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December 14, 2010


Risk and Economic Assessment of GM Crops (book


Today in AgBioView, December 14, 2010, www.agbioworld.org

Risk and Economic Assessment of GM Crops (book)
EC JRC publishes 2 new summary notifications
Report: The Value of Crop Protection
Biotech Forests: An Environmental Blessing?
India centre to research GM rice
Cotton: Pakistan, US join hands to combat deadly virus
Iowan visits Vatican to share ag expertise
Time for Greenpeace to Pack Up and Leave Indonesia


Black Sea Biotechnology Association publishes new book: "Regional Consensus Documents on Environmental Risk and Economic Assessment of Genetically Modified Crops - Case Studies: Soybean, Maize, Sugar Beet"

Black Sea Biotechnology Association

December 13, 2010

View/download FULL BOOK or by chapter:


1. Points to consider for regional consensus documents on ecological assessment of genetically modified crop plants

2. Case study: Consensus Document for Risk Evaluation, Cultivation and Utilization of Genetically Modified Herbicide Tolerant Soybean - GTS 40-3-2, as a Crop Important for Countries of the Black Sea Region

3. Case study: Regional Consensus Document on Ecological and Economical Assessment of Genetically Modified Maize

4. Case study: Regional Consensus Document on Ecological Assessment Sugar Beet (Beta vulgaris) for Black Sea Region

5. Case study: Reducing the Harmful Impacts of Plum Pox Virus through the Use of Biotechnology

6. Order your free hard copy(ies) (including CD)


European Commission JRC publishes 2 new summary notifications

December 13, 2010


University of Ghent: Two year field trial with genetically modified potatoes that are less susceptible to late blight (Phytophtora infestans)

BASF Plant Science GmbH: Application for the release into the environment of potato lines with improved resistance to Phytophthora infestans, 2011 and 2012


United Kingdom - New economic impact report, 'The Value of Crop Protection', examines the true value of crop protection to the food chain and living standards

Crop Protection Association (UK)

November 2010 (pdf, 40 pp)


This study is the first of its kind to quantify the economic benefits of crop protection, not only to maintain the quality, consistency and affordability of our food supply, but also to keep UK agriculture competitive and to safeguard jobs, growth and wealth creation within the rest of the food chain.

pdf, 40 pp, full text at link above


Biotech Forests: An Environmental Blessing?

National Center for Policy Analysis

December 14, 2010


Genetically modified grains, fruits and vegetables have become ubiquitous on U.S. farms and in supermarkets. Biotechnology investments initially focused on modifications that would be profitable relatively quickly, such as inserting genes in plant genomes to produce pest-resistant, faster growing or more productive food crops.

gallons of ethanol per acre annuallyThese biotech foods benefit the environment and human health. But there are other beneficial genetically modified species besides food crops. Cotton plants, for example, have been genetically modified to produce an insecticide against pests that feed on them.

Genetically modified trees could be a boon as well. Critics argue that genetically modified plants violate the U.N. Convention on Biodiversity, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has yet to allow commercial production. In laboratories and test plots, however, scientists have increased yields of useful materials from biotech trees.

Benefits of Genetically Modified Trees. If commercialized on a large scale, genetically modified trees would provide numerous benefits. For instance:

* Tree species can be modified to enable them to resist pathogens and destructive pests.

* Trees modified to produce high yields of cellulose could be a cost-effective source for cellulosic ethanol production, a renewable transportation fuel.

* Forests of biotech trees could remove carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, more efficiently from the atmosphere than unmodified trees.

Commercial development of genetically modified trees could reduce the need for timber products companies to expand into virgin forests and lessen the demand from forests already being harvested.

Growing Larger Trees Faster. Due to the high demand for wood products by the timber and chemical industries, biotechnology companies have been experimenting with ways to increase yields from a variety of trees. For instance, researchers have successfully increased the pulp, stem, leaf and root growth of aspen trees, which can be used in a variety of chemical applications. In addition, they have increased the rate at which trees add mass. Researchers have also modified aspens and other trees to lower the amount of the organic polymer lignin, increasing the efficiency of enzymes used to break down wood fibers. This reduces the cost and energy required to turn raw lumber into finished paper.

These genetic modifications will allow paper and timber companies to harvest more product from the same number of trees.

