Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on
ag-biotech.


Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives

Subscribe

 


SEARCH:     

Date:

April 3, 2007

Subject:

Bt maize crops delivering benefits in Europe; Research into foods to enhance health; Romania, EU lose out over GM soy muddle; Biotechnology an important tool in feeding growing populations; Policies Keep Africa in the Dark; Industry opposes plan to grow GM rice in Kansas; Purple carnation to be made available to gardeners

 

Today in AgBioView from* AgBioWorld, http://www.agbioworld.org April 3, 2007

* Bt maize crops delivering benefits in Europe
* Research into foods to enhance health
* Romania, EU lose out over GM soy muddle
* Biotechnology an important tool in feeding growing populations
* Policies Keep Africa in the Dark
* Industry opposes plan to grow GM rice in Kansas
* Purple carnation to be made available to gardeners

---------------------------

Bt maize crops delivering health, wealth and environmental benefits in Europe

- PG Economics, April 2, 2007, http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/Bt%20maize%20crops%20delivering%20health,%20wealth%20and%20environmental%20benefits%20in%20Europe.htm

Dorchester - Although EU plantings of GM insect resistant (Bt) maize were only 65,000 ha in 2006 (in 7 countries), the crops have been delivering income gains to the farmers planting the crops, health benefits for the human and livestock consumers from improved grain quality and environmental gains associated with lower insecticide use, according to a study released today.

"Farmers, consumers and the environment all gain from adoption of this technology. It is therefore somewhat ironic, that by largely ignoring its application in the EU, we are denying ourselves these benefits" said Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, and author of the study.

The study offers the first comprehensive quantifiable look at the impact of GM insect resistant (Bt) maize crop production in the EU since 1998 when the first commercial crops were planted in Spain." The key findings in the study, "The benefits of adopting genetically modified, insect resistant (Bt) maize in the EU: first results from 1998-2006 plantings" were:

* In maize growing regions affected by European Corn Borer (ECB) and Maize Stem Borer (MSB), the main impact of growing Bt maize has been higher yields compared to conventional non-GM maize. Average yield benefits have often been +10% and sometimes higher;

* In 2006, users of Bt maize have, on average, earned additional income levels of between EUR65 and EUR141/ha. This is equal to an improvement in profitability of +12 to +21%;

* In certain regions, Bt maize has delivered important improvements in grain quality through significant reductions in the levels of mycotoxins found in the grain. This delivers a health benefit to the livestock sector that mostly consumes the maize (but could be available to the human food sector, if used)

* Where farmers have previously used insecticides to control ECB and MSB, adoption of Bt technology has delivered environmental gains from less insecticide use and reduced use of fuel. Reduced fuel use is contributing to lowering carbon emissions

Click the title [link below] to view the full manuscript "Bt maize crops delivering health, wealth and environmental benefits in Europe"

http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/pdf/Benefitsmaize.pdf

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

Companies sign-up for research into foods to enhance health

- Innovations Report, April 3, 2007, http://www.innovations-report.de/html/berichte/medizin_gesundheit/bericht-82023.html

A dozen leading companies are today (3 April) joining forces in a £10 million partnership with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to support research aimed at helping the food industry develop products that deliver enhanced health benefits for consumers.

The founder company members of the new Diet and Health Research Industry Club are: Britvic Soft Drinks Ltd, Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association, Cadbury Schweppes, Danisco, GlaxoSmithKline, Leatherhead Food International, Marks & Spencer plc, the National Association of British and Irish Millers, Nestlé, The Sugar Bureau, Unilever and United Biscuits. Between them they are contributing £1 million to the Club.

"This new academic-industry Club signals the companies' commitment to work with academic scientists to translate information about the relationship between diet and health into products that can make a real difference to the nation's health," said Dr Alistair Penman who chairs today's inaugural meeting.

The Club will support research to improve understanding of the complex interactions between components of diet and consequences for health, nutrition and wellbeing and so enable the UK food industry to develop and deliver new foods that are designed with additional benefits for health.

The Club will be managed by BBSRC, and research projects will be awarded as BBSRC grants using peer review processes as for fully public funded research. A Steering Group, comprising six independent academic scientists and six industrial members, will make the awards on the basis of scientific quality and strategic relevance to two research themes:

* Bioactives in foods - includes, for example, understanding of how beneficial compounds work and how health claims may be verified.

* Improved understanding of healthier diets - includes, for example, effect of food components on energy intake, and how foods might be designed to have precise nutritional properties.

