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Date:

October 30, 2007

Subject:

Anti-Biotech, Techno-Illiterate; EC sidesteps dithering states; Romania approves GM

 

* France suspends GM crops
* EC sidesteps dithering states
* Romania approves GM
* GMOs, Ukraine and the WTO
* Asian farmers have their say
* Feeding a Hungry World
* No gains with over-regulation
* Crop to chop nitrogen use
* EU GM crop area expands
* Anti-Biotech, Techno-Illiterate
* Global Poverty and Human Development
* ISAAA Crop Biotech Update

-----------------------------

France suspends planting of GMO crops

- Sybille de La Hamaide, Reuters, Oct. 26, 2007

http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-30164820071025

PARIS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday he would suspend the planting of genetically modified (GMO) pest-resistant crops until the results of an appraisal of the issue later this year or early in 2008.

Unveiling the country's new environment policy, Sarkozy said no GMO crops would be planted in France until the government had received the results of an evaluation by a new authority on GMOs set to be launched later this year.

"I don't want to be in contradiction with EU laws, but I have to make a choice. In line of the precautionary principle, I wish that the commercial cultivation of genetically modified pesticide GMOs be suspended," he said.

The only GMO crop grown in the European Union is a maize using the so-called MON 810 technology developed by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto, which is designed to resist the European corn borer, a pest that attacks maize stalks and thrives in warmer climates in southern EU countries.

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

Just 22,000 hectares -- 1.5 percent of France's cultivated maize land -- have been sown with GMO maize this year but some farmers have urged greater use of GMO crops to boost yields.

During a visit to Paris on Wednesday, European Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said a full ban on GMO crops would clearly go against the rules and that France would lose in court if it implemented such a ban.

RESEARCH TO CONTINUE

The future of GMOs has long been the subject of heated debate in France and its reluctance, along with other European countries, to use GMO crops compares starkly with the United States, which has a far higher take-up of GMO technology.

A ban on GMO maize growing for the coming months would not affect maize production in France because sowings do not take place until spring.

Sarkozy stressed that his move did not mean a halt to GMO research.

"This suspension of commercial cultivation of pesticide GMOs does not mean -- I want to be clear on this -- that we must condemn all GMOs, notably future GMOs," he said.

During his election campaign last year, Sarkozy said he had "doubts and reservations" about the commercial use of GMO products which for him "had little interest", but he stressed that he had wanted research to continue.

Several European Union countries have 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 earlier this year decided that maize produced from MON 810 seeds could only be sold if there was an accompanying monitoring plan to research its effects on the environment.

And Austria may soon face a third attempt by EU regulators to force it to lift bans on two GMO maize types, including Monsanto's MON 810 and T25 maize made by German drugs and chemicals group Bayer.

*****************************

EC sidesteps dithering states to approve four new GMOs

- Lucy Sherriff, The Register (UK), Oct. 25, 2007

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/25/ec_ok_gmo/

The European Commission has waved through four new genetically modified organisms (GMO) for consumption in the European Union. This means that 15 GMOs have been allowed in to the EU since the region lifted its outright ban on the crops in 2004.

Member states couldn't agree on whether or not to allow the crops to be imported, so the commission stepped in. It is authorised to do so in cases where there's no clear majority after three months of debate and voting, as long as it bases its decision on the findings of the European Food and Safety Agency (EFSA).

When we say waved through, we mean okayed after a two year consultation our friends on the other side of the Atlantic thought took rather too long. The EC said it was happy to extend a 10 year welcome to the crops for use in food and animal feed.

The crops include three types of corn, owned by Monsanto, Dow Chemical and Du Pont, as well as a sugar beet which Monsanto developed in partnership with KWS Saat. They have been developed to be resistent to common pests and proprietory herbicides.

Serious opposition to the crops had come from Italy, Cyprus, and Greece, among others. Supporters of the vote, such as the UK, had argued earlier that failure to approve the crops once they had been declared safe would expose the EU to legal action from countries like the US.

"All of the GMOs received positive safety assessments from EFSA and underwent the full authorisation procedure set out under EU legislation... [and] will be subject to the EU's strict labelling and traceability rules," the commission said in a statement.