Making Trees Less Susceptible to Invasive Pests. In the 1970s, two diseases infected or killed more than 20 million mature elm trees in the United Kingdom. Indeed, many British elms are still at risk for these diseases today. However, researchers have discovered methods to transfer specific genes into leaf and stem cells that allow them to produce antifungal proteins.

Similarly, infestations of the cottonwood leaf beetle are a recurring problem in many parts of the United States. Researchers at Oregon State University have determined that manipulation of Bacillus thuringiensis toxin genes may produce beneficial bacteria that help trees resist a range of insects and other pests by producing more effective toxins.

Turning Trees into Fuel. Renewable fuel production in the United States has focused largely on corn-based ethanol. Recently, steps have been taken to develop other sources of ethanol, such as cellulose. Cellulosic ethanol is made from nonedible plant materials such as switchgrass and wood. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have devoted considerable resources to the development of cellulosic ethanol as an alternative to corn-based ethanol.

Regardless of whether ethanol is worth pursuing as a transportation fuel, tree-based ethanol would be a welcome alternative to corn-based ethanol because of trees' ability to grow in various environments and their greater mass relative to corn. In addition, trees require much less water and fertilizer. Trees can also be modified to more easily access the parts of the plant that can be converted into fuel by altering their lignin. Moreover, cellulosic ethanol would reduce diversion of corn from human and animal consumption, which could lower corn prices.

Researchers are currently modifying various types of poplar trees and have estimated that with the right lignin composition yields could top 1,000 gallons of ethanol per acre annually, compared to 400 gallons per acre with the most efficient corn production method. [See the figure.]

What about the Dangers? Environmentalists warn of the dangers of genetically modified trees. For instance, they have speculated that biotech trees could result in the development of superbugs or uncontrollable crossbreeding with nonbiotech trees of the same species (or with other nontarget species). These fears have also been raised with respect to biotech foods but have not materialized, despite hundreds of millions of acres of biotech crops under cultivation around the world. Additionally, more than one million modified trees have been planted alongside unmodified trees in China without incident.

Conclusion. Genetically modified trees have many potential benefits. The federal government should not allow unsubstantiated fears to inhibit this potentially beneficial line of research, nor should it prohibit commercialization through excessive regulation in response to such fears, absent proof of likely harm.

Wesley Dwyer is a policy intern and H. Sterling Burnett is a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.


Chinsurah centre to research GM rice

Times of India

December 14, 2010


Close on the heels of the BT-brinjal controversy that had put the genetically modified (GM) brinjal trials on the back burner, GM crop is making a comeback in Bengal, this time in the form of paddy. Calcutta University (CU) has been given a go-ahead to conduct field trials of GM rice at the Rice Research Station (RRS), Chinsurah. Experts, however, fear that the new variety might wipe out the 1200-odd existing rice varieties conserved at the rice station.

CU got the permission from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) on November 11 to "conduct trials of rice (Oryza sativa L) containing gene for high iron content. The trials will be conducted at two seasons at Rice Research Station, Chinsurah".

However, GEAC has a condition. The university has to maintain an isolation distance of 200 metres (either to keep the area vacant or to grow any crop other than rice) around the trial plots to avoid genetic contamination of rice germplasm (rice variety) being maintained there.

The former dean, faculty of agriculture, at Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya and former member of state agriculture commission, T K Bose, fears that a risk remains, as was witnessed in several parts of the country. "First, the recommended isolation distance would cover a large area of the farm where no rice could be cultivated for two seasons. Secondly, the trials of the new rice variety might contaminate the germplasms of the existing rice variety," said Bose. He pointed to reports of such contamination elsewhere in the country due to lapses in bio-diversity protocols.

The West Bengal Biodiversity Board isn't in the know of things. "I am not aware of the development. I have to get the facts first," said research officer Soumendra Ghosh. Agriculture director Sarthak Burman had a similar statement. "I really do not know that such trials have been proposed at RRS. Let me first gather information about it before commenting on it," he said.

RRS joint director Dr Chinmoy Kundu said: "It is still at a premature stage. But whatever is going to happen would conform to biodiversity safety norms."

The apathy is palpable. The state government is yet to form the statutory bodies provided under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 the state biotechnology coordination committee under the chief secretary and the district-level committee under the district magistrate, said T K Bose.

