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July 2, 2007


EFSA reaffirms MON 863; Field trials of rice encouraging; Give Annan the boot; Barley Trial Attacked


* EFSA reaffirms its risk assessment
* Field trials of GM rice encouraging
* Corn Plantings Up 19%
* Control of Bt Cotton Seed Price
* Access to technical knowledge
* Give Annan the boot
* EU Rules May Force Out Small Farmers
* EU postpones cultivation of GM potato
* Discovery could speed DNA sequencing
* More destruction on barley trial field
* IP Management in Agricultural Innovation


EFSA reaffirms its risk assessment of genetically modified maize MON 863

- European Food Safety Authority (press release), June 28, 2007


At the request of the European Commission (EC), EFSA has examined a paper by Séralini et al. on the statistical evaluation of a 90-day feeding study in animals with genetically modified maize MON 863, to identify any consequences for EFSA's risk assessment of the safety of MON 863. The paper presents an alternative statistical analysis of the 90-day rat study that was considered in the original risk assessment. Following a detailed statistical review and analysis by an EFSA Task Force, EFSA's GMO Panel has concluded that this re-analysis of the data does not raise any new safety concerns.

At the request of the European Commission (EC), EFSA has examined a paper by Séralini et al. on the statistical evaluation of a 90-day feeding study in animals with genetically modified maize MON 863, to identify any consequences for EFSA's risk assessment of the safety of MON 863.[1] The paper presents an alternative statistical analysis of the 90-day rat study that was considered in the original risk assessment. Following a detailed statistical review and analysis by an EFSA Task Force, EFSA's GMO Panel has concluded that this re-analysis of the data does not raise any new safety concerns.

EFSA undertook a series of actions to give a considered response to the European Commission on this issue:

* Member States (MS) were asked to provide any analyses and comments that may contribute to consideration of this issue.

* EFSA set up a Task Force of internal and external statistical experts to help assess the statistical methodology applied by authors of the publication in their re-analysis of the original data from the 90-day rat feeding study and to consider the contributions received from MS. As part of that work a meeting was held with the authors of the paper.

* EFSA's GMO Panel has reviewed all the available evidence.

Following this work, EFSA has responded to the Commission, published a statistical report and issued a scientific statement from its GMO Panel. The main conclusions are:

* The statistical analysis made by the authors of the paper did not take into account certain important statistical considerations. The assumptions underlying the statistical methodology employed by the authors led to misleading results.

* EFSA considers that the paper does not present a sound scientific justification in order to question the safety of MON 863 maize.

* Observed statistically significant differences reported by Monsanto, Séralini et al., and EFSA, were considered not to be biologically relevant. In the absence of any indications that the observed differences are indicative of adverse effects, the GMO Panel does not consider that this paper raises new issues with respect to the safety of MON 863 maize.

Therefore, the GMO Panel sees no reason to revise its previous Opinions that the MON 863 maize would not have an adverse effect in the context of its proposed use.

Prior to this most recent work, MON 863 maize has been subject to a comprehensive risk assessment by EFSA and by other authorities which did not identify any adverse effects on human and animal health or the environment. The 90-day rat study analysed by this paper is one element of the comprehensive risk assessment of MON863 maize. In addition to the original Opinion in April 2004, this study has been reviewed again twice since then, prior to this recent work.

The letter to the Commission, the GMO Panel statement, EFSA statistical analysis of the Monsanto data are available on the EFSA website at the following links:

* Letter to the Commission at http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/about_efsa/structure/who_is_who/home_cgl/correspondence.html

* The GMO Panel statement at http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/science/gmo/statements0/gmo_statement_mon863_ratfeeding.html

* EFSA statistical analysis of the Monsanto data at http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/science/scientific_reports/statistical_analyses_MON863.html


Field trials of genetically modified rice plant encouraging

- The Hindu, June 30, 2007


MADURAI: Field trials of a genetically modified disease-resistant rice plant developed in the Madurai Kamaraj University laboratory and conducted at three locations in the State have given encouraging results in the first phase. The Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) in Coimbatore, to whom the plants were handed over, is now taking the process to the next stage wherein multi-location trials will be carried out for the 'white ponni' variety, developed after a seven-year research at the Department of Plant Biotechnology, MKU.