*****************************

Senate approves GMO growth

- HotNews.ro, Oct. 24, 2007

http://english.hotnews.ro/Senate-approves-GMO-growth-articol_46255.htm

Romanian Senate approved on Wednesday a governmental Emergency Ordinance allowing the growth of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as food. The ordinance was approved almost unanimously, although information on GMOs and their effect on the health is lacking in all Romania. On an European level, the opposition towards GMOs is growing steadily, while the American lobby continues to support it.

In Romanian, the Environment Ministry is the main opponent of GMOs, while the Agriculture Ministry proved to be a "supporter".

According to the ordinance, companies that will cultivate or sell GMOs have to notify the Biological Security Commission.

*****************************

GMO Products as a Condition for Ukraine to Enter WTO?

- Ukrayinska Pravda, Oct. 24, 2007 (translated by Anna Ivanchenko)

http://www2.pravda.com.ua/en/news/2007/10/24/9250.htm

On October 25 in Geneva final round of negotiations on Ukraine joining World Trade Organization will take place; however, the issue of obligatory marking of products containing genetically modified organisms remains unsolved.

Liga website published an article "Gene Engineering May Obstruct Ukraine's Way to WTO" drawing the readers' attention to this problem.

The author of the article reminds that the Cabinet of Ministers decided to introduce an obligation of marking genetically modified foodstuffs starting from November 1, 2007.

"However, the American side of WTO holds a firm stand against such actions," runs the article.

"It is common knowledge that the USA is among the biggest exporters of this kind of foodstuffs. That is why their actions can perhaps be interpreted as unwillingness to lose markets for their products," notes the author.

Genetically modified organisms are those organisms the genetic material of which changed not as a consequence of replication and/or natural recombination but because of a modified gene or a gene of other biological species or kind added.

According to Kateryna Kartava, Ph.D., doctors don't know which diseases a person can face after consuming gene engineering products.

After consuming such products the anti-gene composition of body tissues will be changing; as a result the immune system will start to destroy its own organism, notes the expert.

The author cites the Minister of Economy Anatoliy Kinakh according to whom the issue of GMO products should be dealt with by prioritizing health of Ukrainian citizens and strictly controlling the quality of foodstuffs imported into Ukraine nowadays.

Meanwhile State Commission of Consumption Standards of Ukraine insists on compulsory marking of at least children's food. As Mr. Kinakh noted, it is an obligatory norm in all EU countries.

According to the data of All-Ukrainian Ecological League, 90 per cent of Ukrainian foodstuffs do not contain genetically modified organisms, notes the author.

*****************************

GM crops - Asian farmers have their say

- Jia Hepeng, SciDev.Net, Oct. 24, 2007

http://www.scidev.net/gateways/index.cfm?fuseaction=readitem&rgwid=3&item=Features&itemid=662&language=1

Despite pest and pricing worries, many Asian farmers welcome GM crops. Jia Hepeng heard their stories during a farmers' exchange programme.

Edwin Paraluman remembers the scepticism of fellow farmers when he introduced genetically modified (GM) corn to his small, three-hectare farm in General Santos City, in the Philippines, five years ago.

"But even in its early growth, the anti-insect effect of the GM crop encouraged me to persist," said Paraluman, adding that the dramatically increased crops have stunned other farmers.

Paraluman was talking during the Asian Regional Farmers' Exchange Programme, which took place in the Philippines from late August to early September this year. The programme involved nearly 40 farmers from China, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

GM technology has always attracted scepticism, resistance and controversy, yet its use continues to grow in many parts of the world. According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, the total area of approved GM crops in 2006 was 102 million hectares in 22 countries - a 13 per cent rise on the previous year.

Paraluman is one of the millions of Asian farmers who are reaping the benefits. "I know there are many debates about GM technologies, but what's true is that it has increased harvests and seed qualities, and helps us improve our life," he said.

While governments and environmental groups argue over the safety and morality of GM crops, many farmers in Asia are quietly working with scientists to overcome minor problems they are experiencing with this burgeoning technology. But others worry about how higher yields will affect market prices.

Clear advantages

The most common genetic crop modification is to add a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (often shortened to Bt). This expresses a toxin inside the crop that kills larvae of Lepidoptera - a large insect family that includes pests like bollworms and stem borers. Scientists have proved the modification is not harmful to mammals, including humans.

Zu Maotang, now president of the Farmer's Association of Gaobeidian City in the northern Chinese province of Hebei, was possibly the first Chinese farmer to plant a GM crop.

