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Date:

July 17, 2009

Subject:

Malthusian Years; GM is the Wave of the Future; Canada and EU End Dispute; OMG! GMO!; Why Not Africa?17/06/2009

 

* What Would 'Malthusian Years' Bring?
* Polish Ban On Genetically Modified Food Production ‘Illegal’
* Canada and European Communities End WTO Dispute on Genetically Modified Organisms
* GM is the Wave of the Future
* On a GM Platter
* Good and Modified
* Communicating Crop Biotechnology: Stories from Stakeholders
* OMG! GMO!
* FAO Forum - Learning from the past: Successes and failures with ag biotech
* Database of the Safety and Benefits of Biotechnology
* Africa Not Engaged in Biotechnology, Why?
* Zambia's Test Lab Nears Completion
---

What Would 'Malthusian Years' Bring?

- Tom Abate, Global Post, July 17, 2009 http://www.globalpost.com/print/2437316

'Could droughts and exploding food prices lead to a wider acceptance of genetically modified foods?'

SAN FRANCISCO — It seems like a science fiction novel: Near-starvation of much of the world's population results in the development of patented seeds and widespread livestock cloning. But that scenario is not pure speculation. Rather it is a possible future envisioned by analysts for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, in a new report titled "The Bioeconomy of 2030.”

The report, which extrapolates current trends into the year 2030, deals with every aspect of biotechnology from medicines to plant-based chemicals, and projects their impacts on the world economy. It raises the fictional starvation scenario to prod the public and policymakers into considering biotech agriculture in a new light.

“Two consecutive years of extreme drought and high temperatures in the major grain growing regions of the world between 2016 and 2017 -- caused an explosion in food prices,” says the report published last month. “The 'Malthusian years', as they were quickly called by journalists, fueled further investment in agricultural biotechnology.”

Thomas Malthus, a British economist and demographer, famously predicted that population growth would outpace food production, resulting in famine. But over the past two centuries, a series of technological advances — the Industrial Revolution, for example — have greatly expanded the world's ability to produce food and his theory has been largely discredited.

The report's sections on agriculture stand out because they evoke provocative concepts to revive the policy debate over what opponents have sometimes call “Frankenfoods.” There has been public opposition to the genetic modification of foods, particularly in Europe, since herbicide-resistant soybeans were introduced in the mid-1990s. Consumers have questioned the health and environmental risks of the products.

The genetically modified crops currently on the market have been designed to resist insect damage and viral infections and to tolerate certain herbicides, according to the World Health Organization. They are widely grown in North America, South America and China, but only a handful have been approved in the European Union.

The report says that overcoming this unease will require some policy response — possibly driven by an unwanted disaster. "The goal is to get people thinking about the way the world is changing (population, consumption patterns, climate change, etc.) and encourage them to take a hard look at how society is going to cope,” OECD analyst and report co-author David Sawaya said in an e-mail exchange from Brussels.

In the sections focusing on agricultural issues, the report anticipates that growing middle classes in China and India will increase demand for meats and grains. It predicts a global trade pattern in which manufactured goods flow from the East to the West, while edibles flow back from bread-basket regions such as North and South America.

The report envisions that population growth, coupled with trends like water scarcity, will increase the pressure to obtain greater yields from arable lands. The OECD planners also think that an increasing demand for biofuels and biochemicals will lead to the development of non-edible plants designed to be grown on arid or other marginal lands.

All of these trends, they say, will increase the need for genetic modifications to design drought-tolerant crops, optimize non-edible plants for fuel and chemical production, and improve livestock through advanced breeding and cloning techniques. “The use of biotechnology in primary production is therefore likely to be pervasive by 2030 for the production of plant and animal food sources and for plant sources of feed and fiber,” the report suggests.

Biotech-skeptic Michael Sligh, director of the sustainable agriculture program for the U.S.-based Rural Advancement Foundation, said such a technology-centered view of the future ignores the social, economic and environmental issues that should be considered when planning how to feed the world.

“There's always been a great deal of rhetoric and promise around agricultural biotechnology but issues of hunger are far more complex than any technological fix,” Sligh said. “Do farmers have access to fair credit, good roads, open markets? All of these are factors that have to be taken into account.”