"I am delighted with this transparent development between public funders of research and an industry in an area of high public interest. It will help ensure that the UK food industry can access the best of UK science to address major challenges, such as obesity, that our society faces," says BBSRC Chief Executive, Professor Julia Goodfellow.

The Club is also supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council for projects with an engineering and physical science component.

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

Biotechnology - an important tool in feeding growing populations

- Accra Daily Mail, April 2, 2007, http://www.accra-mail.com/mailnews.asp?id=789

The Deputy Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment, Abraham Dwuma Odoom has said biotechnology is an important tool in the fight to feed growing populations. New biotechnology techniques has the potential to deliver improved food quality and the environment also stood to benefit through agronomically enhanced crops.

He was speaking at the 3rd ECOWAS ministerial conference on biotechnology held in Accra this week. It was on the theme of "Adoption of 2006-2010 Action Plans for the meeting of the challenges of biotechnology and bio-safety".

Commenting on some of the advantages of biotechnology Dwumo Odoom said the enhanced food and feed quality would be linked to diseases prevention, and would result in the reduced use of chemical pesticides, fertilizers and drugs, leading to more sustainable agricultural practices and poverty alleviation.

Advances in biotechnology would also result in major health care benefits, allowing for the production of cheaper, safer drugs in large quantities.

Despite these clear advantages, he said, "the subject of biotechnology and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in particular, has raised widespread public concern about the possible impact on human health and the environment".

He said the sensitivity of these issues highlights the need for responsible policies within the sub-region.

Dwumo Odoom said the research in modern agriculture biotechnology is on-going in various research institutions universities. The tools used, ranged from tissue culture where clean copies or clones of planting material are produced to the use of more advanced molecular tools such as DNA characterization and diagnostics.

He said tissue culture is currently in use in the pineapple industry for the production of the MD2 pineapple suckers to meet up-market export demand characteristics for such product.

Dwumo Odoom said "training on the implementation of a regulatory framework in anticipation of the Ghana bio-safety law, yet to be passed has been given to the regulatory framework officials and scientists by USAID-SPONSORED program on Bio-safety System.

He said Ghana is working hard to ensure that the necessary legal framework to facilitate research and the general use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is in place by the end of the year. This is towards the maintenance of the integrity of the green environment.

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

Romania, EU lose out over GM soy muddle

- Anca Padararu, Business News Europe, March 27, 2007, http://www.businessneweurope.eu/story.php?s=300

A muddle over Romania's genetically modified (GM) soy crops and its January accession to the EU will leave everyone, except perhaps the environmental lobby, a little poorer.

Failure by the Romanian government during its EU membership talks to get approval to cultivate GM soy means that Romanian farmers who invested heavily in this crop stand to lose everything, Romania will give up the head-start it had in Europe in growing the crop, and Europe will be forced to continue importing the ¤1.6bn worth of GM soy for human and animal feed it needs each year from growers outside the EU, such as the US, Argentina and Brazil.

"We had one good crop, and they took it away from us," complains Mihai Petrosu, owner of a 500-hectare farm in Braila county, eastern Romania.

Petrosu has since converted to growing vegetables on his farm, but sighs when he thinks of the lost income and lost opportunity. While conventional and GM soy seeds cost about the same, the output from a hectare on GM soy was on average 1,000 kilograms higher, with the cost for maintaining it at between ¤30-45 lower.

"This was indeed the one crop that allowed Romanian farmers not only to survive, but also to gain," says Elena Badea, president of Romania's National Commission for Bio-security, the same body which approved in 2000 the cultivation of the GM soy developed by the US firm Monsanto.

By 2006, Romania had seven years experience in growing GM soy for commercial use, with 136,900 hectares under cultivation out of some 200,000 hectares in total that is given over to soy, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Monsanto engineered soy is not resistant to any bug or disease, but to the "Round-Up" herbicide that the US firm also makes. This means that the Round-Up Ready soy is the only plant left alive after the land has been treated with the herbicide.

Environmental groups like Greenpeace Romania claim this approach is "a crime against the environment," arguing that the herbicide ruins the biodiversity of the land and has ripple effects on organisms which feed on harmless plants living alongside the intended crop.

Petrosu says this is nonsense. "Whatever is not the intended crop is a weed for the purpose of a farmer, and in fields under conventional seeds we root out the other plants anyway, using other herbicides," he says. "What Round-Up does is to wipe clean the land, letting us plant the next year whatever we want to."

