* Is Europe Finally Ready for Genetically Modified Foods?
* Supreme Court Urged to Clear Way for Biotech Seeds
* Monsanto's Alfalfa Reaches Supreme Court
* Ag Groups Weigh-in on Supreme Court Case for Biotech Alfalfa
* European Union - Green light for GM Maize
* We Need GM Plants That Benefit Consumers and Not Just Farmers
* Frequently Asked Questions about GMOs and Bt-Brinjal
* Farmers' Suicides in India
* India's Bt Cotton Crop Area Rises to 8 Million Hectares; Yields Up 31 Per Cent: Minister
* AgriGenomics World Congress Panel - Enhancing Public Acceptance of GM Crops in Europe
* Glenn Beck Sponsor Sows Seeds of Fear
Is Europe Finally Ready for Genetically Modified Foods?
- Leo Cendrowicz, Time, March 9, 2010 www. time.com
It's hard to work up an appetite when other diners brand what you're about to eat "Frankenstein food." For many Europeans, that evocative label has told them all they need to know about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Opponents of GM foods have managed to paint them as the freakish products of a dangerous technology created by hubristic scientists.
But the European Union may have reached a tipping point in its awkward relationship with GMOs. This week, it quietly gave the green light to farmers to grow fields of genetically modified potatoes. It marks the first time that Brussels has approved any GMO cultivation since a moratorium 12 years ago.
The GM potato, created by German chemical giant BASF, is not intended for human consumption. It has been developed to produce higher levels of starch, which is used in industries like paper manufacturing. Using the GM potato will save energy, water and chemicals. E.U. Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli says the decision was based on "sound science" and represents a policy of "responsible innovation."
Some E.U. member states and anti-GM campaigners remain unconvinced. Austria said it would outlaw growing the potato, and Italian Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia said he planned to "defend and safeguard traditional agriculture and citizens' health." The environmental group Greenpeace said the GM potato contains a gene that confers resistance to certain antibiotics. "It could raise bacterial resistance to life-saving medicines, including drugs used for the treatment of tuberculosis," says Greenpeace E.U. agriculture policy director Marco Contiero. "This is an unacceptable risk to human and animal health as well as to the environment."
But supporters of GMOs say these complaints have run thin. They point to the U.S., where more than 90% of all soya is now GM and no adverse effects have been found. "Opponents keep saying that GMOs might do this or could do that," says German Member of the European Parliament Britta Reimers, who is with the centrist, pro-business Free Democratic Party. "But after countless studies over the years, we have not seen a single verifiable piece of evidence that there are any health or environmental dangers in GMOs."
Six E.U. member states — Austria, Hungary, France, Greece, Germany and Luxembourg — ban the cultivation of GM maize on their territories. The bans were declared illegal in a World Trade Organization panel ruling in 2006, following a case brought by the U.S., Canada and Argentina. The WTO said the national safeguards were not based, as required, on scientific assessment of the risks. In the face of fierce member-state opposition, though, the E.U. has yet to fully implement the WTO's ruling.
Still, Europe's demand for soya means it has no choice but to import GMOs, since about 75% to 80% of the global soya crop is from transgenic breeds. The E.U. rules mean imported GM food has to be labeled and separated along the supply chain to safeguard against "contamination" of organic farms. Any produce containing more than 0.9% GM content must be labeled as such, a policy that can lead to shipments being sent back to the U.S.
Irritated by such legal entanglements, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has signaled that he wants the European debate on GMOs to focus firmly on science rather than emotion, and he seems ready to use whatever procedural weapons are at his disposal to break the political deadlock in the approval process. Businesses have also weighed in, saying the E.U.'s reluctance to accept GMOs is costly: denying farmers money-saving technologies means European agriculture loses ground against rivals. And it runs counter to the E.U.'s ambition to foster innovation and technology; despite public hostility, Europe is home to some of the biggest biotech groups in the world. GSK Biologicals, for instance, which has headquarters just 15 miles outside Brussels, supplies about a quarter of all vaccines used throughout the world. "Europe's opposition to GMOs is a backlash against science," says Willy De Greef, secretary general for Europabio, the European biotech lobby. "We have a lot of catching up to do. While the U.S., Brazil, India and China have forged ahead in genetic engineering, we have lost a generation of good scientists."
Food remains a sensitive issue for Europeans. A 2008 survey by E.U. pollster Eurobarometer found that 52% of Europeans felt that biotechnology would improve their quality of life, but 58% were apprehensive about using the same techniques to develop GM foods.
