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November 30, 2006


You've Got to Embrace the Technology; Future Thanksgiving; Age of Frankenfuels; Top Green Campaigners


Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org - November 30, 2006

* EU Food Policy - You've Got to Embrace GM Technology
* Producers Blast Hungary's Stance on GM Crops
* A Revolution to be Thankful For
* Congressional Tribute to Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Act of 2006
* Dawning of the Age of Frankenfuels
* New Flood-Tolerant Rice Could Help Farmers and Environment
* Impact of GE Crops in Developing Economies: Applied Economics Literature
* Risk Assessment for Bt plants: Two Concepts
* Detecting Gene Flow to Landraces in Centers of Crop origin: Maize in Mexico
* Bt Cotton Has No Effect on Microbial Communities In Soil
* Eco-Freaks: Environmentalism Is Hazardous to Your Health!
* Earthshakers: The Top 100 Green Campaigners of All Time

EU Food Policy - You've Got to Embrace GM Technology

- Emily Smith, European Voice, Nov. 23, 2006 http://www.europeanvoice.com

British farmer David Hill is a believer in progress. "We're only a spot in time," he says. "Look back to where we were 1,000 years ago and where we are now. You've got to embrace technology," he says.

Ten years ago this conviction prompted Hill to become one of the few people in the UK to grow genetically modified (GM) crops. Hill was asked by agrochemicals group Syngenta in the late 1990s to carry out a trial of its GM sugar-beet. The trial was carried out to learn about growing GM crops and not to sell them.

The Norfolk farmer was soon convinced of the new technology's benefits. "The advantages were amazing," he says. "We only had to spray crops once, as opposed to four or five times, so we were using fewer pesticides. There was no hoeing, so we weren't upsetting ground-nesting birds and we didn't have to work all hours of day and night."

In addition, Hill says he was the first person to realise that GM cultivation could remove the risk of crops developing manganese deficiency - a plant disorder which has to be corrected by spraying minerals back onto farmland. Hill followed the one-year pre-trial with a three-year evaluation of the sugar-beet. He then spent a year managing a demonstration site to show people GM cultivation in practice.

But he gave up the demonstration project because of increasing anti-GM activism. "The site just attracted everyone who's against these crops to come along and pull them up." The destruction of biotech crops by environmental campaigners is widely credited with wiping out GM cultivation in the UK.

Hill comes from a line of British farmers. Today he runs a 600-hectare farm in Norfolk that was started by his grandfather in 1932. Until his involvement with the GM trials, his time was divided between conventional and organic farming. The Norfolk farm still produces organic wheat and grass seed, as well as conventional sugar-beet, potatoes, grass seed and meat from a herd of Highland cattle.

But his time spent growing biotech crops has left Hill with a new passion: the need to explain GM benefits to a European audience. He hopes that there will be less opposition now. "Consumers are changing their attitudes" he says. "They are not half so worried about GMs as in the past. They are now much more concerned about food quality. "We've got to keep biotech cultivation in mind," he concludes. "We can't keep holding back technology." (via Vivian Moses)


Producers Blast Hungary's Stance on GM Crops

- Playfuls, Nov. 29, 2006 http://www.playfuls.com/

Hungarian genetically-modified crop producers on Wednesday blasted an amendment to Hungarian law that makes growing the crops impractical.

Hungary's parliament on Monday backed an amendment that restricts the conditions under which GMOs can be planted. Under the new law, a 400-metre buffer zone will have to be established between GMO crops and adjacent fields to prevent cross-pollination.

All landowners within the buffer zone will also have to give written permission to plant the crops. Agriculture Minister Jozsef Graf called the law "Europe's strictest GMO law", and it is precisely this severity that has upset some producers.

Mihaly Czepo of biotech behemoth Monstanto's Hungarian unit told MTI news agency that the rules were unnecessarily strict and could see Hungary lose any chance of becoming a leading regional agricultural producer.

