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Date:

October 17, 2006

Subject:

Tragedy of Hunger; Export Risks from GM; US Ag Institute?; Horsch to Gates Foundation; Attack of GM Chickens

 

Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org - October 17, 2006

* Eliminating Hunger is Today's Moral Imperative
* Investment in Agriculture Urged on World Food Day
* Ensuring Food for All
* Commercial Export Risks from Approval of GM Crops in Africa
* Ag Biotech and Trade Concerns In India: Issues and Policy Options
* Danforth Pushes for Agricultural Institute
* Funding Basic Agricultural Research
* Easing the Burden of Vitamin A Deficiency
* Organic Farming Has No Effect on Nutritional Content, Study..
* Want to Work for the Gates Foundation? (Rob Horsch of Monsanto now does..)
* Genes, Technology and Policy/Applications in Agriculture
* GM Chicken Attacks Tokyo!
--

Eliminating Hunger is Today's Moral Imperative

- Marshall Matz, Des Moines Register, October 17, 2006 http://desmoinesregister.com/

Occasionally, an issue arises that presents a moral imperative to act. Ending slavery was one such issue, as were extending suffrage to all citizens and opposing Hitler in the 1940s.

Today, we face a moral challenge to eliminate the ongoing tragedy of world hunger.

Basic math tells us this hunger is preventable. Our world of 6 billion produces enough to feed 10 billion. Yet almost a billion people go hungry.

According to the World Food Program, 18,000 children perish from hunger each day. That's more people than live in Newton (15,000) or Indianola (14,000).

With the combined scourges of hunger and AIDS, life expectancy in Zambia is 33. In other countries, it's even less.

Eliminating hunger isn't solely a moral issue. There are compelling practical reasons. As Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and founder of the World Food Prize, says, and other experts attest, "You can't build peace on empty stomachs."

Hunger and poverty actively contribute to the rise of terrorism. Hunger, malnutrition and the disease and sickness that they cause undermine human development and drain the entire world economy.

As a country, the United States must do more, and the upcoming 2007 farm bill provides an excellent opportunity for two major accomplishments.

First is to address the worldwide crisis caused by the combined effects of AIDS and hunger.

At the AIDS center run by the Indiana University School of Medicine and Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya, HIV-positive Kenyans receive two prescriptions. One is for AIDS medications, and one is for food. Just like prescriptions familiar to Americans that are labeled "take with food," anti-AIDS drugs don't work on a malnourished body.

Unfortunately, the program does not have access to enough food to fill its own prescriptions. The center's doctors have been forced to start farming operations, and they have been successful. Their large-scale, irrigated farms would make any Iowa farmer proud.

Yet while the doctors' initiative is commendable, their medical education is best used in hospitals and clinics - not in farm fields.

We must supplement the significant U.S. and international effort to fight AIDS with an adequate anti-hunger component. Without a dedicated food-assistance program, investments to fight AIDS will not reach their maximum potential. The farm bill is the perfect place to initiate such a program.

The second program was initiated by former Sens. Bob Dole and George McGovern, who propose ensuring that the 300 million poorest children in the world get at least one good meal a day while at school.

Their global school-lunch initiative would draw children into schools, especially girls, who have in the past been excluded. Education has been shown to lower birth rates, increase human productivity and decrease the rate of HIV infection - three vital components needed to improve living conditions in the third world.

President Clinton, President Bush and Congress have all responded to the senators' plea. This year, Congress appropriated $100 million for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. But to ensure its success, permanent funding must be included in the farm bill at $300 million and increasing gradually in years ahead.

Today in schools across Africa, there are bags of grain labeled "World Food Program; Gift of the United States." Americans have every right to be proud of what we are doing to feed the world. There is no better foreign policy for the United States than feeding the hungry.

But millions of children are still hungry, and we can do more.

The French writer Romain Rolland defined a hero as "someone who does what he can."

It is an important moral challenge to remember as we develop legislation to do what we can - to do all we can - in the global fight to end hunger.

---
MARSHALL MATZ, formerly counsel to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, is chairman of the board, Friends of the World Food Program, and is a featured speaker during World Food Prize week in Des Moines.
--

This is the first in a series of essays written in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the World Food Prize. The prize was founded in 1986 by Dr. Norman Borlaug, the agricultural scientist from Cresco who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work to feed a hungry world.