"My embracing of GM cotton is a result of the endless frustrations in fighting bollworms," Zu said.

By the mid 1990s, many Chinese cotton farmers could no longer control the worm with conventional pesticides. "The resistance was so strong that the adult pests could even swim in the pesticide solution," Zu recalled.

He took the problem to the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), where he was introduced to Guo Sandui, a leading biotechnologist.

"At that time, Guo was eager to find someone good at farming to help him test his Bt cotton, which he had just developed in the lab," said Zu.

China didn't regulate GM field trials at the time, and Guo planted the GM cotton in Zu's yard. They did it secretly, fearing the new crop might upset neighbouring farmers and be damaged by local government officials.

"When I first witnessed bollworms dying after eating the cotton leaves, I was excited and amazed, thinking the risk [of trialling GM cotton] was worth taking," said Zu.

The government approved Guo's Bt cotton two years later, in 1997. That year, Zu doubled his cotton crop with Guo's GM seed, using much less pesticide and labour. And he had become a local expert on GM cotton seed.

Drawbacks

Not everyone is convinced. Divine Reyes, a Philippine farmer who works for the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines, worries about possible pest resistance to Bt corn.

"We have not observed any resistance, but as all of the farms nearby are now planting the GM corn, we must be very careful," Reyes told SciDev.Net.

Zhang Bingcheng, a farmer in Hubei Province, in southern China, has already experienced problems with GM cotton.

After adopting Bt cotton in 2000, he used 80 per cent less pesticide, but bollworms still survived in the cotton before it blossomed.

Experts explained that near the blossoming period, the plant expresses the Bt gene less, producing less toxin.

Zhang had to resume spraying with pesticide, though to a lesser extent than with non-Bt cotton. But the spraying means that farmers must stay on their farms for the whole year, rather than going to cities for part of the year for high-paid work as is common.

A new GM cotton variety that uses a gene from cowpea could overcome the problem, as the gene is expressed throughout the crops' growth. But it's not the only hitch Zhang has faced.

He also encounters a moth-like pest called Fabricius (Prodenia litura) that the Bt toxin doesn't kill.

Fabricius belongs to the Lepidoptera family, but often breeds in decayed leaves, where the toxin has faded. Fabricius can eat cotton buds, reducing crops.

Zhang now uses a bio-pesticide, which uses a virus to kill the moth but not other insects, to tackle the problem. "The moth doesn't cause as much harm as bollworms, but without a complete solution, our confidence in agricultural biotechnologies could be nibbled," Zhang told SciDev.Net.

And Zu has also met an unexpected problem in using Bt cotton.

The dramatic reduction in bollworms coincided with outbreaks of other pests, especially mirid bugs.

Agricultural scientists reassured Zu that increased insecticide spraying in the early stages of the mirid bug life-cycle could deal with the insects, but he said that many of his fellows farmers were startled when the bugs appeared, because they had been convinced that Bt-cotton was insect-free cotton.

Despite the setbacks, Zu still believes in the GM crop he helped create, adding "Perhaps scientists will soon identify a gene against mirids."

Market uncertainties

Compared with Zu's optimism, Kraisorn Kunluechakorn, a farmer and small seed dealer from Thailand, is more cautious, saying, "Despite the benefits we have seen here [in the Philippines], we would not lobby the government for GM crops. Who knows if it's good or bad in the long term?"

So far, Thailand has not approved any commercial GM crop.

One of Kunluechakorn's concerns is that big companies control GM seed prices.

Victor Alpuerto, of agricultural biotech giant Monsanto in the Philippines, says Monsanto GM corn seed for one hectare costs US$50. He says the huge cost of developing the seeds justifies the high price. But, to Chinese farmers, it seems unreasonably expensive.

Li Zhanshuang, a farmer from the eastern Chinese province of Shandong, thinks lack of competition in the Philippines maintains the higher seed price. He explains that in China, dozens of seed companies sell GM cotton seeds, so Monsanto can't keep their prices high due to competition.

Paraluman says that Filipino farmers also worry that higher yields could drive prices down. He has been organising farmers with GM crops into groups, so that they can join forces to negotiate seed, fertilizer and pesticide prices, and sell their produce at an agreed price.

Potential social benefits

Conversely, scientists are worried that the potential for higher profits from some GM crops may hinder the uptake of other low-profit but high-value GM varieties.

