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Date:

July 14, 2008

Subject:

Codex Guidelines on Low-Level Presence; 10% Yield Gain With New Soy; EFSA Rejects Claims by Hungary, Greece

 


* Codex Guidelines on Low-Level GM Presence
* Burkina Faso joins countries growing Bt Cotton
* New soybeans produce 10% yield advantage
* Article Series: The Next Generation of Biotech Crops
* EFSA Opinion: Safeguard clause invoked by Hungary on MON810
* EFSA Opinion: Safeguard clause invoked by Greece on MON810
* GM Crops and Biofuels
* US Report: Profile of Hired Farmworkers
* Special: Why the IAASTD Failed
* Distance learning Master in Biosafety in Plant Biotechnology
* Spoof: Horror In Argentina As GM Crops Attack Farmer

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International Guidelines Will Promote Food Safety of Plant and Animal Biotech Products

BIO Applauds Codex Adoption of Guidelines on Low-Level Presence, GE Animals

- Biotechnology Industry Organization (press release), July 4, 2008

http://bio.org/news/newsitem.asp?id=2008_0704_02

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Friday, July 04, 2008) - The Biotechnology Industry Organization congratulates the Codex Alimentarius Commission for approving key guidelines to further promote the safety of products from agricultural plant and animal biotechnology. The Codex Commission took final action today at its 31st session in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission and its member countries approved today

+ the Annex on Food Safety Assessment in Situations of Low-Level Presence of Recombinant-DNA Plant Material in Food (LLP Annex),

+ the Annex on Food Safety Assessment of Foods Derived from Recombinant DNA-Plants Modified for Nutritional or Health Benefits, and

+ the Guideline for the Conduct of Food Safety Assessment of Foods Derived from Recombinant-DNA Animals.

Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, executive vice president, food and agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), issued the following statement in response to action taken this week by the Commission:

"On behalf of its members, BIO commends the actions taken by Codex this week. These standards represent Codex's commitment to promoting food safety for consumers, while embracing scientific advances and fostering trade of biotech-derived agriculture products.

"BIO and its members applaud the U.S. government and other governments around the world for moving these science-based guidelines to adoption by Codex.

"Adoption of guidance related to food safety assessments of low-level presence is essential to facilitate international trade while regulating incidental or trace amounts of biotechnology events in food and feed products. The new guidance recognizes that low-level presence is a natural part of plant biology, seed production and the distribution of commodity crops, and it can be managed in ways that ensure food safety and minimize trade disruptions.

"Adoption of the guidelines for risk assessment of the safety of foods derived from genetically engineered (GE) animals represents a policy breakthrough in the area of animal biotechnology. Codex standards are recognized as international benchmarks and act as models for governments in the establishment of their own food safety policies.

"Approval of the guidelines can now pave the way for the United States and other countries to develop science-based regulatory processes to govern the use of GE animals. GE animals are being developed to advance human and animal health, enhance food production, mitigate environmental impact and provide for high-tech industrial products.

"The Codex-approved texts on plant and animal biotechnology serve as science-based guidance, which will further enhance consumer safety and health while promoting the trade of biotech-derived products. This represents a tremendous step forward for farmers, traders and biotechnology industries in the United States and around the world."

In 2006, the Codex Task Force on Foods Derived from Biotechnology agreed to draft an international guidance for food safety assessment of low-level presence of biotech products authorized as safe for use in food, feed, grain and derived products in one or more countries, including country of cultivation, but not yet in the country of import. In September, 2007 the members of the Codex Task Force unanimously agreed on the draft Annex that was considered and adopted by the Commission this week.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1963 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Codex, which comprises about 165 countries worldwide, is a scientific body that develops the international standards for food safety aimed at protecting public health and promoting fair trade practices.

