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Date:

November 13, 2008

Subject:

Bt Cotton & Farmer Suicides; Austrian Mickey Mouse Study; Fear Factor; Pharming in Crop; Tomatoes with Viagra

 

* Does Bt Cotton Improve the Lot of Indian Farmers? Pharming in Crop Commodities
* Indian Farmer Suicides Not GM Related, Says Study
* GM Cotton In The Clear Over Farmer Suicides
* Bt Cotton Catches On In AP, Green Activists See Red
* Austrian Mouse Study Raises Questions
* Monsanto on Safety Allegations of Transgenic Maize NK603 X MON 810
* Delays in GM Authorisation Costing EU Livestock Sector 2,500 million Euros
* The Fear Factor
* Pharming in Crop Commodities
* Kenya Prepares to Approve Biosafety Legislation
* Tomatoes with Added Viagra: How to Get Consumers to Love GM Crops
* New Agricultural Technologies to Combat Global Food Crisis
* Bioengineered Crops as Tools for Int Development:
* Journal of Biotech Research


---

Does Bt Cotton Improve the Lot of Indian Farmers?

- The Scientific Alliance (Cambridge, UK), Nov. 7, 2008

According to a recently published report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the answer is yes, but readers of the Mail on Sunday will have seen exactly the opposite message.

IFPRI, in a report entitled Bt cotton and farmer suicides in India - reviewing the evidence, concludes that there has neither been an upsurge in farmer suicides a link between suicide and the introduction of Bt cotton. For the great majority of farmers, incomes have increased. The Mail report, on the other hand, is headlined The GM genocide: Thousands of Indian farmers are committing suicide after using genetically modified crops. How can two such radically different interpretations be published?

IFPRI is a respected, independent organisation which has done its homework and published a well-argued 64 page report, whereas the Mail has printed a story by its reporter Andrew Malone, based on a visit to Maharashtra state. He reports some heartrending personal stories about individual farmers who killed themselves after running up debts to buy GM seeds which then failed to produce a crop. There is no reason to disbelieve these personal stories, and they are indeed tragic. But this story unfortunately has the hallmarks of biased reporting, with no attempt to understand the full picture.

Malone does himself no credit by repeating the canard that GM seeds are based on "terminator" technology, to prevent farmers saving seed and planting it the following season. This more accurately titled Genetic Use Restriction Technology (and intended to stop the spread of transgenes rather than prevent reuse of saved seed) is purely theoretical and has never been commercialised. In fact, the Bt cotton seeds are produced each year by hybridisation, a commonly-used conventional technique to boost yields. The seeds do not breed true, but are viable. A classic case of a lazy reporter swallowing an activist line without question.

In 2006, around 18,000 Indian farmers committed suicide, according to the best available statistics. This is a truly shocking figure, but this is itself dwarfed by the more than 118,000 total suicides in India in the same year (this high figure is a reflection of the size of India's population: the rate is about the same as most European countries and lower than, for example, Finland or Switzerland). So, India does not have a particularly high rate of suicides. Neither do these suicides occur predominantly among farmers: over 70% of the population still lives in rural areas, but farmer suicides (and the great majority of rural Indians are farmers) represent less than 15% of the national total. And, although there has generally been a slow increase in suicides in recent years, the number of farmers killing themselves has changed very little.

Having established that there has been no big increase in the (fairly average) rate of farmer suicides, we still need to consider the role of GM cotton on this. How near the truth is the Mail report of "--an estimated 125,000 farmer--take their own life as a result of the ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops."? Is it true that "--official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture do indeed confirm that in a huge humanitarian crisis, more than 1,000 farmers kill themselves here [Maharastra] each month."?

IFPRI report a figure of 4,453 for the number of suicides in Maharashtra in 2006 (National Crime Records Bureau statistics, which the authors consider the best available). This is already a worryingly high figure, and there is clearly a particular problem here because this is not the most populous state. But Maharashtra has always had a much higher rate of suicides than other states, according to the statistics. Nothing has changed with the introduction of GM cotton. Reporting an inflated figure as fact again smacks of irresponsible reporting.

Cotton is an important crop in India. Statistics show that, over the decade from 1997 to 2006, the country accounted for over a quarter of the total cotton growing area in the world: 8.65 million hectares out of a 35 mha total. But yields have been pitifully low: 263 kg/ha compared with 626 in Pakistan, 1087 in China and as high as 1655 kg/ha in Australia. Despite having a quarter of the world's growing area, India accounted for only 11% of total production. Yields in India were growing slowly, but were constrained by lack of irrigation (thus relying on the monsoon rains) and high pest pressure.

Since the first introduction of Bt (pest-resistant) varieties in 2002, average yields have now more than doubled, and India has become the world's second largest producer of cotton. In 2006, 3.8 mha of Bt cotton were grown, nearly half of this in Maharashtra state. Since some 60 million people are directly or indirectly dependent on cotton for their livelihood, this is surely a positive development.

But this good news must be tempered by some more negative aspects. One important factor is that distribution of illegal, low-quality seeds was facilitated by the relatively high price of the new Bt seed (about five times the price of conventional hybrids) and confusion about which varieties had been approved. This was compounded by a lack of support to farmers in choosing the right seed or reducing their high level of pesticide spraying. Taken together, this meant that a certain proportion of farmers had disappointing results or even crop failure.

Overall, taking all the published studies into account, the IFPRI report concluded that the use of Bt cotton increased average yields by at least a third and (despite higher seed costs) increased returns to farmers by more than 50%. Instances of crop failure were due primarily to drought conditions, not the GM technology. Results in Maharashtra, while not the best, were certainly very positive, in stark contrast to the "GM genocide" message promoted by activists. In this state, as in virtually all others studied, the general slow upward trend in suicides actually declined as the area under Bt cotton grew rapidly. Only in Andhra Pradesh, which had the most negative experience with GM cotton, was the trend of suicides ambiguous.

The facts, carefully analysed, do not show any link between GM cotton and the rate of farmer suicides. However, the Mail on Sunday article is a typical example (admittedly rather extreme) of irresponsible reporting, promoting a negative view of crop biotechnology. No wonder so many Europeans are wary of the GM crops. But prosperous EU citizens have the luxury of choice. Poor Indian farmers, on the other hand, need the choice of the best available technologies if they are to feed their families and lift themselves out of poverty. Hard evidence, not knee-jerk ideology, is needed.

