Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on

Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives





January 14, 2008


France implodes over seed ban; EU WTO deadline extended (again); EU panel rejects caddisfly paper


* French Farmers Criticize Ban on Seed
* Ban is not scientifically justified!
* GM Corn: A fine mess!
* Most French say GM crops should be authorised
* Europe stalls again on GM restrictions
* EU EFSA rejects caddisfly paper
* Food Safety Concerns Don't Include Biotech
* Supreme Court Backs Monsanto
* Excerpt: Monsanto v. McFarling
* Pakistan to introduce GM cottonseed
* Philippines to extend GM corn subsidy
* India develops transgenic tomato
* GM maize containing a milk protein
* Fluoro pig has green offspring
* Frankenstein foods are not monsters


French Farmers Criticize Ban on Monsanto's Corn Seed

- Tara Patel, Bloomberg, Jan. 12, 2007


France will use a ``safeguard clause'' to ban the cultivation of a genetically modified corn developed by Monsanto Co., a move that sparked criticism from farm lobbies and praise from environmental groups.

``Faced with the experts' uncertainty, I made a political decision,'' President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a speech in Paris today. ``It doesn't mean that France mustn't participate in research on GMOs, or that there is no future for'' genetically modified organisms.

Monsanto will consider all of its options, including legal remedies, said Monsanto spokesman Jonathan Ramsay, in a telephone interview today from Brussels.

``There is no basis whatsoever for invoking the European `safeguard clause,''' Ramsay said. ``Monsanto will defend our customers' right to choose.''

The decision, announced last night by Prime Minister Francois Fillon, was welcomed by environmental lobbies as well as farmer Jose Bove, who ended an eight-day hunger strike to push for a ban on the seeds following the government announcement, France Info reported.

'Surprising and Shocking'

``The government has kept its word and taken a responsible decision,'' an alliance of environmental organizations including Greenpeace said in a joint statement late yesterday. ``Doubts about the risks of MON810 are numerous.''

Jean-Michel Lemetayer, president of the FNSEA, or National Federation of Farm Unions, called Fillon's announcement ``surprising and shocking. The decision was very political to please a number of people including some on a hunger strike,'' he said on France Info radio.

France's watchdog on gene-altered foods ruled Jan. 9 that Monsanto's MON810 corn may have an impact on wildlife. A day later, Sarkozy said he would decide whether to use the safeguard clause based on the watchdog's findings, echoing remarks he made in October.

The safeguard procedure will remain in place until there is ``a re-evaluation by European authorities on the authorization of the sale of this GMO,'' Fillon's office said in an e-mailed statement last night.

Invoking a safeguard clause, if approved by the European Union, allows a member state to refuse the sale of a product permitted across the 27-nation bloc.

Resists Corn Borer

``Doubts about this GMO currently grown in France aren't a condemnation of the interest of this technology to overcome food and environmental challenges,'' the prime minister's statement said.

Some 22,000 hectares (54,340 acres) of the Monsanto biotech corn was cultivated in France last year, according to AGPM, a French association of corn growers. The strain is modified to resist the corn borer insect so the worm dies when it eats the plant.

``France can survive without GMOs, but it means we will protect our crops solely by chemical means and take the risk of depending on more imports in the future,'' Christophe Terrain, president of AGPM, told France Info radio today.


MON 810: the activation of a safeguard clause is not scientifically justified!

- AFIS web posting, Jan. 10, 2008

- Translation by AgBioView's European Correspondent of "Mon810 : l’activation de la clause de sauvegarde n’est pas scientifiquement justifiée !", Association Française pour l’Information Scientifique, http://nonaumoratoire.free.fr/communique20080110.pdf

In a very mediatic statement, the president of the "Committee for the formation of a high authority on GMOs" stated on 9 January 2008 that there were "a certain number of new scientific facts concerning the negative impact of MON 810 maize, resistant to the European corn borer, on fauna and flora". This precedes the activation of a safeguard clause and the establishment of a decree banning the planting of MON 810 maize as of 2008.

The French Association for Scientific Information (AFIS) wishes to express its surprise at this announcement, just as it already expressed its surprise at the statements of the President of the Republic during the closing of the "Grenelles de l'Environnement" with regard to the form, based on the use of inappropriate and biased wording, and the content, especially given the numerous scientific studies, French and international, which respond clearly and unambiguously to the questions asked.

