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November 7, 2007


RNAi Bioinsecticide; India overtakes China; Viña del Mar Declaration


* Crops That Shut Down Pests' Genes
* Monsanto to double corn seed production
* Farmer awaits answer to prices
* India overtakes China in Bt cotton race
* New GM cassava in the offing
* Viña del Mar Declaration
* Let biotech crops bloom
* Politically Modified
* Biotech Deaths May Total Millions
* ISB News Report


Crops That Shut Down Pests' Genes

Monsanto is developing genetically modified plants that use RNA interference to kill the insects that eat them.

- Katherine Bourzac, MIT Technology Review, Nov. 5, 2007


Researchers have created plants that kill insects by disrupting their gene expression. The crops, which initiate a gene-silencing response called RNA interference, are a step beyond existing genetically modified crops that produce toxic proteins. Because the new crops target particular genes in particular insects, some researchers suggest that they will be safer and less likely to have unintended effects than other genetically modified plants. Others warn that it is too early to make such predictions and that the plants should be carefully tested to ensure that they do not pose environmental problems. But most researchers agree that it's unlikely that eating these plants would have adverse effects on humans.

RNA interference occurs naturally in animals ranging from worms to humans. It's a process whereby double-stranded RNA copies of specific genes prevent cells from translating those genes into proteins. The new genetically modified plants carry genes for double-stranded RNA targeted to particular insect genes. Two papers published concurrently in Nature Biotechnology this week show that in some insects, eating double-stranded RNA is enough to cause gene silencing. This is surprising: in previous research, RNA interfered with organisms' gene expression only when it was injected.

"People have been trying this, but there have been no reports of success before," says Karl Gordon, a research scientist in entomology at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, in Canberra, Australia. The recent work, he says, is the first to demonstrate the promise of RNA interference as a means of pest control.

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Shanghai, made cotton plants that silence a gene that allows cotton bollworms to process the toxin gossypol, which occurs naturally in cotton. Bollworms that eat the genetically engineered cotton can't make their toxin-processing proteins, and they die. Researchers at Monsanto and Devgen, a Belgian company, made corn plants that silence a gene essential for energy production in corn rootworms; ingestion wipes out the worms within 12 days.

The most effective genetic approach to pest control has been to make plants that produce a protein called Bt toxin, which causes insects to slow down, then stop eating crops, then die. More than 120,000 square miles of crops genetically engineered to produce Bt were grown last year. But Bt isn't effective against many pests, including corn rootworm, which can cause such extensive damage to corn plants' root systems that the plants blow over in the wind. And researchers are concerned that insect pests are becoming resistant to Bt.

"We need a way to come around resistance to Bt," says Abhaya Dandekar, professor of pomology at the University of California, Davis. RNA interference is attractive, he says, because insects are unlikely to become resistant to it. "The only way to go around RNA interference is to shut down the whole system." What he means is that the new plants take advantage of a gene-silencing mechanism that the insects' bodies already use: RNA interference is thought to be a critical part of insects' and other animals' immune systems. Insects that shut down RNA interference in order to safely eat genetically engineered plants would probably get sick, says Dandekar.

Another drawback to Bt is its nonspecificity. The toxin may have what are called off-target effects: it can kill insects that pose no threat to crops.

RNA interference, says Ty Vaughn, a researcher at Monsanto, "can be species specific," allowing for "a higher level of control." Other researchers agree and say that Monsanto has, so far, demonstrated a high level of specificity. "They should be able to avoid nonspecific, off-target effects," says Gordon.

But other researchers warn against jumping to that conclusion too soon. "RNA interference to control pests is an interesting idea, but it's important to understand the ecology," says Bernard Mathey-Prevot, director of the Drosophila (fruit fly) RNA Interference Screening Center at Harvard Medical School. "It's very hard to know in advance whether other insects might be targeted."

In addition to killing nonpest insects, Mathey-Prevot says, the gene-silencing mechanism could spread between different species of plant, or from plants to other organisms, such as bacteria in the soil. Such spread might be harmless, but then again, it might not. "We need to understand it a little bit more," Mathey-Prevot says.