Former CU vice-chancellor and chairman of the state agriculture commission, R N Bose, is keeping his fingers crossed. "The safety clause on paper is not sufficient. The rice station in Chinsurah does not have enough space to have a 200-metre isolation distance on its four sides. The loss will never be compensated if such trials are conducted there. Why RSS of all places?" he questioned.

Agriculture expert Anshuman Das smelt a rat in the entire plan. "I don't find any need for such trials when we have a large number of leafy vegetables with high iron-content," he said. "We already have a number of rice varieties with high iron content, such as Halud Gati," said agriculture scientist Anupam Paul. "So the very trial is unnecessary and a desperate attempt to enter the agricultural field through the back door," Das added.

GM foodgrain is banned across the world. In fact, the ministry of commerce has banned any trial of GM crop in the Basmati-growing area of our country. The reason: even 0.5% of contamination would run the risk of cancellation of export of Basmati, worth Rs 5,000 crore annually.


Cotton: Pakistan, US join hands to combat deadly virus

The Express Tribune (Pakistan)

December 14, 2010


Pakistan and the United States have embarked upon a multi-million dollar ambitious research programme to combat a deadly cotton crop virus that has resulted in a reduction of one-fifth in production of cotton.

Under the Kerry Lugar assistance package a two-tier cotton enhancement programme is designed to develop cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV) resistant varieties of the crop in order to increase production by combating the virus, said Dr Brian Scheffler of the United States Department of Agriculture here on Monday. Pakistan is combating CLCV - a disease that attacks the leaves of the crop - for the last two decades and failure to find a solution has resulted in 20 per cent less production, said Dr Scheffler.

He said that the $9 million, three-year project will also focus on building the capacity of agencies managing the biotech cotton framework and facilitate the implementation of seed laws.

The CLCV is common in India, Pakistan and China. Cotton and cotton products constitute a tenth of the gross domestic product of Pakistan and as much as 55 per cent of foreign exchange is earned through these exports.

Dr Scheffler said that the virus was especially bad in Pakistan and the problem was that the virus is constantly changing and researchers did not know why and how it was changing. "In its present form, the virus is very aggressive towards cotton and has a big impact on productivity," he added.

According to Dr Scheffler, this domain was identified for cooperation during the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue parleys. He said that the programme was going to be a participatory one where Pakistani scientists will work in consultation with US scientists. A team of four US experts will work through 2012 to find ways on how to cope with the problem.

He said that Pakistani scientists were already working on the disease and the US was looking forward to bringing 1300 different kinds of material for screening in order to develop a resistant variety.

"Pakistani scientists are very excited about the development and we already have an informal agreement to get the material here to be screened in the next growing season for resistance to the virus," he added.

In response to a question, he said that there was no magic bullet to control the disease and therefore both countries will try different approaches. "It is not going to happen in three years but we are hoping to make significant progress," he said, adding that Pakistan has done some pretty good work and if there were an easy solution, then it would have been found already".

He added that the US will not provide expensive machinery since equipment will be given where necessary and where possible, depending upon the cost.

"Pakistan does not have laws to protect the proprietary rights of companies and that is why American companies are not selling cotton to Pakistan," said Rey Santella, who is working with the US Department of Agriculture. He said that the second sub-programme is aimed at strengthening the regulatory framework to protect the proprietary rights of seed companies. "There are two pending laws relating to proprietary rights and their approval could help strengthen Pakistan's regulatory framework," said Santella.


Iowan visits Vatican to share ag expertise

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
December 13, 2010


Catholic Church leaders sought information about genetically modified organisms and how they may or may not help developing countries, so they turned to an Iowan for help.

Andrew Apel of Raymond was one of 40 experts from 17 countries to travel to the Vatican in May 2009 to give his views on biotechnology in agriculture. The group released its findings Dec. 1.

As a Catholic, Apel said he was excited to help the church. Professionally, the independent consultant specializing in GMO crops said it's a huge honor to be considered a worldwide expert in the field.

"As far as a lifetime experience, I don't think it can be surpassed," Apel said.

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences --- an independent source of objective information upon which the Holy See and its various bodies can draw --- hosted a study week on "Transgenic Plants for Food Security in the Context of Development." Solving world hunger, thus saving lives, has been a longtime concern of the Vatican.