Gerard Barry, of the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), says 'golden rice' could be such a case. This GM crop carries genes to make rice produce beta-carotene - which the body can turn into vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is a serious nutritional problem for many poor people in developing countries, and can cause blindness in childhood. But such people cannot afford a more expensive rice.

When the Regional Farmers' Exchange Programme visited IRRI, Barry asked the farmers, "If the golden rice is commercialised, who among you will plant it? It might not bring big profits, as poor people cannot pay the increased price for the added nutrition and it has to rely on the government purchase [price]."

After a short silence, Zhang stood up. "I will," he said. "The poor nutrition is first of all suffered by our farmers. When agricultural biotechnology can help us shake this off, our farmers have the responsibility to take it up."

*****************************

Feeding a Hungry World

- Norman Borlaug, Science, Oct. 19, 2007 (Vol. 318. no. 5849, p. 359)

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/318/5849/359

Next week, more than 200 science journals throughout the world will simultaneously publish papers on global poverty and human development--a collaborative effort to increase awareness, interest, and research about these important issues of our time. Some 800 million people still experience chronic and transitory hunger each year. Over the next 50 years, we face the daunting job of feeding 3.5 billion additional people, most of whom will begin life in poverty. The battle to alleviate poverty and improve human health and productivity will require dynamic agricultural development.

Breakthroughs in wheat and rice production, which came to be known as the Green Revolution, signaled the dawn of applying agricultural science to the Third World's need for modern techniques. It began in Mexico in the late 1950s, spread to Asia during the 1960s and 1970s, and continued in China in the 1980s and 1990s. Over a 40-year period, the proportion of hungry people in the world declined from about 60% in 1960 to 17% in 2000. The Green Revolution also brought environmental benefits. If the global cereal yields of 1950 still prevailed in 2000, we would have needed nearly 1.2 billion more hectares of the same quality, instead of the 660 million hectares used, to achieve 2000's global harvest. Moreover, had environmentally fragile land been brought into agricultural production, the soil erosion, loss of forests and grasslands, reduction in biodiversity, and extinction of wildlife species would have been disastrous.

Today, nearly two-thirds of the world's hungry people are farmers and pastoralists who live in marginal lands in Asia and Africa, where agro-climatic stresses and/or extreme remoteness make agricultural production especially risky and costly. Africa has been the region of greatest concern. High rates of population growth and little application of improved production technology during the past three decades have resulted in declining per capita food production, escalating food deficits, deteriorating nutritional levels among the rural poor, and devastating environmental degradation. There are signs that smallholder food production may be turning around through the application of science and technology to basic food production, but this recovery is still fragile. But African capacity in science and technology needs strengthening, and massive investments in infrastructure are required, especially for roads and transport, potable water, and electricity.

For the foreseeable future, plants--especially the cereals--will continue to supply much of our increased food demand, both for direct human consumption and as livestock feed to satisfy the rapidly growing demand for meat in the newly industrializing countries. The demand for cereals will probably grow by 50% over the next 20 years, and even larger harvests will be needed if more grain is diverted to produce biofuels. Seventy percent of global water withdrawals are for irrigating agricultural lands, which contribute 40% of our global food harvest.

Expanding irrigated areas will be critical to meet future food demand, but expansion must be accompanied by greater efficiencies in water management. Although sizable land areas, such as the cerrados of Brazil, may responsibly be converted to agriculture, most food increases will have to come from lands already in production. Fortunately, productivity improvements in crop management can be made all along the line: in plant breeding, crop management, tillage, fertilization, weed and pest control, harvesting, and water use. Genetically engineered crops are playing an increasingly important role in world agriculture, enabling scientists to reach across genera for useful genes to enhance tolerance to drought, heat, cold, and waterlogging, all likely consequences of global warming. I believe biotechnology will be essential to meeting future food, feed, fiber, and biofuel demand.

The battle to ensure food security for hundreds of millions of miserably poor people is far from won. We must increase world food supplies but also recognize the links between population growth, food production, and environmental sustainability. Without a better balance, efforts to halt global poverty will grind to a halt.

----

Norman Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. Since 1986, he has been engaged with Jimmy Carter and the Nippon Foundation of Japan in African agricultural development and is currently president of the Sasakawa Africa Association.