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Investment in Agriculture Urged on World Food Day

- Voice of America, October 15 2006

Listen at http://www.voanews.com/specialenglish/2006-10-15-voa3.cfm

Seventy percent of the world's hungry live in rural areas

October sixteenth is World Food Day.This day is also the anniversary of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The U.N. agency leads international efforts to defeat world hunger. It was created in nineteen forty-five.

The F.A.O. says more than one hundred fifty countries are holding special events to observe World Food Day. At F.A.O. headquarters in Rome, for example, runners competed in a five kilometer race through the city's historical area. Events in other countries include discussions among experts, press conferences and musical programs.

The message of this year's World Food Day is "investing in agriculture for food security." The F.A.O. says foreign aid for agriculture has decreased during the past twenty years. During the early nineteen eighties, the agency reports nine thousand million dollars was provided each year. In the late nineteen nineties, foreign aid for agriculture had dropped to less than five thousand million dollars a year. Yet, the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that more than eight hundred fifty million people around the world do not get enough food.

The U.N. agency notes that most of the world's farmers grow small amounts of food. But, many face problems feeding themselves. The F.A.O. says agricultural aid could help small farmers make a profit from their crops. Farmers would also be able to feed their families throughout the year and reinvest in their farms. And, they could buy better seeds, equipment and chemical fertilizers to help their crops grow.

Separately, the Nobel Peace Prize for two thousand six has been awarded to economist Muhammad Yunis and his Bangladesh microfinance organization, the Grameen Bank. The award recognizes their efforts to improve the lives of poor people. The Grameen Bank lends small amounts of money to poor people who are unable to get traditional loans, especially women. The money is used for simple projects that help women support themselves.

Mister Yunus says he plans to give his share of the one million three hundred thousand dollar Nobel award to good causes. He says he wants to establish an eye hospital and start a project to produce low-cost food for the poor.

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Ensuring Food for All

- Parvez Babul, New Nation (Bangladesh), Oct 16, 2006. Full text at http://nation.ittefaq.com/artman/publish/article_31569.shtml

The world Food Day today (October 16). So, let us count how many people are hungry--did not get their due food today. How many mothers have not been able to feed their children? How many states tried to fulfill the right to food for the hungry citizens? How many leaders in the world have thought at least one minute to feed the hungry voters today? How long the world will observe the gloomy appearance of the hungry people and their avoidable tragic death? Who will answer to these questions? Is it true that the world has shortage of food to feed the hungry people? No and never. Because 20 percent rich people occupied the 80 percent wealth of the world and the rest 80 percent poor and neglected people can partially utilize the 20 percent share (?)! In fact, the world has ability to feed its more than 6 billion people. But yet why more than 800 million people in poor countries go to bed or live in the street without food everyday?

Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate of Bangladesh said, "Economics has a relationship with peace". That is poor economy is interlinked with poverty, familial, social and political unrest. As a result, poverty hindrances our development and economic growth, creates obstacles to reach the roadmap and goals of progress, prosperity, nutrition, food security, empowerment of women, peace and Millennium Development Goals, especially to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. So, it is appropriately said that 'hungry people are angry people'. That is why we urgently need to 'stand up against poverty', as urged by the Fight Hunger--a Millennium Campaign as interagency initiative of the United Nations. Any way, let us have a look at the causes, magnitude of the problem of poverty, and the significance of celebrating the Food Day.

Food is a basic human right, yet more than 800 million people in the world still go hungry every day. Approximately 1.5 billion people live on less than US$1 a day and every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger. Hunger kills people and takes away the ability to work and learn. It destroys the brilliant generations including children, adolescent and women--though the women are key to food security. Hunger and poverty makes the people poor, weak, angry, sometimes dishonest--as 'necessity knows no law'. Less food means unhealthy, inactive generations, low quality human resource, less ambitious individuals, powerless and dreamless nations. So, food is needed for survival, to generate the population as potential human resource and to ensure basic demand and constitutional human right.

