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March 10, 2007


USDA Update for Rice Industry; GM crops get a subsidy boost; Biotech drives new products, techniques; Cloning, biotech issues puzzle consumers


Today from* AgBioView, http://www.agbioworld.org March 10, 2007

* USDA Update for Rice Industry
* GM crops get a subsidy boost
* Biotech drives new products, techniques
* Cloning, biotech issues puzzle consumers


Update for Rice Industry Regarding Clearfield 131 Long-Grain Rice Seed

- US Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), March 9, 2007, http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/content/2007/03/CL131update3-9-07.shtml

Testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of trace levels of genetic material not yet approved for commercialization in Clearfield 131 (CL131) rice seed. Based on these test results, further distribution or planting of 2005, 2006, or 2007 registered or certified CL 131 seed is prohibited. This seed is not an option for planting this crop season.

These test results confirm results received from private testing that were announced on Monday, March 5.

APHIS is issuing emergency action notifications (EANs) to distributors of 2005, 2006, or 2007 registered or certified CL131 rice seed--and producers who are known to have received it--to stop the further distribution and planting of this seed. And, APHIS is working with the rice industry to inform distributors and farmers with saved CL 131 rice seed from prior crop years that they cannot further distribute or plant it.

Producers who have already planted CL 131 seed this season prior to this announcement have several options, including treating with an herbicide or mechanically destroying the plants after emergence. A different variety of rice or a broadleaf crop such as soybeans can then be planted in its place. For further information about these options, please contact Thomas Sim, Director of Regulatory Operations for APHIS' Biotechnology Regulatory Services program, at (301) 734-7324.

APHIS will provide additional information next week regarding options for any producers or distributors currently holding saved CL131 seed from previous crop years.


GM crops get a subsidy boost

- Ashok B. Sharma, Financial Express, March 10, 2007, http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=157253

To promote genetically modified (GM) crops in the country, the government has announced a special subsidy package. The National Horticulture Board in its recent document has announced backed-ended capital investment subsidy for projects developing genetic modified organisms (GMOs) and bio-technology.

The NHB has also proposed similar subsidy for high-density plantations, micro-propogation or tissue culture for mass production of "true-to types", hi-tech cultivation under controlled climatic conditions like poly-houses, green houses and net-houses, rainfed production through efficient water management techniques, nursery management for quality seed and planning material production, hybrid seed production, organic farming, hydroponics for year-round quality production and for use of plastics in horticulture.

Priority areas have also been defined to include export-oriented units, projects in cooperative sectors, projects in Northeast, and those involving women entrepreneurs. No GM horticulture crops have so far been approved for commercial cultivation, while a number of them are in the pipeline.

Exporters have expressed apprehensions that the introductions of GM food crops are likely to affect exports.

Speaking to FE, executive director, Centre for International Trade in Agriculture Agro-based Industries (CITA), Vijay Sardana, said: "The government should formulate an uniform policy on genetic modified organisms, taking into consideration their trade aspects. A public interest litigation is pending before the Supreme Court and the apex court has imposed a temporary ban on any fresh approval of GM crop trials. The commerce ministry has already asked the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) not to approve field trials of GM crops in agri export zones. All these point to the need for a clear-cut policy on genetic modified organisms."


Biotech drives new products, techniques

- Randy Buhler (CSU Cooperative Extension, Logan County Agent, Agronomy), High Plains Journal, http://www.hpj.com/archives/2007/mar07/mar12/Biotechdrivesnewproductstec.cfm

A seed company representative recently commented that when he started in the business his company had 12 hybrids. Now he has over 300 to market. This example illustrates the complexity and opportunity of modern farming techniques and products a farm manager must consider for his cropping operation.

Biotechnology is the driving force behind the development of these new products and techniques. Putting insect resistance, herbicide tolerance, yield enhancements, and other genetic traits into our crops is proving advantageous to farmers that use them.

The ISAAA released Brief 35, titled Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2006, recently. The ISAAA is a non-profit charity facilitating the adoption of crop biotechnology applications to relieve poverty particularly in countries with resource poor farmers. They maintain a website at www.isaaa.org.

In 2006, there were 252 million acres planted to biotech crops by 10.3 million farmers in 22 countries. This was the eleventh year of commercialization of biotech crops. In 2005, there were 222 million acres planted by 8.5 million farmers in 21 countries. The unprecedented rate of adoption of biotech crops testifies to the perceived value farmers place on the production results. The trust and confidence of governments licensing and adopting these technologies for the benefit of their farmers brings additional countries into the biotechnology era.

