Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on

Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives





October 28, 2010


Debate Must Be Science-Led; A New Journal; Latin Ag Ministers Speak Up: $1M Challenge to Bt; Mad Science


* GM Debate Must Be Science-Led Debate Must Be Science-Led, Says MEP
* GM Crops: A new peer-reviewed journal on the science and policy
* Mercados internacionales, biotecnología y aftosa serán abordados por REDPA
- Declaration from the Ag Ministers of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay
* Transgenic Plants - Corporate or College?
* Win $1.25 Million Prize for An Alternative to Bt!
* Innovation, Integration, and the Biotechnology Revolution in U.S. Seed Markets
* The Gene Revolution - GM crops and Farming Reality
* Mad Science: 12 Bizarre Examples of Genetic Engineering
* Frankenfood Carving Contest!

GM Debate Must Be Science-Led, Says MEP

- William Surman, Farmers Guardian (UK), Oct 28. 2010 http://www.farmersguardian.com

AN MEP has urged the European Parliament to dismiss ‘dogmatic politics’ in favour of science when formulating policy for genetically modified (GM) technology.

George Lyon, Liberal Democrat MEP for Scotland, spoke in the European Parliament this week in response to the European Commission’s proposal to allow Member States to unilaterally ban, restrict or permit commercial cultivation of GM crops.

Mr Lyon, who is drafting the European Parliament’s response to the Commission, warned the Commission proposal could allow politics to run the debate.

“Decisions on new technologies such as GMs should only be based on scientific advice. “The danger with this proposal is that it would allow Member States to ban cultivation for political reasons.

“Without the bedrock of scientific advice to anchor decisions, you risk setting a dangerous precedent in choosing what is popular over what is safe. “Consumers have genuine fears which need to be addressed by politicians, not exploited for political gain.

“I have serious reservations about the Commission’s approach to this issue and the agriculture committee will have to come to a decision to either reject the proposal or improve it through amendments,” he said.


GM Crops: A new peer-reviewed journal on the science and policy of genetically modified crops


Austin TX, October 26, 2010 - In January 2010, GM Crops launched as the first international peer-reviewed journal of its kind headed by Editor-in-Chief Naglaa A. Abdallah (Cairo University). The publication is dedicated specifically to transgenic crops, their products, their uses in agriculture and all technical, political and economic issues contingent on their use.

We are pleased to announce that Professor Channapatna S. Prakash (Tuskegee University) and Professor Vivan Moses (King’s College London) have recently agreed to serve as co-editors for this new journal alongside Dr. Abdallah. In addition to publishing original research, GM Crops will now also publish new features such as Extra Views and GM in the Media.

This is an opportunity to establish an authoritative vehicle encompassing both the scientific and non-scientific aspects of GM crops and their products, as well as issues related to the adoption of the technology around the world.

We strongly encourage the GM crops community to consider favorably submitting your relevant publications to GM Crops. For further details, please consult the Call for Papers at http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/gmcrops/cfp

This is an excellent time for this new journal because of the increasing focus on genetically modified crops and improved agronomic traits from the genetic engineering techniques and applications developed in the 1980s. GM Crops fills a significant void in today’s scientific literature and serves as an international forum to initiate and facilitate discussion of progress and problems in this most important area of biotechnology.

Questions? Please contact
Kristine Pipit, kpipit@landesbioscience.com or
Kim Mitchell, kmitchell@landesbioscience.com


Declaration from the Ag Ministers of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay

- SAC/Council. II Declaration (XIX-2010); Santiago, 21 -22 October, 2010


The Southern Agricultural Council (SAC) XIX Ordinary reunion Ministers’ Declaration

The Agricultural ministers for Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, members of the Southern Agricultural Council (SAC), meeting in Santiago, Chile, the days of 21 and 22 October, 2010, express that:

1. The SAC countries face the challenge of decisively contributing to world food production, in order to obtain sustainable and competitive agricultural development, safely incorporating scientific and technological advances. Also, successfully face the world food contingency, marked by a profound imbalance between production and cumulative consumption of the principle grains.

2. In the field of biotechnology, the use of genetically modified organisms presents itself as a tool to support the Region in the challenge of increasing food production and adapting to the challenges brought on by climate change.
3. The growth obtained through the use of this technology has made it possible to advance the globally cultivated area to 134 million ha in 2009. Of this, 34% corresponds to SAC countries.
4. This opportunity must be accompanied by instruments to analyze, evaluate and manage the opportunities and the use of genetically modified organisms in the country.

