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Date:

August 10, 2010

Subject:

Italian GM Field Destroyed;Why Africa Should Not Rule Out GM; Attack of the Giant Killer Canola:Trans Fat-Free Soybean Oil

 

* Activists Destroy Cornfield In Italy
* Scientist Monty Jones on Why Africa Should Not Rule Out GM
* Attack of the Giant Killer Canola?
* Food Firms Test Fry Pioneer's Trans Fat-Free Soybean Oil
* Genes from Sweet Pepper to Fortify African Banana Against Devastating Wilt Disease
* Distances needed to limit cross-fertilization between GM and conventional maize in Europe
* Who's Afraid of Genetically Modified Foods
* East Africa: Moment of Truth for EAC Countries Over GM Products
* Higher Temperatures to Slow Asian Rice Production
* Wanted: A Few Good Books


-------------

Activists Destroy Cornfield In Italy

- UPI, August 10, 2010

PORDENONE, Italy - Anti-globalization activists have destroyed a field of genetically modified corn near the northeastern Italian town of Pordenone, Italian authorities say. Some 70 activists belonging to the Ya Basta group stomped on all the plants before police were able to drag them away, Italy's ANSA news agency reported Tuesday. "Our action was aimed against the violence that GM crops wreak on the environment and on humans," said Ya Basta spokesman Luca Tornatore.

The destruction came several weeks after the farmer who illegally planted the corn announced it was ready to be harvested. Greenpeace attempted to storm the field last week and numerous representatives from a group opposing genetically modified crops erected a protest camp near the farm.

Even though most Italian farmers oppose genetically modified crops, Monday's action by Ya Basta drew criticism. Farmers' union Coldiretti condemned the crop destruction saying "the law must always be respected."

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

Scientist Monty Jones on Why Africa Should Not Rule Out GM

- GEMMA WARE, The Africa Report, June-July issue http://www.theafricareport.com/archives2/interviews/3294516-scientist-monty-jones-on-why-africa-should-not-rule-out-gm.html

Recipient of the World Food Prize in 2004 for his success in creating the New Rice for Africa (NERICA), Sierra Leonean scientist Monty Jones spoke to The Africa Report about the role of science in agricultural development.

For more on the debate on GM Foods in Africa, see Frankenfoods or future crops? http://www.theafricareport.com/archives2/business/3291161-frankenfoods-or-future-crops-.html

The Africa Report: NERICA is not a genetically-modified (GM) crop, but is it necessary to have GM as an option in Africa?
Monty Jones: I do not believe that you should see people dying of hunger for a problem that could be solved if you go through genetic engineering. If you can increase the level of resistance or tolerance to a particular stress, and that can only be done through genetic engineering, I feel that we should allow our people to live and use that methodology to solve the problem. But I respect the freedom of people to choose whatever they want to eat. I think that all of us should come together and carry out surveys that will look at the potential benefit of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and the potential risks, if there are any risks at all. Lets monitor those over a period of time and lets be open and frank with everybody. Some people are taking advantage of the fact that people dont understand [the science behind GM crops].

Will China bring GM to Africa on a big scale?
I think that Africa should be able to get whatever material that does well in Africa from anywhere in the world. If the best material is coming from China, why shouldnt Africa take advantage of that? And mark my word, I said the best. If China is coming up with 30 GMOs, they need to be tested to make sure that they are adapted, to make sure they would give the same potential yield as in China before they can be adopted for cultivation in Africa.

Public and private research money is largely targeted at three crops. Is there a need to target other crops?
I see the value or the rationale for going for maize, rice and wheat. These are the three top crops that are cultivated and consumed worldwide. But in some countries there are other crops which are equally very important. Sorghum is very important for West Africa. Millet is very important for West Africa, particularly in the Sahel. Cassava also is very important. This is where I believe we need to strengthen the capacity of our regional and national bodies. 60% of research in the developed world comes from the private sector, but in Africa its 2%. Private-sector investment is very critical for Africa. Public- and private-sector collaboration should also be enhanced.