Disease resistant

The tests, held at Coimbatore, Aaaduthurai and Ambasamudram, showed that the transgenic plants developed resistance for 'Sheath Blight' disease, common in paddy crop in the southern India.

K. Veluthambi, Professor and Head, Department of Plant Biotechnology at the MKU, told The Hindu on Friday said the trials lasted a few months since October last and after detailed studies the agricultural university decided to go f or multi-location field trials.

Around 1,000 seeds of genetically modified rice plants were given to the TNAU for trials and it was found that the loss of yield due to 'Sheath Blight' disease could be prevented.

"The disease brings down the resistance power of the plant resulting in yield loss. That was contained by genetic modification," Dr. Veluthambi said.

While 'Sheath Blight' was common occurrence in rice cultivation in southern States, the problem faced in northern States was 'Rice Blast.'

This trial stage was undertaken after getting permission from the Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation in the Department of Biotechnology, he said.


Corn Plantings Reach 92.9 Million Acres

- Mid-South Farmer, June 29, 2007


The USDA acreage report Friday shows 92.9 million acres of corn planted in 2007, 3% more than the March projection, 19% more than last year's plantings, and the most since World War II.

State records were set in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and North Dakota, though Iowa continues to lead in total corn acres.

New corn acres mainly come at the expense of soybeans in the Corn Belt and Great Plains and cotton in the South. National soybean area is estimated at 64.1 million acres, 15% lower than last year and down 5% from the March forecast, and cotton plantings total 11.1 million acres, 28% less than last year and the lowest since 1989.

Biotech seed varieties made up 73% of corn acres, up 12% from last year, and soybean and cotton farmers also planted higher percentages of biotech, at 91% and 87% respectively.


Control of Bt Cotton Seed Price by the Government of Andhra Pradesh, India

- C. Kameswara Rao, Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education, Bangalore, India, June 22, 2007


Contact: krao+at+vsnl.com

The Government of the State of Andhra Pradesh (AP) is issuing an Ordinance restricting the maximum sale price of 400 g of Bt cotton seed required for an acre to Rs. 750. The package also includes 50 g of non-Bt cotton seed to plant the refugium. This Ordinance is being bought in to ostensibly protect the farmer, after the Central Government removed cotton from the protected list of essential commodities.

The Ordinance applies to the whole State, but the focus is on the Warangal District, the fountain head of all anti-GE activism. In the climate of appeasement politics, the State Government gains some brownie points from the Ordinance, but in effect this does not help the farmer much. The AP Government should be doing several other things for the benefit of the farmers.

Last year, AP Government fixed the price of Bt cotton seed per acre at Rs. 750. But due to short supply, some favourite varieties were on the black market and the same thing happens this year too, making Governmental price control a mockery. The sale receipts show only the official price and not the higher price paid by the farmer. The farmers pay higher price if they think that a particular variety is worth it, as for example, Bollgard II (BGII), the two Bt-genes stacked cotton. Last year, though BGII was not approved in AP, some farmers in the Warangal District bought BGII seed in Maharashtra at a high cost and cultivated. The Government should ensure that only the authentic seed of approved varieties of Bt cotton is sold through registered outlets, and ruthlessly weed out black marketing, to save the farmers from racketeers.

Last year there were several different varieties of Bt cotton on the market in the AP. The farmers were not sure of which to choose, and so planted different varieties on one- or two-acre plots each. Though the farmers might now be wiser from last year's experience, the confusion continues as there are several more new varieties available this year. The Government should first advise the farmers on the choice of the varieties suitable to different regions in the State.

There is a flourishing market for illegal Bt cotton seed which may be cheaper than the legal varieties. There are also the problems of spurious Bt seed, often in authentic looking packages and Bt seed of poor quality, in terms of germination percentage, viability and plant establishment. The AP Government should ensure that the farmers get quality seed certified by its own Seed Testing Agency.