1. Deepen and strengthen the regulatory frameworks and instruments to guarantee the use of genetically modified organisms.
2. Request the international organizations to provide technical and financial cooperation in a coordinated fashion, for the development of the genetically modified organisms in keeping with with the concrete needs of the Region.
3. Instruct REDPA (the Network for the Coordination of Agricultural Policies, by its acronym in Spanish) and the SAC Technical-Administrative Secretariat to continue with its efforts to coordinate, articulate and promote work on genetically engineered organisms.

Julián Andrés Domínguez, Minister of Agriculture, Husbandry and Fisheries, Argentina
Wagner Rossi, Minister of Agriculture, Husbandry and Supplies, Brazil
José Antonio Galilea, Minister of Agriculture, Chile
Enzo Cardozo, Minister of Agriculture and Husbandry, Paraguay
Tabaré Aguirre, Minister of Husbandry, Agriculture, and Fisheries, Uruguay

Not signing:
Nemesia Achacollo, Minister of Lands and Rural Development, Bolivia.

(Thanks Wayne Parrott for translation from Spanish)
Mercados internacionales, biotecnología y aftosa serán abordados por REDPA

Los directores de políticas agropecuarias de la región realizarán la XXV Reunión Técnica, los días 20 y 21, de octubre previo a la reunión del CAS. La Red de Coordinación de Políticas Agropecuarias (REDPA) abordará los informes sobre los mercados internacionales agropecuarios, la biotecnología y el estado de situación de la aftosa en la región.


Transgenic Plants - Corporate or College?

- DAINA RINGUS , Cornell Daily Sun, OCTOBER 27, 2010 [ http://cornellsun.com/node/44314 ]http://cornellsun.com/node/44314

Ten years ago, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) emerged in the public forum as one of the major controversies in the plant breeding world. Transgenic plants – containing DNA from other organisms – are at the center of the controversy.

Cornell’s campus is a powerhouse of plant research, where transgenic plants are created. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences contains the departments of plant biology, plant breeding & genetics, and horticulture, with labs and greenhouses in Ithaca and at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY. The Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI), an independent non-for-profit organization for plant research with a world-renowned reputation, is near the Vet School.

Scientists have been developing transgenic plants at the university since the Green Revolution of the 1960s. One famous example is the GMO papaya, developed by Prof. Dennis Gonsalves, plant pathology. Gonsalves collaborated with scientists at the University of Hawaii and the USDA for nearly two decades to introduce a resistance gene into papaya – the genes combated a virus that destroyed Hawaiian papaya crops. The project succeeded, and the collaboration also marked the first time a university-pursued and approved deregulation – extensive testing and then approval by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for commercial use – of a transgenic fruit in 1996.

The landscape has changed for academic research on transgenic plants. Today, very little research on Cornell’s campus develops transgenic plants for commercial use. Prof. Jim Giovannoni, plant biology, a USDA plant molecular biologist who works at BTI, studies the ripening pathways in tomatoes and fruit.

Though he works with these edible crops, “Most of the transgenic plants we make are to address questions of basic biology. In general, they’re not designed to create a product,” said Giovannoni.

Researchers in Giovannoni’s group create mutant tomatoes using Agrobacterium tumifaciens – a pathogenic plant bacterium that can inject DNA into plant cells – to introduce a transgenic DNA sequence made up of viral (cauliflower virus), microbial (Agrobacterium and antibiotic resistance markers), and mostly tomato DNA. They do this to manipulate the expression of specific genes.

Growth of transgenic plants in greenhouses at Cornell and BTI is tightly regulated to prevent the escape of pollen or plant materials. Screens cover block the entry of potential pollinators, and all plant material grown in a greenhouse with the transgenic plants, whether transgenic themselves or not, must be “rendered biologically inactive” by pressure-cooking in an autoclave before disposal, according to the Cornell Institutional Biosafety Committee form for greenhouse use.

Growing transgenic plants in field trials is even more tightly regulated, requiring a permit from the government, a minimum distance from commercially grown crops of the same plant, and swaths of land around the field to minimize the movement of transgenic material.