=================

Indian Farmer Suicides Not GM Related, Says Study

- James Randerson, The Guardian (UK), Nov. 5, 2008 http://www.guardian.co.uk

'New finding runs counter to arguments cited by NGOs; Report also finds increased cotton yields in GM crops'

Suicides among Indian farmers have not increased as a result of the introduction of GM crops, according to a large scientific study.

The finding runs counter to arguments often cited by NGOs in the country such as Gene Campaign that oppose GM crops. They say that the supposed hike in suicides is a tragic social consequence of farmers being forced into debt as a result of growing the crops.

Farmer suicides were recently cited by Prince Charles in a lecture via video link to the New Delhi based NGO Navdanya as one of the ills of GM technology. He spoke of "the truly appalling and tragic rate of small farmer suicides in India, stemming in part from the failure of many GM crop varieties."

But the new analysis suggests that if anything, suicides among farmers have been decreasing since the introduction of GM cotton by Monsanto in 2002. "It is not only inaccurate, but simply wrong to blame the use of Bt cotton as the primary cause of farmer suicides in India," said the report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington DC. "Despite the recent media hype around farmer suicides," it added, "fuelled by civil society organisations and reaching the highest political spheres in India and elsewhere, there is no evidence in available data of a 'resurgence' of farmer suicide in India in the last five years."

It also found that the adoption of pest-resistant Bt cotton varieties had led to massive increases in yield and a 40% decrease in pesticide use.

"What we argue is that it's far more complex than simply adopting a technology," lead author Guillaume GruËre told New Scientist magazine. The report identifies a lack of financial support for farmers as a key problem leading many to borrow money from loan sharks at crippling interest rates. The IFPRI is a thinktank funded by governments, private foundations and international and regional organisations.

The researchers examined data from a variety of sources on suicide rates among farmers and on their costs and yields from crops. Although there were initially some catastrophic failures of Bt cotton varieties for some farmers after their introduction the report said that conventional varieties did equally badly because of drought - particularly in Andra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

By 2006, Bt cotton covered 3.8m hectares or more than 39% of the total cotton area. Yields of the crop have nearly doubled since GM varieties were introduced and India is now the largest cotton producer in Asia and has overtaken the US to become the second largest in the world.

===========

GM Cotton In The Clear Over Farmer Suicides

- Andy Coghlan, New Scientist, Nov. 6, 2008 http://www.newscientist.com

Poor Indian farmers are not driven to suicide by the pressures of growing genetically modified cotton, concludes a comprehensive review published last month - if anything, suicides among farmers have fallen since Bt cotton was introduced by Monsanto in 2002, quite steeply in some states.

"It is not only inaccurate, but simply wrong to blame the use of Bt cotton as the primary cause of farmer suicides in India," says the report by independent think tank, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Groups opposed to GM crops, such as Gene Campaign and Navdanya, both based in New Delhi, have long argued that introducing GM cotton has been a disaster. Navdanya, for example, claims that the high cost and poor performance of the earliest varieties drove farmers into heavy debt from which suicide was seen as the only honourable release.

Just before the report's publication, Prince Charles, the famously anti-GM heir to the British throne, delivered a lecture to Navdanya by video link repeating the allegation. He talked of the "truly appalling and tragic rate of small farmer suicides in India, stemming in part from the failure of many GM crop varieties".

The report concedes that early varieties were so ill-suited to Indian conditions that they may have caused catastrophic failures for some farmers. But droughts at the time - particularly in states like Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra - meant that conventional cotton failed too. Not only that, says the report, but rogue dealers sold farmers fake or sub-standard Bt cotton seeds.

Although the Bt crop now accounts for an estimated 85 per cent of all cotton grown in India (see graph) suicide rates haven't soared. If anything, they've been falling nationally since 2002. In Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, suicide rates have plunged, suggesting that the success of newer varieties may actually help avert deaths.

The report says that a key driver of suicide in Indian farmers is local and federal governments' failure to provide practical and financial support to poor farmers. This has forced them to rely on loan sharks and moneylenders who charge exorbitant rates of interest of up to 36 per cent.
Suicide in Indian farmers has been driven by the failure of the government to provide practical and financial support

"The moneylenders have been the primary reason for the situation getting out of hand," says Debdatta Sengupta of IFPRI. "What we argue is that it's far more complex than simply adopting a technology," says lead author Guillaume Gruère, also of IFPRI.

The absence of any kind of safety net or insurance, combined with ineffective irrigation and corrupt banking systems, means that suicide may seem like the only way out for poor farmers, say the authors.

The IFPRI report concludes that overall, the introduction of the cotton has been a huge success, doubling yields in five years and turning India from a net importer of cotton to the world's second largest exporter. Contrary to claims from opponents, the cotton has also cut pesticide use by up to 40 per cent because the plants are engineered to make their own pesticide. And, while Bt cotton is more expensive than non-GM, which raises total costs by 15 per cent, this is made up for by higher yields which have sent net returns soaring by up to 71 per cent extra.

However, while Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign agrees that suicides have levelled off, she says Bt cotton was initially "disastrous": "Many farmers made a huge outlay that wasn't recovered," she says. Prince Charles would not comment on the IFPRI paper, but a spokeswoman said that the prince had visited India recently and "talked directly to farmers about their difficulties on this issue".

============

Bt Cotton Catches On In AP, Green Activists See Red

- Ruchi Hajela, The Hindustan Times (India), Nov 9, 2008

NEW DELHI, India - Amidst the piling rubble of a global economic meltdown, cotton farmers in Andhra Pradesh's not-so-rich Warangal district are a happy lot. Or so it seems. Genetically modified cotton seeds have helped some sixty-odd farmers in Sivaji Nagar village of the district to multiply yields, raise income and not spend sleepless nights to ward off swathes of pests that feed and destroy cotton crop.

These farmers, earlier plagued by the bollworm that destroyed their crop, have now been using the Bollgard gene technology (Bt) licensed by Mahyco Monsanto Biotech that prevents them cotton crop from Bollgard attack.

Mahyco Monsanto is a joint venture between Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company and US-based agricultural biotechnology firm Monsanto. The company sells the Bt cotton seeds to local farmers through its 23 licensed Indian seed companies.

Farmers using these seeds said they have been saving about Rs 6000 per acre on pesticides. The average yield has also increased from a measly six quintals to 15 quintals per acre currently.

"We made a profit of Rs 30,000 per acre during the July-August period in 2007 at current market price of Rs 2,850 per quintal," said Mallagani Ramarao, a farmer in the village who sifted to Bt Cotton cultivation last year.

