clearly apply to the Liberty Link case.
And third, comparable science-based regulatory systems should mutually recognize one another's approvals of the same traits by either direct recognition or by means of a short, fast-track recognition process. Obviously, just how much confidence to repose in European, Chinese or Indian regulatory systems is subject to debate, but the principle is sound.
In any case, the rest of the world outside European Union will soon be awash in safe biotech crop varieties. The EU will eventually have to choose between stopping all imports and growing all its own food or adopting a more reasonable science-based regulatory system.
However, until something like Kershen's sensible suggestions are implemented, the world's consumers will continue to enjoy periodic bogus food scares conjured up by anti-biotech activists.
- CropGen, 8th September, 2006
The past few weeks have seen rice hit the headlines – GM-rice, that is, not the nice rice of rice puddings.
The first bombshell was that US long-grain rice may contain traces of LLRICE601, a herbicide-tolerant GM variety containing the phosphinothricin-N-acetyltransferase (PAT) protein. Although this protein in the closely related varieties was submitted to the US regulator for approval for human consumption, Bayer (the company involved) had not finished the process of getting LLRICE601 approved for marketing before dropping the project several years ago. But the company did complete the process for LLRICE62 and LLRICE06, two other varieties of rice with the same inserted gene. While neither of those two was ever marketed, the US Agriculture Secretary said the approval offers reassurance that 601 is probably safe (1).
Why the approval application for LLRICE601 was withdrawn is unclear but it seems to have been for commercial reasons. How the strain came to be widely distributed in commercial rice is not yet known; presumably somebody made a mistake, or was careless, but who, when, how and why have yet to be revealed. Somebody was responsible but it may have been far back in the history of this strain, before the company in its present form even existed.
LLRICE62 and LLRICE06, having been through thorough safety evaluations, are deemed safe for use in food and safe in the environment. The safety of LLRICE62 also currently being assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as part of the authorisation procedure to allow the product onto the European market (2). Note, however, that although the protein is the same in both strains (and in others), and has been approved for human consumption, the precise genetic constructs differ in detail with the regulations accordingly demanding that each be separately evaluated.
The results of the announcement were as dramatic as could be expected. Japan banned imports of long-grain rice altogether (3). One interesting point about that ban is that Japan imports long-grain rice primarily for the use of foreigners, mainly Americans. The Japanese themselves prefer short-grain sticky rice (4).
Europe, needless to say, was not far behind. While anxious for more information (5), the EU banned imports (6), with some being held in a Dutch port (7) and the Irish ready to sue (8). Moreover, companies importing illegal genetically modified foods risk legal action by national governments (9). Across the Atlantic some US farmers filed suit against Bayer, seeking $5 million compensation for the drop in rice prices since the announcement that LLRICE601 might be present (10).
However, the latest development seems to be a move by Bayer and the USDA to deregulate (i.e. give approval to) LLRICE601 (11). What might be the consequences of that in the European Union and Japan remain to be seen.
As if all that were not enough, one of the anti-GM pressure groups claimed that an independent laboratory had found “illegal GM rice” in Europe in the form of imported Chinese rice noodles (12). Curiously though, that “….(test) facility wishes to remain anonymous so that it will not be labelled as an activist lab. ‘They worry about being associated too closely with us,’” said a spokesman for the campaign group (13). China, however, has rejected the claims, saying that the country had not approved a single case of the commercial production of GM rice (14).
The world was in turmoil – and for what? Mainly because traces of GM rice that had not received formal approval had been found in food. There are accordingly two major issues: safety and a breach of regulations.
For all the protests of the campaigners, there really does appear to be no safety issue; the rice containing traces of LLRICE601 is perfectly safe (15). But the regulatory breaches, both with the US rice and the Chinese variety, are serious because our society is based on respect for and adherence to the law. You may not like the law – in which case by all means seek to change it through well-established democratic procedures – but while it is in place it must be obeyed.
There is another question, one about the complexity of the regulatory system. It is not difficult to see how the present situation developed over the years. Were these not the consequences of excessive regulation of GM products as they impinged both upon the US and the Chinese rice:
1. for their own political and commercial agendas, various interested parties whipped up public concern;
2. governments, always willing to respond to what they perceive as public opinion whenever they possibly can, over-reacted and enacted excessive and unnecessary legislation;
3. companies, well aware of the hassle and expense of the regulatory system, refrained from seeking more approvals than they needed to;
4. nevertheless, varieties were developed for which approval, for one reason or another, was not been sought or not pursued to completion (LLRICE601); those varieties continued to exist somewhere. For a whole variety of reasons, traces of some of them may have found their way into commercial products.