As the availability of water is critical at certain stages of the cotton crop, the farmer should be advised on the time, frequency and quantum of irrigation. Excessive pesticide application on Bt cotton, under panic or over enthusiasm, is wasteful, affects the health of the farm labour, harms non-target organisms and contaminates soil and water. Excessive fertilizer application, particularly under drier conditions, results in an accumulation of nitrates that are toxic to animals that feed on the crop stubble. Planting of a refugium is a scientific precaution against development of resistance by the American bollworm to Bt proteins, and a statutory requirement, which is largely ignored by the farmers. The AP Government should ensure that a refugium is planted by all the farmers and also represent to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee to permit non-cotton refugium (preferred by the farmers), which will be as effective as the non-Bt cotton refugium, since the American bollworm feeds on several other common crops.

Farmers should be advised to practice inter-cultivation so that one crop would at least partially compensate, if there were any losses from the other. They should be advised to adopt crop rotation to prevent perpetuation of pest and pathogen load and depletion of the same set of soil nutrients, which ensue if the same crop is cultivated years on.

That AP has not constituted the State Level and District Level Committees to oversee and monitor the cultivation of genetically engineered crops has been a serious complaint. Under the country's Statutes in force, it is irregular to cultivate GE crops without forming these Committees.

The private seed dealers have a responsibility to the farmer in providing adequate and timely guidance, which was largely unfulfilled. By and large, there was no authentic information on cultivation practices. The Government should ensure that the dealers take their post-sale responsibilities seriously. The State Government should carry out its own fundamental responsibility of ensuring that the farmers receive guidance through the scientific and extension personnel of the Department of Agriculture and public sector institutions, more particularly on what the farmers should not do.

The Government should ensure that the farmer gets a fair price, eliminating middlemen.

A couple of years ago, the AP Government directed the Officers of the Department of Agriculture to discourage cultivation of cotton on red soils and under rain fed conditions, especially where the annual rainfall is less than 60 cm, and not distributed over the crop season. That cotton should not be grown as a rain fed crop is now realized also in the Vidharbha region of Maharashtra State, which is the other 'Bt cotton disaster' story area. The widows of some farmers who have committed suicide in this area have recently represented to the President of India that 'there must be a blanket ban on Bt cotton seeds in the dry land farming areas'. The AP Government should now take its own advice seriously and ensure that this is implemented urgently, no matter what the friends of the farmers say.

Seed quality control and crop husbandry are more important in enhancing farmers' welfare than ineffective and ill-advised price control orders.


Open access to existing technical knowledge

- Calestous Juma, Business Daily (Africa), June 29, 2007


One mechanism for improving human welfare in African countries is to expand the amount of essential information that is in the public domain, that is, to expand the "knowledge commons".

A remarkable example of the use of publicly available information was the so-called Green Revolution that helped such countries as Mexico and India become self-sufficient in food production.

The Green Revolution relied heavily on publicly-available knowledge. But the publicly available knowledge could be put to practical use only through the creation of local research institutions.

The knowledge commons is thus a critical foundation from which innovation develops. The well-established practice of providing an expiry date for intellectual-property rights, after which knowledge becomes publicly shared, is an illustration of the importance that society has historically attached to the role of the knowledge commons.

Every year, the expiration of thousands of patents brings into the public domain new knowledge that had been available only on royalty payment. That knowledge constitutes an important reservoir of ideas that can be used to meet development needs.

Scientific and medical research articles should surely be part of the knowledge commons. For the scientific and technologic communities, open-access publishing unleashes full-text literature into a single information space.

Unrestricted access to genetic and molecular information has revolutionized life-science research in recent years and has helped to establish new fields, such as proteomics and genomics.

An example of this revolution is GenBank, a public database of DNA sequences that is freely accessible to all scientists without restrictions. Academic institutions and commercial companies worldwide are licensed to use the database for product development. Open access to the broader scientific and health literature will have equally profound benefits for research on challenges faced by developing countries.

Inventors and innovators are increasingly interested in making their ideas available free of royalty for use in meeting the needs of developing countries. The Nairobi-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation is focusing on making proprietary technologies available royalty-free for developing new technologies for small-scale farmers.