Janos Biro, who is in charge of product development and marketing at Syngenta Seeds in Hungary, said that while the law would seem to allow GMOs to be grown, in reality it would prevent farmers growing any significant amount of crops.

Much of Hungary's farmland is divided in small plots or is run by cooperatives. The legislation had faced opposition from, among others, members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, but MPs passed the legislation with both opposition and ruling party support.

Hungary, a major producer of maize, already had a moratorium in place on the MON 810 maize seed, produced by Monsanto, despite the European Union allowing this crop to be grown. Hungary has come under pressure from the European Commission to end the moratorium; however, the Commission failed in a September bid to force Hungary to lift the ban. The EU is expected to continue to exert pressure on Hungary to change its policy.


A Revolution to be Thankful For

- Dean Kleckner, Nov. 22, 2006 http://www.agweb.com

"Money can’t buy friends," said the British humorist Spike Milligan, "but it can get you a better class of enemy."

Perhaps we need a corollary to this rule: The poor attract a lot of low-class foes. Or so it would seem, after reading last week’s commentary in the Des Moines Register by Eric Holt-Gimenez, a California propagandist.

The Green Revolution "failed: Africa , he claims. And its failures have been "extensively documented."

Say what?

The Green Revolution, sparked in the 1960s by Norman Borlaug, is responsible for massive increases in food production around the world. Improvements in irrigation, fertilizer, equipment, and seed quality made it possible. Millions of people who are alive today owe their very existence to the Green Revolution.

And that may be a conservative estimate. I like what the comedian Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller) once said of Borlaug: "When he won the Nobel Prize in 1970, they said he had saved a billion people. That’s BILLION! BUH! That’s Carl Sagan BILLION with a 'B'! ... Norman is the greatest human being, and you probably never heard of him.”

It appears as though Holt-Gimenez and his Institute for Food and Development Policy, based in Oakland , don’t know much about Borlaug. How else could they dismiss the Green Revolution as if it were a burned and unwanted side dish at a Thanksgiving feast?

Perhaps we should pause, for just a moment, to recognize--and give thanks--for the abundance we enjoy here in the United States . A traditional Thanksgiving dinner remains eminently affordable, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual survey. A meal consisting of turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie, and so on for 10 people should cost $38.10. That’s a slight increase over last year, but still a pretty good deal. On an inflation-adjusted basis, the price of that Thanksgiving feast has declined by about one-third since 1986.

The fundamental reason for this is that we've become incredibly efficient at food production. It costs us less money to produce more food than ever before.

This is a testimony not only to the hard work of American farmers, but also their access to and effective application of new technologies. Agriculture is completely different from what it was a generation ago, to say nothing of the even greater differences since farmers traded in their horses and plows for tractors and combines.

Most Americans don't appreciate this as much as they might because their lives are far removed from the process of food production. But they benefit from it enormously. Throughout most of human history, people couldn’t take food for granted--certainly not the way that we can, as we consume our umpteenth meal of reheated turkey and stuffing this weekend.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for people in developing countries. Malnutrition remains a significant problem. Famine continues to take its toll. Africa bears much of the burden.

Many of its problems aren't, in their fundamentals, even about food: They're about broken political systems that can’t bring peace and the rule of law to their citizens. Without these building blocks of civil society, tasks that ought to be simple--such as feeding children--can become incredible challenges. Sadly, they can even begin to cancel out the many benefits of the Green Revolution. That may be the fault of revolutionaries, but not Green Revolutionaries.

Holt-Gimenez accuses the Green Revolution's modern-day heirs--the folks behind the World Food Prize, the Gates Foundation, seed companies, and so on--of promoting GM foods as a "magic bullet" for global hunger. This is complete nonsense. We advocates of genetically-enhanced crops, starting with Borlaug, are scrupulously careful about our rhetoric. Biotechnology is no panacea, but it is one of many tools that hold great promise for the production of food in the 21st century.