Vaughn says that the research is in its early stages and that Monsanto has not set a timeline for bringing gene-silencing crops to the market. Monsanto will put its new transgenic corn "through a battery of tests" to establish that its effects are specific to corn rootworms, he says. Tobacco cutworms that ingested the corn did not seem to be affected.

But to prove conclusive, researchers say, such testing would have to be arduous. "You would have to anticipate all the species you wouldn't want it to affect" and then test them, says David Root, project leader of the RNA Interference Consortium at the Broad Institute, Harvard and MIT's jointly operated center for research on genomic medicine. And Gordon anticipates that regulatory agencies will demand broad screening.

Although humans have genes similar to insect genes, researchers say that it is highly unlikely that ingesting Monsanto's corn would cause gene silencing in people. "If you fed tons of it to a mouse, I don't think you'd get anywhere," says Root. RNA "just gets digested" by mice and humans.

The U.S. government does not require the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms, but it does require safety testing. Fred Gould, professor of agriculture at North Carolina State University, says that because the new crops produce what's effectively a pesticide, they would be regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Such foods must be tested both in animals and through exposure to what Gould calls "reconstituted human stomach juices."

It's also unclear how widely applicable the use of RNA interference as a pesticide will be. In many insects, ingestion of RNA may not cause gene silencing. But cotton bollworms and corn rootworms are major agricultural pests, feeding on two of the most widely grown crops in the world. Even if RNA interference is helpless against any other insects, it could still have a major impact on agriculture.

Mathey-Prevot counsels patience. At this point, he says, it's too early to make claims about the safety of the technique. But, he says, that also means it's too early to conclude that the ability to cause RNA interference is any more dangerous than current genetic modifications of food crops.


Monsanto to double Iowa corn seed production

$230 million expansion in state includes a new DeKalb plant

- Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register, Nov. 6, 2007


St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. will invest $230 million expanding its Iowa operations over the next two years, including building a DeKalb seed conditioning plant in northeast Iowa.

The expansion is the company's largest in seven years and will double its Iowa corn seed production. In addition to a new plant, the world's largest seed producer will expand DeKalb seed conditioning plants in Boone and Grinnell. It's also wrapping up an expansion at its research facility in Ankeny.

The projects are expected to add a total of 80 full-time and 1,200 seasonal and part-time jobs, the company said. Monsanto already employs 1,000 Iowans full-time at 13 facilities across the state.

State economic development leaders are expected to consider incentives for Monsanto later this month. Details of the request are not available yet.

Driving the expansion: The DeKalb corn seed market share has grown for the past six years, the company said.

More farmers are growing corn to help feed the demand for food, fuel and animal feed, the company said. In 2007, U.S. farmers planted 90 million acres of corn, the largest corn crop since World War II.

"Making these investments in Iowa, the heart of the Corn Belt, makes long-term strategic sense for Monsanto and our customers," said Hugh Grant, Monsanto's chief executive.

Monsanto is spending $4 million to expand the Ankeny research and development facility. It's adding 22,000 square feet for robotic genetic analysis systems, which will enable researchers to analyze seed DNA without destroying it, the company says.

Ankeny is Monsanto's global research hub for advanced breeding and seed analysis for corn, soybeans, cotton and vegetable crops.

Monsanto said it also plans to expand its existing seed conditioning plants:

Boone: Monsanto will add two high-capacity dryers, a corn receiving line and 150,000 square feet of warehouse space. Construction at the plant, in operation since 1975, has begun and is expected to be completed in 2009.

Grinnell: The company will add a "foundation seed facility" to manufacture - in small amounts - the parent seeds of the commercial corn hybrids eventually planted by farmers.

The commercial seed corn production also will be expanded with two high-capacity dryers, a corn receiving line and additional storage. The Grinnell plant was expanded this year and in 2006.

DeKalb has had a facility in Grinnell since 1938, with the current plant operational since 2001. Monsanto purchased Illinois-based DeKalb in 1998.

Monsanto said its third DeKalb corn seed production plant in northeast Iowa will be on about 150 acres. The location has not been announced. The plant will have three high-capacity dryers and corn receiving lines, more than 260,000 square feet of warehouse space and a seven-story conditioning tower.