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Commercial Export Risks from Approval of GM Crops in the COMESA/ASARECA Region

- Robert Paarlberg, David Wafula, Isaac Minde& Judi W. Wakhungu; African Centre for Technology Studies, Nairobi, Kenya; 2006 RABESA REPORT IV. Excerpt below. Full study at http://www.acts.or.ke/prog/agriculture/afs_rabesa.html

African governments in the COMESA/ASARECA region occasionally refer to the commercial export risks they might encounter if they were to begin approving the planting of genetically modified (GM) agricultural crops within their own borders. It is well understood that many consumers in some importing countries, particularly in Europe, would prefer not to purchase and consume GM foods, and in deference to such consumers many governments in Europe and elsewhere have placed increasingly strict labeling and tracing requirements on foods with GM content, including imported foods.

Some private importers in Europe have begun to make purchases only from countries that do not plant GM crops, or only from countries that can credibly segregate GM from non-GM crops. Under these circumstances, it is understandable that African governments dependent exports of agricultural commodities to Europe might hesitate to approve the planting of GM crops on grounds of commercial export risk.

These commercial export risks are real, but what is their magnitude? In this fourth RABESA report we estimate the total dollar value of agricultural exports that might be lost by the six countries under study, both in a “worst case” scenario and in a “more likely” case scenario. The worst case is defined as one in which all exports of crops that might possibly be construed as GM-tainted, are shunned by all importers. In the “more likely” case, these products are shunned only by European importers (both EU and non-EU Europe).

We learn from this exercise that even in the worst case most African countries are quite safe from the commercial export risks that might be associated with planting GM crops, because of the product composition of their exports. Most of the crops they currently export – such as coffee, tea, sugar, banana, cocoa, oil palm, or groundnuts – are crops for which GM varieties either do not yet exist, or are not yet being planted anywhere commercially, so even the most GM-sensitive importers would have no reason to shun these products. And most of Africa’s exports of crops that could be seen as GM, such as maize, go not to GM-sensitive importers in Europe, but to other African countries. This makes the issue one that African countries can resolve largely among themselves.

----
Understanding Export Risk Fears
The data presented here suggest that even in the worst case scenario, total agricultural exports would shrink by less than 10 percent in all six study countries, and that in a more likely scenario exports would shrink in all of the study countries except Egypt by much less than 1 percent.

With such small losses as these to contemplate, why do governments in Africa so often mention commercial export risks as a reason not to plant GM crops? In the case of Zambia, where anxieties about export losses were explicitly raised in 2002, the products most often mentioned on that occasion were honey and baby corn. In November, 2003, the President of Zambia’s National Farmer’s Union (ZNFU) made the following statement: The food shortages of 2001/2002 season brought about the issue of GMO relief maize for Zambia. The Government made a stand not to allow GMO maize in the country. This has also been the stand of the ZNFU on GMOs.

A major factor is the position of European importers that if Zambia adopted GMO crops, exports of crops such as tobacco, sweet corn, baby corn and organic products from Zambia will not be accepted. There are two aspects to this statement that call for attention. First, it is not clear why European importers would stop buying tobacco from Zambia in the event that Zambia planted GM crops, since GM tobacco is not currently a commercialized crop anywhere, not even in the United States. Second, it is not clear why European importers would stop buying all organic products from Zambia. The import of organic maize or organic cotton might stop (particularly if Zambians planted

GM maize and GM cotton without adequate segregation from non-GM crops) but the many other organic products grown in Zambia cannot be affected biologically by pollen from maize or cotton plants, so they could remain organically certified even if grown alongside GM maize or cotton. One other way to judge the likely effects on exports of planting GM crops is to consider the experience of the Republic of South Africa, which has been planting GM crops widely and without careful segregation since 1997. UN Comtrade data do not show any significant decline in South Africa’s exports of fruits and vegetables to Europe in the wake of this decision to plant GM maize, soy, and cotton. Table 11 shows significant growth in South Africa’s fruit and vegetable exports to Germany and the UK, specifically, over the past five years:

Thus, the one country in Africa that has gone ahead with the widespread and unsegregated planting of GM crops has not seen its aggregate exports to Europe of fruits and vegetables suffer.

Conclusion: The importance of exports within Africa This trade data review suggests that, except perhaps for Egypt, the study countries in this project need not fear significant commercial export losses if they make a decision to plant any of the GM commodities currently on the market. This is because most of the agricultural products they export (in each case, more than 90 percent by value) have not been commercialized yet in a GM form and could not be seen by importers as “possibly GM.” The trade data also suggest that if the countries in the COMESA/ASARECA region remain concerned about losing maize or maize product exports in particular, they should not be so focused on the more distant import policies of countries in Asia, Europe, or the Arab world.