Among other objections, Sligh said biotech agriculture will increase the number of patented seeds and other inputs that farmers will have to purchase year after year, making them more dependent on global trade and credit flows and decreasing self-reliance.

“When you shift from a very long tradition of 12,000 years of farmers saving seeds to a technology that is patented that is a fundamentally different paradigm,” Sligh said.

Biotech advocate C.S. Prakash, a plant geneticist at the University of Tuskagee in Alabama, thinks the OECD report correctly predicts that global warming will increase the need for genetic modifications. “The whole geography of farming is going to change,” he said. “You will have more water in some places and less elsewhere, and we will need to redesign crops quickly to meet these new stress factors.”

Prakash said he hopes the report's fictional scenario spurs debate, especially in Europe, where opposition to genetically modified foods is strongest. “Unless Europe changes in a big way I don't think the rest of the world will follow,” he said.

In addition to the public opposition that could impede biotech agriculture, the authors of the OECD report noted another issue that could diminish its usefulness in avoiding the Malthusian possibilities.

In a follow-up email to GlobalPost, they noted that mass-market crops like corn, soy, cotton and canola have been the focus of biotech development because they are most profitable. There has been far less development of the niche crops and local adaptations that are sorely needed. “This will often be in areas without huge (in a monetary sense) markets,” the OECD authors wrote, suggesting that research subsidies and public support would have to be part of the scenario for “fulfilling the promise of biotechnology.”

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

Polish Ban On Genetically Modified Food Production ‘Illegal’

- Polish Market Online, July 17, 2009 http://www.polishmarket.com.pl

Poland has violated its obligation towards the EU in connection with GMO, the European Tribunal of Justice has declared in Luxembourg. Poland, which fighting to become a GMO free-zone had been in dispute with the European Commission over GMOs for years and finally passed a law banning GMO seeds on April 27, 2006.
REKLAMA

The regulation prohibited GMO seeds trade, made it impossible to register GMO crop which in consequence blocked GMO cultivation, TVN24 reports. Under EU regulations, EU member states do not have the power to ban, limit or hinder GMO trade if it is allowed on the European level. The Polish government adopted a policy on GMO food in November 2008. It allows cultivating GMOs only in laboratories and bans GMO trade; it also opposes cultivation of genetically modified foods.

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

Canada and European Communities End WTO Dispute on Genetically Modified Organisms

- Jack Cooper, Food Industry Environmental Network http://www.fien.com

The Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, today announced that Canada and the European Communities (EC) have agreed to end a six-year World Trade Organization dispute regarding the approval and marketing of biotechnology products, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Resolving this dispute means improved market access for commercially produced Canadian agricultural GMO products, particularly canola seed.

“Today’s resolution on GMOs shows that the WTO dispute settlement process works,” said Minister Day. “Canadian canola producers now have greater access to European markets. In ending this long-standing dispute, the European Communities has committed to an ongoing dialogue with Canada on biotechnology that will continue to help improve market access and avoid unnecessary obstacles to trade. This is positive news for Canadian producers of all agricultural GMO products.”

“Canadian farmers are the best in the world at producing healthy, high-quality canola,” said the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “Our government always stands up for Canadian farm families, and it is good to see that the European Communities is implementing the WTO panel’s ruling. Reopened access to the European Communities means Canadian farm families will have more buyers bidding on their canola.”

In 2003, Canada, the United States and Argentina launched separate WTO challenges to the EC’s delays in approving GMOs. Under the mutually agreed solution between Canada and the EC, officials will meet twice a year to proactively discuss issues related to biotechnology and the trade in agriculture and agri-food products. Through these discussions, Canada will continue to promote the interests of Canadian farmers and exporters.

In the early 1990’s, before European countries began restricting imports of genetically modified products, Canadian canola exports to the EC showed increasingly strong potential, peaking at $425 million in 1994.

