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February 9, 2007


Healthful Veggies and Fruits; No Ill Effects; Food vs. Fuel; UC Facts on Coexistence; Denied Profits for Farmers


Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org - Feb 9, 2007

* Q&A: Clive James
* A Tool for Making Vegetables and Fruit Healthier
* Biotech Cotton Improves Yield With No Ill Effects
* Thai Govt Urged to Consider GMO
* Food vs. Fuel
* UC Develops Fact Sheets to Help With Coexistence
* GE Food and Feed Imports, Implications for U.S. Domestic Policies
* India: Bt Cotton Acreage Up 38% This Season
* Public Sector Critical In Delivering Benefits Of Pro-Poor Agri-Biotech Applications
* Law From Biotech Crops
* Understanding the Risks and Benefits of GM Agricultural Products
* Bigmap Database On Genetically Modified Agricultural Products

Q&A: Clive James

- The Financial Express (India), Feb 5, 2007 http://www.financialexpress.com

Industry calls him voice of the global biotech crop industry. Some even refer to him as the bookkeeper and for good reasons. Each year, Clive James, chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), undertakes the daunting task of preparing an exhaustive report on the adoption of biotech crops around the world.

"More important than this is to share knowledge with the society on the benefits of adopting this modern agricultural technology," says the founder of ISAAA that facilitates the acquisition and transfer of agricultural biotech applications from the developed countries, for the benefit of resource-poor farmers in the developing world.

Earlier, he was deputy director general at the Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico, where he worked with Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. "The big opportunity is round the corner and India needs to simplify its regulatory mechanism in order to reap the benefits of modern biotech," he informs Sudhir Chowdhary. Excerpts:

* Why is a significant portion of the farming community paranoid about the adoption of GM crops?
- Almost 53% of the world's population now lives in countries where biotech crops are being approved, used, and are generating profits. In fact, majority of the global population is enjoying the benefits of biotech crops. This is a very conservative estimate because it is based on the 22 countries that actually plant biotech crops today. If we take into account the number of countries that have approved import of biotech crops for food and feed, the number of countries increases from 22 to 51.

Another indicator is that if we look at the adoption from 1996 when we had 1.7 million hectares to 2006 when we have 102 million hectares, biotech crops have registered a 60-fold increase in a period of 11 years. There is no crop technology of any sort that has got this level of adoption rate.

* Why are they so averse and frightened of cultivating these crops?
- When this technology was first introduced, it was the scientists and not the consumers and environmentalists who took a very responsible action and said that this is a new technology. With any new technology, it is important that people are cautious in case there is an issue they have not foreseen. It was a conference in the US that first put across the idea that biotech crops need to be closely monitored in the initial stages of cultivation.

The scientists emphasised that there is need for stringent regulation to make sure that biotech crops are safe and healthy for human mankind. If one were to look at 11 years of regulation, I would say that stewardship has been exemplary. The knowledge base built during these years allows us to do two things: simplify the regulatory process and make it more workable, at least in the developing countries. The challenge for India is to simplify the regulation.

* But, there have been instances in India of people burning the fields with GM crops.
- I am aware of this. In society, you always tend to get people that seem to be on the fanatic side. They are violent in their thoughts. I believe that in India like many other countries, one would find this element. They are opposed to almost everything--globalisation, technology and what not.

* What needs to be done to ensure that biotech crops gain global acceptance?
- The lesson that we have learnt during the past decade is that it is imperative to share knowledge with the global society. Most things we are associated with in our daily lives are capable of damaging us. So, it is a matter of managing them because life with no risks does not exist. There is no situation that is zero-risk. And, those opposed to biotech crops are asking us whether we can guarantee that biotech crops are 100% risk-free. It is simply not possible. I believe that it is important to share the knowledge so that issues that could be harmful are managed effectively.

* Where does India fit into the global scenario of GM crops?
- We are at an exciting time in biotech's adoption. India is emerging as a key leader in Asia. Not just that. Looking at the plant diversity existing here, India could be a test-bed for other countries to adopt GM crops on a large scale. The country tallied the most substantial percentage increase at 192% or 2.5 million hectares to total 3.8 million hectares, jumping two spots in the world ranking to become the fifth largest producer of biotech crops in the world, surpassing China for the first time. While the Americas led the first decade of biotech crop adoption, the second decade is likely to feature significant growth in Asia and its developing countries of India, China and the Philippines, as well as new biotech countries like Pakistan and Vietnam.