Could public opinion now be changing? Recent debate over food security may be having an effect. The U.N. says the world population is set to reach 9 billion by 2050, requiring a 70% rise in global food production to feed the planet. With the added threat of climate change, GMOs like drought-resistant crops could offer hope that global demand will be met. "European public opinion on GMOs was shaken two years ago with the food crisis, when prices spiked wildly and there were riots around the world," says Jo Swinnen, senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies, a Brussels-based think tank. "People thought there would always be food surpluses and low prices. But that can't be assumed anymore."
This might just be the moment Europe begins warming to GMOs. If so, it could finally lay to rest the Frankenstein-food moniker. Even Greenpeace has stopped using the term.
Supreme Court Urged to Clear Way for Biotech Seeds
- Philip Brasher, Des Moines Register, March 9, 2010 http://blogs.desmoinesregister.com/
A court’s requirement that the Agriculture Department conduct environmental studies on new genetically engineered crops harms farmers and consumers around the world by delaying biotech seeds from reaching the market, farm groups and the seed industry are telling the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court is considering an appeal of a lower court ruling that stopped farmers from planting herbicide-resistant alfalfa until the USDA had done an environmental impact study of the crop.
The USDA has since finished the study and is moving toward clearing the crop for commercial use once again, but the seed companies and farm groups say the delay was unfair and unnecessary. Another judge has recently ruled that the department’s review of biotech sugar beets was insufficient. The sugar beets, like the alfalfa, are immune to Roundup herbicide. Roundup-tolerant soybeans and corn, which have been in wide use for years, are not affected by the rulings.
But in a friend-of-the-court brief filed Monday, the industry groups warn that similar court rulings could amount to defacto bans on crops,”charting a similar course” to Europe, where many countries have effectively prohibited the planting of genetically modified crops. “Decisions like the injunction against Roundup Ready alfalfa dramatically increase the degree of uncertainty surrounding the availability of these genetically engineered crops and can greatly slow the government’s deregulation process,” according to the brief.
In case the court is any doubt at what is at stake in this case, at least in the industry’s view, the brief asserts that agricultural biotechnology “offers a way to help feed the world’s population through safe, sustainable farming techniques that could raise the standard of living in rural communities around the globe.”
Monsanto's Alfalfa Reaches Supreme Court
- Boonsri Dickinson, Nature Biotechnology (2010) Volume: 28, Page: 184
Alfalfa is one of the most important legumes in agriculture. In April, the US Supreme Court will hear Monsanto's case for why it should be cleared to resume reselling Roundup Ready alfalfa seeds. The verdict, which is expected to affect the regulation of other biotech crops, including genetically modified (GM) sugar beets, could make it easier for GM crops to stay on the market, as it will no longer be possible to ban a crop, once approved, without a full hearing.
Monsanto's GM alfalfa was approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA, Washington, DC) in 2005, but the Center for Food Safety in February 2006 sued the USDA for not properly investigating the impact of the GM seeds on the environment. The United States District Court for the Northern District of California in 2007 banned the GM alfalfa seeds nationwide, pending a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) from the USDA. Monsanto appealed, and the case has now worked its way to the US Supreme Court.
Peter McHugh, deputy general counsel at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (Washington, DC), says he disagreed with the process applied in the lower courts, adding that if Monsanto wins, in the future the farmers, growers and seed producers of agbio “will have an opportunity to have a full and fair evidentiary hearing before there's an injunction.” In short, the ruling will determine whether a product can be banned without a hearing after it has been given the agency's blessing.
Drew Kershen, a professor of law at the University of Oklahoma, says it's “important to set the standard when injunctions can be used, when the argument is that USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) needs to stop and prepare an EIS.” If the Supreme Court overturns the ban on alfalfa, it would mean that producers and users of GM seeds facing an injunction do not need to stop selling and planting their GM crops immediately, if at all. Either way, the ruling should affect other agbiotech court cases, specifically a case due to begin in March, also filed by the Center for Food Safety, against Monsanto's GM sugar beets.
There is more at stake where beets are concerned (Nat. Biotechnol. 27, 970, 2009), because whereas Roundup Ready alfalfa seeds make up only 1% of the market, sugar beets were deregulated in 2005, and today 95% of sugar beets sold are from Roundup Ready GM seeds.