After examining the opinion and having had contact with several scientists that participated in the meetings of the Committee, AFIS comes to the following conclusions:

- This opinion contains a list of data

- The data was not discussed scientifically

- No flaws are indicated in any of the arguments brought forward, even where the wording is approximate and the content is incomplete

- None of the arguments brought forward can be considered new or severe, justifying the activation of a safeguard clause

Concerning the conclusions that the political authorities believed they had to draw from the opinion for the press conference held January 9th, AFIS:

§ Denounces the confusion which is systematically maintained between "exposure" and "impact"

§ Notes that no new elements have been brought forward which would justify suspending cultivation of maize resistant to corn borers

§ Reaffirms that the scientific uncertainties on the safety of genetically modified maize in Europe are nothing but " imaginary, even deceitful, uncertainties both from an environmental as well as a food chain point of view"

§ Reaffirms that, without denying the importance of biovigilance when it comes to cultivating Bt maize varieties, wanting to prohibit the use of it by French farmers has no scientific justification whatsoever

§ Denounces the political instrumentalisation of the scientists appointed to take part in the "Committee of formation of a High Authority on GM products"

§ Will post on its website the letter which it addressed to the public authority on January 8th, together with the declaration "Why ban cultivation of GM maize?" supported by a thousand signatures, of which several hundred signatures of academics, researchers, doctors, joined by highly responsible farmers and agronomists.

§ Will post on its website the full text of the opinion by the Committee of formation of a High Authority on GM products and will add, progressively, summarized elements and clarifications necessary for citizens to be able to understand, in this way fulfilling its mission of scientific information

Having organized at the Senate on January 17th the colloquium " Sustainable Biotechnology and Agriculture", to which several scientists whose work was cited in the Opinion document of the Committee or who participated in the different meetings of the Committee will attend, AFIS will see to it that the sound scientific responses are duly reported and will make public the full summary of the colloquium in order to inform citizens prior to the examination of a proposition of law on biotechnology, to be submitted for examination by the National Representation.


Genetically modified Corn: A fine mess!

- Machine translation of "Maïs génétiquement modifié: Un beau gâchis!", Groupement National Interprofessionnel des Semences, Association des industries des semences de plantes oléagineuses, SEPROMA, and L’Union des Industries de la Protection des Plantes (press release), Jan. 12, 2008

The Government has just initiated the contradictory procedure in order to deposit a safeguard clause on the culture of a genetically modified corn, until the revaluation by the European authorities of the authorization of marketing of this GMO.

This decision is completely incomprehensible for the professionals of the seeds and the protection of the plants. As Philippe Gracien explains it, their spokesman: "It seems that the destiny of this corn was written as of the constitution of Grenelle of the Environment. It is a true underhand dealings: - for the farmers who lose a technology bringing of the proven benefit and whom proved reliable in France as in the world, - for the seed-bearer companies which do not have any more any visibility, - finally, for the system of operation of the European Union. It is a sad end for the process of Grenelle of the Environment which wanted to be exemplary.

The demagogy triumphed over the agricultural innovation which from now on, will be made without France."

For any additional information mercy contact Valerie Carlon: Tel.: 06 12 21 08 30; e-mail: valerie.carlon@wanadoo.fr


Guest ed. note: France is in an uproar over the government's decision to ban MON810 using the European Union's 'safeguard clause.' Most of it is due to a statement issued by 12 of the 14 scientists who issued the report upon which the government based that decision. The scientists claim that the government completely misinterpreted their report. The press seems largely sympathetic to the claims of these scientists, and there appears to be substantial popular support for the technology as well (see below). Unfortunately, AgBioView has not yet been able to locate the text of the statement by the 12 scientists--but we'll keep looking.


52% of the French population believe that secured GM crops should be authorised so that French farmers can remain competitive

- The General Association of Maize Growers [AGPM - Association Générale des Producteurs de Maïs] (press release), Oct. 29, 2007


This was the finding of an exclusive survey conducted by CSA for the GNIS and AGPM on October 17 and 18, 2007, questioning a nationally representative sample of one thousand people.

The survey also showed that most French people are aware of the reasons for choosing to grow GM maize, and list them in order: "improved yield," "lower production costs", "better resistance to disease and parasites" and "reduced use of pesticides".

It should be noted that 24% of those questioned did not express an opinion, which supports the view that many people still need information on the issue of GMOs.

The survey shows that the French are fully aware of the risk of GM crops being torn up, with 62% agreeing with the statement that "a farmer growing GM maize runs the risk of having his field destroyed by anti-GM activists". And there are 50% who believe that the illegal attacks destroying trial plots and GM crops have deterred French researchers.

Why do farmers grow GM maize?

AGPM, France's association of maize producers, has also been surveying opinions, through the Kleffmann Institute, questioning farmers growing GM and non-GM maize. The survey was carried out in July 2007 and covered 234 maize-growers in the regions of Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrenees. This year, Bt maize has been grown over a total of 22 000 hectares, which means sufficient acreage and a sufficient number of farmers to collect the opinions of maize producers and to hear arguments of the farmers who chose to plant a Bt crop, despite strong pressure from GM opponents.

Reducing losses caused by parasite damage

It is not surprising to see that farmers choosing this protection are in maize-growing areas where there have been severe attacks by the corn borer and the stem borer. Resistance to corn borer and stem borer (53%) and resistance to lodging caused by insect damage (36%) are the main reasons given by farmers. They have also observed improved quality in the stem and see it as a way of avoiding losses when ears fall to the ground. Bt maize offers farmers a solution that is simpler and more effective than chemical and biological pesticides.

