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Date:

October 2, 2009

Subject:

Europe Hindering African Development; Danes, the Smartest Europeans; Mexico Wakes Up; UK Protestor Vindicated; Vatican on African Biotech

 


* Africa 'Resistant to GMOs Because of Relationship with EU'
* Mexico to Start First Genetically Modified Corn Plantings
* Survey - Which Countries Come Down In Favor of GMO For Pharmaceuticals?
* UK: Probe Fails to Back Up Claim That Protester Grew GM Crop
* Vatican, Food Experts Say Biotechnology Will Improve African Farming
* The Center for Environmental Risk Assessment - ILSI
* Food Fight: An Unappetizing Development
* UK: Future trends for 2010 - what's going to happen?
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Africa 'Resistant to GMOs Because of Relationship with EU'

- theparliament.com via http://www.freshplaza.com

Europe's cautious approach to genetically modified crops is having a negative effect on agriculture in Africa, according to a group of farmers. A delegation of African farmers met with EU policymakers this week in Brussels to discuss the role of biotechnology in tackling the food crisis. Their meetings come amid concern over how climate change, drought and population increases will impact Africa's ability to feed its population.

Motlatsi Everest Musi, a small-scale maize farmer in South Africa, has been cultivating genetically modified Bt-maize since 2005. He told reporters at a EuropaBio event on Wednesday that growing the technology had boosted his profits and enabled him to expand his business.

Musi said he had come to Brussels "to share my experience and to send a message to Europeans that Africa seems to be reluctant to grow genetically modified seeds because they don't want to lose their relationship with Europe". "They doubt whether GM technology is safe because Europe has developed this 'go-slow' approach and that is impacting negatively on the continent," he said.

Musi, who acquired 21 hectares of land through South Africa's land redistribution for agricultural development programme in 2004, said his yield had increased by 34 per cent after switching to Bt-maize.

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Mexico to Start First Genetically Modified Corn Plantings

- Maja Wallengren, Dow Jones, Sept 25, 2009

Mexican agriculture authorities have given the green light to experimental plantings of genetically modified corn on 195 hectares by the end of the month, an Agriculture Ministry official said Friday.

Mexico's sanitation agency Senasica gave its approval for such plantings earlier this year after years of studying the issue, the official told Dow Jones Newswires, citing a report by Senasica. The plantings will go ahead despite protests by interested parties, including environmental groups and scientists, who say that the introduction of genetically modified corn could contaminate historic varieties unique to Mexico.

A total of 26 biotechnology companies have applied for permits to participate in the pilot phase for the production of corn with genetically modified seed. The seed will be based on varieties that already have been used for more than 10 years in over 40 other countries, Senasica said in the report. The ministry contends that the use of genetically modified corn will help the country increase production and reduce grain imports. The government has yet to authorize plans for commercial production.

Mexican corn yields currently stand at an average of about 3.2 tons a hectare, up from 2.6 tons at the end 2005. But most of the country's subsistence farmers use traditional corn varieties that produce yields between 300 and 800 kilograms per hectare, according to official data.

Companies participating in the pilot plantings of genetically modified corn include St. Louis-based crop biotechnology giant Monsanto Co. (MON); Bayer CropScience, a unit of German pharmaceutical and chemical group Bayer AG (BAY.XE); and DOW AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical Co. (DOW), the official said.

During the last eight to 10 years, Mexico has run experiments with genetically modified cotton seeds, saving water and herbicides and increasing production to six from four bales a hectare, the Agriculture Ministry said earlier this year.

The first plantings will be focused on seeds that have proven resistant to a variety of crop diseases, and will be planted in Mexico's 2009 fall-winter crop for which sowing traditionally starts between late September and mid-October.

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Survey - Which Countries Come Down In Favor of GMO For Pharmaceuticals?

http://www.scientificblogging.com/

Like Spain, Israel, the USA and some other countries, a survey of Danish citizens support using GM plants for production of pharmaceuticals - science Austria, Germany and Japan and some others do not accept.

Isn't it 'against' nature? Yes, Danes think that too, though clearly all medicine is against nature and they have a clear understand of what the word 'organic' means outside the political-social context.

Using genetically modified plants and animals as production platforms for medicine allows pharmaceuticals to be produced faster, more flexibly and profitably. Examples of this form of medicine production is ATryn (antithrombin alfa), produced by genetically modfied goats. Atryn is used to treat blood clots.

The survey included 22,500 citizens. 1,500 from each of 15 industrial countries, 12 European countries, Israel, Japan and the USA. They were asked about their opinion of genetically modified plants and animals producing pharmaceutical proteins. The survey shows a very nuanced picture of people's attitudes towards genetically modified organisms for pharmaceutical purposes.

What's accounts for this? Unlike the US, 67% of Danes have great confidence in the authorities when it comes to regulating and controlling the cultivation of GM plants planned to be used for pharmaceuticals - 31% think it is acceptable for plants to be grown in open fields even under very strict rules for separation, i.e. several kilometers away from other plants of the same species.

