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Date:

June 24, 2010

Subject:

Court Puts Alfalfa Back in USDA; China Talks Biotech; Split Approvals and Hot Potatoes; Food Ethics; Organic Not 'Greener'

 


* USDA Regains Authority in Roundup Ready Alfalfa Case
* China: Let’s Talk about Biotech
* FAO's Capacity Building Activities In Biosafety
* OECD: Agricultural Biotechnologies to 2015
* Norman Borlaug Initiative: Leveraging U.S. Research to Reduce Hunger and Poverty
* Split Approvals and Hot Potatoes
* Buenos Aires: Symposium on the Biosafety of GMOs
* Biotechnology for a Better Tomorrow
* Food Ethics
* Challenge of Scientific Uncertainty and Disunity in Risk Assessment and Management of GM Crops
* Organic Pesticides Not Always 'Greener' Choice, Study Finds
---


USDA Regains Authority in Roundup Ready Alfalfa Case

- James Bruening, AgWeb, June 23, 2010
http://www.agweb.com/

The authority has shifted back into the hands of the USDA and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) after a 7-1 Supreme Court ruling Monday on the case of Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms.

In the case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that lower district courts had stepped out of their authority when forming an injunction against the sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa until an Environmental Impact Statement had been issued.

The case was first brought by a group of organic farming organizations and non-profit environmental groups. Their argument was that Roundup Ready alfalfa had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and was threatening the integrity of their crops. After a decision was made by district courts, an injunction was issued prohibiting the planting and sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa.

The case would then go on to be heard by the Ninth Circuit Court, which would affirm the district court’s decision. Read further background of this case.

The Supreme Court has noted that no irreparable harm could be caused by a partial deregulation of the product while an environmental impact statement is issued, which is far less extreme than a nationwide ban of the product. Their ruling has reversed the lower courts’ decision, remanding the case back to district courts while USDA decides what measures could be implemented while an environmental impact statement is issued.

This was a critical decision for Monsanto as such a statement can take up to one year to process, which would have disrupted the entire fall planting season. “The real issue here was whether or not the USDA and APHIS would be blocked from taking interim measures to allow expanded planting while the Environmental Impact Statement was being prepared,” says David Snively, Monsanto senior vice president and general counsel.

“It was an important ruling because it clarified that the NEPA injunction that was entered by the district court really was a thumb on the scales on the way the system is normally supposed to work. And the court made pretty clear that standard rules apply and there has to be a balancing of interests before broad injunctive relief can be granted.”

A similar district court case is being heard on the issuing of a permanent injunction on the sale of Roundup Ready sugar beets in California. Monsanto is now preparing for an oral argument of this case on July 9. “We knew the sugar beets case was trailing. I think it was important to get this precedent decided and thankfully it came out a few weeks before the oral argument on the sugar beets case.”


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

China: Let’s Talk about Biotech

- Jia Hepeng, China Dialog, June 24, 2010. Full article at
http://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/3690

Scientists need to better engage with public concerns over food safety, says Jia Hepeng, who believes communication is the key to resolving China’s conflict over genetically modified crops. The heated debate over genetically modified (GM) crops that has been raging in China in recent months has highlighted a communication gulf between scientists and the public, as well as the urgent need to improve the government’s transparency efforts.

Late last year, the Ministry of Agriculture announced that it had issued biosafety licenses to two pest-resistant Bacillus thurigiensis (Bt) rice varieties and one phytase maize, which can help livestock digest phosphorus, an important nutritional element found in maize and soy feeds.

The announcement caused an immediate furore. In early March, amid the annual plenary meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s legislature, 120 Chinese academics, mostly from the humanities and social sciences, signed a public petition asking the agriculture ministry to withdraw the certificates.

The petition made some strong claims: “The approval for the commercialisation of genetically modified rice and maize enables China to become the world’s first country to plant genetically modified staple food, thereby threatening national security.” At the same time, at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC) – China’s advisory “upper house” – the Zhigong Party also raised a motion asking that genetically modified crops be developed with caution.

Some environmental groups agree. “The current research has not been going long enough to test the genetic toxicity to later generations if genetically modified rice becomes a major food source for China’s 1.3 billion people,” says Fang Lifeng, a food safety campaigner at Beijing-based Greenpeace China.

