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Date:

February 10, 2011

Subject:

Irish to Embrace GM; Ottawa Against Restriction; Professor Monsanto Supports GM Food; Genomic Misconception of Transgenesis

 


* Ireland: Greens' Departure Allows Irish Government to Embrace GM Crops
* US Trade Chief Urges Europe to Open Market to GM Foods
* Ottawa Rejects Stronger Export Regulations for GM Crops
* Professor Monsanto (!) Still Confident on Bt Eggplant Field Testing
* Genomic Misconception of Transgenesis
* National Agricultural Biotechnology Council Conference
* Intl Conference on Improving Health and Nutrition through Agriculture

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Ireland: Greens' Departure Allows Irish Government to Embrace GM Crops

- Guardian (UK), Feb 10, 2011
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2011/feb/09/greens-irish-government-gm-crops/print

The collapse of its coalition with the Green Party has given Fianna Fáil the freedom to ditch Ireland's anti-GM stance

Ireland will now support EU proposals to allow the marketing of GM food for human consumption and animal feed.
Against the background of one of the most divisive and stormy parliamentary election campaigns in Ireland's history, the outgoing government has made a significant move on GM crops.

Minister for agriculture, Brendan Smith from the ruling Fianna Fáil party, confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that Ireland has changed its voting position and will now support a number of EU Commission proposals designed to allow the marketing of GM food for human consumption, animal feed and food ingredients.

The move, although it has been welcomed in many quarters, will no doubt cause controversy, not least in the ranks of the ruling party's former coalition allies the Green Party, whose departure from government triggered the announcement of a general election to be held on 25 February.

Until now, the GM issue has been absent from the debate over who should form the next government. Understandably, voters have been more worried about their jobs and the future of Ireland's economy than the details of EU policy and rhetoric from the pro- and anti-GM lobbies.

However, this is not the first time that the GM issue has affected this coalition government. In 2009, the Green Party/Fianna Fáil government had to renegotiate their terms of agreement and their programme, leading to a major concession to the Greens: the promise to make Ireland a "GM-Free Zone".

Although much trumpeted by the Greens at the time, the policy has never become a reality. Neither has the promise to introduce a "GM-Free" logo modelled on the German "Ohne Gentechnik" logo.

In a short response on Twitter, Green Party chairman and senator Dan Boyle said the U-turn had shown "what Fianna Fáil really thinks of consumer fears" and that, in government, the Green Party "had stopped this".

Meanwhile, the Green Party's agriculture spokesperson Trevor Sargent said the party was "alarmed" by the move and that "in government, the Green Party ensured that Ireland abstained on this vote". Calling the move a backward step, Sargent said that the issue was about "consumer choice" and that the decision "damages the quality image of Irish food produce".

Agriculture minister Brendan Smith explained this week that "it has been a matter of great concern to Ireland, in recent years, that there has been a severe disruption to trade of animal feed, caused by the delays in the authorisation, by the EU, of GM varieties which have already been approved in the exporting countries."

According to Smith, the difficulty of importing certified GM-free animal feed (90% of which comes from North and South America) has meant the shortfall has had to be made up by more expensive feed, which puts Irish meat producers at a serious disadvantage. The Irish Farmers' Association says this disadvantage means a financial penalty of as much as €15 (£13) on every pig produced.

The greens dispute this argument, asserting that "as cattle eat grass most of the year, this small premium would represent a tiny price differential for the customer (eg 2c on a Sunday roast)". That's fine, I guess, if you're eating beef and not pork on a Sunday.

Ireland's support for the EU Commission proposals was confirmed at a meeting of the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health in Brussels on Tuesday.

GM-Free Ireland had called for Smith to vote against the proposals saying they would "undermine our government's agreed GM-free policy". The Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association labelled the move "short-sighted" and argued that the decision did not reflect the wishes of the people. Clearly, though, with the greens now out of government, the remaining Fianna Fáil ministers were free to make decisions without the input of their former partners.

The EU proposal seeks to remove the "zero tolerance" policy towards GM components of animal feed and allow trace amounts – up to 0.1% – to be imported.