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

Attack of the Giant Killer Canola?

- Ronald Bailey, Reason, August 9, 2010 http://reason.com/blog/2010/08/09/attack-of-the-giant-killer-can#commentcontainer

Sigh. Last week, a couple of researchers from the University of Arkansas breathlessly revealed that they had found canola genetically enhanced to resist herbicides growing "wild" along North Dakota roadsides. First, the idea that canola is growing "wild" is risible. What is canola? It is a domesticated rapeseed oil plant that was modified (bred) to taste less bitter and which got its name from the acronym CANadian Oil, Low Acid. It is chiefly grown as a source for food oils and feed. No matter where it is found canola is a crop species, not a wild one. In the old nomenclature such plants were called "volunteer." Apparently, the preferred and more ominous term is now "feral."

First, considering that rapeseed is not native to North America (its ancestors hail from Eurasia) and that about 90 percent of the canola planted in North Dakota is genetically enhanced to resist herbicides, it is not at all surprising that the researchers found that 86 percent of the canola growing along roadsides is too. So are North Dakota's wildlands doomed to being overwhelmed by mutant canola? No. The NPR story reporting the "escape" of the biotech canola quoted a couple of rather sanguine researchers:

"I wouldn't lose any sleep over it," says Mike Wilkinson, a researcher at Aberystwyth University in the U.K. Wilkinson has studied the spread of conventional canola in the U.K., and says that while it's common for the seedlings to spread, they don't fare well in the wild.

Wilkinson says that just because the plants are genetically modified, doesn't mean they'll be more successful than wild plants. In this particular case, herbicide resistance will provide little edge to plants growing in areas that, almost by definition, don't receive many herbicides. "It's very difficult for either of these transgene types to give much of an advantage, if any, in the habitats that they're in," he says, referring to the genetically modified canola.

Linda Hall, a researcher at the University of Alberta in Canada, agrees. She's studied colonies of genetically modified canola in that country for years, but says that they haven't spread far beyond the roads. "It's pretty spoiled it's used to growing in well-fertilized, clean seedbeds without competition, so it does not do well if it is having to compete with other plants," she says.

If someone thinks that roadside canola is a weed (definition: a plant that's where you don't want it to be), there's no big problem controlling it. As assistant director of the U.S. Canola Association Dale Thorenson notes:

"Volunteer biotech canola is easily managed through mowing, tillage or one of several herbicides that do not contain the active ingredient (glyphosate or glufinosate) to which the canola is resistant."

In other words, unlike Killer Tomatoes, it doesn't take playing an excruciatingly bad song [office warning] to annihilate escaped canola.


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

Food Firms Test Fry Pioneer's Trans Fat-Free Soybean Oil

- Emily Waltz, Nature Biotechnology 28, 769770 (August 2010) http://www.nature.com/nbt/

The success of Pioneer's recently approved soy bean, which has been engineered to cut down on trans fats, will depend on how well it is received by the food industry.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved for environmental release one of the first biotech crops aimed at the food industry. The new crop, a genetically modified soybean with an altered fatty acid profile, yields oil that is more stable at high frying temperatures and has a longer shelf life than commodity soybean oil. It was developed by Pioneer Hi-Bred in Johnston, Iowa, a Dupont company. The company received marketing approval for the biotech soybean in June and aims to commercialize it by 2012. St. Louisbased Monsanto is following close behind, with two soybean products with modified oil profiles in its pipeline.

The new soybean traits may help the biotech industry deliver on a two-decade-long promise: to develop crops with improved nutritional value. Until now, most commercialized biotech crops have been engineered with such traits as pest resistance and herbicide tolerancetraits that mostly benefit farmers rather than the food industry or consumers. Heat stability and longer shelf life: these are the things that can light up the food industry, not reduced pesticides, says Tom Hoban, a professor of food science at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

Pioneer is marketing its new soybean oil as an alternative to partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. For decades, food producers have relied on partially hydrogenated soybean oil because it retains its flavor at high cooking temperatures and for extended periods on the grocery store shelf. But the process of partial hydrogenation produces trans fatty acids, or trans fats, which are known to increase 'bad' low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and increase risk of coronary heart disease.

