Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: September 27, 2006
* GM crops saving farm economy from drought
* Golden rice in 3 yrs: MK Anwar
* GM rice is on the loose, but no need to panic
* 'Genetically modified food need of the hour'
* Farmers Increase Planting of Biotechnology in India
* A chain of weak links on spinach
* Suit filed over bad spinach
* Queensland urged to take advantage of new GM technologies
* AgBioForum, Volume 9, Number 1, September 2006
GM crops saving farm economy from drought
- HEARTLAND INSTITUTE, By James M. Taylor, October 1, 2006
An August 11 federal government crop report shows biotechnology is saving the Midwestern farm economy from devastation in the wake of this summer's prolonged drought.
The report projects 10.98 billion bushels of corn production this year, up from 10.74 billion bushels projected in the federal government's July forecast. The report also projects a soybean crop that will come within 5 percent of last year's record. The August forecast for the two crops is striking because severe drought ravaged the Midwest between the July and August forecasts.
"The biotechnology has improved corn and soybeans to be able to withstand some of the Mother Nature pressures that we have gotten," said Kevin Dahlman, president of Dahlco Seeds in Cokato, Minnesota. Crop losses due to a similar drought would have been substantial as recently as a decade ago, Dahlman added.
Genetically enhanced seeds account for 61 percent of this year's corn crop and 89 percent of this year's soybean crop.
"If we look at what scientists in the United States and elsewhere have already developed, and what they currently are developing in the research pipeline, it is genuinely remarkable," said Gregory Conko, director of food safety policy at the Washington, DC-based Competitive Enterprise Institute.
"We have to be cautiously optimistic, though, since developing a product that works is only half the battle," Conko warned. "All around the world, important biotech advances are being stymied by bad regulation and opposition by radical greens."
Golden rice in 3 yrs: MK Anwar
- DAILY STAR, Sept 26, 2006
Agriculture Minister MK Anwar yesterday said the Golden Rice, a genetically modified crop enriched by Vitamin-A, is expected to be released in the country within the next two or three years.
"The Bangladesh Rich Research Institute (BRRI) is conducting a research on this genetically modified (GM) crop, which would hopefully be released within the next two or three years," he said at the Jatiya Sangsad while replying to two supplementary questions.
On the first supplementary question from treasury bench member GM Fazlul Hoque, he said although there is a controversy and debate worldwide on the GM crop, "we hope that the golden rice would help reduce vitamin-A deficiency of the people."
Responding to another supplementary question from Awami League lawmaker Farruk Khan, the agriculture minister said after successful release of the Golden Rice, steps would be undertaken to development iron and zinc enriched rice varieties in the country.
MK Anwar, however, told the house that all types of local rice varieties are being preserved in the BRRI laboratory.
GM rice is on the loose, but no need to panic
- Free Lance-Star, Sept 26, 2006
AMERICAN RICE FARMERS were optimistic this would be a good year until a few grains of LLRICE601 were discovered in some shipments of long-grain rice in August. Now, Japan has banned imports of the staple, European retailers are pulling American rice off the shelf, and gloom has descended where optimism once reigned.
What's the problem? LLRICE601 is a genetically modified strain created by Bayer CropScience but abandoned in 2001. No approval for it was sought. Although the FDA says LLRICE601 poses no threat to humans or animals, finding just six grains of it in 10,000 grains of standard long-grain rice has been enough to panic foreign markets into raising the barriers on all of the American product.
Just how LLRICE601 "escaped" from experimental research fields is unknown. That it did emphasizes the fact that scientists cannot predict all contingencies, and care must be taken to prevent unintentional harm. But does genetically modified food deserve the arms-length treatment foreign governments and activists often give it?
No. Genetic modification of food has been around as long as farmers have bred their beefiest cattle and harvested seed from their best corn. Nowadays, genetic modification is done, far faster, with microscopes and Petri dishes. Genetic modification can make grains naturally pest-resistant; create rice loaded with vitamins, minerals, and proteins; design tomatoes with a longer shelf-life; and create salmon that mature twice as fast as other fish. GM crops can actually reduce harm to the Earth by minimizing the need for pesticides or fertilizer. About 60 percent of food in U.S. supermarkets has been, in some way, genetically modified.
LLRICE601 was altered to make it resistant to a herbicide. "Frankenfood" it is not. Bayer is seeking to retroactively have it approved. Barring adverse scientific findings, why shouldn't the USDA do so?
'Genetically modified food need of the hour'
- Times of India, 26 Sep, 2006
LUCKNOW: For feeding millions of Indians we need to go for genetically modified (GM) foods. This was stated by director, Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI) and Industrial Toxicology Research Centre (ITRC), CM Gupta while addressing a press conference on the eve of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Foundation Day on Monday. This day is celebrated by 38 national laboratories of CSIR throughout the country.
