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June 7, 2010


Substantially equivalent vs. substantially better; GM expert on feeding the world


Today in AgBioView
From* AgBioWorld, June 7, 2010

* GM expert on feeding the world
* Environment secretary backs GM crops
* Safety assessment of nonbrowning potatoes
* GM Trout Could Boost Aquaculture
* India: Training programme on biotech applications and regulations
* Conference to focus on health impacts of food, agriculture and nutrition


GM expert Professor Maurice Moloney on feeding the world
- Timothy Marshall, ABC News (Australia), June 6, 2010

In just 40 years, global food production is going to have to double to feed the world.

And to make matters even more difficult, agricultural researchers are being told to add other factors to the population boom equation, such as climate change.

The new director of Rothamstead Research in the UK, the largest, oldest and arguably the most important agricultural research station in the world, is Professor Maurice Moloney, a scientist best known for developing the world's first transgenic oilseeds and the genetically modified crop that is grown in Australia, RoundUp Ready(R) Canola.

Professor Moloney argues that GM is all about feeding a hungry world and says serious scientific bodies have looked at GM technology again in recent years and concluded it would be a mistake to exclude the technology from the arsenal of tools needed to deal with both global food security and environmental protection challenges.

Listen to the full interview of Professor Moloney speaking to Tim Marshall by following the link on this page.



Environment secretary Caroline Spelman backs GM crops
- Juliette Jowit and John Vidal, The Guardian (UK), June 4, 2010

In her first interview in charge of Defra, Caroline Spelman committed coalition to becoming most pro-GM government yet

The wider growing and selling of genetically modified crops has received its strongest government backing to date from the new environment secretary, Caroline Spelman.

At present no GM crops are commercially grown in the UK, and the previous Labour government was nervous of promoting GM foods because of fear of a renewed public backlash against "Frankenstein foods". But in her first interview in charge of the department of environment food and rural affairs, the minister committed the new coalition to becoming the most pro-GM government yet, saying she was in favour of GM foods "in the right circumstances".

"GM can bring benefits in food to the marketplace. The sale should not be promoted by the taxpayer. [New Environment minister] Lord Henley has approved a trial of a potato blight-resistant variety. That's the kind of modification that can reduce the amount of agro-chemicals which need to be applied," said Spelman, who spent 15 years in the agriculture industry and worked as director of a biotechnology lobbying firm.

She added: "There are benefits to developing countries, like drought resistance or resistance to high salt content in water. The principle of GM technology is [OK] if used well. The technology can be beneficial."

But in a reference to Labour's £500,000 plan to gauge public attitudes to the controversial technology, she said she was not in favour of using taxpayers' money to promote the industry. Two members of the Food Standards Agency committee in charge of the plan recently resigned in protest.

"The Food Standards Agency should not be spending taxpayers' money promoting GM foods," Spelman said.



Safety assessment of nonbrowning potatoes: opening the discussion about the relevance of substantial equivalence on next generation biotech crops.
- Llorente B, Alonso GD, Bravo-Almonacid F, Rodríguez V, López MG, Carrari F, Torres HN, Flawiá MM, Plant Biotechnol J. 2010 May 21


It is expected that the next generation of biotech crops displaying enhanced quality traits with benefits to both farmers and consumers will have a better acceptance than first generation biotech crops and will improve public perception of genetic engineering. This will only be true if they are proven to be as safe as traditionally bred crops. In contrast with the first generation of biotech crops where only a single trait is modified, the next generation of biotech crops will add a new level of complexity inherent to the mechanisms underlying their output traits. In this study, a comprehensive evaluation of the comparative safety approach on a quality-improved biotech crop with metabolic modifications is presented. Three genetically engineered potato lines with silenced polyphenol oxidase (Ppo) transcripts and reduced tuber browning were characterized at both physiological and molecular levels and showed to be equivalent to wild-type (WT) plants when yield-associated traits and photosynthesis were evaluated. Analysis of the primary metabolism revealed several unintended metabolic modifications in the engineered tubers, providing evidence for potential compositional inequivalence between transgenic lines and WT controls. The silencing construct sequence was in silico analysed for potential allergenic cross-reactivity, and no similarities to known allergenic proteins were identified. Moreover, in vivo intake safety evaluation showed no adverse effects in physiological parameters. Taken together, these results provide the first evidence supporting that the safety of next generation biotech crops can be properly assessed following the current evaluation criterion, even if the transgenic and WT crops are not substantially equivalent.


Genetically Modified Rainbow Trout Could Boost Aquaculture
- Zulima Palacio, Voice of America, June 7, 2010

For many years millions of people around the world have been fed by genetically modified crops. Soon, some food animals will be genetically modified as well, to be larger and grow more efficiently to feed a rapidly growing population. At a laboratory in Rhode Island, rainbow trout much larger than usual are already being produced. Frances Alonzo narrates.

The two rainbow trout (pictured above) are the same age and were raised in the same tank. But the larger one has been genetically modified.

"You can see this enhanced muscling and these are the parent stock," Professor Terry Bradley explained. Bradley leads the research at (the Department of fisheries and veterinary science at) the University of Rhode Island. "The other fish on the bottom, you can see it doesn't have the increased muscle mass. So we know this fish has about 20 per cent more muscle mass than the standard fish has."

The process starts in a laboratory. Over the last four years, Dr. Bradley has injected 20,000 rainbow trout eggs with a DNA variation which inhibits a protein that restricts muscle growth. "Each egg and the micro pump is set to deliver 5 nano-liters of DNA which you cannot see it. We put dye in it, so all you see is this tiny little dot inside the egg, of green food coloring, and that's the only way you know it has been injected," he said.