*****************************

The gains of GM crops won't be felt with over-regulation

- Julian Little, The Guardian, Oct. 24, 2007

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/oct/24/gmcrops.comment

There are more than 6.5 billion people in the world - a number set to increase dramatically in the next 25 years - and the amount of agricultural land available to feed each person recently dipped below 0.3 of a hectare for the first time. So how can we produce enough food for a growing population, while reducing carbon emissions?

There is no silver bullet. Among the steps that should be taken are reducing energy use and increasing the amount of food, feed, fibre and fuel we get out of arable land. We have to look at a variety of tools for farmers - including the safe and responsible use of GMO technology. Countries worldwide, including the UK, can't ignore innovations that could help us achieve sustainable food production.

Chris Pollock, chairman of the government's independent advisory committee on releases to the environment, said recently: "The future sustainability of British farming would be in grave jeopardy if farmers were not permitted to adopt new technologies that were proven to increase yields or have other benefits." He added that "if we are serious about sustainable agriculture, we have to be open to new technologies".

In terms of environmental protection, profitability and effectiveness, regulation needs to be fair, proportionate and enforceable. Legislation must not be a barrier to innovation in a sector that needs to adapt swiftly to changing climatic patterns and economic demands, such as the need to produce fuels and raw materials from crops, increasing animal feed prices, and the spectre of food price rises.

The government is currently deciding how to incorporate into law the environmental liability directive (ELD) introduced by the EU in 2004. Our industry supports the objectives of protecting and enhancing biodiversity, and the government's science-based approach to the ELD, but we want to ensure that unnecessary "gold-plating" of generic legislation does not occur.

The truth is that GM crops are the most rigorously tested of all crops and have been successfully grown by farmers across the globe for more than 10 years. More than 200bn meals containing GM ingredients have been consumed in the last decade, without a single, substantiated health incident. Today, GM crops are used by 10 million farmers in 22 countries across the world, including six EU member states. The benefits include increased yields, reduced costs, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and a reduced environmental footprint.

The ELD, rightly, aims to follow the "polluter pays" principle, but is a blunt instrument that risks becoming discriminatory. Current regulation makes case-by-case assessments of potential risks to the environment long before any crop can be commercialised - and the fear is that an additional, unnecessary layer of regulation may prevent the development of this technology and deny enormous benefits to UK farmers.

Julian Little is chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council

*****************************

Crop to chop nitrogen use

- Peter Hemphill, The Weekly Times via CheckBiotech, Oct. 17, 2007

http://www.checkbiotech.org/green_News_Genetics.aspx?infoId=15907

Australian scientists have joined forces with a US company to produce wheat and barley varieties that use half as much nitrogen as normal. The CSIRO and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics will use Arcadia Biosciences Inc's innovative nitrogen-use-efficiency technology to develop the new cereal varieties. The research has the potential to halve fertiliser costs and cut nitrogen run-off. But Australian farmers may have to wait eight or nine years before the first new wheat and barley varieties become available.

ACPFG general manager Michael Gilbert said Arcadia Biosciences' technology centred on using genes to increase the uptake of nitrogen through the roots of the plant.

"The technology increases the efficiency at which the plant uses nitrogen so you only have to use half as much fertiliser," Mr Gilbert said.

Arcadia Biosciences' technology had been proven in canola and rice. Mr Gilbert said Arcadia conducted five years of field trials for nitrogen- efficient canola and had glasshouse results in rice.

He said Monsanto had taken exclusive licensing rights to use the technology in the development of nitrogen-efficient canola varieties in the US. He said the rice research was encouraging news for Australian farmers, because rice was a similar plant to wheat and barley.

Mr Gilbert said the ACPFG and CSIRO held the rights to use the technology for wheat and barley development in Australia.

*****************************

EU GM crop area expands

- Andrew Blake, Farmers Weekly (UK), Oct. 29, 2007

http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2007/10/29/107908/eu-gm-crop-area-expands.html

Genetically modified (GM) crops, all maize, were grown on more than 100,000ha (250,000 acres) in the EU last year - a 77% increase on the 2006 figure.

The news, from biotech industry association EuropaBio, comes shortly after the EU Commission approved three GM crop varieties for import as food, feed and processing and one GM sugar beet variety for use in food and feed, according to the Agricultural Biotechnology Council.

But two other GM maize varieties have come under fire from Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas and Friends of the Earth, and French prime minister Nicolas Sarkosy has imposed a temporary freeze on planting GM crops in France - at least until the spring.

