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June 15, 2007


France won't suspend maize; Cyprus to segregate groceries; GM bans threaten agriculture


* France won't suspend GM maize
* GM carnations 'safe'
* Cyprus to segregate groceries
* GM bans threaten agriculture
* 39 more Bt cotton hybrids approved
* USDA Names Biotech Committee Members
* These are not empty promises


France says will not suspend Monsanto's GMO maize

- Reuters, June 14, 2007


PARIS - France will not ban growing the only genetically modified crop allowed in the country, U.S. biotech giant Monsanto's MON 810 maize, because there is no new element to question it, the Environment Ministry said on Thursday.

Several European Union countries have recently dug in their heels on whether their farmers may grow MON 810 maize, one of Europe's oldest GMO crops.

Hungary, one of the EU-27's biggest grain producers, outlawed the planting of MON 810 seed in January 2005.

Germany last month decided that maize produced from MON 810 seed could only be sold if there was an accompanying monitoring plan to research its effects on the environment.

Soon afterwards, French government number two Alain Juppe, in charge of his country's environment, transport and energy policy, said in a newspaper interview that he would not exclude being "inspired" by Germany's proposed GMO ban.

He and Farm Minister Christine Lagarde then asked the French biotech commission to provide them with a new evaluation of the product, as the last one dated from 1996.

"The commission's opinion shows that there are no elements at this stage to question the environmental evaluation of this maize," the ministry said in a statement.

An official at the ministry told Reuters that the status of MON 810 would not therefore be questioned.

"The growing of this maize will not be suspended in France because there is no danger according to the commission's opinion," the official said.

Also known by its commercial name, YieldGard, the maize type is designed to resist the European corn borer, a pest that attacks maize stalks and thrives in warmer climates in southern EU countries such as Italy and Spain.

Monsanto says the protein contained in its maize has selective toxicity but is harmless to humans, fish and wildlife.

However, the two ministers said they would remain vigilant about the way these crops were grown in France.

France is expected to harvest this year between 25,000 and 30,000 hectares of land sown with MON 810 maize.


Genetically modified carnations 'safe'

- National Nine News (Australia), June 15, 2007


The first-ever entry on Australia's Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) Register has been approved.

Four genetically modified varieties of carnations, first trialled in 1992 and commercially released in 1995, are now considered so safe that those using them do not need a special licence to handle the plants.

Created by Florigene Pty Ltd ,the genetic modification created violet, mauve and purple carnations.

Based in Melbourne, Florigene works entirely on creating genetically modified flowers.

advertisement One of its major projects is aiming to create a genuinely blue rose, unlike current blue roses which seem closer to a faint shade of purple.

The register, controlled by the Gene Technology Regulator, is a list of GMOs that the regulator is satisfied pose minimal risks to human health and safety and the environment.

It can therefore be handled without an intentional release licence.


Cyprus' parliament votes to put biotech products on separate shelves

- Associated Press, June 15, 2007


Cyprus' parliament has passed legislation requiring supermarkets to put genetically modified products on separate shelves from other food.

The Green Party, which tabled the bill, said Friday that the legislation will make it easier for the public to "distinguish these products" and help them make more informed purchases.

Parliament unanimously approved the bill Thursday.

The Green party described the bill as a "historic victory" that would lead the biotech food industry to abandon the Cypriot market.

Party spokeswoman Ioanna Panayiotou said surveys have shown wide public support for the initiative _ which she said was the first of its kind in the European Union.

"It is a pioneering moment ... and we are optimistic more countries will follow," she told state radio.


GM bans threaten agriculture: McGauran

North Queensland Register (Australia), June 14, 2007


State and territory moratoriums on genetically modified (GM) crops are placing Australia's agricultural sector at serious risk of being left behind by our international competitors, according to Federal Minister for Agriculture, Peter McGauran.

Addressing a biofuels forum in Canberra, Mr McGauran welcomed the recent decisions by Victoria and Tasmania to review their GM crop bans and called on other jurisdictions to follow their lead.

"If Australian farmers are to remain internationally competitive they must be able to obtain the full benefits of biotechnology," Mr McGauran said.

"Australian farmers face considerable challenges - including competing demands for water, increasing soil acidity and salinity, new and adapting pests and diseases, and strong competition in our export markets.

"As the world's population increases, there is demand for more, and healthier, types of food.

"There will also be demand to use crops for energy production and for new industrial and pharmaceutical uses. Biotechnology is helping to provide answers to these challenges."

Mr McGauran said the States and territories must remove moratoriums on GM crops to allow farmers to choose which crops they want to grow, and provide researchers and investors with a clear pathway to the marketplace.

"Australia is at serious risk of being left behind as a competitive agricultural exporter if we do not take full advantage of this powerful technology."

Mr McGauran stressed that Australia, through the Office of Gene Technology Regulator, had an extremely comprehensive regulatory system to assess the risks to human health and the environment posed by biotechnology.


Thirty nine more Bt cotton hybrids can be commercially cultivated

- Bharat Textile, June 15, 2007


NEW DELHI: More Bt cotton hybrids are approved for commercial cultivation by the GEAC ( The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee ).

The GEAC has approved 39 new Bt cotton hybrids for commercial cultivation in south India and 9 new Bt cotton hybrids for commercial cultivation in Central India in the current season.