Producing better quality maize

Damage caused by corn borer and stem borer creates an environment where parasitic fungus develop on the ears, damaging the quality. But quality is what the maize sector is demanding, and constantly, particularly for animal feed.

48% of farmers growing Bt maize mentioned the improvement in the health of the plant and the kernels. The quality of the harvest also relates to the improvements in yield noted by 30% of farmers growing Bt maize. The increase in yield (an average of 15% for GM maize compared to conventional maize) is directly related to the level of parasite infestation of the crop.

Farmers therefore have both technical and financial arguments. They believe Bt maize is good for trading, for qualitative reasons ("as a response to the legislation on mycotoxins", "as a reliable and saleable product"), but also to respond to high market demand, mainly from Spain. 87% of GM maize-growers in 2006 sowed a GM crop again in 2007.

An ecological crop

Farmers believe that by growing Bt maize, they are helping protect the environment, by reducing the use of insecticides (for 21%), and also by economising on fuel with less movement of farm machinery in the field to tend the crop. They have also noted that Bt maize has no effect on auxiliary animal life.

Sharing experience: a key factor when making the choice

For farmers who had opted for a GM crop, the determining factor in making the decision was the visit to see a trial and to share the experience of a neighbouring farmer: this was reported by 33% of farmers, and for 28% there were discussions with their fellow maize producers. They also stated clearly that they wanted to make up their own minds for themselves (33%). For non-GM farmers, fear of social pressure was a factor that is a strong deterrent (for 30%). Nearly half of those questioned said it was a difficult subject to discuss.

And 63% of the maize-growers questioned maintained that the issue of GMOs is important.


Europe stalls again on ending GM restrictions

- Laura Crowley, Food Production Daily, Jan. 14, 2007


The European Commission has been given yet more time to bring member states in compliance with trade obligations on GM crops after failing to meet Friday's deadline, the same day France extended its GM ban. Officials at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) received a joint letter from Canadian and EU trade representatives in Geneva agreeing to extend the deadline for Brussels to make its member states conform to regulations.

A WTO panel decided in November 2005 that some European countries were breaking international trade rules by stopping the import of GM foods and crops, following a case brought by leading GMO producers Argentina, Canada and the US under claims that their farmers were losing millions because of the EU.

Member states ban GM

Austria enforced a ban on the import and processing of Monsanto's MON810 and Bayer's T25 maize in June 1999.

The Commission has been debating whether to force the country to lift its restrictions since 2005, as Austria has never produced the necessary scientific evidence to contest the positive assessment of the products by Europe's food safety authorities.

Last week, France complicated the matter when it chose to extend its temporary ban on the cultivation of MON810, applying the same EU measure by arguing the costs to health posed by GM crops.

The temporary ban had been put in place by President Sarkozy last October as part of plans to make France greener.

Deadline extended again

The Commission has indicated it needs more time to work with the member states to bring their national regulations in line with global trade laws.

The new deadline suggested by Canada is February 11. Meanwhile, Argentina will further extend the deadline to June 11 before considering action against Europe.

US officials have not yet said if it will also accept an extended deadline, or push for immediate sanctions.

Peter Power, Commission spokesperson for Trade, told FoodNavigator.com: "We are making progress as we continue to illustrate how our EU Regulatory Framework is working. However, it is clear that some difficulties remain."

The Commission biotech steering group will now meet on 24 January to further discuss the issues.

Bans affect US agriculture

"The EU moratorium has significantly reduced US exports of bulk commodities such as corn and soybeans into Europe," said Russel Williams, expert on biotechnology for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

"Europe has an obligation to comply with its trade obligations under the WTO and US producers remain frustrated that the EU has not yet done so. The US will remain adamant that Europe complies with its trade obligations regardless of these bans. What that means for Austria, France, Greece and others will be up to the Commission to decide."

Current GM cultivation in Europe

At the moment, the only type of GM crop grown in the EU is maize, which was approved in 1998. It is not cultivated for human consumption but for animal feed.

The maize contains a gene that defends the crop against the European corn borer, an insect pest that eats the stem, present primarily in southern and middle Europe but moving northwards.

One of the main concerns regarding GM crops is that pollination could cross-contaminate non-GM crops grown in the vicinity - and that ultimately the long-term health effects of GM on humans are not known.

Last year, over 110,000 hectares of biotech crops were harvested in seven EU member states, compared to 62,000 hectares in 2006. This represents a 77 per cent increase.

French GM crop cultivation experienced the greatest increase in Europe, quadrupling in size from 5,000 hectares in 1996 to over 21,000 hectares last year.




The GMO Panel acknowledges that research is performed on this important issue as it can theoretically not be excluded that Lepidoptera-specific Cry1Ab protein may cause sub-lethal effects on Trichoptera as this insect order is closely related to the Lepidoptera order, at least more than to the order of Diptera.

There are some unclear points and weaknesses in the Rosi-Marshall et al. 2007 paper that might lead to very speculative conclusions: The authors measured degradation rates in aquatic systems and found no difference between Bt and non-Bt maize plant material. The amount of Cry1Ab protein in leaves and pollen was not measured, so no dose-response relationship with Bt protein can be made.