In another variant of the open access model, the Canberra-based Biological Innovation for Open Society (BiOS) project extends the open-source software concept to the life sciences with an emphasis on finding solutions for challenges of the developing world.

An equivalent revolution is taking place in medical and scientific publishing. A growing number of open-access publishers not only make information free, but publish it under innovative copyright licenses which allow readers to use the results of research in innovative ways. Such licenses maximize the usefulness, impact, and value of the literature.

For example, African health ministers are licensed to make millions of copies of the report of the first randomised trial of circumcision for HIV prevention, to give a copy to every health professional in their country, to translate it into local languages without restrictions, or to create locally relevant derivative articles.

Those examples of "open access" and "open source" illustrate the growing interest in expanding the space for creativity by promoting flexible intellectual-property systems that seek to balance public and private interests. The main concerns of developing countries are related to having the capacity to access knowledge and building institutions that convert knowledge into goods and services.

The challenge now is for African countries to provide the infrastructure and incentives needed by their scientific community to join the global knowledge economy.


Give Annan the boot

- Henry I. Miller, The Washington Times, June 29, 2007


Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will head a new group intended to achieve a "green revolution" in African agriculture. The effort is largely bankrolled by Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates. If past performance is any indication, the only things likely to become greener are the numbered bank accounts of Mr. Annan and his cronies.

Lest anyone forget, Mr. Annan's tenure as U.N. secretary-general was marked by unprecedented corruption (including the Iraq oil-for-food debacle), incompetence and profligacy. The organization lacked any semblance of accountability and was (and is) populated by sleazy second-raters chosen for positions under a kind of nationality-based affirmative action program.

How ironically appropriate were Mr. Annan's remarks in announcing his new position as head of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, established with an initial $150 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation: "Africa should rely on African solutions - local labor, seeds and markets - without seeking imported biotech 'magic bullets' or the promise of more open foreign markets."

"We are not embarking on a major genetically modified exercise," he continued.

Such technophobia should come as no surprise. During Mr. Annan's tenure, the United Nations conducted a virtual war on biotechnology, also known as gene-splicing or genetic modification (GM) - and the results were catastrophic, especially for poor nations. Many U.N. agencies were complicit in the unscientific, highly politicized and excessive regulation of biotechnology that has prevented critical advances in agricultural and pharmaceutical research and development.

Gene-spliced products could alleviate famine, water shortages and disease for millions, and even lead to development of edible vaccines incorporated into fruits and vegetables. But during the last decade, delegates to the U.N.-based Convention on Biological Diversity have negotiated and carried out a regressive "biosafety protocol" to regulate the international movement of gene-spliced organisms. A travesty that flies in the face of sound science, this regulatory scheme is based on the bogus "precautionary principle," dictating every new product or technology must be proven completely safe before it can be used.

Many other U.N. agencies have got into the anti-biotech act. A technical working group of the U.N. Environment Program is considering whether to recommend a moratorium on testing or commercialization of gene-spliced trees. Such a suggestion is absurdly antisocial - and shockingly anti-environment. Plant biologists are engineering trees to grow more rapidly (to combat deforestation); require lower inputs; resist pests, diseases and drought; and to enhance output traits that afford greater efficiency for uses such as making paper.

A task force of the U.N.'s Codex Alimentarius Commission, the joint food standards program under the auspices of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, has singled out only food products made with gene-splicing techniques for draconian and unscientific restrictions that conflict with the worldwide scientific consensus that gene-splicing is merely a refinement, or improvement, over less precise and predictable genetic manipulation techniques used for centuries. Thousands of greenhouse and field studies, as well as widespread commercialization in more than a dozen advanced countries, have shown the risks of gene-spliced plants and foods are minimal, their benefits proven and their future potential is extraordinary.

Yet another U.N. Codex group is discussing mandatory labeling for foods that contain ingredients from gene-spliced plants. That could spell disaster for gene-splicing applied to foods (as happened in Europe).