As more countries support this access to technology, they'll give thanks in the future not only to Borlaug and the other fathers of the Green Revolution, but the researchers, philanthropists, farmers and companies that are making possible the Gene Revolution.
Dean Kleckner, an Iowa farmer, chairs Truth About Trade and Technology www.truthabouttrade.org


Congressional Tribute to Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Act of 2006 (Introduced in House)

- U. S. Congressman Tom Latham (IA-04); www.tom.latham.house.gov

HR 4924 IH, 109th CONGRESS, 2d Session; To award a congressional gold medal to Dr. Norman E. Borlaug.

Mr. LATHAM (for himself, Mr. LEACH, Mr. KING of Iowa, Mr. BOSWELL, Mr. NUSSLE, Mr. SABO, Mr. KENNEDY of Minnesota, Mr. PETERSON of Minnesota, Mr. GUTKNECHT, Mr. OBERSTAR, Mr. KLINE, and Mr. RAMSTAD) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Financial Services

A BILL To award a congressional gold medal to Dr. Norman E. Borlaug.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE. This Act may be cited as the 'Congressional Tribute to Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Act of 2006'.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS. Congress finds as follows:
(1) Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, was born in Iowa where he grew up on a family farm, and received his primary and secondary education.
(2) Dr. Borlaug attended the University of Minnesota where he received his B.A. and Ph.D. degrees and was also a star NCAA wrestler.
(3) For the past 20 years, Dr. Borlaug has lived in Texas where he is a member of the faculty of Texas A&M University.

(4) Dr. Borlaug also serves as President of the Sasakawa Africa Association.
(5) Dr. Borlaug's accomplishments in terms of bringing radical change to world agriculture and uplifting humanity are without parallel.
(6) In the immediate aftermath of World War II, Dr. Borlaug spent 20 years working in the poorest areas of rural Mexico. It was there that Dr. Borlaug made his breakthrough achievement in developing a strain of wheat that could exponentially increase yields while actively resisting disease.
(7) With the active support of the governments involved, Dr. Borlaug's `green revolution' uplifted hundreds of thousands of the rural poor in Mexico and saved hundreds of millions from famine and outright starvation in India and Pakistan.

(8) Dr. Borlaug's approach to wheat production next spread throughout the Middle East. Soon thereafter his approach was adapted to rice growing, increasing the number of lives Dr. Borlaug has saved to more than a billion people.
(9) In 1970, Dr. Borlaug received the Nobel Prize, the only person working in agriculture to ever be so honored. Since then he has received numerous honors and awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Public Service Medal, the National Academy of Sciences' highest honor, and the Rotary International Award for World Understanding and Peace.
(10) At age 91, Dr. Borlaug continues to work to alleviate poverty and malnutrition. He currently serves as president of Sasakawa Global 2000 Africa Project, which seeks to extend the benefits of agricultural development to the 800,000,000 people still mired in poverty and malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa.

(11) Dr. Borlaug continues to serve as Chairman of the Council of Advisors of the World Food Prize, an organization he created in 1986 to be the `Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture' and which presents a $250,000 prize each October at a Ceremony in Des Moines, Iowa, to the Laureate who has made an exceptional achievement similar to Dr. Borlaug's breakthrough 40 years ago. In the almost 20 years of its existence, the World Food Prize has honored Laureates from Bangladesh, India, China, Mexico, Denmark, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

(12) Dr. Borlaug has saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived, and likely has saved more lives in the Islamic world than any other human being in history.
(13) Due to a lifetime of work that has led to the saving and preservation of an untold amount of lives, Dr. Norman E. Borlaug is deserving of America's highest civilian award: the congressional gold medal.


Dawning of the Age of Frankenfuels

- Andrew Leonard, Nov. 27, 2006 http://www.salon.com

The World Trade Organization's final decision on the dispute between the U.S. and the European Union over the importation of genetically modified organisms into the E.U. clocks in at 1,148 pages, reportedly the longest ruling in the history of the WTO. Following up on the preliminary decision released by the WTO in February, a panel of judges found that between 1998 and 2003, the E.U. had been operating a "de facto moratorium" blocking GMOs. The ruling did not say that the E.U. cannot ban GMOs on scientific grounds. Instead, it declared that the E.U. had been engaging in "undue delay" in processing import applications, and that individual E.U. countries were wrong to ban products that the E.U. had declared safe.