Yet the EU doesn't let its farmers plant whatever they want to. The problem with GM soy is not with its consumption, approved by the EU since 1996, nor with its importation. "The EU is the largest soybean and soy meal importer, which largely consist of Monsanto Round-Up Ready soybean cultivated in all the main soybean global producers, i.e. the US, Brazil and Argentina," the EU said in a 2006 statement.

Rather the problem lies with the EU rules governing GM crop cultivation, under which only the developer of the GM seed can file an application for its cultivation with one of the EU member states, which is then approved by the Commission and other member states. Monsanto filed in 2005 an application with the Netherlands for the cultivation of the Round-Up Ready soy, but this is still pending approval.

While the strict EU rules are good for many reasons, they make it so much harder for developers other than powerful multinationals to file such applications, Badea explains.

"To document a filing in support of a new GM seed one should expect costs of anywhere between ¤3m-6m. This is not easy to come by for a university," says Badea, who is also a professor with the University for Agriculture Studies in Timisoara, western Romania.

She developed in the university laboratories a potato resistant to the Colorado bug, but since 2005 she hasn't been able to get her field tests approved.

Unlike many Romanian farmers, the powerful developers of GM seeds continue to do strong business in the country. Swiss group Syngenta Agro is in its sixth year in Romania, and conducting field trials of a herbicide-tolerant GM maize; Pioneer operates a seed plant at Ganeasa, delivering 20,000 tonnes of conventional seeds to Romania and the region; while Monsanto located in Romania its leading seed production hub for Europe and Africa.

Passing the buck

Lone Mikkelsen, a spokesman for the European Commission, says Romania couldn't have done anything during its EU negotiations to get permission to grow a GM crop that isn't authorized by the EU.

However, Leonard Orban, currently EU Commissioner for Multilingualism and Romania's chief negotiator in the later stages of the accession talks, says it was up to the Ministry of the Environment to have raised the issue of GM soy cultivation and instruct him to fight for a derogation of the EU rules. While the press office for the Ministry of the Environment says it was up to the Agriculture Ministry to state what plants on the national roster it wanted approved on the EU roster of plants.

Unsurprisingly, Tatiana Preda, in charge now of GM crops at the Ministry of Agriculture, says she isn't aware of the issue, since she didn't work in that department at the time the accession file on agriculture was closed, which was in the summer of 2004.

Yet this lack of institutional memory points to another flaw in Romania's dealings with the EU, which is that politicians are in the habit of changing the make-up of public institutions from top to bottom each time there is a regime change,

This is the main criticism that Badea has against Romania's administrative system, which discourages any thorough knowledge of any topic, let alone a scientifically complex one such as GM technology. Indeed, she proves to be one of the few people who can actually vouch that the environment and agriculture ministries were represented at meetings on the GM issue, and that each time the farmers begged the Romanian officials to do something, anything, for their GM soy crops to be accepted by the EU.

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

Gore's Policies Keep Africa in the Dark

- Executive Intelligence Review (April 6, 2007 edition), http://www.larouchepub.com/other/interviews/2007/3414paul_driessen.html

Interview with Paul Driessen [excerpted]

EIR: In the introduction to your book, it says that among other things you've done - being a senior policy advisor to certain areas of the Congress; being part of a number of different public policy institutes that focus on energy, environment, economic development; and also being the author of this book Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death - you're also a former member of the Sierra Club and Zero Population Growth.

Driessen: That's right. I'm also an Eagle Scout and helped organize the very first Earth Day on my college campus.

EIR: Clearly your views on things have changed greatly. Why is that?

Driessen: In a nutshell, because I gradually realized that these groups often misrepresented the facts and paid little or no attention to the impacts their policies had on people. Their agenda was uppermost. Take DDT, for example. Environmental Defense, Sierra Club, and other groups knew that scientific studies did not back up their claims about the allegedly toxic effects of DDT on bird eggshells, eagles, and people. They knew the ban on DDT was causing the deaths of millions from malaria. And yet, to this day, they have bogus and far-fetched claims about this life-saving chemical on their websites.

(Some studies say DDT may be "associated with" low birth weights in babies and early lactation failure in nursing mothers, for instance - as though those speculative risks are worse than the very real risks that mothers and babies will die from malaria, which DDT can prevent.)

Over and over, I caught the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and other groups saying things that just were not honest or accurate. They used photographs that were taken in one place and claimed they were taken someplace else; or published a close-up shot of a drilling rig site, with trees cut and the ground graded and leveled - when a wider angle would show one acre of disturbance in a thousand acres. Or a photo they claimed was a devastating clear-cut, was actually a forest area that had burned down because careless campers had let their fire get out of control.