Globally, the adoption of gene-spliced crops reduces pesticide use by scores of millions of pounds annually (as well as the frequency of pesticide poisonings) and, by making possible more no-till farming, saves millions of tons of topsoil from erosion and reduces carbon dioxide emissions.

The U.N.'s actions are rife with contradictions and conflicts that not only are harmful to health, but also make a mockery of the organization's own overblown Millennium Development Goals. The most ambitious objective, "to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger" by 2015, certainly cannot be accomplished without innovative technology - which, in turn, cannot be developed in the face of bans, excessive regulatory barriers and bureaucracies.

The Food and Agriculture Organization calls on one hand for greater allocation of resources to agriculture, and then makes those resources less cost-effective by gratuitous, unscientific overregulation of the new biotechnology.

An important way to "reduce child mortality," another goal, would be to produce pediatric vaccines cheaply in gene-spliced edible fruits and vegetables, but there is near-hysteria at Codex, the United Nations' food standards agency, over conjectural food-safety problems with this approach.

The secretary-general of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization announces that "integrated water-resources management is the key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals of securing access to safe water, sanitation and environmental protection," while other U.N. agencies are making virtually impossible the development of gene-spliced plants that can grow under drought conditions or with low-quality water.

Regulation is a growth industry at the United Nations, one that regularly defies scientific consensus and common sense. The result is vastly inflated R&D costs, less innovation, and diminished exploitation of superior techniques and products - especially in poorer countries, which need them desperately.

Mr. Annan's execrable performance at the U.N., including his presiding over a virtual war on the most precise, predictable and effective techniques to advance agriculture, makes him eminently unqualified for his new position. Similar to solving a glitch with Windows, Mr. Gates should reboot - or, more precisely, give Mr. Annan the boot.

Henry I. Miller, a physician and fellow at the Hoover Institution, headed the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Biotechnology from 1989 to 1993. He is a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Codex working group on biotechnology-derived foods and the author, most recently, of "The Frankenfood Myth."


EU Pesticide Rules May Force Out Small African Farmers

- Sue Scott, Inter Press Service, June 29, 2007


YORK, UK, Jun 29 (IPS) - African farmers could soon find themselves forced out of the lucrative European market for agricultural products as retailers and government move towards a zero tolerance policy on chemical residues in food.

Lack of investment by chemical companies and poor consultation with exporters has been blamed for creating a situation described by the horticultural trade network Coleacp as a "big concern" for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and "unfair" on smaller, independent producers, many of whom will struggle to meet tough new laws on residues next year.

Already there are signs that those growing for retailer-led certification schemes, which set their own gold-plated standards for good agricultural practice, including crop protection measures, are pulling out of the premium export market because the additional costs of compliance are not reflected in the price of their crops.

As many as 50 percent of Ugandan growers and 15 percent of Zambian farmers have fallen out of the largest retailer-backed scheme, according to a new study conducted by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development.

Pressure will only increase as Sainsbury, the third largest food chain in the UK, moves towards a "residue-free" policy, while Germany's biggest grocers, following an embarrassing name-and-shame campaign by Friends of the Earth, have already banned food with any traces of pesticides or herbicides.

Now, the European Commission (EC) is close to completing a new set of maximum residue limits (MRLs) for all products imported into the EU, with those limits for some minor exotic crops likely to be pegged at "theoretical zero" -- or so low as to be undetectable -- leading to what one UK importer termed as an inevitable "reshuffling" of the supply base.

"I'm sure that during 2008 importers will be reviewing sources of supply and finding out what MRLs are likely to apply. It could mean they don't use certain sources or modify the seasons (when they buy from them). Tropical fruit will be the worst affected," said Gary Bradbury of W Bailey & Sons Ltd, who chairs the UK's Fresh Produce Consortium pesticide group.

"There are going to be significant issues. It depends whether exporting countries will have got their acts together sufficiently quickly to have alternative methods and materials in place," he told IPS.

MRLs are not set at the limit of safe human consumption, but several thousand times lower. Nevertheless, exceeding them carries heavy penalties for the importer and usually immediate delisting of the supplier -- a risk that many might prefer to avoid by switching to markets where less onerous rules apply, notably the United Arab Emirates and South Africa.