Now the battle will commence on whether all those words mean anything. On Nov. 21, the E.U. declined to appeal the ruling, arguing that changes made to the application process in 2004 made the ruling moot. In a gorgeous example of passive-aggressive trade diplomacy, European Commission trade spokesman Peter Power stated that "The European Commission has decided not to appeal the GMO decision as the current regulatory provisions are not in any way affected by the judgment... "The impact of that judgment is entirely of historical interest."

The U.S., Canada, Argentina and Brazil, which dominate the world's production of genetically modified crops, will no doubt beg to differ. Canada is already crowing over the news that the E.U. won't appeal, announcing that the decision will result in a boom in canola exports to the E.U.

This is where it gets interesting. Until now, the main factor explaining the lack of popularity of GM crops in Europe has been consumer resistance to genetically modified food. But as Biopact points out, the implications of the ruling open a market for genetically modified energy crops, such as canola oil seeds, which can be used as feedstock for biodiesel.

Is there a difference between food and fuel? Will consumers who refuse to buy genetically modified corn meal also decline to fill up their cars with genetically modified biodiesel or ethanol? In both cases, the big issue is identical: We can't say with certainty what the ultimate long-term impact of introducing genetically modified organisms into the wild (or our bodies) will be. But it's one thing to go with organic produce over "Frankenfood" at the local grocery story. It's quite another to try to replace fossil fuels. If some kind of genetically modified Frankenfuel helps mitigate climate change and the impact of peak oil, consumer sentiment on the evils of GMOs may shift.

Critics of GMOs will likely call the prospect of super-crops coming to the rescue just another techno-fix that fails to address the fundamental unsustainability of how humans currently go about their business on this planet. And if, for example, Frankenfuels require fertilizer inputs that are themselves hugely energy-intensive, they may well be right. But there's too much money to be made in supplying the world's demand for energy to imagine that such critics will be successful in slowing down or halting the discoveries that are incubating in laboratories all over the world.


New Flood-Tolerant Rice Could Help Farmers and Environment

- Robin Hindery, Associated Press, Nov. 28, 2006

Davis, Calif. - Inside a greenhouse on the University of California, Davis campus, a group of rice plants is defying conventional farming wisdom and thriving in a formerly life-threatening environment - under water.

A new variety of flood-tolerant rice soon could make its way from the lab to the field, offering California rice farmers and environmental advocates a potential weapon against both crop-ravaging weeds and water pollution.

The research is the product of a 20-year-old collaboration between UC Davis, UC Riverside and the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. The team isolated a gene within certain traditional rice plants that allows them to survive complete submergence. Researchers then cloned the gene and implanted it into commercially viable rice plants.

The result was a new variety that can survive under water for up to two weeks. Rice plants typically will die if completely submerged for more than a few days. "This gene has actually been known for about 50 years, but researchers were unable to make use of it because it is thought to be quite complex," said Pamela Ronald, a UC Davis-based rice geneticist who has been working on the project for about a decade.

The new plants could benefit the state's rice industry, said Tim Johnson, president of the California Rice Commission. California ranks only behind Arkansas among rice-producing states, with an annual export profit of $200 million. "Right now, you need a combination of water and herbicides to get rice to grow actively, produce a great crop and at the same time compete against weeds," Johnson said. "Our hope is that with submergence-tolerant rice, you could use even less herbicide and still eliminate weeds, which are our number one pest."

At present, the dominant farming method involves planting pre-germinated seeds in a field flooded with about five inches of water, the greatest depth normal rice plants can withstand. Ideally, the plants begin to grow before weeds can catch up to them. Herbicides are applied as an added protective measure.