* Can we expect to see greater acceptance for genetically modified fruits?
- We have already seen some fruits being developed with GM technology. The one that has been adopted commercially is Papaya. Fruits utilise immense insecticides for their cultivation. The use of biotechnology minimises the use of insecticides. Biotechnology for fruits has not been utilized to full potential. These are high value crops and biotechnology has a promising future in their cultivation.


Genetic Modification - A Tool for Making Vegetables and Fruit Healthier

- Plant Research International, February 08, 2007 http://www.pri.wur.nl/

It is possible to improve the antioxidant action of tomatoes by a directed change in the production of flavonoids by means of genetic modification. This has been shown in doctoral research by Elio Schijlen on the basis of which he hopes to take his degree on Thursday 8 February at the University of Amsterdam.

Schijlen demonstrated that this approach enables tomatoes to produce larger amounts of specific flavonoids and to let tomatoes produce flavonoids they cannot produce by nature. The results show that genetic modification is a possible approach to further increase the health promoting value of vegetables and fruit.

Flavonoids are frequently occurring and important metabolites in plants. About 6000 different flavonoids are known to be involved in various natural processes. The colour of flowers and ripe fruits, e.g., are often caused by flavonoids. But flavonoids also play an important role in other plant processes such as pollen production, disease resistance, and protection against UV radiation.

Because flavonoids are so frequently occurring in plants, they are a permanent component of our food. Part of the health promoting effects of vegetables and fruit is attributed to flavonoids. It may therefore be attractive to increase the amount of flavonoids and/or change their composition.

This was why Schijlen, working at Plant Research International of Wageningen UR, studied the possibilities of steering the production of flavonoids by a directed change of the biosynthesis route via genetic modification. He followed various approaches to achieve this. One approach was to investigate the possibility of increasing the amount of flavonoids in tomato by means of so-called transcription factors, proteins involved in regulating gene activity.

Schijlen also investigated the possibility to produce new flavonoids in tomatoes which might increase the health promoting properties of tomatoes. For this purpose he used genes form other crops such as grape and alfalfa, genes that are involved in certain steps in the biosynthesis of flavonoids in these crops. Both approaches were found to be successful. Through genetic modification Schijlen succeeded in developing tomatoes not only with more flavonoids but also with new flavonoids.

Via biochemical analysis Schijlen demonstrated an increased antioxidant action of tomatoes with flavones and more flavonoles, two specific groups of flavonoids. In cooperation with scientists of BASF Plant Science and TNO, the potential health promoting effects of these tomatoes were tested in feeding studies with mice. Blood analyses showed that that the tomatoes with increased flavonoids had a stronger positive effect on blood properties that are characteristic of a reduced risk of cardiovascular disorders.

With his results, Schijlen has shown that genetic modification can further increase the health promoting effects of vegetables and fruit.


Use of Biotech Cotton Improves Yield With No Ill Effects

- Ken Alltucker, Arizona Republic, Feb 8, 2007 http://www.tucsoncitizen.com

Americans are distrustful when scientists begin tinkering with the food supply by altering crops or cloning animals.

But the practice of planting biotech crops is widespread in Arizona. Arizona's main foray into biotech agriculture is the use of a modified cottonseed designed to wipe out a pest that some say once endangered the state's cotton crop.

The genetically modified seed, known as Bt Cotton, has improved cotton yields and nearly eradicated the pink bollworm. "In my opinion, it probably saved the cotton industry in the state of Arizona," said Bruce Heiden, who owns a farm in Buckeye. "In our farming operation, genetically engineered plants and seeds have removed tons and tons of pesticides. I have been fighting all my life to make pesticides available. Now we're going to learn to live without them."

That's the argument farmers across the United States use as they switch to biotech crops. Those involved in agriculture tout the use of such crops as a way to use fewer pesticides and improve yields of cotton, corn, soybeans, alfalfa or other crops.

