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September 16, 2008


Farmerís Best Friend; Where Do They Stand?; GM the Way Forward; GM Potato A Blessing; Mouse Karma and Teen Violence


* After Rain, Biotech Might Be a Farmer's Best Friend
* Where Do They Stand On Feeding The World?
* BIO: Still Not Representing Seed or Food Producers
* Letter From Shane Morris to Irish Farmers Journal
* GM the Way Forward, says former EU Farm Commissioner
* General Public is More and More Removed from Production Agriculture
* GM Potato Blessing for Small Farmers: South African Group
* Bioenergy and Agricultural Biotechnologies - FAO Forum
* ISB News Report, September, 2008
* Online Bibliography of Assessment Studies on GE Crops
* GM Foods Disturb Mouse Karma and Cause Teen Violence?

After Rain, Biotech Might Be a Farmer's Best Friend

- Thomas Gaudio, NJ Biz, Sept. 15, 2008 http://www.njbiz.com/

'West Windsor farm sees gains from genetically modified crops'

For farmer Steve Jany, biotechnology means more green in the field and on the balance sheet.

Since Rustin Farms, which he co-owns with his brother, Frank Jany, began using genetically modified seeds about 10 years ago, Steve Jany says the grain grower has seen an average gain of about $50 per acre, or almost $1.2 million over 10 years, in the form of higher crop yields and lower production costs.

Genetically modifying a seed involves inserting genes, from other organisms, that are beneficial to the plant's growth.

The Jany brothers grow genetically modified corn, soybeans and rye straw on 2,300 acres in West Windsor. Although seed, pesticide and fertilizer costs have risen dramatically since 2006, the use of genetically modified crops during the past decade has driven down overall farming expenses on average, Steve Jany says.

The high-tech seeds "give you a bigger chest of tools to control insects and weeds, which rob yield if you let them get away from you," he says.

About 90 percent of the 1,000 acres of corn grown on Rustin Farms is genetically modified, says Steve Jany. Before using genetically modified seeds, Rustin Farms averaged about 105 bushels of corn per acre during the October harvest, says Steve Jany. Now, the yield is 145 bushels per acre, he says. A bushel equals 56 pounds of shelled corn. Genetically modified seeds have also pushed the farm's soybean yield up to an average of 40 bushels per acre from an average of 31 bushels per acre of non-genetically modified beans, Steve Jany says.

Rustin Farms is just one example of a farm using genetically modified seeds. About half of all corn-both feed and food-and 90 percent of all soybeans grown in New Jersey are genetically modified, says Bill Bamka, of the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Cooperative Extension in Burlington County.

Genetically modified crops generally yield more than crops that have not been altered, Bamka says. Growers of genetically modified crops can "farm more acres with less manpower," because the plants are resistant to herbicides, requiring less use of weed killer and less need to till any weeds that would otherwise grow, says Bamka, a Mount Holly-based agricultural agent who helps farmers with crop management, pesticide training and other issues.

Even if the economic benefits of genetically modified crops were undeniable, science has yet to completely subdue Mother Nature.

Rustin Farms will see much lower yields than average next month because of "hit-and-miss" rain in Central Jersey this growing season, says Steve Jany. "You can have all the GM [genetically modified] crops you want but if it doesn't rain, you won't get good yields," he says.

That may not always be the case. Scientists are working on drought-resistant seeds, he notes.


Where Do They Stand On Feeding The World?

- Dean Kleckner, Truth About Trade And Technology http://www.truthabouttrade.org:80/content/view/12378/

The presidential debates get underway in just two weeks, when Senators John McCain and Barack Obama square off at the University of Mississippi. They'll meet two more times, for a total of four and a half hours of give and take.

Here's a question that somebody needs to pose: What role should biotechnology play in addressing the global food crisis?

Believe me, there are a lot of questions that I'd love to ask these guys. What would your administration do to open new export markets for U.S. agricultural products? What role should farmers play in creating alternative forms of energy? When can I spend a night in the Lincoln Bedroom? ( I and others toured it with Barbara Bush)

Unfortunately, the odds of their meeting around my kitchen table to discuss these matters are about as great as my receiving an invitation to a state dinner at the White House. Yet Americans deserve to hear what McCain and Obama think about biotechnology and food.

Poll after poll indicates that although voters have many concerns--war, terrorism, social policies--pocketbook issues trump them all. Nothing else even comes close. A couple of weeks ago, a USA Today survey found that 43 percent of adults said "the economy" was the topic that mattered most. The "situation in Iraq" came in a distant second, with just 15 percent.

