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April 5, 2007


DA to expand biotechnology network; West Africa to boost food crops with biotech; GMOs essential for food security; Govt plea to lift GM trial ban; Improved prospects for biotech corn in France; Grain Industry Fears For Export Markets; Biotech rice pact reached; Lithuania denies permit to grow GM rapeseed; Agricultural Biotechnology Network in Africa; International Symposium on Genetic transformations; TechnoTome, A Multidisciplinary Journal


Today in AgBioView from* AgBioWorld, http://www.agbioworld.org April 5, 2007

* DA to expand biotechnology network
* West Africa to boost food crops with biotech
* GMOs essential for food security
* Govt plea to lift GM trial ban
* Improved prospects for biotech corn in France
* Grain Industry Fears For Export Markets
* Biotech rice pact reached
* Lithuania denies permit to grow GM rapeseed
* Agricultural Biotechnology Network in Africa
* International Symposium on Genetic transformations
* TechnoTome, A Multidisciplinary Journal


DA to expand biotechnology network

- Michelle Remo, The Inquirer (Philippines), April 4, 2007, http://business.inquirer.net/money/topstories/view_article.php?article_id=58880

By Michelle Remo Inquirer Last updated 09:00pm (Mla time) 04/04/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- The Department of Agriculture plans to rely more on biotechnology to raise the income of farmers, particularly in the 10 poorest provinces in the country.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning Josyline Javelosa said in a statement that the plan was to maximize the benefits of agricultural innovations.

"The agricultural sector has become conscious of its potent role in national development and aware that the unity of producers, academe, scientific community, private sector and government would bring to fruition our collective desire to promote biotechnology," said Javelosa during the 1st Biotechnology Information and Organization Network (BIONet) National Congress held last Monday at the University of the Philippines.

According to Javelosa, biotechnology has become a significant factor in increasing farmers' incomes through wider propagation of new crop varieties, which are developed through genetic engineering, tissue culture and cross-breeding.

These new crop varieties are expected to translate into higher yields and better-tasting and nutritious food, thus assuring higher income for producers.

She added that thousands of hectares had already become BIOCommerce hubs, and many more farmlands would eventually turn to biotechnology to produce crops, fruits and other agricultural commodities that have higher demand in both the domestic and foreign markets.

"With the high demand in both the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries for natural ingredients like papain from papaya, the nation would soon be a key player in the multibillion-dollar global market," she added.

She also lauded the effort of BIONet members to expand their existing networks and promote the idea of cultivating agricultural biotechnology products in many farmlands in the country.

Javelosa said that along with the scientific work is the task of convincing, arguing and encouraging more producers to accept the legitimacy, viability and necessity of biotechnology products.

She added that BIONet had already convinced a number of local government units to organize themselves as part of the network.

To date, the biotechnology revolution has found havens in Negros Oriental, Laguna, Southern Luzon, Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Caraga region, Mindoro, Bulacan, the two Lanao provinces, Davao and Nueva Vizcaya.

"With the commitment of the scientific community to promote biotechnology products and the pledge of companies to market natural ingredients and processed biotechnology products, it is not far-fetched to project that in a generation or two, the Philippines would have a distinct advantage and higher market share in the global market," she declared.


West Africa to boost food crops with biotechnology

- Wagdy Sawahel, SciDev.Net, April 4, 2007, http://www.scidev.net/news/index.cfm?fuseaction=readnews&itemid=3535&language=1

The 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States have agreed to use biotechnology to increase food production in the region.

Ministers of agriculture, environment, science and technology met to discuss the issues surrounding biotechnology in agriculture at a meeting held last week (28-30 March) in Accra, Ghana.

They adopted a regional action plan for biotechnology development for 2006-2010, which stresses the use of public-private partnerships to increase investment in biotechnology, and the need to put safety measures in place at national and regional levels.

The plan calls for a network of biotechnology experts to be established, and the promotion of networking between centres of excellence in biotechnology and the West and Central African Biosciences facility planned by the New Partnership for African Development.