In 2006, the US Food and Drug Administration began requiring food manufacturers to label food with trans fats, and measures to alert the public of the health risks of trans fats ensued. Food producers turned to alternatives, such as palm oil and certain kinds of canola oil, that have more stable frying and shelf life characteristics than those of unhydrogenated soybean oil. As a result, soybean oil's share of the edible fats and oils market has gone from 76% in 2005 to 64% today, according to the US Census Bureau. We hope to recapture that space [for soybeans], says Pioneer's Russ Sanders, director of enhanced oils.

Pioneer's new soybean oil has an oleic fatty acid content of >75%, a property that gives it frying and shelf stability comparable to that of palm, high oleic acid canola and hydrogenated soybean oils. It also contains 20% less saturated fat than commodity soybean oil. Pioneer dubbed the crop Plenish high-oleic soybeans. Overproduction of oleic acid and decreased levels of linoleic and linolenic acids in Plenish arise from transgenic expression of a fragment of the soybean microsomal omega-6 desaturase gene (FAD2-1) under the control of soybean Kunitz trypsin inhibitor gene promoter, which silences endogenous omega-6 desaturase. The transgenic soybean also carries the S-adenosyl-L-methionine synthetase as a marker to enable initial selection in the laboratory by acetolactate synthase (ALS)-inhibiting herbicide.

The success of the Plenish soybean will depend on how well it is received by the food industry. Pioneer has already set up testing agreements with a dozen undisclosed food companies, says Sanders. The companies will run consumer taste tests, frying tests and shelf life testsjust about anything a food company would normally do with a new ingredient.

Food companies can already choose from an array of oils with modified fatty acid contents developed with conventional breeding. The hard reality will be how producers of liquid vegetable oils compete, says Terry Etherton, professor of animal nutrition at Penn State in University Park, Pennsylvania.

Food industry representatives say they welcome the new oil option, but see it as a trial situation, says Jeffrey Barach, vice president of science policy at Grocery Manufacturers Association in Washington, DC .Each company has to try it out and do some experimental work, he says.

Although Pioneer received the full go-ahead from regulators, the company doesn't plan to commercialize Plenish soybeans until the first quarter of 2012, after food players have had time to determine what food applications, if any, they want to pursue with Plenish soybeans. We're being fairly conservative in our commercialization schedule, Sanders says.

The time to market also depends on Pioneer's ability to secure regulatory approval in key global markets, such as Europe, Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea, Sanders says. The soybean is already approved in Canada and Mexico.

Global regulatory hurdles hampered Dupont's earlier development of a different high oleic acid soybean (Table 1). In 1997, the USDA approved, or deregulated, DD-026005-3a Dupont soybean with an oleic acid content of 85%. This variety was modified with an extra copy of soybean 12-fatty acid dehydrogenase under the control of the soybean -conglycinin promoter, which triggered silencing of the transgene and its counterpart endogenous gene. But the product fizzled after the company encountered global regulatory complexities associated with the crop's marker technology, says Sanders. Markers are used by crop developers to test whether genetic material is successfully transferred to the host crop. In this case, DD-026005-3 contained the Escherichia coli uidA gene, encoding -glucuronidase as a colorimetric marker, and the bla gene, encoding the enzyme -lactamase as a selective marker that confers resistance to -lactam antibiotics (such as penicillin and ampicillin).


Pioneer's new high oleic soybean targets the same oleic acid pathway as the 1997 version, but it is hoped that use of a different marker gene, one imparting tolerance to an ALS-inhibitor herbicide, will smooth the regulatory path. (The plant will not be tolerant to ALS-inhibitor herbicides at the levels used in the field.) Sanders says he is optimistic about the 2012 regulatory goals.