Prof. Tom Brutnell, plant breeding and genetics, a scientist at BTI, studies corn genetics. In one of his collaborative projects funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, his group studies photosynthesis genes from C4 plants with the long-term goal of eventually engineering them into C3 plants, like wheat and rice. C4 plants have very efficient photosynthetic mechanisms that allow them to thrive in hot, dry locations. Brutnell’s group uses the model, non-crop plant Arabidopsis thaliana for much of their transgenic work. Part of the reason he uses model systems is the ease compared to using transgenic crop plants.

Brutnell said, “Many of the regulations on transgenic plants hamper their use in basic research.”

Once developed for commercial use, plants must be deregulated by the USDA and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). This is an expensive process, requiring extensive testing and data collection.

Prof. Margaret Smith, plant genetics & breeding, Associate Director for Cornell Cooperative Extension, follows genetically engineered crops closely. As a corn breeder, Smith doesn’t develop transgenic plants. However, as part of her extension appointment, she educates audiences on and off campus about genetic engineering in order to demystify the technology.

According to Smith, “There’s still quiet a bit of interest in genetically engineered crops.” However, due to the high costs associated with technology use and deregulation, she added, “That interest is largely concentrated in the private sector.”


Win $1.25 Million Prize for An Alternative to Bt!

InnoCentive, Challenge ID: 9582167, Deadline: Nov 20, 2010 [ https://gw.innocentive.com/ar/challenge/9582167?campaign=nature ]https://gw.innocentive.com/ar/challenge/9582167?campaign=nature

Novel insecticidal proteins, or genes encoding insecticidal proteins, are requested. Awards and milestone payments of up to $1,250,000 are offered for various levels of solutions - from bioinformatics-based approaches up to clones expressing proteins with experimentally validated activity. Precise details are available within the Challenge Description. You can try our new Team Project functionality on this Challenge.

The Seeker wishes to identify proteins that have insecticidal activities and that possess structures or modes of action different from known Bacillus toxins. The ultimate goal of this challenge is to find and source proteins that cause mortality when ingested by insect pests.

Bioinformatics-based proposals for identifying or developing insecticidal proteins are also welcomed and a scale of awards is offered relative to the type of solution delivered and the level of validation available. In addition to awards, milestone payments are available should your solution be successfully validated by the Seekers screening and development program.

Solvers are requested to provide their paper proposal by the Challenge deadline, along with any theoretical or experimental supporting data. For the proposals that are selected by the Seeker, the Solver shall then send in material samples along with documentation within an additional 3 month timeframe.


Innovation, Integration, and the Biotechnology Revolution in U.S. Seed Markets

- Kyle W. Stiegert, Guanming Shi, and Jean Paul Chavas, AgEcon Res, 2nd Quarter 2010, 25(2)

Full paper

The importance of seeds dates back at least ten thousand years to the rise of agriculture. Indeed, the origin of agriculture is associated with the selection and planting of seeds that eventually contributed to large increases in food production. Over thelast century, advances in breeding and hybrid seed development and the rise of modern genetics haveput the selection of seeds on a firm scientific basis.

Advances in biotechnology have enabled the production ofgenetically modified (GM) crops with specific, desirable traits not found in their parents. The first generation and most common GM traits generate either resistance against one or more insects, or tolerance to specific chemical herbicides. Emerging GMtraits address a broader array of consumer and producer market demands including nutritionenhancement, drought tolerance, and protection from plant disease.

While the use of GM technology remains controversial in some countries, the rapidly advancing biotechnology seed industry has contributed to improved agricultural productivity and had a major impact on the production, delivery, and pricing o agricultural seeds and other inputs in the United States and around the world. These current and emerging changes are likely to reshape much of the global agricultural production system in ways that generate both excitement and caution.

In this article, we discuss the major trends and our key research findings on the pricing, trait bundling, efficiency, and the potential effects of market power in the U.S. seed industry.

Final Thoughts
Biotechnology advances have been catalysts for innovationsin agriculture, and they have been associated with a growth of private R&D investments, the patenting of GM traits, and increased concentration in seed markets. The rapid adoption of GM seeds in the United States gives an indication that biotechnology has contributed to strong agricultural productivity gains. So far, seed prices have been low enough to maintain farm profitability and induce farmers to adopt GM seeds.

