Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: September 15, 2006
* EU says illegal biotech rice unlikely to pose risk to people or animals
* GMO rice strain unlikely to pose health risk
* EFSA’s GMO Panel provides reply to European Commission request on GM rice LLRICE601
* Genetically modified food: Rice checks
* It might not be as risky as we think
* Genetically engineered soybeans spur crop increase
* CropBiotech Update, September 15, 2006
EU says illegal biotech rice unlikely to pose risk to people or animals
- Associated Press, September 15, 2006
Genetically-modified rice remains illegal in the EU and must be recalled, the European Commission said Friday.
But the EU executive said the unapproved biotech rice imported from the United States and China was unlikely to pose any safety concerns.
"It is not likely to pose a risk to animals or people," said EU consumer protection spokesman Philip Tod, reporting on the results of tests conducted by a European food safety agency.
On Tuesday, the commission said that 33 out of 162 samples of rice imports to Europe contained illegal genetically-modified strains.
In July, the German company Bayer AG said it had found the Liberty Link Rice 601 strain _ known as LL Rice 601 _ in storage units in the U.S. states of Arkansas and Missouri. The LL Rice 601 modification has not been approved for human consumption.
Since then, the EU has tightened screening regulations to stop biotech rice from entering its market. It is illegal to import genetically modified rice in any of the EU's 25 countries.
Environmental group Greenpeace has reported evidence of the tainted rice in German supermarkets Monday. It also said it found genetically modified rice coming from China.
EU regulators are in contact with Greenpeace, Tod said.
"The commission ... still must verify these reports and is requesting further information from national authorities. The commission also urged national governments and the rice industry to intensify their product testing," Tod said.
GMO rice strain unlikely to pose health risk
- Reuters, September 15, 2006
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe's leading food safety agency advised consumers on Friday that eating rice with trace amounts of an unauthorized genetically modified (GMO) strain was unlikely to pose a health risk to humans or animals.
" ... the panel considers that the consumption of imported long grain rice containing trace levels of LL RICE 601 is not likely to pose an imminent safety concern to humans or animals," the European Food Safety Authority said in a statement.
But the Parma-based agency said there was insufficient data to provide a full risk assessment, adding that its conclusions were based on available molecular and compositional data and the toxicological profile of a newly introduced protein.
In August, the European Commission tightened requirements on U.S. long-grain rice imports to prove the absence of the LL RICE 601 strain, which it said was marketed by Germany's Bayer AG and produced in the United States.
Its decision followed the discovery by U.S. authorities of trace amounts of the GMO rice, engineered to resist a herbicide, in long-grain samples that were targeted for commercial use.
Last week, France and Sweden detected the presence of LL RICE 601 originating in the United States and the same strain was also found within a cargo of U.S. rice being tested in the Dutch port of Rotterdam.
Tests in Germany have so far proved negative, despite claims by environment group Greenpeace International that the strain had been found in branches of a discount supermarket chain.
At present, no biotech rice is allowed to be grown, sold or marketed in the 25 countries of the European Union.
Bayer says it does not sell or produce LL RICE 601 and the strain was developed by Aventis CropScience, a company bought by Bayer in 2002. But that development was discontinued in 2001, the company says.
EFSA’s GMO Panel provides reply to European Commission request on GM rice LLRICE601
- September 15, 2006
The GMO Panel has evaluated the available scientific data on LLRICE601. According to the Statement of the Panel issued today there is insufficient data to provide a full risk assessment in accordance with EFSA’s GM guidance. On the basis of the available molecular and compositional data and the toxicological profile of a newly introduced protein, the Panel considers that the consumption of imported long grain rice containing trace levels of LLRICE601 is not likely to pose an imminent safety concern to humans or animals. The Panel Statement will now be forwarded to the European Commission and Member States who are responsible for risk management measures in relation to LLRICE601.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was asked by the European Commission to provide scientific support concerning the safety of the long grain GM rice LLRICE601 which had been inadvertently released in the United States (US) and exported to the European Union (EU). EFSA was asked to examine the scientific data available and inform the European Commission if these data were sufficient to carry out a safety assessment according to EU legislation.