-------

Guest ed. note: The guidelines leave it up to national authorities to determine when a recombinant-DNA plant material is present at a level low enough for the Codex provisions to be appropriate, and don't preclude national authorities from conducting a safety assessment; countries can decide when and how to use the provisions within the context of their regulatory systems. See, ALINORM 08/31/34, Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Food Derived from Biotechnology, Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Program, Codex Alimentarius Commission, 31st Session, 30 June - 5 July 2008, para. 106 and Appendix IV, linked at http://www.codexalimentarius.net/web/archives.jsp If this arrangement can be made to work, perhaps the greatest beneficiary in the near term will be China, which has announced an intention to commercialize several products in its pipeline, notably, phytase corn and Bt rice. While Asia will likely implement the Codex guidelines, Europe will likely not respond to this change in policy. This trading bloc favors generous tolerances for unapproved components in food produced by Member Nations. For trade between the EU and non-Members, however, the Precautionary Principle is brought to bear. See, "The Tolerance of Food Contamination in Europe", Andrew Apel, CropGen, http://www.cropgen.org/european_food.pdf

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Burkina Faso joins countries growing Bt Cotton

- Africa Science News Service, July 12, 2008

http://africasciencenews.org/asns/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=546&Itemid=1

Burkina Faso has commercialized Bt cotton, making it the third African country after South After and Egypt to join the ranks of biotech crop countries.

Burkina National Agricultural Research Institute (INERA) and Monsanto recently signed a commercial agreement paving way for the importation of Bt cotton seeds to be grown for seed multiplication. Mr. Kinyua Mbijjewe of Monsanto Africa confirmed that seeds enough for 15,000 hectares had been imported and are already being planted by Burkinabe farmers. INERA hopes to produce 400,000 hectares worth of seeds for the next planting season.

Burkina Faso in Western Africa is one of the poorest countries in the world with 90 percent of the population engaged in subsistence agriculture.

Where possible, farmers are producing cotton as a cash crop, accounting for more than 50 percent of all exports in Burkina Faso.

However, cotton production in Burkina Faso is susceptible to frequent drought and insect infestations that can often result in damage to up to 90 percent of the crop.

As a result, cotton production is highly dependent on insecticide treatments to control these pests.

"It's true that we have some varieties that are productive, but we also have to use a lot of pesticides first to treat the seed, then to protect the plants until they are virtually mature," explains Dr. Ouola Traoré, an agronomist and head of the Cotton Program the Institute for the Environment and Agricultural Research (INERA).

"At present, the cost of insecticide treatment means that often we can't be competitive internationally."

To provide growers with more options for insect control and potentially greater productivity in the field, Burkina Faso began field trials and evaluations with genetically modified (GM) or transgenic cotton crops in 2003.

The advantages of transgenic insect-protected cotton crops are built-in to the plant, which contain a protein from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that protects against specific lepidopteron insect pests.

"The experiments are intended - with transgenic cotton - to see what the advantages are. ... It's to see if there is some other alternative to battling the various pests chemically," continues Dr. Traoré.

The objectives of the experiments and tests were to assess the effectiveness of Bt cotton on the insects that infest fields in Burkina Faso, to analyze the financial profitability of the Bt technology for Burkinabe farmers, to analyze the impact of the technology on the environment, and to assess the composition and safety of the cotton seed and oil byproducts that are used for animal feed and human consumption.

With the entry of Bt Cotton however, there is widespread optimism in the country that Burkinabe farmers will finally enjoy the economic and agronomic benefits of Bt Cotton that South African, Chinese and Indian small scale farmers have been enjoying for many years.

With Burkina Faso (West Africa) and Egypt (North Africa) joining the ranks of biotech countries, the challenge is now on eastern and central African regions to stop dragging their feet on the technology.

Egypt recently commercialized Bt. maize (MON 810) and South Africa has been growing biotech crops (Bt. maize, Bt. Cotton and GM Soybean) for about 10 years.

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Pioneer: New soybeans produce 10% yield advantage

- Jerry Perkins, Des Moines Register, July 11, 2008

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080711/BUSINESS/807110363/1029/business

Pioneer Hi-Bred, a Johnston-based unit of DuPont, launched Thursday what it is calling "a new generation" of soybean varieties designed to increase soybean yields by 40 percent during the next 10 years.

Pioneer president and DuPont vice president and general manager Paul Schickler said the new Y series soybeans, as Pioneer has named the 32 new seed varieties, will "deliver unprecedented productivity gains to North American soybean growers."

