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

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on

Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives





September 11, 2009


Attacking Mutant Crops; Peas Engineered to Protect Chickens; Generous Brits; Monsanto a Water Bully


* France: Anti-GMO Protests Target Mutant Sunflowers Now!
* Engineered Pea Seeds Protect Against Chicken Parasites
* Britain Donating Millions to Biotech (but not in Britain)
* Bangladesh Finalizes GM Food Safety Guidelines
* Monsanto a Water Bully? Not So
* Crossbreeding GM Crops May Increase Fitness of Wild Relatives
* How Can We Feed The World?

France: Anti-GMO Protest in Front of a Pioneer Research Center (Against Mutant Sunflowers!)

- AFP, August 26, 2009 (Rough Translation below)

MONTECH (Tarn-et-Garonne, France), 26 août 2009 (AFP) - Around 100 demonstrators according to the police, 150 according to the organizers, protested on Wednesday afternoon in front of a research center of the seed company Pioneer in Montech (tarn-et-Garonne) against the development of "hidden GMOs".

"We ask Pioneer to give up commercializing next year an herbicide resistant sunflower named Expressun" explained Michel Metz, one of the leader of the anti-GMO group anti-OGM 31 (Haute-Garonne).

The car convoy, coming from several regions of France was stopped by the police more than one kilometer away from the Pioneer site. The protestor then walked under a heavy sun to the research center behind a banner "Pioneer, the worst is to come".

The anti-GM ask the Ministry of Environment to decide a moratorium on this type of mutagen sunflower awaiting an evaluation, they want the European Union to submit these GMOs to the same transparency and evaluation rules than the transgenic corn." Explained M. Metz

Such a moratorium exists currently for the transgenic corn of Monsanto.

The militants in Montech call "hidden GMO" this mutagen sunflower, which genetic traits are modified by chemical chock or irradiation, but not introduction of a new gene, as it is for transgenic plants.

According to Jean-Baptiste Libouban, another animator of the anti-GMO movement "it is not known at all what will be the consequences of these hidden GMOs on public health"

The organizers of the protest have evocated a "stock of luck" as their action coincided with the judgment on Friday in Béziers (Hérault) of two anti-GMO militants, including José Bové, for uprooting of transgenic corn in 2007.

"The fight against GMO continues, it is entered in a second phase with the struggle against hidden GMOs" they said.

The protesters ensured they want to stay in front of the Pioneer center until the ministry of environment guarantees them an appointment above this question of hidden GMOs.


Questioned on the telephone, Jose Bove explained that "the seed breeding firms have decided to change their weapon by using new mutagen technologies, thus they do not need authorizations: with these clandestine GMO's they try to circumvent the resistence movement against GMOs". The ministry of Environment realises which the firms do not play the game and they should be receptive to our arguments", added the European Green representative.

Pionner's legal director for Europe, Jean Donnenwirth, explained that he "is a little surprised by the return of this GMO problem since there is a moratorium". He ensured that the accused seed "is not GMO". According to him, "mutagensis has beed used for nearly 100 years in many vegetable and fruit-bearing species, there is no reason to question why a sunflower will allow (cause) a major reduction in use of weedkiller, next year or in two or three years". "One clearly tries to make a storm in a glass of water" , he concluded.

[ http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g5OfP61LDy ]http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g5OfP61LDy xVuvt7zpHVOv5y6B pQ

Manifestation anti-OGM devant un centre de recherche du semencier Pioneer

(AFP) - 26 août 2009


Engineered Pea Seeds Protect Against Parasites

- Graeme Baldwin, BioMed Central. Sept 10, 2009

A breed of pea seeds has been created that contains antibodies against coccidiosis, a disease caused by a parasite that attacks chickens. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Biotechnology describe the development of the GM seeds, and demonstrate their effectiveness in preventing this economically important illness.

Sergej Kiprijanov worked with a team of researchers from Novoplant GmbH, Germany, to develop the seeds. He said, "There are a few major issues precluding the use of monoclonal antibodies for passive immunization of chickens against infectious diseases, primarily the costs of antibody production and treatment. Treatment costs are high because antibodies must normally be given intravenously; otherwise they are destroyed in the animal's gut. By expressing the antibodies inside pea seeds, they are protected from this degradation - allowing our system to dramatically reduce treatment costs".