The new plant will produce 1,200 bags of seed an hour.


Farmer anxiously awaits answer to high fertilizer prices

- High Plains Journal, Nov. 7, 2007


Ridiculous, incredible, outrageous--words (printable, anyway) can hardly describe the high nitrogen fertilizer costs these days.

Nitrogen fertilizer comes in different forms, including urea and anhydrous ammonia. Urea which cost $220/ton in the fall of 2003 is now $400/ton, about an 85 percent increase in price. Anhydrous in the fall of 2003 was $340/ton, now it's about $550/ton, a price increase of about 60 percent. Ammonia prices paid by farmers increased 130 percent from 2000 to 2006, according to USDA. Prices aren't expected to get any better, with supply/demand for fertilizer and natural gas (a key fertilizer ingredient) expected to remain high.

So it goes without saying that one of the most anxiously awaited biotech crop traits is nitrogen-efficient crops. Research and development on corn with better nitrogen utilization is already underway.

Monsanto is developing corn that will yield better under normal nitrogen conditions, or to stabilize yield in low nitrogen environments. Last year, the company's nitrogen trials demonstrated a 5 to 15 percent yield increase across limited nitrogen environments. Across three locations in Illinois and Iowa in 2006, Monsanto's lead N-utilization gene showed no yield drop off as the N application levels decreased from 180 pounds per acre to 40 pounds per acre. Just recently, Monsanto and a company called Evogene announced a collaboration to improve nitrogen use efficiency in corn, soybeans, canola and cotton.

DuPont/Pioneer Hi-Bred also is developing corn with enhanced nitrogen use efficiency, allowing farmers to reduce input costs per bushel of corn produced, while reducing the environmental impact of nitrogen fertilizer production use. There is public research as well to discover genes associated with nitrogen use efficiency. Background on one project at the University of Illinois looking at "NitroGenes" can be found online at http://nitrogenes.cropsci.uiuc.edu.

What about self-fertilizing corn, wheat, barley and rice? Are N-fixing cereal crops a pipedream? Maybe not. Nature last year reported efforts of researchers in the UK and Denmark to genetically engineer plants to produce root nodules in the absence of rhizobia. The intent is crops that would not need to be treated with nitrogen fertilizer, instead relying on natural bacteria in the soil to colonize N-fixing nodules.

One of the biggest issues with no-till is how do you put down N, when, what form, and will it be there when the crop needs it. Can you imagine growing wheat or corn that fix N like soybeans? Less trips over the field, not having to worry about leaching and whether it stays put in the root zone, savings in time and money. One can see advantages for the environment, transportation and storage logistics, even in fighting crime, with fewer anhydrous tanks for meth makers.

Research on N-fixing crops is in its infancy, while commercialization of nitrogen-use efficient corn is nearing reality. All in all, this research and development represents what might eventually be one of the most significant breakthroughs in the history of agriculture.

-- Jeff Topp, Grace City, N.D., a member of Growers for Biotechnology, an all-farmer non-profit group in the Northern Plains, who volunteer time to promote and facilitate the research, development and acceptance of biotechnology in agriculture, focusing primarily on crops


India overtakes China in Bt cotton race

- Ashok B Sharma, The Financial Express (India), Nov. 6, 2007


Although China is an early starter in transgenic agriculture, India has overtaken its northern neighbour in terms of the area under Bt cotton cultivation and the number of genetically modified (GM) crops in the pipeline for approval.

Both the countries began with developing transgenic fibre crop - Bt cotton - and moved on to food crops. They are experiencing similar resistance from consumer groups and civil society organisations, which is considerably delaying the process of regulatory approvals. "We have developed transgenic rice, but the approval for commercial cultivation is withheld due to stiff resistance by Greenpeace. However, transgenic tomato, green pepper and petunia are in commercial cultivation in a few select areas," said Zhen Zhu of the Institute of Genetics and Development Biology in the Chinese Academy of Science, when recently in India.