Establishing a MRL is a costly process, which, according to Roland Levy of the Coleacp-implemented Pesticide Initiative Programme, many plant protection companies have sought to avoid.

"The African market for pesticide manufacturers is 0.5 percent of their annual turnover. It's peanuts and they do not expect a return from it. So we have no MRLs on mangos, papaya, passion fruit or okra," he claimed.

Insiders admit that the current review of MRLs, part of the EC's holy grail of harmonisation between member states, is, as one major exporter put it, "a mess", but with the EC sticking to its timetable for a "one nation" approach by early 2008, it's unclear just how much of the 332,000 metric tonnes of produce exported annually by ACP countries will find its way into the EU after next year.

"MRLs are a nightmare. The EU has effectively ducked harmonisation and are waiting for member states or transnational retailers to unilaterally declare the 0.01 (theoretical zero) level," the exporter told IPS on condition of anonymity. "In a few years' time, the EU can wade in and 'harmonise' after the blood has been shed by the retailers."

He said that German retailers' "knee-jerk" reaction had an immediate impact on rural poverty in third countries. "It's a mess and no one comes out well."

Key to producers' ability to meet the new limits was access to affordable testing laboratories, he said. Some exporters reported they were under pressure from retailers to bear the cost of testing in the west, where it can work out 14 times more expensive.

"Many laboratories cannot test to 0.01 and in third countries this is worse. Where is the investment in suitably qualified labs, locally accessible, at a price that can be accepted?" the exporter continued.

"I wholly support the drive towards less pesticides, more integrated pest management and a cleaner product, but the whole process at the moment is highly charged and has elements of WTO, anti-corporate, anti-global, food miles and natural resources," he said.

The recent Institute of International Development study into the impact of EurepGap, the biggest, European retailer-backed certification scheme, which works with 100,000 producers in 80 countries on holdings as small as one hectare, showed that while growers and their communities benefited from "soft technology", such as training in biological pest control, the cost of compliance was still a major issue.

Senior researcher James MacGregor said the surprisingly high drop-out rates in Uganda and Zambia showed that "if you continue to increase the costs that are being borne within Africa, they will increasingly innovate away from these markets, even though from a reputation point of view you want to be seen as someone who supplies Tesco."

Nigel Garbutt, the UK-based chairman of EurepGap, which represents 31 global retailers, said promoting adoption of more environmentally friendly farming had to be good for developing countries.

"With fewer active ingredients, it's important that producers are less reliant on active chemicals and more aware of the alternatives. So in the future they are not faced with problems of resistance. That's not really something the regulators can do. That's something that has to be trained in," he continued.

"We work very much with the public and private sectors to develop a multi-stakeholder approach. It may lead to certification, but sometimes not. What's interesting is the support we are getting from national governments in developing countries to develop public-private partnerships for their own home markets," said Garbutt.


Commercial cultivation of the genetically optimised starch potato Amflora is postponed

- BASF Plant Science (press release), June 28, 2007


* Amflora is as safe as any conventional potato
* As a renewable resource, Amflora helps save raw materials, energy and costs
* BASF Plant Science calls for speedier adoption of innovative technologies in the EU

Today (June 28th, 2007) at a meeting in Luxembourg, the EU Council of Environmental Ministers did not discuss the approval of BASF's genetically optimized potato, Amflora.

Amflora has been developed together with European experts in the potato starch industry, in order to strengthen the competitiveness of the European starch sector.

BASF Plant Science President & CEO Dr. Hans Kast stated: "Plant biotechnology is a key technology for the 21st century; and Amflora is a perfect example of an innovative product, which benefits the entire value chain from farmers to producers." Amflora, a renewable resource, helps to save raw materials, energy and costs in industrial production through its optimized starch composition.

"We call upon Europe's politicians to show their true commitment to innovation and speed up the approval of new technologies and their resulting products," Kast added.

The EU Commission recommends the cultivation of Amflora in its "Proposal for a Council Decision". This Decision is based on the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) positive evaluation of Amflora. EFSA has repeatedly stated that Amflora is for humans, animals and the environment as safe as any conventional potato.