Environmental groups abroad, particularly in the European Union, have assailed the use of Bt Cotton over fears that the modified cotton could develop resistance to antibiotics and prove harmful to humans. Those fears have not materialized, according to Bruce Tabashnik, head of the University of Arizona's entomology department. "It is probably the most closely watched (eradication) program in the world. The resistance has not increased," Tabashnik said. Arizona farmers now routinely plant the seed as part of the effort to get rid of the pest.

Wiley Murphy, who farms 500 acres in southern Arizona, said the use of biotech seeds won't restore cotton as one of the staples of the state's economy. The state's production has winnowed over the years as farmers increasingly sell land to developers.

He said the use of modified seeds allows cotton farmers to maximize production while avoiding the harmful effects of pesticides. "Environmentalists should be happy with this," Murphy said. "I don't know of a single case where it has been harmful."


Thai Govt Urged to Consider GMO

- Petchanet Pratruangkrai, Feb 7, 2007 via Checkbiotech.org

Experts advise the Thai government to accept more biotech crops, or else the Kingdom's competitiveness in the farm sector will drop 5 per cent each year.

At a press briefing at the Royal Sports Club yesterday, both Thai and foreign experts in biotechnology shared the same ideas that to adopt biotech crops will increase the country's economic growth. In addition, this will also reduce environment problems in the long run. Despite strong controversy, the demand for biotech crops or genetically modified organism (GMO) plants have risen in many countries during the past 10 years.

Dr Clive James, chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), said Thailand should consider allowing the cultivation of GMO crops not only to strengthen economic growth but also solve environment problems. "Thailand will lose competitive advantage to export rivals who have already adopted GMO plants," James said, adding that world economic powerhouses like China and the US and fast-growing economies like India and the Philippines wre growing engineered crops.

Vietnam is considering introducing biotech crops soon, said James. So far, 22 countries have adopted biotech technology to increase production. It is expected that the number of nations that will accept more GMOs will increase to 40 in 2015. Last year, there were 102 million hectares world-wide growing biotech crops and this figure is forecast to reach 200 million in 2015.

James clarified that biotech crops would not only help improve productivity and income for farmers, but also reduce environmental impact and give more social benefits. According to ISAAA research, biotech crops will jump yields by 50 per cent compared with 5 per cent for general crops. From 1996 to 2005, biotech crops contributed more than US$27 billion (Bt863 billion) to the global economy.

Asked about the side-effects of biotech, James said there should be no disadvantageous impacts after more than 10 years of planting GMO crops in many countries. He also pointed out that Thailand has imported GMO soybeans and maize for domestic consumption since 1996, without any side-effects until now.

Moreover, he said Thailand would gain the benefit of becoming an alternative fuel supplier if the country adopts biotech crops, for instance, for cassava plantations. Thailand has the capability to be the leader in GMO cotton and papaya and to grow both plants commercially. The research has been conducted but the country has yet to transfer the knowledge to farmers.

Dr Sutat Sriwatanapongse, president of the Biotechnology Alliance Association, urged the Thai government to allow field tests in the country. Permission will also allow Thailand to study more about the advantages and disadvantages of biotech crops.

The government should make quick decisions and give farmers the choice of GMO plants, he said. Thai researchers can produce GMO seeds and the country does not need to import them, he said.


Food vs. Fuel

- John Carey, Adrienne Carter and Assif Shameen, Business Week Febr 8, 2007 http://www.businessweek.com

'As energy demands devour crops once meant for sustenance, the economics of agriculture are being rewritten'

Greg Boerboom raises 37,000 pigs a year on his farm in Marshall, Minn. Those hogs eat a lot of corn--10 bushels each from weaning to sale. In past years he has bought feed for about $2 a bushel. But since late summer, average corn prices have leapt to nearly $4 a bushel. To reduce feed costs, he sells his pigs before they reach the normal 275 pounds, and keeps them warmer so they don't devour more food fighting off the cold. Still, Boerboom hopes just to break even. "It's been a pretty tight squeeze on pork producers," he says. "The next eight months will be really tough."

