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September 27, 2010


Cost to Humanity; EU divided over GM crops; Shattering myths behind Frankenfoods; Top Science Bodies Verdict


* Genetically Altered Salmon? It Doesn't Stop There
* Six Top Science Bodies Verdict: Bt Brinjal Safe
* EU divided over GM crops
* Shattering myths behind Frankenfoods: The benefits behind genetically engineered produce
* ILSI Crop Composition Databas
* Comesa Wants Biotech Policies Harmonised
* New Soybeans Bred for Oil that's More Heart-Healthy
* Monsanto and Illumina Reach Key Milestone in Cotton Genome Sequencing
* Six-month jail term for environmental activist
* The Julia Child Of Mexican Cooking Zeroes In On The Best Of Oaxaca
* African countries urged to embrace biotechnology

Genetically Altered Salmon? It Doesn't Stop There

- Seth Borenstein and Malcolm Ritter, AP, September 22, 2010

We've always played with our food - even before we knew about genes or how to change them.

For thousands of years, humans have practiced selective breeding - pairing the beefiest bull with the healthiest heifers to start a new herd. That concept was refined to develop plant hybridization and artificial insemination. Today we've got tastier corn on sturdier stalks, bigger turkeys and meatier cattle.

Now comes an Atlantic salmon that is genetically engineered to grow twice as fast as a regular salmon. If U.S. regulators approve it, the fish would be the first such scientifically altered animal to reach the dinner plate. Scientists have already determined that it's safe to eat. They are weighing other factors, including environmental risks, after two days of intense hearings.

Whatever the decision on salmon, it's only the start of things to come. In labs and on experimental farms are:

- Vaccines and other pharmaceuticals grown in bananas and other plants.
- Trademarked "Enviropigs" whose manure doesn't pollute as much.
- Cows that don't produce methane in their flatulence.

And in the far-off future, there may be foods built from scratch - the scratch being DNA. Sometimes when science tinkers with food, it works. Decades ago, Norman Borlaug's "Green Revolution" of scientifically precise hybrids led to bigger crop yields that have dramatically reduced hunger.

Sometimes it flops. Anyone remember the Flavr Savr tomato? Probably not. It didn't taste good. "There was no flavor there to save," one expert quipped. But you might remember 10 years ago when genetically modified corn meant for animal feed wound up in taco shells?

To the biotech world, precise tinkering with the genes in plants and animals is a proven way to reduce disease, protect from insects and increase the food supply to curb world hunger.

To skeptics, genetic changes put the natural world and the food supply at risk. Modified organisms can escape into the wild or mingle with native species, potentially changing them, with unknown effects.

Over the last 15 years, genetically engineered plants have been grown on more than 2 billion acres in more than 20 countries. Consumers eat genetically engineered plant products in large quantities in the U.S., often in unlabeled products such as oils and processed foods.

The same crops are viewed more suspiciously in Europe and other countries, including India. China, meanwhile, is working to develop genetically modified rice that would be less prone to insect damage. In fact, some experts say the natural food of our forebears is for the most part long gone. That's mostly due to breeding and other now-commonplace practices.

Old-fashioned breeding has led to turkeys that "can't have sex anymore because we've been breeding them for big chests," says Martina Newell McGloughlin, director of the University of California's Biotechnology Research and Education Program. "All of the animals, plants and microbes we use in our food system, our agricultural system, are genetically modified in one way or another," says Bruce Chassy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "That, or they're wild."

The modifications are mostly from selective breeding and hybridization, the traditional ways of changing plants and animals. But these methods used for thousands of years are compared by genetic engineers to using a sledgehammer. They say their techniques are like using a scalpel. "Genetic engineering is more precise and predictable, yet it is regulated up the wazoo," McGloughlin says. "Yet there is no regulation at all on the traditional breeding system."

She finds fears over genetically engineered food and the regulations that accompany them hard to stomach. More than four-fifths of the soybean, corn and cotton acreage in the United States last year used genetically engineered crops, according to a 2010 National Academies of Sciences study.

David Ervin of Portland State University in Oregon, who chaired the committee that wrote the report, said it found no large-scale environmental risks associated with the current genetically engineered corn, cotton and soybeans in the United States. As for future crops, "you just have to be very cautious," depending on the nature of the plants, he says. The report, which didn't consider health impacts of eating genetically engineered crops, did recommend large-scale studies of ecological effects of such crops, Ervin said.