Gupta further added that countries like China and USA had accepted the use of GM foods. But to study the long time effect of these foods, ITRC had been appointed as the nodal agency by the department of biotechnology, government of India.
Informing about researches bring undertaken at ITRC, Gupta, said that ITRC was currently working towards curing prostate cancer in which mango pulp and ginger had been found very effective. Scientists are also working in the direction as to how diet plays an effective role in saving people from various diseases.
Highlighting the achievement of CDRI, Gupta added that CDRI had developed an osteogenic drug which helped in healing and bone joining. “No osteogenic drug is available so far anywhere in the world”, claimed Gupta.
Director, Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP), SPS Khanuja, said the institute had been selected as the world centre for increasing biologically active chemicals in particular plants. Khanuja said the institute had developed a new variety of lemon grass which could be grown in dry areas as well.
Later, director, National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Rakesh Tuli stated that NBRI was a nodal centre for biodiversity related documents of India.
He added that India had earned Rs 70 lakh from licensing agreements only for biofertilisers. Tuli added that NBRI planned to open an educational garden along with a fern garden, moss garden and Orchids garden in the city.
Tuli said that NBRI was also focusing on removal of arsenic using a technique called phytoremediation.
Farmers Increase Planting of Biotechnology in India
- PR Web, September 25, 2006
Increased yields and income from Bt Cotton enables farm family to improve quality of life.
St. Louis (PRWEB) September 25, 2006 -- The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) – the regulatory authority for biotechnology crops in India – recently announced that farmers increased the area planted with genetically modified (GM) insect-protected cotton to 8.1 million acres (3.2 million hectares) in 2006, up from 3.1 million acres (1.2 million hectares) in 2005.
This technology is going to be very helpful. … There has been a lot of benefit. This product has brought in money. With money, there can be education
Insect-protected cotton contains a protein from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that protects cotton plants from specific lepidopteron insect pests. Cotton farmers in India are severely constrained by annual damage and losses due to insect pests – especially lepidopteron insects. Until the introduction of biotechnology in India in 2002, chemical control was the only option and the most common practice for controlling these pests.
Indian farmer Eknath Shivram Pandit has grown corn and cotton for nearly 15 years and recently switched to Bt cotton. "It is cost-effective. We have to spray just 2 or 3 times. But with the other seeds, the worms would attack, and we had to spray at least 15 to 20 times.
"This technology is going to be very helpful. … There has been a lot of benefit. This product has brought in money. With money, there can be education," continues Pandit, a husband and father of three. "I will buy more land for farming. Dig more wells. I can build a house. Save some money for my daughter’s wedding and son’s education."
To learn more about biotechnology in India and to view Eknath Pandit’s exclusive video interview and podcast – as well as interviews with two of his fellow Indian farmers, Vitthal Narayan Patil and Keshavrao Pawar – visit Conversations about Plant Biotechnology Web site: http://www.monsanto.com/biotech-gmo/new.htm.
Conversations about Plant Biotechnology is designed to give a voice and a face to the farmers and families who grow biotech crops and the experts who research and study the technology. The Web site contains more than 40, two- to three-minute, extremely candid, straightforward and compelling video segments with the people who know the technology best. The Web site is hosted by Monsanto Company — a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality.
A chain of weak links on spinach
The system's set up to maximize profits at every level, not to ensure safety or to forestall health threats
- Newsday, BY DR MARC SIEGEL, September 25, 2006
Dr. Marc Siegel is an associate professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine. He is the author of "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear."
The current outbreak in spinach of Escherichia coli 0157:H7 that's scaring my patients didn't occur in a vacuum. It is part of a culture of dealing with animals, plants and food that allows the spread of harmful bacteria.
There is a chain of events that occurs from cow to manure to contaminated water to crops to food that eludes regulation. Farmers concentrate on beefing up their cattle or maximizing their milk without sufficient regard to collateral damage from contagion. There is a crucial gap between U.S. Department of Agriculture supervision of animals and plants and Food and Drug Administration efforts by the time a product is labeled as food.
Outbreaks occur mainly because those monitoring each link in the chain of infection are not paying attention to the next link.
Cattle farmers are not thinking of the harmful effects of manure; they are concerned about selling their product. Sellers of organic fertilizer made from manure are hoping their product will grow vegetables, not concerned that it will contaminate water or spinach. Salad makers screen and cleanse their food but can't always afford the expensive equipment to detect the most elusive bacteria. There is also not enough separation between animal and animal products before they become human food.