The brief noted that in 2006 over half (3.6 billion) of the global population of 6.5 billion live in the 22 countries that have officially adopted biotech crops. More than half (1.92 billion) of the 3.7 billion arable acres in the world are in these 22 countries. The 22 countries are USA, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, China, Paraguay, South Africa, Uruguay, Philippines, Australia, Romania, Mexico, Spain, Colombia, France, Iran, Honduras, Czech Republic, Portugal, Germany, and Slovakia. Slovakia joined the group in 2006.

The United States leads the world in adoption of biotech crops. During 2006, there were 11.86 million acres planted to biotech crops. India ranked second in total area planted, followed by Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa.

The dominant trait in soybean, corn, canola, cotton, and alfalfa was herbicide tolerance. Globally, the herbicide resistance trait occupied 68 percent of biotech crop acreage. The Bt insect resistance trait covered 19 percent of acreage and stacked traits covered 13 percent. The fastest growing segment from 2005 to 2006 was the stacked traits versions of biotech crops.

Biotechnology has made an unprecedented rate of change in crop varieties grown. Biotech is now responsible for most of the development effort to develop crops for food, feed, fiber, and fuel. Fuel will likely become the more significant use of biotechnology to increase the efficiency of biofuel production.

Our local sugar beet farmers look forward to Roundup Ready sugar beet varieties to improve weed control. The USDA has developed a virus resistant papaya. India is developing rice and cotton varieties to reduce pesticide inputs. The Philippines are using biotech to improve Manila hemp fiber production. Brazil plans biotech projects to develop more efficient sugarcane varieties for ethanol production. Thailand is developing higher yielding coconuts.

Biotechnology has its Achilles heal. Insect resistance and herbicide resistant weeds can readily appear and become dominant when a single technology is used repeatedly on a field. Good stewardship by observing refuge planting and rotating herbicide families will make the difference between an estimated 10-year life cycle and a 50-year life cycle for these new biotech crops.

The careful adoption of biotechnology and faithful observance of stewardship principles can offer an exciting future for farming.


Cloning, biotech issues puzzle consumers - Public more concerned about animal welface, official says

- Cecilia Parsons Capital Press, March 9, 2007, http://www.capitalpress.info/main.asp?SectionID=67&SubSectionID=616&ArticleID=30917&TM=46393.16

BAKERSFIELD - The public doesn't have a clue about animal or milk production, said University of California-Davis consumer food marketing specialist Christine Bruhn, so it is up to dairy producers to give them correct information.

Speaking at the annual Western United Dairymen's convention, Bruhn said surveys show that while only 10 percent of consumers understand cloning, all consumers have opinions on the subject.

"Their opinions are not crystallized, they can easily be changed and influenced," Bruhn said.

Consumer groups that oppose cloning and other biotechnology used to improve production can say the public does not want that technology used, but they are wrong, said Bruhn.

"It's not what consumers want - they really have very little knowledge about cloning. Don't believe it if you hear people are opposed to biotechnology," she said.

Bruhn said the public is actually concerned about treatment of animals by livestock producers. They expect them to be treated humanely and with compassion, not as production factories, she said.

When consumers are informed about the benefits of biotechnology and how it can improve animal health, they respond positively. It is the wording that will elicit positive or negative response, Bruhn said. Words like genetic engineering are more emotionally negative.

Cloning is not the first biotechnology that has been met with suspicion. Bruhn said when artificial insemination was first introduced in the 1940s, there was resistance. More recently, the artificial hormone rBST used to boost milk production has been the focus of negative marketing. Bruhn warned dairymen to think carefully before they announce what they are not going to use.

"If you, as a knowledgeable producer, say you are not going to use a product, that reinforces the negative. It is a difficult dilemma, because the market demands one thing, but look at the future and your choices," she said.

She suggested that producers respond to the negative marketing and point out the benefits of the technology.

"Help them understand why you use those tools, stand up and say why. Address animal welfare - that is what they really care about," she added.

Further illustrating how little the public knows about cloning, University of California-Davis animal genomics and biotechnology specialist Alison Van Eenennaam said meat and milk from cloned animals have been consumed by the public for the past 25 years.

"There has been a lot of cloned food in our food supply. Clones are just propagated from a common ancestor," she said.

Cloning by splitting embryos has been done since the early 1980s, she said, and there have been at least 2,000 Holsteins produced by that method. Dolly the sheep was a big deal, she added, because that was the first successful clone by somatic cell nuclear transfer.

The technology became entangled in debate, she said, because no one ever explained why livestock were being cloned.

In addition, she said banning the meat and milk products from clones is not possible.

"How could you possibly guarantee that the meat and milk did not come from a clone? And which clones are you prohibiting," she asked.

Van Eenennaam said there have been some animal welfare concerns with the somatic cell nuclear transfer clones because of a higher rate of health problems. If they are not healthy, she noted, they won't get into the food supply.

Overcoming public attitude about cloning is the big issue, she said.


*by Andrew Apel, guest editor. Prakash is traveling.