EFSA’s Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) met on 13th and 14th September 2006 to consider the request of the European Commission and examine the available scientific data on the LLRICE601 issue. EFSA’s Panel took into consideration all relevant scientific information, including data from Bayer Crop Science (the company which has developed LLRICE601), existing scientific data on a very similar GMO rice strain and risk assessments carried out by the US authorities.
The EFSA GMO Panel has issued a Statement which says that the available data are not sufficient to allow the safety of LLRICE601 to be assessed in accordance with EFSA guidance for risk assessment and EFSA is unable to carry out a full risk assessment. However, based on the available scientific data, EFSA’s GMO Panel has come to the following conclusions:
* The data package indicates the presence of a newly introduced protein, called PAT. EFSA’s GMO Panel has previously assessed other PAT proteins and concluded that these do not pose any health concern.
* With respect to morphology, agronomic performance and compositional analysis LLRICE601 does not differ significantly from conventional rice (except for the PAT protein), however, at present there is a lack of data to verify this assumption.
* Exposure levels to LLRICE601 in the EU Member States cannot be estimated accurately from the data provided and little is known with respect to the extent of LLRICE601 in the rice supply. However, US data suggests the low inadvertent presence of LLRICE601.
* Based on the available data, EFSA’s GMO Panel considers that the consumption of imported long grain rice containing trace levels of LLRICE601 is not likely to pose an imminent safety concern to humans or animals.
French translation at:
Genetically modified food: Rice checks
- SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 13.9.06
Last July, Japan banned the import of all long-grain rice grown in the United States. The European Union, meanwhile, is imposing expensive new tests on American rice exports.
The reason: A tiny amount of genetically modified rice was found mixed in with rice stored in Missouri and Arkansas. This is just the latest example of irrational resistance to scientific progress in plant technology and the unfair use of trade barriers to protect home-grown economic interests.
The amount of genetically-altered rice amounts to about six of every 10,000 grains found in the bins. It has not been shown to be dangerous. It's true that that particular strain hasn't been approved for human consumption, but that's because its maker didn't ask. Bayer CropScience decided not to commercialize it. The protein in question, which resists herbicides, has been approved for human consumption in other strains of rice.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration found "no human health, food safety or environmental concerns" with the modified rice. But up went the trade barriers anyway.
In European and Japanese societies, food has a cultural status that may be hard for Americans to understand and appreciate. Some cultures attach particular significance to the source and purity of food, and view genetically modified food with suspicion. Paranoia is especially acute in countries where experience - such as the outbreak of mad-cow disease in England - has shown that government assurances can't be trusted.
Rice has deep cultural resonance in Japanese that goes far beyond its nutritional value. Couple that with a bit of anti-GM fervor and it's a convenient cover for protectionist trade barriers.
As a result, genetically modified seeds are facing an uphill battle. Instead of planting crops that resist weed killer or insects, farmers continue to plant lower-yielding crops that require heavier applications of pesticides and herbicides.
That's precisely what's happening with Missouri's rice crop. Farmers simply won't use genetic rice seed for fear of rejection in the export markets, says Fred Ferrell, Missouri director of agriculture.
There is no evidence that eating genetically modified food harms people. Currently, about 61 percent of American-grown corn and 89 percent of our soybeans are genetically modified. We've been consuming genetically modified food for more than a decade. Europe now imports about 279,000 tons of American long-grain rice per year. The Japanese, who maintain tight limits on all imported rice, take very little of our long-grain variety.
Bayer grew its genetically modified seed in test fields from in 1998 to 2001. No one seems to know how rice with the same genetic traits showed up in the 2005 crop. But it does lend credence to those who argue that it's difficult, if not impossible, to keep genetically modified crops separate from non-genetically modified crops.