5. a major flap develops: the rules have been broken (and should not have been – but nobody did it deliberately); however, no physical harm is done because companies take care to avoid making harmful products. So we have minor or major political ructions but no actual "damage", either to human or animal health or to the elusive "environment";
6. a whole agricultural sector is faced with possible major losses - for what? Because of excessive regulations? Yet all the while, crops genetically modified by cross-breeding and mutagenesis are of no interest to anybody except to the plant breeders themselves:
7. something of the sort may also have happened in China although the details are not yet published. The public sector in that country developed the GM rice strains which were tested in the field and in food. For its own political and/or commercial reasons, the Chinese government decided that then was not the time to go ahead and withheld formal approval both for planting and for food. But the varieties were out and somehow found their way into the food supply, with traces ending up in Europe. Nobody has yet fallen ill as a result.
Some authors take a radically different approach to GMO regulation, arguing that “regulation exacts societal costs whose magnitude is almost unimaginable” (16) and that “zero tolerance” is the problem (17).
Is there really any reason other than politics for oppressive regulation of GM crops while turning a totally blind eye to genetic modification achieved by traditional cross-pollination and mutagenesis? In neither of those cases is there any requirement to test for safety or environmental effects, nor to characterise genetic changes: we simply do not know what has happened to the genomes of plants modified in those procedures. Their value and suitability is judged purely on an empirical short-term basis. Yet the placing of “GM” crops in a special category demonises them so that, while LLRICE62 and LLRICE06 have been “approved”, virtually the same genetic event in LLRICE601 causes upheaval in the world’s rice economy. Something has gone badly wrong.
Nevertheless, one can always look on the brighter side. There are plans afoot to boost rice photosynthesis with inserted genes, allowing it to grow faster and larger (18). The researchers hope to do this by inserting genes from maize or from wild relatives of rice that are more efficient at photosynthetic carbon dioxide uptake. It will take about four years to determine whether the technique is feasible and another 10-15 years until the first improved varieties are available.
1. Nation's rice supply contaminated with unapproved variety. Arizona Republic (19.8,2006) (http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/0819rice-genetic0819.html)
2. Anthony Fletcher. FSAI bans GM rice, US farmers sue Bayer. Food Navigator (31.08.2006) (http://www.foodnavigator.com/news/ng.asp?n=70222&m=1FNE831&c=kzldommuocyjajp)
3. Japan ends U.S. long - grain rice imports. New York Times (19.8.06) (http://www.ndtvprofit.com/homepage/storybusinessnew.asp?template=&whichstory=n&id=32895)
4. Rice Tariffication in Japan: What Does It Mean for Trade? Agricultural Outlook (April 1999) (http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/agoutlook/apr1999/ao260c.pdf)
5. Jeremy Smith. EU still anxious for details on U.S. biotech rice. Reuters (30.8.06) (http://today.reuters.com/news/articleinvesting.aspx?view=CN&storyID=2006-08-30T134816Z_01_L30836545_RTRIDST_0_FOOD-EU-USA-RICE.XML&rpc=66&type=qcna)
6. EU adopts tough rules for U.S. long-grain rice. Wall Street Journal (24.8.2006)
7. Dutch port holds contaminated US GMO rice. Dow Jones (31.8.06) ((http://framehosting.dowjonesnews.com/sample/samplestory.asp?StoryID=2006083111130005&Take=2
8. Food watchdog to clear banned US rice from shops. Irish Independent (31.8.2006)
9. Food cos risk legal action if import illegal GMO crops. Wall Street Journal (6.9.2006)
10. Robert Patrick. 3 Missouri farmers sue Bayer CropScience over genetically modified-rice contamination. St. Louis Today (07.09.2006)
11. Lauren Morello. USDA moves to deregulate controversial Bayer rice. E&E News PM (7.9.06) (http://www.eenews.net/eenewspm/2006/09/07/ - 6)
12. Gene-altered rice from China found in EU. Reuters (5.9.2006) (http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=scienceNews&storyID=2006-09-05T050530Z_01_L04338680_RTRUKOC_0_US-FOOD-EU-CHINA-GMO.xml)
13. Emma Marris. Escaped Chinese GM rice reaches Europe. Nature (5.9.06) (http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060904/full/060904-5.html)
14. China rejects claims genetically modified rice entering EU food market. Forbes (7.9.06) (http://www.forbes.com/afxnewslimited/feeds/afx/2006/09/07/afx2999391.html)
15. Howard Cincotta. Genetically altered rice found safe, Agriculture Secretary says. US Department Of State (19.8.2006) (http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2006&m=August&x=20060819140346attocnich0.5602075)
16. Henry I. Miller. Letters to the Editor: I have a dream: scientific, logical regulation. Policy Analysis (13 Jul 2006) (http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?page=article&Article_ID=8910)
17. Elton Robinson. Zero tolerance is the problem. Delta Farm Press (7.9.06) (http://deltafarmpress.com/news/060907-tolerance-rice)
18. Mike Shanahan. Plan to boost rice photosynthesis with inserted genes. Science and Development Network (27.6.06) (http://www.scidev.net/content/news/eng/plan-to-boost-rice-photosynthesis-with-inserted-genes.cfm)
GMO in rice: time for level heads to prevail
- Delta Farm Press, Sep 7, 2006, By Ford L. Baldwin
Boy, things sure can change in a hurry in agriculture. I have had a number of calls, mostly from farmers, asking my opinion on the LibertyLink rice issue.