The spike in the price of corn that's hurting Boerboom and other pork producers isn't caused by any big dip in the overall supply. In the U.S., last year's harvest was 10.5 billion bushels, the third-largest crop ever. But instead of going into the maws of pigs or cattle or people, an increasing slice of that supply is being transformed into fuel for cars. The roughly 5 billion gallons of ethanol made in 2006 by 112 U.S. plants consumed nearly one-fifth of the corn crop. If all the scores of factories under construction or planned go into operation, fuel will gobble up no less than half of the entire corn harvest by 2008.

Corn is caught in a tug-of-war between ethanol plants and food, one of the first signs of a coming agricultural transformation and a global economic shift. Ever since our ancestors in the Fertile Crescent first figured out how to grow grains, crops have been used mainly to feed people and livestock. But now that's changing in response to the high price of oil, the cost in lives and dollars of ensuring a supply of petroleum imports, and limits on climate-warming emissions of fossil fuels. Farms are energy's great green hope. "Economics, national security, and greenhouse gases have created a perfect storm of interest," says John Pierce, vice-president for bio-based technology at DuPont, which is making fuel and chemicals from plants.

Indeed, a massive expansion of biofuels is the one policy that has support from Democrats and Republicans and from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. In his Jan. 23 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush called for 35 billion gallons of renewable fuels per year within 10 years, enough to replace 15% of gasoline burned in American cars and trucks. Congress is considering measures that would require 60 billion gallons by 2030. And the fervor for greener fuels isn't just a U.S. phenomenon. Europe is requiring that 5.75% of diesel fuel come from plants by 2010, while Japan and others line up contracts to buy biofuels to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The consequences, while still uncertain, are impossible to ignore. According to the most optimistic estimates, which involve a switch to still-unproven energy crops, replacing U.S. consumption of gasoline with biofuels would take at least 50 million more acres of American cropland. Some put the figure far higher. Meeting Bush's mandate with corn ethanol alone isn't even feasible, because it would mean an additional 80 million acres of corn. Eliminating gasoline entirely could require more than double today's 430 million acres of cropland, by some calculations. Bioenergy threatens to eclipse food, livestock feed, and all other uses "as the major driver of American agriculture," testified Iowa farmer John Sellers at a recent Senate Agriculture Committee hearing.

Already, the growing demand for biofuels is bringing major expansions. Last fall, Singapore was enveloped in choking haze from forest fires set to clear land to plant oil palms. The palms will supply 90 biodiesel plants under construction in Malaysia and Indonesia. Biofuels are "a key engine of growth," says Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. If the bioenergy boom continues, Agriculture Dept. chief economist Keith Collins foresees boosts in sugar cane and other crops everywhere from Thailand and Australia to Brazil and Central America. "It starts to change the landscape of agriculture," he says.

Whether this is good or bad is a matter of intense debate. At one extreme is Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute. He warns of a coming "epic competition between 800 million people with automobiles and the 2 billion poorest people," and predicts that shortages and higher food prices will lead to starvation and urban riots. "I don't think the world is ready for this," he says. Dow Chemical Co., which is turning soybeans into foam for furniture and car seats, worries about rising demand. "There's only so much biologically based stuff around," says William F. Banholzer, corporate vice-president and chief technology officer. With chemical companies competing with fuel and food over the supply of certain crops, "it's not a very rosy picture," he says. Nor is the conversion of ecologically valuable forests to oil palm in Malaysia or sugar cane in Brazil. "Why are we burning our forests to plant something that we have been told will be clean, environmentally friendly fuel?" asks S.M. Idris, chairman of environmental group Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth). "This is technology gone mad."

In addition, biofuels are expected to bring a rare permanent change in farm economics. "People had grown accustomed to $2-per-bushel corn. That's not going to happen anymore," says Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Assn. Higher corn prices are already rippling though the economy, lifting prices for soybeans and other crops, and products like tortillas. Next could be meat, poultry, and even soft drinks. Chicken producers estimate that the industry's feed costs are already up $1.5 billion per year. "Ultimately, these increases will be passed on to consumers, and we could have a fairly dramatic inflation scenario for food costs," says William Lapp, president of consultant Advanced Economic Solutions.