Ferrell notes that rice pollen rarely moves more than six feet. He suspects that the cause may lie in the mixing of crops by people rather than the movement of pollen between fields.
American trade officials gradually have been beating down foreign barriers against genetically modified American soybeans and corn. But the overreaction to the rice mix-up shows the battle is far from won.
It might not be as risky as we think
- SOUTH WALES EVENING POST, September 14, 2006
However they feel about the prospect of genetically modified crops, organisations like the World Trade Organisation, environmental campaign groups and government departments all claim to be examining the risks of these new technologies. But according to social scientists, the key to solving disputes about GM crops lies in a new approach to understanding these issues, one that drops the use of the word risk as a collective term.
At first sight, this might seem rather strange. After all, we all understand the concept of risk - we know we take risks every day. But apparently, if we are to make good decisions about strange, new technologies like GM crops, or threats such as climate change, we will need to get used to a new idea connected with risk, and this will require some unfamiliar vocabulary.
Adrian Ely, of SPRU Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Sussex, said: "When people talk about risks, they are usually talking about aspects of risk, uncertainty, ambiguity and ignorance."
"In our research, we use the word incertitude to describe this collection of things, so that we address them all."
Ely explains that there are serious limits to using the idea of risk to describe the potential problems associated with new developments in science and technology.
Risks are usually understood, and expressed, as the probability that a particular event or outcome will happen. But often, we cannot put a number to the chance that a particular bad event will take place - we are uncertain about it.
Sometimes we are able to express the likelihood of an event, but we cannot predict how bad this event will be - it is ambiguous. For example, we believe that there is a one in 10 chance of an earthquake in a particular region, but we cannot say how strong it will be.
Finally, sometimes we simply don't know what we don't know - we are in a situation of ignorance. For example, when we release GM crops into the environment, we simply do not know how they will interact with other species of plants and animals.
By categorising issues into those of risk, uncertainty, ambiguity and ignorance, Ely has made sure none of the different issues associated with GM crops are forgotten.
"Its all too easy to make the mistake of using quantitative risk assessment techniques to try to understand unknowns that are really uncertainties, when it is impossible for us to work out the probability that something will happen," said Ely. "I use this typology to understand the government's decisions around GM crops and foods."
"Most policy problems - for example, climate change, GM crops or nanotechnology - involve a situation in which we don't have a full understanding of the science in question. It's important for us to appreciate what we know and what we don't know in order to prioritise research and/or public engagement," said Ely. "That's where this typology can help."
The World Trade Organisation recently concluded that the EU had broken trade rules by failing to approve certain GM crops and foods produced in the USA. By considering the issues associated with risk, uncertainty, ambiguity and ignorance separately, Ely has been able to make sense of these events in a way that could be useful to policymakers.
"There are so many complicated questions at play," he said. "The US and Europe have assessed the risks from GM crops in different ways. This has led to divergent policies internationally, with bitter trade disputes as a result. Our research can help us to understand the sources of the trade conflict and ways of resolving them."
So next time you hear a politician talking about risks - ask them if they can put a number to your chances, and if they are certain that they know every possible negative impact of the decision in question. If they can't and they aren't, you will know that they are not really talking about risk at all, but rather, a whole bunch of potential unknowns we are beginning to think of as incertitude.
Genetically engineered soybeans spur crop increase
- ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jim Stafford, 13 Sep 2006
Braman Okla. - Jim Curl slowly brought his pickup to a halt just south of the Kansas border and surveyed a lush, green field filled with healthy soybean plants.
As he pointed out the weed-free growth of the soybean crop, Curl described how it had its origins in the bitter winter of 1995-1996. That's when winds that came sweeping down the plains blew out his wheat crop and tons of soil with it.
"We went into the fall of '95 when we planted wheat with hardly any moisture at all," Curl said. "I hired a guy to run a packer on it to break the clods, and that was the wrong thing to do. It set it up to blow all winter."
Blow it did, with the wind taking the crop and the topsoil.
Curl changed his farming practices in the spring.