I have had several conversations with my contacts at Riceland Foods, Inc., and also with contacts at Bayer CropScience, but I do not know any more than what everyone has read in various articles, news releases and Internet postings.
The questions include: Where did the LL601 gene come from? How did it get into our commercial production? Which varieties is it in? How widespread is it? Is there any way to get it out?
It will take a while for these to be answered by APHIS and other government agencies.
I have some own ideas and suspicions, but they are just speculation. What is really needed right now is a chilling-out period and for level heads to prevail. There are huge amounts of misinformation out in the field and in come cases the “uninformed factor” is running rampant.
What is REALLY needed is for the price to bounce back while the facts are being sorted out.
We do know that the rice is completely safe. If it is any consolation to anyone, our keg was ready to change out right when the news hit. I did not change to a brand without rice in it but went right back and got another keg of Bud Light.
It is my understanding that Bayer is working to deregulate this particular LL601 event. They had actually shelved that event for one they felt had better traits. That later event is fully deregulated and approved and the tolerance is established for Liberty herbicide to be used in it.
LibertyLink rice could be being grown right now, but Bayer has chosen not to introduce the technology until the market will accept it.
A lot of farmers are upset about the sudden and large drop in the rice price at a time when the market was strengthening and things were looking up. Who would not be upset?
However, to me it is a sad day to see advertisements by lawyers in our state-wide newspaper trying to sign up folks to sue when all the facts in this matter are a long way from being established.
LibertyLink rice is being developed as a part of technology moving forward. GMO technology is prevalent in most of our other major crops. Of course, that has led some to say thank goodness it is not in rice.
We are more than 10 years into developing, growing and eating GMO crops. Genetic engineering simply is where the new technology breakthroughs in crops are going to be.
Gosh, in most major universities for the past 20 years, every clod-kicking, muddy boots-type scientist who would retire would be replaced by a “gene jockey.” Genetic engineering is prevalent is USDA, in the major universities and in industry.
We have been manipulating genes in plants in different ways ever since the first two plants ever crossed. We are just doing it in a lot of different ways now.
If this LibertyLink event is truly as widespread — although in minute amounts — as it sounds, there may be no getting it back. While that is out of my area of expertise, I can sure see how it could be extremely difficult.
I do not believe for a minute any of the conspiracy theories I have heard. Whatever happened was the result of an honest mistake in the process of trying to develop new technology.
Once it was suspected, there were a lot of steps to go through by a lot of people to know for sure it is real. Sure, the timing may have been terrible, but what timing would not have been?
It may well just be time now to let the regulatory agencies do their thing. They have plenty of expertise to determine which GMO events are safe and which are not.
Time has already proven GMO technology, when properly regulated, is safe. Perhaps it is time to move on with the technology in rice as we have in other crops.
Robinson: Zero tolerance is the problem
- Delta Farm Press, Sep 7, 2006, By Elton Robinson
After the fallout has settled from the discovery of a trace amount of genetically modified rice in the U.S. long-grain commercial rice supply, one question will linger. How long can U.S. agriculture survive a zero tolerance policy for GM crops?