The ministers also agreed to set up an independent fund for assessing the socio-economic impacts of using genetically modified (GM) organisms.

A regional policy for managing intellectual property rights to help with the acquisition, development and distribution of biotechnology knowledge and new technologies will also be developed.

But the meeting drew criticism from non-governmental organisations, scientists, farmers and consumer groups who met at a parallel meeting to criticise the 'biotech industry interference' in the process, and the lack of provision for GM-free zones.

However scientists contacted by SciDev.Net welcomed the plan.

Baboucarr Manneh, a Gambian researcher at the biotechnology unit of the Africa Rice Center in Benin, said it has the potential to improve agricultural productivity in West Africa.

He pointed to a number of biotechnology applications needed in West African countries, such as the use of antibodies and biopesticides against crop, animal and human diseases.

Manneh indicated the necessity of producing disease-free plants such as bananas, cassava and fruit trees, and plants resistant to environmental stresses.

He also highlighted the importance of improving the nutritional qualities of existing crop varieties and animal breeds.

To address public fears about biotechnology, the ministers agreed to establish a network of national information and communication units responsible for raising public awareness of biotechnology.

The Economic Community of West African States includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.


GMOs essential for food security in Africa

- Dr Hinner Köster, AllAboutFeed.net, April 2, 2007, http://www.allaboutfeed.net/tsal/allaboutfeed.portal/enc/_nfpb/true/_nfpb/true/_pageLabel/ts_page_blogs/id/7304/ts_portlet_weblog_1_actionOverride/___2Fportlets___2Fts___2Fcore___2Fweblog___2Fcontent___2FshowDetails/_mode/view/ts_portlet_weblog_1channel/507/ts_portlet_weblog_1id/7304/_desktopLabel/allaboutfeed/index.html

Consumers in developed countries won't buy GMOs out of lingering concerns over their safety. This is mainly a perceptions problem, which some food chains have manipulated to their advantage. However, different and more basic challenges exist in Africa of which food security may be the bigger problem.

Africa: Food security v Food safety Productivity must therefore be increased first to provide food security for a growing population before concern should be expressed over food safety.

Why is Africa then so concerned about high and strict regulations on the use of technologies such as GMO and less concerned about its potential to contribute to poverty reduction and food security?

GM technology could help in meeting food demand Will genetic modification not provide Africa with one way of meeting the growing demand for food without placing even greater pressure on their scarce resources?

A further question should be raised on the poor adoption of clearly beneficial technology in Africa? Is it due to the lack of knowledge and exposure on farmers' part? Is cost the issue for adapting to new technologies?

Misinformed suspicions Or, is the real issue not that much of the problem lays in official and unofficial disinformation by government scientists and advisors, and anti-GM lobby groups or maybe poor governance and unpredictable politics?

The fact is that misinformed suspicions regarding certain technologies in GM seeds have been a good example of why the adoption rate of hybrid maize varieties in Africa is as low as 4%.

Furthermore, the confusing controversy over products of GM technology combined with a highly regulated environment in many developed countries maybe another important reason for developing countries to adopt a very cautious approach to products of GM technology.

Trade difficulties for limited agricultural commodities due to the complex 1st world regulatory regimes, certainly also contributed to the resistance by developing country farmers to adopt GMO technology, often at the expense of food security and better overall profits in those countries.

Somebody may need to take the initiative to show African Governments that any technology that reduces costs and raises profits will eventually allow farmers to expand their production and increase food security.

Is GMO not an essential part of agricultural development, which over time can increase farm size and profits? Again the question should be asked why Africa is so cautious in their approach to products of GM technology if until now very little (if any) scientific proof exists that GMOs that reach the market are unsafe.


Govt plea to lift GM trial ban

- The Telegraph (India), April 05, 2007, http://www.telegraphindia.com/1070405/asp/nation/story_7609073.asp

New Delhi: The Centre has requested the Supreme Court to lift a ban it had imposed on new field trials for genetically modified (GM) crops.