On Pioneer's regulatory heels are two Monsanto soybean products with modified oil profiles, one with omega-3 fatty acids for nutrition and the other with enhanced texture and functionality, called high stearic acid soybeans. Monsanto has submitted to the USDA petitions for deregulation of both products. Still in the discovery phase, Dow AgroSciences in Indianapolis, Indiana is developing omega-9 canola and sunflower oils. With one nutritionally altered crop approved and a handful in the pipeline, the public may finally get what it has been promised for two decades. But whether high oleic acid soybeans directly benefit consumers enough to boost public opinion of biotech crops is doubtful, say agriculture experts. Companies already have methods of removing trans fats from food, says Jane Rissler, a senior scientist with the Union for Concerned Scientists in Washington, DC. Pioneer is offering an alternative to those existing methods without much added benefit to consumers, she says. Alan McHughen, a plant biotechnologist at the University of California, Riverside, notes that: Those who already despise [genetic modification] will continue to do so, those who accept GM will continue to do so, and most others won't even notice it, as it's not a high-profile whole food with immediate consumer-recognized benefit. In the US, food companies aren't required to label food derived from genetically engineered crops, and generally don't voluntarily do so.

An April 2010 survey of 750 US consumers asked this question: All other things being equal, how likely would you be to buy a food product made with oils that had been modified by biotechnology to avoid trans fats? Seventy-four percent said they were either very likely or somewhat likely to buy this kind of biotech food. However, in a separate question, only 32% of those respondents said they had a favorable impression of biotech food. The survey was conducted by the International Food Information Council Federation in Washington, DC.

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Genes from Sweet Pepper to Fortify African Banana Against Devastating Wilt Disease

- Eurekaalert, August 6, 2010

DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA In a major breakthrough, crop scientists announced today the successful transfer of green pepper genes to bananas, conferring on the popular fruit the means to resist one of the most devastating diseases of bananas in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

The Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) costs banana farmers about half a billion dollars worth of damage every year across East and Central Africa. The leaves of affected crops turn yellow and then wilt, and the fruit ripens unevenly and before its time. Eventually the entire plant withers and rots.

Dr. Leena Tripathi, a biotechnologist with International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and lead author of the paper, said there is still a long way to go before the transgenic bananas find their way onto farmers' fields, but she called the breakthrough "a significant step in the fight against the deadly banana disease." The transformed bananas, newly-infused with one of two proteins from the green pepper, have shown strong resistance to Xanthomonas wilt in the laboratory and in screen houses. The researchers are poised to begin confined field trials in Uganda soon.

Some of the findings on the protective impact of the two proteinsplant ferredoxin-like amphipathic protein (Pflp) and hypersensitive response-assisting protein (Hrap)were published recently in the journal Molecular Plant Pathology. "The Hrap and Pflp genes work by rapidly killing the cells that come into contact with the disease-spreading bacteria, essentially blocking it from spreading any further," Tripathi said. "Hopefully, this will boost the arsenal available to fight BXW and help save millions of farmers' livelihoods in the Great Lakes region."

The novel green pepper proteins that give crops enhanced resistance against deadly pathogens can also provide effective control against other BXW-like bacterial diseases in other parts of the world. Tripathi adds that the mechanism known as Hypersensitivity Response also activates the defenses of surrounding and even distant uninfected banana plants leading to a systemic acquired resistance.

Scientists from the IITA and the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) of Uganda, in partnership with African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), will soon begin evaluating these promising new banana lines under confined field trials. The Ugandan National Biosafety Committee recently approved the tests, which can now move forward.

The genes used in this research were acquired under an agreement from the Academia Sinica in Taiwan. The highly destructive BXW affects all varieties, including the East African Highland bananas and exotic dessert, roasting, and beer bananas. The crop is also under threat from another deadly disease, the banana bunchy top.

Dr. Tripathi says that there are presently no commercial chemicals, biocontrol agents or resistant varieties that can control the spread of BXW. "Even if a source of resistance is identified today," Tripathi said, "developing a truly resistant banana through conventional breeding would be extremely difficult and would take years, even decades, given the crop's sterility and its long gestation period."