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Agricultural Biotechnology and Trade Concerns In India: Issues and Policy Options

- Sachin Chaturvedi, World Review of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development (WRSTSD), Vol. 3, No. 4, 2006

Abstract: The introduction of genetically modified products has raised several issues related to safety, labelling and identifying preservation. These concerns have trade specific implications as well.

This paper makes an effort to take stock of broad institutional arrangements which have come up to address some of these concerns viz. a viz. trade obligations. In this context, the role of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) is also analysed. Some of the provisions of CPB are in direct conflict with the WTO agreement on Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary Measures (SPS). This poses severe policy challenges to countries like India where the pace of agricultural exports has risen very recently.

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Danforth Pushes for Agricultural Institute

- Eric Hand, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 15, 2006

With research funding for agriculture at a standstill, Missouri officials are trying to generate momentum for a new $1 billion national institute that would fund agricultural science that could lead to drought-resistant plants, new sources for biofuels and healthier foods.

Former Washington University Chancellor William Danforth is calling for a national institute of food and agriculture and expects that, if such an institute were created, some of the new funding would go to plant scientists in St. Louis.

Danforth headed a U.S. Department of Agriculture task force and found that the agricultural research system was old-fashioned, poorly funded and in need of a healthy dose of competition.

"Important innovations are not going to come from traditional forms of agricultural research. They're going to come from basic science," said Danforth, who published an editorial Friday in the journal Science outlining what he sees as problems in the agricultural research system. "I came to the conclusion that the Department of Agriculture was not doing a very good job of that."

The proposed institute would be modeled after the National Institutes of Health. Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., and Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn., both have introduced bills that would establish the institute, though no action is expected this year.

Federal funding for agriculture research has long lagged behind that of other agencies. For example, this year's research budget of the NIH - $27.8 billion - was 12 times that of the Department of Agriculture. That is partly because life-changing medical advances are easier to grasp, Danforth said. The agricultural research that has made U.S. foods safe and efficient is taken for granted.

"In order to get this good food, we're using too much water. ... We're using lots of energy to get it. And our farmers are faced with more foreign competition than ever before," he said.

Imports could soon overtake U.S. agriculture exports, which have shrunk in the last decade. If fish products are included, the United States has run an agricultural trade deficit since 1997.

Tom Van Arsdall, director of the National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research, says new investment is needed to spur research in biofuels, plant and animal diseases, and foods that could help in America's obesity problem. The proposed institute not only would increase available research funding, but would make scientists compete for that money.

For more than a century, Congress has used formula grants and earmarks to distribute most agricultural research funding to universities and agricultural experiment stations. Danforth says these steady streams make sense for place-based agriculture research - like breeding the best blueberry for western Michigan. "The needs in Minnesota are different from California, which are different from Florida," he said. "On the other hand, if you want to study drought tolerance, you can study it anywhere."

Competitive grants require scientists to submit proposals for the money. Peer scientists rank these proposals on merit. Only 8 percent of USDA research funding is competitive, compared with 90 percent of National Science Foundation research.

If agricultural research money moved to a purely competitive system, states in the Southeast would suffer, while states in the West and northern Midwest would gain money, said Wallace Huffman, an Iowa State University agricultural economist who modeled winners and losers based on research institution quality and prior dependence on federal formula funding. Missouri and Illinois would make modest gains in attracting funding.

Danforth said new funding could go to St. Louis plant scientists, such as those at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur, the research institute that Danforth was instrumental in founding. Huffman doesn't support the elimination of place-based research funds, since his models show that that money has a greater impact than competitive grants on state agricultural productivity.

Van Arsdall says his coalition - which includes many agricultural experiment stations dependent on federal formula funding - would only support the new institute if it were created with new money, rather than by draining existing research programs.

Bills to overhaul agricultural research have been proposed in the past, and task forces have recommended changes time and time again. Danforth hopes the timing will be right next year, when the Farm Bill comes up for renewal. "It's no more certain than the Cardinals winning their next game," he said. "But I think there's more of an urgency than ever before."