Those herbicides, while vital to farmers, have caused concern among environmentalists and groups monitoring the safety and purity of the state's drinking water supply. About 95 percent of California's rice - roughly 500,000 acres - is farmed in the Sacramento Valley. Much of the chemical runoff from rice fields flows into the 382-mile-long Sacramento River, the heart of a system that supplies about two-thirds of the state's drinking water.

The rice industry has tried to control its use of chemicals in recent years, contributing to a major reduction in the river's herbicide content, Johnson said. "We have very strict environmental regulations here, and California rice is specifically regulated for water quality," he said.

Rice farmers are required to keep the water in their fields contained for about 30 days after applying herbicides to let the chemicals degrade before they enter the water supply. But farmers' methods and their compliance varies. "Things happen," said Roland Pang, the water quality superintendent for the Department of Utilities in Sacramento.

"If (researchers) are successful in developing a flood-tolerant rice plant, and it reduces herbicide use, then that is a very good thing," he said. "Production would be less expensive, and there would be less exposure to the river."

The cost of fighting weeds has been a growing problem for many farmers. "Weed control of all types is costing us about $150 an acre every year," said Frank Rehermann, who farms 800 acres of rice in Live Oak, about 45 miles north of Sacramento. "Weeds that we have in the fields are getting more difficult to control. Every year, they're a little more resistant to what we put on them."

Greg Massa, a fourth-generation rice farmer in Glenn and Colusa counties, said the new variety also could help organic farms such as his. Most organic farmers use a deep-water planting method as an alternative to herbicides, but the process is risky, he said. "We have to push the rice to the limits of its ability to survive in order to kill (the weeds)," he said. "Flood-tolerant rice could have huge benefits for both conventional and organic rice growers."

Such rice also would help keep planting on schedule during wet spring weather. This year, rice planting was delayed about two weeks due to heavy rainfall. A variety that could withstand submergence would be unaffected by flooding.

Although the benefits to U.S. rice farmers would be significant, it is in developing nations that flood-tolerant rice could have the most immediate impact, researchers say. More than a quarter of the global rice crop is grown in lowland areas that are prone to unpredictable seasonal flash floods. Each year, millions of small farmers in the poorest areas of the world lose their entire rice crops to flooding, a loss that has been estimated at more than $1 billion.

Scientists from one arm of the flood-tolerant rice project, the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute, are testing the strain in southern Asia. Through a variation on traditional breeding, they have successfully developed submergence-tolerant versions of three major local rice varieties, with an additional three on the way in the next few months, said Dave Mackill, one of the institute's lead researchers.

One of the varieties was tested this year in rice fields in India and Bangladesh, but its performance was difficult to rate because there were no major floods in the area, Mackill said.

The UC Davis research team has not yet tested the new plant variety outside the lab but hopes to receive grant money to start working with local growers, Ronald said. For now, the focus is identifying other genes that might contribute to a plant's tolerance for extended submergence.

"We need to start figuring out what these genes do so we can use them for different applications," Ronald said. "Why are some plants more resistant to environmental stresses? The answer to that could help farmers all over the world."


Impact of Genetically Engineered Crop Varieties in Developing Economies: Applied Economics Literature

- Melinda Smale, Patricia Zambrano, José Falck-Zepeda, and Guillaume Gruère, IFPRI, Nov. 2006

Full paper at http://www.ifpri.org/divs/eptd/dp/papers/eptdp158.pdf

A vast literature has accumulated since crop varieties with transgenic resistance to insects and herbicide tolerance were released to farmers in 1996 and 1997.

A comparatively minor segment of this literature consists of studies conducted by agricultural economists to measure the farm-level impact of transgenic crop varieties, the size and distribution of the economic benefits from adopting them, consumer attitudes toward GE products, and implications for international trade.

This paper focuses only on the applied economics literature about the impact of transgenic crop varieties in non-industrialized agricultural systems, with an emphasis on methods.