Is all this really so bad? Pessimists, in fact, are a minority in debates about food vs. fuel. Lapp notes that food is now at its cheapest level, historically. "It'll be easier to pass on the food increases because we're spending a smaller portion of our disposable income on food than in the 1970s," he says. And some experts even argue that a boost in food prices could be beneficial to Americans' health. A doubling of corn prices makes corn syrup more expensive, lifting the price of a bottle of soda by 6 cents, calculates David Morris, vice-president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minneapolis. That might lead people to consume less. "If Americans reduce our input of sugar, we could make 2 billion more gal. of ethanol and help overcome our obesity problem," he says.

And while grocery bills could rise modestly, higher agricultural commodity prices are a boon in many ways. Corn farmers are having a rare period of prosperity, and the federal government is getting a break. In 2006, Uncle Sam gave corn farmers $8.8 billion in subsidies. Thanks to high corn prices, subsidies are expected to drop to $2.1 billion in 2007. "All the price-dependent spending is getting wiped out," explains the USDA's Collins.

Higher incomes for farmers also mean healthier rural economies and more jobs in the U.S. and around the world. Contrary to Lester Brown's grim scenarios, "[biofuel] could be a lifesaver for Third World countries," argues Morris. "It can help keep farmers on the land without providing huge public subsidies." Plus, crop-based fuels could shift the global balance of power, as countries grow enough of their own fuel to cut back on imports from OPEC and other oil producers.

In the most optimistic scenarios, the world will move smoothly to biofuels through increased farm acreage, higher yields, and new crops and technologies. "Don't underestimate the ability of U.S. and global agriculture to respond to higher prices," says Collins. Farmers already plan to seed 10 million more acres of corn this spring. Some even worry about overshooting demand. "There's an old saying that goes, Farmers will see a hole in supply and put a pile on top of it,'" jokes Illinois farmer Steve Pitstick, who's shifting most of his soybean field to corn.

Corn is just the first step. It's a lousy raw material for fuel because producing 10 gallons of ethanol consumes the energy equivalent of about 7 gallons of gasoline, and greenhouse gas reductions are minuscule. That's why the key will be changing to more environmentally friendly sources, such as agricultural waste, trees, or new crops. Pine groves in the South could supply 4 billion gal. of ethanol a year and revitalize declining rural communities, says Georgia Tech's Roger P. Webb. Stanford University biologist Chris Somerville calculates that, with the right plants, 3.5% of the earth's surface could supply all of humanity's energy needs, compared with 13% now used for agriculture. One of the best candidates: perennial prairie grasses. Their deep roots store carbon captured from the air, improve soils, and require little water. Companies are now trying to breed the most productive varieties. Only 49 million acres could supply 139 billion gallons of ethanol a year by 2030, figures venture capitalist Vinod Khosla. "Farmers will be better off, the world will be less dangerously dependent on the Mideast, and we will take a giant step in greenhouse gas reductions," he argues. "There is little downside."

Of course, a lot could go wrong along the way. Methods to turn the cellulose from prairie grass into fuel may be hard to scale up. A host of unintended consequences could appear. And if the price of oil drops significantly, the whole biofuels bandwagon could come to a shuddering halt.

But a new world seems inevitable. "We have to be prepared for dramatic change in agriculture," says Nebraska pork farmer Joy Philippi. "There will be a tremendous shift."

The Global Consequences of Using Crops for Fuel
Higher Costs on the Hoof - With nearly 20% of the U.S. corn crop already being turned into ethanol, prices have doubled since last summer. That means higher feed costs for chickens, pigs, and cattle--and higher prices for meat and poultry at the grocery store.

Flower Fuel for Cars and Trucks- Fields of rapeseed in Germany are helping Europe move toward its goal of making 5.75% of diesel fuel from plants. Growing demand for the plant's oil is pushing up prices for the crop's other uses, cooking oil and protein meal.

Forests Cut to Make Room for Fuel Crops- The air across Indonesia and Malaysia was thick with smoke last fall as farmers cleared land for oil palm plantations. The two countries are building scores of factories to turn the oil from the plants into biodiesel for export.


