* Greenpeace ignores evidence
* BBC Refuses to Correct Errors
* Law required for BT cotton
* Why Australia Needs GMO Technology
* Japan Could Start Accepting Agrisure RW
* GM feed does not affect eggs
* Ministry tries to lift ban
* High-lysine corn using RNAi
Greenpeace ignores weight of scientific evidence on GM food safety
- CropLife Canada (press release), August 8, 2007
TORONTO - Opinions surrounding the safety of genetically modified (GM) foods must be based on conclusive scientific facts, not the results of one study, the trade association representing Canada's plant science industry said today.
"Genetically modified foods and the crops from which they are derived are some of the most extensively studied food products in the world," says Denise Dewar, Executive Director of Plant Biotechnology for CropLife Canada. "GM foods have been safely consumed for over a decade."
Countless studies by international organizations have concluded that genetically modified crops pose no risk to human health and the environment. A report from the European Union concludes "the use of more precise technology and the greater regulatory scrutiny probably make them even safer than conventional plants and foods."
The World Health Organization states "no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved."
To ensure that our food is safe and nutritious, Canada has one of the most rigorous and well-respected regulatory approval processes in the world. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada ensure the safety of our food. In establishing science-based regulation of these products in Canada, Health Canada's guidelines reflect recent international standards, which are based on scientific principles developed over the last 10 years through expert international consultation with agencies such as the World Health Organization and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
"The call for mandatory labelling of GM food would ultimately impose greater costs to growers, manufacturers and consumers and it is difficult and expensive to enforce," said Dewar. "In many countries that have adopted the system, it has failed to provide consumers with choice."
Canada's agricultural biotechnology sector is an important part of the country's growing bio-economy, and GM crops allow farmers to grow plants that are more nutritious, achieve higher crop yields and provide more options to manage weeds and insects.
CropLife Canada is the trade association representing the manufacturers, developers and distributors of plant science innovations - pest control products and plant biotechnology - for use in agriculture, urban and public health settings.
Guest ed. note: the release above was issued in response to Greenpeace carving a 61-metre-long question mark in an Abbotsford, B.C., field of GM corn. The activist group claimed the action was justified by claims that GM corn is bad for rats.
BBC Refuses to Correct Errors in World Service Radio Programme
Monsanto (UK) web posting, August 9, 2007
A BBC World Business Review, broadcast on Saturday 14 July 2007 and repeated over the following week, included a studio discussion between Lords Melchett and Haskins on GM crops and foods.
Monsanto UK have drawn to the attention of the programme maker certain errors in the factual content of the programme. However, since they have refused to take any action to make these corrections public, we are posting them here.
In setting the scene, the programme presenter first introduced a clip of Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser following his 2001 court case with Monsanto Canada Inc.
"......Before we start though, here's another farmer. Guess which side he's on.
It means the complete control of the farmers, because you cannot use your own seed because if some of their seed blows on your land, contaminates your seed, cross-pollinates, it becomes their property. Now you have a company putting seed into the environment or a gene into a seed in an environment spreads by natural means and then you're told you can't use your seed any more. That's really going to alarm farmers, I think it's going to alarm farmers all over the world.
"Canadian canola farmer Percy Schmeiser, who some years ago was found guilty of stealing GM seed after some was blown onto his field from fields nearby......"
We pointed out that this statement by the presenter is incorrect. The BBC has however refused either to apologise or correct that last statement.
Our evidence for the error is as follows:
The Canadian Supreme Court decision (http://scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/2004/2004scc34/2004scc34.html) in fact said in paragraph 6:
"Schmeiser never purchased Roundup Ready canola nor did he obtain a license to plant it. Yet, in 1998, tests revealed that 95 to 98% of this 1,000 acres of canola crop was made up of Roundup Ready plants"......
The trial judge found that:
"none of the suggested sources [proposed by Schmeiser] could reasonably explain the concentration or extent of Roundup Ready canola of a commercial quality" ultimately present in Schmeiser's crop.
Then in paragraph 66. "...The remaining question was how such a pure concentration of Roundup Ready canola came to grow on the appellant's land in 1998. The trial judge rejected the suggestion that it was the product of seed blown or inadvertently carried onto the appellant's land".