Ag Groups Weigh-in on Supreme Court Case for Biotech Alfalfa
- American Farm Bureau, http://www.fb.org/
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 9, 2010 – The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether a lower court acted hastily and incorrectly by banning the cultivation of biotech alfalfa despite extensive scientific evidence documenting the safety of the crop. A coalition of agricultural organizations filed on March 8 a joint friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court in support of the petitioners in “Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms.”
The brief was submitted by the American Farm Bureau Federation, Biotechnology Industry Organization, American Seed Trade Association, American Soybean Association, National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Cotton Council and National Potato Council.
The groups urge that the lower courts’ decision to approve an injunction without adequately hearing the key evidence must be reversed “to protect the farmers who choose to grow genetically-engineered crops, as well as the public benefits that agricultural biotechnology brings to producers and consumers around the world.”
In the lower court case, environmental groups and individual organic alfalfa farmers sued the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), claiming that USDA’s decision to grant deregulated status to glyphosate-tolerant (or “Roundup Ready®”) alfalfa violated the National Environmental Policy Act.
The courts in the Ninth Circuit determined that USDA should have done an environmental impact statement (EIS) before it decided to deregulate, and the court ultimately enjoined almost all planting and sale of Roundup Ready® alfalfa pending the issuance of the EIS.
The lower court’s injunction against biotech alfalfa, however, was made without the court conducting a thorough review of evidence that precluded a finding of irreparable harm, according to the brief. In addition, the brief explains that the lower courts failed to consider the public benefits of agricultural biotechnology, which already is adopted widely in the United States for a number of key crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets, and papaya.
In 2005, USDA’S Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) concluded that there is no significant impact on the human environment due to granting non-regulated status to Roundup Ready® alfalfa. Following the lower court’s ruling, APHIS completed a 1,400-page document as its draft EIS, and again has recommended that Roundup Ready® alfalfa be deregulated and that farmers be allowed to grow it.
This is an important case because it will be the first time the high court has weighed in on the risks of genetically engineered crops. Of the more than 10,000 cases appealed to the Supreme Court each year, only about 1 percent is accepted for review on the merits and oral arguments. This matter is scheduled for oral argument on April 27. A decision is expected from the Court by June.
European Union - Green light for GM Maize
- www. foodbizdaily.com
The European Commission has authorised the use of three GM maize products for food and feed, along with the growth of the Amflora GM potato for industrial use and feed.
Meanwhile the commission plans to come up with a proposal by the summer, allowing member states more choice in GMO cultivation. This will address how a community authorisation system, based on science, can be combined with freedom for member states to decide whether or not they wish to cultivate GM crops on their territory. The GM Amflora potato is the first genetically modified cultivation to win approval in 12 years in the European Union
It was developed by the German chemicals group, BASF, and was authorised by the EC for use in the production of starch that is suitable for industrial applications such as paper production. The use of Amflora's starch by-products as feed has also been authorised.
However, the decision to allow the placing on the market of the three Monsanto GM maize products for food and feed uses and import and processing does not allow for cultivation. Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner, John Dalli said: “After an extensive and thorough review of the five pending GM files, it became clear to me that there were no new scientific issues that merited further assessment. “All scientific issues, particularly those concerning safety, had been fully addressed. Any delay would have simply been unjustified.”
The Amflora decision provides for strict cultivation conditions to prevent the possibility that GM potatoes will remain in the fields after harvest and to ensure that Amflora's seed will not be inadvertently disseminated into the wider environment. The authorisations are valid for 10 years. The authorised maize is produced by conventional crossing of two or three GM maize already authorised in the EU for food and feed uses and import and processing
We Need GM Plants That Benefit Consumers and Not Just Farmers
- Eoin Lettice, the Guardian (UK), March 8, 2010 http://www.guardian.co.uk
'Despite the decision by the European Union last week to approve the cultivation of a GM potato, plant scientist Eoin Lettice argues that consumers will only accept the technology when it provides tangible benefits for them'
Last week's decision by the European Commission to allow genetically modified potato varieties to be grown in some European Union countries concludes a 13-year campaign by the German chemical company BASF.
Ordinary potatoes produce two kinds of starch, but the GM potato Amflora only produces the economically useful form, amylopectin, which is used in the paper, textiles and adhesives industries. Production of the uneconomic form, amylase, has been turned off by genetic modification, so the useful starch doesn't need to be separated from the useless form during processing. BASF says that while starch from its GM potato will not be used in human food, it may use the product in animal feed.
