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May 11, 2007


Vietnam looks to develop GM crops; Ag Minister favors GM soy; Biotech to dominate 21st century; No more Luddites, please


Today in AgBioView from* AgBioWorld, http://www.agbioworld.org May 11, 2007

* Vietnam looks to develop GM crops
* Ag Minister favors GM soy
* Biotech to dominate 21st century
* India Says Yes to Second "Green Revolution"
* No more Luddites, please


Vietnam looks to develop GM crops

- VietNamNet Bridge May 11, 2007


Vietnam has stated that the country will be producing genetically modified (GM) crops by 2020 in a draft of a biotechnology development plan authored by the Ministry of Industry.

In addition to GM crops, enzymes, amino acids, new generation vaccines, antibiotics and other bio products will be produced by the country by 2020.

Two hi-biotechnology centres will be built in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and a number of international standard research and development centres will be set up nationwide to enable the plan's success.

Agriculture Minister in favor of GM soy

- HotNews.ro, May 10, 2007


While other countries fight to gain the right to ban genetically modified plants (GMs), the Romanian Agriculture Minster pleads in favor of growing GM soy.

GM soy was listed as forbidden culture in the European Union, Romania ceasing production after its accession to the EU, on January 1st, 2007.

Decebal Traian Remes, the Agriculture Minister, discussed the advantages of the GM soy cultures and stated that his ministry will support the development of GM soy within the European Union.

The Environment Ministry remained cautious while referring to the subject and announced that it would not open any time soon a campaign to support or fight GMs.

For the moment, Romania obeys the existing European legislation and does not grow GM soy, Environment Ministry officials say.

Biotechnology to dominate 21st century

- Bharat Textile, May 11, 2007


NEW DELHI: The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) will be able to work speedily and research activities to gain momentum with bio-technology all set to dominate the 21st century, Union Minister Of State For Environment And Forests, Shri Namo Narayan Meena said here on May 08.

The minister while speaking at the 10th meeting of the Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests informed that the meeting that the stay on Genetic Engineering Approval Commttee has been vacated today during judicial hearing and assured along with treating this field as a priority area with investments, priority will be given to proper risk assessment and appropriate measures to mitigate its adverse impacts.

In bio-pharma and bio-seeds industries, the turnover has already crossed a billion mark and the growth rate is estimated as 40 percent before the presentation on living modified organisms- LMOs and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

Namo Narayan added that 62 hybrids of cotton have been approved for commercial cultivation across 9 cotton growing states viz; Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu while referring to the approval of transgenic crop Bt cotton and 20 recombinant therapeutic products in India.

The overall production has gone up to 24.4 million bales in 2005-06 as compared to 15.8 million bales in 2001-02, while the productivity has increased from 308 kg per hectare to 450 kg per hectare during the same period as the area under cotton cultivation has increased from 72000 acres in 2002 to 93 lakh acres in 2006.

Also the pesticide usage has also come down by 2260 MT during 2005-06, though there has been overall acceptance of the Bt technology by cotton growing farmers, the issues and concerns raised are being examined by the regulatory agencies.

However, the Bt cotton is the first GM crop in the country, which is making us to pass through learning phase; whereas sale of illegal/ spurious seeds insect resistant management, compliance of conditions etc. are various issues which will be taken care of by the ministry.

The ministry is also implementing a World Bank GEF capacity building project on bio-safety which includes strengthening the national capacity for effective legislative frame-work, operational mechanism, establishing bio-safety data base and supporting a network for research in the area of risk assessment and monitoring.

The committee members appreciated the presentation on Bio-safety Regulation of Living Modified Organisms as well as Genetically Modified Organisms in India and further also sought the action taken on the projects and progress which were discussed during the last consultative committee meeting.

The Bio-technology has the potential for ensuring food security, decreased pressure on land use, increased crop yields and reduced use of water and agrochemicals in agriculture, Shri Meena added.

India Says Yes to Second "Green Revolution"

- Krystal Wilson, American Council on Science and Health, May 9, 2007


India is one of many places that misleading information about genetic modification in agriculture has had negative effects.

Some gene modification is a naturally occurring phenomenon, since many common foods are products of natural mutations or genetic recombinations. However, modern biotechnology gives breeders the ability to select, transfer, or modify single genes without having to wait for nature to take its often very slow course. GM agriculture is a valuable tool that grants us the ability to greatly increase crop production. Pests and weeds are less of a problem for many farmers who have chosen to take advantage of GM crops (see ACSH's Biotechnology and Food). Despite the efficiency increase that is seen with GM crops many are still opposed to the idea. The fear of GM agriculture is based on superstition and is anti-scientific. The media constantly alerts us to supposed dangers of GM agriculture, but with no evidence of a real human health threat.

Recently, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of India was instructed to deny approval for any GM crop for fresh field trials (See "SC hearing on GM crops ban this week"). This is incredible in light of the huge improvements India experienced after adapting similar plant breeding technology during the Green Revolution of the 50s and 60s. ACSH Trustee and 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug fathered this revolution with his development of high-yield, disease-resistant crop varieties (see "Recognizing a Giant of Our Time: Dr. Norman Borlaug Turns 90"). In the 1960s, India was able to go from famine to being considered a breadbasket when some crop yields doubled in size, thanks largely to the new techniques of the Green Revolution.

Despite this, malnutrition persists in India, and the population keeps growing. As the population rises, agricultural land is shrinking. Biotechnology experts in India realize this and therefore petitioned for the removal of the ban on GM crops (see "SC allows field trials of GM crops"). Luckily for India, they were successful and the ban on GM crops has been conditionally removed. GM crops are now legal in India as long as they are not grown within 200 meters of normal crops. Contamination fears are probably still being exaggerated, but we are happy to see India welcome their second Green Revolution -- even if it is from 200 meters away.


Krystal Wilson is a research intern at the American Council on Science and Health

No more Luddites, please

Cotton output set to take off

- The Economic Times (India), May 11, 2007


The Supreme Court ruling granting permission to the Centre to conduct field trials of genetically modified (GM) seeds paves the way for commercialisation of more than a dozen transgenic cotton hybrids.

And while it may not end the opposition to such crops completely, the apex court's insistence on a number of safeguards should assuage the fears of all but the most diehard opponents of GM crops.

The court has stipulated that a distance of 200 metres be kept between GM and non-GM crop fields in order to minimise the risk of contamination. It has also called for a strict protocol for testing contamination with a designated scientist made responsible for ensuring that testing standards are upheld.

Pending further trials, only four approved Bt cotton varieties are to be commercially released at the moment. The court has also asked the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee to submit detailed reports on toxic and other allergic reactions to GM crops. The rationale is to strike a balance between scientific progress and concerns about possible harmful effects of what is still a relatively new science.

But while we understand the rationale, we would argue that the SC should not concern itself any more with the operational details of the further development of GM crops because this is solely the prerogative of the executive and the legislature.

GM crops are produced from genetically modified organisms where the genome has been altered through genetic engineering techniques. Though they have been used for long in countries like the US and China, they are still viewed with suspicion in large parts of the world, including Europe.

In India, opposition to GM crops has greatly delayed their introduction, despite proven benefits in terms of greater pest resistance and higher yield. Field trials have shown that farmers who grew the Bt cotton variety, first introduced in 2002, obtained 25%-75% more cotton and also needed to use less pesticide.

Thanks to increased acreage under Bt, cotton production touched 250 lakh bales in the 2005 season, higher than the target of 220 lakh bales for the tenth five year Plan under the Technology Mission on Cotton (TMC). Rising production will pave the way for a rapid increase in exports of textiles and readymade garments.


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