Environmental activists, however, do not agree that Bt Cotton is the panacea for bollworm attacks and higher yields. "Very clearly, the technology does not multiply yield but prevents pest attack. Also, resistance builds up quickly within the first one or two years," said Jai Krishna, sustainable agriculture campaigner at Greenpeace India.

Higher incomes have also enabled these families to move up the social ladder with rising aspirations. "If the yield continues to be good we will send our two sons for engineering and IAS," said Lakshami Subbarao. The farmers said that they want similar technology for other crop such as chilli and turmeric. Approximately four million farmers have adopted Bt cotton seeds.

============

Austrian Mouse Study Raises Questions

- Andy Apel, GMOBELUS, Nov.11, 2008
http://www.gmobelus.com/news.php?viewStory=276

For years, Austria's scientifically untenable claims regarding GM foods and crops have repeatedly been rejected by European Commission officials, by scientists with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and by the judges of two European courts. Since official channels and the rigors of the scientific process have thwarted all of Austria's attempts to evade the requirements of European law, Austria has adopted a new procedure -- one invented by activists. As a result, the world press has become inundated by wild claims based on an Austrian research paper which has not been peer-reviewed, nor even made available.

Early in 2003, Austria said it had discovered information about GM crops and animals which prompted it to establish 'GMO-free' zones. The EFSA rejected Austria's claim, saying the country had not found any new evidence. The matter was then referred to the European Commission, which also rejected Austria's claims. "We have analysed the Austrian measures in great detail, and, legally speaking, this seems a clear-cut case", said Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström. "The Treaty requirements allowing for a derogation from EU legislation are not met".

The matter was then referred to the Court of First Instance of the European Communities, and rejected once again. Austria appealed that decision, too. In 2007, the European Court of Justice added its rejection to the list.

Having exhausted all legal avenues, Austria has decided to take the same route as Erwina Ermakova: avoid the peer-review process, announce study results at a conference, hide the data from scientists, and let the activists run amok among the media.

In October 2005, Russian neuroscientist Irina Ermakova presented the results of a rat feeding study at a conference for the Russian National Association for Genetic Security (NAGS). The results were said to show that the mortality rate of the offspring of rats fed genetically modified soy flour was six times higher than that of rats raised with feed from conventional soy.

There was no peer-review, and Ermakova was reluctant to disclose her data. When she finally did, peer-review concluded that her experiment was poorly designed, and that the difference in the rats' mortality rates was likely the result of physical mistreatment, among other things.

In the end, Ermakova's study was thoroughly discredited. During the interim, however, anti-biotech activists had almost complete control of press coverage of her rat study -- and many still believe her claims.

By adopting Ermakova's tactics, Austria is inviting the same result.

The Austrian mouse study was announced at a seminar in Vienna. According to Greenpeace, which appears to be writing at least half of the newspaper accounts on this event, the study was conducted using Reproductive Assessment by Continuous Breeding (RACB).

RACB involves a set of parent mice who give birth to a series of 'litters' of baby mice. The mice in each litter from these parents are counted, measured, and evaluated in other ways.

Dr. Jürgen Zentek, Professor for Veterinary Medicine at the University of Vienna and lead author of the study, summarized the findings: "Mice fed with GM maize had less offspring in the third and fourth generations, and these difference were statistically significant. Mice fed with non-GM maize reproduced more efficiently."

However, it is known that with RACB, the successive generations of mice born to one set of parents, are necessarily born to parents of increasing age. As a result, a decline in the number of mice born in later generations is expected as a matter of course.

And, as the US Environmental Protection Agency cautions about the use of RACD: "Because the parental and subsequent filial generations have different exposure histories, reproductive effects seen in any particular generation are not necessarily comparable with those of another generation. Also, successive litters from the same parents cannot be considered as replicates because of factors such as continuing exposure of the parents, increased parental age, sexual experience, and parity of the females."

Differences in the ages of the parent mice at the beginning of the experiment can have a significant impact. According to the University of North Carolina, "Delayed breeding was associated with smaller litter sizes, both at birth and at weaning, a higher bodyweight of pups at weaning, a higher percentage of litters with at least one newborn pup cannibalised, earlier cessation of female reproductive life and a higher mortality rate of dams during the breeding period."

The strain of mouse involved can also have a significant impact on the results. The AKR/J strain is prone to unspecified reproductive failures. The C57BL/6ByL strain tends to be jumpy, and are often poor breeders. Those of the C57BLKS/J are also poor breeders, and tend to small litter sizes. Other strains reach sexual maturity quickly, or mature quite late, or are prone to seizures after several litters, or to delivering large numbers of dead offspring--or to devouring them upon birth.

None of these important variables are known, or even mentioned in the project proposal, but that hasn't stopped the press from circulating wild claims: "Genetically modified maize lowers fertility in mice, study finds", The Earth Times; "Genetically-engineered food: potential threat to fertility", Ekolist; and "Scientists claim GM infertility link", Farmers Guardian, to name a few.

The following statement from the Eflux Media account of the study is emerging as a common journalistic theme: "It is now vital to keep animal feed in Austria free of genetically engineered maize, and an immediate ban on the use of genetically engineered maize MON810 in Austria is the order of the day," Global 2000 spokesman Jens Karp said.

Will activists and the media gain for Austria what European governments and courts have thus far refused?

Or will Austria come out of this with a reputation as completely tarnished as Ermakova's?

==========

Monsanto's Statement on Safety Allegations Related to Transgenic Maize NK603 X MON 810

http://monsanto.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=658

St. Louis, November 11, 2008 -- On November 11, 2008, Greenpeace International published a press statement which questions the safety of two of Monsanto's corn trait technologies, Roundup Ready Corn 2 (Event NK603) and YieldGard Corn Borer technology (Event MON810). The statement was based on a preliminary report of a study entitled, "Biological effects of transgenic maize NK603 X MON 810 fed in long term reproduction studies in mice" released on the same day.

The full report is available on-line, and though it has not been peer-reviewed, we will examine it fully. The author of the study, Dr. Jurgen Zentek, remarked that his team's three studies show inconsistent results and should be considered preliminary.

Consistent with Dr. Zentek's remarks, the scientific community refrains from making any substantive conclusions based on a preliminary report. The gold standard for communication of scientific results is a thorough peer review by qualified experts.

The Greenpeace press statement is inconsistent with over a decade of reputable, peer-reviewed, scientific studies, including multi-generational studies, which demonstrate and confirm the safety of GM crops.