What particularly worries opponents of GM technology, however, is that Amflora carries an extra gene that makes the potato resistant to the antibiotics neomycin and kanamycin. Why is it there? GM plants are produced by inserting novel genes into individual plant cells and then growing the cells into whole plants in the laboratory. Gene insertion can be achieved by using a bacterium to "ferry" it into the cell or by blasting it in using a gene gun. Alternatively, the tough plant cell wall can be stripped off and the gene can be inserted into this "naked" cell.
Regardless of the technique used, not all of the plant cells will take up the novel gene and incorporate it into their own DNA – perhaps just five cells out of every thousand. Tagging the novel gene with an antibiotic resistance gene allows modified cells to be singled out, because they will be resistant to a specific range of antibiotics.
This has been a source of concern for campaigners, but in June 2009, the European Food Safety Authority ruled that marker genes like this are unlikely to cause adverse effects on human health and the environment. As a result of limitations in sampling and detection it was unable to be conclusive, but the authority emphasised that it considered Amflora to be safe.
BASF first submitted its Amflora potato for approval in 1996. However, an EU-wide moratorium on GM between 1998 and 2004 delayed the process substantially. When the potato was resubmitted for approval after the moratorium ended, progress was so slow that in 2008 BASF filed an action against the EC in the European Court of First Instance for "failure to act" and decide on the issue despite the European Food Safety Authority saying in two separate reports that the product was as safe as any conventional potato.
The company claimed that the previous commissioner, Stavros Dimas, "unjustifiably delayed" the decision on several occasions. Now, within weeks of stepping into the role, the new European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli, has given the green light for planting to begin. BASF says the potatoes will be grown in Germany and the Czech Republic this year, and in Sweden and the Netherlands in 2011.
Opponents of GM technology have been quick to denounce the decision, with Greenpeace saying that Dalli has "steamrolled" a decision through. Given that the potato variety in question has undergone 13 years of testing since its first submission, this analogy might be better applied to the lumbering decision-making process in Europe rather than this final decisive move by the new commissioner.
At the root of this issue is consumers' wariness about GM foodstuffs and GM organisms in general. Consumers genuinely do not see the worth of GM products, which is why there is a need to move beyond crops that confer benefits to industry and growers alone towards second-generation GM that produces added health and nutritional benefits for consumers.
Hans Kast, president and CEO of BASF Plant Science, is on record as saying that the Amflora potato could potentially earn European farmers an extra €100 million annually. The company has also pointed out that it is losing between €20m and €30m in licence income for every lost cultivation season.
Perhaps I'm being presumptuous, but I can't imagine many Irish or European consumers lying awake at night worrying about lost revenues for BASF. What Irish consumers are interested in, however, are real and tangible benefits from their foods.
In a survey in 2005 by Ireland's Agriculture and Food Development Authority, 42% of consumers questioned indicated that they would consider purchasing a hypothetical GM-produced yoghurt if it had anti-cancer properties. In the same study, 44% of consumers said that they would use a GM-produced dairy spread if it had anti-cancer properties.
"Second generation" GM crops also have a role to play in developing countries, with the development of fortified foodstuffs such as "golden rice" to counteract malnutrition. A new variety of Golden Rice has been engineered to produce even more pro-vitamin A to combat vitamin A deficiency.
Undoubtedly, some British and Irish consumers, in common with their European counterparts, are reluctant to consume GM crops and see them growing in their countries. The focus of industry on benefits to the grower and seed producer rather than on consumer-centred benefits will prolong this reluctance and hamper the innovation in our food and agriculture industries that is so badly needed.
Eoin Lettice is a lecturer in the department of zoology, ecology and plant science at University College Cork, Ireland. He specialises in the control of plant pests and diseases
U.S. Scientist: Developing Nations to Adopt GM Crops Faster
- Banikinkar Pattanayak, Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2010 http://Online.wsj.com/
New Delhi -- Developing countries led by China and Brazil will overtake rich nations in adopting genetically modified crops over the next two-three years, as they strive to raise yields to meet demand from their growing population, a top farm scientist said.
Currently, 46% of the land under genetically modified crops is in developing countries, but their share will increase to more than half in two-three years, Clive James, chairman of the U.S.-based International Service For the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, or ISAAA, told Dow Jones Newswires Wednesday.
Modifying crops genetically to increase their yields and resistance has been in the midst of controversy since their introduction in 1996. While their advocates, such as the ISAAA, say biotechnology has the potential to raise yield by up to 50% depending on the crop, critics raise safety issues and impact of the crops on environment.