Pioneer intends to sell enough of the new seed from the Y series to cover about 9 million acres for the 2009 growing season. Advertisement

The introduction of the 32 new Y series soybeans represents the largest volume of commercial products launched at one time in the 82-year history of Pioneer, Schickler said.

In more than 1,800 on-farm comparisons, the Y series demonstrated a 5 percent yield advantage over competitive soybean varieties, with some varieties yielding 6 percent to 10 percent more than their competitors, Schickler said.

"With the Y series yield advantage, this new line has the potential to add about 19 million bushels of soybeans to U.S. production," he said. "In a time of tight supplies and soaring demand, that is a strong boost for producers and the industry."

Soybean breeders have been frustrated for years by the slow pace of soybean yield increases, especially when compared with corn.

Palle Pedersen, Iowa State University agronomist, said soybean yields in Iowa have increased annually an average of less than half a bushel an acre since 1924.

Average corn yields in Iowa, meanwhile, have increased almost two bushels an acre a year since 1938, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

Other soybean companies also are trying to break the lid on soybean yield increases.

Monsanto Co. has said that four years of data show its newer Roundup "RReady2Yield" soybeans have a 7 percent to 11 percent increase over earlier versions of its herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready soybeans.

Schickler said Pioneer brand soybeans have led North American soybean sales since 1989. Pioneer soybeans have gained an additional 6 percent of the soybean seed market in the past eight years, he said.

Soybean seed sales represent 16 percent of Pioneer's annual revenues.

John Soper, senior research director for Pioneer, said the company used molecular marker technologies to find the genes that control yield in the soybean plant.

Yield in soybeans is controlled by many different genes working in combination, which made finding the right genes to target more difficult, Soper said.

A genetic comparison of older soybean varieties with newer ones ended up focusing on 100 genes as potential yield enhancers, he said.

By narrowing the genetic search to those 100 genes, Pioneer was able to match parent seed lines that resulted in more productive gene combinations, Soper said.

Don Schafer, senior marketing manager for Pioneer, said Pioneer's Y series of soybeans can be grown across the entire U.S. soybean-growing area and in some areas of Canada.

Small quantities of the seed have been planted in test plots this year, and seed production for 2009 is proceeding at 28 locations in North America, he said.

Pioneer expects to have a large demand for the Y series soybeans next year, Schafer said, but the price it will charge farmers for the Y series soybean seeds hasn't been determined.

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Editor's Choice Series: The Next Generation of Biotech Crops

- Plant Physiology 147:3, July 2008

http://www.plantphysiol.org/current.dtl

To see an article, click its [Full Text] or [PDF] link. To review many abstracts, check the boxes to the left of the titles you want, and click the 'Get All Checked Abstract(s)' button. To see one abstract at a time, click its [Abstract] link.

Bioinformatics

Genome Analysis

Biochemical Processes And Macromolecular Structures

Cell Biology And Signal Transduction

Development And Hormone Action

Environmental Stress And Adaptation To Stress

Genetics, Genomics, And Molecular Evolution

Plants Interacting With Other Organisms

Whole Plant And Ecophysiology

Systems Biology, Molecular Biology, And Gene Regulation

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Request from the European Commission related to the safeguard clause invoked by Hungary on maize MON810 according to Article 23 of Directive 2001/18/EC - Scientific opinion of the Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms

- European Food Safety Authority, July 11, 2008

http://www.efsa.europa.eu/EFSA/efsa_locale-1178620753812_1178720400903.htm

Summary

Hungary submitted to the European Commission additional information regarding the cultivation of genetically modified maize MON810 to support a safeguard measure initially notified, under Article 23 of Directive 2001/18/EC, by the Hungarian authorities on 20 January 2005 to provisionally prohibit the use and sale of the authorised genetically modified maize MON810 on its territory. The European Commission received from Hungary a written submission made of four supporting documents.

As a consequence, the European Commission requested in a letter, dated 18 April 2008, the EFSA's Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO Panel) to assess whether the information submitted by Hungary comprises information affecting the environmental risk assessment of existing information on the basis of new scientific knowledge such that detailed grounds exist to consider that the above authorised GMO, for the uses laid down in the corresponding consent, constitute a risk to the environment.