BXW was first reported in Ethiopia 40 years ago on Ensete, a crop relative of banana, before it moved on to bananas. Outside of Ethiopia, it was first reported in Uganda in 2001, then rapidly spread to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Burundi, leaving behind a trail of destruction in Africa's largest banana producing and consuming region.

BXW can be managed by de-budding the banana plant (removing the male bud as soon as the last hand of the female bunch is revealed) and sterilizing farm implements used. However, the adoption of these practices has been inconsistent at best as farmers believe that de-budding affects the quality of the fruit and sterilizing farm tools is a tedious task. The research to fortify bananas against BXW using genes from sweet pepper was initiated in 2007.

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Distances needed to limit cross-fertilization between GM and conventional maize in Europe

- Laura Riesgo, Francisco J Areal, Olivier Sanvido & Emilio Rodrguez-Cerezo; Nature Biotechnology 28, 780782 (August 2010) http://www.nature.com/nbt/

To avoid the economic consequences of admixtures of genetically modified (GM) and non-GM harvests, and to ensure that agricultural production complies with mandatory labeling provisions, the European Union (EU; Brussels) member states have adopted co-existence measures directed to farmers cultivating GM varieties. For GM maize cultivation, regulators have established mandatory isolation distances, which differ between countries and in some cases have been regarded as disproportionate1, 2. Taking advantage of numerous field studies conducted by EU researchers in recent years, we report here a statistical analysis of cross-fertilization data in maize, showing that separating fields 40 m is sufficient to keep GM adventitious presence below the legal labeling threshold in the EU set at 0.9%.

Currently, insect-resistant maize (engineered to express Bacillus thuringiensis toxin; Bt) and Amflora potato (engineered with antisense against granule-bound starch synthase), which was recently approved3, are the only two GM crops authorized for commercial cultivation in the EU. Bt maize was approved in 1998 and currently covers 1.2% of the total maize area in the EU (Supplementary Notes 1 and 2).

Given the legal standards for labeling and/or purity, the cultivation of GM maize in the EU is associated with mandatory technical coexistence measures designed to reduce the adventitious presence of GM maize in neighboring non-GM maize harvests. Such measures, to be applied by GM maize growers, should be stringent enough to keep adventitious presence below 0.9% so that conventional maize can comply with labeling provisions and avoid any potential price premium losses associated with GM admixtures



The results presented here (Table 1) clearly show that some of the current mandatory separation distances proposed by several EU countries for maize segregation (Supplementary Table 1) are disproportionate. They are set too high to the objective of keeping cross-fertilization below the legal threshold level in real agricultural landscapes. Our results are robust because the experimental data set considered represents several climatic conditions, field sizes and locations in Europe. A previous study by Sanvido et al.5 looking at separation distances in Switzerland came to similar conclusions. Also, the levels of cross-fertilization recorded in our database correspond to individual data points in receptor fields at several distances. Because most of the field points sampled were located at short distances from the donor field, cross-fertilization rates at these distances were likely to be higher than cross-fertilization rates computed for an entire field harvested. In an agricultural context, harvest always represents a mixture of different harvested areas. The actual GM content in the harvest is thereby often substantially reduced because zones with higher cross-fertilization rates at the field margin are mixed with zones with lower GM content further within the receptor field. Studies performed in real agricultural landscapes with commercial cultivation of GM and non-GM maize point to distances over 20 m as being sufficient to prevent cross-fertilization below a threshold level of 0.9%11, 12.


In practice, large mandatory distances restrict farmers' freedom of choice to grow GM maize in certain agricultural landscapes (especially in those with substantial presence of maize cultivation in small and scattered fields). This imposes important opportunity costs on farmers, reducing the potential net gains in farmers' gross margins derived from Bt maize cultivation13.