India, a major user of Bt cotton seeds, has witnessed a sharp rise in areas under the genetically modified variety since the introduction of it in 2002, and domestic cotton industry experts expect the growth to continue. However, the country's federal government last month had put on hold the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal, or genetically modified eggplant, for exhaustive tests after protests from environmental groups and farmers.
Mr. James still expects India to be a major user of genetically modified seeds. "China, Brazil, India, Argentina and South Africa are the big five that will drive rise in Bt crop areas as they try to improve yield when arable land growth is stagnant."
He said as much as 60 million hectares of land would come under genetically modified rice and maize in equal proportions in China over the next three years, as that country has granted a critical regulatory approval for both the crops.
Globally, the cultivation area under genetically modified crop is expected to rise to 200 million hectares by 2015 from 134 million hectares now. Of the 25 countries that grow genetically modified crops currently, U.S. accounts for the maximum acreage--64 million hectares, according to ISAAA data.
Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops 2009: The First Fourteen Years, 1996 to 2009
The global area of genetically modified (GM) crops grew by seven percent in 2009, to 134 hectares, according to this year's International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) "Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops" report. The largest cultivator of GM crops is still said to be the U.S. (with 64.0 million hectares), followed by Brazil (21.4 million), Argentina (21.3), India (8.4), Canada (8.2), China (3.7), Paraguay (2.2), and South Africa (2.1). GM crops were planted commercially in a total of 25 countries, according to the report.
The area planted to GM crops in South Africa is said to have grown by 17 percent between 2008 and 2009. In 2009, approximately 115,000 hectares of commercial Bt cotton were planted in Burkina Faso, up from just 8,500 hectares planted in 2008 (a 14-fold increase), the report says. In 2009, Egypt, in its second year of GM planting, is said to have planted approximately 1,000 hectares of Bt maize, a modest increase of approximately 15 percent over 2008. The report says that the number of GM crop farmers increased by 0.7 million to 14.0 million worldwide in 2009. Ninety percent of these were small and resource-poor farmers in developing countries, according to the report.
Soybeans, corn, cotton, and canola were still the main GM crops, according to the report. For the first time, more than three-quarters (77 percent) of the 90 million hectares of soybean grown globally were GM; for cotton, almost half (49 percent) of the 33 million hectares were GM; for maize, over a quarter (26 percent) of the 158 million hectares grown globally were GM; and finally for canola, 21 percent of the 31 million hectares were GM, the report says. The report highlights China's approval, in what it calls a "landmark decision," of Bt rice and phytase maize for future planting. The executive summary can be viewed online at the link below.
South Africa: Local GM Crop Area Expands Hurriedly
- Sapa, Business Report (South Africa), March 10, 2010
The acceptance of genetically modified (GM) crop technology in South Africa was growing, a biotechnology consultant said yesterday. "There were predictions of disasters but nothing ever materialised," Wally Green said at the release of a report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).
Green said there had been much negativity surrounding GM technology, but the use of GM crops in South Africa was surging ahead at an unprecedented rate. "More than 70 percent of South Africa's total maize plantings for the 2009/10 season are GM," he said.
The first estimate that 2.4 million hectares of maize would be planted this season had been used to calculate the GM share, he explained. "White maize represents - 1.536 million hectares and yellow maize - 864 000ha," Green said. Of the total maize area about 1.878 million hectares would be GM, a rise of 16 percent from the previous season.
"The market has spoken and it's said that we can use technology to supplement what we had before, and now with climate change, this is more so," Green said. "We now need every single tool that we can get and GM biotechnology is one of the tools."
There were two advantages to GM technology: higher yields, important for food security; and better quality grain. Green said South Africa had continued to maintain its eighth position among biotech crop countries. "According to the ISAAA survey, the estimated total biotech crop in South Africa in 2009 was 2.1 million hectares," he added.
New Booklet Details Environmental Benefits of Ag Biotechnology
- Conservation Technology Information Center, February 24, 2010 http://www.ctic.org
West Lafayette, Ind. – Agricultural biotechnology is a powerful tool for increasing yields, improving crop quality and characteristics, and facilitating sustainable farming practices such as conservation tillage — all vital to keeping up with the world’s growing demand for food, feed, fuel and fiber.
A new booklet developed by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) — “Facilitating Conservation Farming Practices and Enhancing Environmental Sustainability with Agricultural Biotechnology” — digs deep into the data surrounding the adoption of biotech crops.