The Centre in its application said the apex court order restraining the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee from clearing pending applications had brought all field trials to a halt.

This, it said, had indirectly created a monopoly in the market - as the ban had also stalled fresh approvals for commercialisation - and would harm farmers' interests.

At present, only three companies - Mahyco-Monsanto, J.K. Agri Genetics and Nath Seeds Pvt Ltd - supply Bt Cotton. They would enjoy a monopoly if public-funded institutions were not allowed to go ahead with field trials and other studies required for the commercial release of GM crops, the government argued.

Besides, Bt cotton was the only GM crop released commercially and it was necessary to make available new and improved varieties to farmers.


Positive 2006 results and new regulatory framework improve 2007 prospects for biotech corn in France

US Department of Agriculture/Foreign Agricultural Service, (GAIN report FR7013), March 30, 2007, http://www.fas.usda.gov/gainfiles/200703/146280665.pdf

Report Highlights

French corn growers are expected to intensify their production of biotech corn in from 5,200 hectares in 2006 to 30,000-50,000 ha in 2007. This results from the positive technical results they obtained in 2006, with significantly higher yields and lower mycotoxin content than conventional corn. They will also benefit from the recent tranposition by France of the EU Directive 2001/18 on biotech authorization and published new coexistence rules.


The French Corn Growers Association (AGPM) recently announced positive production results from MON-810 Bt corn grown in 2006 on 5,200 ha. The corn had higher yields with less stalk lodging and higher sanitary quality than its conventional analog. (MON-810 variety is genetically modified to resist damage from corn borer and sesamia infestations) These encouraging results, as well as the recent French regulation on biotech production and coexistence, are expected to trigger French commercial production of biotech corn in 2007. Expert analysis ranges from 30,000 to 50,000 ha of biotech corn in 2007.

2006 Technical Results


AGPM monitored 13 biotech corn fields in various regions of France and found that average yields were 9 percent higher than conventional corn yields grown under similar conditions. In regions where the corn borer infestation was highest, the incremental yield provided by the Bt technology rose almost 12 percent.

Sanitary Quality

The sanitary quality of the 2006 biotech corn crop, in terms of mycotoxin content, improved as well: when compared to levels found in conventional corn, the fumosinin content in biotech corn was 45 percent (in the lowest infestation areas) and 58 percent (in the highest infestation areas) lower. Insect infestation provides an avenue for fungal contamination so protection against pests also lowers the potential development of these toxins. This is of great importance given the new EU regulation setting maximum mycotoxin levels due to risks to human health.

2007 Perspectives


On March 13, the anti-biotech lobby CRII-GEN organized a press conference to present the findings of a Greenpeace funded study which concluded that MON863 was not safe for consumption due to its toxicity on kidneys and liver. The study reinterpreted the toxicological survey conducted by Monsanto on MON863. The French competent authority for biotech approval (Biomolecular Engineering Committee, or "Commission du Génie Biomoléculaire" in French, or CGB) reviewed the same data and approved the product. The CRII-GEN findings received wide press coverage in France.

Regulatory Framework Clarified

Research: On March 19, the French Ministry of Agriculture authorized 13 biotech open field trials (12 corn products and 1 tobacco) for 2007 and rejected one request for a potato trial. For more information on the dossiers approved, see: http://www.ogm.gouv.fr/experimentations/decisions/decisions.htm

Commercial Production: On March 20, France transposed EU Directive 2001/18 (EU framework on the release of biotech products for both experimentation and commercialization) into French law through publication in the French Official Journal (Federal Register equivalent)*.

Also on March 20th, the French Ministry of Agriculture (MinAg) created a public register where the number and acreage of biotech plots, by district, will be made publicly available. This list will be available on the inter-ministerial website of the GOF on biotech at: http://www.ogm.gouv.fr. In addition, the MinAg adopted coexistence measures for this crop year which require 50-meter buffer zones for commercial biotech plots (monitored by Governmental authorities), and disclosure by biotech producers to their neighbors of the existence of their biotech crops.