UC Develops Fact Sheets to Help With Development of Coexistence Programs


This week, the University of California (UC) Agricultural and Natural Resources Program published 13 fact sheets that outline basic information about the production and safety of biotech crops, foods, animal feed, and animals. UC experts developed these fact sheets to provide accurate information on the issue to farmers, environmentalists, lawmakers, and consumers, as an important first step in supporting coexistence discussions. UC experts hope that the information will help counties and state agencies as they develop coexistence plans for organic farmers, farmers producing products for markets that reject biotech crops, and farmers who plant biotech crops. The free, downloadable fact sheets are available online and include:

* Introduction to Genetic Modification, by Peggy Lemaux
* Plant Genetic Engineering and Regulation in the United States, by Alan McHughen
* Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods, by Carl Winter
* Genetic Engineering and Pollen Flow, by Norman Ellstrand
* Genetic Engineering and Animal Feed, by Alison Van Eenennaam
* Genetic Engineering and Animal Agriculture, by Van Eenennaam
* Genetic Engineering and Fish, by Van Eenennaam
* Plant Genetic Engineering and Intellectual Property Protection, by Brian Wright
* Some Food and Environmental Safety Issues with GE Products: A Scientific Perspective, by Lemaux
* Genetic Engineering and Organic Production Systems, by Pamela Ronald and Benny Fouche
* Methods to Enable Coexistence of Diverse Production Systems Involving Genetically Engineered Cotton, by Robert Hutmacher, Ron Vargas, and Steven Wright
* Methods to Enable Coexistence of of Diverse Corn Production Systems, by Kent Brittan
* Methods to Enable Coexistence of Diverse Production Systems Involving Genetically Engineered Alfalfa, by Dan Putnam
Achieving peaceful coexistence with biotechnology is a goal of UC program

Foods that are genetically engineered or with GE versions under study. (Photo: USDA ARS)

Growing genetically engineered (GE) crops in the United States continues to stir debate, but some University of California scientists believe attention should now be focused on how farmers opposed to the technology and those in favor of it can step back from the controversy and successfully produce and market their crops in the way they personally see fit.

“A debate is being fueled by the perception that there has to be a choice between either organic agriculture or genetic engineering,” said Alison Van Eenennaam, a University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology. “This ignores the possibility that different production systems can coexist alongside each other.”

Coexistence depends on establishing and implementing practical measures to ensure the integrity of crops destined for different markets. The first step, say some UC experts, is providing accurate information on the issue to farmers, environmentalists, lawmakers and consumers. UC’s biotechnology workgroup has crafted 15 fact sheets, reviewed by scientific experts for accuracy, outlining basic information about the production and safety of GE crops, foods, animal feed and animals.

The information will help counties and state agencies as they hammer out coexistence plans for organic farmers, farmers producing products for markets that reject GE crops, and farmers who consider GE crops necessary to compete in the global marketplace.

Interest in the use of GE in California agriculture began in earnest when Measure H, Mendocino County’s ordinance that banned the growth and propagation of GE plants and animals, was passed in March 2004. Subsequently, the Trinity County Board of Supervisors passed a similar measure imposing a ban within county borders and ballot initiatives like Mendocino’s were considered in Marin, San Luis Obispo, Butte and Humboldt counties. (Only the Marin initiative succeeded.) Groups opposed to the use of GE in California agriculture remain active in a number of California counties.

“The discourse regarding genetic engineering is often being inflamed by alarming assertions and facts that are not derived from, nor are they supported by, scientific research,” Van Eenennaam said. “There is a continued need to ensure that the public has access to science-based information and educational materials.”

According to a report released in December 2006 by the Pew Charitable Trust, 34 percent of Americans say they believe genetically modified foods are safe, 29 percent say they are unsafe and 37 percent had no opinion. According to a UC fact sheet, scientific evidence to date has indicated that foods developed using GE pose no greater risk to consumers than foods produced using traditional methods.

In the Pew study, consumers consistently underestimated their consumption of GE foods, with just 26 percent believing they have eaten such foods and 60 percent believing they have not. In fact, it is likely that all U.S. consumers have eaten foods containing some ingredients derived from GE crops.

"Seventy-five percent of processed foods contain genetically modified ingredients – things like cotton seed oil, soy protein, canola oil and high fructose corn syrup,” said UCCE biotechnology specialist Peggy Lemaux, author of two of the fact sheets.