"These products have been proven to be safe. This report does not provide any basis to conclude otherwise," said Jerry Hjelle, Ph.D., Vice President of Monsanto's regulatory group.

Activist groups for years have attempted to call into question the safety of biotech crops. "They have made multiple allegations based on data taken out of context and lacking rigorous scientific review. These have ultimately failed to be substantiated," said Dr. Hjelle.

"The safety of our products is our utmost priority," he said. "We are already examining the on-line report along with other evidence assessing the safety of GM corn."

The Austrian study focused on MON 810 and NK603 corn technologies, which have a history of safe use since their introduction in 1997 and 2001, respectively. These products have been thoroughly tested and consumed for nearly a decade. Regulatory authorities in more than 20 countries have concluded that these products are as safe as conventional corn.

============

Delays in GM Authorisation Costing EU Livestock Sector 2,500 million Euros

http://www.agindustries.org.uk 14 October 2008

Delays in authorising GM traits in feed and a zero tolerance on non-authorised material has accounted for about 15% of the losses incurred by the livestock sector - some 2,500 million Euros in the past year, according to a report sent to European Commission President Dr José Manuel Barroso.

The case study report, prepared by COCERAL, FEFAC and UECBV with UK input from the Agricultural Industries Confederation, recognises that the poor harvest in 2007 was a key problem, but the inability to import feedstuffs from around the world also had a significant impact. New GM maize varieties have been approved and grown elsewhere in the world, but are not yet approved in the EU.

"Zero tolerance on new GM unapproved EU varieties has practically stopped the import of maize gluten feed and Corn Distillers," said Tony Bell, Chairman of AIC's Feed Executive. "These are both valuable feed ingredients, especially in a year of shortages."

Looking forward, the report predicts that that matters will get worse as new GM soya varieties, grown for seed multiplication in 2008, will be commercialised in 2009. These new varieties show significant benefits, especially higher yields, and so will be rapidly taken up by farmers in North and South America. It is vital these new GM varieties are approved by the EU otherwise soya supplies will be severely curtailed.

"Soya supplies are critical to the EU livestock industry," added Mr Bell. "There are real dangers that our livestock industry will be destroyed due to lack of raw material supplies. Soya products are a vital protein component of animal feeds. Overall the EU is 78% dependent on imported vegetable proteins and options to replace soya are very limited either from domestic production or alternative imported products."

Finding GM-free soya beans is increasingly difficult. Crops in Argentina and USA are already 95-97% GM, while Brazil is heading for 80%. Thus, technically unavoidable residues with these new GM varieties will be found in the non-GM soya as well as in GM supplies. So buying non-GM soya would not help in this difficult situation.

"A zero tolerance of non-authorised GM traits would severely restrict soya imports as shippers will not take the risk," said Mr Bell. "In fact it is not just one GM variety that needs to be approved, there are over 70 new traits in the pipeline. These are bringing new benefits to growers and consumers such as elevated levels of omega 3 as well as other agronomic traits such as drought resistance."

Looking ahead to the marketing year 2008/2009, the report confirms earlier estimates that the EU livestock industry could face a massive loss of competitiveness. As EU livestock production declines, then imports will increase.

"Ironically these imports would have been fed these 'non-approved' GM products," points out Mr Bell. "Therefore, the EU has to take a practical view and implement a workable threshold for GM events. It also needs to implement a speedier process for approvals for new GM varieties that are being grown elsewhere in the world."

Recently, the EU Advisory Group 'cereals, oilseeds and protein crops' concluded that: "The Zero-tolerance policy is impossible to implement . it has led to de facto import bans. The situation is likely to worsen as more and more countries are growing GMO's worldwide regardless of the approval process of the EU."

In September, the advisory group adopted a motion calling for the creation of an immediate workable threshold for low-level presence of RR2 soybeans and the creation of a general workable threshold of EU not yet authorised GM events, duly authorised in the exporting countries.

Notes for editors
In addition to submitting the case study report to the Commission President, it was also sent to the influential GM Sherpa Group.
2. COCERAL, represents the European Committee of the Cereal and Animal Feed Trade www.coceral.com
UECBV, represents the European Livestock and Meat Trading Union. www.uecbv.eu
FEFAC, represents the European Compound Feed Manufacturers' Federation. www.fefac.eu

======

The Fear Factor

- Alan McHughen, Nature Biotechnology 26, 1226 (2008) http://www.nature.com/naturebiotechnology

Biotechnologists, perhaps more than other scientists, are often puzzled as to why the public is so often anxious, if not outright suspicious, of their craft. "If only they knew the facts" is a common lament. As a result, biotechnologists may attempt to engage the public to explain the science and thereby mollify public wariness. Witness last year's special issue of Biotechnology Journal, "Talking Biotech with the Public" ( 2, 1045-1188; 2007), and last June's usually staid BIO International Convention including a session on public communication.

But even after acquiring a reasonable understanding of the scientific facts, many people remain dubious and fearful. Clearly, there is more driving public anxiety than simply not understanding the technical details. Biotechnologists would benefit from understanding the complexities underpinning public fear-underpinnings not explained by science alone, and perhaps best explored by a nonscientist. In The Science of Fear, nonscientist Daniel Gardner teases out the fear factors rampaging through the anxious public persona, illuminating popular science phobia.

Gardner does not focus on biotechnology, but he does address familiar questions, including the long standing conundrum, "[T]he same person who doesn't think twice about lighting up a Gauloise (cigarette) will march in the streets demanding a ban on products that have never been proven to have caused so much as a single case of indigestion."

Molecular genetics is technically erudite and complex even for us scientists, but the mere thought of fallible humans messing with genetics conjures up scary images ranging from eugenics to so-called 'Frankenfoods'. Opportunistic activists make a livelihood from scaring people about biotechnology, whereas there is little such cottage trade in instilling fear of astrophysics, mathematics or theoretical chemistry. And because the scientific community does not-and cannot-guarantee absolute safety of biotechnology or its products, the public infers a lack of confidence, a warning that fearsome disasters are inevitable.

True, scientists cannot prove that eating a genetically modified papaya will not harm the consumer. That disclaimer alone is sufficient to scare off many prospective consumers, who then happily eat a traditionally bred papaya similarly lacking any safety guarantee. In comparing the incorrectly perceived high risk of one food against the incorrectly perceived low risk of the alternative food, consumers mistake the actual risk differential between their choices. Now, in the real world, the consequence of this dichotomy doesn't usually matter, because both GM and non-GM versions of the papaya are safe, nutritious and unlikely to cause harm, so Joe Consumer is never forced to face and reconcile his confounding perceptions.