Among many important statistics, the document describes: . The projected growth of the global population to 9 billion by 2040; . The 69-percent increase in no-till farming since the 1996 introduction of herbicide-resistant crops; . A drop in herbicide usage of 47.4 million pounds of active ingredient where herbicide-tolerant soybeans or cotton were planted in the U.S. in 2007; . The replacement of 8.67 million pounds of insecticide active ingredient in 2007 where U.S. growers planted insect-resistant cotton and corn varieties; . Reductions in soil loss of 90 percent or more, and reduced movement of phosphorus by more than 70 percent where no-till is used; . The capture of billions of pounds of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere in conservation-tilled soils across the U.S.
The new document is the latest in a vast library created by CTIC throughout its 25-year history as a repository for information on conservation farming practices. “The document really explores the breadth of the environmental benefits of conservation tillage practices, which are facilitated significantly by biotechnology crops,” says Karen A. Scanlon, executive director of CTIC in West Lafayette, Ind. “We’ve been seeing extremely positive and informative data on improvements in soil, water and air quality, including large potential impacts on greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.” More
The United Soybean Board (USB) funded the paper, which updates a document prepared by CTIC in 2003. Since the original paper was published, studies have explored emerging issues such as the effect of tillage practices on carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas releases, as well as other environmental impacts of conservation farming practices, notes Dr. Rich Joost, Director of Production Research for USB in Chesterfield, Mo. Collecting data from researchers around the world in a single, concise, readable document provides growers with important talking points about the benefits of their management choices, Joost says – insight that can help other stakeholders understand the dramatic improvements in environmental sustainability and productivity over the past several years.
“The bottom line is growers make decisions that help them do a good job and remain economically successful, but at the same time, they’re also doing things that are good for the environment,” Joost says. “But they don’t always have the information at their fingertips that allows them to communicate those benefits to policy people and neighbors.”
David Wilson, a farmer from Lincoln, Ala., USB’s Sustainability Committee Chair, puts it in personal terms. “We started no-tilling in 1974, and we did it because the savings in fuel and the savings of horsepower per acre,” he notes, pointing out that the current focus on greenhouse gases highlights an unforeseen benefit of those reductions. “We figure we’re saving approximately four gallons of fuel per acre, and that amounts to about 22 pounds per gallon of carbon that’s not put into the air.”
People both on and off the farm often overlook the environmental benefits of biotech, adds USB director Mike Thede, a grower from Palmer, Neb. “Biotechnology has increased the ability of the nation’s fields to be able to continue to produce on a high level, and has reduced the amount of environmentally negative impacts,” he points out.
The new document delivers data to support the point, as well as a detailed list of academic references. The paper, which was reviewed by a multi-disciplinary panel of experts, will be available online at http://www.ctic.org/BiotechSustainability or in hard copy by calling CTIC at (765) 494-9555. The new document complements other elements of USB’s extensive online library of information on agricultural biotechnology, which is accessible at http://www.unitedsoybean.org/programs/biotechnology.aspx.
The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) is a national, public-private partnership that champions conservation agriculture and serves as a clearinghouse for information on conservation farming issues and practices, as well as a facilitator for training and workshops. For more information, visit www.ctic.org.
PRRI-STOA Seminar for EU Parliamentarians on GMOs
- Crop Biotech Update, isaaa.org
The non-profit Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI) and the European Parliament's Science and Technology Options Assessment Panel (STOA) held a joint seminar February 25, 2010 at the EU parliament on "The impact of EU GMO-regulations on biotechnology research for the public good".
The article says the seminar was focused on constraints on public sector research that have been created by what are said to be "unnecessary regulatory hurdles" in many countries, particularly those in the EU. Over 150 people were in attendance, including scientists and representatives from the European Commission, various European Governments, non-governmental organizations, and industry. Presenting at the seminar, Dr. El-Beltagy, chair of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), argued that green biotechnology can aid in the development of crops that can survive the effects of climate change.
Maive Rute, director of European Commission's Biotechnology, Agriculture and Fisheries and Food Directorate, gave an account of how she said that biotechnology, including genetic modification (GM) technology, can benefit Europe. Rute also discussed actions taken by the European Commission to support biotechnology research. Emilio Rodriguez of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre and Institute for Prospective Technological Studies presented on the economic and productivity impacts of growing GM crops worldwide and within the EU.