Then in paragraph 68. "...it is clear on the findings of the trial judge that the appellants [Mr. Schmeiser] saved, planted, harvested and sold the crop from plants containing the gene and cell patented by Monsanto.
The BBC presenter merely repeated as fact Mr Schmeiser's claim, which was clearly dismissed as impossible by the Canadian Supreme Court.
Monsanto has purchased a full transcript of the programme which is available for consultation upon request.
The BBC also refused to correct other errors which included claims by the presenter. For example:
"So is that a fair claim, that organic food, that is food which is grown without chemicals, without pesticides and so on, that foods like that can be grown more efficiently than with current modern farming techniques?"
In fact, as the Soil Association itself rightly acknowledges, seven pesticides can be used in organic farming http://www.soilassociation.org/web/sa/saweb.nsf/89d058cc4dbeb16d80256a73005a2866/4a5bc0c863f37b33802571db0031bb54? OpenDocument.
Furthermore, the programme misled listeners on a recent EU decision:
"You both disagree on whether organic food should lead or genetic food should lead, but actually what we're concerned about here is choice, whether or not people can choose between one and the other, and a great deal of anxiety has been generated in this debate, certainly in the recent past, about how people are unable to choose if one form of produce is contaminating the other. Now we've just had the EU increase the standard, so to speak, for contamination - increase is probably the wrong word - they've allowed the degree of contamination to increase and that is what is alarming an awful lot of people. Lord Melchett?......"
Again, this is incorrect. There has never been an increase applied to the thresholds for GM content of any foodstuffs. The EC first proposed labelling thresholds for GM content to be set at 1% in 1999 (this being for all foodstuffs, including organic as well as conventional). See http://www.parliament.uk/post/pn129.pdf.
The final decision came in 2007, and set the threshold at 0.9%. This decision was a final confirmation of the threshold for GM content, and not, as the BBC have stated, any increase in a standard.
The EC decision, to which the BBC should have referred to, in order to provide listeners with accurate information during the programme, is at http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/regulation/labelling/89.gmo_labelling_guidelines_threshold.html
An Industry opinion can be viewed at: http://www.europabio.org/documents/040406/Understanding%20Coexistence%20Fact%20File.doc which has been public for more than a year.
We believe it is important that the BBC should provide accurate, factual, thoroughly researched and up to date information, and believe that in this case the programme research fell short of the standard necessary to ensure a factually correct account of these important issues relating to biotechnology and current GM issues.
Law required for BT cotton production
- Mansoor Ahmad, The News (Pakistan) August 9, 2007
LAHORE: Absence of contamination-free cotton, long-staple varieties and stagnant production have plagued the local textile industry. On the other hand, neighbouring India has introduced quality cotton varieties and increased production by 46 per cent during the past five years.
The absence of long-staple cotton varieties, short production and high ratio of contaminants have added to the woes of the textile industry, which pays import parity price compared with export parity price paid by the textile industries of India and China.
Pakistan is the fourth largest producer of cotton in the world and the third biggest consumer. Cotton production has not kept pace with growth in the textile sector.
The country produces short-staple variety of cotton suitable for manufacturing coarse yarn from which low value added textile products can be produced. For fine count yarn, the local industry mainly depends on Puma cotton imported from the US.
Besides Puma cotton, the country needs to import short-staple cotton as well as the local production of around 13 million bales falls short of demand by three million bales.
Pakistan's closest competitor in the textile trade is India, which produces both short and long-staple varieties. India is the second largest exporter of cotton in the world after the US. It has achieved a rapid advance in production since 2000-01 when per hectare yield stood at 270 kg compared to per hectare yield of 614 kg in Pakistan.
The area under cotton cultivation in India at that time was around 8.9 million hectares compared with three million hectares in Pakistan. India produced three to four million bales higher than what Pakistan produced.
As India introduced BT cotton at the start of this century, its per acre yield and staple quality started improving. From cotton sown over nine million hectares in 2005-06, India obtained 24.4 million bales compared with 13 million bales of cotton Pakistan achieved from 3.2 million hectares.