Marion Nestle, a New York University professor and expert on food studies and public health, says that in processed food, "if it's got beet sugar, soybean or sugar, it's got an 85 to 95 percent chance of being genetically modified."

Nestle fears unintended consequences in the food supply and environment. She previously served on Food and Drug Administration advisory boards, and she opposes the genetically engineered salmon. In the 1990s, she voted against allowing genetically engineered plants. Animals are a bigger problem in trying to prevent mixing with nongenetically modified populations, she says. "Millions (of farmed fish) escape, not one or two, but millions."

L. LaReesa Wolfenbarger, a professor of biology at the University of Nebraska who was on the National Academies study team, finds a distinct difference between old-fashioned breeding and genetic modification. What is happening recently is that we are mixing genes of plants and animals that in normal evolution or nature don't mix, she says.

Or as Margaret Mellon, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, puts it: You can't breed a cow with a starfish. Such DNA-mixing is not necessarily bad, but it's something to be careful with, Wolfenbarger and Mellon say. "These are things that we can look at as long as we also have the ability to kind of brainstorm and figure out what the unintended consequences are," Wolfenbarger says. She contends that so far, at least with plants, science has had a good handle on preventing problems.

Not so, says NYU's Nestle. Back in the 1990s, she recalled, opponents of genetically engineered crops were "laughed out of the room ... and they turned out to be right." Just as critics warned, the pollen of genetically modified crops is drifting into natural areas. Weeds and insects have become resistant to the anti-pest modifications, she said.

But scientists who work on genetic modifications insist time has proven them correct. James Murray, a professor of animal sciences at the University of California at Davis, says the fears surrounding genetically engineered foods sound similar to concerns about microwave ovens, which some people initially thought would give off dangerous radiation or blow up pacemakers. Murray is working on genetically modified goats as a way to produce milk that can fight devastating diarrhea in poor nations.

With the world population predicted to surpass 9 billion before 2050, genetically engineered food is the only hope to avoid starvation, he says. That many people cannot be fed "using agriculture as it is right now," Murray says. "What is the cost to humanity if we do not use this technology?"


Six Top Science Bodies Verdict: Bt Brinjal Safe

- Zia Haq, Hindustan Times, Sept. 24, 2010 http://www.hindustantimes.com

Six premier Indian science academies, given the task of evaluating Bt brinjal by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, have declared it safe, but their findings also say all genetically modified (GM) items pose a risk if the science behind them is flawed. The academies, as part of their mandate,
have made key recommendations, including allowing the use of GM crops to meet growing food demands.

However, they said, Indias food security is too critical an area to be left entirely to the private sector. Therefore, public sector organisations should be the main facilitators of GM technologies.

The launch of Bt brinjal, Indias first GM food crop, was aborted in February after a safety debate broke out. While putting a moratorium on the genetically-engineered eggplant, the worlds first, Ramesh had said a decision to release it would have to be responsible to both science and society. Ramesh had then appointed the academies to scrutinise Bt brinjal and give a rigorous opinion on GM crops.

K. Kasturirangan, Planning Commission member heading farm research, was asked to steer the project involving Bangalore-based Indian Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medical Sciences, Indian National Academy of Engineering, Indian National Science Academy and National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, all New Delhi-based, and Allahabad-based National Academy of Sciences.

In GM crops, the genetic material (DNA) is altered to improve its qualities. Bt Brinjal, for instance, has been inserted with a bacterial protein so that it resists pests.

The academies, which have submitted their findings to the government, found no evidence that the protein used in creating Bt brinjal, Cry1Ac, is unsafe. The same Bt protein present in another food crop has been consumed elsewhere in the world with no evidence of any scientifically established negative effect, the report, reviewed by HT, states.

Some people can still be allergic to Bt brinjal, the findings say, just as some people develop allergies to common foods such as milk or nuts. So, no food can be declared 100 per cent safe for all from this viewpoint.

The findings, however, suggest the line between safe and unsafe GM products is very slim. Safety depends on how sound they are scientifically and how well they have been tested. Moreover, growers of GM crops need to comply with all mandatory guidelines for environment safety.