It is thus unclear whether degradation of Bt protein is equal to degradation of plant material. It would also be interesting to know whether degradation in headwater stream ecosystems is similar to - and as fast as - degradation in soil and hydroponic pond solution reported by Icoz and Stotzky 20079 [with Cry3bb], but no information is provided on the degradation of Bt proteins/plant material, neither on degradation in headwater streams ecosystem / in soil and hydroponic pond solution.

The identity of the Bt maize used in the feeding test is not clear (could be for example Bt11 or MON810 or others). This would have been very important background information. If the pollen had come from MON810, the yearly deposition would be approximately 9 - 90 ng Cry1Ab protein per m² (Nguyen and Jehle, 200610). It is considered that such a low dose is unlikely to cause a toxic effect.

No isogenic controls to compare with the GM material were used. The authors explain that they used controls with similar lignin and C/N ratio. No further details were given on nutritional equivalence of the maize material used.

There is no detailed information given on the amount of maize material fed to the test organisms: "Leaves were added to aquaria as needed".

The effects reported are relatively minor in comparison with known toxic chemicals. H. borealis had no significantly increased mortality when maize plant material was given. The only mortality effect was measured at a 2 - 3 fold above 'natural level' concentration of maize pollen.

There is no information on reproducibility of the feeding test. The EFSA GMO Panel is of the opinion that important background information on levels of exposure and plant material used is missing. The GMO Panel will ask the authors of the paper for further clarification.

In summary, the conclusions of the paper Rosi-Marshall et al. (2007) are not supported by the data presented in this paper. The GMO Panel is of the opinion that based on the available information such a low level of exposure to Trichoptera in aquatic ecosystems is unlikely to cause a toxic effect.

9 Icoz, I. and Stotzky G. (2007) Cry3Bb1 protein from Bacillus thuringiensis in root exudates and biomass of transgenic corn does not persist in soil. Transgenic Res. Sep 13; [Epub ahead of print].

10 Nguyen, H.T. and Jehle, J.A. (2006) Quantitative analysis of the seasonal and tissue-specific expression of Cry1Ab in transgenic maize Mon810. Journal of Plant Diseases and Protection, 114 (2), 82-87.

EFSA/GMO/380 - Minutes 37th Plenary Meeting of the GMO Panel [pp. 7-8]


Food Safety Concerns Do Not Include Biotechnology:

Public Less Wary of Animal Biotechnology

- International Food Information Council, Food Insight, November/December 2007


Despite a year of food safety concerns, consumer impressions of food biotechnology remain little changed from previous years. According to research from IFIC's 2007 survey Food Biotechnology: A Study of U.S. Consumer Trends, there was little change in the American public's perception of food biotechnology, and those who have an opinion are twice as likely to have favorable-as opposed to unfavorable-impressions.

The survey provides valuable insight into consumer trends by tracking familiarity and perceptions of food biotechnology over time. IFIC has conducted this survey for a decade, adding new questions as science and trends change. This year, in light of increased focus on sustainable food production, several questions on awareness and importance of sustainability were also included.

The survey of 1,000 American adults took place in July 2007, and data were weighted by age and education to be nationally representative.

Overall confidence in the food supply remained at a high level with 69 percent of Americans indicating they were "very" or "somewhat" confident in the food supply compared to 72 percent last year. However, the number of Americans selecting "very confident" decreased from 21 percent in 2006 to 15 percent this year.

Due to this high level of confidence, a sizeable number of Americans (25 percent) cited no particular food safety concern. Of the three-quarters of respondents who listed a specific food safety concern, disease and contamination topped the list at 38 percent; however, the biggest increase was in the "source" category, where concern about products' origin caused this category to rise from six percent of those citing a specific concern with the food supply in 2006 to 20 percent this year.

Less than one percent mentioned food biotechnology as a specific concern. "The public's attitudes about food biotechnology remained constant despite a year of tremendous media attention on food concerns," said IFIC President and CEO David Schmidt. In fact, overall favorable impressions of plant biotechnology remained little changed in the past year and favorable impressions of animal biotechnology increased from 19 percent in 2006 to 24 percent this year.

Satisfaction with current information on food labels also remained high in 2007. Only 16 percent of consumers felt information was missing, with less than one percent specifically mentioning biotechnology. When informed that FDA requires special labeling only when the use of biotechnology introduces an allergen or when it substantially changes the food's nutritional content, well over half of those polled (61 percent) "strongly" or "somewhat" support the FDA labeling requirements for food produced using biotechnology, while 24 percent were "neutral." This was unchanged from last year's survey.

Findings on animal biotechnology showed nearly half of Americans (46 percent) said they were "somewhat" or "very" likely to buy meat, milk, and eggs from cloned animals if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined they were safe. When the exact same question was asked regarding animals enhanced through "genetic engineering" rather than "cloning," the number of Americans who were "very" or "somewhat" likely to buy these food products jumped to 61 percent, showing that the terminology used to describe foods produced from biotechnology makes a difference. Both of these figures show an increase from the 2006 survey.