The researchers found that chickens infected with the parasite and allowed to eat the antibody-containing pea seeds, shredded into their feed, were significantly less likely to contract coccidiosis than chickens fed ordinary pea seeds in their fodder. Kiprijanov said, "Compared with methods of active vaccination, the passive immunization strategy described here is an easy and non-invasive method to use in commercial settings. The cost of production is comparatively low, utilizing current agriculture technologies, and the strategy can be used in combination with other antiparasitic agents".

Notes to Editors
1. Antibody expressing pea seeds as fodder for prevention of gastrointestinal parasitic infections in chickens
Jana Zimmermann, Isolde Saalbach, Doreen Jahn, Martin Giersberg, Sigrun Haehnel, Julia Wedel, Jeanette Macek, Karen Zoufal, Gerhard Glunder, Dieter Falkenburg and Sergej M Kiprijanov
BMC Biotechnology (in press)

Article available at journal website: [ http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcbiotechnol/ ]http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcbiotechnol/


Britain Donating Millions to Biotech (but not in Britain)

- Dennis T. Avery, Othello Outlook, Sep 09, 2009 [ http://othellooutlook.com/?p=4607 ]http://othellooutlook.com/?p=4607

Britain has pledged more than US$150 million over the next five years to support high-tech food crops for the world's poorest countries - primarily through genetic engineering.

The irony? Britain does not yet allow any biotech foods to be grown commercially within its borders ... not even to develop a genetically modified potato that is resistant to the new strain of potato blight that is ravaging British potato fields.

If the eco-activists hadn't pledged to rip out test plantings, the world would already have blight-resistant potatoes - a huge step forward in Third World food security.

Potatoes produce more food per acre than any other crop and they are increasingly important in such crowded places as China, India and the African highlands.

So far, however, there remains the threat of replaying the terrible Irish potato famine of the 1840s, not only in Britain but in all potato dependant areas.

The biggest piece of the new British funding will support development of drought-tolerant corn for Africa, following up the recent success of drought-tolerant biotech wheat in Australia. Such corn would be the biggest possible step forward for drought-prone small African farmers, ranking even ahead of the witchweed-resistant corn varieties recently produced by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico.

Another chunk of funding will support Syngenta's international work in developing genetically modified "Golden Rice," which will prevent childhood blindness due to severe shortages of Vitamin A in rice-dependent cultures. This deficiency is the world's leading preventable source of childhood blindness and involves millions of deaths.

The eco-activists, of course, are raging mad over the British aid pledge. They continue to claim that biotech crops don't produce any higher food yields to prevent hunger or help poor farmers earn higher incomes, but that's a lie.

Biotech has already racked up massive yield gains from pest-resistant cotton in China and India, freeing up hundreds of millions of additional acres for food crops. This dwarfs anything the eco-activists have done to make the world more sustainable.

The drought-tolerant wheat recently test-planted in Australia yields 20 percent more grain during droughts, with no yield penalty during years of good rains. This, too, will mean greater food security for wheat-dependent cultures in India, Turkey and other countries.

Biotech crops have also eliminated spraying of millions of pounds of pesticides the eco-activists themselves have long claimed (without foundation) were producing severe health risks for humans.

The activists' case for opposing these crop production advances: Genetically modified crops "are probably unsafe for human consumption," claims activist Brian John, though no peer-reviewed studies confirm the claim.

In more than a decade of growing genetically modified food, no health problem has been traced to biotechnology. Not a single case of food poisoning, not even a headache, just more food produced more reliably and at lower cost to society.

Could that be the real activist complaint about biotech? The environmental movement has hated the Green Revolution and pilloried Dr. Norman Borlaug, the famed "man who saved a billion humans from starvation."

Could it be the environmental movement still blames high-yield farming for supporting "too many people?"

If that's true, they should also remember without the Green Revolution, the planet's wildlife habitat would already have been largely destroyed to grow more low-yield crops.

The challenge now is to feed the eight billion humans expected at the peak - along with their pets - from the land we already farm.