In the light of the information package provided by Hungary in support of its safeguard clause and, having considered all relevant publications, the GMO Panel concludes that, in terms of risk to human and animal health and the environment, no new scientific evidence was presented that would invalidate the previous risk assessments of genetically modified maize MON810. The GMO Panel also concludes that no new scientific data or information was provided in support of adverse effects of maize MON810 on the environment and on human and animal health in Hungary.

Therefore, no specific scientific evidences, in terms of risk to human and animal health and the environment, were provided that would justify a prohibition of use and sale of maize MON810 in Hungary.

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Request from the European Commission related to the safeguard clause invoked by Greece on maize MON810 according to Article 23 of Directive 2001/18/EC - Scientific opinion of the Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms

- European Food Safety Authority, July 11, 2008

http://www.efsa.europa.eu/EFSA/efsa_locale-1178620753812_1178720400344.htm

Summary

On 13 September 2007, Greece notified to the European Commission a ministerial decision concerning the extension of validity and amendment of an existing safeguard measure invoked under Article 23 of Directive 2001/18/EC and Article 18 of Directive 2002/53/EC (safeguard clause) to provisionally prohibit the cultivation of the authorised genetically modified maize MON810 on its territory. The European Commission received from Greece a written submission, composed of two notes accompanied with supporting documents.

As a consequence, the European Commission requested in a letter, dated 18 April 2008, a scientific opinion as to whether there is any scientific reason to deem that the placing on the market of MON810 seeds is likely to cause any adverse effects on human health and the environment justifying the Greek safeguard measure.

In the light of the information package provided by the Greek authorities in support of its safeguard clause and, having considered all relevant publications, the EFSA's Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO Panel) concludes that, in terms of risk to human and animal health and the environment, no new scientific evidence was presented that would invalidate the previous risk assessments of genetically modified maize MON810. The GMO Panel also concludes that no new scientific data or information was provided in support of adverse effects of maize MON810 on the beekeeping industry in Greece, nor on human and animal health.

Therefore, no specific scientific evidences, in terms of risk to human and animal health and the environment, were provided that would justify a prohibition of cultivation of maize MON810 authorised in Greece.

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GM Crops and Biofuels

Are European biofuels producers being disadvantaged because some countries won't allow the production or importation of genetically modified crops?

- Jon Evans, Ethanol Producer Magazine, August 2008

http://www.ethanolproducer.com/article.jsp?article_id=4462

In many ways, genetically modified (GM) crops and biofuels are made for each other. The enhanced yields available from the current generation of GM crops such as corn and soybeans can help farmers meet the growing feedstock demand for biofuels while still producing sufficient quantities of food and animal feed. In the future, GM crops with even higher yields and entirely novel GM varieties of grasses and trees should make biofuels production even more efficient and inexpensive.

This relationship between GM crops and biofuels has blossomed most fully in the United States, which isn't entirely surprising as it is the largest single market for both GM crops and biofuels. In particular, it is GM corn that has encouraged the relationship to blossom, with GM varieties accounting for 73 percent of all the corn planted in the United States in 2007 and corn being the main feedstock for U.S. ethanol production.

According to Brent Erickson, executive vice president, industrial and environmental section, at the U.S. Biotechnology Industry Organization, GM crops have helped U.S. farmers to increase yields by 30 percent over the past 10 years. This should provide sufficient feedstock for the United States to meet its biofuels commitments, as set out in the recent Energy Bill, which requires that biofuels account for 36 billion gallons of the U.S. fuel supply by 2022 (up from 9 billion gallons in 2008). "With agricultural biotechnology, farmers can continue to increase yields of crops to meet the demands for food, feed and fuel," Erickson says.

[article continues at link above]

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Profile of Hired Farmworkers, A 2008 Update

- William Kandel, USDA Economic Research Service (Rept. no. ERR-60), July 2008

http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/ERR60/

Hired farmworkers make up a third of the total agricultural labor force and are critical to U.S. agricultural production, particularly in labor-intensive sectors such as fruits and vegetables. The hired farmworker labor market is unique because it includes a large population of relatively disadvantaged and often unauthorized workers, a portion of whom migrate to, and within, the United States. Recent economic and demographic trends, such as changing agricultural production methods that permit year-round employment, expanding immigrant populations in nonmetropolitan counties, and growing concerns over U.S. immigration policies, have elicited increased interest in hired farmworkers. This 2008 profile serves as an update to the 2000 Economic Research Service analysis of the 1998 Current Population Survey using current data with expanded sections on legal status, poverty, housing, and use of social services.