But most GM scientists and biosafety experts think these worries are unnecessary. “We have already carried out intensive research into genetically modified crops and there is no evidence to support the concerns about their impact on the environment,” says Wu Kongming, a biosafety scientist at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and a member of the National Biosafety Committee on genetically modified food, which advises the government on certification.

Certainly, it is clear that the public petition confused biosafety licenses with commercialisation. The certificates did not mean the product would immediately appear on the open market. Large-scale production trials, development of more productive seeds with genes from approved varieties and evaluation of the seeds are all required before commercialisation can go ahead. This process will take another five years at least.

“Having gained the certificates, we will be able to carry out bigger field trials and collect much more data for testing safety. And, if we find any problems, then the process towards commercialisation can be stopped,” says Zhang Qifa, a leading scientist at Wuhan-based Huazhong Agricultural University, who has developed the certified rice varieties.

The 2009 annual report of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) states that, if commercialised, Bt rice could bring estimated annual benefits worth US$4 billion (27.3 billion yuan) to up to 440 million rice farmers in China.

Greenpeace’s Fang Lifeng says that most of the benefits will in fact go to big biotech companies, such as Monsanto, and farmers will lose out because they will be unable to obtain conventional seeds.

But Hu Ruifa, a senior researcher at the Beijing-based Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy (CCAP) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), disagrees. Hu says studies conducted by his centre have indicated that, in the case of genetically modified cotton, which covers nearly 70% of the land farmed for cotton in China, farmers have benefited and that it is still easy to get conventional seeds.

In 2006, a research team from Cornell University presented findings – based on CCAP data – indicating that, while farmers of Bt cotton had benefited during the first seven years of planting, their profit in 2005 was actually lower than that of non-GM cotton farmers. The reason given was that both groups of farmers had been forced to use extra pesticide to deal with the so-called secondary pests not targeted by the Bt gene and that those planting genetically modified cotton had to spend more money on seeds.

The study was widely quoted by international groups campaigning against the use of genetically modified crops. But Hu Ruifa says that some of those opting to plant the cheaper, non-GM seeds are doing so because the borer worm population targeted by the Bt gene has been significantly reduced following several years of plantation – and conventional farmers have therefore been able to reduce their pesticide use as well. The year examined by the Cornell research, 2005, was also unusual in its large-scale outbreak of the secondary pest, he says. Hu believes that, with improved management, GM-crop farmers can better deal with non-targeted secondary pests and reduce the need for fertiliser.

He also claims that year-on-year consistency in the size of the area used for genetically modified cotton – which only fluctuates with market demands and price – shows Chinese farmers are using GM seeds because they have confidence in them and not because they are unable to obtain conventional varieties.

Other challengers to the adoption of genetically modified crops focus on management issues. In late March, Greenpeace reported that it had found rice containing the Bt protein, suspected to have come from Huazhong Agricultural University, on sale in the southern Chinese city of Changsha. It is one of many such reports produced by the organisation since 2005. In the European market, rice food imported from China has, on several occasions, also been found to contain Bt ingredients.

Opponents say that the illegal plantation of genetically modified rice is a sign of lax management and that there is no guarantee that the crop would be well monitored and controlled if commercialised.

Zhang Qifa from Huazhong Agricultural University admits that the rice found in Changsha could have originated in his laboratory – not as a result of an intentional bid to sell genetically modified seeds for profits but because some samples could have been stolen during a national science show. “Illegal sales could be wiped out if legal, and better, GM rice varieties were commercialised,” he adds.

But opponents say the government is unlikely to effectively manage genetically modified rice if it goes onto the mass market, partly because of a lack of transparency in the decision-making process concerning biosafety and future commercialisation certificates. In the midst of all the protests, the Ministry of Agriculture admitted that the biosafety certificates were issued in August 2009, even though the formal announcement was not made until November. This acknowledgement triggered widespread criticism, to which the agriculture ministry officials did not respond.

“The officials have poor experience in dealing with crisis, and this will only strengthen the opposition,” says Hu. Zhang, on the other hand, thinks it is natural that the government did not announce the approvals earlier: “It is part of the ministry’s regular workstream, so why should it be widely publicised?”

Despite Zhang’s claim, he, like most other scientists in the field, is now aware that communication around the issue must be improved in order to help the public better understand the science of genetically modified crops.