*************

Funding Basic Agricultural Research

- William H. Danforth, Editorial, Science, Oct. 13. 2006, Vol. 314. no. 5797, p. 223

A task force established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has urged that the United States modernize its management and funding of fundamental agricultural research.*

As its chair, I am delighted that a bipartisan group in Congress has taken the recommendations seriously and introduced legislation to create a National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within the USDA. NIFA will manage a new program of competitive, merit-based grants for fundamental agricultural research. We recommended first-year funding of $200 million, to grow, if successful, to $1 billion in 5 years.

The committee members all believe that advances in basic biology applied to agriculture will provide important health, environmental, and economic benefits to the United States and other nations. Increases in land productivity will contribute to preserving natural resources. Increased resistance of plants to drought and disease can help conserve precious supplies of fresh water and ensure more bountiful and predictable harvests, contributing to the global battle against hunger and poverty.

Farmers are anxious for value-added products. Microbiological research should improve livestock health and help protect against pandemic transmission of animal-to-human diseases. The development of biofuels should diminish the need for petroleum, a matter of national security for many nations. In September the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, recognizing the opportunities, invested heavily in agricultural research programs to spur Africa's Green Revolution.

The past successes of federally funded agricultural research and education that have provided America and the world with abundant, safe, nutritious, low-cost staple grains at home and around the world do not argue for the status quo. In the past, federal funding for research has been decided by Congress on a regional basis with little or no organized scientific input.

But times change. For more than 30 years, scientific panels have been predicting that important innovations will surely come from a better understanding of the basic biology of plants and animals. The new science needed for seeking such knowledge is neither easily understood by nonspecialists nor specific to regions; drought tolerance, for example, can be studied anywhere. Accordingly, our committee urged that more grants be awarded on the basis of open competition judged for scientific merit. The NIH and the National Science Foundation have shown the way.

Past recommendations of scientific panels in agriculture have gone largely unheeded because traditional forms of research and education remain important and need funding, because Congress has been reluctant to cede some of its decision-making authority to scientists, and because other needs have taken precedence. Meanwhile, criticisms from scientific panels have encouraged those who prepare federal budgets to hold down expenditures. Today the NIH spends nearly $15 on research for every dollar spent by the USDA. The funding for competitive merit-reviewed grants is even more skewed--NIH spending for peer-reviewed research is about $120 for every dollar spent by the USDA.

Fortunately, there is growing recognition among administration officials, members of Congress, production agriculturists, and academics that modern research management and sufficient funds are needed to provide the innovations necessary to address some of our world's pressing challenges.

There is now hope that this visionary legislation will educate us all on the importance of fundamental research to agriculture and speed legislative action. Next year, Congress is set to write a new Farm Bill. I can think of no greater opportunity to make a wise investment for our farmers and our nation than to support a program of peer-reviewed research aimed at providing the knowledge for the next agricultural revolution.
--
1William H. Danforth is chancellor emeritus of Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, and chairman of the board of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis, Missouri.

http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/00000000/NATIONAL.doc

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Easing the Burden of Vitamin A Deficiency

- Stephen Daniells, Nutra Ingredients, Decision News Media SAS Oct. 16, 2006 via Checkbiotech.org

Progress in biofortification of staple crops in the world's developing countries offers more than just a glimmer of hope in finding a solution to vitamin A deficiency, but funding must continue to come from the developed world to help with the science.

According to the FAO, foreign aid for agriculture and rural development has continued to decline since the early 1980s, falling from an annual US$9bn to less than US$5bn by the late 1990s. Meanwhile, 854 million people are estimated to be undernourished worldwide.

One of the most serious of these deficiencies is vitamin A deficiency (VAD), a public health problem in more than 50 per cent of all countries, especially in Africa and South-East Asia, according to the World Health Organisation, and causes blindness in up to 500,000 children each year. The human body converts beta-carotene in the diet into vitamin A.

Programs to deliver supplements and fortified foods to those at risk have achieved much but such programs are not sustainable and dependent on continued corporate generosity. But weak market and functional health infrastructures in many developing countries have diminished the impacts of such initiatives.

This has led to more and more research into the biofortication of plants to explore ways of increasing the vitamin A status. Several humanitarian agencies like Harvest Plus, a global alliance of research institutions and implementing agencies, are actively funding biofortified crop breeding in developing countries.

According the HarvestPlus, "Biofortified varieties have the potential to provide ongoing benefits year after year throughout the developing world at a lower recurring cost than either supplementation or postproduction fortification."