The EU approval is a prerequisite for the commercial cultivation of Amflora. After approval, BASF's starch potato will be the first genetically enhanced product to be permitted for cultivation in Europe since 1998.

BASF Plant Science expects to start commercial cultivation in 2008, in cooperation with the starch industry and their contract farmers.

About Amflora

Amflora is a genetically optimized potato, producing pure amylopectin starch, ideal for technical applications.

Conventional potatoes produce a mixture of amylopectin and amylose starch. For many technical applications, such as in the paper, textile and adhesives industries, only amylopectin is needed; separating the two starch components is uneconomical. Amflora produces pure amylopectin starch and thus helps to safe resources, energy and costs. Moreover: Paper produced with amylopectin starch has a higher gloss. Concrete and adhesives can be processed for a longer period of time.


Northwestern University Discovery could help bring down price of DNA sequencing

- Northwestern University (press release), June 29, 2007


Contact: Megan Fellman, fellman+at+northwestern.edu

EVANSTON, IL -- In May, Nobel Laureate James D. Watson, the scientist who co-discovered the structure of DNA, became the first person to receive his own complete personal genome -- all three billion base pairs of his DNA code sequenced. The cost was $1 million, and the process took two months.

A million dollars for a map of all your genes is way out of reach for most people. The National Institutes of Health would like to bring it down to $1,000 by the year 2014, but plenty of technological hurdles remain before you'll be able to secure your genetic blueprint for this more affordable price.

One promising method for speeding up DNA sequencing, and thus reducing its cost, is nanopore sequencing, where DNA moves through a tiny hole, much like thread going through a needle. The technique can detect individual DNA molecules, but the DNA gallops through so fast that it is impossible to read the individual letters, or bases, and determine the sequence. (The four letters of the genomic alphabet are A, T, G and C, each representing one of the base nucleotides that make up DNA.)

Using a theory based on classical hydrodynamics, a Northwestern University researcher now has explained the nature of the resistive force that determines the speed of the DNA as it moves through the nanopore, which is just five to 10 nanometers wide. (One nanometer is a billionth of a meter.) This understanding could help scientists figure out how to slow the DNA down enough to make it readable and usable -- for medical and biotechnology applications, in particular.

Sandip Ghosal, associate professor of mechanical engineering in Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, is the first to apply classical hydrodynamics to the interaction of DNA with a nanopore. The findings, an important step toward achieving single-base resolution in nanopore sequencing, were published in the June 8 issue of the journal Physical Review Letters (PRL).

"DNA is pulled through the nanopore's channel by an electric force, but there also is a resistive force," said Ghosal, sole author of the PRL paper. "My idea was that the resistance was coming from fluid friction, which could explain the speed measurements taken in experimental studies."

In Ghosal's explanation, the DNA pulls some of the fluid surrounding the molecule through the channel with it. The lubrication forces arising in this fluid layer create the resistance that opposes the electrical pulling force. Ghosal's calculations in the PRL paper show that his theoretical model is consistent with experimental results and explains the DNA's speed.

"Understanding the mechanics of DNA translocation will allow scientists to make alterations, to figure out how to apply more friction," said Ghosal, who has proposed using a coating on the channel walls to slow down the flow of the DNA.


Giessen: More destruction on barley trial field

-GMO Safety, June 14, 2007


Once again, parts of a trial field on land belonging to the University of Giessen have been destroyed. The field is being used to investigate whether genetically modified barley has undesirable impacts on beneficial soil fungi like mycorrhizas. The project is being publicly funded as part of the biological safety research programme.

Radical biotechnology opponents had already caused extensive damage to the trial field last year. Despite security measures having been tightened up significantly since then, in the night of 12 June 2007 unknown perpetrators forced their way onto the trial field and systematically destroyed some of the barley plants.