A number of studies have surveyed the findings for both industrialized and non-industrialized agriculture, at various points in time, but surveys of methods are less frequent and have typically examined only one overall question or approach.

Clearly, the methods used in research influence the findings that are presented and what they mean. Understanding the methods therefore enhances understanding of the findings. Four categories of impact analysis are considered: farmers, consumers, industry and trade.

In part due to methodological limitations and the relatively brief time frame of most analyses, results are promising, but the balance sheet is mixed. Thus, findings of current case studies should not be generalized to other locations, crops, and traits.

The aim of this review is to progress toward the defining a "best practices" methodology for national researchers who seek to produce relevant information about emerging crop biotechnologies for national policymakers. (via checkbiotech.org)


Risk Assessment for Bt plants: Two Concepts


Before a Bt plant is released, and especially before it is authorised for commercial cultivation, tests have to be carried out to check that this will not be associated with any harmful impacts on non-target organisms. The authorisation decision is not always easy for the authorities responsible. On the one hand, they have to reach a result within a reasonable amount of time, while on the other they have to take into account complex ecological relationships.

The first genetically modified Bt maize variety was authorised in the USA over ten years ago. Now Bt maize and Bt cotton are grown on more than twenty million hectares worldwide, and the area under cultivation is expanding. With other plant species too, scientists are looking at ways of using the Bt concept to control harmful grazing insects. But again and again there are discussions about whether the Bt toxin produced in the plant has an effect on other organisms as well as the pest it is designed to control.

In different cultivation regions, different non-target organisms come into contact with the Bt plants and the Bt toxin they produce. Do we need separate research for each crop and the non-target organisms that might be affected by it? Or is it possible to develop suitable standard tests that can be applied effectively and that still deliver comprehensive, reliable results? In the field of biological safety research, this discussion has already begun.

GMO Safety spoke to Angelika Hilbeck and Jörg Romeis. These two scientists work in Switzerland. They represent international working groups dealing with the development of suitable models for the ecological risk assessment of Bt maize on non-target organisms.

Jörg Romeis, Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon Research Station (ART)

Standard tests with representative organisms: Jörg Romeis’s international working group is proposing a step-by-step process. It is based on a sequence of laboratory, semi-field and field experiments. The approach follows the globally established methods for environmental testing of toxic substances and pesticides.

The focus of the research is on standardised tests in the laboratory with various ‘representative organisms’ selected according to a range of criteria. In the laboratory, toxic effects can be identified in a targeted manner and with a high level of statistical confirmation. If the lab tests provide indications of harmful effects, more investigations are carried out and, if necessary, field trials as well. With this approach it is possible to reduce the need for expensive field trials. In some cases they can be avoided altogether.

Interview with Jörg Romeis: "We conduct targeted tests on representative organisms".

Angelika Hilbeck, Institute of Integrative Biology of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, and Managing Director of Ecostrat GmbH (Zurich/Berlin).

Studying the most important organisms in an ecosystem: Angelika Hilbeck’s international working group is advocating a much broader approach. It believes the existing ecotoxicological test methods are inadequate, especially for regions with high biodiversity. In her opinion, the standardised approach with selected ‘representatives’ in the laboratory does not provide enough information to be able to make assertions about effects on biodiversity in the ecosystem. Before a test is conducted in the laboratory, the most important non-target organisms with key ecological functions for the ecosystem in question need to be identified. Laboratory tests are then carried out on these organisms and supplemented by field trials.

Interview with Angelika Hilbeck: "We filter out 10 to 15 species which we then examine in more detail."


Detecting (trans)gene Flow to Landraces in Centers of Crop origin: Lessons from the Case of Maize in Mexico

- Cleveland, David A.; Soleri, Daniela; Cuevas, Flavio Aragon; Crossa, Jose; Gepts, Paul. 2005. Environmental Biosafety Research . 4. 4. 197 - 208.