This has seen interest in crops such as maize, cassava and rice, staples of many diets, being identified as potential and important targets for biofortification, either by conventional cross-breeding techniques or genetic modification.

Biofortification of such crops have focussed on breeding crops to contain high concentrations of the pro-vitamin A carotenoid, beta-carotene, which is subsequently converted to vitamin A (retinol) in the human body.

In crops such as sweet potato, cassava and maize, beta-carotene is not involved in any photosynthetic processes and is found bound to proteins or in lipid droplets and is release during cooking. Maize is the preferred staple food of more than a billion people ranging from Latin America to Sub-Saharan Africa, and with an estimated 50 million people in these regions being vitamin A deficient biofortification of this crop could have profound effects.

Using traditional cross-breeding techniques, scientists working with HarvestPlus have reported strains with between 5.0 and 8.6 micrograms of beta-carotene per gram of maize, and some lines have reported to have beta-carotene levels of about 15 micrograms per gram.

These enhanced beta-carotene-containing crops do indeed have an impact on vitamin A status after consumption. A study, published in the October issue of the Journal of Nutrition (Vol. 136, pp. 2562-2567), reported that concentrations of vitamin A in the liver of gerbils eating the high-beta-carotene maize group was 150 per cent that of the control group (0.25 versus 0.10 micromoles/gram, respectively), and equalled that of the group receiving the beta-carotene supplements. Similar studies are needed to test if such bioavailability is repeated in humans, said the University of Wisconsin (UoW) researchers, who were funded by HarvestPlus.

Rice, a food that provides up to 80 per cent of energy intake in some Asian countries is the obvious vehicle for biofortification in these areas. However, numerous studies have concluded that polished rice contains practically no pro-vitamin A carotenoids, making traditional cross-breeding techniques redundant. The work in this area, most notably by Syngenta has been in producing transgenic beta-carotene-rich rice.

The company announced in 2005 that a new GM rice, called Syngenta Golden Rice II, produces up to 23-times more provitamin A nutrients than the original beta-carotene-rich Golden Rice This gives the rice a maximum carotenoid level of 37 micrograms per gram of rice and a preferential accumulation of beta-carotene.

Many challenges remain in this area, most notably, said HarvestPlus, "convincing the undernourished to consume biofortified staples." "Improved mineral content, which generally does not alter appearance, taste, texture or cooking quality, is far less complicated than improving pro-vitamin A content that may alter the colour of the food," said the organisation.

Adding a "transgenic" or "GM" tag to rice also poses challenges to acceptance, as well as attracting attention from anti-GM campaigners in the developed world. Indeed, Greenpeace have been very vocal in criticising the lack of information given on the bioavailability of beta-carotene from the rice in the body, noting that the original variety was also designed to increase intake of this nutrient but children could not get their daily requirement from eating normal quantities of rice.

The promising results from these programs is an important step in alleviating the burden of vitamin and mineral deficiencies worldwide, and offers a valuable contribution to existing nutrition interventions. "It is an essential first step in enabling rural households to improve family nutrition and health in a sustainable way," says HarvestPlus.

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Organic Farming Has Little, If Any, Effect on Nutritional Content of Wheat, Study Concludes

- Science Daily, Oct 16, 2006, http://www.sciencedaily.com

Organically grown wheat may have different labeling and a higher price in stores, but it contains essentially the same profile of amino acids, sugars and other metabolic substances as wheat grown with conventional farming.

That's the conclusion of a German study, which produced perhaps the most comprehensive metabolic profile of wheat from organic and conventional agriculture.

Christian Zorb and colleagues did the research, scheduled for publication in the Oct. 18 issue of the biweekly ACS Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry. They were careful to use an approach that avoided some of the shortcomings of past studies. "The statistical analysis of the data shows that the metabolic status of the wheat grain from organic and mineralic farming did not differ in concentrations of 44 metabolites," they report. "This result indicated no impact or a small impact of the different farming systems. In consequence, we did not detect extreme differences in metabolite composition and quality of wheat grains."

Zorb and colleagues said organic agriculture is at least an alternative to conventional agriculture, noting that it uses less fertilizer and no herbicides or pesticides, while providing the same nutritional quality.

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Want to Work for the Gates Foundation?