No scientific research published in a peer-reviewed journal has found evidence that GM crops pose a significant health or environmental threat, but many environmental activists and large sections of the public reject the safety claims made by industry and scientists. By contrast, research on the potential harm of genetically modified crops that is publicised or sponsored by environmental groups often gets wider coverage, despite not being published in authoritative journals.

Such protests even led to cries of corruption. Many believe that scientists in this field are members of a vested interest group, promoting genetically modified crops solely for their own commercial benefit. Zhang rejects this claim. He says that scientists do not stand to profit from commercialisation because the intellectual-property rights over the GM crops belong to the government. Moreover, biosafety is evaluated independently, adds Wu Kongming. “We biosafety evaluation experts cannot share interests with GM scientists, because our interests are conflicting. All [biosafety and health] evaluations are based on scientific evidence.”

Chinese scientists operating in the field are now waking up to the need to boost communication efforts. In a CAS-commissioned consultative report on prospects for genetically modified crops – still a work in progress – a communication section has been added. Out of the hundreds of academic reports like this carried out so far, this is the first to include such a thing.

Of course, this report alone will not necessarily lead to improved communication. The scientific approach – only admitting conclusions based on peer-reviewed evidence – does not easily transfer to the public domain, where people like to hear sensational stories. In the case of genetic modification, this often means negative reporting.

Worries about the potential risks to future generations are often rejected by scientists as meaningless, or as philosophical rather than scientific questions, since there is no evidence on which to base an experiment. But these concerns must also be taken seriously. At the same time as increasing long-term safety assessments, scientists need to explain their actions to the public.

Greater efforts need to be made to communicate ongoing research in a readable way and to improve systems for decision-making, regulation and monitoring. Adrian Ely, a research fellow for science and technology policy at the United Kingdom’s University of Sussex, who has studied GM policies in China, says: “Transparency is a key issue to building long-term public trust.”
---
Jia Hepeng is editor-in-chief of Science News Bi-Weekly, published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and co-founder of the Climate Change Journalists’ Club.

=========

FAO's Capacity Building Activities In Biosafety

- FAO Biotech News, http://www.fao.org/biotech/news_list.asp?thexpand=1&cat=131)

FAO has just published "Building biosafety capacities: FAO's experience and outlook", which aims to illustrate the main findings and lessons learned from FAO's past and ongoing biosafety capacity building initiatives, in order to improve future interventions and better shape strategic planning, in line with the Cartagena Protocol and other related international instruments.

The 53-page book, by A. Sensi, K. Ghosh, M. Takeuchi and A. Sonnino, presents a brief overview of 26 biosafety capacity building projects, whose total funding amounted to about 7.5 million US dollars, launched by FAO since 2002. They include 18 national projects as well as six that are subregional, regional or interregional and two that are global. Conclusions in the book propose key operational elements for future initiatives to maximize results and fully meet countries' needs. See
http://www.fao.org/docrep/012/i1033e/i1033e00.htm or contact charlotte.lietaer@fao.org to request a copy, providing your full postal address.

------

OECD: Agricultural Biotechnologies to 2015

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently published "Biotechnologies in agriculture and related natural resources to 2015", by A. Arundel and D. Sawaya.

The 105-page article provides an overview of the current state of technological development and presents estimates and projections for the types of biotechnologies expected to reach the market for use in agriculture and related natural resources to 2015. It is one of two articles published in a special issue (volume 2009/3) of the periodical 'OECD Journal: General Papers', written for the 'Bioeconomy to 2030' project. See http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/19/36/44534300.pdf (2.1 MB) or contact david.sawaya@oecd.org for more information.

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

The Norman Borlaug Commemorative Research Initiative: Leveraging U.S. Research to Reduce Hunger and Poverty

http://www.feedthefuture.gov/research.html

As part of the U.S. government's new "Feed the Future" strategy, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are partnering to create the Norman Borlaug Commemorative Research Initiative. According to the press release, the new Borlaug Initiative will leverage one of the world's largest public research systems (spanning the USDA's research agencies) so as to increase its relevance and impact on problems and opportunities faced by smallholder farm families in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

The Borlaug Initiative envisions building on research supporting U.S. agriculture in a variety of ways. USAID will provide targeted support to USDA's in-house research to enhance its benefits for achieving food security objectives in developing countries. USDA will also realign some of its research investments in support of the strategy. The press release says that the has a unique role as a leader in agricultural science and technology, spanning early support for the Green Revolution up through the application of modern biotechnology.