“It’s a big problem,” said Milo Hamilton, a rice market analyst with FirstGrain.com. “If you accept biotechnology, you are going to have leakage. The probability is that it’s going to happen.”
And every time it does, the non-agricultural media hits the panic button, and everybody runs for the exits. But it’s not like farmers can laugh about it when it’s over. Millions of dollars disappear in the rush to judgment, even though the protein in this case is approved for use in other crops, including corn in some European Union countries, and in Japan.
Someone with common sense would stop right here and ask if it really made a difference to one’s digestive tract whether this particular protein entered the stomach from a plate of pork-fried rice or from a corn dog. But unfortunately, common sense and the fact that the protein is proven to be safe for food and feed has nothing to do with it.
The issue has provided the world with an opportunity to develop a rational process to address mistakes involving biotech and biotech research. Instead, the world engages in games of political football.
After the discovery was made public, the European Commission promptly ordered that imports of long grain rice from the United States be certified free of the unauthorized genetically modified strain. Japan made it easy for itself, simply suspending all imports of U.S. long grain rice.
Consumers do have the right to choose between genetically modified and non-GM foods. But it shouldn’t be lost on the skeptical observer that the EU and Japan are awful quick to deny access to their markets, or perhaps deny access long enough for prices to take a huge hit.
In good news, there are apparently no objections about trace contamination from Mexico, Haiti or the Cuba, which are large export markets for U.S. long grain rice. Hungry people in poor countries do not waste their time pondering the origins of a perfectly good bowl of rice.
In the short-term, Hamilton is advising his customers to identity preserve their harvested rice by variety and or hybrid. There is some early evidence, not substantiated, that the GM rice appears only in certain varieties. If this turns out to be so, it could benefit rice producers who have segregated their rice. Rice varieties or hybrids not containing the GM rice should be able to attain the requisite certification for the export market.
In the long-term, we need to seek a rational process to eliminate the lack of understanding and stubborn paranoia that currently undermines the considerable benefits of biotech and biotech research.
http://www.eenews.net/eenewspm/2006/09/07/ - 6
USDA moves to deregulate controversial Bayer rice
- E&E NEWS PM, September 7, 2006, By Lauren Morello
The Agriculture Department is moving to deregulate an unapproved, genetically modified strain of long-grain rice that has been detected in U.S. long-grain rice supplies intended for human consumption.
Deregulating the rice, known as LLRICE 601, would allow its manufacturer, Bayer CropScience, to commercialize the strain, though the company has not indicated it intends to do so.
Notice of USDA's proposal to remove restrictions on the GM rice will appear tomorrow in the Federal Register. The agency will accept comments on the matter through Oct. 10.
USDA announced last month that the GM strain was detected in conventional long-grain rice harvested in 2005 but said the rice likely does not pose a danger to human health or the environment, based on its similarity to two other Bayer GM rice varieties that have already received government approval.
All three strains contain genes derived from bacteria that produce a protein that makes them resistant to the herbicide Liberty, also called glufosinate.
The similarity between the three strains, along with data from "numerous field trials" of LLRICE 601 conducted between 1998 and 2001, led USDA to move to deregulate the rice, the filing says.
It is unclear what effect deregulation would have on importers of U.S. rice, many of whom have put import restrictions in place since USDA announced the LLRICE 601 contamination.
Japan has barred U.S. rice imports, while the European Union mandated testing to ensure the biotech Bayer rice does not enter its member states. Still, officials said last week that because the U.S. rice appears to have been contaminated with the GM strain for several months, there is no way to guarantee it is not present in Europe.
In the United States, rice farmers in six states have sued Bayer over the incident. Their complaint, filed late last month in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, alleges that the GM rice has contaminated their crops
Southern Africa: Boost Capacity for GMO Testing, SADC States Told
- The Herald (Harare), September 7, 2006, By Sifelani Tsiko
COUNTRIES in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) should mobilise resources for their national biosafety systems to enhance their capacity to test for the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food, stock feed and seed, a Cabinet minister said yesterday.
The Minister of Science and Technology Development, Dr Olivia Muchena, said this was important to help the region safeguard against the unintentional placing of GMOs on the market and the environment.
"To achieve this, there is need for capacity (building for) infrastructure and people to screen (test) food, feed and seed for the presence of GMOs," she said while opening a four-day Sadc GMO testing training course at the Tobacco Research Board (TRB) Centre at Kutsaga.
"We share very porous borders, efforts to screen imports by one country come to nothing if other countries in the region are not doing the same."