Multiple studies in the agricultural literature have shown that dairy cows shed harmful bacteria at variable rates. This shedding is dependent on several factors that could be controlled, including the animal's feed. Studies have shown that changing feed from grain to hay decreases the acidity in the gut of cows that allows bacteria to thrive. Because very small amounts of 0157:H7 can cause human infection and because shedding of the bacteria by cows is so variable, proper surveillance of manure is also crucial in preventing outbreaks. But sophisticated laboratory techniques that are most effective at detection are very expensive and not commonly used. Current agricultural attempts to contain manure and organic fertilizers at the farm are not sufficient to prevent occasional seepage into water supplies, which sparks outbreaks.
Once an outbreak occurs in humans, the FDA is forced to play catch-up, in this case by putting an umbrella advisory over all spinach that sends the inadvertent message that the disease is much more widespread than it is. Because food is processed and packaged in one state and then mixed and sold across several states, containment and control become more difficult.
E. coli 0157:H7 is a strain that produces a toxin that breaks down the lining of blood vessels, causing bloody diarrhea in humans and sometimes kidney failure. Because cows lack the receptor on their cells to absorb the toxin, they don't show symptoms that they are carriers of the bacteria.
Before the current outbreak, there were close to 20 outbreaks linked to salad since 1995 in which the crops were fed water contaminated with E.coli from manure.
By feeding cows antibiotics, our meat industry promotes drug resistance and helps create genetically altered superbugs that can then be passed to produce as fertilizer. The current strain of E. coli that has caused the outbreak appears to be very virulent, making people sicker in dozens of states and causing more kidney failure than is usual for this strain.
A greater degree of vigilance and a new system of coordinated prevention and regulation are necessary to help prevent outbreaks. Studies also have shown that sodium chlorate as well as "pro-biotic" bacteria fed to cows - besides feeding them hay - may help to decrease the prevalence of this deadly strain. Feeding cattle antibiotics is a practice that should be banned.
Beyond the cow, it would help if there were more preventive measures in place on farms, especially in California. Since 1995, nine of the outbreaks in lettuce or spinach have been traced to the Salinas Valley. Currently, state investigators there are still trying to trace the outbreak to specific equipment in the salad factories, belatedly backtracking the spread from Natural Selection Foods out to other salad makers.
This outbreak is best understood by seeing it in perspective. Media-driven fear can cause us to wrongly perceive all salad as unsafe. But this fear also can serve as an important wake-up call.
As a physician, I am very aware of the bacteria or viruses a dog or cat harbors that can infect my patients during a bite. I know how to treat them, but, more important, health agencies are geared to prevent these infections through pet-control programs.
We need the same kind of comprehensive approach when it comes to animal management and food safety. Food safety needs to be better regulated with a more integrated prevention-oriented system involving the Agriculture Department, FDA and a new food safety agency to bridge the gap.
Dr. Marc Siegel is an associate professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine. He is the author of "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear."
Suit filed over bad spinach
- Associated Press, Sept 27, 2006
TOLEDO, Ohio - (AP) -- Five family members who said they were sickened after eating fresh spinach filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a processing company investigators are examining in their search for the source of the tainted greens.
The lawsuit in U.S. District Court seeks at least $100,000 in damages from Natural Selection Foods LLC.
Roger Drummond and Laura Snider, of Bowling Green, said they and their three children became ill in late August and early September after eating packages of organic spinach salad they believe was contaminated with E. coli.
The family suffered from diarrhea, cramping and headaches, the lawsuit said.
The youngest, 1-year-old Amrita Drummond, was hospitalized and tests showed that she was suffering from a highly virulent strain of E. coli, according to the lawsuit.
She suffered permanent kidney damage and will require lifelong care, said attorney David Zoll.
A message seeking comment was left with the company Tuesday, but was not immediately returned.
Health officials tracking the source of the E. coli outbreak from spinach that has sickened at least 175 people nationwide are focusing on Natural Selection Foods LLC, which officials believe packaged the tainted spinach for Dole and dozens of other brands. They're also looking specifically at nine farms in three California counties that supplied the company.
Natural Selection Foods, based in San Juan Bautista, Calif., has recalled more than 30 brands, including Dole, President's Choice, Ready Pac, Trader Joe's, Nature's Basket and Premium Fresh.
Queensland urged to take advantage of new GM technologies
- ABC News Online, 27 September 2006
One of Australia's leading experts in genetically modified (GM) crops says Queensland is in an unique position to take advantage of new technologies.
Queensland and the Northern Territory have not followed the other states in banning GM crops.
The CSIRO's plant industry deputy chief, Dr T J Higgins, says buyers overseas, such as Japan, are opening up to genetically modified products, despite voicing opposition in the past.
"The ironic thing is our major competitor in Canada produces GM canola, mixes it with the non-GM canola and sells it to Japan very competitively with Australia," Dr Higgins said.
"Australia does not get a premium for its non-GM canola in Japan. So I ask myself the question - why are we put at a potential disadvantage to our competitors?"