In conclusion, we have shown that a separation distance of 40 m is sufficient to reduce admixture in maize cultivation below the legal threshold of 0.9%. However, this is not an endorsement of using separation distances as the single tool to regulate co-existence in maize production. Numerous recent studies have pointed to the need for flexibility in co-existence measures4, 14, 15. Pollen barriers consisting of non-GM maize, for example, have proven to reduce cross-fertilization rates more effectively than an isolation of the same distance with open ground or low-growing crops. With a maize barrier of 1020 m, the remaining maize harvest in the field rarely exceeds the threshold of 0.9% GM material11. Buffer zones, discard zones and other measures could therefore be combined or substitute for large, fixed-separation distances in search of a system that increases the real options for farmers to cultivate their crop of choice1.

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

Who's Afraid of Genetically Modified Foods?

- Liwayway Memije-Cruz (Manila, Philippines), Aug 10, 2010 http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/6484737-whos-afraid-of-genetically-modified-foods

We cannot turn back the clock on agriculture and only use methods that were developed to feed a much smaller population. It took some, 10,000 years to expand food production to the current level of about 5 billion tons per year. By 2025, we will have to nearly double current production again. This increase cannot be accomplished unless farmers across the world have access to current high-yielding crop production methods as well as new biotechnical breakthroughs that can increase the yields dependability, and nutritional quality for our basic crops. We need to bring common sense into the debate on agricultural science and technology and the sooner the better. -Norman E. Barlaug Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, 1970

All living things are composed of genes. Genes are the units of hereditary instructions discovered by Gregor Mendel. They are DNA segments that carry information for building proteins. They dictate the physical and biochemical traits of all living things. All DNA has the same basic structure, and gene analysis has revealed that, in the course of evolution, some organisms have exchanged DNA with each other. This process doesnt happen frequently in nature. However, plant molecular biologists now utilize this natural gene exchange mechanism to insert new genes that possess valuable agronomic traits into the genome (the entire set of genes) of crop plants. This process is referred to as genetic engineering. At present, it is done using one gene at a time. Crops created this way are referred to as genetically modified (GM). Genes that have the potential to greatly improve the human condition by allowing more food and more nutritious food to be produced on the same amount of arable land are being discovered at an ever increasing rate.

By 2050, the worlds population is likely to be 9 billion and that would be a 50 percent increase over the present day. This increase will occur mostly in the cities of developing countries primarily in Asia. If the present global economic crisis continues, this population will need a double food production. A fraction of the food that all these people will need can only be produced in the bread basket of the world. China for example has a quarter of the human population but only has 7 percent of the worlds farmland. During the exponential growth of the human population from 3 billion in 1960 to 6 billion in 2000, food production increases kept up with it because of the creation and adoption of multiple new technologies. These are better techniques in cultivating the soil, new irrigation technologies, more advanced biodegradable pesticides, better genetics strains, and machinery for large-scale harvests, synthetic fertilizers and green manure the restore the nutrients of the soil.

Genetically modified crops are not the magic bullet that would feed the world. Yes, we can depend on them since they are an integral part of mans continuing quest for knowledge improving the genes of crops. But we have to remember, technologies are not an unmitigated blessing, they also have negative effects. To make them better requires our human ingenuity. President Jimmy Carter said it so well: Responsible bio-technology is not the enemy; starvation is. Whos afraid of genetically modified foods? After all, the final decision on whether to eat or not to eat GM food products lies in your hands. Be informed because at the end you will not regret what you have done!

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East Africa: Moment of Truth for EAC Countries Over GM Products

- Cosmas Butunyi, East African, August 9, 201 http://allafrica.com/

Nairobi With the opening up of their borders under the Common Market protocol, East African countries face a new challenge of handling genetically modified products. For instance, Kenya is almost ready to start commercial production of GM agricultural products - a development that could see the products enter neighbours' markets courtesy of the Common Market. "If GM products are grown in Kenya, they will definitely find their way into Uganda and Tanzania," a food safety expert at African Biosafety Network of Expertise Dr Allan Liavoga told a regional workshop on biosafety and genetic modification.