Production Plans

French corn growers welcomed the publication of governmental coexistence measures as standardizing practices that they implemented in 2004 ensuring good practices for coexistence and traceability of biotech and non-biotech corn.

Because of the positive technical results they encountered in 2006, strengthened by the new regulatory framework set by the French Government, and despite the political pressure they are currently facing, French corn growers plan to grow 30,000 to 50,000 hectares of biotech corn.

* These are decrees 2007-357, 2007-358 and 2007-359, supplemented by two supplementary documents (called "arrêtés" in French) relative to voluntary dissemination in the environment and the commercialization of biotech products and to information gathering on biotech crops cultivation.


Grain Industry Urges Syngenta to Reconsider Plan to Commercialize Biotech Corn Seed Not Approved in Export Markets

- GrainNet, April 4, 2007, http://www.grainnet.com/articles/Grain_Industry_Urges_Syngenta_to_Reconsider_Plan_to_Commercialize_Biotech_Corn_Seed_Not_Approved_in_Export_Markets-43164.html

Washington, DC--The nation's two leading trade associations representing the grain, feed and grain processing industries today (April 4) joined in urging Syngenta Seeds Inc. to reconsider and reverse its plan to commercialize its Agrisure RW biotechnology-enhanced corn seed for planting this year because it has not obtained regulatory approval for food and feed use in Japan and other U.S. export markets.

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) said that what they termed Syngenta's "ill-conceived" plan risks endangering U.S. corn and corn product exports.

Further, the NGFA and NAEGA said, Syngenta's action could set a dangerous precedent concerning the future introduction of biotechnology-enhanced traits before they are approved in countries, like Japan, that have a fully functioning, science-based regulatory-approval process for such products.

"We already are aware that Japanese buyers are developing contingency plans to purchase corn and corn products from non-U.S. origins if Syngenta releases this seed for planting and Japanese government approval is not forthcoming prior to harvest," said NGFA President Kendell W. Keith and NAEGA President and Chief Executive Officer Gary C. Martin.

"Given the painful lessons learned in the past, we urge Syngenta to join with us in protecting the marketability of U.S. corn and corn products by delaying the introduction of Agrisure RW corn seed until it receives full regulatory approval in Japan and other important U.S. corn export markets."

Syngenta announced its intent to begin selling its new Agrisure RW corn seed immediately after the March 16 decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to deregulate the product after finding no adverse plant health or environmental concerns.

The biotechnology-enhanced trait, which contains modified protein MIR604 to control corn rootworm insects, previously received authorizations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Given the U.S. government's deregulation of Agrisure RW corn, we have no reason to question its safety for food or feed," said the NGFA's Keith and NAEGA's Martin.

"But we do have important reasons for opposing its commercialization at this time because of its marketability."

The NGFA and NAEGA said they shared concerns raised by the National Corn Growers Association, which has urged Syngenta not to commercialize this biotech-enhanced corn seed this planting season since the product has not gained full regulatory approval in Japan.

"As the corn growers' organization has noted," Keith and Martin said, "doing otherwise risks endangering U.S. export markets for corn and corn products."

The two grain organizations noted that the Japan Feed Trade Association, representing major buyers of U.S. corn, also has urged Syngenta to delay introduction of Agrisure RW corn or any other biotech-enhanced trait until full Japanese government approval has been granted.

The NGFA and NAEGA said it was misguided and naïve to believe that Syngenta's efforts to channel Agrisure RW corn away from export markets would be 100 percent successful.

"It's impossible to completely segregate this specific biotech variety from the rest of the commodity stream because of pollen drift, inadvertent commingling and human error," Keith and Martin said.

"Yet, export markets will require ironclad guarantees if this biotech trait is not approved overseas, since Japan and other foreign governments impose a zero-tolerance policy on unapproved biotech products."