That's why we can expect the two candidates to spend a lot of time discussing taxes, spending, jobs, trade, gas prices, and so on.

But they should also address the cost of food, an emerging issue whose pinch is just starting to make itself felt here at home. For a variety of complicated reasons, commodity prices are on the rise and consumers are going to foot the bill. Many of them already have noticed that a gallon of milk now costs about as much as a gallon of gas.

Rising demand around the world accounts for much of the price hike. More people continue to want better food--a remarkable challenge for food producers, but also a great opportunity for them to adopt cutting-edge technologies.

Because population and prosperity continue to grow around the world, we aren't going to fix the demand side of the food equation. Nor should we want to: It would require a population crash, a global depression, or both.

Instead, we need to boost our supply. That's where biotechnology comes in--and why the next president must take affirmative steps to guarantee that farmers both at home and abroad have access to it.

The genetic modification of crops has boosted yields everywhere it's been tried. Research promises to do even more, adding new traits such as drought tolerance that will continue to enhance crop production.

Some researchers say they can double the yield of corn, soybeans, and cotton by 2030. The next U.S. president should emphasize the importance of this goal, and also encourage the spread of biotechnology so that it touches farmers in developing countries.

The United States can continue to give away billions in foreign aid, but it would be much wiser to help small resource farmers help themselves through access to biotechnology. It would make a huge impact on their quality of life.

Their hurdles aren't scientific but political. European objections to biotech food are as stringent as they are ridiculous. It will take a skillful diplomacy to solve this problem--but the next president shouldn't shy away from it.

I've scoured the Internet to learn what McCain and Obama have said about biotech food. A website called Sciencedebate2008.com has this statement from Obama: "Advances in the genetic engineering of plants have provided enormous benefits to American farmers. I believe that we can continue to modify plants safely with new genetic methods, abetted by stringent tests for environmental and health effects and by stronger regulatory oversight guided by the best available scientific advice."

That's a good start, though it reads a bit like a statement prepared by staff. I'd prefer to hear these words in Obama's own voice. And I'd like to hear McCain say something similar.

Now that I've said my piece about food and biotechnology, it's up to the debate moderators to make sure the candidates say theirs.

Over to you, Tom Brokaw, Jim Lehrer, and Bob Schieffer.
Dean Kleckner, an Iowa farmer, chairs Truth About Trade & Technology. www.truthabouttrade.org


BIO: Still Not Representing Seed or Food Producers

- GMOBELUS http://www.gmobelus.com/news.php?viewStory=190

A question worth raising all over again is, whom does the [ http://www.bio.org/ ]Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) represent? Not even the 'giant multinationals', it appears. With a stunning [ http://www.bio.org/news/pressreleases/newsitem.asp?id=2008_0911_01 ]press release that lauds the fifth anniversary of an international treaty crafted by those bent on stultifying agricultural progress, the group appears merely to be flying a Green flag.

BIO has long claimed to represent the interests of biotechnology companies around the world. Unfortunately, BIO is mainly populated and funded by member companies interested in pharmaceuticals, companies which view agriculture as an embarrassing relation best kept upstairs when polite company comes to visit.

Meanwhile, the seed companies -- 'giant multinationals' and local seed companies alike -- which have looked to BIO for leadership and advocacy have consistently found it wanting.

Thus it is that perhaps nobody in the industry should be surprised by this press release. BIO now claims to reaffirm a "commitment to working with Biosafety Protocol Parties to ensure the safe transfer, handling and use of agricultural biotechnology products" and lauds efforts under the protocol to build the capacity of nations to deal with biotech crops.

If BIO had its ear to the ground, rather than cleaved to the bloated fundament of Greenpeace, this vaunted industry group would be fully aware that "capacity building" under the Biosafety Protocol means little more than developing the means to test, in nations perennially on the brink of starvation, whether or not their crops will [ http://www.agbioworld.org/newsletter_wm/index.php?caseid=archive&newsid=1671 ] meet Europe's protectionist standards.

Standards which Europe spends hundreds of [ http://www.gmobelus.com/news.php?viewStory=145 ] millions of Euros upon, annually, to [ http://www.gmobelus.com/news.php?viewStory=145 ] lobby foreign governments to adopt: Europe's protectionist, low-output agricultural-welfare model.

This groveling declaration from BIO betrays the interests of its (non-pharmaceutical) members, especially the smaller companies whose value is deflated by artificial and unwarranted roadblocks on the path to commercialization. There is no cause to celebrate this unfortunate anniversary, no more than there was cause to celebrate the Protocol when it first was trotted out.