We applaud Britain for its humanitarianism toward poor countries, even though allowing an anti-science backlash to flourish within its own boundaries.

Dennis T. Avery is an environmental economist and a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years, Readers may write him at PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421 or email to [ mailto:cgfi@hughes.net ]cgfi@hughes.net.


Bangladesh Finalizes GM Food Safety Guidelines

- Crop Biotech Update. isaaa.org

Bangladesh has finalized national safety guidelines on genetically modified (GM) food, this article reports. The guidelines were fine-tuned at a two-day "Stakeholder meeting on the finalization of Guidelines for the safety assessment of foods derived from genetically engineered plants in Bangladesh."

About 80 participants from universities, the government, and non-government organizations participated in the workshop, which was organized by the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) and the South Asia Biosafety Program (SABP), which is a joint program of Agriculture & Biotechnology Strategies (AGBIOS) Canada and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Speaking at the workshop, Mustaq Ahmed, secretary of Bangladesh's Ministry of Agriculture, said Bangladesh should aim to create an "Evergreen Revolution" in which genetic engineering will be used to promote food and nutritional security in a safe manner.


Monsanto a Water Bully? Not So

[ http://blog.monsantoblog.com/2009/09/08/monsanto-water-bully/#more-1253 ]http://blog.monsantoblog.com/2009/09/08/monsanto-water-bully/#more-1253

Last week a misleading article about Monsanto appeared in The Guardian, a UK-based newspaper. The article made many inaccurate claims about Monsanto's water use and our presence on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. The story gained a lot of attention and sparked a heated debate in the comments section, with participants from Molokai refuting Mr. Pearce's claims. The buzz around the article spread when The Huffington Post featured Fred Pearce's story. Due to the inaccuracies, my colleagues in the UK office responded to the story. Below you can find the letter we sent to The Guardian and posted to our UK site.

On September 3, 2009, an article was published on the Guardian online website titled "Fred Pearce's Greenwash: Monsanto? Sustainable? Water bully, I'd say ..."

In his article Mr. Pearce made seriously inaccurate and misleading allegations about Monsanto's crop research and production activity on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, including selectively quoting from a local news article from the island.

Although Mr. Pearce rightly pointed out that Monsanto is the largest private employer on the island, where our crop research and seed production work requires irrigation as does most of the agriculture of the island, he failed to give an accurate impression of the actual situation there.

The Molokai Irrigation System serves Hawaiian Homesteaders as well as non-Homesteaders, including Monsanto. In contrast to the impression given by Mr. Pearce, Monsanto uses approximately 25% of the total water available for irrigation, even though the company occupies some 50% of the agricultural land surface for our research and development and seed production activities there. The remaining 75% of available water is available for others who may need it.

Furthermore, due to recent dry conditions, non-Homestead users (including Monsanto) were required by the State of Hawaii to conserve water by 20%, whereas homestead users were not required to conserve. Monsanto curtailed its operations in order to meet these requirements, including discontinuance of overhead irrigation and reduction of planting. The Hawaii Department of Agriculture subsequently reported that, during fiscal year 2008-2009, non-Homesteader use of the Molokai irrigation water decreased by 32%.

To make his allegation, Mr. Pearce quoted selectively from an article in the island's newspaper, the Molokai Dispatch, including the statement that "Non-homestead ag-users like Monsanto currently account for 84% of MIS (the island's irrigation system) water consumption" However he omitted to mention other key facts including the fact that Monsanto reduced it's water consumption in line with requirements, at a time when, according to the Molokai Dispatch "homestead water use increased 35% in 2007".

Again in contrast to Mr. Pearce's allegation, Monsanto has never "lobbied for a new aquifer to be tapped." In fact, no "new aquifer" exists on the island of Molokai. Monsanto has, however, offered funding assistance to develop operational efficiencies and system improvements in the island's irrigation system.

In another article, the Molokai Dispatch provides detail of some of the work Monsanto does on the island and on the Monsanto Corporate website we give further details of some of the financial support the company has provided to the community and education programs of Hawaii, including Molokai.

What is especially disappointing about Mr. Pearce's article is that he made no attempt to contact Monsanto to validate his allegations or allow us to provide balancing facts before publishing his allegations.