"We are delighted that biotech cultivation in Europe is increasing at such a significant rate," said ABC chairman Julian Little. "GM crops are now firmly established in Europe and are here to stay.

"The demonstrable benefits of GM crops include increased yields, reduced costs, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and a reduced environmental footprint.

"Our only concern is that the UK is being left behind in this process. British farmers could also benefit from this technology, and we look forward to them being able to being able to access appropriate GM technology soon."

EuropaBio said seven EU member states grew 110,077ha (272,000 acres) of GM crops last year.

French growers quadrupled their area and those in the Czech Republic and Germany doubled theirs.

Spain, the largest biotech crop producer having grown Bt maize for 10 years, increased its area by over 40%.

Bt maize, still the only GM crop that may legally be grown in the EU, resists the European corn borer a pest steadily making its way north, according to the ABC.

An Environmental Council meeting tomorrow (30 Oct) will discuss proposals on GM cultivation and import bans, noted Mr Little.

"We are delighted to see that the uptake of biotech crops is growing despite the fact that only one product is available on the European market," said Johan Vanhemelrijck, EuropaBio secretary general.

"The cultivation of biotech plants is legally possible in all EU countries, and we strongly urge policy makers in Europe to give all farmers the right to choose the products which they think are best to protect their crops and increase their competitiveness."

Over 200 biotech crops are under cultivation or development in 46 countries around the world, according to the ABC.

They account for over 100m ha (240m acres), according to Monsanto's Colin Merritt. "Over 50% of the world's soya is GM," he said.

*****************************

Anti-Biotech, Techno-Illiterate

- Center for Consumer Freedom (website), Oct. 26, 2007

http://www.consumerfreedom.com/news_detail.cfm/headline/3478

The late Dr. Carl Sagan wrote in 1989 that "we live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology." Looking at today's organized opposition to genetically modified (GM) foods, it's clear that Sagan's bleak society hasn't advanced much.

The problem goes far beyond scientifically deficient U.S. activists clamoring for mandatory labels on biotech-enhanced veggies. France's new government, aided by environmental activists, now plans to ban the only GM crop grown in Europe. (The EU counters that this might not be legal.) Last week, French activists destroyed three test fields of the disease-resistant corn.

In Brazil last weekend, armed activists protesting "the evil effects of genetically modified products" invaded a Swiss-owned biotech farm. They were met by armed security guards; one person on each side of the fracas ended up dead. The Hudson Institute notes that these deaths are just the tip of a larger iceberg, as "new technologies that would save millions of lives every year are being held back by activist-scared regulators."

There is some good news. The European Commission has just approved new varieties of GM corn and sugar beets. And American wheat farmers are beginning to demand the sort of technological advances that have brought corn and soybean farmers so many benefits.

In today's Wall Street Journal, "Green Revolution" godfather Dr. Norman Borlaug notes that scientific research and development -- not irrational fear -- is needed to help poor African nations develop their economies and help their people survive:

R&D is especially needed to address Africa's special [crop] production circumstances ... New science and technology, including the tools of biotechnology, will be needed to develop crops better able to withstand climatic stresses such as drought, heat and flooding. [subscription required]

And if you're looking for a clear illustration of Carl Sagan's vision of a techno-illiterate society, writes liberal UK politician Dick Tavern in The Prospect magazine, you'd be hard pressed to find a better one than Great Britain.

Public discussion of GM food in the British media, and throughout Europe, reflects a persistent suspicion of GM crops. Supermarkets display notices that their products are "GM-free." Sales of organic food, promoted as a natural alternative to the products of modern scientific farming, are increasing by about 20 per cent a year ... The public is led to believe that GM technology is not only unsafe but harmful to the environment, and that it only serves to profit big agricultural companies. Seldom has public perception been more out of line with the facts. The public in Britain and Europe seems unaware of the astonishing success of GM crops in the rest of the world.

Taverne concludes that a "cult of 'back to nature'" is responsible for intentionally sowing seeds of confusion:

There can be little doubt that GM crops will be accepted worldwide in time, even in Europe. But in delaying cultivation, the anti-GM lobbies have exacted a heavy price ... Above all, delay has caused the needless loss of millions of lives in the developing world. These lobbies and their friends in the organic movement have much to answer for.