Further, NAEGA noted that Syngenta has failed to provide commercial assurances that exporters would be compensated for damages that may result if Agrisure RW corn is present in commodity export shipments.

The NGFA and NAEGA also noted that the National Corn Growers Association has warned growers that if Syngenta proceeds, harvested corn containing the MIR604 protein will not be eligible to be marketed under its "Market Choices" label that seeks to direct biotech traits away from corn product shipments destined for Europe, and that there will be "serious restrictions" on the marketability of such corn.

The NGFA and NAEGA said the same would be true for processed and co-products from Agrisure RW corn, such as corn gluten and distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS), which also would not be able to be marketed for export.

The NGFA and NAEGA also cited Syngenta's "comprehensive grain use/marketing commitment" agreement that it is requiring producers to sign before obtaining Agrisure RW seed.

Under the agreement, producers pledge to deliver Agrisure RW corn only to non-export locations and to sign a stewardship agreement "confirming that they understand their obligations to market the grain appropriately."

The NAEGA and NGFA urged any grower signing such agreements with Syngenta to be fully cognizant of potential legal liabilities and market implications of subsequently delivering corn that may test positive for the Agrisure RW trait in general market channels used to supply commodity corn for export and other generic uses.

"The potential for extremely costly rejections at export destinations is very real, and remains a threat to our country's ability to provide commodities that comply with customer requirements," Martin and Keith warned.


Biotech rice pact reached

Panel will allow test variety only in a distant county, with other restrictions.

- Jim Downing, Sacramento Bee, April 5, 2007, http://www.sacbee.com/103/story/149696.html

In a compromise on an issue that has riled the nation's rice farmers, a state panel on Wednesday authorized an outdoor test planting of biotech rice but restricted it to a site hundreds of miles from the nearest commercial fields.

An undisclosed biotechnology firm had asked the board for permission to plant its genetically modified rice in Fresno County, but the board ordered that the rice be planted only in Imperial County, and required that the crop be harvested with a dedicated set of farm equipment, among other restrictions.

The case was the first test of a state moratorium on biotech rice called for last month by the 40-member California Rice Commission board, which represents both rice processors and roughly 2,500 rice farming businesses.

That moratorium made the commission the first major commodity crop organization in the nation to take such a strong position against genetic engineering.

The Rice Commission argued that contamination with even a tiny amount of genetically engineered material could devastate sales to prized export markets such as Japan and South Korea. Market surveys have shown very strong opposition to genetically modified rice in those countries.

As much as 40 percent of California's $200 million to $400 million annual rice harvest is sent overseas. Nearly all state rice grows in the Sacramento Valley, where it is the most widely planted crop.

At least two recent contamination incidents in the past eight months elsewhere in the country have validated concerns.

Last summer, a rice variety containing a gene for herbicide tolerance was found in commercial rice in several Southern states. Futures prices for long-grain rice plunged as European importers demanded that each shipment be tested. Some other countries banned U.S. rice altogether.

And on March 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued what amounted to a recall for the seed of a popular rice grown in the South because it was found to have been contaminated with genetic material not approved for human consumption.

The source of contamination has not been determined in either case.

"It's just kind of a mess. We don't want to see that in California," said Charley Mathews, a Yuba County rice farmer who chairs the 12-member state board that ruled Wednesday.

Mathews said that he felt comfortable that the restrictions placed by the board, which voted unanimously on the issue, would keep the experimental rice out of the state's commercial supply.

Others wished the board had taken a harder line.

"There should be a full moratorium until at least we figure out what went wrong" in the Southern states, said Greg Massa, a Chico-area grower who leads a splinter group that has long called for an outright ban on biotech rice. "I don't think that the rice industry should put itself at risk for one company," he said.

Genetically modified crops on the market today have been altered through the insertion of DNA from bacteria, viruses and other organisms to yield plants with one or both of two traits: tolerance to an herbicide and resistance to certain insect pests.