The Braman native, who farms land that his family has owned since the Land Run, adopted a no-till farming method and experimented with a new product developed by Monsanto Corp. known as "Roundup Ready" soybeans. Curl began a crop rotation that included wheat, corn and soybeans.
Roundup Ready soybeans were introduced in 1996 by Monsanto. They are genetically altered to be resistant to Monsanto's Roundup weed killer. That allows farmers to plant the beans and then spray the fields with Roundup herbicide to control weeds.
"I planted 26 acres that year in a Johnson grass-infested bottom land that normally you couldn't grow a crop on," he said.
Curl was a dealer then for the Garst Seed Co. but switched to Monsanto-owned Asgrow when the test plot thrived. Today he operates the Asgrow Seed Center in Braman.
In a no-till crop rotation, seeds are planted into a field where the residue of the old crop has been left unplowed. A different crop is planted behind the just harvested crop, such as soybeans behind wheat.
"I aim to get three crops in two years," said Curl, 53.
The weed-free fields surrounding his Braman farm testify to the effectiveness of the genetically-altered soybeans. The no-till concept has gained widespread acceptance in wind-blown northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas, he said.
Kay County, where Curl's farm and seed operation is, has blossomed into one of the top soybean producing areas of Oklahoma.
For example, the county produced 220,000 bushels of soybeans from 8,100 acres in 1996. Kay County farmers produced 1.4 million bushels from 43,500 acres in 2004, and 1.15 million bushels from 49,500 acres in 2005.
"There has been a huge, huge increase in no-till," Curl said. "I sold enough (Asgrow seed) to plant 14,000 acres this year, most in Kay County, and some in Grant County and also in Sumner County, Kansas."
Oklahoma produced 8.7 million bushels of soybeans from 290,000 acres in 2004 and 7.9 million bushels from 305,000 across in 2005. The nation's top-producing soybean state is Iowa, which yielded 532.6 million bushels last year.
The growth of the crop in Oklahoma and in Kay and Grant counties is part of a westward expansion of soybeans in the United States, said Bob Callanan, communications director of the St. Louis-based American Soybean Association.
"They have been moving farther west over the last 10 years or so and have been replacing wheat in some areas," Callanan said. "That ability to control weeds with a fairly environmentally friendly herbicide that dissolves into the environment fairly quickly has led to farmers being able to dramatically increase their use of no-till and minimum-till farming."
No-till farming not only helps keep the topsoil intact in windy areas but saves on fuel costs because it frees farmers from having to plow and replow their fields, Callanan said.
For Oklahomans, the bio-engineered soybeans have provided farmers with a high-demand crop alternative that is used in a variety of products. Curl said soybeans are used in producing a fuel additive, a widely used printing ink, soy milk and in all kinds of food ingredients.
As Curl's pickup slowly rolled past weed-free fields loaded with soybeans along the Chikaskia River just south of the Kansas line, he recalled his father's efforts to grow soybeans in the same fields in the 1960s.
"My dad was one of the few trying the new crop in this area," Curl said. "The only weed control was to harrow at 4-to-6 inches high followed later with in-row cultivation. The common varieties, of course, had no (weed killer) resistance. Technology has changed everything."
CropBiotech Update, September 15, 2006
- FAO DG Calls for Second Green Revolution
- “Search for New Genes” to boost India's agriculture
- Journal Commentaries Examine Food Biotech
- Field Trials for GM Banana Completed
- Paper Assesses Modern Biotech, Issues
- Thai Cotton Down, Cotton Industry President Says
- FAO Meets on Reducing Child Labor in Agri
- ADB, Viet Government Sign Agri Grant Project
- Malaysia Works on Improving Biotech Sector
- Syria Hosts Regional Training on IPR
- CIRAD, EMBRAPA Project Brings Agri to Nordeste, Brazil
- Co-Existence Mapped for Bt, Conventional Maize
- Rice Protein Change Makes Crop Virus Resistant, Research Finds
- Rye Protein Shown To Bind To Ice