Consumer support continues to correlate with increased awareness about the potential positive impacts of animal biotechnology. Two-thirds of consumers (66 percent) said they had a positive impression of animal biotechnology when informed that "animal biotechnology can improve the quality and safety of food," up from 59 percent in 2006. More than half of Americans (53 percent) reacted positively to the statement "animal biotechnology can increase farm efficiency," up from 36 percent in 2005 and 47 percent in 2006.

Another area of interest in this year's survey included the new addition of questions about sustainable food production. Although Americans use a variety of terms to describe "sustainability," 83 percent equate the term to "long-lasting" or "self-sufficiency." Close to three-quarters of Americans (70 percent), however, say they have heard "nothing" about sustainable food production. When sustainability was defined as a method to "operate in a manner which does not jeopardize the availability of resources for future generations," 63 percent of Americans said they thought it was important. When consumers were asked to rank five factors related to growing crops in a sustainable way, the factor ranked number one was "increasing the production of food staples in the world, thereby reducing world hunger," with "reducing the amount of pesticides needed to produce food" coming in second. Other eco-friendly factors like rainforest conservation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions received lower rankings.

For a copy of the Food Biotechnology report visit: http://www.ific.org/research/biotechres.cfm.


Supreme Court Backs Monsanto In Seed Patent Case

Justices uphold lower appeals court ruling in dispute over reuse of patented biotech seeds

- Glenn Hess, Chemical & Engineering News/American Chemical Society, Jan. 9, 2008


The Supreme Court, without comment, ruled in favor of Monsanto on Jan. 7 and upheld a lower court ruling that penalized a Mississippi farmer for reusing genetically modified soybean seeds.

Monsanto was awarded $375,000 in damages after successfully suing Homan McFarling in 1999 for violating its patents by replanting Roundup Ready soybean seeds.

McFarling saved 1,500 bushels of seeds from his 1998 soybean crop and planted those seeds in 1999. He did the same thing the following year, saving soybeans from his 1999 crop and planting them in 2000.

Monsanto sued, arguing that a technology agreement the farmer signed restricted him to using the seeds for only one growing season. McFarling's lawyers argued that patent law does not allow Monsanto "to control the future use of seeds that were a natural product of the seeds that he had bought and planted."

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., sided with Monsanto, ruling that the "the licensed and patented product (the first-generation seeds) and the goods made by the licensed product (the second-generation seeds) are nearly identical copies."

The Supreme Court's affirmation of the lower court rulings helps ensure "continued investment into the kind of research and development necessary to keep growers on the cutting edge of productivity," Monsanto said in a statement.

"We believe strong intellectual property protection will encourage the investment needed to maintain continued crop improvement," the company stated.


Monsanto Company v. Homan McFarling

- Judge Catherine D. Perry, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (05-1570, -1598), May 24, 2007



The jury returned a damages verdict of $40 per bag of saved seed, well in excess of the $6.50 per bag for which Mr. McFarling had argued, but substantially less than the $80.65 per bag (for 1999) and $73.20 per bag (for 2000) urged by Monsanto based on the analysis of its expert. Mr. McFarling again moved to limit the damages award to what he contended was Monsanto's $6.50 per bag established royalty for use of its patented technology. The district court denied the motion, adopted the jury's verdict, and awarded Monsanto approximately $375,000 in damages. The district court also permanently enjoined Mr. McFarling from future unauthorized use of the patented technology.

Mr. McFarling asserts that the "unpatented germ plasm and second generation of genetically-altered soybeans is not a 'human-made' invention." But the fact that the germ plasm and the soybeans are not "human-made" is irrelevant to infringement. What is human-made are the chimeric genes claimed in the '605 patent, which are found in all of the infringing seeds at issue in this case. The principles of patent law do not cease to apply when patentable inventions are incorporated within living things, either genetically or mechanically.

Monsanto in effect decided that under its standard licensing program it would extract $6.50 in direct payment and would also extract an undertaking to buy seed from a seed company, which imposed an additional cost of $19 to $22 per bag on the farmers. The fact that Monsanto elected to allocate its licensing fees by obtaining a direct payment of $6.50 and ensuring a payment to the seed companies of another $19 to $22 does not mean that the royalty for its standard license was only $6.50. It means that, for a variety of economic reasons, Monsanto decided to split the royalty up into two parts and to direct part of the royalty to the third-party seed companies, which promoted and distributed Monsanto's products. The out-of-pocket cost that the farmers paid for the right to use Monsanto's technology was thus $25.50 to $28.50. In effect, the amount of that cost that can be characterized as a pure royalty payment was $25.50 to $28.50 minus the modest cost of cleaning and bagging the seeds and other transaction costs. Picking $6.50 as the upper limit for the reasonable royalty would create a windfall for infringers like McFarling. Such infringers would have a huge advantage over other farmers who took the standard Monsanto license and were required to comply with the provisions of the license, including the purchase-of-seed and non-replanting provisions.