Such crops are opposed by groups in many nations, including the United States, for ecological, moral and other reasons. While biotech companies claim genetically modified crops are safe, some scientists warn genetic modification could introduce new toxins and food allergens. These critics call for more stringent evaluation by U.S. regulators.


German group denied permit to grow GM rapeseed in Lithuania

- RIA Novosti, April 4, 2007 http://en.rian.ru/world/20070404/63086603.html

VILNIUS - Lithuanian authorities reaffirmed their opposition to the spread of genetically modified crops Wednesday by rejecting an application from a German company seeking to grow GM rapeseed in Lithuania for research purposes.

The Environment Ministry said in a press release that it had taken public opinion into account when making the decision, as well as the views of the scientific community.

According to a survey conducted by the Fonitel agency, 63% of Lithuanians are opposed to the cultivation of genetically modified crops in their country.

Last year, Lithuania rejected a similar application for growing GM potatoes.


Agricultural Biotechnology Network in Africa (ABNETA)

- David Priest david.priest+at+fao.org , Plant Breeding News, April 2, 2007, Edition 177 (chh23+at+cornell.edu)

ABNETA has re-developed its website (www.abneta.org) to provide a better service to its members and stakeholders. We invite you to register with ABNETA and take advantage of this new opportunity.

Other than an improved News Page, a list of helpful How To's, and Links to useful sources of information, a Database has been built to facilitate networking among research personnel, breeders, NGO's, donors, and other stakeholders around Africa. You can store, display and search information about the interests, technical expertise and ongoing projects. This will help you to find researchers, breeders or other stakeholders working in a particular field, with a particular technique on a particular crop in different countries. It would then be possible to approach those experts to share ideas, request advice or to develop a collaborative project. The database also provides information on useful protocols, websites and will shortly include laboratory capacities.

ABNETA is run by the African Biotechnology Stakeholders' Forum (ABSF) in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), with funding from FAO, USDA and the Wain Fund. For more information, please contact Dr David Priest on david.priest@fao.org.


International Symposium on Genetic transformations

- Ski, near Oslo, Norway, from 16th to 20th September, 2007; http://www.gmo2007.no

Genetic modifcations have become common in some of the major crops of the world but relatively less common amongst horticultural crops. Many of the first patents are due to expire in the near future at the same time as the technology becomes more advanced and putatively less hazardous. Horticultural crops are much more diverse and costly to modify than large crops, on the other hand, the horticultural crops are generally more valuable per plant, especially the vegetatively propagated ones.

The symposium will deal with the latest in the technologies, with the latest genetic modifications which may contribute in different ways to a more sustainable or healty horticultural product, or maybe we risk more than we gain? The symposium will deal with the patent issues, co-existence, environmental risks, impact on society with examples from different regions of the world. - International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS). trine.hvoslef-eide@umb.no


TechnoTome, A Multidisciplinary Journal from LSFI

- Web Posting, March 29, 2007, http://www.lifescience.org.in/notifications.htm

Life Science Foundation India, a charitable organization devoted towards the promotion of various educational programes in the country and abroad is proud to launch TechnoTome - A journal from LSFI that is focused on the most innovative technical advancements in the areas of Life Sciences, BioTechnology, Nanotechnology, Chemical Sciences, Physical Sciences etc. We at TechnoTome intend to publish papers/ technical reports from all of these areas of science to gain and further our insight on the major breakthroughs, various technical problems encountered and possible cures to the problems. We truly hope and aim towards reaching an epitome of understanding of these areas in Science through this journal and therefore invite scientists, technical writers and experimenters to contribute their best under the following categories to the journal.

* Editorial: editor's choice
* Highlights of the issue
* Research Headlines/Breaking News
* Research News/meetings/special features
* Correspondence
* Scientific correspondence
* News & Views/ Features
* Brief communications
* Articles
* Letters
* Reviews
* Career Forum: Jobs/Advertisements/Openings
* Research Forum: In Spotlight!

For further queries, please contact Dr. Jyoti Bhojwani ( technotome+at+yahoo.com )


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