There is much discussion of the probability of transgene flow from transgenic crop varieties to landraces and wild relatives in centers of origin or diversity, and its genetic, ecol., and social consequences. Without costly research on the variables detg. gene flow, research on transgene frequencies in landrace (or wild relative) populations can be valuable for understanding transgene flow and its effects.

Minimal research requirements include (1) understanding how farmer practices and seed systems affect landrace populations, (2) sampling to optimize Ne/n (effective/census population size), (3) minimizing variance at all levels sampled, and (4) using Ne to calc. binomial probabilities for transgene frequencies. A key case is maize in Mexico. Two peer-reviewed papers, based on landrace samples from the Sierra Juarez region of Oaxaca, Mexico, reached seemingly conflicting conclusions: transgenes are present or "detectable transgenes" are absent. We analyzed these papers using information on Oaxacan maize seed systems and ests. of Ne.

We conclude that if Quist and Chapela's results showing presence are accepted, Ortiz-Garcia et al.'s conclusions of no evidence of transgenes at detectable levels or for their introgression into maize landraces in the Sierra de Juarez of Oaxaca are not scientifically justified. This is because their samples are not representative, and their statistical anal. is inconclusive due to using n instead of Ne. Using ests. of Ne based on Ortiz-Garcia et al.'s n, we est. that transgenes could be present in maize landraces in the Sierra Juarez region at frequencies of .apprx.1-4%, and are more likely to be present in the 90% of Oaxacan landrace area that is not mountainous.

Thus, we have no scientific evidence of maize transgene presence or absence in recent years in Mexico, Oaxaca State, or the Sierra Juarez region.


Transgenic Bt Cotton Has No Apparent Effect on Enzymatic Activities or Functional Diversity of Microbial Communities In Rhizosphere Soil

- Shen, Ren Fang; Cai, Hong; Gong, Wan He. 2006. Plant and Soil. 285. 1-2. 149 - 159.

A transgenic Bt cotton (Sukang-103) and its non-Bt cotton counterpart (Sumian-12) were investigated to evaluate the potential risk of transgenes on the soil ecosystem. The activities of urease, phosphatase, dehydrogenase, phenol oxidase, and protease in cotton rhizosphere were assayed during the vegetative, reproductive, and senescing stages of cotton growth and after harvest. A Biolog system was used to evaluate the functional diversity of microbial communities in soils after a complete cotton growth cycle.

Enzymic activities in soils amended with cotton biomass were also assayed. Results showed that there were few significant differences in enzyme activities between Bt and non-Bt cottons at any of the growth stages and after harvest; amendment with cotton biomass to soil enhanced soil enzyme activities, but there were no significant difference between Bt and non-Bt cotton; the richness of the microbial communities in rhizosphere soil did not differ between Bt and the non-Bt cotton, and close to that of control soil; the functional diversity of microbial communities were not different in rhizosphere soils between Bt and non-Bt cotton.

All results suggested that there was no evidence to indicate any adverse effects of Bt cotton on the soil ecosystem in this study.


Eco-Freaks: Environmentalism Is Hazardous to Your Health!


Tree-huggers may actually be squeezing the life out of the environment.

In book that is alternately alarming, enlightening, ironic, and entertaining, award-winning journalist John Berlau explores the many ways that shortsighted environmentalism actually endangers trees, wildlife, and people. In chapter after chapter, Berlau debunks myths and libels about:

* Global warming and climate change * the dangers of pesticides like DDT * trees and pollution * fuel economy and the auto industry * the threat posed by asbestos * the lifesaving role of dams and levees * plans to "rewild" America

Mother Nature is not a gentle person, and Berlau's pointed reporting reveals the very real dangers to people and their environments when Eco-Freaks prevent us from restraining her.

"Berlau makes a powerful case. . . . Thinking environmentalists who read this book will be forced to revisit at least some of their most deeply held beliefs." -Joel Himelfarb, Washington Times

"Berlau says a lot of things that are not generally known that needed to be said." -Bruce N. Ames, recipient, National Medal of Science, 1998

In Eco-Freaks, award-winning journalist John Berlau provides a much needed and startling expose about how the environmental movement with its radical, shortsighted eco-activists has actually helped amplify the dangers of natural disasters and destroyed the lives and property of millions of Americans.