A primary concern of growers producing food for GE-sensitive markets is the potential for some unintended presence of GE material in their product. A small amount of engineered genes in non-GE food can result from pollen flow or unintentional mingling during post-harvest storage, transportation or food processing. One hundred percent purity of any processed product, Lemaux said, is not achievable. Tolerance levels for unwanted material are applied in every crop sector, from certified seed to mainstream commodity production.

“The only way we can have coexistence is if both sides are willing to work together to ensure that they can successfully deliver products that meet their customers’ tolerance thresholds,” Lemaux said. “An achievable tolerance level for unwanted material in an end product is probably 1 percent or less. In Europe, products with 0.9 percent GE presence are marketed without labeling.”

San Luis Obispo County officials are currently developing a protocol for coexistence of GE and non-GE crops. The majority of voters there rejected Measure Q in 2004, which would have banned GE crops. But at the polls, nearly 50,000 individuals expressed their support for the ban.

At the request of the board of supervisors, San Luis Obispo County agricultural commissioner Bob Lilley assembled a committee to develop coexistence methods. UCCE horticulture advisor Mary Bianchi served as a member, supplying technical information from UC. Many questions raised by the committee are addressed in UC’s new series of fact sheets. The committee’s recommendations for coexistence were presented to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors last summer.

“One of the primary considerations is communicating where and when GE crops are grown to minimize GE presence in non-GE foods,” Bianchi said. “This has been done successfully for years by seed producers with mapping systems that identify where their certified seed fields are planted so that other seed producers can plan their planting strategies around the existing crops. We are exploring development of a similar notification process for county growers.”

Lemaux believes the efforts in San Luis Obispo County may serve as an example for other counties in California or regulators at the statewide level to implement policies that will allow for peaceful coexistence of those who favor GE crops and those who do not.


GE Food and Feed Imports, Implications for U.S. Domestic Policies

- Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, Feb 8, 2007 (Conference Proceedings) http://pewagbiotech.org/events/0907

In September 2006, the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology held a workshop in Washington, D.C., examining issues related to the potential importation into the U.S. of new varieties of genetically engineered (GE) crops and the various implications this could have on the U.S. regulatory system and food industry.
Over the course of the two-day event, food processors, growers, federal regulators, international trade experts and representatives of public interest groups gathered to discuss the many issues that could arise should GE imports become more commonplace and to consider how various stakeholders, including federal regulators, could respond.

Some of the key issues discussed in the proceedings include:
The difficulties that would be faced by U.S. government agencies and the U.S. food chain in attempting to identify potential GE imports, and the multiple authorities that exist to control their entry or sale.
A possible increase in the accidental mixing of GE with non-GE products as more countries begin cultivating transgenic food crops.

The risks posed by GE imports may be more serious for business interests than consumer health. Even in cases where there is no public health concern, the accidental or unknown introduction into the U.S. food supply of a GE product developed overseas that has not undergone U.S. regulatory scrutiny could pose significant economic risks for U.S. companies.

The need for international discussion aimed at developing a rational system for monitoring and enabling trade in GEOs that can ultimately benefit producers of GE products worldwide and those in the food industry.
An overview of the conference agenda and the full paper from the workshop, entitled Commercial, Safety, and Trade Implications Raised by Importation of Genetically Engineered Ingredients, Grain or Whole Foods for Food, Feed or Processing, can be viewed at: http://pewagbiotech.org/events/0907.

For more information contact: Kara Flynn (202) 347-9044, ext. 222, kflynn@pewagbiotech.org


India: Bt Cotton Acreage Up 38% This Season

- Indian Express, February 7, 2007

Mumbai - The Bt cotton acreage moved up 38% cultivated in 34.61 lakh hectares across India during the current cotton season, which started from October. According to the data released by the directorate of cotton development, acreage area-wise among the states, Maharashtra is on the top with Bt cotton cultivation in 16.55 lakh hectares.

Andhra Pradesh is in the second position in terms of Bt cotton acreage in 6.57 lakh hectares, which is around 69.3% of the total area of the state. Bt cotton cultivation jumped remarkably within four years after it was introduced in the country during 2002-03. The acreage would have gone up if the availability of seeds been adequate as per the demand.