Monsanto's evidence at trial showed that the requirement that farmers purchase their seed each year instead of saving seed from the previous year had particular benefits to Monsanto above and beyond the monetary payments represented by the Technology Fee and the seed prices charged by the seed companies. Monsanto's experts testified that the no-saving-seed requirement (1) decreased the risk of underreporting and the consequent reputation harm to Monsanto with farmers, (2) ensured Monsanto's knowledge of the quality of seed planted each year, and (3) provided a bargaining chip for signing up new seed companies. It is difficult to assign a dollar value to those benefits, but the benefits nonetheless justify the jury's finding that a reasonable royalty for a license to engage in conduct like Mr. McFarling's would exceed the amount of the payments made by farmers who participated in the licensing program. In determining the amount of a reasonable royalty, it was proper for the jury to consider not only the benefits of the licensing program to Monsanto, but also the benefits that Monsanto's technology conferred on farmers such as Mr. McFarling.

Monsanto's expert testified at length regarding the valuation of Monsanto's damages. He began by estimating the value conferred on a farmer such as Mr. McFarling by the use of the Roundup Ready product. Because using conventional soybeans was the most logical alternative to either licensing or infringing, that value provided a reasonable basis for estimating the advantages conferred by the use of the patented technology. The expert testified that the use of Roundup Ready seeds increased the yield of soybeans in an amount valued at $14 to $25 per acre as compared to conventional 05-1570,-1598 12 seeds. In addition, the expert testified that the use of Roundup Ready seeds reduced the costs of weed control in an amount valued at $26 to $36 per acre as compared to conventional seeds; he based that estimate on three studies that showed cost savings for the Roundup Ready system ranging from a low of $17 to a high of $36. Even using the lowest dollar amount disclosed in any of the studies as the minimum amount for savings on weed control ($17), and even disregarding the expert's testimony about other possible savings associated with the use of the Roundup Ready system, those two items alone result in an estimated savings of $31 to $61 per acre as compared to conventional seeds. Given that one 50-pound bag of seed is sufficient to plant about an acre of farmland, the savings of $31 to $61 per acre was equivalent to a savings of $31 to $61 per bag of seed. Based on those advantages alone, it was reasonable for the jury to suppose that, in a hypothetical negotiation, a purchaser would pay a royalty of $40 per bag for the Roundup Ready seed. The jury's verdict was therefore justified even without considering some of the other more sharply controverted aspects of the expert's valuation opinion, such as his use of a multiplier to account for the risks to Monsanto from infringement by farmers.


Govt to introduce genetically modified cottonseed in 2009

Bt cottonseed has an inbuilt capacity to destroy pests

- Atif Khan, Daily Times (Pakistan), Jan. 9, 2007


ISLAMABAD: A genetically modified cottonseed, with inbuilt resistance against pests that is significantly expected to increase production of the crop will be introduced next year, a top official said here on Tuesday.

Deputy Director of National Biosafety Centre (NBC), Afzaal Ahmed, told Daily Times that Bt cottonseed would be available in the market from 2009, which would tremendously increase per acre production of the cotton, accounting 10 percent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 55 percent to the foreign exchange earnings of the country.

Mr Ahmed said that Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a genetically modified cottonseed, developed as an effective biological control against a variety of insect pests that destroy important crops including cotton. Bt cottonseed has an inbuilt capacity to destroy intestinal walls of pests and any pesticide, which attacks it dies within a small fraction of time.

Explaining the decreasing per acre production and recent shortfall of cotton crop, he said that usually major factor of poor cotton crop is pesticides attack, which not only reduces per acre production of the crop but farmers spend quite sum of money on cure.

He said that due to the resistance against the most common disease of cotton like leaf turn virus and other pesticides, Bt cottonseed would not only increase the production but also farmers would save on pesticides.

The NBC Deputy Director said that although Bt cotton is available in the market, it is illegally smuggled from the West. It might not produce the desired results, as it is not modified according to the climatic and soil conditions of Pakistan, he added..

"Every area has its own climatic and soil conditions, even one type of seed producing excellent results in Sindh may not produce the same results in Punjab, that's why scientists do research and genetically modify the seeds to produce the desired results. As the research is still going on, so farmers are advised in their own interest not to use imported Bt cottonseed, available in the market," Mr. Ahmed said.

Earlier, farmers of the country, using imported Bt cottonseed available in the market had failed to get the desired results and they spread rumors that Bt cottonseed has been flopped in the country.

Explaining the misconception in this regard, he said that this Bt seed was developed and genetically modified by Pakistani scientists according to the conditions of the country, and the local companies would market it. "How can you flop a product which is still under research," he argued.

"National Institute of Genetic Engineering (NIBJE) has been developing the seeds under the same technique but has nothing to do with international brand Bt cottonseed; NIBJE would most probably appoint some local company to market the seed in the local market in 2009," NBC official said.