Earlier the apex court had banned the commercial cultivation of Bt cotton for some scientific and animal welfare reasons.

The apex court has partially modified its earlier ban on genetically manufactured crop trials.

The GEAC has set up a scientific investigation committee which is headed by SPS Ahlawat, the director of Indian Veterinary Research Institute, to examine reports received from NGOs regarding sheep mortality in Warangal and Adilabad districts of Andhra Pradesh due to consumption of Bt cotton leaves.

The panel consists of K Somasekhar Reddy, associate dean in the College of Veterinary, Hyderabad, Y Thirupathaiah, joint director of animal husbandry in the Andhra Pradesh government, Chenga Reddy of Cotton Research Station, Guntur and KK Tripathi, advisor in the department of biotechnology.

Since the apex court order of May 9, partially modifying its earlier ban order on GM crop trials, the GEAC has gone upbeat in making a spate of approvals of Bt cotton for commercial cultivation.

Andhra Pradesh directorate of animal husbandry has submitted a report to the GEAC for presence of possible toxins in Bt cottom and their ill effect on animals. The Committee set up by GEAC will examine the report received from AP directorate of animal husbandry.


USDA Names Members To The Advisory Committe On Biotechnology And 21st Century Agriculture

- USDA press release, June 14, 2007


Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced members to serve on the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21).

Members reappointed to one-year terms beginning on Feb. 21, 2007, were: Leon C. Corzine, Assumption, Ill.; Michael D. Dykes, Washington, D.C.; and Jerome B. Slocum, Coldwater, Miss.

Members reappointed to nine-month terms beginning on May 14, 2007, were Duane R. Grant, Rupert, Idaho, and Bradley A. Shurdut, Arlington, Va.

Members reappointed for 21-month terms beginning on May 14, 2007, were: Gregory A. Jaffe, Mclean, Va.; Patricia A. Layton (chair); Clemson, S.C.; and Alison L. Van Eenennaam, Davis, Calif.

Two new members, Stephanie A. Whalen, Haleiwa, Hawaii, and Guy A. Cardineau, Tempe, Ariz., were appointed for two-year terms beginning on Feb. 21, 2007, and another new member, R. Bowen Flowers, Tunica, Miss., was appointed to a one-year term beginning on Feb. 21, 2007.

Three new members were also appointed for 21-month terms beginning on May 14, 2007, Fuller W. Bazer, College Station, Texas; James M. Robl, Brandon, S.D.; and Michael J. Engler, Amarillo, Texas.

The AC21 was established in February 2003 to provide information and advice to the Secretary of Agriculture on topics related to the use of biotechnology in agriculture. The committee is charged with examining the long-term impacts of biotechnology on the U.S. food and agriculture system and USDA, and providing guidance to USDA on pressing individual issues, identified by the Office of the Secretary, related to the application of biotechnology in agriculture.


These are not empty promises

- The Age (Australia), June 15, 2007


BOB Phelps asserts that the benefits of GM crops are empty promises (Opinion, 12/6). Before Age readers take his story at face value, they should remember that we live in a drought-prone country.

Australians need to weigh carefully the potential for gene technology to protect crops against drought and provide ways of using water more efficiently. Phelps gives the wrong impression that this is simply a pie-in-the-sky dream.

Drought tolerance from GM crops is a field-trial reality, backed up by more than 300 registered trials of such crops in the US going back over the past eight years or so. The Dow Jones news service recently reported that drought-tolerant maize can give about 9 per cent better cereal yields under water stress conditions in such trials.

Phelps disingenuously claims that no drought-tolerant GM crops have been commercialised or trialled in Australia, but what he doesn't say is that there are field trials for water-efficient cotton, water-efficient sugar cane and drought-tolerant wheat either under way or recently approved by our national gene technology national regulator.

There is an extremely high future cost to slamming the door now on these welcome results of crop innovation. If shut, the door will be shut for years, because breeding and testing new crop varieties to suit local conditions takes years. Meanwhile, with a door shut here, our trade competitors in North and South America would be taking all the advantages. Most likely, Australian farmers will suffer badly for years to come from the vagaries of climate change if we make the wrong decision now.

David Tribe, department of microbiology and immunology, University of Melbourne


Not the whole story

BOB Phelps claims that an international coalition of scientists gathered in Brussels to present evidence against GM crops. If the evidence was useful, where is it?

The Australian regulator assessed GM canola from Bayer and Monsanto in 2003 and produced two detailed reports to back its conclusion that these types of canola are just as safe as conventional canola. Instead of having a scientific debate about this, opponents of the technology such as Phelps ignore these assessments and keep making the same old claims.

Phelps' biggest claim, that Australia is "GM-free", is as off the mark as claiming Australia is "penicillin-free" or "internet-free" or free of any other product or technology that has been used in Australia for 20 years. Last year, a grain trader brought 57,000 tonnes of Canadian canola to Australia and has sold it all, vegetable oil and protein meal. This is on top of the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of GM soybean meal imported to Australia every year or the millions of doses of insulin made in GM bacteria and used by Australian diabetics since the 1980s.

It is high time Australian grain farmers were allowed to join their cotton industry friends and be given the right to grow crops that are freely imported and used here with a record of safe use around the world for more than a decade.

Mark Tester, Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics and the University of Adelaide

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