But when it comes to using genetically modified animals to produce medicines, there is less approval in all countries. The least critical are the Spaniards, the Israelis, the Czechs and the Danes; only 38% of the Danes believe that this technology should be supported.

The comprehensive survey has been pulished on-line in the journal EMBO reports. First author is the Spanish sociologist Raphael Pardo. Rikke Bagger Jørgensen from the Biosystems Division at Risø DTU is one of the seven co-authors.

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UK: Probe Fails to Back Up Claim That Protester Grew GM Crop

- Martin Shipton, Western Mail UK), Oct 2 2009 http://www.walesonline.co.uk/

A council investigation failed to find evidence that pro-GM food campaigner Jonathan Harrington defied the Assembly Government and grew genetically modified maize on his smallholding. It has also emerged that Powys County Council spent £4,200 investigating the claim.

Earlier this year Mr Harrington, of Velindre, near Brecon, told the Western Mail he had imported the maize and grown it to protest at the Assembly Government' s policy that Wales should be GM-free. But an internal report produced by Powys County Council and now released under the Freedom of Information Act casts doubt on Mr Harrington' s claim.

The report states: "(Mr Harrington) -- claimed to have supplied the harvested crop to neighbouring farmers for use as animal feed and that seed from the crop had been harvested for use for further cultivation in 2009.

"As a result of these claims and numerous complaints to our service, an investigation was undertaken by Powys County Council Trading Standards Service, as the enforcement body for the various Regulations concerned in these matters. The investigation was launched in January 2009.

"The investigation included putting formal questions to Jonathan Harrington. In July 2009, after protracted attempts to get answers under caution from Harrington, we eventually received a response to our questions in which he admitted that growing GM maize on his premises was not part of his business or any activity connected to that business.

"These responses indicated he had received a quantity of 50 seeds of two varieties of GM maize which he had used to grow crops for his own interest as a biologist, and that the crops were destroyed following harvesting. It is impossible to prove or disprove these claims. Samples of seed supplied to the Trading Standards Service by Harrington were analysed by a Public Analyst and found not to be GM seed. The investigation was completed in late July 2009 after due consideration by our legal services and trading standards management team."

The council had offences with which Mr Harrington could have been charged if evidence had become available, including failing to register with the council as an animal feed producer, failing to maintain records, and putting prohibited products on the market.

The report concluded: "Based upon analysis of the legislation, Harrington's responses to formal questions, and examination of all of the evidence available on this matter it was evident to trading standards officers that Harrington had not committed any offences. "Legal advice was taken from the Powys County Council legal service, who reviewed this case and their advice mirrored the trading standards service findings, that is there was no evidence to warrant any formal action based on the evidence available."

Mr Harrington was unavailable for comment yesterday, but earlier this year told us: "I have been trying to influence the Assembly Government's policy on GM crops for many years. Having made little progress, I imported a small quantity of two varieties of forage maize with the MON 810 trait, which makes plants resistant to the European corn borer, a pest that is common in southern Europe.

"I decided to tell only a few trusted individuals, including a senior Assembly Government official and some eminent scientists so that the crops would not be attacked by anti-GM protest groups. The varieties I selected were both bred for conditions normally found in southern Europe, so they did not perform well in what was a dreadful summer.

"But I wanted to make the point that we should welcome GM crop technology and that Wales could not be described as a GM free zone. Far from shunning this technology, AMs should be pressing for it to be introduced as soon as possible in order to overcome some of the problems faced by our agricultural industry." The maximum penalty for non-compliance is a £5,000 fine and/or three months' prison.

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Vatican, Food Experts Say Biotechnology Will Improve African Farming

- Sarah Delaney, Catholic News Service, Sep-29-2009 http://www.catholicnews.com/

ROME (CNS) -- African farmers should be able to use new biotechnology, including genetically modified organisms, to help lift their continent out of poverty, Vatican officials and agricultural experts said.

Focusing on agricultural development is the key to improving the lives of Africans and their economy, and all tools must be considered to further that goal, according to speakers at a symposium Sept. 24 in Rome on the topic "For a Green Revolution in Africa." The participants agreed that one of those tools could be genetically modified products, the use of which is widespread in the United States but controversial in Africa.

Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, former secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said that underdevelopment and hunger in Africa are due in large part to "outdated and inadequate agricultural methods." Therefore, he said, new technologies "that can stimulate and sustain African farmers" must be made available, including "seeds that have been improved by techniques that intervene in their genetic makeup."

Father Gonzalo Miranda, professor of bioethics at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum University, which sponsored the symposium, said in support of new biotechnology that, "if the data shows that biotechnology can offer great advantages in the development of Africa, it is a moral obligation to permit these countries to do their own experimentation."