And Piero Morandini of the University of Milan in Italy described difficulties being experienced by European public researchers as a result of the way in which GM regulations have been implemented. Morandini described various research projects that are halted at the laboratory level due to costs and "regulatory hurdles" associated with conducting GM field trials. More information at
Oviposition Behaviour of Pest Insects Keeps Bt-Cotton Durably Resistant
- Wageningen University and Research Centre, March 1, 2010
Moths behave like Darwin's finches - The oviposition behaviour of insect pests results in an improved durability of insect resistance in so-called Bt-crops, while promoting the survival of pest insects elsewhere in nature. This is the result of research carried out by the Plant Sciences Group of Wageningen UR in collaboration with the University of North Carolina (USA). Bt-cotton has been cultivated on a large scale in countries such as China, India and the US for over thirteen years now. During this period the crops' resistance has hardly ever been broken. According to the scientists, this can likely be attributed to the fact that some insect pest individuals have a preference for laying eggs on other plants. The larvae from those eggs will develop normally, giving them a selective advantage. The results were recently published in the scientific journal
Evolutionary Ecology - The scientists made their discovery using computer models. "These models show that the cultivation of, for instance, moth-resistant cotton is evolutionarily beneficial for female moths that prefer laying their eggs on other plant species," says Marcel Dicke, Professor of Entomology at the Plant Sciences Group. "As a result, the majority of the moth population will acquire a genetic composition that makes them avoid laying their eggs on cotton and prefer to do so on other host plants. This implies that the cotton plants will remain durably resistant and free from pest insects, while the moths can survive elsewhere in nature."
This is the first time that research has been performed into the effect of insect behaviour on the durability of plant resistance against insects in GM crops. "It is actually quite remarkable that this issue has never been investigated in this way," says Maarten Jongsma, scientist at Plant Research International of the Plant Sciences Group. "Based on other modelling studies, it was generally believed that the resistance to insects was not durable and could only be made to last longer by planting both resistant and non-resistant plants together in order to reduce the selection pressure. This is why US professor Fred Gould, who has also been involved in the research, developed the refuge strategy, which was adopted as official policy. But our research shows that the chance of breaking the resistance may be much smaller than the chance of changing insect behavioural preferences."
Increase in GM crops - Bt-cotton and Bt-maize genetically engineered for resistance to the larvae of specific moths have successfully been introduced worldwide. The introduced genes code for toxins that are naturally present in Bt-cotton. In the US, China and India the method is used to protect nearly all cotton against the main pest insects, resulting in increased yields and lower costs for combating insects.Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria, hence the names Bt-maize and Bt-cotton
Refuge approach - By planting resistant plants mixed with non-resistant plants, the development of insensitive insects was expected to slow down due to the reduced selection pressures. This concept was the rationale behind the refuge strategy, which has been applied over the past thirteen years forcing farmers to sow 20 percent of their acreage with susceptible plants. As a result a susceptible insect pest population is maintained, in order to maintain an effective plant resistance.
Behaviour - Insects are usually capable of reproducing on more than one type of plant. The behaviour of the female determines on which plant they lay their eggs and every female has her own preference. Some female moths prefer to lay their eggs on other plants than cotton, even if the cotton is not resistant to its larvae. The preference is determined genetically.
Frequently Asked Questions about GMOs and Bt-Brinjal
- Siddhartha Shome -sidshome+at+gmail.com-
Dear Prof. Prakash,
I am a regular reader of the AgBioView newsletter.
In the wake of the controversy over Bt-Brinjal in India, I have written a blog post entitled
"Frequently Asked Questions about GMOs and Bt-Brinjal" at http://sidshome1.blogspot.com/2010/02/frequently-asked-questions-about-gmos.html.
Also, in Nov 2008 I had written an article on farmers' suicides in India: ( P. Sainath and Farmers' Suicides in India) http://sidshome1.blogspot.com/2008/11/p-sainath-and-farmers-suicides-in-india.html
India's Bt Cotton Crop Area Rises to 8 Million Hectares; Yields Up 31 Per Cent: Minister
- Domain B, March 10 2010 http://www.domain-b.com/industry/biotechnology/index.html
The area under Bt cotton in the country has increased from 29,000 hectares in 2002-03 to an anticipated 8 million hectares in 2009-10. Bt cotton has also helped increase crop yields by 31 per cent, the government said today.
The average yield of Bt cotton has increased from 300 kg per hectare in 2001-02 to 560 kg per hectare in 2007-08, K V Thomas, minister of state for agriculture, consumer affairs, food and public distribution, informed the Lok Sabha in a written reply today.