Struggling biotech companies--which includes all of them, regardless of size--must do what they can to wend their way through the obstacles thrown up by cynical Luddites.

Celebrating this triumph of Luddism is too much, and members of BIO in the agricultural community would be well-advised to consider a schism, and seek a new way with a new group. BIO itself is clearly not able to competently deal with modern challenges in agriculture.

Not even challenges that are five years old.


Letter (From: Shane Morris) to Irish Farmers Journal (13th September 2008)


Dear Sir,

Fr. Sean McDonagh might want to consider a trip to the confessional due to the misleading nature of his letter (Irish Farmers Journal, Sept 6). Fr. McDonagh claims work by Kansas State University researcher Dr. Barney Gordon shows a drop in GM soya yield; however Dr. Gordon himself has stated such claims are a "misrepresentation" of his research. He further added that his research "was not designed to address this question" and "the claim that GM soybeans produce less yield than conventional is misleading" (Seed Today - May 8, 2008). Dr. Gordon has noted that "Unfortunately, at times research findings can be exploited to inappropriate ends", something which Fr. McDonagh has clearly done.

The point Fr. McDonagh misses is that GM is a technology and as such can be applied to various problems to varying degrees of success. GM solutions in agriculture will depend on local conditions and local issues. For example, GM soya with clear environmental no-till benefits in the US mid-west (92% of all soya grown in the US is now GM) might be useless in Kenya. GM is no silver bullet for the threat of food security but it could be part of the sustainable solution. Why then throw out the baby with the bath water? A more enlightened approach was recently taken by Bob Geldof who stated: "I just find hunger the worst, most anomalous, unnecessary death.So I'm a big GM guy and part of that is the notion that we can't allow Africans to have genetically modified foods, despite the fact that the science has come on a lot, that there are safeguards. Is it the answer to everything? No, of course not, but it's partially an answer when crops can grow in arid conditions-- Crops that grow in arid or semi-arid conditions that are fairly resistant to pests, to insects and disease-- So if you develop something that's a net boon to vulnerable people, give it to them. Give it to them!"

In addition Tom Arnold, CEO of Concern, recently wrote "Developments in the life sciences may provide another possibility to deal with the challenges ahead. Astonishing breakthroughs have been made in biotechnology. There has been a massive growth, mainly in South America, China and India, in the use of genetically engineered crops".

The key elements in feeding the world now and in the future will be increased public and private investments, the right policies and crop technologies (including GM) and knowledge/capacity building, all of which should be grounded in sound ecosystem management. There is no reason why the best of GM and organic has to offer can't be utilized together under the banner of `sustainable agriculture'.
As for the Philippines, where Fr. McDonagh has worked, he may be interested to know that Filipino farmers have taken to GM crops well where there are now over 40 varieties of GM plants approved for use. This uptake is occurring while Greenpeace continues to immortally claim that GM food "studies have shown that it can cause cancer and even miscarriage" (Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 24, 2008). Maybe Fr. McDonagh can grant Greenpeace absolution for misrepresenting the truth (Deuteronomy 5:20, Catechism 2464-2513)?

Yours sincerely, Shane Morris


GM the Way Forward, says former EU Farm Commissioner

- Joe Watson, The Press and Journal, September 12, 2008

Europe's former farming commissioner has said that biotech crops might be the only way for the world to feed itself ' if climate change keeps accelerating. Franz Fischler also said the time had come for a new debate on the controversial issue of using genetically modified plants in Europe. He told the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists congress in Austria that the discussion on GM had become ideological, rather than based on fact.

Mr Fischler said that, with all international experts pointing to increasing climate change, the use of GM had to be considered. He added: "The real challenge is just how fast climate change is and how fast nature can adapt to that. If climate change is faster than nature can adapt, then the only way out for us is to use biotech. "It is important to think about the fundamentals (of GM). This is what is needed. We need a more realistic approach to the discussion."

Mr Fischler questioned why the various approaches taken to food safety globally were not used for GM and an entirely different stance taken ' particularly in Europe where resistance to the technology remained considerable.

He said the biggest problem up to now in gaining consumer support for biotech in Europe had been in the agricultural sector and those behind the technology being unable to communicate the benefits of it. "If you can buy a non-GM product for the same price you can get a GM product for in a supermarket, then there is no chance of GM succeeding," he added. He was in no doubt that GM was the way forward. "We should not ignore the problems that are ahead of us. Biotech must play a role if we are serious." The former commissioner saw particular uses for biotech in providing the fuels of the future.