Inter-Academy Report Endorses Commercial Approval of Bt Brinjal

- Crop Biotech Update, Sept 24, 2010; www.isaaaa.org/kc

Six top science academies of India endorse the safety of Bt brinjal and recommend the commercial approval of Bt brinjal in India. The "Inter-Academy Report on GM Crops" says Bt brinjal deserves special attention in terms of its immediate relevance. Available evidence has shown that Bt brinjal is safe for human consumption and that its environmental effects are negligible. It is appropriate to release Bt brinjal for cultivation in specific farmers' fields in identified states.

The report was prepared at the request of Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Environment & Forests and Dr. K. Kasturirangan, Member of Planning Commission under the auspices of six top science academies including the Indian Academy of Sciences http://www.ias.ac.in , the Indian National Science Academy http://www.insaindia.org , the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences http://www.naasindia.org , the National Academy of Medical Sciences ttp://www.nams-india.in/), the National Academy of Sciences http://www.nasi.org.in/) and the Indian National Academy of Engineering ( ]http://www.inae.org/). The report concentrates on GM crops in general and on the specific issue of Bt brinjal in particular in India. It endorses the application of biotechnology in agriculture on a case-by-case basis. "Transgenic crops are one possible alternative and complementary technology products which can contribute to the on-going efforts of genetic enhancement of crops. The technology does not replace conventional plant breeding, hybrid seed technology, molecular breeding or organic farming but complements them in the over-all objective of attaining food security", the report said.

As regard to Bt brinjal, the report concludes that "the available scientific evidence does not indicate any appreciable effect of GM crops on biodiversity. The regulatory mechanism in place in India for approval of release of transgenic crops is strong. However, the same is not true about monitoring after release. A specific mechanism should be created for post-release monitoring, which should include provisions for providing effective technical advice to the farmer". Immediate steps should be taken to restore confidence and allay fears that the moratorium would influence research on transgenics and their use on individual merit. Spreading public awareness on Bt brinjal, and transgenics in general, is important and mechanisms for doing so should be set up.

Download a copy of the report at http://www.naasindia.org and http://www.insaindia.org


EU divided over GM crops

- Christian Spillmann, AFP, September 27, 2010 http://www.physorg.com/

A controversial EU bid to allow member states to make their own decisions on whether or not to ban GM crops hit a fresh snag on Monday when Italy and France dug in their heels against the move.
With the continent deeply divided on genetically modified crops, the European Commission has been thrashing out ways of breaking the deadlock for months and spells out its latest ideas later Monday.
In a rare relinquishing of power, EU officials will propose to shift the onus on member states -- giving nations the freedom to ban or grow GM crops but allowing free circulation of GM goods in line with WTO rules.

But as farm ministers gathered in Brussels there was little sign of quick assent.
"Italy does not support the proposal ... Each for himself undermines the foundations of the common agricultural policy (CAP)", said Italy's farm minister Giancarlo Galan.
"France wants a common decision," agreed French minister Bruno Lemaire. "Opting for national decision-making would give a wrong signal to European citizens and a wrong signal for the common agricultural policy."
Britain and Spain too are opposed to Europe washing its hands by shifting responsibility for a political hot potato to individual nations.
Meanwhile Austria, Hungary and Luxembourg are angry over the commission's green light in March to a GM potato developed by German group BASF, the Amflora, grown in the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden but only for industrial uses for its starch content.
GM cultivation remains relatively limited in the 27-nation bloc, with six member states banning Monsanto's Mon 810 maize -- Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg -- and Poland banning all GM crops.
To give opponents a legal basis against GMs, EU health commissioner John Dalli suggests that over and above EU-wide scientific restrictions, nations be able to ban them across all or part of their territory for socioeconomic, ethical or moral reasons.
Dalli said recently that the commission was neither for nor against GMs.

"But in today's world, they are a reality," he said. "Europe cannot stand idle and deny itself the political responsibility to take decisions and implement a policy of responsible innovation."
Europe has fallen behind the rest of the world amid public concerns over the potential effects of GM crops demonised as "frankenfoods" by opponents.
While GM crops were cultivated worldwide in 2009 on 134 million hectares, the maize seed developed by US biotech giant Monsanto, MON 810, was grown on fewer than 95,000 hectares of land in the EU last year, down from almost 107,000 hectares in 2008.
Opponents of GM food fear they would inevitably contaminate other crops and maintain that there is no definitive evidence of their safety.
Supporters argue that such crops have higher yields, resist pests and disease better and require less fertiliser and pesticide. They say farmers should be given the freedom to choose whether they want to plant GM crops.