According to Gardner, radon gas kills some 41,000 people in Europe and the United States each year, in contrast to GM foods' zero body count, yet people are far more afraid of GM foods than radon. Why? Because radon is 'natural', whereas GM foods are manmade, and therefore unnatural and inherently dangerous. In regard to papayas, the GM version is considered unnatural, while the traditional version is perceived as natural.

Gardner colloquially describes two human cognitive decision-making centers, Gut and Head. Gut, of course, from whence we get 'gut reaction' and 'gut feeling', is impulsive, emotional and subjective, whereas Head is logical, rational and objective. Gut is driven by emotions such as fear, and, if fear is a factor, the body follows Gut reaction with little rational analysis. Historically, all manner of fearmongering marketers (including anti-biotechnology activists) exploit Gut reaction, knowing they'll make more sales and converts if people don't look rationally and critically at what's on the table. As Gardner shows, Gut doesn't evaluate numbers and probabilities. A one-in-a-million chance of some personal catastrophe is a near certainty to Gut; the mere presence of a carcinogen-especially a synthetic chemical-at parts-per-billion concentration is a death sentence from cancer. Trying to hold a rational discussion with the fearful is futile, because the rational Head, overwhelmed by Gut fear, is rendered hors de combat.

These examples lead to Gardner's not-so-stunning revelation: emotion trumps facts. Most of us who deal with the public already know that a ton of fact has no chance against a milligram of fear. So what do we do to overcome the fear and deliver accurate, factual information? Gardner suggests distinguishing the abstract statistic from the concrete, especially as applied to humans. In the context of agbiotech, saying 90% of farmers who try GM crop varieties choose to continue growing GM in subsequent years is less effective than saying "Nine out of ten farmers--." because the latter conjures up images of real humans, albeit in coveralls and with mud on their boots, who've made an informed choice, as opposed to the former, a mere intangible statistic. Almost forgotten in this exercise is the compelling veracity of the "nine in ten" or "90%" value. This is Gardner's greatest gift to scientists: use the facts to buttress humans. The numerical superiority, the remote probability of harms, the confidence in the safety tests count almost nothing to the lay public in comparison to the impacts on real people.

Gardner reveals his nonscientific background on occasion, such as when he states, "Evolution has two driving forces: natural selection and mutation," not quite connecting that these are two sequential components of the same driving force. But these are nitpicky criticisms, and certainly Gardner's comprehension of science is much better than most non-technically trained journalists. The Science of Fear should be read by all scientists dealing with a questioning public, as it provides insights into the fear factors that preclude rational discussion of the real issues. But will it overcome and eliminate science phobia among the public? I'm afraid not.

--
Alan McHughen is in the Department of Botany & Plant Sciences at the University of California, Riverside, California

========

Pharming in Crop Commodities

- C Neal Stewart, Jr , Nature Biotechnology 26, 1222 - 1223 (2008) (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)

On October 6th, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed new rules governing the regulations and oversight of genetically engineered crops1. Although some of the changes represent steps in the right direction by making regulatory oversight more coherent, the new biotech regulations would allow the outdoor cultivation of pharma food crops, in stark contrast to the editorial stance of your journal, which calls for food plants to no longer be used for producing drugs2. Indeed, Jane Rissler, senior scientist & deputy director, Food & Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (Washington, DC) has denounced the proposed USDA changes, saying, "If these proposals are enacted into law, American consumers must accept the possibility of drugs in their breakfast cereal or other common foods. Moreover, these rules likely will lead to contamination scares, which will hurt the food industry."

History has repeated itself several times when it comes to adventitious presence of transgenes in crop commodities. Adventitious presence or admixture refers to the accidental mixing of transgenic plants or plant parts in nontransgenics. Thus far, admixture has resulted in no documented negative health effects, but is that situation due to change as more and more therapeutic proteins are 'pharmed' in recombinant grain crop commodities? Corn, wheat, rice and soybean are four of the largest crop commodities that are shipped by the boxcar load from farms hundreds of kilometers to massive processors, and three of these, especially corn, rice and soybeans, have fallen prey to admixtures. The adventitious presence in most cases has involved transgenes coding for agronomic traits, such as a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin transgene for insect control (e.g., StarLink event in 2000 in corn) or glufosinate-resistance gene encoding better weed control in rice3. The transgenes and proteins underlying these traits are undoubtedly safe for consumption as food and feed, but the transgenic events in question were not deregulated for human consumption at the time of admixture. These events might be construed as an unfortunate mistake of little practical consequence that was blown out of context.

One can argue, as Henry Miller of the Hoover Institute (Stanford, CA, USA) has done so eloquently, that overly cautious food manufacturers and regulators have fallen into the hands of Luddites in that insignificant amounts of DNA and protein 'contaminants' could not have any biological effects-that is, no harm, no foul4. But I do not see Miller changing many minds in food industry and regulation. Thus, we are left with the brute fact that transgenic pharma seeds of commodities will inevitably get mixed unless extreme measures are taken to segregate types. Even then, there is the issue of biosafety of ingestion by wildlife and accidental bulk ingestion by humans. In many ways, pharming in food and feed commodities are bad company.

Interspecific mixing has occurred already with a pharmaceutical transgene-the Prodigene (College Station, TX, USA) debacle of 2001-2002, in which volunteer transgenic corn was found growing in a soybean field3. Now, SemBioSys (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) is growing safflower in Washington state to produce a carp growth hormone and Ventria is planting hundreds of hectares of rice around Junction City, Kansas, for the production of several human proteins3.

Transgene adventitious presence can occur by pollination of nontransgenic plants by transgenic plants resulting in seeds with the transgene in the hemizygous state, or from inadvertent seeding. Pollination can be averted by physical isolation and using crops that do not have sexually compatible relatives nearby. Limiting seed flow is more problematic because it can occur by movement of seeds from adjacent fields by wildlife and farm machinery or further afield by transportation of seeds that escape from containers. Of course, exposure is only half of the risk equation. The other half is hazard. What would be the effects of miniscule amounts of transgenic pharma product in food or feed? What about nontarget exposure and hazards to arthropods and vertebrates in the field? The questions of biosafety and risks are handled by regulators on a case-by-case basis. Toxicology from various exposure rates to appropriate organisms are done for each overexpressed protein or metabolite of interest. This procedure is no different from that for dozens of transgenic events deregulated in the United States and has proven to be effective because no negative human health or environmental effects have been noted as trillions of transgenic plants have been grown in the United States5.