Under Feed the Future, research investments will focus on priorities that: 1) "advance the productivity frontier" through a focus on breeding and genetics of staple crops; 2) transform production systems by integrating technological advances with applied research on conservation of soil and water resources, agricultural extension, and market access opportunities; and 3) enhance nutrition and food safety by increasing the productivity of grain legumes, reducing mycotoxin contamination of crops, biofortifying staple crops, and increasing the availability of animal-based foods. (via Meridian)

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

Split Approvals and Hot Potatoes

- Henry I Miller, Nature Biotechnology - June 2010 v. 28, p 552–553 www.nature.com

To the Editor: The letter by Gerhart Ryffel in the April issue1 outlines some of the public perception concerns surrounding the European Union's (EU; Brussels) recent sanctioning of the cultivation of a genetically modified (GM) potato—the first for any GM plant in 12 years. But readers should be far more concerned about the form of approval granted by EU authorities. Registration of BASF's (Ludwigshafen, Germany) Amflora was only for commercial production of starch for industrial purposes, not for food use. This 'split approval' is a disaster waiting to happen.

Amflora was created because of a limitation of conventional potato varieties. Such potatoes contain starch granules made up of two glucose polymers: amylopectin, a highly branched molecule, and amylose, which has a linear arrangement. Although the alignment of the linear amylose chains in potatoes may be useful in food preparation (e.g., for setting sauces on cooling) and contributes to the consistency of potatoes as a foodstuff, it is undesirable and must be removed in many industrial applications, such as making the coating on glossy printing paper. The availability of Amflora means that potatoes with low-amylose starch appropriate for industrial uses will now be grown in Europe and offer economic benefits to local industry and farmers.

All well and good. But the decision of EU regulators to provide a split approval, which permits animal feed or industrial uses but not human consumption, is likely to invite all sorts of mischief. One only need look no further than the debacle surrounding a similar decision by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a decade ago on a recombinant DNA-modified corn variety called StarLink that contains a bacterial protein, Cry9C, toxic to certain lepidopteran insects2.

Because of unresolved dubious concerns about possible allergenicity of the novel StarLink protein—which, similar to many known allergens, takes slightly longer than most proteins to be digested in a laboratory simulation of digestion—the EPA approved the variety only for animal but not human consumption.

Following StarLink's commercialization, an activist organization paid a laboratory to test a large selection of packaged food products made with corn (including corn chips, tortillas and taco shells) and found the unintended presence of the Cry9C protein in some of them. After newspaper and television news reports announced that the unapproved protein—which EPA regulated as a pesticide—was found in food products taken from grocery store shelves, 28 people reported that they had experienced allergic-like reactions after eating food products that contained corn. However, an intensive investigation of adverse effects reports by the US Centers for Disease Control was not able to confirm a single allergic reaction: “Although the study participants may have experienced allergic reactions, based upon the results of this study alone, we cannot confirm that a reported illness was a food-associated allergic reaction.”

Despite this conclusion and the absence of other evidence of harm of any kind to anyone, because there was no regulatory approval for StarLink in human food, a class-action lawsuit alleging that consumers ate food unfit for human consumption was successfully concluded with a settlement against Aventis (Lyon, France), producer of the StarLink corn variety.

The EPA has since decided that it will never again approve a recombinant DNA-modified crop for split use. Any crop intended for feed or industrial uses that could conceivably find its way into the food supply will have to meet the standards for human food use to gain government approval. Click here to find out more!

The StarLink saga should provide a cautionary tale to BASF, the creator of the Amflora potato: recombinant DNA-modified crops not approved for human consumption present the risk of legal liability, even if no consumer has suffered any toxic, allergic or other health-related harm. It should also concern EU regulators but likely will not, given their discriminatory stance against recombinant DNA technology applied to agriculture.

The StarLink contretemps resulted from a fault not with the product itself or the legal system but from flawed regulatory policy and an unwise series of decisions by regulators. Such problems are the inevitable result of a regulatory approach that treats recombinant DNA–modified products as though they pose some inherent, unique risks, although all the evidence is to the contrary.