Shattering myths behind Frankenfoods: The benefits behind genetically engineered produce

Laura Canter. Food and Drink Digital, Sep 26, 2010 http://www.foodanddrinkdigital.com/

A variety of foods can be genetically modified using biotechnology – these are known as genetically engineered foods or the euphemistic term ‘novel foods.’ The genetic material may be altered with methods that do not occur naturally, which is known as ‘genetic engineering.’ Selected individual genes with specific traits are transferred from one organism to another. Traditional breeding can achieve similar effects, but over a much longer period of time. However, traditional breeding cannot achieve the same effects using a transferred gene from a non-related species; this is possible with genetically modified foods.

For the past few years there has been a worldwide range of perspectives within non-governmental organizations on the safety of genetically modified foods. The dispute involves biotechnology companies, governmental regulators, non-governmental organizations and scientists. Japan and Europe are experiencing the most intense disputes and protests. In the United States genetically engineered crops have been grown far and wide and the introduction of these products has been more widely accepted.

One of the more common myths related to novel foods is that genetically modified food is not safe. The truth is no one really knows whether novel foods are safe or not, as so little research has been devoted to this matter and even less has been released to the public. There has however, been a lot of unsubstantiated opinions offered to the public suggesting negative implications.

Another common myth is the techniques involved in genetic modification are not precise. This is inaccurate as biotech companies claim that techniques involved in genetic modification are more precise than conventional breeding. It is a fact the genes introduced by genetic modification are more precisely understood, as experts know what protein they make and how to test the protein in feeding trials. On the other hand, the genes introduced by conventional breeding can number in the thousands and could be generated from wild relatives of crop plants that may be toxic to humans.

Using the term ‘health benefits’ may seem like a paradox in this context, but what little research that actually has been done in conjunction with this matter has concluded the following: novel foods are genetically modified using biotechnology. Some genetically modified foods include maize, soybean, oilseed rape (canola), chicory, squash, potato, pineapple and strawberries. Genetically engineered produce may provide greater resistance to pests and viruses, higher nutritional value and longer shelf life. However, their safety, potential risks and ethical concerns are still being debated. Laws to regulate the labeling of such genetically modified foods still vary.

To date no adverse health effects caused by products approved for sale have been documented, although two products failed initial safety testing and were discontinued, due to allergic reactions. Most feeding trials have observed no toxic effects and saw that genetically modified foods were equivalent in nutrition to unmodified foods, although few reports attribute physiological changes to genetically altered food.

Genetic engineering can also be used to increase the amount of particular nutrients, such as vitamins, in food crops. Research into this technique, sometimes called ‘nutritional enhancement,’ is now at an advanced stage. For example, genetically altered golden rice is an example of a white rice crop that has had the vitamin A gene inserted from a daffodil plant. This changes the color and the vitamin level for countries where vitamin A deficiency is prevalent. Researchers are looking into major health problems like iron deficiency. The removal of the proteins that cause allergies from nuts is also being researched.

Genetically engineering produce can also have positive effects on crops. For example, studies have found that modifying the harvest can generate sturdy plants that are able to withstand extreme weather conditions. It also can produce better quality food crops, higher nutritional yields, inexpensive and nutritious food, like carrots with more antioxidants, foods with a greater shelf life, like tomatoes that taste better and last longer, food with medicinal benefits, such as edible vaccines – for example, bananas with bacterial or rotavirus antigens and crops that are resistant to disease and insects.

Modification advocates would argue that genetically modified foods are potentially better for the environment. By using genetically engineered crops that are resistant to attacks by pests or disease, farmers and primary producers do not have to apply large amounts of pesticides and chemicals to the surrounding environment. Developing crops that are tolerant to particular herbicides and pesticides may reduce the amount of pesticides used in food production and the residual pesticide levels in the environment.


ILSI Crop Composition Database

The International Life Sciences Institute is pleased to announce that on September 30, 2010, Version 4.0 of the Crop Composition Database http://www.cropcomposition.org will be released. Available to the public and to scientists around the globe, th e Crop Composition database provides comprehensive information on the natural variability in composition of three important crops: corn, cotton and soybean. As in previous versions, v4.0 provides data on conventional (non-biotech) crops only.

Version 4.0 is an improvement over earlier versions and is based on user requests to create a faster, more flexible research tool. Enhancements include an intuitive graphical-user interface (GUI), significantly increased performance, added security, and additional features such as unit conversion and multiple output options.