The symposium was held just before the Synod of Bishops for Africa, which was set to begin at the Vatican Oct. 4. The question of genetically modified foods has been a controversial one in the pre-synod discussions. The synod's working paper, released by the Vatican in March, called for a commitment to development in Africa but warned against the belief that genetically modifed products were the answer to the continent's hunger problem. It said that using modified crops risks "ruining small landholders, abolishing traditional methods of seeding and making farmers dependent on the production companies" selling their seeds.

But speakers at the Rome symposium spoke in favor of the responsible use of new biotechnology methods and emphasized that genetically modified products made up only a part of those new techniques. Eric Kueneman, deputy director of the Plant Production and Protection Division of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, said that "biotechnology is not an evil empire" but is an element of a group of tools that also includes traditional farming methods.

With regard to genetically modified foods, he said the FAO allows each country to decide and provides guidance to countries that want to use them. "It's not that they are good or bad; their use needs to be evaluated in (a) local context and on a case-by-case basis," he said.

Sylvester Oikeh, a Nigerian who manages an improved corn project for the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, a nonprofit organization that assists farmers, said Europeans tend not to embrace genetically modified products because they have a surplus of food.

But that is not the case in Africa, he said. "More than 200 million starving people urgently need appropriate technology for survival," Oikeh said. "There is no choice."

Farmers from South Africa and Burkina Faso were on hand to testify to the improvements in their farming and their lives when they introduced genetically modified crops on their land.

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

The Center for Environmental Risk Assessment - ILSI

(CERA) was established by the ILSI Research Foundation in March 2009 with a mandate to: Support and facilitate the development and application of harmonized approaches to environmental risk assessment (ERA) of genetically modified organisms; Serve as a scientific resource for governments, academia and private sector organisations as they seek to develop and implement ERA programs; Disseminate science-based information about ERA.

Following ILSI RF's model of tripartite participation, CERA has already developed an extensive international network of institutions, scientists and regulators who contribute to the Center's program of work.

CERA works to support and facilitate the development and application of harmonized approaches to ERA of genetically modified organisms. Selected Projects 2009-2010

CERA is working cooperatively with the International Organisation for Biological Control and the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee to develop standardized protocols for Tier I non-target organism testing. The first joint workshop will be held at ILSI HQ in October 2009. CERA is examining the issue of data transportability to: identify characteristics of receiving environments that should be considered in evaluating the acceptability of ERA data generated "out of country"; develop a conceptual framework that may be used by the regulated and regulatory communities to identify when data transportability is appropriate; and develop case studies that exemplify when data transportability can and cannot be applied.

CERA is preparing an analysis of post-release monitoring (PRM) of GM crops that examines current regulatory requirements for PRM in key countries and approaches to PRM that have been applied in the field including the results of these. After completion of the analysis, an expert working group will be convened to develop scientifically sound strategies for PRM including the identification of appropriate risk assessment triggers

For more information please contact:
Morven A. McLean, Ph.D.; Director, CERA; mmclean@ilsi.org http://www.ilsi.org/

==========

Food Fight: An Unappetizing Development

- Andrew Thomas, American Thinker, October 02, 2009. Excerpt below

Our regulation-hungry leaders in Washington are acquiring a new taste in governmental control. A sumptuous feast of tempting regulatory delicacies awaits them under the guise of improving the safety of our food supply. Is this a well-meaning but horrendously misguided attempt by the administration to "protect" the public through draconian regulations heaped onto farmers and small food processing businesses? After all, leftist policy-makers are the masters of unintended consequences.
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There are two major pieces of food legislation in progress, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 (HR 2749), and the Food Modernization Act of 2009 (HR 875). These bills unleash a cornucopia of new regulations and harsh penalties on small farmers and food processors. Fines of up to $7.5 million can be assessed and sentences of up to ten years in prison can be imposed for violations of the new regulations. All farms and food businesses must pay a mandatory annual FDA registration fee of $500. There are fears that the new laws will make growing organic foods illegal by outlawing the use of manure and requiring chemical pesticide application to all crops. Other frightening interpretations of the provisions in these bills include potentially mandating genetically-modified (GM) crops and "terminator" seeds that will require farmers to purchase new GM seeds each season.

One thing is certain. The Obama administration is fundamentally changing food regulation to more closely resemble the current regulations on pharmaceuticals and medical devices. New FDA draft guidance documents have been issued on food regulation, with more to come. These automatically become law in two years with no congressional approval required.
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Read on http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/10/food_fight_an_unappetizing_dev.html

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UK: Future trends for 2010 - what's going to happen?

- Brand Strategy Magazine, Oct 2, 2009 http://brandstrategy.wordpress.com/2009/10/01/future-trends-for-2010-whats-going-to-happen/

Here are some more predictions of trends for 2010. These come from Tammy Mulders of marketing and trends agency SCB Partners. She suggests that some of the trends we will see in the UK appearing over the next few months are below - what do you think? I think these are a bit more interesting than some of the more generic ones you see bandied about.

Food & Dining: The principles of organic are abandoned. The nutritional and ethical benefits of genetically modified food are embraced by supermarkets, consumers and chefs. Agricultural science is the dinner party conversation of 2010.

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