In neither Uganda and Tanzania is commercial production permitted; the licences given are strictly for research into production of GM products. Field trials are going on for production of GM cotton, cassava and banana.Though the two countries have a policy, they do not have legislation while Kenya has the Biosafety Act.

The Act has already been operationalised into eight sets of regulations that would govern commercial production and importation of GM products for sale or for food aid. However, the two are in the process of adopting the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety using a template developed by the African Union.

According to the acting chief executive of the National Biosafety Authority Harrison Macharia, the East African Community should take the lead in driving the process of harmonising these regulations. "With the open borders, we need to be on the same page," Mr Macharia said. However, Dr Rishan Abdallah, who led the Tanzanian delegation to the meeting, said that the process of harmonisation is a drawn out one, which may require more efforts beyond just the EAC secretariat.

Dr Abdallah cited the harmonisation of seed policies by a working group which was facilitated by a different organisation before it was passed on to the EAC secretariat to implement in the countries. Even as the EAC countries worry over harmonisation, a similar effort is going on elsewhere.

The Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) through the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa, which is developing a new set of policies governing commercial production, trade and emergency food aid in GM agricultural produce in Comesa.
African Agricultural Technology Foundation's Dr Francis Nang'ayo said the EAC countries should take up these rules. "If Tanzania were to join Comesa, we could as well use these rules," Dr Nang'ayo added.

Harmonising these regulations is further complicated by differences in existing laws governing the handling of such products.

Whereas it takes up to 180 days to obtain clearance for research in GM products from Tanzanian authorities, it needs 270 days in Uganda.bIn Kenya, it is between 60 and 150 days. While Tanzania has committees under different ministries to evaluate applications that relate to it, Kenya and Uganda have a single committee each to co-ordinate all applications. This is despite the fact that all three countries are guided by the Cartagena Protocol.

As the East African countries embark on the journey towards harmonising their GM policies, experts say that even though GM agricultural production is still shrouded in controversy, countries need to build their legal and institutional framework to allow for the commercial production of modern biotechnology, just in case its fortunes change in future.

"We need to position ourselves so that when the opportunity comes, we can seize it," deputy director of African Biosafety Network of Expertise Samuel Timpo said.

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

Higher Temperatures to Slow Asian Rice Production

- August 9, 2010 http://www.physorg.com/news200559841.html

Around three billion people eat rice every day, and more than 60 percent of the world's one billion poorest and undernourished people who live in Asia depend on rice as their staple food.
the world's most important crop for ensuring food security and addressing povertywill be thwarted as temperatures increase in rice-growing areas with continued climate change, according to a new study by an international team of scientists.

The research team found evidence that the net impact of projected temperature increases will be to slow the growth of rice production in Asia. Rising temperatures during the past 25 years have already cut the yield growth rate by 10-20 percent in several locations.

Published in the online early edition the week of Aug. 9, 2010 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences a peer-reviewed, scientific journal from the United Statesthe report analyzed six years of data from 227 irrigated rice farms in six major rice-growing countries in Asia, which produces more than 90 percent of the world's rice. "We found that as the daily minimum temperature increases, or as nights get hotter, rice yields drop," said Jarrod Welch, lead author of the report and graduate student of economics at the University of California, San Diego.

This is the first study to assess the impact of both daily maximum and minimum temperatures on irrigated rice production in farmer-managed rice fields in tropical and subtropical regions of Asia "Our study is unique because it uses data collected in farmers' fields, under real-world conditions," said Welch. "This is an important addition to what we already know from controlled experiments. "Farmers can be expected to adapt to changing conditions, so real-world circumstances, and therefore outcomes, might differ from those in controlled experimental settings," he added.
Around three billion people eat rice every day, and more than 60 percent of the world's one billion poorest and undernourished people who live in Asia depend on rice as their staple food. A decline in rice production will mean more people will slip into poverty and hunger, the researchers said.