Chapters are in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

* Report summary, 209 kb: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/ERR60/ERR60_ReportSummary.pdf

* Entire report, 3,636 kb: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/ERR60/ERR60.pdf

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

Guest ed. note: The report notes that technological advances reduce the number of jobs like this, while 'organic' and other low-tech production methods tend to swell the ranks of of those "who, as a group, remain among the most disadvantaged employees in the United States." See also, "Briefing: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States", Apr. 21, 1993, http://www.csce.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=UserGroups.Home&ContentRecord_id=145&ContentType=B&ContentRecordType=B&UserGroup_id=59&Subaction=ByDate&CFID=13372564&CFTOKEN=21072943 This is a factor seldom mentioned by those who tout "ethical eating" as a virtue.

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Why the IAASTD Failed

- Robert Wager, AgBioView, July 14, 2008

Contact: robert.wager[at]viu.ca

Agriculture is a man-made activity that has for millennia changed many forms of plants and animals to suit our needs. Today there is a strong lobby calling for a return to organic agriculture. This affluence-centered ideology can not effectively support the less fortunate or future pressures of a growing human population. It was the science and technology of the green revolution that helped feed the population as it rose from 3 billion to 6 billion.

With great promise the international community began a multiyear project designed to evaluate the role of agricultural science and technology with the goal to help reduce hunger, malnutrition and poverty. This International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) brought together people from many different walks of life. The first meeting was held in 2004 with 185 different groups represented. They included 45 governments, 86 NGO/civil societies, 29 co-sponsoring agencies (World Bank, UNESCO, UN-FAO, WHO etc) and representatives from international biotechnology companies.

The mission statement of the IAASTD promised to evaluate the relevance, quality and effectiveness of agricultural knowledge, science and technology (AKST) in reducing hunger, improving sustainability, improving nutrition, health and livelihood of the world rural populations.

The interim report of their findings was recently published [1]. In the four years since the inception of this project, the science of agriculture seems to have taken a backseat to ideology.

The IAASTD claims the report on AKST is: "an evidence-based guide for policy and decision-making." However the suggestions of `perceived risks' and `potential harm' are in many of the paragraphs dealing with biotechnology even though the evidence of risks and harm are lacking.

The International Council for Science is likely the world's largest collect of scientific opinion with most National Academies of Science and over 150 scientific organizations. In 2003 the ICSU published a very extensive review [2] of genetically modified (GM) crops and food.

The ICSU review looked at the following pertinent questions:

Who needs GM Food?

Are GM Foods Safe to eat?

Will GMO's affect the Environment?

The opinion of this truly global scientific organization is very clear when it states:

"... there is no evidence of any ill effects from the consumption of foods containing genetically modified ingredients"

"There are also benefits [eg. vitamin content of rice] to human health coming from GM foods"

"Pest tolerant crops can be grown with lower levels of chemical pesticides, resulting in reduced chemical residues in food and less exposure to pesticides."

And with respect to the environment the ICSU report states: "there is no evidence of any deleterious environmental effects having occurred from the trait/species combinations currently available."

Nevertheless the IAASTD report states: "As the general public has become increasingly interested in the linkages between agricultural production systems and human health, the list of food related health concerns has continued to grow. It includes uncertainty with regard to the effects of GMO's on human health."

In fact there is very little uncertainly. The science is very clear. However, a massive international anti-GMO campaign by many NGO's has planted the seeds of doubt in the public. There is no evidence to support these `perceived risks' and therefore they have no place in the "evidence-based" IAASTD report.

The IAASTD review also states: "Emerging evidence indicates that organic farmers are able to sustain their livelihoods..." This may be true in some places, but certainly not on a global scale with a world population of over six billion. Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug said it well when he said organic agriculture can only feed four billion people and he does not see two billion volunteers [to starve to death].