According to International Services for Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Application (ISAAA) China has over a dozen biotech crops being field-tested, including the three major staples - rice, maize and wheat as well as cotton, potato, tomato, soybean, cabbage, peanut, melon, papaya, sweet pepper, chilli, rapeseed and tobacco. In India, biotech crops in development by the public sector include about 17 crops like banana, blackgram, brassica, cabbage, cauliflower, chickpea, coffee, cotton, eggplant, muskmelon, mustard, potato, rice, tobacco, tomato, wheat and papaya. Private sector in India are developing about nine biotech crops namely brassicam cabbage, cauliflower, cotton and maize among others.

In India, a public interest litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a moratorium on GM crops. The exporters, particularly the rice exporters are apprehensive about a setback in the European market in the event of approval of GM food crops.

However the ISAA chair, Clive James said: "India can be hub for transgenic technology in agriculture in South Asia." China began commercial cultivation of Bt cotton in 1996 and became the member of the group of six 'founder biotech crop countries' along with the US, Argentina, Canada. According to ISAAA, though India began cultivation of Bt cotton quite late in 2002, its area under Bt cotton has increased to 3.8 million hectares in 2006 exceeding for the first time, that of China's 3.5 million hectares.

The ISAAA report noted that China has developed successful Bt cotton varieties that compete with products developed by the private sector, but the level of Bt cotton adoption in that country seems to have plateaued at around 66%. "The plateauing may be in part due to the fact that large cotton areas in Xing Xang province are subject to much less pest pressure than eastern provinces such as Hubei where pest pressure is high and where adoption rates are well above the national average," it said. China has a cotton area of about 5.3 million hectares compared with the standard 9 million hectares in India, the world's largest cotton producer. India is the only country to grow all four species of cultivated cotton. Gossypium hirsutum represents 90% of the hybrid cotton production in India and all the current Bt cotton hybrids are G.hirsutum.

In India by 2006 four events including double-stacked genes were deployed on 62 cotton hybrids. One event, the GFM developed by Nath Seeds featuring fused genes cry 1Ab and cry 1Ac was sourced from China. An indigenous event was developed by JK Seeds featuring cry 1Ac gene was sourced from IIT, Kharagpur. Apart from this, the rest of Bt technology in use in India is owned by Monsanto, licenced to Mahyco and sub-licenced to other seed Companies.


New GM cassava in the offing

- Commodity Online, Nov. 6, 2007


COIMBATORE: A new virus-resistant cassava variety is in the offing. Rasi Seeds Private Ltd and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) have joined hands to develop transgenic cassava resistant to mosaic virus.

According to a press note, the tie-up, supported by the department of biotechnology, under the small business innovation research initiative (SBIRI) scheme, will make use of an indigenous technology developed at the Madurai Kamaraj University.

Cassava is an important crop for the southern region and one of the major constraints in the crop is tackling mosaic disease.

The limited availability of germplasm has been a major impediment and under this scenario, incorporating virus resistance through genetic engineering is considered the best option.


Viña del Mar Declaration

- REDBIO 2007, Oct. 26, 2007


1. The 600 participants from 21 countries present at the VI Latin American and Caribbean Congress of Agricultural Biotechnology, REDBIO 2007, gathered in Viña del Mar, Chile, aware that agrobiotechnologies can be an important factor for the sustainable development, for food security, for environmental and social well being, and for encouraging the future bio-economy, express their strong support for the use of agrobiotechnologies as an integral component for the development strategies for Latin America and the Caribbean. These technologies have the capacity to provide healthy and safe food in sufficient quantity and facilitate agronomic practices that are more sustainable from an environmental and social perspective.

2. They also recognize the value of a sensible regulatory framework that allows for the evaluation and the safe and effective use of agricultural biotechnology, including genetic engineering, and which reasonably ensures food safety and environmental sustainability.

3. It is important to note that the experience accumulated during the first decade since the commercialization of products obtained through Modern Biotechnology on more than 100 million hectares in 21 countries, has scientifically demonstrated that crops obtained through these technologies do not have risk profiles that are any different from those of crops developed through other plant breeding methods. The potential health and environmental risks originally foreseen have not materialized. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that this technology provides environmental and economic benefits. Millions of farmers, mainly small farmers in developing countries, are already benefiting in other parts of the world.