*********

The text of the EC News Release follows

The European Union and Canada have today signed in Geneva a final settlement of the WTO dispute that Canada brought against the EU in May 2003 regarding the application of its legislation on biotech products. The mutually agreed solution provides for the establishment of a regular dialogue on issues of mutual interest on agriculture biotechnology. The EU and Canada will notify this settlement to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body as a mutually agreed solution.

EU Trade Commissioner Ashton said: "The mutually agreed solution with Canada is a clear sign that this type of dialogue works. I hope we can follow the same constructive approach with Argentina and the United States."

EC regulatory procedures on genetically modified organisms are working normally, as evidenced by 21 authorisations since the date of establishment of the WTO panel. The European Commission has held regular discussions on biotech-related issues with the three complainants in this case – Canada, Argentina and the United States - since the adoption of the WTO panel report in 2006.

The settlement reached with Canada provides for bi-annual meetings between competent services of the European Commission and Canadian authorities on agricultural biotechnology market access issues of mutual interest, including:

For more on dispute settlement at the WTO see http://ec.europa.eu/trade/issues/respectrules/dispute/index_en.htm

==========

Times View: GM is the Wave of the Future

- Editorial,The Times of India, July 16, 2009 http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

The government plans to introduce genetically modified (GM) foods, particularly tomatoes, brinjals and cauliflower, to help meet food production targets in three years' time. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Department of Biotechnology has approved the three transgenic crops that are in various stages of tests and development in institutes across the country. This decision is bound to be controversial, as this is the first time that India will experiment with GM crops in food. To date, India has only allowed the use of GM cotton, a non-food crop.

For the past few years global food consumption has outstripped production, causing world food prices to spike last year. The global recession has seen many people, particularly in developing countries, fall below the poverty line once again.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation says there are now a billion people who do not have enough to eat (defined as less than 1,800 calories per day), 100 million more than last year. During the food crisis last year, there were food riots in many countries. In Haiti it even led to a coup. Is that the future we want? India faces a mammoth task in feeding its billion-strong population. Biotechnology offers the best promise of producing enough food for everybody. Are we going to let the fear of hypothetical risks shut down an area of science that promises to solve this problem and save millions from hunger?

India cannot, in good conscience, abandon yield-boosting modern technology. The food crisis is real and more immediate than we might like. With climate change, and dwindling water resources, it is imperative that this country explores all available options to increase food production. GM food items can and should be labelled as such so that consumers have a choice. But we must remember that while GM foods have not killed anybody, starvation is another matter.

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

On a GM Platter

- Editorial, Indian Express, July 16, 2009

The debate on genetically modified crops is so prone to being hijacked by pseudoscience, alarmism and overstatement that delays have been built into the delivery to Indian farmers of new seeds that farmers in other countries take for granted.

Two years ago, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, India’s apex regulatory authority, granted permission to Mayco for largescale trials of Bt brinjal. This week, K.V. Thomas, minister of state for agriculture, told Parliament that production of GM brinjal, tomato and cauliflower could be expected within three years. Earlier this month, Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh had also told Lok Sabha that among other plants cleared by the GEAC for generation of bio-safety data are cotton, rice, okra, potato, groundnut, corn, cabbage, mustard and sorghum. Before being made commercially available, however, any seed will have to be cleared by the GEAC and the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation.

The emphasis on the regulatory mechanisms for field trials of GM crops and their clearance for widespread sowing is well-stated for reasons of science and of popular perceptions. Transgenic crops have to be tested in different ecological conditions for the impact on local vegetation and to check if properties like higher productivity or pest resistance hold in the new environment.

But the debate on GM crops needs to be reclaimed from the extremes of the critics convinced of technology’s Frankenstein properties and its votaries who believe transgenic crops are the unambiguous answer to every distress of the farmer and the consumer. Our experience with Bt cotton shows that cropping patterns do not adhere to such abstractions. In fact, in 2001, some cotton farmers served notice of their impatience with the regulatory delays by reaping the benefits of Bt technology, whether inadvertently or through deliberate piracy. The subsequent commercial clearance of Bt cotton has also been a learning curve, and has compelled the development of more productive hybrid varieties.