Comesa Wants Biotech Policies Harmonised

- Joseph Miti, Daily Monitor (Uganda), Sept.15 2010 http://www.monitor.co.ug

As the desire to encompass bioengineered crops in some African counties continues to grow, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) is set to bring polices that would govern commercial planting and trade in genetically modified crop (GMO) in the region. Dr Belay Getachew, Comesa senior biotechnology policy advisor says the process of formulating the guidelines, which would also be applied for emergency food aid with GMO content that enters the region, is at a higher stage.

The process started with a team of experts drafting policies that are waiting for endorsement by Comesas council of ministers and head of state summit. Mr Arthur Makara, executive director of Scifode, who participated in drafting polices on commercial planting of GMOs says regional biosafety polices would provide guidance on how to manage the inevitable trans-boundary movement of GMOs. The policy will provide Comesa member states with a mechanism for centralised regional assessment of GMOs destined for commercial planting, Mr Makara said while presenting the draft in the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) -Comesa Consultative meeting held in Kampala last week.

He added; The new rules will also accelerate the adoption of the technology with enormous potential in reducing problems associated with food insecurity, meagre household income and vulnerability resulting from climate change. Mr David Wafula of Programme for Biosafety Systems (PBS) says with the developments and increased field trials currently being undertaken in the region, a Commercial Trade Policy to guide Comesa counties on trade within the region and other parts of the world in respect to GM crops and their products is necessary.We have to remember that GMOs are already in our food chain. Egypt, a Comesa member state, has approved commercialisation of GM maize and a number of Comesa member states trading under the South African Development Community (SADC) like South Africa, grow both yellow and white GM maize on commercial scale, Mr Wafula says.

The formulation of policies, however, comes at a time when Comesa is also advocating for strategies such as maize without borders that aim at removing trade barriers in the movement of maize across member states. Maize is one of the most widely traded and distributed commodities accounting for 50 per cent of Comesas total grain import. Comesa, the largest trading economic bloc on the continent has 19 member states, a population of over 389 million people, an annual import bill of around $32b and export bill of $82b. Agriculture is the engine of the economics of member counties. Agriculture commodities are major drivers for growth in the intra-Comesa trade. Dr Theresa Sengooba, PBS Regional Coordinator said the meeting was responding to Comesa Ministers of Agricultures request of looking into mechanisms of addressing biosafety issues at the regional level to mitigate the potential impact of GMO on trade and food security.

For countries with limited resources, regional cooperation is a realistic option for accessing and gradually building the necessary capacities for the effective implementation of international obligation and agreements such as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, Dr Sengooba said. On emergency food aid with GMO content, Mr Wafula said a number of Comesa member countries are always in need of emergency food aid during human-induced situations or natural calamities that require humanitarian assistance and rapid responses to save lives. He cited a World Food Programme (WFP) report that shows sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 67 per cent of global emergency food aid deliveries in 2007 and about 85 per cent of the deliveries went to Comesa countries.

He said currently, member states in the region have no harmonised policy regarding procurement of food aid with GM content. He said member states who belong to multiple trading blocs have adopted a variety of approaches ranging from unconditional acceptance, milling prior to distribution guidelines endorsed by SADC countries. Mr Makara, explains that one of the guidelines for trading in GM seed recommends for a GM seed approved in a Comesa state which is traded to another member country where the originating and receiving environment are similar, approval should be granted.


New Soybeans Bred for Oil that's More Heart-Healthy

- Jan Suszkiw, USDA/ARS, September 16, 2010 http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2010/100916.htm

Products made from soy oil stand to benefit from two new germplasm lines that produce high levels of oleic acid, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and university scientists.

According to molecular biologist Kristin Bilyeu with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Columbia, Mo., increasing soy oil's level of the monounsaturated fat can avoid resorting to hydrogenation. Besides converting liquid oil into a solid, like margarine, hydrogenation helps to improve shelf life and product quality. But it also generates trans-fats, which alter the body's blood cholesterol levels, producing more of the "bad" LDL cholesterol than the "good" HDL cholesterol.

In 2008, soy oil accounted for 70 percent of all edible oils and fats consumed in America, underscoring the importance of reducing trans-fats in cooking, baking and deep-frying applications. Increasing the oil's oleic acid may offer industrial benefits, too, like improving cold-weather engine performance when using soy-based biodiesel, notes Bilyeu, with the ARS Plant Genetics Research Unit in Columbia. ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of USDA.