*****************************

Global Theme Issue on Poverty and Human Development

- Council of Science Editors (web posting), Oct. 22, 2007

http://www.councilscienceeditors.org/globalthemeissue.cfm

Articles Published in the Journals Participating in the CSE Global Theme Issue

The Council of Science Editors has organized a Global Theme Issue on Poverty and Human Development, in which science journals throughout the world simultaneously publish articles on this topic of worldwide interest on October 22, 2007. The goal of the CSE Global Theme Issue is to stimulate interest and research in poverty and human development and disseminate the results of this research as widely as possible. This is an international collaboration of 235 journals from developed and developing countries.

These 235 journals from 37 countries are publishing more than 750 articles on poverty and human development (see below for the list of participating journals and articles). The journals and the articles represent all regions of the world and specifically include the following 87 countries: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Laos, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Sudan, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Please direct any questions or requests for additional information to the attention of Annette Flanagin at annette.flanagin@jama-archives.org.

Update on Global Theme Issue Event

October 22 NIH/CSE Global Theme Issue Event A Global Theme Issue event, sponsored by the Fogarty International Center, the National Library of Medicine, and the Council of Science Editors, will be held on the campus of the US National Institutes of Health on October 22, 2007, to promote the Global Theme Issue and to highlight some of the best research that will be published on this day.

The NIH Launch of the Council of Science Editors' 2007 Global Theme Issue on Poverty and Human Development Oct. 22, 2007 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Masur Auditorium, Clinical Center (Bldg 10) National Institutes of Health (NIH) Bethesda, MD

For more info, please visit http://www.fic.nih.gov/news/events/cse.htm. The event will also be available via live web cast (see details below).

This event will promote the simultaneous publication of new articles devoted to the topic of poverty and human development published in more than 230 scientific journals throughout the world. Seven research articles from these journals were selected by a panel of NIH and CSE experts for presentation. New research in these articles examines interventions and projects to improve health and reduce inequities among the poor. A list of all journals participating in the Global Theme Issue is appears below.

Subject areas for this event include: childbirth safety, HIV/AIDS, malaria treatment, food insufficiency and sexual behavior, interventions to improve child survival, physician brain drain from the developing world, and influenza's impact on children.

Speakers include: NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni; Fogarty International Center Director Roger I. Glass; CSE President Ana Marusic; and National Library of Medicine Deputy Director Betsy Humphreys. Researchers with papers to be published in seven representative participating journals will be moderated by: Catherine DeAngelis, Editor in chief, JAMA and Fiona Godlee, Editor in chief, BMJ

The Global Theme Issue Event will be live webcast through RealMedia and will include close captioning for the deaf. After October 22nd, the web cast will be archived in two additional video formats to ensure access for people in different parts of the world.

The web cast has been posted as a future event on the following website: http://videocast.nih.gov/FutureEvents.asp . The direct link to the live web cast is: http://videocast.nih.gov/summary.asp?live=6239 .

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Crop Biotech Update

- International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, Oct. 19, 2007

http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/online/default.asp?Date=10/19/2007#1031

In This Issue

NEWS

Global
Two Decades of Safety Assessment Studies of Virus-resistant GM Plants Reviewed
Developing Countries as the World's Next Top Biodiesel Producers
Agrow Awards for Best Plant Protection Companies

Africa
African and Asian Countries Collaborate for Legume Project

Americas
GM Poplar for Phytoremediating Contaminated Waters
A Gas that Helps Apples Stay Crisp
Pioneer Hi-Bred Has 23 New Soybean Varieties for 2008
EMBRAPA Holds Public Audience to Discuss Research Priorities
Tropical Maize May be the Ultimate Midwest Biofuel Crop

Asia and the Pacific
In Vitro Technique Saves the Nearly-extinct Palaeobotanical Tree
India Jumps on Jatropha Bandwagon
Asia Rice Production Challenges Discussed in Vietnam
Illegal Bt Cotton Comprises 40 percent of Pakistan's Crops
Philippines' DA won't Impose GMO Ban

Europe
EuropaBio Delegation Hosts EU Commissioners
Emerging Possibilities for Plants as Pharma Factories
BCPC President Calls for Use of Modern Technology

Research
Folate Fortified Rice by Metabolic Engineering
Combating Nitrification in Wheat Using Wildrye Genes
GM Maize Expressing a Fungal Phytase Gene
Identification of Symbiotic Ectomycorrhizae of Yang Tree

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