The case for hastening Bt trials without compromising safety checks is not driven by a desire to catch up with agricultural economies like those in the US, China or Argentina (where the acreage under GM cultivation has grown rapidly). It is instead to give the farmer more options.

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

Good and Modified

– Editorial, Financial Express (India), July 16, 2009

The government’s parliamentary reply that three genetically modified varieties of vegetables—tomato, brinjal and cauliflower—will be in commercial production in three years clarifies a situation made murky by constant activism. This should be taken as proof that the government is serious about bringing about a second Green Revolution in a fast stagnating agriculture sector.

India has been very slow to adopt GM technologies and has thus missed the opportunity to exploit the many advantages that come with GM farming. GM crops, at a minimum, offer the unambiguous benefits of higher yields and greater resistance to pests, both of which could give a big boost to the average farmer. So far, the only GM crop permitted in India is Bt cotton, which was cleared for production for the first time nearly seven years ago.

The results of the experiment with Bt cotton have been very positive—cotton production has almost doubled since GM seeds were introduced, and productivity has shot up. At the same time, there has been no evidence of any damage to soil patterns, which is one of the fears bandied about by the anti-GM lobby. Incidentally, apart from the rise in quantity, there has also been an improvement in the quality of cotton produced in India, which has reduced our dependence on imports of high-quality cotton.

The government’s decision is bound to face resistance from various narrow focus groups, who will attempt to highlight the perils of GM crops and GM food. The government should lean on the overwhelming body of scientific evidence, which has ruled GM foods completely safe for consumption. GM seeds and crops have been shown to have no negative effects on the soil either. Evidence from elsewhere where GM farming has been used more extensively—particularly from the US, Argentina and Brazil—shows the enormous rise in yields after the adoption of GM technology. These countries have been using GM seeds for a long time now with no adverse health effects reported. Incidentally, we already consume GM products in India via imports—soyabean oil from Argentina are entirely GM.

Of course, there is good reason to have proper regulation to ensure that all scientific procedures are complied with. India actually has one of the best institutional structures for this, courtesy Supreme Court intervention and government action thereafter. All GM proposals must pass a two-tier regulatory system through the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation and the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee. Both the bodies have a wide range of experts with different views on GM that ensures adequate checks and balances. The systems are in place, and the government must proceed even beyond the three vegetables on the near-term agenda.

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

Brief 40: Communicating Crop Biotechnology: Stories from Stakeholders

- Mariechel J. Navarro (Ed), Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, ISAAA-

Download at http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/briefs/40/

ISAAA Brief 40-2009

# Video Highlights

Download Full Document
# PDF (12.9MB)

Download by Section:
Introduction (333KB)
Farmers (1.78MB)
Media (2.15MB)
Decision Makers (0.99MB)
Academics & Scientists (1.59MB)
Religious Sector (399KB)
Other Partners (593KB)
Global Community (769KB)

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

OMG! GMO!

- mem from somerville, Daily Kos, July 12, 2009 http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/7/12/752439/-OMG!-GMO!

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are a topic that can be wildly misrepresented by Republicans and science fiction writers.

Here's a sample from Republicans--how can we forget the hybrids scare:

President Bush's State of the Union Address -- Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms; creating or implanting embryos for experiments; creating human-animal hybrids; and buying, selling or patenting human embryos --.

Samples from science fiction writers abound. Actually, I quite liked The White Plague back in the day. But I am able to understand the difference between science fact and science fiction.

In addition, GMOs are wildly misrepresented by certain activists. You may have been led to believe that all GMOs are from Monsanto, which is the spawn of all the evil in our food system. And you may have been led to believe that all ur geenz and seeds are belong to us. Both of these perspectives are flat-out false. In addition, they are generating fear that a Karl Rove would be proud of--making debate impossible because your fear of being attacked by Monsanto GMOs is so great.

In a recent diary we were told (incorrectly, again) that genetic modification is all worthless and corporate. There are plenty of examples of biotechnology-enhanced crops are feeding struggling African farmers and can help farmers who are already facing serious problems from climate change. These are only a couple of examples of worthy academic projects that you probably don't know about because of the haze generated by people who want you to think all genetic engineering is Monsanto.