In a normal-sized trout, a genetically-controlled protein called "Myostatin" keeps the fish from growing beyond a certain size.

Dr. Bradley's research shows that altering the gene that produces Myostatin seems to result in more muscle mass. "We inject them into the egg, so each egg gets injected with a little bit of DNA," he says, "and if you get lucky a bit of that gets incorporated into the genome of the developing embryo and that develops into a fish."

Once the eggs hatch they start their journey through a series of tanks in this aquaculture research facility. But from all the thousands of injected eggs, only 300 fish so far have carried the modified gene.

The research will continue for a few more years before a larger and more efficiently-growing rainbow trout can move on to the commercial markets. Bradley says the final goal is to increase the overall efficiency of aquaculture.

"For example where it typically may take 1.2 kilogram of feed to produce one kilogram of fish we hope that by inhibiting Myostatin we hope that one kilogram of food will produce one kilogram of fish," Bradley said.

Professor Bradley's study has been funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"The purpose of understanding muscle growth would be, first, to produce that muscle in a more efficient and more sustainable manner, that is to produce more meet for consumption with less input of resources, less energy, less feed, less labor input," Mark Mirando, with the Department's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, stated.

And perhaps, he says, with better taste or more nutrients. Worldwide, the fish most commonly produced through aquaculture are catfish and tilapia, both freshwater species. But salmonid species like salmon and trout are rapidly becoming more popular in the industry.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the value of aquaculture production rose to nearly one billion dollars in the U.S.over the past 20 years, mostly due to growing demand for fish in general and harvesting restrictions on wild fish. Mirando says the rapid growth of aquaculture is linked to population growth.

"The demand for seafood in the US and worldwide is rapidly increasing but the ability of the oceans to supply that food, even at the current levels, disregarding population increases and increases in demand; the ability of the oceans to supply that is diminishing," Mirando said.

Mirando dismisses concerns about genetic modifications, pointing out that humans have already genetically modified many plants and animals through centuries of selective breeding. The most common examples, he says, are dogs, which range in size from Chihuahuas to great Danes.


India: Training programme on 'Application on Biotechnology and its Regulations' - Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation, New Delhi, August 2 to 22 , 2010 <http://www.teriin.org/index.php?option=com_events&task=details&sid=307>http://www.teriin.org/index.php?option=com_events&task=details&sid=307

ITEC (Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India) will meet the costs of the course, travel and accommodation of the selected participants.

The programme is essentially focusing on agriculture biotechnology, techniques and status of acceptance of new technologies. In addition to traditional biotechnologies such as tissue culture propagation (micropropogation), use of biofertilisers and biopesticides (for organic agriculture), issues related to Plant Variety and Farmer's Rights etc. in their contest on Globalization will be discussed. The modern biotechnology based on molecular markers breeding and genetic engineering will be discussed in detail both from technology point of view and issues related to its acceptance globally. Biofuels which are emerging as the alternate energy source, will also be dealt in detail both for the existing identified species and its future growth using biomass and agriculture waste. The faculty for this course will be drawn from TERI and experts from other institutions will be invited to ensure that all the subjects are taught by the leading subject experts.

The candidates must apply by filling the ITEC/SCAAP application form and submit it to the nodal Government Department/Agency designated to nominate candidates. The nodal Department/Agency will in turn forward the applications to the Embassy/High Commission of India. Selected participants would be informed by the Indian embassies of the respective ITEC/SCAAP countries.

For more details : <http://www.teriin.org/index.php?option=com_events&task=details&sid=307>http://www.teriin.org/index.php?option=com_events&task=details&sid=307

ITEC website link that provides information on the - ITEC/SCAAP member countries, downloadable application form, how to apply section and terms and conditions page. Accommodation would be provided on double sharing basis. <http://itec.mea.gov.in/>http://itec.mea.gov.in/


Ag biotech conference to focus on health impacts of food, agriculture and nutrition
- University of California/Davis, June 3, 2010

Leading scientists from throughout the United States will gather June 16-18 at UC Davis to identify research priorities and government policies that enhance human health through agriculture, food and nutrition.

"With health care consuming so much of the developed world's resources, there is a critical need to understand how diet, nutrition, and the underlying agricultural production systems impact human health," said Alan Bennett, a UC Davis plant sciences professor and conference organizer.

"Promoting Health by Linking Agriculture, Food and Nutrition" is the theme of the 22nd annual conference of the National Agricultural Biotechnology Council. The conference is organized into five sessions that will address topics such as designing and producing healthy food, social and cultural dimensions of eating habits, bringing nutrition science to regulations and how business can find food and nutrition innovations.

"Agriculture and conventional food systems have provided the basis for long and healthy lives, and much of that improvement can be traced to healthier diets," Bennett said. "At the same time, we are faced with a growing critique that conventional food systems are a significant contributor to the health crisis that developed countries are facing, particularly related to obesity and diabetes."

It is with this dichotomy - agriculture and diet being both the problem and the solution to an increasing health crisis - that the conference is framed, addressing both sides of the issue. The conference will also look at ongoing research strategies to promote health through food and diet, as well as examine how governmental regulatory systems are providing oversight of the relationship between food and health.

The National Agricultural Biotechnology Council has been hosting annual public meetings about the safe, ethical and effective development of agricultural biotechnology products since its formation in 1988 by the Boyce Thompson Institute in collaboration with UC Davis, Cornell University and Iowa State University. Today the organization consists of 36 leading agricultural research and teaching universities, governmental agencies and institutions in the U.S. and Canada.

More detail about the conference agenda, program speakers and online registration is available at <http://nabc.ucdavis.edu/>http://nabc.ucdavis.edu/.


*Compiled by Andrew Apel. Back issues archived at <http://www.agbioworld.org>http://www.agbioworld.org