Mergers have led to increased concentration in seed markets, and they are part of trend toward greater vertical integration in the biotechnology seed sector. The rapid emergence of only a few firms that hold most patents on GM traits is a public policy concern.

These changes raise questions about the organizational efficiency of the U.S. and global seed industries, which is important as seeds are crucial factors affecting the abilityof agriculture to feed a growing world population. Will concentrated markets lead to higher seed prices, fewer choices for farmers and closure of independent seed companies? What market structure would maintain the incentive for private investments in seed development?

While history has shown that the privatization of the seed industry can be consistent with rapid technological progress in agriculture, maintaining a balance between providing incentives for agricultural innovations and sustaining farm profitability remains a challenge. Our most consistent finding through all studies is a preponderance of sub-additive pricing in stacked seeds.

We have also found that increased concentration in the seed industry has contributed to higher seed prices. However, through multimarket complementarity effects, increased concentration can also be associated with efficiency gains and lower seed prices. Future research should be directed toward a better understanding of these topics to provide policymakers with information on how to protect and expand innovations while maintaining a good distribution of associated benefits between innovators, farmers and consumers.


The Gene Revolution - GM crops and Farming Reality

- Jim Peacock, Agrifood Awareness Australia Limited (AFAA), Oct. 17, 2010


The time has come for all sectors of Australia’s grain industry, from farm to shop, to get on top of GM technology, urges Australia’s former Chief Scientist, Dr Jim Peacock.

Our Green Revolution is near spent. The enormous and lasting gains made in crop yield through conventional plant breeding, mechanization, crop protection and clever agronomy are slowing.

But the next era for mainstream broadacre farming is already here, it might well be called the Gene Revolution.

More than 95% of Australia’s near 400,000 hectare cotton crop this summer consists of GM varieties. And in only the 3rd year of commercial production, there are some 133,300 hectares of GM canola in NSW, Victoria and WA this spring – an estimated 9% of the total canola crop.

What else is coming over the hill? Well, you name it … GM research underway in Australia covers: papaya, pineapple, sugarcane, grapevines, carnations, rice, white clover, wheat, Indian mustard, bananas, barley, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, corn and roses. Most work is focusing on key traits which lessen production risks and underpin yield.

The big-ticket item, GM wheat, is just 7 or more years away. Clearly, our farmers and their advisors, and the supply chain all the way through to customers and consumers, now need to start appreciating the GM reality, and separate myth from fact.

Fact 1: GM science will be essential for our food security in the decades ahead. It is estimated that the number of humans on the planet will rise from 6 billion in 2000 to near 9 billion in 2050, and food demand will rise by 70% (Source: FAO).

Fact 2: Globally, farmers and supply-chains are going with GM; in 2009, 134 million hectares of GM crops were planted in 26 countries representing an 80-fold increase since 1996 when GM crops were first commercialised. There were 2 million new adopters last year.

Fact 3: It is estimated that biotech related gains in corn, soybean & canola had delivered an extra 14 million tonnes of production since 1996. And it has all been successfully traded.

Fact 4: Farmers who use GM technology appreciate that GM R&D businesses simply need a return on their long-term investments. Remember, much GM work is by public-private collaboration, and these bodies can only protect their IP through patents and fund their work via royalties. It is how innovation is incentivized. It is standard practice. And market forces ensure the pricing of the technology to farmers is realistic.

Fact 5: The costs of doing the R&D and bringing a variety to market are huge: Monsanto alone spends $1.1bn per year ($3 million a day) in research. Multiply that figure 10-fold or more for the global GM R&D effort.

Perhaps the biggest misguided myth is around ‘safety’. Those who have a different view of mainstream farming reality continue to raise questions about GM science and GM crop safety, and refer to studies which purport to have discovered something harmful about GM.
Fact 6: Such studies have, without exception, been discredited by the weight of mainstream scientific evidence, opinion and peer review, and by recognised regulatory agencies around the world.

Fact 7: Major scientific and health organizations, and regulatory bodies, have endorsed the safety of approved GM crops to human health and the environment.

In Australia, we are regulatory leaders. We have an excellent, world-class system that is purposely designed to pick-up anomalies and look for any potential problem. Human health and environmental safety is the first priority. Why would it be anything other than that? Indeed, GM crops are subjected to incredible scrutiny, whereas ‘conventional’ crops receive relatively less.