Today I was reading about another GMO that may provide huge benefits to poor farmers. The article is by Mark Tester, a researcher whose group has just published a paper on salt-tolerant plants. (I will mention, though, that this is not the only group working on this issue--this is just the one who wrote in the Guardian this week. There are probably several ways to address this problem that may arise from different research groups.)

Here's what a recent diary had to say on this topic:

Most of the time, this refers to promises of GM crops that are drought tolerant. An associated problem is salinity, which is especially a problem on irrigated land. Heinemann is doubtful that we will see stress tolerant GMOs in the future.

And here is the truth, from a researcher actively working on this topic: GM crops are another tool in the struggle against poverty

Salty soils affect the growth of plants worldwide, particularly in irrigated land where one-third of the world's food is produced. It is estimated that one-fifth of irrigated land is salt-affected. And it is a problem that is only going to get worse as pressure to use more water increases and the quality of water decreases. Helping plants to withstand this salty onslaught would have a significant impact on world food production--

We made a targeted genetic tweak so that Na+ is removed from the water flowing up the stem before it reaches the shoot - once out, it is stuck. The effect of this manipulation is to reduce the amount of toxic Na+ building up the shoot and so increase the plant's tolerance to salinity.

The control of the gene we manipulated is crucial. To be effective, it must be tuned up so that it works harder and produces more protein than it usually would specifically around the plant's water conducting tubes in the mature root. In doing this, we have enhanced a process used naturally by plants to minimise the movement of Na+ to the shoot. We have used genetic modification (GM) to amplify the process, helping plants to do what they already do - but to do it much better!

So here it is. Today. And it was not done by Monsanto. It has nothing to do with buying expensive pesticides.

You may dislike the business practices of certain corporations. Fine. You may dislike the current patent laws. Fine. But stop letting people use your fears of your food to dismiss improvements in plants that could help to feed millions in times of increasing demand and climate change.

Before you assault the developer of this salt-tolerance technology as being a tool of BigAg, read the whole article. But here's a snip:

The motivation for my research is as an independent academic seeking knowledge and its application for public good. It is driven by the same imperatives that led me to be an active member of the UK Green party for nearly a decade. As such, I consider my funding sources to be irrelevant to my academic integrity. Nevertheless, I can declare that none of our research on salinity has been paid for by industry.

Before you assault me as being a tool of BigAg, I assure you that I do not now, nor have I ever, worked for Monsanto or any of the BigAg companies.

I'll close with a great comment by Dr. Tester on this technology. He summarizes what many progressive scientists feel on this matter--of hunger, poverty, and agriculture in the world in times of economic and climate crises.

GM crops are not the answer to this shameful global situation, but I argue strongly that they provide another tool, another option to try to address the problem. And I do not think those of us sitting in comfortable wealth have a right to deny people the opportunity to improve their production of food. The technology is just that, a technology. Like nuclear technologies (radiotherapy or nuclear weapons) or mobile phones (communication or bomb triggers), how we use it is the main issue.

Please don't close your mind on this science and technology because you hate a corporation. We need many silver BBs in the days ahead. Let's not withhold any of them from anyone.

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

FAO e-mail conference "Learning from the past: Successes and failures with agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries over the last 20 years"

All the 121 messages from the e-mail conference are now available as a single webpage - at
http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/C16/allmessages.htm

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

==========

Database of the Safety and Benefits of Biotechnology

http://croplife.intraspin.com/Biotech/

Welcome to the CropLife International database of published papers and reviews demonstrating the benefits and safety implications associated with the use of agricultural biotechnology products.

Adoption of Agricultural biotechnology continues to rapidly grow worldwide. As a result of the consistent and substantial economic, environmental and welfare benefits offered by biotech crops, millions of small and resource-poor farmers around the world continued to plant more hectares of biotech crops. Progress was made on several important fronts in 2008 with: significant increases in hectarage of biotech crops; increases in both the number of countries and farmers planting biotech crops globally; substantial progress in Africa, where the challenges are greatest; increased adoption of stacked traits and the introduction of a new biotech crop. These are very important developments given that biotech crops can contribute to some of the major challenges facing global society, including: food security, high price of food, sustainability, alleviation of poverty and hunger, and help mitigate some of the challenges associated with climate change. (James C., ISAAA, 2008)

Current figures show that approximately 13.3 million farmers across 25 countries grew biotech crops in 2008, up from 8.25 million farmers across 17 countries in 2004. Notably, over 90% of the beneficiary farmers were from developing countries (James C., ISAAA, 2008).