Greenpeace flat-out lied about Shell Oil's plans to sink an oil platform as an artificial reef. And a lot of leaders and members sounded delighted when hundreds of loggers were put out of work and entire rural communities were destroyed.

Even after they were told their facts were wrong, they didn't change. Their lies would simply move faster than the truth. In Latin America, Amnesty International and several environmental activist groups were attacking various oil company operations. One group would say a particular picture was a Unocal operation. Another would say it showed how irresponsible Occidental Petroleum was. In reality, the picture showed some sloppy operations by state-owned PetroEcuador. They've always got some oil, timber, or mining company in their cross-hairs, to sucker people into sending them money, and to advance their anti-industry, anti-foreign investment agendas - and the facts, or people's dreams of a better life, just aren't going to get in the way.

The director of the Sierra Club's wilderness program in Colorado actually told me that the real purpose of the wilderness designations was to eliminate opportunities to develop energy and minerals. He said Americans use too much, consume too much, and aren't going to change voluntarily. So we have to force them to change, by taking the minerals away - and the best way to do that is put them in wilderness, so that they're off limits to exploration and development.

They show incredible disregard for the rights, aspirations, and even lives of the world's poorest people. They constantly hammer on the supposed risks of using chemicals, fossil fuels, and biotechnology - and never mention the far greater risks that those technologies would reduce, or the lives they can save. And they have tax-exempt status, and get literally billions of dollars a year from foundations, and even government agencies, to promote their agendas and lies, despite their lethal consequences.

Their disregard for the poor, especially dark-skinned people in developing countries, is frightening. They've never apologized once for the deaths their anti-DDT policies have caused, never even admitted they were wrong, never offered any form of aid or compensation to victims or their families, and certainly they've never been held accountable. During the World Trade Organization conference in Cancun a few years ago, the head of a major Mexican environmental group told a friend of mine: "We don't care at all about the poor. We don't want them to become rich or middle class, because then they will become consumers and that means you have to take more resources out of the ground to meet their demands, and that's bad for the Earth. It's better to keep them poor."

My Zero Population Growth days involved a lot of concern about the supposed population bomb, and then I started reading things from Julian Simon and other people, who raised questions that Paul Ehrlich [author of The Population Bomb and other environmentalists just couldn't answer. It became apparent that there was an environmental agenda that I was very uncomfortable with: keeping poor people poor, being so concerned about population that they were promoting anti-DDT, anti-biotechnology, anti-fossil fuel development, anti-economic development policies, that ultimately meant the poor were going to be kept poor, diseased, and dying prematurely.

Jacques Cousteau said we have to find a way to "eliminate" 350,000 people a day to stabilize global populations. And Prince Philip said he wanted to come back as a particularly deadly virus, and take out large segments of the Earth's population. Club of Rome co-founder Alexander King wrote, "My chief quarrel with DDT in hindsight is that it greatly added to the population problem." And former Sierra Club president Mike McCloskey said, "by using DDT, we reduce mortality rates in underdeveloped countries without considering how to support the increase in populations."

These kinds of things just left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

EIR: As they should anyone, I think.

Driessen: You would think.

EIR: You also work for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). And when you bring up Paul Ehrlich and Prince Philip, I remember in the Ehrlich book, The Population Bomb, he suggests that we decrease population growth by actually targetting the black and brown populations of the planet. He's very explicit about it. In the case of Prince Philip, with his World Wildlife Fund, one of the things that EIR has previously put together is a report that shows that much of the so-called "protected lands" of Africa, are controlled by the World Wildlife Fund from the standpoint of strategic control over raw materials and resources - not allowed to be accessed by the people of those countries, which helps also keep population growth in check. Do you see tendencies in other areas to go after population control, or even a decrease in population along racial lines?

Driessen: They're rarely as open or blunt as Cousteau, Prince Philip, and Ehrlich were in the past. But if you just look at the environmental movement's policies, you see programs they would never get away with in Canada, Australia, the United States, or Europe, if they resulted in even a dozen deaths. They're trying to shut down the use of genetically modified (GM) crops in poor countries, where nutrition is marginal at best, people are starving, and GM crops would grow better, resist insects and plant diseases, require less water and pesticides, and bring in bumper crops. Even without the modern high-tech farming practices we use, biotech crops could and do make a huge difference.