For example, our record started with Gossypium sp. When we started work with cotton (Gossypium pima) in the early 1990’s to develop GM varieties, we knew that there were some native Australian Gossypium plant species. We were rightly required to conduct thousands of tests to analyse every possible facet of potential transfer of genetic material from the new GM varieties to the native plants.

The point is that we had to do the work, and the system proved that there were no risks. If the extent and comprehensive-ness of the safety analyses was seen and understood by the public, people would not give a second thought to approved GM varieties.

Fact 8: Over the years billions of meals have been made and consumed that contain one or more GM crop ingredients or whole foods.

While GM canola and cottonseed oils are pure oil – they contain no proteins – even if they did, they’d be broken down into basic amino-acids. It happens every meal: just think of what was for dinner last night!

In our gut all proteins, starches and fats/oils that are in lettuce, carrots, potatoes, pumpkin, tomatoes, corn, soybeans and canola dairy products, beef, lamb, chicken or fish are all broken down into the basic biochemical building blocks, and no genetic material becomes incorporated into our genes!

The reality of today’s farming is that scientists are working for the betterment of society and GM crops are simply the next major agricultural technology.


Mad Science: 12 Bizarre Examples of Genetic Engineering

- Laura Moss, Nother Nature Network, Oct 27 2010

View the slide show at http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/photos/12-bizarre-examples-of-genetic-engineering/mad-science

Glow-in-the-dark cats? It may sound like science fiction, but they’ve been around for years. Cabbages that produce scorpion poison? It’s been done. Oh, and the next time you need a vaccine, the doctor might just give you a banana.

These and many other genetically modified organisms exist today because their DNA has been altered and combined with other DNA to create an entirely new set of genes. You may not realize it, but many of these genetically modified organisms are a part of your daily life — and your daily diet. Today, 45 percent of U.S. corn and 85 percent of U.S. soybeans are genetically engineered, and it’s estimated that 70 to 75 percent of processed foods on grocery store shelves contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Here’s a look at the some of the weirdest genetically engineered plants and animals already in existence — and many that are coming your way soon.


Frankenfood Carving Contest!

- Frank N. Foode , BioFortified, October 2010 http://www.biofortified.org/2010/10/frankenfood-carving-contest/
Hi folks, your friendly neighborhood genetically modified organisms here. Today is the last day to nominate someone for Community Contest #2, so remember to plug your worthy adversaries while there is still time!

For those who feel like grabbing a cutting tool when talking about genetic engineering, this next contest is for you – the first annual Biofortifed Frankenfood Carving Contest!

GMOs are often depicted harshly. For some reason, moving a couple genes around is supposed to make a plant grow teeth and attack the hand that waters it. Greenpeace turns onions into spiders and others turn corn into grenades. While I could be offended at such cultural misunderstandings, I want to turn this hyperbole around on its stalk! Let’s make veggies really scary!

Here are the rules:
This contest is open to everyone – you need not have ever commented on the blog before the day you enter in the contest. But, you will need to register for the blog to enter.

Carve any fruit, vegetable, grain, or heck, fungus into the scariest creature imaginable. While you may carve the classic pumpkin, extra points will be awarded for creative use of alternatives. Feel free to splice different plants together to enhance the phenotype! Do a little genetic engineering.

Upload a photo of your mad creation to your profile page, and mention it in the comments on this post below.

To give you time to upload a picture from a Halloween carving party, the contest is open until November 3rd, at midnight Pacific time in the US.

Biofortified’s Editors will decide on a winner and announce it on Friday the 5th.
And what will you win? Like both previous community contests, you will get your very own Biofortified Tote bag. Look how happy MaryM looks with hers at the farmer’s market!

Start thinking of some ideas right away. You could carve a likeness of your favorite GE commentator, and browse around Extreme Pumpkins for techniques. Grab that rotten celery from the back of your fridge and transform it into a Frankensteinian Freak! As art is often commentary – make yours mean something about some aspect of the debate and you’re sure to be noticed. Give your creation LIFE!

Here I am with my entry, which I carved out of a Delicata squash! I think it has evil powers. (Obviously an unintended side effect of the transformation process.) Next to this vegetable, I’m downright cuddly. It’s gonna get youuuu!

Good luck!

Frank N. Foode is your friendly neighborhood genetically modified organism. Email him at franknfoode(AT)biofortified[DOT]org.