While studies recording, demonstrating and quantifying the benefits of biotechnology exist, they can be difficult to find. The purpose of this database is to enable you to quickly and easily locate and access credible scientific information about the demonstrated benefits of agricultural biotechnology products and the safety implications associated with their use. The database therefore provides access to a selection of quality studies that highlight the global benefits of biotechnology products.

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

Africa Not Engaged in Biotechnology, Why?

- Ochieng' Ogodo , July 16, 2009 http://www.islamonline.net

"Africa is still missing out to a large extent on GM technology. This is not a silver bullet but [a tool] that could have great positive impacts."

Crop biotechnology has been around for nearly 14 years now and has been much embraced by the farming community in some countries of the global economic North, such as the US, as well as in some developing countries, like Argentina and Brazil among a few others. But Africa is still very slow in embracing this technology. According to the conclusions of a meeting held in May 2009 by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Entebbe, Uganda, various factors account for this.

Precautionary Approach
Mark W. Rosegrant, director of the IFPRI Environment and Production Technology division, says that one of the major impediments is the precautionary (protective) approach of the regulatory frameworks (the rules and regulations set by national biotechnology committees to guide the use of biotechnology in agriculture). Whereas, according to him, there have been no health problems with foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), these frameworks are packed with some strong protective measures against them.

"Once GMOs have been approved, things should move, but regulatory frameworks have been more precautionary of promoting the safe use of biotechnology in Africa," Rosegrant said.

"Africa is still missing out to a large extent on GM [genetic modification] technology. This is not a silver bullet but [a tool] that could have great positive impacts, especially with climate change," he added.

According to Rosegrant, the absence of modern scientific platforms for homegrown biotechnology is yet another major impediment in Africa. He believes the developed world should help African nations train scientists and help them acquire the technologies needed for crop biotechnology to enhance improved agricultural production.

The public sector, Rosegrant points out, should be open to the private sector instead of being a barrier. There are too many bureaucratic processes hindering private investments in the development and commercialization of this technology.

Proper information on crop biotechnology has also been lacking. Rosegrant says it is high time for access to copyrighted crop traits to be made available to developing countries, so that their scientists can gain knowledge of the biological makeup of some of the most important crops in the developing world, such as cassava and teff.

Africa can make up for some of the chances lost during the green revolution if African scientists begin to localize engineered plant characteristics and introduce them into traditional crops to fortify them against adverse agricultural conditions, such as drought.

Whereas fellowship programs for African scientists have helped build Africa's human capacity, many African scientists are left on their own once they leave the Western academic institutions and state-of-the-art laboratories.

Once back home, these scientists face a number of problems, such as the lack of well-equipped laboratories, poor pay packages, and general apathy. "There are fellowship programs in the West, but it is good to help maintain them [African scientists] once back in their countries in terms of salaries, supporting their laboratories, and allowing them to work in close collaboration with the laboratories [in the West] that have advanced scientific platforms."

Lack of Capacity
Robert Paarlberg of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University says that Africa still lacks the capacity of advancement of biotechnology, both human and technological, when compared to India and China:

There are also many hurdles in the way of crop biotechnology [placed] by bodies like the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility.

Paarlberg explains that the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which sets rules on GMOs, was drafted under great influence from these two bodies, so it did not take into consideration the need for new sciences addressing the rapidly declining agricultural production, especially in the developing world.

He opines that the UNEP emphasizes the protection of the environment and stands in the way of agriculture. "But most GM crops are Maize and Cotton where the use of insecticides is minimal," he explained.