In a new issue of BMC Plant Biology, Bilyeu and colleagues Anh Pham Tung, Jeong Dong Lee and J. Grover Shannon report their identification and use of a mutant pair of alleles, or gene copies, to bolster soy's oleic-acid production. Typically, soy oil is 13 percent palmitic acid, 4 percent stearic acid, 20 percent oleic acid, 55 percent linoleic acid, and 8 percent linolenic acid. But the new beans contain more than 80 percent oleic acid, reports Bilyeu, who collaborated with scientists at the University of Missouri and Kyungpook University in the Republic of Korea.

Other research groups have successfully used transgenic methods such as gene silencing to increase soy's oleic-acid levels. But the ARS-university team used classical plant breeding instead, "endowing" their soy lines with two mutant alleles for the gene FAD2.

Normally, its orchestration of biochemical events in soybean seed favors production of linoleic acid and other unsaturated fatty acids. However, combining the two naturally occurring variant alleles (FAD2-1A and FAD2-1B) reversed the situation, generating more oleic acid.

Field trials in Missouri and Costa Rica indicate the soy lines' oleic-acid production can stay fairly constant across diverse growing conditions. Additional tests are planned.


Monsanto and Illumina Reach Key Milestone in Cotton Genome Sequencing

- Monsanto, Sept 22, 2010 http://www.monsanto.com

'Companies Will Donate Info to the Public Domain; Texas A&M Professor to Lead Effort on Cotton Genome Sequencing'

The complicated cotton genome is one step closer to having its genetic threads unraveled, thanks to a key research milestone completed and announced today by Monsanto Company and San Diego-based Ilumina Inc. Combining Monsantos knowledge of cotton genomics and Illumina's next generation sequencing technology, a critical landmark has been achieved that could lead to the development of cotton crops with higher yields, better fiber quality, and greater resistance to diseases and pests.

The two companies have completed sequencing a wild Peruvian cotton species, Gossypium raimondii, and will donate their findings to the public. The completion of G. raimondii will aid public and private researchers in their quest to sequence the more elusive genome of domesticated cotton, G. hirsutum.

Domesticated cotton, more commonly known as American Upland cotton, accounts for more than 95 percent of U.S. production. Its genome has proven difficult to sequence and assemble because of its large size as well as the large quantity of repetitive DNA. The cotton genome, at about 2.7 billion nucleotides, is roughly comparable to the human genome at 3.2 billion. Additionally, most organismsincluding humanshave two sets of chromosomes. However, domesticated cotton has four sets.

Imagine you have four puzzles and all of their numerous pieces to put together in order, says Ty Vaughn, Monsanto global cotton technology lead. On top of that, many of the puzzle pieces are identical. The cotton genome presents the same unique challenge to researchers.

Researchers chose a strategy to study related cotton species that closely represent the more complex domesticated cotton genome. The genetic structure of the G. raimondii species represents one part, and the G. arboretum species, more commonly known as tree cotton, represents the other. Additionally, previous molecular studies have shown that the G. raimondii and G. arboreum genomes have a great deal of similarity in the way that genes are arranged on chromosomes. This could allow the G. raimondii genomic sequence to serve as a base to assemble the even larger and more complicated G. arboreum genome. Having those two sequences together is expected to provide a path toward sequencing and understanding the genome of domesticated cotton.


Six-month jail term for environmental activist

-n Red Flag News, Sept. 22, 2010 http://www.rf-news.de/2010/kw38/22.09.10-2013-ein-halbes-jahr-haftstrafe-fuer-umweltaktivist

Jrg Bergstedt, an activist in the fight against the introduction of gene-corn, will this coming Thursday begin a six-month jail term in
Gieen without possibility of parole. Bergstedt was accused ofproperty damage. He was recorded on camera ripping up GM corn plantsfrom a field trial, repeatedly, over a course of four years. The
activist claims his sentence is an attempt at intimidation. To date, this is the harshest sentence imposed on an anti-gene-maize activist.

