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August 9, 2010


Much Ado About Canola; Heralding Next Cotton Revolution; Golden rice by 2012; Engine of Economic Mobility; Only Way Out of Imbroglio


* Volunteer Canola of All Types Expected and Controllable
* New GM technology to herald next cotton revolution
* Golden rice by 2012 in Bangaldesh
* GM Crops: Engine of Economic Mobility
* Biotech Regulatory Authority of India seems to be only way out of present GM crops imbroglio


* Volunteer Canola of All Types Expected and Controllable

- U.S. Canola Association, USA; http://uscanola.com/index.asp?Type=B_PR&SEC={36EE8899-EE86-4B44-8141-13745052D3E9}&DE={AB534B2B-AE63-4F3E-A436-5B122BDE792C}

WASHINGTON, D.C. Scientists conducting field research in North Dakota confirmed that canola produced by modern biotechnology (genetically modified or biotech), like conventional canola, can establish volunteer plants outside of agricultural fields. The results, presented today in a poster at the Ecological Society of Americas annual meeting, showed that 86 percent of 406 canola plants tested positive for traits that confer tolerance to either glyphosate or glufosinate herbicide currently, the only two biotech traits available in canola. The plants were collected from 5,400 kilometers of interstate, state and county roads in North Dakota.

Because 85 to 90 percent of the U.S. and Canadian canola crop is grown from biotech seeds, we would expect the same percentage to be reflected in volunteer canola, said Barry Coleman, executive director of the Northern Canola Growers Association and canola grower in North Dakota. As with conventional canola production, it is not unusual or concerning that volunteer biotech canola was found on roadsides due to occasional seeds being misplaced during transport or harvesting.

When biotech canola was originally evaluated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), they recognized that like traditional canola, biotech canola would volunteer and might require management in some areas. The USDA found no evidence that biotech canola would be more apt than traditional canola to outcompete other plant species. The agencies also considered the possibility that canola would breed with other species. The CFIA concluded that such crosses would not be invasive, nor result in increased weediness or invasiveness, and could be managed by current agronomic practices.

Volunteer biotech canola is easily managed through mowing, tillage or one of several herbicides that do not contain the active ingredient (glyphosate or glufosinate) to which the canola is resistant, noted Dale Thorenson, assistant director of the U.S. Canola Association and former canola grower in North Dakota. Whats concerning on roadsides and in other areas are invasive species like leafy spurge that cannot be controlled by these methods.

Volunteer canola of any kind can appear in crops following canola, such as wheat, barley and peas. Thats why farmers should scout fields following a canola rotation for volunteer plants.

When planting canola, especially biotech varieties, farmers are expected to keep good records of fields and watch for volunteer plants, added Thorenson. If they occur, they should till or use any herbicide currently registered for control of volunteer canola. This is part of routine crop management.

Moreover, volunteer canola does not infringe on the intellectual property rights of seed providers as it is an unintentional occurrence in nature. Therefore, farmers are not liable for trace amounts of patented biotech seeds that inadvertently make their way into non-agricultural land.


An Invader: Engineered Canola

- Andrew Pollack, The New York Times


Genetically Modified Canola Escapes Farm Fields

- Geoffrey Brumfiel, National Public Radio (NPR)


GM Plants Established in The Wild

- Richard Black, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)



New GM technology to herald next cotton revolution

- Fibre2fashion News Desk - India, August 07, 2010 (India)


Use of genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton seeds from 2002 onwards heralded the onset of India being considered one of the biggest producers and exporters of cotton in the world, just behind USA and China. Now after introducing two varieties of Bt cotton seeds in the last eight years, test trials are on to launch the third generation of GM seeds.

US based seeds biotech company, Monsanto and its Indian partner Mahyco, are conducting field trials of a new generation of GM cotton seeds, in association with agriculture universities and institutions, in which Bollgard II has been blended with Monsantos round up ready flex (RR Flex) technology.

Way back in 2002, Bt cotton entered Indian cotton fields with a single gene (Bollgard-I), which could protect cotton plants from boll-worm. Bt cotton (Bollgard-II), a two gene variety which could promise a higher level of protection was introduced four years later. This helped increase cotton output and also helped India from being an importer of cotton to exporter of the white gold.

Fibre2fashion spoke exclusively with Dr KR Kranthi, Director of Central Institute of Cotton Research in Nagpur, which is also one of the institutions involved in conducting trials of the third generation of Bt cotton seeds using the RR Flex technology.

We began by asking him as to what are the major reasons for finding the alternate technologies for controlling weed, to which he said, Increasing labour shortage is necessitating the need for alternate technologies for weed management. Moreover, the alternate technology Roundup Ready Flex has the advantage of being simple in terms of operational convenience, economical and is very effective in controlling a wide range of weeds.