- Kristi Heim, Seattle Times, Oct 17, 2006
Full story at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2003308397_gateshires17.html

If you were the richest person in the world out to solve some of the hardest problems on the planet, who would you put on your team?

The newest members of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation include a World Bank vice president, a genetic engineer from seed giant Monsanto, the founder of an Internet company in Africa, and the former chief executive of a $100 million cattle-breeding company.

The Gates vision to remake the world has plenty of capital, flush with the first $1.6 billion infusion of Warren Buffett's estimated $31 billion donation. Now the foundation requires experts to manage burgeoning programs and figure out how to spend twice as much money each year as it did before.

New hires are flocking to Seattle from around the country and the world, demonstrating the foundation's ability to attract top talent. But keeping them all focused on the same goals and values in the midst of such frantic growth is another challenge.

The foundation has hired about 100 people since January, 68 of them for newly created positions. It now has 319 employees, and the flood of job applications averages about 100 per day.

"Having the opportunity to be here now is pretty exciting," said Martha Choe, a former Seattle City Council member who directs the Global Libraries Program. "We're moving quickly, and we're trying to get a lot of things done." Sometimes it's hard to move quickly enough, she said. "I joke that I'm looking around for my motorized Rollerblades."

No part of the foundation has grown as fast as its newest effort, Global Development, which aims to bolster the nonprofit's work in health and education by improving food production, supporting small business through microcredit, and increasing access to computers and the Internet in libraries.

With the breakneck pace of a startup company, Global Development went from a strategic opportunity to be studied to a major program doling out $200 million in grants this year. Since its inception in May, the program has grown to 36 employees.

At its helm is Sylvia Mathews, the 41-year-old former deputy chief of staff to President Clinton, who has been with the foundation since 2001. Mathews said she looks for "people who are experts in their field but also have a proven track record of devising innovative solutions."

Last month she brought in Geoffrey Lamb, a World Bank vice president who had led its Concessional Finance and Global Partnerships arm. Lamb joined the foundation as senior fellow, charged with guiding strategy and forming partnerships with governments. He will work to gather support for efforts such as a pilot program to provide free public Internet access in libraries in Eastern Europe and a major drive to improve farm productivity in Africa.

The foundation also has hired heavyweights from the agricultural industry, such as Monsanto vice president Robert Horsch, a scientist who led genetic engineering of plants at the seed giant. As senior program officer, Horsch will apply the technology toward improving crop yields in regions including sub-Saharan Africa, where the foundation recently launched a major drive with the Rockefeller Foundation.

---
Some people coming from private industries take significant pay cuts to join the foundation, Harrington said. Salaries are generally measured against comparable positions in the nonprofit sector, she said.
According to the foundation's most recent tax filing, its highest-paid employee, Ashok Alexander, who directs the HIV prevention initiative in India, made about $400,000 a year.
--
At the core is faith in the power of science and technology to improve lives. Some of the new global development initiatives head into controversial territory, such as the debate over genetically modified crops. But the foundation says it intends to pursue any options that could help to reach its goal of increasing agricultural productivity in poor countries.

Free giveaways of Microsoft software to libraries in 35 countries, part of the Global Libraries Initiative, could face resistance in places like Europe, where the government has imposed antitrust sanctions. Another challenge will be getting people with such vastly different backgrounds to embrace a common culture. It might not be so easy convincing high achievers with advanced degrees from Ivy League schools to be "humble and mindful."

That motto, one of the principles said to reflect the Gateses' views about philanthropy, originated with Bill Gates Sr., who is the "ultimate conscience" of the foundation, Harrington said.

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Genes, Technology and Policy/Applications in Agriculture

- Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

Read on and Edit it at:
http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Genes,_Technology_and_Policy/Applications_in_Agriculture

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GM Chicken Attacks Tokyo!

- Andy Apel

As the blurb for this video says, "Ever wonder what happens when Genetically Modified food goes bad? Watch this video to find out, and see how future presidents would react."

Greenpeace attempted to dramatize the threats of GMOs with animated vegetables, but as you will see, the threats of a modified chicken are far more monstrous! As someone who's raised chickens (and roosters by default) I would say that the crowing scenes with associated audio are spectacularly well-done.

And as a consumer of chickens, I prefer them well-done.

See the video "Roozilla" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfoavePkzDM


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