But Sierra Club and Greenpeace have launched campaigns that are based on lies about the dangers of GM food and claims that planting any GM crops (or using DDT to stop malaria) would threaten these poor farmers' exports to Europe. They tell people: "If you plant GM crops, your exports to Europe, the mainstay of your economy, will dry up. If any crops in your country are bio-tech, there could be pollen contamination, and Europe is going to ban all your crops." And then they use their political muscle to stir up more European Union paranoia about GM food, DDT, and even air transport of crops from Africa.

I think we're beginning to see a change in attitude by people in these poor countries. South African farmers, for example, have been planting Bt corn, and their yields have risen so far - ten times or more - that they are making money for the first time, have more corn than they can sell, and are planting other crops they couldn't afford to plant in the past. They've also cut way back on their water and pesticide use, and their exposure to pesticides. They get much higher yields, much higher quality, at less human and environmental risk.

But there's sizable pressure against GM crops and DDT. They didn't get the ban on DDT until long after we had used it to eradicate malaria in Europe and the United States. But once malaria was gone, environmentalists, politicians, and regulators began to worry about things that only people in wealthy, healthy, disease-free countries can afford to worry about. And they exported their obsessions and paranoia, by getting them into international treaties and trade programs.

[cut]

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

Industry opposes plan to grow genetically modified rice in Kansas

- Sam Hananel, Associated Press via ellinghuysen.com, April 02, 2007, http://www.ellinghuysen.com/news/biotech.html

The U.S. rice industry wants the federal government to reject a plan to grow genetically modified rice in Kansas, saying the country's growers would suffer "financial devastation" if modified crops contaminate the commercial supply.

Agriculture Department officials are considering a request by California-based Ventria Bioscience to grow rice engineered to contain human proteins on hundreds of acres of farmland near Junction City, Kan.

The proteins can be turned into medicines to combat diarrhea, dehydration and other illnesses that kill millions of children in developing countries each year.

But in comments submitted this week to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the USA Rice Federation says rice producers cannot risk the loss of foreign markets that are spooked by the possibility that genetically modified rice could be mixed with edible rice.

"If Ventria's pharmaceutical rice were to escape into the commercial rice supply, the financial devastation to the U.S. rice industry would likely be absolute," the group said. "There is no tolerance, either regulatory or in public perception, for a human gene-based pharmaceutical to end up in the world's food supply."

The USDA granted preliminary approval for the Kansas project last month after concluding it poses virtually no risk. The rice will be grown hundreds of miles from other rice farms and will use dedicated equipment, storage and processing facilities.

Still, the rice growers point to recent instances that call into question how effective safety precautions can be.

The rice industry is still reeling from the discovery last year of an unapproved strain of genetically modified rice, Liberty Link Rice 601, found in grain elevators. In another incident earlier this month, traces of unapproved genetic material were found in yet another type of rice seed.

Federation spokesman David Coia said both incidents disrupted foreign rice sales and have forced the industry to insist on stricter regulation.

The rice growers want government regulators to determine potential health effects if pharmaceutical rice is eventually found in commercial rice.

"The cavalier 'trust us' approach should be considered the relic of a bygone era," Coia said Friday.

Ventria president and CEO Scott Deeter called comparisons to the Liberty Link incident unfair because pharmaceutical rice is subject to much more stringent regulations.

"We have a totally dedicated supply system," Deeter said. "We don't sell seed and it's a closed system of production. We use dedicated equipment all throughout."

Deeter points to support from the American Farm Bureau and several Kansas farm groups that say they are satisfied with safety precautions.

Kansas officials have welcomed Ventria as part of an effort to grow the state's bioscience industry. No commercial rice is grown in Kansas, but environmental and food safety groups contend weather or human error could eventually contaminate rice in other states.

Deeter said he hopes final permit approval will come in the next few weeks so rice planting can begin in April.

[ed. note: Here's a pop quiz. In 2000, someone said that farmers "do not want 'problems in exporting GE rice'" and that it shouldn't be planted. Who said that, what was the engineered trait, and what was the result? For the answer, visit http://www.netlink.de/gen/Zeitung/2000/000721.html ]

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

Purple carnation to be made available to gardeners

- ABC News (Australia), April 2, 2007, http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200704/s1887888.htm

A purple carnation has become the first genetically modified plant which can be grown by home gardeners.

The carnation was modified by the insertion of genes from other flowers. It also contains a gene which makes it tolerant to a herbicide.

The flowers have been sold commercially for more than a decade, and the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator says there have been no reports of adverse effects on human health or the environment.

Four varieties of the modified carnation are now part of the inaugural listings on the national Genetically Modified Organism Register.

-----------------------------

*by Andrew Apel, guest editor, andrewapel+at+wildblue.net