Next we quizzed him as to with what purpose has Bollgard-II been integrated with Monstano's RR Flex technology, to which he replied by saying, Bollgard-II is a superior pest management technology compared to Bollgard-1 and has the additional advantage of providing good resistance management. Therefore it is appropriate that Monsanto has chosen to introduce the RR Flex through Bollgard-II.

When asked as to where are the bio-safety trials being carried out, he informed, The bio-safety trials are being carried out in nine locations. The trials have been laid out at CICR, Nagpur; CICR Regional Station, Sirsa; CICR Regional Station, Coimbatore; Navsari Agricultural University, Surat; Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, MP; Mahyco Farms in Bhatinda, Hanumangarh and Ranga Reddy and University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad.

Giving details about the davnatges that could accrue from the new variety, he said, RR Flex Bollgard-II will provide effective and sustainable bollworm management apart from providing the selective convenience of effective weed management. The technology is economical and takes much less time, compared to conventional tillage apart from being in consonance with conservation agriculture. Timely weed management, without having to depend on labour availability can give a significant advantage for better yields.

We concluded this very informative interview by asking him as to how can the farmers gain maximum benefit from RR Flex, to which he advised by saying, Farmers should not overuse the technology to the extent that it becomes redundant. It is extremely important for farmers to follow all the stipulated guidelines and instructions for proper use of the RR Flex technology. Indiscriminate use of Round-up and inappropriate methods of spray or incompatible cropping systems should be avoided to gain maximum long term benefits of the technology.


Golden rice by 2012 Says BRRI

- Daily Star (Bangladesh), August 9, 2010 http://www.thedailystar.net/

The country is likely to complete all necessary experiments on golden rice, a genetically modified crop variety, tentatively by 2012, said Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) sources.

They said as the government is yet to approve the field level experiment of the variety, the institute is conducting test in multiplying the seed of the new rice variety at laboratory level.

BRRI scientists said after some more experiments limited cultivation of the variety would be possible following permission of the government.

Following a memorandum of understanding signed between the government and the International Rice Research Institute in 2003, the BRRI has already developed a variety of golden rice through transfer of gene into the BR-29, the highest yielding BRRI variety, and hopes that the yield of the new variety would be much more.

"This is one kind of GMO variety and there is nothing to be worried if the variety is introduced as everything is being done on the basis of scientific research and if it bears any risk it would not be released for farm level production," said Dr M Abdul Mannan, director general (DG) of BRRI.

Mannan said, "We have already produced foundation seed of the variety and now working on how to go for a very limited production of the variety and everything is confined to laboratory at the moment. But we hope that a new variety of golden rice is to be introduced for production by 2012," he added.

The golden rice variety is said to contain 17 times the amount of vitamin A present in other high-yielding varieties.

After failing laboratory experiment on "golden rice-1," the institute is going to conduct green house experiment on "golden rice-2" and the safety test of the variety under local weather condition is likely to end by this year, said Dr AKG Mohammad Enamul Haq.

The institute will also conduct experiment on agronomical evaluation, bio-safety, allergy-related experiments and the availability of vitamin A in the rice seed, said the official.

In 2005, the institute got two grams of seeds from the IRRI to multiply the variety.

Bangladesh could introduce this hybrid seed to multiply rice yields if the experiments are proved suitable for environment, said an official of biotechnology division of the BRRI.

The rice variety is called `golden rice' because the inserted beta-carotene gives the grain a bright yellow colour, and it supplies enough beta-carotene to meet 10 per cent of the daily requirement for Vitamin A.

Worldwide, 125 million children - particularly those in developing countries - suffer from vitamin A deficiency, causing blindness (up to 500,000 per year according to the World Health Organisation) and even death.

An additional one million people die annually due to vitamin A deficiency and malnutrition.

In many of these countries, rice is the staple food and provides 80 per cent or more of daily calories. Polished, white rice - the most consumed form of rice - contains no beta-carotene or other forms of pro-vitamin A, and is also a very poor source of other micronutrients (iron and zinc).

The latest varieties of golden rice are expected to be a new tool - in addition to existing ones - in helping to overcome vitamin A deficiency among the poor.

GM Crops: Engine of Economic Mobility

- Rosalie Ellasus, August 6, 2010 http://www.truthabouttrade.org

Americans like to ponder a puzzling question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Here in Asia, were starting to ask something similar: Which came first, the chickening out or the GM eggplant?

Theres a clear answer to our version. In India, the government is chickening out. In the Philippines, where I farm, were embracing biotechnology and its benefits.

Earlier this summer, the Philippines announced that it will allow the commercialization of genetically modified eggplants, which Filipinos call talong. Seeds are expected to go on the market for the 2011 growing season. This approval means that the Philippines will become the first country in Asia and probably in the world - to let farmers grow GM talong.

India could have led the way. In February, however, officials ignored the recommendations of a scientific panel and refused to approve GM eggplant, which Indians call brinjal. They didnt explicitly reject this crop--they called for more study--but their decision to delay was widely interpreted as surrendering to Greenpeace and other anti-biotech pressure groups.