A total of 26 participants from Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Swaziland, Namibia and Zimbabwe attended the course which was jointly run by the TRB and the University of Zimbabwe.
The course was funded by the Regional Agricultural and Environment Initiative (RAEIN-Africa), which is based in Namibia.
RAEIN-Africa director Mrs Doreen Shumba-Mnyulwa said the course was a result of consultative process in which stakeholders within the Sadc region wanted to strengthen their capacity to make and implement policies that govern the safe handling of GMOs.
"In the region, there was a general lack of capacity to test food aid, to verify whether certain food items are GMO or non-GMO.
"Food aid comes as grain and unlabelled. Most countries did not have the capacity to test for GMOs," she said, "and we believe this training course will help address some of the concerns."
The training course aimed to provide participants with skills for testing products for the presence of GMOs, to carry out risk assessment of GMO food, stock feed and seed and to apprise the participants on the status of biotechnology and biosafety in the Sadc region.
Mrs Shumba-Mnyulwa said that the course also sought to provide a platform for sharing experiences in developing and implementing national biosafety frameworks.
Dr Muchena said the region still faced challenges when it came to the development and implementation of appropriate policy, legal, institutional and administrative frameworks that promoted the safe and responsible use of biotechnology in socio-economic development.
She noted that Zimbabwe had made great strides in implementing "more robust systems of ensuring the scientifically sound, economically viable, environmentally friendly and socially acceptable application of biotechnology".
Zimbabwe has a comprehensive biotechnology policy and an Act that enables the country to utilise opportunities brought by the use of biotechnology techniques while at the same time providing frameworks for the management of potentially harmful technologies and other undertakings.
Genetic engineering is a controversial subject, with those against it saying it has potential risks on human health, the environment and biodiversity while its proponents argue that it has a huge potential to increase agricultural production, develop vaccines and drugs and other aspects that help lift the standard of living for the people.
New hybrids drive Egypt's world-beating rice yield
- Food Navigator, September 6, 2006
Egypt achieved the worlds highest national average rice yield in 2005, with production boosted by hybrids developed locally under an FAO-led project.
A yield of 9.5 tonnes per hectare was achieved partly through the introduction of newly-developed hybrid varieties such as SK 2034 and SK 2046, which the FAO claims outperformed the best local varieties by 20 to 30 per cent.
They were selected from more than 200 hybrid varieties under the FAO-led project, intended to help Egypt produce more rice with less water and less land.
The results reflect positively on the FAO's attempts to increase global rice production through innovative breeding programmes. Increasing Egyptian rice output is seen as vital in order to resolve a national production gap stemming from population growth of 2.2 per cent a year combined with increasingly limited land and water resources.
Egypts population is set to increase from a current 75 million to 100 million inhabitants by 2025. Three million tons of rice will be needed by 2010 compared with current requirements of 2.8 million tonnes.
But despite Egypts success and the progress made towards a new generation of varieties, the FAO is quick to point out that hybrid rice seed production is not a panacea. There are, for example, a number of countries lacking technical skills and infrastructure to carry out hybrid rice seed production programmes.
Executive secretary of the International Rice Commission, Nguu Nguyen, told an international scientific conference on sustainable rice production in Russia this week that in the medium term, increasing rice production in such countries could require a different approach, one based on introduction of better crop management practices.
"The results from pilot tests in developing countries since 2000 have demonstrated that very high yield with existing varieties can be obtained with improved crop management (ICM)," he said.
In the Philippines, for instance, ICM had almost doubled yields of testing farmers from 4.5 tonnes/ha to over 8 tonnes/ha, he added. ICM includes such practices as setting planting dates to expose crops to higher solar radiation, optimising seeding density, balanced plant nutrition and careful water management.
In any case, Egypts appetite for rice mirrors growing international demand for what is already the worlds most widely-consumed food. Rice is the fastest-increasing food crop in Africa for example.
Globally, 618 million tonnes of rice was produced in 2005 but with world population growing by more than 70 million a year, an extra 153 million tonnes will be needed by 2030.
Predicting the future of the world's food supply
- Food Navigator, By Anthony Fletcher, September 7, 2006
The emergence of new agricultural production areas and changing diets will have deep consequences for the supply and demand of global food.
A prospective study on this subject, entitled Agrimonde (Agricultures et alimentations du monde en 2035), will attempt to foresee the role of French and European agriculture within the context of different global change scenarios, and pinpoint the fundamental issues with which agricultural research will be faced.