Pharming crosses paradigms of agriculture and pharmaceutical production, yielding economies of scale, and also transcends the nature of agriculture6. Even proponents of agbiotech like me are cautious about pharming applications, especially in commodities. Why? The issue is not that risk assessments are not performed or performed improperly. As noted above, US regulators have performed admirably in protecting the environment and food supply in the past 13 years of commercial transgenic crop production in the United States. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) risk assessment concluded that the lysozyme, lactoferrin and human serum albumin being produced by Ventria rice are not toxic to nontarget organisms7.

The main issue here is not about pharmaceutical or food purity. Transgenic DNA or proteins are the only 'contaminant' I am aware of where the adventitious presence doctrine is invoked at all-Miller is correct about misplaced fears4. The determination of adventitious presence is basically a product of the sensitivity of detection equipment and frightened people. Quantitative PCR can detect transgene presence in very low titers8 and with immediate potential of detecting transgenes in the range of 1:50,000-1:200,000 genomic equivalent range (Yuan, J. & Stewart C.N.; unpublished data) with robust statistical procedures9. The issue of concern is one of perception. Reports of adventitious presence, no matter how benign, are bad publicity for plant biotech as a whole. Not only will biotechnologists suffer from guilt by association, but farmers and other agriculturalists are hurt when their state or region is found to have adventitious presence of transgenes.

That said, Ventria, at least, seems to have learned from the mistakes of others. They are now growing transgenic pharma rice in a state (Kansas) where little-to-no rice is produced, which is also outside its traditional production area. No other rice is grown within nearly 500 km of their fields7. They use dedicated farm machinery and take inordinate care in transporting their transgenic rice to processing. Processing and storage of rice is in a dedicated facility as well. Weedy red rice is the same species as cultivated rice, but it has not been reported to grow in the area of cultivation, therefore hybridization and introgression is not of concern and introgression rates are very low anyway in this species10.

So why worry? Scientifically, I have very few worries with regards to biosafety in this particular case. Ventria is indeed taking extraordinary measures to ensure transgene containment. USDA APHIS continues to evolve and has improved inspection frequency and procedures. I do worry that, until we devalue the doctrine of adventitious presence, any slight detection of transgenes outside of their intended locales will be overblown beyond reason. In spite of Ventria's care, there is still a chance that vigilant people with advanced detection procedures will find something to report-regardless of real biosafety issues. Therefore, if we believe this to be true, Ventria (and any other company cultivating pharma crops in open fields) must perform perfectly year after year to avoid admixtures. In spite of the odds and current climate, I am cautiously optimistic that pharming rice in Kansas could be a model for other companies to follow.

But would they, and what issues lie beyond admixture? There are two absolute conditions to assure biosafety when pharming crop commodities (not counting Murphy's Law). The first requirement is extraordinary physical isolation and dedicated equipment. Still, there are limited numbers of suitably isolated sites that are available and conducive for rice production in the United States. Second, the pharma products must be safe for accidental consumption in bulk by wildlife and humans. For the latter, accidental bulk ingestion should be part of the standard regulatory package.

The bottom line for most people is a level of discomfort with open-air pharma production of any sort, and especially when it is in a grain crop that has been bred for palatability and nutrition (that is, begging to be eaten by humans and wildlife). It is hard to predict when and if this circumstance will change. In the meantime, the proposed rules are available for public comment for 45 days until November 24.

References

1. http://federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2008-23584_PI.pdf
2. Anonymous. Editorial. Nat. Biotechnol. 22, 133 (2004). | Article | ChemPort |
3. Fox, J.L. Nat. Biotechnol. 25, 367-368 (2007). | Article | PubMed | ChemPort |
4. Stewart, C.N., Jr. Genetically Modified Planet: Environmental Impacts of Genetically Engineered Plants (Oxford University Press, New York; 2004).
5. Miller, H.I. Nat. Biotechnol. 21, 480-481 (2003). | Article | PubMed | ChemPort |
6. Ramessar, K. et al. Phytochem. Rev. 7, 579-592 (2008). | Article | ChemPort |
7. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/aphisdocs/06_27801r_ea.pdf
8. Pla, M. et al. Transgenic Res. 15, 219-228 (2006). | Article | PubMed | ChemPort |
9. Yuan, J. et al. BMC Bioinformatics 8 Suppl 7, S6 (2007).
10. Stewart, C.N., Jr. Nat. Rev. Genet. 4, 806-817 (2003).

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Kenya Prepares to Approve Biosafety Legislation

- David Njagi and Christina Scott, 6 November 2008 http://www.scidev.net

The Kenyan government plans to pass its proposed biosafety bill next month (December) following years of delays. Mary Kamau, a director from the research and technical training division of the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, said the Biosafety Bill 2008 should be passed before the Kenyan parliament breaks up for Christmas. After that it will go to President Mwai Kibaki for approval or rejection.

If the bill is not passed by the time government breaks up on December 11, it cannot be passed before March 2009, when parliament reconvenes.

The legislation will enable a National Biosafety Authority to oversee rapid developments in modern biotechnology and provide the legal framework to allow the cultivation of genetically modified crops. But a group of 53 civil society organisations, including the US-based Worldwatch Institute and UK-based GAIA Foundation, are opposing the legislation with an online petition and protest marches.

They claim that genetically modified plants and animals might infiltrate indigenous farming and cause diseases in humans, and that patents and licensing fees could make small independent farmers dependent on international agri-businesses.

Kenya's government spokesman Alfred Mutua dismissed the online petition last month (18 October), saying that the bill will help shield local agriculture from potentially negative effects of new biotechnology. "The government has been very clear in terms of our need for food sustainability but also in terms of protecting our farmers," Mutua told SciDev.Net.

The bill has been in the planning stages for four years (see Will Kenya's Biosafety Bill of 2005 ever become law?). The 2008 bill, which is similar to one proposed in 2007, has been considered this year by two parliamentary committees - agriculture, land and natural resources as well as education, science and technology.

Kenya's minister for agriculture, William Ruto, said the latest delays (last month) were because of efforts to pass Kenya's new power-sharing constitution before the end of the year.

Scientists, agricultural organisations and policymakers have tried to introduce and regulate genetically modified organisms in Kenya since 1998. When the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was opened for signatures in 2000, Kenya was the first country to sign up.