Original: Ein halbes Jahr Haftstrafe fr Umweltaktivist
Rote Fahne News Sept. 22, 2010

[translation, Thanks to Andy Apel]


Diana Kennedy An Authentic Personality: The Julia Child Of Mexican Cooking Zeroes In On The Best Of Oaxaca

- Sebastian Smee, The Boston Globe, September 22, 2010 http://www.boston.com

Q. How did your new book on Oaxacan cooking, Oaxaca al Gusto, come about?
A. I was approached to do it in 1992 by a representative of the government of Oaxaca. Ive been there many times. Its one of the most fascinating of Mexicos states because of its biodiversity. There are many, many cultures, and theyre often relatively isolated. They have different ways of cooking corn, and use a wide array of different wild plants. (cut>

Q. How does genetically modified corn stack up?
A. The GM corn in the United States doesnt produce the same flour as local seeds.

Q. Why not?
A. Its because someones messing around with the genes and they dont have a palate. These kings of food who mess around with genes should bring in a gourmand to set them straight.

(A Reader comments)
DrewKershen wrote: Definition: Nixtamalization typically refers to a process for the preparation of maize (corn), or other grain, in which the grain is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, and hulled. The term can also refer to the removal via an alkali process of the pericarp from other grains such as sorghum. Maize subjected to the nixtamalization process has several benefits over unprocessed grain for food preparation: it is more easily ground; its nutritional value is increased; flavor and aroma are improved; and mycotoxins are reduced. These benefits make nixtamalization a crucial preliminary step for further processing of maize into food products, and the process is employed using both traditional and industrial methods, in the production of tortillas, tamales, corn chips, hominy and many other items. (Source Wikipedia)

What I want to emphasize in the definition are the words and mycotoxins are reduced. Yes, the mycotoxin of fumonisin, to be more precise. I discussed this fact and its legal implications in Kershen, Health and Food Safety: The Benefits of Bt-Corn, 61 FOOD & DRUG L. J. 197-235 (2006).

While this famous cook talks on about the virtues of native maize, she is incorrect about the type of corn (yellow) that has been genetically improved. Oaxaca uses primarily white corn for flour (as I recall); Yucatan uses yellow corn. Thus, the Oaxacan maize is unlikely to have anything related to genetically improved corn. In addition, she is clueless about the health risks of native maize. Yes, traditional preparation of maize for tortillas does involve a nixtamalization process, but the traditional person better get the process done correctly and the process may not work when the fumonisin levels are high in the corn cob (la espiga). The famous cook not only does not know corn, but she does not know food safety either. Thank goodness for the Mexican government and Mexican food processors who provide safe nixtamal corn. Unfortunately, not all poor (especially Guatemalans) have access to safe nixtamal corn.

Best regards, Drew L. Kershen, Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law, University of Oklahoma, College of Law


African countries urged to embrace biotechnology

- Maxwell Awumah, Ghana News Agency, September 26, 2010 http://www.ghananewsagency.org

Abuja - Dr Nompumelelo H. Obokoh, Project Manager of African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), has called on African leaders to position themselves to embrace biotechnology in solving food insecurity in Africa.

She said the challenges of science technology and innovation held the key for improved food security and poverty reduction as global trends have indicated preference for commercialized biotechnology and genetically modified (GM) crops.

Dr Obokoh disclosed this to the Ghana News Agency in Abuja.

The Project Manager said the United States, China and South Africa have taken full advantage of the system and expressed worry that trends that were fast changing and improving systems elsewhere was rather slow in Africa.

She advocated the mainstreaming of biotechnology into agricultural production, building of capacity for compliance and migrating to commercial high yielding crops.

Dr Obokoh said Nigeria for instance has an annual consumption rate of 2.7 million tons of cowpea and now grapples with a national deficit of about 500,000 tons.

She added that surmounting the constraints of this deficit in view of infertility of land, drought, extreme heat, climate change, disease, pest and parasites were compelling factors towards adopting biotechnological approaches for food sufficiency and not beliefs or traditions.

"Legume pod borer, a major pest was responsible for about 80 percent post harvest losses alone and the scientific approach to finding an antidote was the application of biotechnology," she added.

Professor Karniyus S. Gamaniel, Director-General, Nigeria Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), called on the media to play a crucial role in educating the masses on research findings in simplest language for easy assimilation.

He said the journey from the laboratory to industry was long and cumbersome and urged the media, as major stakeholders to assist in shortening that distance.

Prof. Gamaniel said NIPRD's priority hinges on strategies imbedded in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the seven-point agenda and National Strategy for Health Development Planning.