4. At the same time, the principles on which the current regulations are based were established when the commercial use of transgenic crops was just beginning, and do not consider information gathered during more than 10 years of extensive use. This lack of actualization contributes to delays in the development and use of Modern Biotechnology in Latin America and the Caribbean. This in turn increases the technological gap that exists between this region and the more industrialized countries, and prevents the region from exercising sovereignty over its genetic resources.

5. We note with concern that the continuous tendency towards excessive regulation is also slowing the development of our crops, and is keeping the advances made by Latin American researchers from benefiting society. This excess in regulation increases costs and disproportionately affects the public and small enterprise sectors.

6. Biotechnology in Latin America and the Caribbean continues to advance, and will continue to play an increasingly important role. We are confident that it is possible to formulate regulatory frameworks targeted towards scientifically established risks and not towards perceived or theoretical ones, and thus help ensure environmental and food safety, while avoiding unnecessary hindrances in its development.

7. We therefore request that the regulatory biosafety frameworks consider the history of safe use that transgenic crops have had in the world for over a decade. It is especially important that norms in the region consider both the benefits and the risks of this technology, and analyze them relative to those of the present agricultural production systems. In turn, regulatory frameworks should foster and facilitate innovation and technological applications that benefit our peoples.

We are encouraged to think that these technological developments will continue to be one of the main engines that drive the development of Latin America and the Caribbean.


Let biotech crops bloom

- Gurcharan Das, Times of India, Nov. 4, 2007


Let's begin this Sunday morning with a statement of unimpeachable reliability: India has doubled its production of cotton in the past five years. It crossed the US last year to become the world's second largest producer and is expected to overtake China in 2009 to become world's number one. India's cotton revolution is the subject of constant discussion at global agricultural forums, but in India almost no one has heard of it. Our media talks only about the suicides of cotton farmers. This is because environmental activists have been spreading disinformation and misleading the public.

Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Prize winner, who invented the dwarf varieties of wheat and helped create India's first Green Revolution, predicted that science would also drive India's second Green Revolution. He is turning out to be right. Biotech (Bt) or transgenic cotton is the miracle seed that resists bollworm - an insect which used to destroy a third to half of our cotton crop each year. By planting Bt cotton farmers have successfully fought the insect and delivered the highest production and exports in India's history. Production has risen from 158 to 279 lakh bales per year from 2002 to 2006. Net income per farmer has increased by Rs 17,500 per hectare for India's 23 lakh cotton farmers. From an importer, India has become the third largest exporting nation.

Borlaug wrote in some agony in 2002 that "The approval (of Bt cotton has been a long, slow, painful process, effectively delayed... Now that the door has been opened for the use of transgenic biotechnology on one crop, I hope it will soon be approved for other crops. As an enthusiastic friend of India, i have been dismayed to see it lagging behind in the approval of transgenic crops while China forges ahead". His worst fears have come true. Five years have passed since Bt cotton's approval. Nothing has since been approved. Farmers are anxiously waiting for biotech soya, rice, corn that are flourishing in other countries. Bt mustard was tested to death here and the inventor left India in disgust after seven years. The scandal is that government approval takes 18 months in China and six years in India. The reason is that transgenic seeds are an invention of private sector science and both government and activists distrust private seed companies. Environmentalists are hostile to these seeds on ideological grounds and delay each trial by taking the government to court. Each time they lose in court (because their case is flimsy) but policymakers and babus get scared and insist on more trials. Ministers are apathetic because there are no photo opportunities for inventions of the private sector. Thus, our second Green Revolution is delayed.

Misguided activists, timid bureaucrats, and apathetic politicians are all conspiring to rob our farmers' future. It was bold leadership of C Subramanium and Lal Bahadur Shastri that created our first Green Revolution in the 1960s. Had India waited for endless field trials and deliberate delays by environmentalists, it would not have happened. Fortunately, this government has vastly improved its regulatory capability in biotechnology.