India has a desperate need for agricultural biotechnology, wrote Rajesh Kumar, a farmer who grows brinjal, in the Asian edition of the Wall Street Journal. By rejecting the Gene Revolution ... the Congress-led government in New Delhi now threatens the ability of Indian farmers to increase the yield, quality, and safety of the food they produce for their more than one billion fellow citizens.

Thankfully, the Philippines will travel a different path. Talong is a staple crop for us. Its our single most popular vegetable, accounting for about 13 percent of our vegetable acreage. I dont grow talong as a commercial product, but I do plant it in my backyard because its good to serve fresh with fish and rice.

Talong is vulnerable to a major pest called the shoot borer, which is the larva of a white moth. Left uncontrolled, shoot borer infestations can cause devastating losses for farmers. The miracle of biotechnology allows GM talong to fight off shoot borers naturally. As a result, farmers cut their pesticide use and production costs. Consumers realize the advantages of greater abundance and lower prices.

Theres an environmental edge as well. By producing more food on existing farms, we reduce the incentives to convert wilderness into cropland. This is critical in the Philippines because we face alarming levels of population growth and were running out of room for agriculture.

GM talong will help us do more with the farms we already have. I dont understand why anybody would oppose biotechnology. My own experience with GM crops has been incredibly positive. I grow GM corn and other crops on ten hectares in San Jacinto, a little north of Manila.

Access to biotechnology has transformed my life. The increased productivity allowed me, as a widow, to send my three sons to college. I doubt this would have been possible without GM seeds. So GM crops deliver more than an agricultural improvement. They are engines of economic mobility.

Unfortunately, farmers in many countries dont have this same opportunity. Their lack of access has nothing to do with science or safety and everything to do with politics, as Indias disappointing experience with GM brinjal shows. India really ought to know better. It already permits the growth of GM cotton. Farmers have enjoyed the benefits of its much higher yield.

Women may have gained the most, according to a new study by the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. In India, cotton harvesting is traditionally a female activity. Since the introduction of GM cotton, women who pick in these fields have seen their income rise by 55 percent. Overall, [GM] cotton enhances the quality of life of women through increasing income and reducing femanual work, said Arjunan Subramanian, a professor at Warwick.

Men, for their part, spend less time spraying pesticides. This leaves them more available for family chores and activities. I salute the government of the Philippines for keeping an open mind on biotechnology and making sure that farmers can use it. Lets hope that officeholders in India and elsewhere also choose to accept GM eggplants and other biotech crops--and quit chickening out in the face of progress.
Rosalie Ellasus is a first-generation farmer, growing corn and rice in San Jacinto, Philippines. Rosalie allows her farm to be used as a demonstration pilot for smallholder farmers to visit and learn from. She currently serves as President of the Philippine Maize Federation and is a member of the Truth About Trade & Technology Global Farmer Network. www.truthabouttrade.org


Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India seems to be only way out of present GM crops imbroglio

- Shantu Shantaram, The Financial Express (India), August 9, 2010 via checkbiotech.org http://www.financialexpress.com/

As the regulatory impasse continues after the sordid saga of the moratorium on Bt brinjal, another battle front has been opened by the anti-biotech activists demanding a complete withdrawal of the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill.

For them, they do not see anything good happening from any regulation that would facilitate safe deployment of modern biotech products. For them, regulations means stop or kill the technology.

Anti-technology activists have not seen a regulator they like because almost all regulators have approved modern day GM crops using proper scientific data and empirical evidence.

The only regulatory system they would like is the one that routinely rejects all applications of GM crops on the grounds of one test or another or for more long term tests.

The idea is to tie up GM crops technology development in regulatory knots to the yonder so that all purveyors of technology will quit in frustration or make it so prohibitive that no one will dare enter into the field. This is why anti-tech activists so love the Bt brinjal moratorium as a true example of democratisation of biotechnology, a phrase coined by the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. Hope that the government of India and the courts will not fall for this trick.

BRAI seems to be the only way out of the present GM crops imbroglio. It was crafted by a committee headed by none other than MS Swaminathan, at the behest of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) that was in turn was prompted by the Prime Ministers Office (PMO). MS Swaminathan invited a variety of stakeholders who endorsed his proposal for a National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (NBRA).

After a couple of years, NBRA has now metamorphosed into BRAI. The Bill is being piloted by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), which has given sufficient opportunity to all stakeholders to give their inputs.

After many rounds of inter-ministerial consultations, and the Union law ministry has signed off on the Bill.

It is slated to be tabled in the parliament in the coming monsoon session. Activists are rattled by a clause in the Bill that calls for penalty on those who carry out false propaganda about the technology just like a penalty clause that already exists for applicants in case they make a false claim. They are calling complete ban on this Bill, and now they are saying...