Cultivation of Bt cotton has resulted in a 31 per cent increase in yields, 39 per cent reduction in pesticide usage and more than 80 per cent increase in profitability of farmers, the minister said, quoting figures from International Service for Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications 2009 (ISAAA 2009) report.
The Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur has been conducting detailed studies at the state level in collaboration with the state agricultural universities of the nine major cotton growing states, he said in his reply.
Information so far collected indicates that yields have increased in these cotton growing states with the introduction of Bt cotton, he said, adding that the bollworm menace has also significantly reduced all over the country. He also said there has been a reduction in market share of insecticides used in cotton.
AgriGenomics World Congress
- July 8-9, 2010; Brussels http://www.selectbiosciences.com/conferences/AGWC2010/index.aspx
AgriGenomics is the detailed study of the genetic makeup of plants and how all the genes work together to produce the crop. Recently there has been great interest in genetically engineering plants to optimize yields and their use in bio-fuels. There is also focus on the alteration of certain genes to increase plant resistance towards disease and infection. So, now is a good time for scientists, business people, bio-ethicists and patent experts from around the globe to come together and catch up with the latest developments in this fast expanding field.
Keynote Presentation - The Role of Genomics in the Future of Food Security by Jim Dunwell, Professor, University of Reading: This presentation discusses the role of genomics in the search for a sustainable intensification of global agriculture in which crop yields are increased without adverse environmental impact and without the cultivation of more land.
Panel Discussion - Enhancing Public Acceptance of GM Crops in Europe - The Role of Scientific Community
While genetically modified crops are now grown in 25 countries around the globe including many in Europe, there are still major hurdles for wide spread acceptance of this technology across the EU. This panel discussion involving scientific experts drawn from both Europe and North America will identify those hurdles and then explore strategies to enhance increased acceptance of crop biotechology across Europe
Vivian Moses, Professor, Kings College London; Jens Katzek, BIO Mitteldeutschland; C.S. Prakash, Professor, Tuskegee University; Jim Dunwell, Professor, University of Reading
GM Animals – Another GM Crops? by Ann Bruce, Senior Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh
GM crops have had a troubled passage within Europe. Can future developments in GM animals learn from these experiences? This presentation will consider some of the social context for the development of GM animals in Europe.
Glenn Beck Sponsor Sows Seeds of Fear
- Steve Pendlebury, Editor. AOL News, March 9 http://www.aolnews.com/
"Crisis" and "garden" are two words that don't normally go together. But this is about Glenn Beck's TV show, where conventional thinking often doesn't apply. His latest advertiser on the Fox News program sells seeds to help people survive impending totalitarianism.
Survival Seed Bank's pitch should be familiar to Beck's viewers -- "Are you worried about the economy?" -- only the product is different. Although the popular program lost sponsors after the host called President Barack Obama a racist, it's held on to those that target people who worry about big government and a financial collapse, such as the gold coin dealer Goldline.
"Are you ever worried that the politicians and the bankers are going to bring the whole thing crashing down?" asks the commercial that first aired on Beck's show Monday. It goes on to explain that "in an economic meltdown, non-hybrid seeds could become more valuable than even silver and gold" and will be "the ultimate barter item."
The ad is mild compared to what's on Survival Seed Bank's Web site. "You don't have to be an Old Testament prophet to see what's going on all around us. A belligerent lower class demanding handouts. A rapidly diminishing middle class crippled by police state bureaucracy. An aloof, ruling elite that has introduced us to an emerging totalitarianism which seeks control over every aspect of our lives. As the meltdown progresses, one of the first things to be affected will be our nation's food supply. If you don't have the ability to grow your own food next year, your life may be in danger."
For $150, the company will sell you packages of 22 varieties of seeds -- enough to plant an acre of beans, tomatoes, corn, lettuce and more in a "crisis garden." And these aren't just any seeds. They are "super seeds, grown by small, fiercely independent farmers" in "remote plots, far from the prying eyes of the big hybrid seed companies," according to Survival Seed Bank. It claims most companies sell only genetically modified "terminator" seeds that won't reproduce themselves.
The company was already advertising on several conservative talk radio shows, as well as the Drudge Report, but the commercial on Beck's TV show fits right in with "the host's apocalyptic visions of the future," observed Oliver Wills of Media Matters for America.
"There's nothing wrong with a business that serves some kind of demand in the marketplace, but it goes without saying that fearmongering about economic collapse followed by food shortages -- is big-time black helicopter stuff," Wills said.