Now is the time for Manmohan Singh to proudly proclaim our farmers' achievement in cotton and fast-track the approval process for other miracle seeds, especially those tolerant to drought and ideally suited for our rain-fed, non-irrigated areas like Vidarbha. He should tell babus to follow China's sensible approach and stop reinventing the wheel. Finally, he must also tell off activists (who are called eco-terrorists in some countries) to stop disseminating disinformation and diverting attention from science to suicides.


Politically Modified

- Martin Livermore, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 7, 2007


A majority of European environment ministers last week declined to overturn Austria's ban on the import of genetically modified crops. Only days earlier, Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas opposed the approval of two GM maize varieties for cultivation. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, meanwhile, plans to suspend farmers' rights to grow any type of GM crop in France.

Seemingly bucking this anti-biotechnology trend, Brussels recommended around the same time the approval of four new GM crops for import to the EU. And European farmers continue to buy the new seeds with increasing enthusiasm. Spanish and French farmers alone grew 96,000 hectares of insect-resistant GM maize in 2007, up from 58,000 hectares the previous year. [illustration]

So why is Europe taking conflicting decisions? The answer, as usual, is "politics." The political nature of the debate becomes clearer when we look at how the EU arrived at the recent authorization of the four GM crops. All had previously been subject to intense scrutiny by independent scientists on behalf of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which recommended the crops' approval. In a rational, science-based regulatory system, that would have been the end of the story. However, this was only the first step. National ministers meeting in the Environment Council mostly ignored the scientific evidence. Because GM food remains unpopular, ministers failed to approve the import licenses. According to EU rules, the final decision reverted back to the European Commission which, not surprisingly, approved the crops based on EFSA's original recommendation. So the final result was consistent with the science, but the process was drawn-out, political and irrational. The regulatory system works, but barely so.

A similarly cumbersome procedure is being followed in the case of Austria. The Commission has repeatedly tried to overturn Vienna's ban on the two varieties of maize in question but was blocked by national environment ministers. Ultimately, the decision goes back to the Commission, which will undoubtedly uphold its original proposal, obliging Austria to allow the import of the crops, which had already been approved across the whole EU for a number of years.

If Austria complies -- and Brussels can take legal action against Vienna if it doesn't -- this would probably avoid an international trade spat. The World Trade Organization ruled last year that the kind of import restrictions Austria introduced violated its rules. The deadline to loosen them expires on Nov. 21. So, this typically convoluted EU decision-making-by-default may be something which all parties are happy with. Many governments can claim to have opposed lifting the ban but were overruled by Brussels. This way they can maintain their popular anti-GM credentials, while a potentially damaging trade war is averted.

This is an unsatisfactory situation that ultimately benefits farmers in major agricultural exporting countries (particularly America) at the expense of their European competitors. Mr. Sarkozy's surprise announcement has the same effect. French farmers are prevented from continuing cultivating GM crops in order to satisfy the green lobby. That ban might be ultimately overturned in Brussels but only after considerable delay, giving competitors a further advantage.

The problem can be traced back to November 1996, with the first imports of commodity soy containing "Roundup Ready" beans. Two U.K. supermarket groups had been successfully selling GM tomato paste since earlier in the year, but the introduction into the food chain of something as ubiquitous as soy -- derivatives of which have been estimated to be included in 60% of processed foods -- was the catalyst for a high-profile NGO and media campaign which led all major retailers to promise to eliminate GM ingredients from their branded goods.

There clearly was some consumer disquiet about GM food which the campaign exploited. But equally the experience with the tomato purée showed that GM products could be marketed successfully. And yet the green lobby claimed that European consumers had rejected GM technology.

Not that this makes the EU some utopian GM-free island, as some might believe or at least hope -- far from it. Millions of tons of GM soy are imported annually for animal feed. Without this genetically enhanced source of protein, meat prices would skyrocket. Since European labeling requirements for GM don't apply to products whose exposure to GM is through animal feed, most consumers remain unaware of this little fact.

The furor over soy imports in the 1990s led to a hiatus in the EU regulatory system, which has only recently begun once again to operate (albeit creakingly) to approve crops for import to be used primarily in animal feed. The real problem, though, is the authorization for cultivation, which remains seemingly a step too far for many European politicians, no matter what EFSA recommends.