General Public is More and More Removed from Production Agriculture

- Marissa Mullett, Coshocton Tribune, September 13th, 2008 http://www.coshoctontribune.com

According to a couple recent statistics, a little less than 2 percent of the U.S. population is involved in production agriculuture.

Genetics, nutrition, horticulture, marketing, chemistry, biology, marketing, economics and more are all critical parts of food, agricultural and environmental sciences. Those who are involved in contributing to the world's food supply and educating the public about their efforts constantly strive to inform those who are not involved in raising crops and livestock about their efforts in ensuring a safe, secure, nutritious supply of food for the rest of the world. This happens locally and across the globe.

This week at the Coshocton County Fairgrounds, fourth graders from some county schools participated in Farm Bureau's Ag Awareness Day. They experienced parts of agricultural and environmental sciences that tempted their taste buds, put them face to face with livestock, and brought them in tune with technology (just to name a few).

Throughout the day students learned about photosynthesis, beekeeping, timber, watersheds, food sources, food economics, ATV safety, wildlife, grain, GPS, soy diesel, sheep and wool, swine, dairy, goats and llamas.

Some of the stations also addressed some common myths about food and farm animals. Believe it or not, but-

There are some individuals in Coshocton County that believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows and white milk comes from white ones.

Some people believe (mostly school-aged kids) that all carrots grow peeled and in near perfect pieces like they find in the bags at the grocery store.

People can tell the difference between beef cattle and pigs, but not all of them can say what meat products come from each one.


GM Potato Blessing for Small Farmers: South African Group


The availability of a new genetically-modified (GM) potato variety will be a blessing for South African small-scale farmers, GM interest group AfricaBio has said here. The group said it supported the introduction of a GM version of the Spunta potato variety, which has been developed by the Agricultural Research Council (ARC). The new variety is resistant to the potato tuber moth, the nemesis of small scale farmers without the resources to store crops under ideal conditions.

"(The GM potato) is intended for the growing number of small scale farmers in South Africa, who we believe will play a vital role in food security in future," said Jocelyn Webster of AfricaBio. Following six years of local research based on the original GM creation at the University of Michigan in the US, ARC has now applied to the South African agriculture ministry for a safety assessment and general release approval so that farmers can start with participatory trials, according to Kobie de Ronde of the ARC.

Webster said the GM potato will help eliminate the loss of about 40 million rands ($5 million) worth of potato crops caused by the tuber moths annually. But the industry body Potatoes South Africa (PSA) remained sceptical. Ben Pieterse of PSA said the advantages of the GM potato did not weigh up against the possible consumer resistance and export losses. ARC countered this by saying that the new variety will be used on a small scale only by farmers who did not have the capital for access to insect killers to fight the moth and would not be exported. Farmers and consumers would also be able to opt to use traditional varieties or the GM version of local potatoes, which would be clearly labelled.

South African consumers are still very resistant to using GM produce, although great success has been achieved in recent years with GM maize, soya bean and cotton crops which are all insect and herbicide resistant.


Bioenergy and Agricultural Biotechnologies - FAO Forum

FAO Biotechnology Forum (http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.asp) will host its next e-mail conference from 10 November to 7 December 2008 and that it will be exploring the role that application of agricultural biotechnologies may play for production of bioenergy in developing countries, with a major focus on liquid biofuels. It is being organised in collaboration with the FAO Working Group on Bioenergy. As part of the build up to the conference, an FAO seminar on the same subject was held in Rome on 12 October 2007 - see http://www.fao.org/biotech/seminaroct2007.htm for papers and presentations.

If some of your colleagues wish to subscribe to the conference, they should first join the Forum and then the conference i.e. they should send an e-mail to mailserv@mailserv.fao.org leaving the subject blank and entering the following text on two separate lines:
subscribe BIOTECH-L
subscribe biotech-room3

A background document for the conference is being finalised and will be sent to the Forum Members before the conference begins. As usual, a document will be prepared after the e-mail conference is finished summarising the main issues that were discussed. This is the 15th e-mail conference to be hosted by the FAO Biotechnology Forum since it was launched in the year 2000.

John Ruane, PhD, Forum Administrator; Biotech-Admin@fao.org
FAO Biotechnology Forum website http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.asp


Information Systems for Biotechnology - ISB News Report, September, 2008

Full Issue at http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2008/news08.sep.htm

(Excerpts below from FIEN http://fien.com/article.php?id=6300 )

Low Acrylamide French Fries and Potato Chips by Caius M Rommens - Some of our most popular processed foods contain small amounts of toxic acrylamide. Currently available methods that lower the accumulation of this reactive compound have a negative effect on sensory characteristics and/or are not broadly applicable.Given the important role of processed potato products in the modern Western diet, a replacement of current varieties by the low-asparagine potatoes would reduce the average daily intake of acrylamide by almost one-third.