In 2007, member of parliament Davis Nakitare proposed legislation to ban genetically modified organisms in Kenya, but it was rejected by the government.

The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute has been carrying out laboratory and field research on transgenic maize, sweet potato, cassava and cotton crops as well as the rinderpest vaccine while waiting for the legislation to be passed.

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Tomatoes with Added Viagra: How to Get Consumers to Love GM Crops

- Times Online (UK), Nov, 12, 2008 http://www.timesonline.co.uk

John Krebs or Lord Krebs as the Brits call him, Principal of Jesus College, Oxford, and a former chairman of the UK Food Standards Agency, writes that as you leave Oxford station heading for London, there is an Oxfam advert that says: "Thanks to rising prices, some people can't afford fuel. Rice, bread, stuff like that."
In the past 12 months there has been a sharp reversal of the 30-year trend of steadily declining global food prices. It has bee n called the "silent tsunami" and experts agree on three things. First, price increases were driven by a complex mix of factors including rising oil prices, the switch to biofuels, increased demand in China, poor harvests in Australia and commodity market speculation. Secondly, the steep and sudden increases are temporary, because farmers will increase output in response. Thirdly, in the long term the era of cheap food is over. Irrespective of short-term ups and downs, prices will rise in the future.

This last ineluctable conclusion is a consequence of supply and demand. The "green revolution" in agriculture has, since the 1960s, produced a staggering increase in output through plant-breeding, use of fertiliser and pesticides, and irrigation, albeit at huge environmental cost. But this revolution has reached a plateau, while the number of mouths to feed continues to grow, and people demand more food: not just the nearly one billion not getting enough to eat, but those in transition economies shifting from subsistence, plant-based diets to the more profligate food habits that we enjoy in the UK.

This is why the scientist Gordon Conway has argued that the world needs a "doubly green revolution" - in which agricultural output increases without further damage to the environment. Projections from climate-change models also suggest that it will become much harder to grow crops in some currently productive parts of the world.
Should our response to these challenges include genetically modified (GM) crops? Most agricultural scientists say yes. So far the European consumer has said no. For the scientist, GM is an extension of the past 10,000 years of genetic modification by agricultural selection. It is precision engineering as opposed to the blunderbuss of conventional breeding, and has the potential to transform agriculture in regions left out of the green revolution, such as sub-Saharan Africa, by creating crops that are more nutritious, resistant to disease or drought, and can grow without chemical fertilisers. In other words GM could help to produce more and better food with less environmental damage.

But as Robert Paarlberg so eloquently explains in his book Starved for Science, the tragedy is that Africa has, in large degree, been discouraged from adopting GM through the combined impact of European regulation, lobbying by NGOs and the media in Europe. During a severe drought in 2002 President Mwanawasa of Zambia rejected US food aid in the form of GM maize saying: "Simply because my people are hungry, that is no justification to give them food that is intrinsically dangerous to their health." There is no evidence that the GM maize was dangerous. Any Times reader who has been to the US has probably eaten plenty of the same maize, but it is easy to see why Zambia was suspicious, given that Europeans are so pernickety about it.

Is it time for a change of heart in Europe? The first GM food sold in Britain, in the late 1990s, was Sainsbury's GM tomato paste, clearly labelled as such. It was cheaper and outsold the non-GM equivalent. Then various NGOs, combined with the media, turned against GM with the brilliant invention of the term "Frankenfoods", and all supermarkets quickly declared a GM-free policy for fear of losing customers. Properly constructed opinion surveys show that the consuming public is by no means uniformly hostile to GM, but pressure groups have driven it out of the market in Europe, and the European Commission has supported this, introducing bizarre and unenforceable regulations on labelling.

Almost all first-generation GM foods (the tomato paste was an exception) benefited producers rather than consumers. Crops were engineered to resist pests or herbicide. The argument goes: "This is a new technology, perhaps there is a risk, so if there is no benefit to me why should I accept it" - and it has some force.
Wherever they are developed in the world, GM crops should be assessed for risk before they are used on a large scale. There are two possible risks - to the environment and to human health. The environmental safety of GM crops is, and should be, a concern, demanding a precautionary approach, with proper risk assessments before a crop is grown commercially.

All GM foods in Europe and North America are carefully assessed for health risks before they are allowed on the market - which is more than can be said for conventionally bred foods. Take, for instance, the familiar Braeburn apple that appeared, by chance and of uncertain parentage, about 50 years ago. No one knows how much genetic modification was involved and, as with all other new varieties of foods produced by conventional breeding, it has never been assessed for safety.

But we are now seeing a second generation of GM foods that could bring direct benefits to European consumers. For us, price and security are less critical than for sub-Saharan Africans, but GM tomatoes with enhanced anti-cancer properties or GM soya with fish oils that are good for your heart, might change people's view. Parents who have resolutely rejected GM food might think again if there were direct benefits for their children: no one objects to GM medicines such as human insulin produced by bacteria.
Once when I was explaining this point to Dan Glickman, then the US Agriculture Secretary, he said: "I see what you mean, John. We need the tomato with the Viagra gene."
Returning to the Oxfam advert, what should we do for the poorest countries? One answer is to support agricultural research and development. Bilateral aid from the world's leading economies for agricultural development has been slashed in the past 20 years. If GM is to contribute to the doubly green revolution and empower local people, we should not leave it to the biotech industry alone. The necessary research should be done in these countries by their own scientists, for their own people, with our support.

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Food Research 'Lost In Translation'

- Natasha Gilbert, Nature, November 7, 2008
http://www.nature.com/news/2008/081107/full/news.2008.1214.html

Funders call for public and private partners to collaborate in getting new crops to farmers. African farmers would benefit from more collaboration between public and private sectors.

A dearth of investment in agricultural and plant science, and virtually no links between public and private sectors, are key drivers of the shortage of affordable food in Africa, a meeting of the African science academies in London, UK, heard this week.

Speaking at the conference on 4 November, Laurence Cockcroft, senior adviser to the Gatsby Charitable Foundation's Africa programmes, said he was "shocked" at how little dialogue existed between public agricultural research centres in Africa and the private sector.

The Gatsby foundation, which is based in the United Kingdom, funds science and education with a particular interest in plant research. Cockcroft told Nature News that limited public funds and a small number of scientists available for crop science in Africa make it ever more important that the public and private sectors collaborate.