At some stage, this logjam must surely be broken. European farmers will not stand idly by while their competitors remain free to use superior technology denied to them. The demands of a growing world population and the move toward renewable industrial raw materials, for example to make biofuels, dictate that we must optimize productivity. And, despite activists' rhetoric, genetic modification is not high on the list of consumer concerns. They are far more worried, and quite rightly, about food safety. It's only because GM food is, unscientifically, denounced as potentially unsafe, as Frankenfood, that consumers are wary about it.

But now that retailers have for the most part taken GM food from their shelves, reintroducing these products will be difficult. Scientific progress will help. Sooner or later, there will be products that not only benefit farmers, as do the present generation of seeds, but also provide recognizable consumer benefits, such as improved nutrition, longer shelf-life or better taste. Before too long, consumers will have to choose between superior products that scientists say are safe and food of lower quality recommended by the scare mongers from the green lobby. No doubt, consumers will make the right choice, even in Austria.

Mr. Livermore, a chemist by training, is a science commentator and analyst.


Biotech Deaths May Already Total Millions

- Alex and Dennis Avery, The American Daily, Oct. 25, 2007


The global conflict over high-yield farming became even uglier last week when armed activists "for the landless" invaded a Brazilian biotech research farm. One activist and a security guard were killed and eight other people injured.

Unfortunately, the clash over modern farming technology has already had victims by the millions. New technologies that would save millions of lives every year are being held back by activist-scared regulators, using the excuse of "more testing."

* During the severe southern African drought of 2002, eco-activists told local governments that American food aid was "poison" because it contained genetically modified seeds. In at least one country, Zambia, the government locked up the U.S. food aid - despite the starvation of thousands in outlying villages. The food aid was later liberated by a mob that overwhelmed its armed guards.

* Golden rice could provide enough Vitamin A to prevent millions of cases of childhood blindness and death from rice-dominated diets per year, but it is not yet available to farmers even though it was announced by the journal Science nearly eight years ago. Its developer, Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, says his rice can save millions of lives among the poor, with no threat to the environment, no cost to the poor farmers who will raise it, and no benefit to corporations. Nevertheless, Greenpeace and other eco-groups ardently oppose this and all other genetically modified seeds. Potrykus says they'd rather have people die than be saved by high-tech seeds.

* African countries refused to allow the import of biotech corn seeds that could have helped overcome the parasitic witchweed, which infests 40 million hectares of African farmland. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center had to spend an extra 10 years conventionally breeding a natural tolerance for the herbicide imazapyr into African corn farmers' varieties. The new seeds reliably yield four times as much corn, providing food security for farmers too used to facing starvation because the witchweed stole their grain.

* The Irish government has refused to accept test plantings of a new biotech potato variety resistant to the deadly potato late blight. This is the same blight that caused the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s when more than a million Irish starved and more than a million more were forced to flee the country. Researchers found resistance to late blight nearly 50 years ago in a wild relative of the potato, but it had never been successfully bred into a domestic potato. Now, three major universities have each bred blight-resistant tubers - and the country which suffered the potato famine won't allow them to be grown. Nor will such African countries as Burundi, which are increasingly dependent on potatoes. An outbreak of a more virulent late blight virus continues unchecked in Britain.

How many people have to die before this travesty of Luddite worship runs its course?

How many helpless children will have to go blind before the endless testing of Golden Rice allows it to be distributed to the families who so critically need it?

When will the world realize that Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, for all their preaching about the rain forests, are trying to roll back modern civilization and its long life spans with thickets of overpriced solar panels and windmills? They willingly fail to see that without the high yields from the Green Revolution and biotechnology, hungry people will quickly clear the world's remaining forests for low-yield crops.


ISB News Report

- Information Systems for Biotechnology, Nov. 2007


Conner Announces Plan to Improve Quality Compliance of Genetically Engineered Products

An Alternative Approach to Genetic Engineered Alfalfa

Genetic Approach to Identifying Bt Resistance Genes In Heliothis virescens

An Unexpected Method for Controlling Corn Pollen Dispersal

Non-target Effects of Bt Crops Database Available

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