India's cotton production increased by over seven million bales from the same acreage while Pakistan saw a slight decline in output from a little higher acreage.
It is interesting to note that India now cultivates BT cotton over 3.8 million hectares, which is higher than the cotton-sown area of Pakistan. All the increase in cotton production has been achieved due to drought and disease-resistant BT cotton varieties of long staple.
The cumulative increase in cotton yield per hectare in India during the past five years came to 46 per cent or 467 kg per hectare. Pakistan's per hectare cotton yield inched up from 614 kg to 684 kg in 2005-06.
The biotech cotton has provided an additional income of $463 to the Indian farmers. India has announced all regulations required for the protection of breeders' rights. It enacted a strong bio-safety law before the introduction of BT cotton.
Pakistani scientists at the National Institute of Bio-Tech Engineering have developed and tested a few BT cotton varieties, but are waiting for a proper legislation by the government before these varieties could be introduced on a large scale.
The government has failed to introduce a bio-safety law, seed act and intellectual property rights of seed breeders required to introduce BT cotton in the country.
It is learnt that after more than a year the laws have been vetted by the law ministry and are awaiting approval of the cabinet before being presented for legislation in the National Assembly.
The scientists at the institute have developed a BT cotton seed called 'NIBGE-115', which is drought-tolerant, Burewala virus-tolerant, has a diverse genetic base and small to medium-sized leaves.
They have filed a case for commercialisation of their BT cotton variety 'IR-Fh-901', which is virus-tolerant, salinity-tolerant, has long staple and pest-resistant. These varieties minimise the use of pesticides to one-tenth of the present level, which would lower the cost of production of the farmers and save people from the poisonous effects of pesticides.
Why Australia's Growers & the Environment Need GMO Technology
- University of Melbourne (press release), August 9, 2007
"The issue of GM technology in agriculture is critical to the future of rural Australia. We ignore it at our own peril. We must farm in the real world, not the ideal world. This technology has the potential to produce clear environmental benefits and put money into the hands of farmers, rural communities and the people of Australia."- Andrew Broad, Director of the Future Farmers Network
The University of Melbourne's Faculty of Land and Food Resources will be hosting a forum on GM technology on Tuesday 14 August 2007 from 10.30 am to 1.30 pm at Dookie Campus. The forum is free with Morning Tea and Lunch provided. Those wishing to attend should RSVP to Sarah Parker on (03) 5833 9274, 0427 535 721 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Speakers for the forum include:
- Professor Rick Roush, Dean of the Faculty of Land & Food Resources, University of Melbourne,
- Dr Ken Young, Senior Lecturer in Crop Agronomy, Faculty of Land and Food Resources
- Andrew Broad, Director of the Future Farmers Network & Nuffield Farming Scholar.
With the Victorian moratorium on cultivation of GM canola due to end in February 2008, presentations will be of great interest to users, consumers and organisations that may market genetically modified crops in the future.
Best known for his work on pesticide resistance and its management, Professor Roush will draw on his research experience in agricultural crops and natural ecosystems in the various parts of the world including the US and Australia to deliver a session focussing on the key issues for the sustainability of agriculture including conservation of soil, water and energy, and reduction of the use of fertilizers and so-called "bad actor" pesticides. Reduction of fossil fuel use, tillage and nitrogen fertilizers are especially important for reducing greenhouse gasses, we also need to ensure that farmers remain financially viable.
"Genetically modified crops already commercialized or in field trials have helped to address all of these needs. GM cops have reduced the use of insecticides by 80% on cotton in China and India, reduced tillage has in turn reduced CO2 emissions by the equivalent of removing some 4 millions cars from the roads, and increased farmer profits. Drought tolerant and nitrogen-use-efficient crops have been field-trialed and show good yields."
From 1995 Professor Rick Roush spent eight years in Australia, first as an Associate Professor in the Department of Crop Protection at the University of Adelaide and later, as Chief Executive Officer of the Cooperative Research Centre for Weed Management.
Dr Ken Young will focus on the need for change in both research funding arrangements and regulation of GMO technology in order to increase the potential environmental and health benefits to the community. While the community is becoming more accepting of GMOs, this technology needs to approach the end users of the technology by targeting more environmental and health aspects that GMOs can bring.