At the same time, a group of farmers on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula has called for the state's ban on GM food crops to be lifted, to help beat the problem of herbicide resistance.
They want access to glyphosate-tolerant GM canola, to control weeds in no-till farming, saying they are fast running out of other options.
- AgBioForum, Volume 9, Number 1, September 2006
Bt Cotton Adoption in The United States and China: International Trade and Welfare Effects
- By George B. Frisvold, University of Arizona Jeanne M. Reeves, Cotton Incorporated Russell Tronstad, University of Arizona
Many studies report that Bt cotton has led to significant yield gains, reduced insecticide use, or both in different countries. With rare exception, these studies examine adoption in one region in isolation from adoption in others. This article summarizes the global impacts of Bt cotton adoption in the United States and China based on results from a three-region model of the world cotton market. In 2001, adoption of Bt cot-ton in China and the United States increased world cotton production by 0.7% and reduced the world cotton price by 1.4 cents per pound.
Global economic benefits were $836 million. Consumer surplus increased $63 million. Chinese producers gained by $428 million and US producers by $179 million. The fall in world price reduced rest-of-world (ROW) producer surplus by $349 million. Net rest-of-world benefits were $69 million, however, because purchaser gains outweighed producer losses.
Agricultural Biotechnology and Organic Agriculture: National Organic Standards and Labeling of GM Products
- By Konstantinos Giannakas and Amalia Yiannaka, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
The National Organic Program, introduced in 2002, has explicitly linked the markets for organic and genetically modified (GM) products through the provision that organic-labeled food should be free of GM ingredients. This paper models the demand links between the organic, GM, and conventional products and analyzes the market and welfare effects of the introduction of labels for products of biotechnology under the new organic standards.
Who Adopts What Kind of Technologies? The Case of Bt Eggplant in India
- By Deepthi Elizabeth Kolady and William Lesser, Cornell University
The public-private partnership involved in the development of Bt eggplant in India is unique in the context of developing countries, where poor farmers' access to technology is limited. The key questions arising in this context are: Who adopts what kind of technology? What are the factors influencing their decisions? We answer these questions using data from a farm-level survey conducted in Maharashtra, India. Our results indicate that factors influencing hybrid adoption exert similar effects on the expected adoption of Bt hybrid eggplant and opposite effects on the decision to adopt Bt open-pollinated varieties (OPV).
Even though some farmers who decided to grow Bt hybrid eggplant might switch to Bt OPVs when available, most of the early adopters of Bt hybrid would continue to grow Bt hybrid eggplant. Thus, our study gives initial empirical evidence on the economic feasibility of the public-private partnership in the research and development of Bt eggplant in India.
Public Perceptions of Tobacco Biopharming
- By Jonathan Nevitt, Bradford F. Mills, Dixie W. Reaves, and George W. Norton, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
A telephone survey of United States consumers' views on tobacco biopharming indicates widespread support for developing the technology when it generates a socially beneficial application. Perceptions of risks associated with the technology, however, are split: Most respondents either hold concerns in every risk area presented or in none of them. Willingness to purchase a bio-tobacco-based medicine is bimodal as well. These polarized perceptions point to the challenges faced by policy makers who attempt to implement regulatory oversight of biopharming by balancing the broad-based concerns of the public against the potentially significant benefits of the technology.
Potential Regional Trade Implications of Adopting Bt Cowpea in West and Central Africa
- By Augustine S. Langyintuo, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Zimbabwe Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer, Purdue University
This paper used a spatial and temporal price equilibrium model to assess the potential impacts of farmers in West and Central Africa adopting Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cowpea (Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp). The results showed that regional cowpea prices would decrease, leading to increased regional demand and increased supply only in adopting countries. Total cowpea traded and regional welfare would increase, but producers in nonadopting countries would lose. The results thus emphasize regional adoption of any Bt cowpea and suggest that policy makers devise ways of ensuring equitable distribution of benefits.
Does Application Matter? An Examination of Public Perception of Agricultural Biotechnology Applications
- By Andrew J. Knight, Michigan State University
Whereas most research on public perceptions of genetically modified products have focused on first-generation biotechnologies and genetically modified foods, this paper examines public support for a variety of animal and plant agricultural biotechnology applications and explores whether the determinants of support for each application vary by knowledge, trust, benefits, and sociodemographic variables. The data for this study were gathered from 432 adults in a regional Southwestern telephone survey conducted from March 28 through May 4, 2004. The results revealed that the vehicle used (animal or plant) appears to outweigh both the function and type of application, although nonfood applications tended to receive higher support levels than genetically modified foods. Plant applications received higher support than animal applications. Additionally, the determinants for each biotechnology application were different, and their explanatory power varied by application. Only perceived benefits was significantly related to each biotechnology application.
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