Scientists opposing Bt cotton express their fears that pests could develop a resistance against the seed in long run, "Bt cotton will become vulnerable to pest attack in the long run as pests would develop resistance, also Bt genes escaping from pollen grains will harm neighboring crops' bio-diversity," said an agricultural scientist at the federally operated National Agricultural Research Center in Islamabad.

Answering the criticism Mr. Ahmed said that research is going on and Bt seed would be approved after accessing all the bio safety parameters. Even after it is launched in local the market, the scientists would closely monitor its results and later if some resistance is developed, the seed can be further genetically modified, Afzaal explained.


Guest ed. note: Interesting headline, considering that Pakistan's farmers have 'introduced' it already.


Gov't to extend corn subsidy

- Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jan. 10, 2008


The corn industry expects to grow by at least seven percent this year as the Department of Agriculture has committed to extend a seed subsidy of P2,000 for every bag of genetically improved Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn seeds, an industry official said.

The Department of Agriculture has also granted an additional subsidy of P360 for government-approved organic fertilizers, said Rosallie Ellasus, president of the Philippine Maize Federation Inc.

The seed subsidy for Bt corn is P800 more than the P1,200 subsidy farmers get under the department's program for conventional corn seeds.

"This is because Bt corn seed is more expensive, compared to conventional corn varieties," Ellasus said. "Maybe this is the government's way of encouraging farmers to go for Bt corn, to meet its target for the country to become corn self sufficient."


DRDO develops transgenic tomato

- Ashok B. Sharma, Financial Express (India), Jan. 8, 2008


Visakhapatnam: The Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed a transgenic tomato for growing in the cold desert regions of Ladhak.

"This transgenic tomato is in the fourth generation and after its fifth generation, it would be subjected to controlled trials under the supervision of the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM)," said the chief controller of R&D in life sciences in DRDO, W Selvamurthy at a plenary session in the 95 th Indian Science Congress here on Monday.

He said that care has been taken to make the transgenic tomato resistant to cold temperatures below 20 degree Celsius and water stress conditions of the region.

According to Selvamurthy, the Pusa Ruby tomato has been introgressed with Osmotin gene through agro-bacterium mediated genetic transformation to enhance inbuilt cold stress tolerance.

In vitro selection against selectable marker Kanamycin and PCR analysis of regenerated tomato plantlets for promoter (CaMV), Kanamycin (npt-II) and Osmotin gene has confirmed the gene integration.

Further confirmation of integration of Osmotic gene has been done by Southern Blot and Western Blot techniques.

The T1 plants along with control have also been screened for tolerance to cold stress at a temperature of 3 degree C for three and half days and then exposed to ambient temperature.

The morpho-logical, physiological and biochemical studies are underway on these transformed plants. The confirmed lines are being advanced and are under process of evaluation for different agronomically important parameters, he said.


Transgenic maize endosperm containing a milk protein has improved amino acid balance

- Earl H. Bicar, Wendy Woodman-Clikeman et. al., Transgenic Research (Springer Netherlands), Vol. 17 No. 1, Feb. 2008


Abstract - In order to meet the protein nutrition needs of the world population, greater reliance on plant protein sources will become necessary. The amino acid balance of most plant protein sources does not match the nutritional requirements of monogastric animals, limiting their nutritional value. In cereals, the essential amino acid lysine is deficient. Maize is a major component of human and animal diets worldwide and especially where sources of plant protein are in critical need such as sub-Saharan Africa. To improve the amino acid balance of maize, we developed transgenic maize lines that produce the milk protein ?-lactalbumin in the endosperm. Lines in which the transgene was inherited as a single dominant genetic locus were identified. Sibling kernels with or without the transgene were compared to determine the effect of the transgene on kernel traits in lines selected for their high content of ?-lactalbumin. Total protein content in endosperm from transgene positive kernels was not significantly different from total protein content in endosperm from transgene negative kernels in three out of four comparisons, whereas the lysine content of the lines examined was 29-47% greater in endosperm from transgene positive kernels. The content of some other amino acids was changed to a lesser extent. Taken together, these changes resulted in the transgenic endosperms having an improved amino acid balance relative to non-transgenic endosperms produced on the same ear. Kernel appearance, weight, density and zein content did not exhibit substantial differences in kernels expressing the transgene when compared to non-expressing siblings. Assessment of the antigenicity and impacts on animal health will be required in order to determine the overall value of this technology.


See also, http://arsserv0.tamu.edu/research/publications/publications.htm?seq_no_115=166722


Fluoro pig has green offspring

- The Australian, Jan. 9, 2008


A FLUORESCENT green Chinese pig has given birth to two piglets which share their mother's transgenic characteristic after she mated with an ordinary pig.

The mother sow is one of the three fluorescent green pigs successfully bred by a research team in December 2006 after they injected fluorescent green protein into pig embryos.

"The mouths, trotters and tongues of the two piglets glow green under ultraviolet light, which indicates the technology to breed transgenic pigs via cell nuclear transfer is mature," Liu Zhonghua, a professor at Northeast Agricultural University in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, was quoted as saying.

She produced 11 piglets on Monday but so far only two of them had inherited the fluorescent feature.