A Lecturer in Crop Agronomy at the Dookie Campus, Dr Young believes: "The adoption of GMO technology offers agriculture opportunities to improve land stewardship, sustainability, niche markets and human health benefits. While this array of opportunities are possible, the presently marketed products are for production oriented traits such as herbicide tolerance and insect resistance. There appears little development for the more altruistic traits such as better nutritional food value and better environmental outcomes."
Andrew Broad will focus his presentation on best practice canola production: Exploring biotechnology, agronomic advances and new grower techniques. "The issue of GM technology in agriculture is critical to the future of rural Australia. We ignore it at our own peril. We must farm in the real world, not the ideal world. This technology has the potential to produce clear environmental benefits and put money into the hands of farmers, rural communities and the people of Australia. There are large benefits to be gained through biotechnology."
Genetically modified crops aren't the 'silver bullet' for agriculture. Some of the dollar savings in chemicals offered through GM crops will be swallowed up in plant breeder royalties. However, the benefits are very good and if Australia is to remain competitive, the grains industry must have access to this technology.
The reduction in both chemicals and nitrogen fertilizer will have positive outcomes for the environment, as well as the rotational options that this technology offers. The huge move toward bio-diesel, with Europe aiming for 15% by 2015 will increase the need for energy crops; genomic and transgenic will play an important role in this.
Japan Could Start Accepting GM Corn Seed
- Wisconsin Ag Connection, August 10, 2007
Japan looks set to approve Syngenta AG's genetically modified corn seed as safe for use in food and animal feed, a relief to traders who feared unapproved seed could contaminate cargoes from the United States. Reuters News Service reports that Japan's Food Safety Commission said on Thursday it would tell the farm ministry that the seed, which contains a trait called Agrisure RW that makes the corn resistant to the crop-damaging insect root worm, is safe for feed use.
The recommendation, together with another last week on food use, ends the commission's risk assessment on the seed that began in May 2006, paving the way for the government to formally approve Agrisure RW from as early as next month.
Japan, the top buyer of U.S. corn, has a zero-tolerance policy on imports of unapproved GMO crops. Delays in the approval of Agrisure RW could have hurt U.S. corn exports to Japan, which totalled some 11.8 million tonnes last year, worth more than $1.7 billion.
In 2000, a biotech corn variety called Starlink, which was approved for feed use but not as food in the United States, was detected in the food chain, causing a sharp drop in Japan's imports of U.S. origin. But last week the Food Safety Commission told the health ministry that Agrisure RW is safe even if accidentally mixed with regular supplies for human food use.
EFSA: GM feed does not affect eggs
- World Poultry, August 10, 2007
A new report from the European Food Safety Authority shows that there is no evidence the genetically modified (GM) animal feed can have a harmful effect on meat and eggs.
The EFSA research followed a call from the European Commission after a petition had been lodged to have meat, milk, and eggs from animals that have been fed genetically modified feed labelled. The commission wanted to know if transgenes or their products could be incorporated into animal tissues.
Effect on humans
The study also looked at whether the DNA from GM foods could also be absorbed by humans. The study said that for humans the "recombinant DNA did not survive passage through the intact gastrointestinal tract of healthy human subjects fed GM soya". The study adds that the rapid breakdown of DNA and proteins during digestion reduces the chance of them being absorbed intact into the muscle, milk, or eggs of animals.
"After ingestion, a rapid degradation into short DNA or peptide fragments is observed in the gastrointestinal tract or animals and humans," the report states. "To date, a large number of experimental studies with livestock have shown that recombinant DNA fragments or proteins derived from GM plants have not been detected in tissues, fluids or edible products of farm animals like broilers, cattle, pigs or quails."
Ministry tries to lift ban on GM field trials
Spurring research the goal, papaya to be first
- Bangkok Post (Thailand), August 10, 2007
The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has renewed its efforts to lift a ban on field trials of genetically-modified (GM) crops that would pave the way for commercial production of transgenic crops in the country.
The ministry would ask the coup-installed cabinet to revoke the 2001 cabinet resolution banning open-field GM crop experiments in the next two weeks, said minister Thira Sutabutra yesterday.