Bt cotton prices came down considerably, which helped growers going for Bt cotton cultivation. According to the report, Bt cotton seed packet sufficient to cover one acre cost Rs 750 during 2006-07 in most states as against Rs 1,600 during last year. Currently, 41 Bt cotton varieties developed by about 15 private seed firms are approved for cultivation in the North, Central and South zones.


Public Sector Critical In Delivering Benefits Of Pro-Poor Agri-Biotech Applications

- Crop Biotech Update, isaaa.org

There is a growing gap between private and public investments in agricultural research. As the global investment trend by the private sector is increasing, those from the public sector have remain unchanged or has decreased, says David Spielman of the International Food Policy Research Institute in his review paper published by the Food Policy journal.

Agricultural biotechnology offers more possibilities in increasing food and feed production than the Green Revolution. However, Spielman believes that for ag-biotech to help alleviate poverty, the leadership role of the public sector should be strengthened, along with increasing partnerships, and new policy and organizational mechanisms for delivering products of the technology.

Other aspects where the current ag-biotech institutional design can improve include knowledge exchange, tackling market constraints, and addressing shortages of funding and capacity in national research systems. The improvements in the institutions that govern the research activities of public organizations is just one way of helping remove impediments to pro-poor technological change in agriculture. The private sector should also be encouraged to be involved in more pro-poor research, Spielman concluded.

The review paper can be accessed by journal subscribers at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2006.05.002


Law Denies Local Farmers Rich Profits From Biotech Crops

- New Straits Times (Malaysia), February 8, 2007

Kuala Lumpur: As biotechnology crops bring in incomes worth millions of ringgit to farmers elsewhere, Malaysia can only stand on the sidelines constrained by legislation - or rather the lack of it. The last decade brought a total income of US$27 million (RM94.5 million) from such crops to farmers, many of whom fall in the small, resource-poor category, in 22 countries

While the fastest adopted crop technology makes its way across the globe, Malaysia's Biosafety Bill is still struggling to make it to Parliament, despite the fact that discussions started as early as 2000. "We are lagging in terms of legislation and we are losing out," said Mardi's Biotechnology Research Centre director Dr Umi Kalsom Abu Bakar. The centre is carrying out research on crops such as papayas, pineapples, orchids and pepper.

Malaysia is not ready to commercialise its biotech products and farmers are unable to enjoy the benefits of imported seeds - simply because it is against the law to import such seeds. In other countries, farmers are allowed to buy imported seeds and gain experience in farming with such seeds, said Umi, while waiting for homegrown technologies to come through. "Now we are even losing out on that experience," she said.

The benefits of adopting biotech crops goes beyond the mere boost in income, providing social and environmental benefits as well. The higher yield per hectare and double crop production on the same area is a process which discourages deforestation, said International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Application chairman Dr Clive James,

Dr James was in Malaysia recently to present the 2006 Global Status of Commercialised Biotech/Genetically Modified Crops report, considered to be the most authoritative source about the status of commercial use of GM crops. He said that genetically modified food were as safe as normal food and predicted a global rising trend in the adoption of GM crops.


Understanding the Risks and Benefits of GM Agricultural Products

- April 18, 2007, Gateway Center, Ames Iowa http://www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/bigmap/home.html

4th Annual BIGMAP Symposium, Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products (BIGMAP), Iowa State University

Sally McCammon, Science Office, USDA Biotechnology Regulatory Services (invited)
Alan McHughen, University of California – Riverside
Alan Raybould, Syngenta
Felicia Wu, University of Pittsburgh

Bigmap Database On Genetically Modified Agricultural Products

- Crop Biotech Update, isaaa.org

The Iowa State University has founded the Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products (BIGMAP), to provide science-based analysis of the risks and benefits of genetically modified agricultural products (GMAPs). BIGMAP is developing a database of the properties of selected GMAPs, with special reference to their utility and biosafety. Development of this database into a comprehensive Knowledge Base on GMAPs is now being proposed. It is expected to focus on transformed plants and animals, their expressed traits, and their products as a means of communicating knowledge concerning their safety and utility to those who need it, including scientists, breeders, regulators, universities, industry and the public.

To participate in the Expert Consultation, to be held at Iowa State University, Ames IA, USA, on April 19-20, 2007, please contact Dr Peter Scott, Consultant, p.scott@cabi.org.