"Up to a point, higher day-time temperatures can increase rice yield, but future yield losses caused by higher night-time temperatures will likely outweigh any such gains because temperatures are rising faster at night," said Welch. "And if day-time temperatures get too high, they too start to restrict rice yields, causing an additional loss in production."

"If we cannot change our rice production methods or develop new rice strains that can withstand higher temperatures, there will be a loss in rice production over the next few decades as days and nights get hotter. This will get increasingly worse as temperatures rise further towards the middle of the century," he added.

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Wanted: A Few Good Books

- Mary Boote, www.truthabouttrade.org, JUL 15, 2010

It's summer in Iowa. An ideal day for me would include a body of water, a cool drink and a great book. I read for work and for pleasure. It allows me to learn and some days, to escape. I believe a good book can do much to open our minds to new ideas and sometimes challenge our perceptions. Getting books in the hands of incoming freshman as they prepare for their first year of college has become a summer regimen for many universities and colleges across the country. Nearly 300 now ask their incoming freshmen to read a particular book before the fall semester begins.

Just dont assume that this leads to extra servings of Shakespeare, Hawthorne, or Hemingway. A new study by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) says that the books most commonly assigned display a surprisingly low level of intellectual difficulty. To make matters worse, a distressing number of schools select books that launch one-sided attacks on the modern food industry.

This is a shame because food production is an important subject that informed citizens should strive to understand and learn more about. Yet these summertime assignments arent helping. Some of them are actually hurting the publics understanding of agriculture. One of the most suggested authors for summer-reading assignments is the best-selling controversialist Michael Pollan. Students at ten campuses must digest one of his books, according to the NAS survey. They range from little Albion College in Michigan to the prestigious University of California at Berkeley. Another popular writer is Barbara Kingsolver, an advocate of the local food movement who is required reading at Virginia Tech and elsewhere.

Professors often talk about the importance of diversity, but I wonder if they really mean it: By assigning books by Pollan and Kingsolver, theyre exposing students to only one part of what is an important global discussion regarding what tools and technology are needed to feed a growing world population in a sustainable manner. My preference is to recommend a more pragmatic and balanced reading list for the students as they prepare for the next phase of their educational journey. Because the current college and university reading lists imply little interest in alternatives to a narrow-minded and politically correct critique of food production, I thought Id suggest three books that offer a more rounded understanding of the subject.


Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives, by Michael Specter The media bombards us with facts every day. They are intellectually stimulating, mind numbing, and confusing all at once. But the difference between good information and bad information is crucial. Specters approach recalls a quote from the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: You are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts. Specter encourages us to recognize that science-based facts are often the very best kind of facts. We need more of them, not fewer. They allow us to see through agenda-driven ideologues and special-interest groups. They also help us debunk popular myths about everything from organic food (which is no way to feed the world) to genetically modified crops (which is a part of the solution).

Food Politics: What Everyone Needs To Know, by Robert L. Paarlberg Two years ago, Truth About Trade and Technology named Paarlbergs Starved for Science as the book of the year because of its sensible call for the developing world to accept agricultural biotechnology. Now Paarlberg is back with a new volume thats jam-packed with the type of science-based facts, figures, and arguments that Specter says we must learn to value. This book informs readers about the basics of agriculture and challenges notions about farming and food production that are regrettably popular in the faculty lounges. Food Politics truly nourishes the mind.

The Time It Never Rained, by Elmer Kelton: The author passed away last year, but his novel of a 1950s drought in West Texas is timeless. Its gripping story provides an excellent look at the opportunities and hardships that people in agriculture constantly face. The main character, Charlie Flagg, is a lovable grump who says that a farmers concern is always the land. The novel goes on to show why this is true, and why farmers and ranchers are some of the best stewards we have. This book is a perfect example of fictions ability to provide powerful insights into the way the world really works.

These three books are worthwhile on their own terms as well as for their value as antidotes against the propaganda that a few college and universities are peddling in their summer reading programs.

There's nothing like a good book.

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Compiled by C. S. Prakash
Write to him at prakash(at)tuskegee.edu

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