He appears to have chosen to misrepresent this case study in order to cast doubt upon Monsanto's public commitment to work, with others, to help reduce our global demand on fresh water for the production of several major world crops. As the United Nations has stated, agriculture currently uses some 70% of available fresh water.

Through the application of advanced crop breeding science, Monsanto has worked with others to develop crops, such as maize, which use significantly less water per unit of grain production. We believe that such crops will help to meet our publicly stated goals of producing more food whilst reducing demands on resources, including water, by a third by the year 2030.

After four years of successful field trials, our first drought tolerant maize crop has already been submitted for regulatory approval in the USA, and Monsanto is also working with a range of public and private sector bodies to develop water-efficient maize to help small-scale farmers in Africa.

We welcome an informed debate about improving agricultural sustainability and aim to engage in it with as much fact and as little preconception and prejudice as we can.


Crossbreeding GM Crops May Increase Fitness of Wild Relatives

- Environmental Expert, Sep. 10, 2009 (European Commission, Environment DG ) [ http://www.environmental-expert.com/resultEachPressRelease.aspx?cid=8819&codi=62229&lr=1 ]http://www.environmental-expert.com/resultEachPressRelease.aspx?cid=8819&codi=62229&lr=1

A new study has investigated the effects of interbreeding a genetically modified squash crop with its wild relative. The findings demonstrate that it could cause wild or weedy relatives to become more resistant to disease.

Genetic Modification (GM) can be used to develop crops that are resistant to specific pests. However, there are concerns that if a GM crop interbreeds with its wild or weedy relative the resistance could be transferred. This could potentially make wild plants more competitive. The study investigates the possible risks of a GM cultivated squash crop (Cucurbita pepo) crossbreeding with a wild squash crop.

The researchers compared the resistance of wild squash and plants that were a hybrid of the cultivated and wild squash varieties to viruses. One half of the hybrids were GM, containing a gene that rendered the plant resistant to zucchini yellow mosaic virus, and the other half were conventional non-GM plants, which had not been specifically bred for virus resistance.

Second and third generations of the crossbred squash plants were exposed to the virus over two years and compared with squash plants which were not exposed to the virus. The research measured the fitness of the plants in terms of variables such as number of seeds, flowers and fruit, pollen production, and plant mass. It also investigated vegetative traits such as leaf area and length between nodes where the leaves grow from the stem.
The results indicated that the presence of the virus dramatically decreased the fitness of both the wild squash plants and the non-GM hybrids. In comparison, the GM hybrid plants continued to be resistant to the virus over the two generations.

With the exception of pollen production, the virus produced negative effects on all fitness components of the wild and non-GM plants, decreasing seed production by 80 to 100 per cent. In the first year, the non-GM plants had a slightly higher resistance to the virus than the wild squash, indicating a possible benefit of conventional non-GM crops. However, the following year the resistance was lower.

In addition, the research found that by the third generation, the shape and structure of the cultivated GM hybrid crop and the wild crop were indistinguishable. They both had a vine-like quality with long spaces between the leaves that would allow them to grow well in the wild. This supports the proposal that the wild-GM hybrid would thrive in the wild.

It is significant that the non-GM hybrid showed some subtle signs of disease resistance. While it did not display fitness as dramatically as the GM hybrid, the study points out that the basic mechanisms for transferring traits to weeds are fundamentally the same for conventional crops as for GM crops. It is therefore possible that a crop conventionally bred for strong virus resistance could pose similar risks to those posed by GM crops. This is an area which deserves further attention.

However, the authors suggest that, to predict more accurately the effect of virus resistance on wild squash populations, data are needed on the long-term patterns of virus incidence and their role in regulating wild plants. The authors also caution that this study only investigates the relationship between one specific plant and one specific virus. Risk assessment must be undertaken on a case-by-case basis; it cannot be assumed that other diseases or crops will behave in the same way.


How Can We Feed The World?

[ http://www.slideshare.net/JAB1/how-can-we-feed-the-world-1968916 ]http://www.slideshare.net/JAB1/how-can-we-feed-the-world-1968916

(Hat tip: Bruce Chassy and Kevin Glenn)