==========

The 11th International Symposium on the Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

- November 15-20, 2010 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. http://www.isbgmo.info/

Organized by the International Society for Biosafety Research (ISBR), the symposium's theme will be "The role of biosafety research in the decision making process." The conference website is available at the link below.

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


Biotechnology for a Better Tomorrow

http://www.unitedsoybean.com/

From the primitive hoe used by early farmers to the advanced machinery in our rural fields today, technology has been and will continue to be what enables farmers to keep up with the world demand for food.

In today’s farming, a specific type of technology called biotechnology helps the U.S. farmer grow even more efficiently.

Biotechnology allows seed breeders to select the desired characteristics in a variety of seeds and crops. Its use enables farmers to improve the nutrition of foods, increase pest resistance so that fewer pesticides can be used and boost yield from crops to grow more food. All food improved with biotechnology has been declared safe by the world's top scientific and regulatory bodies, such as the National Academy of Sciences, the United Nations and the World Health Organization. In fact, in the 12 years that biotech crops have been grown to date, there is no evidence of disruption to a single ecosystem or human illness caused by biotech crops.

With the help of biotechnology, all farmers can not only continue to meet the world’s food demand, they can also help ensure our environment and food supplies are as safe as ever.

---
A new Website by The United Soybean Board (USB) highlights the important role biotechnology plays in allowing U.S. farmers to continue to meet the world's food demand as well as ensuring our environment and food supply remains as safe as ever. Whether you know it as biotech, genetically modified or GM-the technology that allows farmers to grow more per acre with fewer inputs plays a critical role in feeding our growing world.

http://www.unitedsoybean.com/programs/consumer_outreach/biotechnology.aspx

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

Food Ethics

- (ed) Franz-Theo Gottwald, Hans Werner Ingensiep and Marc Meinhardt, 2010 Springer New York, ISBN 978-1-4419-5764-1 . Amazon.com $179

In this first decade of the 21st century, more than 854 million people in the world are starving, while industrial nations are debating about obesity, generating energy from food plants, and a myriad of other topics many African and south Asian nations could only fathom. In this great discord, there have arisen many interdisciplinary discussions about problems in the field of applied Ethics, with regards to food, that are crossing a considerably wide spectrum of disciplines, such as: obesity, traceability, agro-food biotechnology, dairy industry, transgenic plants, novel food, bio fuels, world-trade system, etc.

This book presents international discussions and information concerning food ethics in its current state. It presents a variety of important aspects in the field of food ethics with respect to positions, instruments and applications of issues surrounding nutrition. A great deal of the book will concern itself with discussing different ethical positions and problems of current interests, as explained by experts of the "food-ethics-community". The articles will focus on the reality of global food problems through two main issues:

1. current questions of nutrition in the specific contexts of field and experience,
2. ethical tools, ideas and suggestions concerning long-term steps for solutions.
---------

Food Ethics has become an essential part of a globalized world and thus the question “What is Food Ethics?” seems almost superfluous. At the beginning of the twenty-first century about one billion people are starving all over the world, while the industrial nations are locked in debate about the financial crisis or climate change. At the same time there are many interdisciplinary discussions about special problems in the field of applied ethics and in this new and young discipline called Food Ethics.

Experts mainly in Western societies discuss everything pertaining to the entire food chain, like obesity, traceability, agro-food biotechnology, transgenic plants, biofuels, and the world trade system. On the other hand, for years non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been lamenting politicians’ lack of interest in creating or using existing ethical tools for solutions geared toward changing this situation. This background motivated us to compile this book and hence give some insights into current discussions and important issues within the field of Food Ethics. The main principles, tools and case studies are presented in this book as well as useful information at national and international levels.

Today we are still far from Food Ethics being a regular subject at schools or universities – even though it should be and will be of great interest in the future. However, it is questionable whether Food Ethics should be understood as a homogeneous discipline. Many scientists of diverse disciplines are currently working on Food Ethics, and each of them has chosen a different theoretical or practical approach. Within the scope of Food Ethics the focus of interest is not only on reaching scientific but also economic and/or political goals. In politics or economics ethical matters in particular have to be taken into account. Today, the image of business and management ethics is enhanced when Food Ethics standards are applied.

