Today in AgBioView from* AgBioWorld, http://www.agbioworld.org, May 17, 2007
* GM Corn Wins Approval From Brazil
* U.S. approves GMO rice
* Scientists plan new GM crop trials
* Seed ban totally ludicrous
* ABIC 2007
Bayer Corn Seed Wins Approval From Brazil Regulator
- Carlos Caminada, Bloomberg News, May 16, 2007
Bayer AG, Germany's largest drugmaker, got approval from Brazil's biotechnology regulator to sell a genetically modified corn seed in the country, moving one step closer to final government clearance.
The regulatory council voted 17 to 4 to give Bayer the first license to sell a gene-modified corn seed in Brazil, which already allows the sale of soybeans altered to better resist pesticides, council spokeswoman Rachel Mortari said.
Bayer's license paves the way for Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co., the world's leading developers of genetically modified seeds, to also win licenses for their corn strains. The two companies have requests waiting for clearance from the council, which has delayed votes for months because of court injunctions and protests by environmental activists.
Greenpeace International protesters stormed a meeting of the council in March, leading the regulators to postpone the vote on seeds. Last month, the council focused its meeting on approving research licenses.
Today, one member of the regulatory council asked that the Bayer request be reviewed by another government board, Mortari said. A panel of 11 ministers will decide within 60 days whether to give final government approval, she said.
Brazil is the world's third-biggest corn grower, trailing the U.S. and China. The country's farmers will harvest a record 51.1 million metric tons of the grain in the crop year ending Sept. 30, up from 42.5 million tons a year earlier, after rains boosted yields, the agriculture ministry said on May 8.
Corn futures for July delivery rose 4.5 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $3.76 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade today. The price has risen 45 percent in the past year.
Shares of Bayer fell 38 cents, or 0.8 percent, to 49.73 euros in Frankfurt. They are up 41 percent from a year ago.
U.S. approves GMO rice to produce human proteins
- Lisa Haarlander, Reuters, May 16, 2007
The U.S. government gave approval on Wednesday for a biotech company to plant rice genetically modified to produce human proteins in Kansas.
Ventria Bioscience of Sacramento, California, can now grow up to 3,200 acres of genetically modified rice in Geary County, Kansas, to produce proteins that would be used in medicine to treat diarrhea.
Ventria plans to grow the rice on only 250 acres, said company president Scott Deeter.
"We have grown it for nine years in North Carolina, California and South America as well," he said.
The approval by the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) fuels concerns that another GMO crop will contaminate the U.S. food and feed supply.
Last summer, a genetically modified strain of long-grain rice made by Bayer CropScience, a unit of Bayer AG, which had not been cleared for food use, was found in commercial rice bins in Arkansas and Missouri. Several countries, including the European Union, have sharply cut back on U.S. rice purchases following the discovery. USDA has since found LibertyLink safe for food and feed use.
"The U.S. rice industry is still reeling from the release of Bayer CropScience's genetically engineered LibertyLink rice into U.S. Delta-region rice fields," USA Rice Producers' Group Chairman Paul Combs said. "We are living with the effect of unintended events and consequences. This decision will not generate any comfort among U.S. commercial rice growers."
APHIS received more than 20,000 comments on Ventria's application, with only 29 groups or individuals supporting the planting of the GMO rice in Kansas.
USDA has a stringent protocol for overseeing genetically modified crops with those made to produce pharmaceuticals regulated by more field inspections and greater distances from traditional food crops, among other requirements.
There is no commercial rice production within 300 miles of Geary County, APHIS said.
"We don't produce this in an area that produces rice," Deeter said. "It's an entirely different production system. We wouldn't have the situation that LibertyLink had."
Availability of an Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for a Proposed Field Release of Rice Genetically Engineered To Express Lactoferrin, Lysozyme, or Serum Albumin
- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA, Docket No. APHIS-2007-0006
Scientists plan new GM crop trials
- NZZ Online, May 17, 2007
Three years after a series of controversial field experiments with genetically modified (GM) wheat, Swiss scientists are planning similar crop trials.
Two teams of university researchers have applied to carry out tests near Zurich and Lausanne, including observations of potential crossbreeding between wheat and wild grass.
The proposed field trials by Zurich University's Institute of Plant Biology and the Institute of Plant Sciences at the city's Federal Institute of Technology would form part of a planned national research programme.
The aim would be to help answer questions about the release of transgenic plants, specifically in Switzerland.
"It is important to clearly say that we are not developing a product for the market," Beat Keller, a lead researcher on the project, told swissinfo.
"We want to find out if GM wheat plants that we have already tested in the labs, which show improved resistance to fungal diseases, also [behave in a similar way] in the field in normal agricultural environments."
They also intend to look at aspects of biological safety to see if the plants have any unexpected impact on the environment, as well as organisms living in the ground or insects.
If the Federal Environment Office gives the go:ahead, trials will run over a two:year period from 2008 in Reckenholz near Zurich, and in Pully, on the outskirts of Lausanne. The office is expected to reach its decision within the next three months. Controversial
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) remain a highly contentious issue in Switzerland. In November 2005 the Swiss voted in favour of a five:year ban on the use of GMOs in agriculture. Scientific research, however, is still permitted.
During discussions before the vote all political parties said it was necessary and essential to increase research into this topic and use the five:year moratorium period to clarify questions.
But the last GM crop trials in Switzerland, which took place in Lindau near Zurich in 2004, resulted in major opposition and a lengthy legal battle.