Improved Drought Stress Tolerance in Maize by Janaki Krishna - Water availability is the primary limiting factor of global crop yields. Consequently, considerable effort is devoted to converging breeding and technological research to develop crops with improved performance under water-limiting conditions. Transgenic plants tolerant to abiotic stress are being developed through the introduction of multiple genes; however, successfully producing stress tolerant crops remains a challenging task.

Minding your Ps and Qs at the PTO by Phill Jones - Patent litigation can spawn a verdict of inequitable conduct. It may not sound that bad. Yet the ruling brands a patent unenforceable. Inequitable conduct includes misrepresentation of a material fact, failure to disclose material information, or submission of false material information. Read about the implications to agricultural biotechnology.

Book Review: Using Insect-Resistant GM Crops within IPM Programs - A newly released book, Integration of Insect-Resistant Genetically Modified Crops within IPM Programs, provides the first comprehensive synthesis of the role of insect-resistant GM crops in crop protection. The book was edited by JŲrg Romeis (Agroscope ART, Switzerland), Anthony Shelton (Cornell University, USA), and George Kennedy (North Carolina State University, USA) with the goal of providing an overview of the role insect-resistant GM plants play in different crop systems worldwide.

Online Bibliography of Assessment Studies on GE Crops

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has compiled a web-based bibliography of peer-reviewed applied economics literature called bEcon, to assess the impact of genetically engineered (GE) crops in developing economies. bEcon contains 190 articles organized under four major themes that address the different areas of impact: advantages to farmers, consumer preferences and willingness to pay, size and distribution of benefits, and international benefits of trade. The literature is searchable by author, year, and keyword. bEcon is updated every three months, and a CD-ROM is produced on an annual basis for those with limited or no internet access.

For more information on bEcon, visit http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/becon/becon.asp


Genetically Modified Foods Disturb Mouse Karma and Cause Teen Violence?

- Ronald Bailey, Reason Online, September 11, 2008 http://www.reason.com/blog/show/128746.html

Over at the Organic Consumers Association website, anti-biotech ideologue Jeffrey Smith argues that biotech foods cause anti-social behavior. As part of his evidence, Smith offers:

Genetically Modified Foods Disturb Mouse Karma and Cause Teen Violence?

Ronald Bailey | September 11, 2008, 3:16pm

Over at the Organic Consumers Association website, anti-biotech ideologue Jeffrey Smith argues that biotech foods cause anti-social behavior. As part of his evidence, Smith offers:

-- a cruel and unusual experiment with three mice. [Wisconsin high school students] fed them the junk food that kids in other high schools eat everyday. The mice freaked out. Their behavior was totally different than the three mice in the neighboring cage. The neighboring mice had good karma; they were fed nutritious whole foods and behaved like mice. They slept during the day inside their cardboard tube, played with each other, and acted very mouse-like.

The junk food mice, on the other hand, destroyed their cardboard tube, were no longer nocturnal, stopped playing with each other, fought often, and two mice eventually killed the third and ate it. After the three month experiment, the students rehabilitated the two surviving junk food mice with a diet of whole foods. After about three weeks, the mice came around.

Sister Luigi Frigo repeats this experiment every year in her second grade class in Cudahy, Wisconsin, but mercifully, for only four days. Even on the first day of junk food, the mice's behavior "changes drastically." They become lazy, antisocial, and nervous. And it still takes the mice about two to three weeks on unprocessed foods to return to normal. One year, the second graders tried to do the experiment again a few months later with the same mice, but this time the animals refused to eat the junk food.

Across the ocean in Holland, a student fed one group of mice genetically modified (GM) corn and soy, and another group the non-GM variety. The GM mice stopped playing with each other and withdrew into their own parts of the cage. When the student tried to pick them up, unlike their well-behaved neighbors, the GM mice scampered around in apparent fear and tried to climb the walls. One mouse in the GM group was found dead at the end of the experiment.

It's interesting to note that the junk food fed to the mice in the Wisconsin experiments also contained genetically modified ingredients---

Interesting, but I wonder how Smith would explain the fact that as foods using ingredients from biotech crops have become ubiquitous, that crime rates, school violence, and even teen pregnancies have dropped steeply?

Interesting, but I wonder how Smith would explain the fact that as foods using ingredients from biotech crops have become ubiquitous, that crime rates, school violence, and even teen pregnancies have dropped steeply?

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