As Berlau writes, "America . . . is still mighty prosperous, but environmentalism is putting us on the brink of danger as well. As technology after technology that our grandparents put in place is being banned, and new technologies never even come to market, we risk a public-health disaster. Environmentalists have promoted all sorts of doomsday scenarios about population explosions and massive cancer crises from pesticides that have been shown to be false. But now, because we have done away with so many useful products based on those scares, we are in danger of an old-fashion doomsday returning, because we've lost what protected us from the wrath of nature. Indeed, as we will see throughout this book, public health hazards caused by environmental policies are already on the scene." (Hat tip: Andy Apel)


Earthshakers: The Top 100 Green Campaigners of All Time

- David Adam, The Guardian (UK), November 28, 2006

The (British) Environment Agency has invited experts to name the people who have done most to save the planet

From the woman who raised the alarm over the profligate use of pesticides to the doctor who discovered that chimney sweeps in 18th century London were dying because of their exposure to soot, the government's Environment Agency has named the scientists, campaigners, writers, economists and naturalists who, in its view, have done the most to save the planet.

To help celebrate its tenth anniversary, a panel of experts listed its 100 greatest eco-heroes of all time. And it does mean all time: St Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) is there, as is Siddartha Gautama Buddha, who died in 483BC.

Top of the list is Rachel Carson, a US scientist whose 1962 book, Silent Spring, is credited by many with kick-starting the modern environmental movement. Her account of the damage caused by the unrestrained industrial use of pesticides provoked controversy and fury in equal measures. Barbara Young, the Environment Agency's chief executive, said: "She started many of us off on the road to environmental protection."

At number two is the maverick economist EF Schumacher, a German national rescued from an internment camp in the English countryside by John Keynes, who went on to achieve worldwide fame with his green-tinged economic vision.

Jonathan Porritt, head of the Sustainable Development Commission, is third, with the wildlife broadcaster David Attenborough, fourth. James Lovelock, the UK scientist who developed the Gaia theory of life on earth, is fifth.

The US former vice-president turned documentary film maker Al Gore is placed ninth, while David Bellamy, the television botanist who angered some campaigners with his contrary stance on global warming, still makes the list at 18. There are journalists too, including the Guardian's George Monbiot (23) and Paul Brown (80). And some surprises: few would consider an oil boss an eco-hero, but Lord John Browne has done enough to turn BP around to make the list at 85.

Mark Funnell, managing editor of the agency's magazine Your Environment, which published the list, said: "We tend to get incredibly negative about people and their effect on the planet. There are some who have done fantastic things and we wanted to celebrate that."

Not all the candidates have left their carbon footprints on the real world. Tom and Barbara from the BBC TV show the Good Life are at 91 while Father Christmas completes the list at 100, for his "sleek, no-carbon operation".
7 Prince of Wales, Green royal

Once derided for talking to plants, Charles Windsor's passion for the environment and green issues such as locally produced organic foods have won him admirers and brought the issues to public attention. Last year he spoke out on climate change, calling it the greatest challenge to face man.

He said: "We should be treating, I think, the whole issue of climate change and global warming with a far greater degree of priority than I think is happening now."
9 Al Gore, US politician
US former vice president defeated by George Bush in the infamous "hanging chad" recount presidential election of 2000. His long-lasting interest in environmental matters, and climate change in particular, was sealed with this year's release of his film An Inconvenient Truth, which has helped to drive the issue on to the mainstream agenda.
13 Vandana Shiva, Campaigner

Physicist and ecologist, founding director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in India and a leader in the International Forum on Globalisation. She has had a vast impact on a range of issues from forest conservation to GM crops,from world trade policy to organic farming.

Full list at http://environment.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,,1958602,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=1