Keller is certain that there will be resistance to the project, but hopes that there will be better public acceptance than three years ago.
"There is a clear need and demand from society to clarify questions," he reckons.
"And the project also includes a very broad consortium of research groups which will approach it from many different angles." Scepticism
GM opponents were quick to react to Tuesday's announcement.
"We are very concerned. We don't want trials that are a Trojan horse," said Herbert Karch, a committee member of the Swiss Working Group for Genetic Engineering (SAG).
While trials are allowed in principle, SAG is doubtful whether the proposals meet strict criteria set out in the law on genetic engineering.
It also questions the use of wheat in the trials. "There is no need for these kind of plants," said Karch.
No country currently grows GM wheat and producers refuse to do so, SAG said in a statement on Tuesday.
"We are doing fundamental research and it's a fact that for clarifying questions about the use of transgenic plants in Switzerland, wheat is probably the best crop as it is among the most:grown. It's an obvious choice," replied Keller, trying to placate opponents' fears.
Environmental organisation Greenpeace, which opposed the 2004 trial both in the courts and with a demonstration at the site, also expressed its surprise about the news and warned about what it considers to be the dangers of GMOs for the environment, and for the health of both humans and animals.
Yves Zenger, spokesman for Greenpeace, said the majority of Swiss people, like others in many parts of the world, were against the release of GMOs.
The organic farming association Bio Suisse, while supporting GM research in a closed environment, said it was extremely wary of field trials of modified organisms.
Before approving the tests, it said the authorities should carry out a complete and detailed risk analysis.
Roundup Ready alfalfa seed ban a totally ludicrous legal decision
- Harry Cline, Western Farm Press, May 16, 2007
Ludicrous, absurd, unbelievable, preposterous - those just a few descriptive terms for California Federal District Court Judge Charles Breyer's decision to halt the sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa seed.
Not only did he suspend the sale of herbicide-resistant seed for two years, he put RR alfalfa in the same category as child molesters. I am surprised he didn't make producers now farming RR alfalfa seed and forage fields wear ankle monitoring bracelets like criminals.
He almost went that far when he ordered Forage Genetics to GPS-identify 220,000 acres of alfalfa seed and forage fields and post those fields on the Internet.
For what? Superfund waste sites? Radioactive waste storage sites?
No - alfalfa containing a totally harmless protein. Alfalfa that cows, women and children can eat, walk in, munch on, sniff, and experience with not one harmful effect.
All this to appease a bunch of radicals bent on destroying the American economy, and to mollify a couple of obscure seed companies that think a protein may contaminate conventional or organic alfalfa (or are angry they did not get a license to sell Roundup Ready alfalfa).
One of the companies sells almost nothing but genetically modified alfalfa varieties resistant to pests and diseases. How did the alfalfa Geertsen sells become resistant? Through genetic modification.
Wonder what Geertsen and Trask would think if some judge ordered their farms mapped and GPS'd on the Internet for the world to see, on the totally absurd notion something they're doing might be harmful? Wonder what the plaintiff's lawyers would think if their cars were ordered equipped with tracking devices just because a judge decided they might be harmful to the environment?
So what if the glyphosate-resistant gene gets into another alfalfa field? You may be able detect it, but what harm will it do? None.
And let's get off the glyphosate-resistant mega-weed kick.
Sure, there are issues with glyphosate-resistant weeds. But, let's put the issue in perspective: There are exactly 12 of 314 herbicide-resistant weeds worldwide identified as resistant to glyphosate.
The Weed Science Society of America says the No. 1 herbicide class for weed resistance is ALS inhibitors, with 95 resistant weeds. Atrazine has 66; Diclofop-methyl (Hoelon, Illoxan, Hoe-Grass), 35; 2, 4-D, 25 weeds; paraquat, 23; chlorotoluron, 21 - all those before the list lands on glyphosate.
Certainly, glyphosate-resistance is a serious issue, largely because of the explosion of herbicide-resistant crops. Can producers do anything about it?
For one thing they can go to their equipment yards and find the disks and cultivators covered by weeds. They can a herbicide other than glyphosate to kill weeds.
Sorry judge, the world will not end because 12 weeds are resistant.
And don't accuse me of owning Monsanto stock or being on the Monsanto payroll. It won't fly. I think there is a half empty plastic jug of 3 percent Roundup in the garage. That is my total involvement with Monsanto.
Monsanto, Forage Genetics, Farm Bureau, and other farm organizations must appeal this ridiculous decision to protect American agriculture from a threat far more insidious than any transgenic gene or weed.
ABIC 2007 - Harnessing Science for the Evolving Consumer - The Fit of Agricultural Biotechnology
- September 23 to 26, 2007; Calgary, Alberta, Canada
In recent years, the annual Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference (ABIC) has become an essential event for professionals around the world. Scientists, entrepreneurs, policy specialists, government officials and many others depend on ABIC conferences to be challenging, penetrating and highly applicable to their day-to-day work.
The field of agricultural biotechnology is located at the intersection of scientific possibility and commercial reality. The advance of the products and technologies of ag biotech depends in equal measure on what science can do and how consumers respond.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada is uniquely positioned to host an event of the magnitude of ABIC 2007. A sophisticated, high-tech city of 1 million people, Calgary offers all the big-city amenities: convenient air connections, fine dining, extensive shopping and first-class accommodations.
*by Andrew Apel, guest editor, andrewapel+at+wildblue.net