---
Ethics and Genetically Modified Foods - Gary Comstock,

This article argues that three sorts of ethical considerations converge to yield a common positive answer to the question of the ethical acceptability of GM crops: (1) the rights of people in various countries to choose to adopt GM technology; (2) the balance of likely benefits over harms to consumers and the environment from GM technology; and (3) the wisdom of encouraging discovery, innovation, and careful regulation of GM technology.

---
Responsible Agro-Food Biotechnology: Precaution as Public Reflexivity and Ongoing Engagement in the Service of Sustainable Development - Marian Deblonde

In Europe, agro-food biotechnologies arouse a lot of controversy. The scope of issues debated during the past four decades of their development has been extending rather than shrinking. And it looks as if many of these issues have been transferred to other new and emergent technologies. This paper considers the adequacy of Europe’s regulatory reaction – in the way it interprets and uses the precautionary principle – to respond to these issues. It argues that a fundamental re-interpretation of this principle is needed. It should be re-linked to the guiding idea of sustainable development. This re-linking implies a collective engagement, construction of projections for the future, and a continuous learning process of responsible acting.

=======

The Challenge of Scientific Uncertainty and Disunity in Risk Assessment and Management of GM Crops

- Myhr, Anne Ingeborg, Environmental Values, Vol. 19, No. 1, Febr 2010 , pp. 7-31(25) White Horse Press http://www.ingentaconnect.com/

The controversy over commercial releases of genetically modified (GM) crops demonstrates that there is a need for new approaches that are more broadly based, transparent and able to acknowledge the uncertainties involved. This article investigates whether new forms of knowledge production as prescribed in the concept of post-normal science can improve risk governance of GM crops. The GM science review carried out in the UK in 2003 serves as a case study and the focus is on how scientific uncertainty and public concern was taken into account. Some recommendations are advanced for assessing scientific uncertainty, for accommodating scientific disputes and for integrating stakeholders' interests and perspectives in relations to GM crops.

========

Organic Pesticides Not Always 'Greener' Choice, Study Finds

- University of Guelph, Canada; June 22, 2010

Consumers shouldn't assume that, because a product is organic, it's also environmentally friendly.

A new University of Guelph study reveals some organic pesticides can have a higher environmental impact than conventional pesticides because the organic product may require larger doses.

Environmental sciences professor Rebecca Hallett and PhD candidate Christine Bahlai compared the effectiveness and environmental impact of organic pesticides to those of conventional and novel reduced-risk synthetic products on soybean crops.

"The consumer demand for organic products is increasing partly because of a concern for the environment," said Hallett. "But it's too simplistic to say that because it's organic it's better for the environment. Organic growers are permitted to use pesticides that are of natural origin and in some cases these organic pesticides can have higher environmental impacts than synthetic pesticides often because they have to be used in large doses."

The study, which is published today in the journal PloS One, involved testing six pesticides and comparing their environmental impact and effectiveness in killing soybean aphids – the main pest of soybean crops across North America.

The two scientists examined four synthetic pesticides: two conventional products commonly used by soybean farmers and two new, reduced-risk pesticides. They also examined a mineral oil-based organic pesticide that smothers aphids and another product containing a fungus that infects and kills insects.

The researchers used the environmental impact quotient, a database indicating impact of active ingredients based on such factors as leaching rate into soil, runoff, toxicity from skin exposure, consumer risk, toxicity to birds and fish, and duration of the chemical in the soil and on the plant.

They also conducted field tests on how well each pesticide targeted aphids while leaving their predators -- ladybugs and flower bugs -- unharmed. "We found the mineral oil organic pesticide had the most impact on the environment because it works by smothering the aphids and therefore requires large amounts to be applied to the plants," said Hallett.

Compared to the synthetic pesticides, the mineral oil-based and fungal products were less effective, as they also killed ladybugs and flower bugs, which are important regulators of aphid population and growth.

These predator insects reduce environmental impact because they naturally protect the crop, reducing the amount of pesticides that are needed, she added.

"Ultimately, the organic products were much less effective than the novel and conventional pesticides at killing the aphids and they have a potentially higher environmental impact," she said. "In terms of making pest management decisions and trying to do what is best for the environment, it's important to look at every compound and make a selection based on the environmental impact quotient rather than if it's simply natural or synthetic. It's a simplification that just doesn't work when it comes to minimizing environmental impact." ---

Full paper at http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0011250