The study, which will run over the next two years, is a co-operation between INRA (Institut Nationale de la Recherche Agronomique) and CIRAD (la Recherche Agronomique aux Services des Pays du Sud).
Based in France, both INRA and CIRAD conduct research on issues linked to agriculture, food and food safety, the environment and territorial management, with particular emphasis on sustainable development.
This is an issue that is attracting growing scientific concern. The EC for example recently published prospects for agriculture markets and income from 2006 to 2013. The publication provides a picture of the likely medium-term developments of agricultural markets, based on a certain number of assumptions and on the statistical information available in the beginning of June 2006.
"If the overall outlook for EU agricultural markets and income over the next seven years appears relatively favourable, it clearly remains subject to some important uncertainties," said the commission.
In any case, the medium-term projections depict an outlook for the EU cereal markets that would appear moderately positive for most EU cereals thanks to the expansion of domestic consumption (growth in the livestock industries and the emerging bioethanol and biomass demand) and cereal exports.
The INRA / CIRAD exercise is designed to build on such schemes and give scientists the means to forecast and prepare for the future in terms of public research systems and priorities as well as of their strategic position on an international level.
INRA and CIRAD are both commissioners and joint project managers. The head of the INRA prospective studies unit is in charge of the operation, which will be conducted by a mixed CIRAD-INRA team. A committee of experts, consisting of around twenty people chosen for their expertise, will provide scientific and methodological advice.
Both INRA and CIRAD suggest that managing to preserve the world's resources, while alleviating poverty and inequality, will be the major issue for sustainable development, along with the management of relations between industrialised and developing countries.
The results of the work are due to be published in 2008.
Brazil to swap illegal GMO soy for legal GMO in S State
- Dow Jones Newswire, September 08, 2006
SAO PAULO (Dow Jones) - Brazilian Agricultural Minister Luis Carlos Guedes Pinto said late Wednesday that the government would swap illegal transgenic soy seeds for legal transgenic seeds in the upcoming 2006-07 season in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.
For weeks, soy growers in the country's No. 3 soy state of Rio Grande do Sul have been lobbying the government to allow seeds until now considered illegal in Brazil to be legalized temporarily or swapped in the upcoming season.
Farmers who are discovered to be planting illegal GMO soybeans are denied low interest loans from government lenders.
The government on Wednesday, however, agreed to allow Rio Grande do Sul farmers to swap illegal genetically modified organism, or GMO, soy seeds through the country's National Commodities Supply Corp., or Conab.
"The objective is to incentivize the use of certified and vetted seeds to improve the quality of the crop," said Pinto in an official press statement released by the Agricultural Ministry.
President Luiz lnacio Lula da Silva will sign the decree legalizing the swap next week - which is when the rules regarding the swap will also be announced.
At the same time, the government will also temporarily legalize the planting in Rio Grande do Sul of GMO soy that has been modified for better tolerance to herbicide glyphosate - a primary ingredient in biotech multinational Monsanto's herbicide Roundup - for the 2006-07 harvest, said Pinto.
"The government recognizes that there could be a lack of certified seeds in some areas of soy-planting in the state and because of this, has decided to anticipate it and will permit the use of private seeds for the next harvest," said the press statement.
Last week, Agricultural Ministry officials acknowledged that the government was studying various options to deal with the country's contraband GMO soy market, including a possible presidential decree authorizing the use of illegal GMO seeds for the new harvest, as weil as a swap of illegal seeds for legal seeds.
For the past two harvests, the government has approved temporary congressional measures to legalize illegal GMO soy seeds, due to concerns that the country's legal GMO seed market could not meet farmer demand. Seeds are determined legal for planting by Brazil's biosecurity department, known as CNTBio.
This year, however, the country's National Association of Seeds, or Abrasem, has declared that the country has adequate seed stocks to supply the entire country, to the dismay of producers who don't want to pay extra for legal seeds.
According to the Agricultural Ministry, however, certified GMO soy seeds are only available for two-thirds of the planted soy area in Rio Grande do Sul, or about 4 million hectares.
Soy production in the state is estimated at 7.5 million metric tons in the 2005-06 harvest, with productivity of 1,900 kilograms per hectare.
Brazil is the world's No. 2 soy exporter after the U.S.