"This technology promises to breed excellent transgenic pigs and even raise special pigs to provide organs for human transplant operations in the future," Professor Liu was quoted as saying.

Chinese scientists bred the pigs using somatic cell nuclear transfer technology following similar successes in the United States, South Korea and Japan.

China celebrates the start of the Year of the Rat in February, drawing a close to the Year of the Pig.


Frankenstein foods are not monsters

- Carl Mortished, The Times (UK), Jan. 9, 2008


All hail Doctor Frankenstein, maker of monsters. God is in retreat, skulking outside the laboratory while modern imitators of Mary Shelley's mad boffin brew potions, splice genes and bring more new life forms into profitable being.

Ten years after the Prince of Wales accused genetic engineers of taking us into "realms that belong to God and God alone", those who trespassed into the Kingdom of Heaven have emerged triumphant with a bag full of swag. Monsanto, the American corporation that brought us maize that makes its own pesticide, is thriving, rolling in cash, its stock price ascendant.

A decade ago, Europeans could sneer at genetically modified crops, deriding them as a US-food industry phenomenon, invented to service the food needs of America's burger-chomping fatties and as attractive as mechanically recovered meat. While we sniffed in our bunkers, the seed barons were winning hearts, minds and stomachs in Asia and Latin America. By 2006, genetically modified crops were grown on more than 100 million hectares in 22 countries, with farmers in China and India clamouring for the seed. The driver is demographics, economics and plain old commerce. Food prices have soared, prompting government agencies to engage in panic buying of wheat. Land is becoming scarce as cities advance and companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta, its Swiss rival, make plants that repel predatory bugs and that use less herbicide. The promise for farmers is bigger yields at lower cost and, in a world that needs to feed an extra three billion people by 2050, the need is powerful.

These companies have won the commercial argument, making the right products at the right time, and have profited hugely. Syngenta's share price surged by 50 per cent last year, while Monsanto's grew by 140 per cent and the American company last week revealed that its net income in the first quarter had almost tripled to $256 million (£128 million). Its sales of seeds had risen by 23 per cent from the previous year because of soaring demand in Latin America, an astonishing achievement for a business that was almost on its knees in 2002, accused of poisoning the world for profit. So successful was the ideological assault against GM food that Zambia was persuaded to reject American food aid on the ground that it contained GM ingredients that might pollute Zambia's biosphere.

The world has moved on. Food is no longer frivolous. It is serious and expensive and even if the price surges in wheat, rice and corn abate, the longer-term outlook for food is inflationary, with population growth and affluence stimulating demand for grain while climate change and high energy costs hinder farm output.

In Europe, however, we seem to inhabit a different planet, or is it another century? Last summer, the Soil Association was besieged by requests from its members, organic farmers, for permission to spray bordeaux mixture on potatoes. Torrential rain had created ideal conditions for potato blight, the fungus that was the original cause of the famine in Ireland in 1845. That disaster killed one million through starvation and disease, caused another million to emigrate and enflamed a war that has only just ended, a century and a half later.

Politics, in the end, turned a potato fungus into an Irish famine, but chemicals can stop the blight. Eschewing modern fungicides, about 30 per cent of Britain's organic farmers last year took the Victorian option of spraying bordeaux mixture, a solution of poisonous copper sulphate on their crop.

Bordeaux mixture, like most of the chemicals in which our bodies are habitually drenched, has never been subject to such rigorous testing, but GM crops are treated differently.

Politics is still at work, injecting pulpit prejudice into the business of feeding the multitude. BASF, the German chemicals company, is carrying out trials of a blight-resistant GM potato in Britain, enduring periodic vandalism and pillory in the press. BASF says that its potato works and is safe, but it will take ten years of trials before the product is approved.

Europe imposes a regulatory nightmare. In order to approve a GM crop, a member state submits it to the Commission in Brussels, which then seeks an opinion from the Food Safety Agency. If favourable, it is submitted to a regulatory committee of member states. If that committee fails to agree, it goes to the European Council, where, if it fails to secure sufficient votes, it goes back to the Commission for a final decision. Several GM maize products and Amflora, another BASF potato developed to produce industrial starch, are seeking approval. There is no date for a decision and Stavros Dimas, the Environment Commissioner, seems to be prevaricating.

After more than a decade of consumption in the United States, there is no evidence that GM foods are harmful, but the fearful insist that a monster lurks - genetic contamination, despite a dearth of evidence. The prevailing attitude is if we don't know, don't do it. The organic option is a fair-weather solution for the affluent - our family ordered a weekly box from an enterprising milkman. The £11 consignment, which probably would sell for £7 in the market, deteriorated week by week over the soggy summer, ending in a mess of rotting spuds, carrots, swede and lots of beetroot. Who eats beetroot, asked my wife?

There were riots last year in Senegal over food prices. In France, José Bové is on hunger strike to force the Government to ban GM crops. In Europe, we have the technology, the funds and the minds to solve problems, but our hearts are lost in the past.

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