About 5000 GM barley plants had been planted on the research station site belonging to the Institute for Phytopathology and Applied Zoology at the end of April. They had been produced from two barley lines developed in the USA. One of them contains an active chitinase gene from a soil fungus. Chitinases break down chitin, which is also a component of fungal cell walls. The second line contains a gene from a soil bacterium that produces glucanase . The gene was transferred to barley to improve its brewing properties and to make it more easily digestible as animal feed. However, glucanase also has fungus-resistant properties.

The research project led by Giessen-based biologist Prof. Karl-Heinz Kogel is investigating whether the formation of enzymes that break down chitin and glucan also harms beneficial fungi. Between 70 and 80 per cent of terrestrial plants live in symbiosis with mycorrhizal fungi , with the plant and fungus being of mutual benefit to each other. If the two GM barley lines were to prove harmful to these fungi, which are important for the health and vigour of plants, this would have great significance for agricultural ecosystems. Both GM barley lines are a long way off being used commercially in Europe.

Despite the destruction, it was still possible to evaluate parts of the trial last year. These findings were to be tested and confirmed during the current growing season.

The trial will be continued this year again, despite the action by radical biotechnology opponents. Some of the samples from the root area of the plants had already been taken.

The University of Giessen has lodged a complaint against the perpetrators.

Trial fields belonging to the University of Giessen had already been destroyed at the end of May. On those fields the Institute for Plant Breeding was conducting value tests on behalf of the Federal Office of Plant Varieties with numerous maize varieties, including varieties of GM maize MON810. Such trials are laid down by law as part of the variety authorisation process.

[Guest ed. note: see also, "More attacks on coexistence trial field," GMO Safety, June 27, 2007, http://www.gmo-safety.eu/en/news/575.docu.html ]


Intellectual Property Management in Health and Agricultural Innovation: A Handbook of Best Practices

- Anatole Krattiger, July 2, 2007

Dear Colleagues:

I am pleased to announce that Intellectual Property Management in Health and Agricultural Innovation: A Handbook of Best Practices has been released earlier last week at BIO in Boston. Prepared by and for policy-makers, leaders of public sector research establishments, technology transfer professionals, licensing executives, and scientists, the Handbook offers up-to-date information and strategies for utilizing the power of both intellectual property and the public domain. Eschewing ideological debates and general proclamations, the authors always keep their eye on the practical side of IP management. The Handbook provides substantive discussions and analyses of the opportunities awaiting anyone in the field who wants to put intellectual property to work.

The Handbook is a suite of 159 chapters and prefatory comments, composed by 183 authors from East, West, North and South. The companion Executive Guide published this summer) will distill the key points of each section into simple language and place them in the context of evolving best practices with key implications for policymakers, heads of universities/R&D institutions, scientists and licensing executives. The Handbooks are being distributed for free to low- and middle-income countries thanks to the generosity of many supporters for distribution, led by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Please visit http://www.ipHandbook.org to order online.

Anatole Krattiger Editor-in-Chief.


"This Handbook... is a valuable guide in helping to navigate the complex­ but rewarding­world of an increasingly global innovation system." ­ - Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

"At the dawn of the 21st century the world created an unprecedented wave of public-private partnerships. For such investments to bear fruit as public goods it is paramount to manage intellectual property with the public interest in mind. This Handbook provides expert guidance to do just that and will assist in developing new capabilities in low- and middle-income countries." ­ - Ariel Pablos-Méndez, Managing Director, Rockefeller Foundation

"For all who believe, as I believe, that developing countries can­and should­participate in and benefit from an interconnected world of innovation, this book is an indispensable guide." ­ - Mahmoud F. Fathalla, Professor and former Dean, Medical School at Assiut University, Egypt, and Chairperson of the WHO Advisory Committee on Health Research

"Intellectual property (IP) has become a much richer field of endeavor as it has moved from isolationism in the world of policy to a position of engagement. [This Handbook] will serve as an invaluable resource in this challenging new environment." - From the Foreword of Francis Gurry, Deputy Director General, WIPO

"This Handbook­ which really transcends the category of handbooks altogether­ is a must read for anyone who deals with intellectual property." ­ - Pramilla Senanayake, FRCOG, Chair, Global Forum for Health Research, MIHR, and the Concept Foundation

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