French Fried Reactionary Still Hurting Poor People
- Consumer Freedom, September 7, 2006
Militant anti-biotechnology activist extraordinaire Jose Bove was back in action this weekend, leading hundreds of protestors in an invasion of a genetically-modified corn field in France on Saturday. Police arrived before the mob could completely destroy the crops and, after a brief scuffle, arrested three people. Bove, who rose to prominence in 1999 after he and his anti-everything confreres literally destroyed a McDonald's, escaped scot-free. But as he told the French press in a self-proclaimed move of solidarity with his captured brethren, "I act with my face uncovered, I take responsibility for my actions."
This sort of brazenly unapologetic rhetoric is typical of Bove, who justified this crime just like he has his others -- by claiming to have uncovered evidence of "genetic pollution" and a "risk of contamination" to nearby organic farms.
If that sounds like spin without any scientific basis, that's because it is. As Bove's detractors (otherwise known as "scientists") point out, genetically modified foods -- which grow faster and are more disease-resistant than their "natural" counterparts -- have saved millions of people from starving to death. As Norman Borlaug, father of the Green Revolution, and former president Jimmy Carter wrote in a 2005 Wall Street Journal column:
The Green Revolution, as this period came to be known in the developing world, has kept more than one billion people from hunger, starvation, and even death ... [A]t the core was the development and application of new high-yielding, disease- and insect-resistant seeds, new products to restore soil fertility and control pests, and a succession of agricultural machines to ease drudgery and speed everything from planting to harvesting.
Bove's neo-Luddite screeds and revolutionist posturing would be nothing more than a minor annoyance if they were confined to smoke-filled coffee shops and organic-only co-ops. But, as made evident by the recent tizzy over genetically-modified rice in the British food supply, anti-biotech forces have gained a substantial following. And, as noted by Borlaug and Carter, Western blockades of safe GM crops "impede its acceptance in most poor, food-insecure countries."
Dry weather in southern US - not Bt crops - threaten Monarch butterflys
- SEED TODAY, Sep. 07 2006
This year's population is probably the biggest Monarch watchers have seen in 10 years, but extreme temperatures in Texas and Oklahoma pose dangers.
(University of Kansas) -- Monarch butterfly followers can expect an unusually large population of the winged insects this season they make their way to their winter home in Mexico, but a University of Kansas professor says there may be trouble ahead.
Just-right weather conditions during the spring trip out of Mexico contributed to this year's expanded population, said Orley "Chip" Taylor, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and director of the Monarch Watch program at KU.
"The temperatures were perfect, the moisture conditions were perfect. It was neither too hot, nor too dry, nor too rainy or too windy," he said.
The returning butterflies produced a large number of offspring, who reproduced even more as they traveled north.
"So every step of the way this year has been favorable for the butterflies, and that doesn't happen often," Taylor said.
Taylor said this year's population is probably the biggest Monarch watchers have seen in 10 years. He is already receiving reports from long-time monarch observers who say they have never seen so many.
But a difficult road lies ahead for the monarch butterflies, who travel more than 2,000 miles from Canada to Mexico. This summer's extreme temperatures and lack of rain have left dry conditions in Texas and some of southern Oklahoma and may diminish the population the farther south the butterflies go.
"It means there aren't going to be any flowers. It means there isn't going to be any water, and there isn't going to be any nectar," Taylor said.
The butterflies use nectar to acquire carbohydrates and water to fuel the long flight to Mexico. They convert carbohydrates into lipids, or fats, to store for the rest of their trip and the winter in Mexico.
"They're going to be going through what looks like about 1,000 miles of really dry habitat," Taylor said. "So unless there is rainfall in this region between now and October, the death toll for these butterflies going through Texas is going to be pretty severe."
That death toll could have an impact on next year's population.
The butterflies have already begun making their way to Kansas. Monarch watchers, Taylor said, should begin seeing the butterflies Sept. 8-11. They'll peak about Sept. 23 before gradually fading out in early October.
Children can learn more about the butterflies during Monarch Watch's annual Open House from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, in Foley Hall on KU's west campus. Some children will leave with a caterpillar or chrysalis, which is a monarch butterfly pupa, to take home and watch grow.
"We can capture the imagination of a lot of children and use this information to improve secondary education in primary and secondary schools," Taylor said.
The annual tagging event will be from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Baker-Haskell Wetlands.
Monarch Watch was founded at KU in 1992. The program involves more than 2,000 schools, nature centers and other organizations in the United States and Canada. An estimated 100,000 students and adults participate in tagging activities each fall.