On average, organic agriculture produces only 70 percent of the yield of conventional agriculture. If we were to increase organic agriculture on a global scale as suggested in the IAASTD report we would have to put the remaining wilderness under the plow just to produce the same amount of food we do today. What would we do when the population reaches 7-8 billion? Clearly such a massive increase in organic agriculture at the expense of other forms of agricultural production would severely threaten global biodiversity and have profound negative impact on the environment world-wide.

Although North America has accepted GM crops and biotechnology the same can not be said for Europe. However it is not a difference in scientific opinion that blocks widespread adopt of biotechnology crops in Europe. In 2001 the European Commission released a report [3] on the safety of GM crops and food. Research over 15 years involving 81 projects and over 400 scientists concluded: "GM plants... have not shown any new risks to human health or the environment, beyond the usual uncertainties of conventional plant breeding. Indeed, the use of more precise technology and greater regulatory scrutiny probably make them safer than conventional plants and food."

There has been a misinformation campaign against genetically modified crops and food by NGO's that spans the past 15 years. No amount of positive research mattered to their campaigns. Statements made to the British House of Lords by the head of a large international NGO made it clear that this NGO's opposition to genetically modified crops and food is permanent regardless of any future scientific safety evaluations. This type of blind ideology does not fit anywhere in a scientific assessment. However, this particular NGO is very active in the IAASTD.

Every year millions of children suffer from vitamin A deficiency. Lack of this key vitamin in the diet causes 500,000 cases of blindness a year and up to 6000 deaths a day in the developing world. Researchers created a type of genetically modified rice with elevated levels of beta carotene (vitamin A precursor). International attempts to freely distribute this rice to subsistence farmers in the developing world have been blocked with overly cautious regulations.

There is no doubt that some of the NGO participants of the IAASTD have been very active in helping to create and implement regulatory road blocks to the free distribution of Golden Rice which is in direct conflict of one of the stated outcomes of increased nutrition by the IAASTD.

The authors of the IAASTD report are absolutely correct when they say: "choices we make at this junction in history will determine how we protect our planet and secure our future."

Yet there is no mention of the UN-FAO statement: Biotechnology would provide powerful tools for the sustainable development of agriculture and food production [4].

"Success [including alleviating malnutrition, reducing hunger and improving health] would require increased public investment in AKST, the development of supporting policy regimes." This IAASTD statement is completely opposed by the continued expansion of overly cautious, onerous regulations.

One estimate has it costing 20 million dollars to gain commercial certification of a single GM crop. This is far in excess of the abilities of public-funded research. The end result of these costly regulations is that biotechnology crops which would help the poor are not developed. Drought tolerance, salt tolerance and insect resistance are just three examples of genetically modified crops that could help farmers in developing countries. But extremely high costs of regulatory compliance keep these beneficial crops from being developed by public-funded research.

There is public-funded research in agricultural biotechnology programs in over 70 countries. This global research community was very disappointed with the draft IAASTD report. After reading the report the Public Research and Regulations Initiative stated: " We believe that the chapter [biotechnology] is written from a perspective that is so fundamentally different from what we believe should have been the perspective of such an evaluation, that a submission of comments on the many technical omissions and errors would not be meaningful."[5]

The unbalanced nature of the IAASTD report becomes even clearer when it states: "some long standing problems such as mycotoxins continue to significantly add to the health burden, especially of infants". It is very difficult to reconcile the statements of desire to improve nutrition and health with the complete omission of any statements of peer-reviewed data that consistently showed insect resistant GM maize has much lower levels of mycotoxins than either conventional or organic maize.

The IAASTD claims to want to reduce pesticide use but then refuses to acknowledge the massive reductions in pesticide use afforded by growing insect resistant GM crops. Interestingly, nowhere in the report is there any mention of the widespread use of highly toxic copper compounds in organic agriculture. It is very clear modern synthetic fungicides are far less harmful to the environment than these copper compounds which persist for decades.

Over 8 million farmers in the developing world now grow GM crops and each years sees a 20 percent increase. This adoption rate indicates there are real benefits of biotechnology crops for these farmers.