He was speaking after discussing the matter with Science and Technology Minister Yongyuth Yuthavong and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Kasem Snidvongs.
The three ministers agreed that lifting the ban would help promote research on GM crops in the country.
Transgenic plants must pass three levels of biosafety tests _ laboratory, greenhouse and open-field trials _ before being endorsed for mass production.
However, with the presence of the ban, experiments on GM crop are allowed only at laboratory and greenhouse levels.
GM papaya would be the ministry's main focus because local papaya producers had been severely affected by the papaya ring spot virus outbreak. The problem could be solved by using a transgenic papaya strain that is resistant to the virus, said Mr Thira.
''There's nothing to fear. [Field trials of GM crops] pose no risk to the environment and people's health. Moreover, agencies involved will impose stringent measures to prevent GMO contamination in the environment,'' he said.
Adisak Sreesunpakit, director-general of the Agriculture Department, which supervises GM crop experiments, said: ''Thailand's research and development of GM crops has been frozen for six years so far. This makes us lag behind other Asian countries, such as China, Indonesia and India,'' he said.
''The department will go ahead with GM crop field trials as soon as the cabinet agrees to lift the ban,'' he said, adding that GM papaya would be the first crop to have open-field trials.
Field trials of non-edible crops, such as GM oil palm and orchids, were also in the pipeline, he said.
But the ministry's pro-GM stance is not adopted by all agricultural agencies.
Surapong Pransilapa, director-general of the Rice Department, yesterday ruled out the possibility of using genetic-engineering technology to develop Thai rice varieties and tackle rice diseases.
''Thai rice must be GM-free,'' he said. ''We have to make this clear to some 150 countries which buy our rice. Otherwise, we may lose major rice markets, particularly the European countries where consumers are against GMOs,'' he said.
The Agriculture Department planned to use the technology to tackle unsolved problems damaging other crops' yields, but for rice, it preferred to use other conventional means, he said.
Mr Thira agreed rice should be excluded from the ministry's GM field trial scheme.
Buntoon Srethasirote, a member of a sub-panel on bio-diversity and intellectual property rights under the National Human Rights Commission, voiced concern over the fresh bid to lift the ban.
The science and technology and the public health ministers had recently expressed support for genetic engineering technology. This would add momentum to the ministry's proposal to revoke the ban.
Moreover, he said, the coup-appointed government seems to lack understanding about environmental issues, considering its previous decisions that posed threats to the environment, such as signing a free-trade agreement with Japan.
''Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, meanwhile, has failed to thoroughly consider the pros and cons of proposals made by each ministry. He always allows them to make their decisions freely,'' he said.
He said field trials of GM crops should be banned, pending the promulgation of biosafety laws to ensure the impact and possible damage caused by them would be controlled.
High-lysine corn generated by endosperm-specific suppression of lysine catabolism using RNAi
- Nancy M. Houmard, et. al., Plant Biotechnology Journal (Vol. 5, Iss. 5, pp. 605-614), September 2007
Because of the limited lysine content in corn grain, synthetic lysine supplements are added to corn meal-based rations for animal feed. The development of biotechnology, combined with the understanding of plant lysine metabolism, provides an alternative solution for increasing corn lysine content through genetic engineering. Here, we report that by suppressing lysine catabolism, transgenic maize kernels accumulated a significant amount of lysine. This was achieved by RNA interference (RNAi) through the endosperm-specific expression of an inverted-repeat (IR) sequence targeting the maize bifunctional lysine degradation enzyme, lysine-ketoglutarate reductase/saccharopine dehydrogenase (ZLKR/SDH). Although plant-short interfering RNA (siRNA) were reported to lack tissue specificity due to systemic spreading, we confirmed that the suppression of ZLKR/SDH in developing transgenic kernels was restricted to endosperm tissue. Furthermore, results from our cloning and sequencing of siRNA suggested the absence of transitive RNAi. These results support the practical use of RNAi for plant genetic engineering to specifically target gene suppression in desired tissues without eliciting systemic spreading and the transitive nature of plant RNAi silencing.
*by Andrew Apel, guest editor, andrewapel+at+wildblue.net