The preventive approach in the rules and guidelines followed by national biosafety committees in Africa hardly supports the difficulties encountered in crop biotechnology. For instance, it takes an agronomist at least a year to get approval for a confined field trial of a cartian variety of seeds. Further, after the field trials, an agronomist cannot obtain permission to sell the seeds in the market. "Kenya has examined GM crops for 10 years but has not approved any. Only Burkina Faso and South Africa have approved GM cotton," Paarlberg said.

The many regulatory requirements determined by several ministries are another cause for concern. "Once the law has been passed, every relevant ministry must have a say, and this leads to delays," he added.

External Influences
Furthermore, Paarlberg argues that there are external factors that act as obstacles to the use of GM: For example, foreign aid from Europe has been a major hindrance as the European Union has a very precautionary regulatory model.

As the majority of African countries were colonized by European countries, "their first point of reference is [still] London or Brussels, and they do not want to keep out of step with the practices coming out of metropolitan Europe," according to Paarlberg.

Paarlberg further explains that many African countries look to European institutions and authorities for technical assistance: "The European Union is not helping build scientific capacity but regulatory capacity that will keep out GMOs, like in Zambia where Norway has helped build a good laboratory for the detection of GMOs."

Aid dependency has also, to a large extent, been a hurdle in the way of GMOs. "The average country in Sub-Saharan Africa is four times as aid-dependent as [any other country in] the rest of the developing world," said Paarlberg.

According to Paarlberg, the UNEP and the Global Environment Facility, under the Global Project for Development of National Biosafety Frameworks, were very reluctant to support GM farming. Nongovernmental organizations such as Greenpeace International are another reason for the failure of adoption of biotechnology in Africa, as they run spirited campaigns on the continent against GMOs.

Those against the new technology argue that the use of GMOs in agriculture could have potential negative effects on the environment and human health, as well as potential socioeconomic effects. The EU, which has adopted a precautionary approach to GMOs, purchases five times more farm commodities from Africa each year than does the US.

"In 2000, private European buyers stopped importing beef from Namibia. In Zambia, in 2002, opposition to accepting GMO maize came from export companies (Agriflora Ltd.) and from export-oriented farmers," Paarlberg said. The farmers are therefore not certain about what will happen if they adopt GM crops.

Margaret Karembu, interim director of AfriCenter at the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, emphasizes that information about biotechnology has not been communicated effectively. "Science communication should make people understand that it contributes to development so that they can appreciate it. It should make people understand research results for informed decisions," she told the meeting attendees.

She added, "Just like any other new development or product, to any society there will be concerns, questions, and myths, and all these can be countered with a proper campaign and promotion. The products of biotechnology science always undergo rigorous scientific testing."

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

Zambia's Test Lab Nears Completion

-Andy Apel, GMOBelus, July 4, 2009 http://www.gmobelus.com/news.php?viewStory=413

In Zambia 85 percent of the labor force works in agriculture, but this is no breadbasket, nor remotely idyllic. In Zambia, the odds of living past 40 are low. Twenty percent of children are underweight, 32 percent of adults are illiterate, and 42 percent have no access to safe drinking water. The nation's gross domestic product hovers around $3 per day; about $1 per day of that is personal income. Against this backdrop, a $450,000 laboratory for detecting GMOs in Zambia is near completion at the Seed Control and Certification Institute (SCCI) in Lusaka.

This madness is so incomprehensible that it verges on the ghastly. But, the mad and ghastly involved are the Norwegian government, which is supplying the money, and the activist group, also funded by Norway, and headed by discredited anti-GM scientists, who will actually be running the lab.

In the winter of 2002, the technophobes at Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and Consumers International pressured the government of Zambia to halt distribution of American-donated genetically modified corn to its starving people. This set off a food riot in Munyama, Zambia, as 6,000 hungry villagers overpowered an armed guard and stormed a warehouse that held biotech corn.

As a result, US foreign aid chief Andrew Natsios criticized environmental groups as "revolting and despicable" for urging starving nations such as Zambia to reject American corn because of genetic alteration.

Clearly, European NGOs -- and their governments -- would rather see "business as usual" in Zambia, instead of trying to improve on a desperate situation. Revolting and despicable, indeed.