Scientific evidence shows substantial benefits of growing biotechnology derived crops. Yet the IASSTD warns against increasing education and training of farmers in the use of GM crops. It is hard to understand this position in light of the overwhelming scientific data in support of genetically engineered crops.

One of the most striking examples favouring organic agriculture in the IAASTD report is the suggestion that organic certification is threatened by pollen flow from GM crops. This is pure rhetoric directly from the organic food industry. During a time of unprecedented growth of both GM and organic agriculture there has not been a single case of loss of certification of an organic farmer as a result of pollen flow from neighbouring GM crops. In fact the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements does not advocate any testing for GM content.

The executive summary of the IAASTD report repeatedly advocates increases in organic agriculture without similar endorsements for biotechnology. This seems very strange as in the body of the report it states an alternative pathway forward with less biotechnology would mean "humanity would likely be more vulnerable to climate and other shocks and to increased natural resource scarcity".

Most of the 6000 year history of agriculture is by definition organic. This type of poor yield agriculture is exactly why we have significant problems with hunger, malnutrition, soil degradation and poverty in much of the developing world. To suggest organic agriculture is the best way to improve this defies logic and demonstrates how the reported "science-based" assessment of the IAASTD has been completely over-ridden by ideological based green- washing. It is very clear why those who work in the fields of agriculture biotechnology are so disappointed by the non science- based IASSTD report.

[1] http://www.agassessment.org/index.cfm?Page=Plenary&ItemID=2713

[2] http://www.icsu.org/2_resourcecentre/INIT_GMOrep_1.php4

[3] http://ec.europa.eu/research/quality-of-life/gmo/index.html

[4] http://www.fao.org/biotech/stat.asp

[5] http://www.pubresreg.org/

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First level distance learning Master in Biosafety in Plant Biotechnology

- Marche Polytechnic University, Ancona, Italy, Registration from July 15 to October 15, 2008

http://www.univpm.it/Entra/Engine/RAServePG.php/P/473510010300/M/250210010325

Purpose

As the other biosafety courses given by the UNIDO network centers provides training at the highest possible level to:

* developing country researchers, government and industry professionals involved in the assessment and management of risks related to biotechnology-derived products and services;

* individuals engaged in public policy, legal and ethical aspects or regulation of biotechnology;

* the next generation of biosafety trainers.

The training program is specifically addressed to the sector of Genetically Modified Plant (GMP) benefit and risk assessment for scientists, trainers, operators and evaluators working mainly in the areas of agronomy, genetics and biotechnology. The aim is to provide theoretical and practical experience and rules on GMP risk assessment in different cultivation conditions (mainly Balkan, Mediterranean and African areas) and for the food and feed. The program is supported though a technical cooperation project under the aegis of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

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Horror In Argentina As GM Crops Attack Farmer

- Monkey Woods, The Spoof.com, July 11, 2008

http://www.thespoof.com/news/spoof.cfm?headline=s3i37946

In what is thought to be the first such incident of its kind in Latin America, GM crops are being blamed for an unprovoked attack on a 58-year-old farmer in Argentina.

The farmer, Sancho Blanco-Negro, told doctors at the Eva Peron Memorial Hospital that he was taking a perusory stroll through his GM maize, when he heard a "rustling noise", before everything went black. When he awoke, he had a bruise on the side of his head in the shape of an ear of maize.

The 'attack' happened at Senor Blanco-Negro's farm close to San Antonio de Areca, the self-styled Gaucho capital, where men eat beef, and nothing else.

Police are taking his claims seriously. Officers from the Eva Peronista Polizia Centrale de Buenos Aires say that, although the man had been drinking heavily, they have long suspected that GM crops are capable of turning on humans, in the style of the attacks mentioned in the John Wyndham book The Day Of The Triffids.

Environmentalists claim that this is exactly the sort of thing they had been warning the Argentine government about. The 13 million hectares of GM soybean, and the million hectares, between them, of GM maize and GM cotton growing in Argentina could become no-go zones if the crops are able to mutate into killing plants.

The Argentine government has described the environmentalists claim as: "Loco."

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*Andrew Apel, guest editor