Each of the participants --- including scientists, scholars, religious leaders and government officials --- presented information in their area of expertise followed by a round of discussion. The group unanimously endorsed the easing of restrictions on genetically modified crops, especially in poorer countries. GMOs are safe and help increase yields and nutritional quality of crops, the group said.

The Vatican did not endorse the findings of the study group.

They "cannot be considered an official position of the Holy See," said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, in a statement.

If the Catholic church decides to take a stand for or against GMOs, Apel said church leaders have unbiased information to help make that decision.

Apel spoke about the costly benefits of opposing agricultural biotechnology during the study week. Since there's no scientific evidence saying genetically altered seeds and grain is harmful, Apel said, keeping it from those who need it is a tragedy.

"The thrust of my paper is ... a massive number of players make more money opposing (GMOs) than there is making them available for sale" at a price everyone can afford," Apel said.

The 53-year-old still isn't sure why he was picked. It could be his diverse background and experience. He was editor of the AgBiotech Reporter, a magazine published in Cedar Falls, from 1996-2008. Apel has several advanced degrees in philosophy, German and law.

Whatever the reason, Monsignor Lyle Wilgenbusch said it's a big deal to be summoned to the Vatican. As Episcopal vicar for the Waterloo region of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Wilgenbusch said he doesn't know of anyone in Northeast Iowa ever being called to Rome to be a part of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

"It's certainly a significant and rare thing," Wilgenbusch said. "He's obviously committed to the church. A lot of people go (to the Vatican) as tourists, but rarely are people invited to participate in a convocation or seminar."

It was a volunteer mission. The Vatican paid for air fare, but participants paid for the rest of their expenses, Apel said. He easily spent more than $2,000, he added.

Even though the Vatican didn't officially accept the study group's recommendation, Apel said it could bring peace of mind locally.

Iowa is the top corn and soybean producer in the nation, and most farmers use GMO seed. Wilgenbusch said there are plenty of Catholic grain farmers.

"Farmers who grow GMO crops can now look at the proceedings and know they are in-line with humanitarian efforts and the teachings of the church --- in the opinion of the 40 people," Apel said.


CAGP: Time for Greenpeace to Pack Up and Leave Indonesia

Press Release

December13, 2010


Consumer alliance joins leading Indonesians against "Green" imperialism, commends new Greenpeace exposť

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--With Indonesian government officials and political analysts, such as provincial legislator Basuki Eka Purnama and the University of Indonesia's Boni Hargens, providing further evidence of Greenpeace's unfounded claims about their country, the Consumers Alliance for Global Prosperity (CAGP) applauded their efforts to set the record straight concerning the environmental organization's colonial campaigning.

"New reports of growing opposition to Greenpeace by leading government officials and analysts inside Indonesia reinforce a main CAGP principle - the primary motive of Greenpeace and its allies is to restrict economic development and slander businesses in Southeast Asia that are a threat in the open market to Western companies. Greenpeace's use of fake data, double standards and slanderous acts on behalf of foreigners is not only harming Indonesia's reputation and economic growth, but also is enough to warrant expulsion from Indonesia," said Frontiers of Freedom President George Landrith, a member of CAGP.

CAGP also applauds Syarif Hidayatullah's new book, Revealing Greenpeace's Lies, for revealing the organization's role as a conduit for foreigners to stifle Indonesian business. Refuting Greenpeace's modern, "Green" imperialism, Hidayatullah highlights the "Black Campaigns" foreigners are waging at the behest of foreign financial institutions and their wealthy, biased donors, such as the Dutch Postcode Lottery, which is now under investigation by the Dutch Parliament for providing monies to extremist groups. These campaigns amount to the use of falsified information in a brazen attempt to halt Indonesia's forestry and agricultural businesses.

Landrith continued, "Syarif Hidayatullah makes the case against Greenpeace's pro-poverty initiatives in Indonesia, highlighting how the group's activities seek to limit the job-creating and wealth-generating capabilities of local communities. He is right to call for Greenpeace to be sued at the very least, and ideally, barred from operating in Southeast Asia's largest economy. In addition, as he underscores, it is appalling how Greenpeace pressures lenders to refuse loans to Indonesian industries. Hopefully the Indonesian Government decides to prohibit Greenpeace from working in its country. If so, it would serve its citizens and businesses well."


Compiled by Andrew Apel, guest editor.
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