"There is no relationship between the private companies, the public-funded research stations and small-holder farmers," he says.

Cockcroft's comments echo remarks made by Robert Watson, chief scientific adviser for the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), last week. Watson told a meeting of Defra's science advisory council in London on 28 October that applied agricultural research in both the United Kingdom and the developing world "is falling through the gaps".

"Many universities and government labs have walked away from this kind of research, and where it is being done it is not reaching the farmers on the ground," says Watson.
Bridging the gap

Cockcroft stresses that there is good agricultural research going on in developing countries, such as that conducted by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, a coalition of 15 centres that has its headquarters in Kenya.

But research developments are not reaching farmers because there are very few initiatives to demonstrate the benefits of new crop breeds or cultivation techniques to them, says Namanga Ngongi, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an organization funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve African agriculture.

"Farmers need to see for themselves that the new technologies will make a big difference," Ngongi told Nature News. "Many African farmers are small-holders and are very risk adverse. They can't run the risk that they adopt a new technology and it damages the food security of their families."

AGRA launched a $150-million programme last year to bridge the gap between the public and private sectors. It is funding public research institutions to develop new crop varieties; working with private seed companies to multiply the newly developed seeds for commercial use; and persuading agricultural dealers to stock the crops.

Watson suggests that governments and the private sector could also share the costs of translational research, and the subsequent demonstrations to farmers.

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New Agricultural Technologies to Strengthen the Existing Practices to Combat Global Food Crisis

- Business Wire (India) Nov. 12, 2008 http://www.businesswireindia.com

The rapid increase in global warming has increased public and scientific interest in identifying mitigation options. The recent food crises raised further concerns regarding food security and affordability by billions with the future threat of overall decline in productivity due to climate change. The Energy and Resources Institute organized a one-day session on 'Agriculture and Climate Change' to discuss solutions to reduce the negative impact of food security.

Talking about the international scenario, Dr. Graham Brookes, Director of PG Economics, in his presentation said, "Since 1996, biotech crop adoption has contributed to reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, decreased pesticide spraying and significantly boosted farmers' incomes. The technology has also made important contributions to increasing the yields of many farmers, raising global production and trading volumes of key crops. World price levels of crops like corn and soybeans would also probably be higher than the current (record high) levels if this technology had not been widely adopted by farmers. These economic and environmental gains have also been greatest in developing countries."

Dr Vibha Dhawan, Executive Director TERI shared the Indian strategy on the issue in the second presentation. She said, "National security is linked to the food security since the recent spiral in the food prices is threatening the developing economies including India. We are further challenged with declining productivity due to unsustainable agricultural practices followed in the past, and the changing climate. Citizens of this planet are looking for a technological revolution and have crop varieties that are more efficient in water and nutrient utilization and tolerant to temperature and precipitation changes. The issue of intellectual property and licensing arrangement should ensure that global goods are for global citizens and are affordable to small and marginal farmers."

Biotech crops significantly reduced environmental impact; yielded net increase in farm income since its launch in 1996
-- 286 million kg reduction in pesticides
-- 15.4% cut in associated environmental impact
-- Reduction in Carbon Emissions: 2006 = cut of 14.8 billion kg co2 release; equiv to taking 6.6 million cars off the road for a year
-- $33.8 billion increase in Global Farm Income

The presentations by Dr. Graham Brookes and Dr Dhawan were followed by high-level panel discussion that included Dr. Radha Singh IAS, Former Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture; Dr H P Singh (DDG Horticulture ICAR), Dr C D Mayee, Chairman, Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board (ASRB); Mr. Anand Kumar Singh, head Division of Fruits and Horticulture Technology, IARI; Dr. Ashok Kumar Singh, Senior Scientist, Division of Genetics, IARI; Dr. Paramjit Khurana, Delhi University; Dr Renu Swarup Advisor, Department of Biotechnology among others.

It was conferred that the use of biopesticides and biofertilizers is one such technology for sustainable agriculture apart from its benefits derived by the farmers. Biotech crop commercialization has resulted in significant global economic and environmental benefits and is making important contributions to global food security. Globally since 1996, use of pesticides on biotech crop area is lower by 286 m kg (-7.9%) - equivalent to total EU (27) pesticide active ingredient use on arable crops in one year. The environmental impact as measured by EIQ indicator is down -15.4%. In India, usage of insecticides has reduced by 29% corresponding to a lower EIQ indicator of -27%.

Use of technology has significantly reduced the release of greenhouse gas emissions globally from agricultural practices. By reduced use of fuel and application of no/low till systems, biotechnology in agriculture alone has reduced the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 14.7 billion kgs.

The new technologies (biotechnologies) like the Genetically Modified (GM) crops would stimulate productivity further and lead to increased production during this phase of food crisis.

These must be viewed as supplementing technologies to strengthen the existing mandate of improving crops and associated agricultural practices. The existing germplasm must be evaluated and catalogued for future applications. The research initiatives must be strengthened with strong policy initiatives to ensure their adaptation. Strategies must be developed at global level to ensure that benefit of research are affordable to poorest and at the same time provide adequate incentives to the developer of the technology like providing Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Global initiatives must be developed for public-private partnership and to develop and commercialize technologies that will ensure global food sustainability.

Concluding the session, Dr. Dhawan suggested creating a common global research centre that will include various research and funding organisations to work collectively for developing new agricultural technologies that will help all participating nations to reduce food crisis.

TERI is actively working in the field of biotechnology, especially on biopesticides and biofertilizers, GM crops and seeds to mitigate the impact of climate change on agriculture.

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Bioengineered Crops as Tools for International Development: Opportunities and Strategic Considerations

- by Dr. Peter Gregory, Cornell University is now available for download at SEARCA BIC website
at http://www.bic.searca.org/docs/2008/BioengineeredCrops2008.pdf

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Journal of Biotech Research

http://www.btsjournals.com

Journal of Biotech Research is an international scientific electronic journal which publishes original peer-reviewed articles, short communications, and critical review papers from all areas related to Biotechnology.

The journal covers the broad fields of biosciences and bioeducation, which includes, but not limits to, molecular biology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, and biotechnology involved in life science, food science, microbials, plants, animals, marine, environment,
etc.

The journal is aimed at a broad, interdisciplinary readers of academia and industries. Journal of Biotech Research encourages researchers, faculties, and students who are actively involved in scientific and/or educational practice of all the levels, especially those in a small or under representative institutions, to submit their articles for intensive peer-reviewing and expedite publishing.


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