It will be interesting to see whether one of the final decisions of the outgoing administration will lead to GM becoming an issue in this election. One suspects not, but it may at least allow the public to hear from each political party where they stand in the GM debate.

Eoin Lettice is a lecturer in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at University College Cork, Ireland. He writes the Communicate Science blog and on Friday will give a talk in Cork Trust Me, I'm A Scientist: Genetically Modified (GM) Crops and the Public Perception of Science

-==========

US Trade Chief Urges Europe to Open Market to GM Foods

- Roddy Thomson, AFP, Feb 10, 2011
- http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iSvlZgb3tPJ31vzO9phygZjd5JBw?docId=CNG.2df6f06d0b2d96b0ba00c506a4d565e1.01


The US wants to push Europe on GM foods

BRUSSELS — A top US trade official said she will bang down the door of the European Commission Thursday in a bid to break a longstanding impasse blocking the march of genetically-modified foods.

"When Europeans come to the United States, they come and enjoy our cuisine with no concerns whatsoever," Deputy US Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro said ahead of talks with European Union trade commissioner Karel De Gucht's senior officials. "Why should we have different standards in Europe?

"We have very strict safety standards -- as do you -- and I think that alone is good reason to make sure that our products are able to be sold in Europe," she insisted.
"I will be raising that issue today -- it is important to address, and to continue to press the commission to go the right way. "Decisions on GM foods need to be science-based," she stressed.

Europe has got itself into a bind on GM, with two crops currently greenlighted for production -- a maize strain for animal feed and a potato for paper-making -- but 15 outstanding requests for authorisation caught up in deadlock over what grounds can be used legally to block cultivation.

The EU stands accused of "flouting" WTO rules, with some member states and regions having banned crop production unilaterally, or declared themselves GM-free, and products containing traces also blocked at ports.
Only on Wednesday, disagreement on a committee of experts from the 27 EU states meant authorisation was denied for three new strains of GM maize and one of GM cotton to be grown by Syngenta and US giant Dow AgroSciences, although the commission will try again on March 1.

Intra-EU divisions also downed a separate commission proposal to lift import restrictions on animal foodstuffs containing traces of GM crops, up to a certain threshold, due to opposition from France and Poland.
Sapiro, though, has no such qualms, adding of the queue seeking authorisation:

"Hopefully these products can be approved, even though we recognise concerns among some consumers. "Hopefully, it will come out the right way... We hope it's not insoluble."

The commission wants a compromise that would allow states to block crop production on their territory, while allowing the free movement of GM goods, food and feed, on their territories.

Commission documentation lists reasons that may be given by a state, under the EU treaty and based on existing case-law, "to restrict or prohibit GMO cultivation in all or part of its territory."

These include: public morals (religious, philosophical and ethical concerns); public order; preservation of organic and conventional farming systems; social policy objectives, eg for mountain regions; preservation of traditional farming methods or cultural heritage; and maintenance of certain habitats and ecosystems.
In each case, "the measure should also be justified, proportionate and non discriminatory," it spells out.

The best-known GM producer, another US giant Monsanto, is at the forefront of legal moves to open up the European single market, home to half a billion people and 20 million companies.

Environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth have commissioned legal advice which argues that dropping a "zero tolerance" policy on even the smallest traces "to appease the industry lobby" will lead to a contaminated food chain and "would not be legal."

-============

Ottawa Rejects Stronger Export Regulations for Genetically Modified Crops

- James Bradshaw, Globe and Mail (Canada), Feb. 09, 2011
- http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario/ottawa-rejects-stronger-export-regulations-for-genetically-modified-crops/article1901494/

Parliament has voted down a bill that sought to strengthen regulatory laws that govern the export of genetically modified crops. But hours earlier in Guelph, Ont., leading minds in the study of the controversial agricultural technologies were already talking about how to control and promote fast-moving innovations in the field.

Bill would add more scrutiny to approval process of new genetically modified seeds
Canada needs policy overhaul to keep up with global food markets.

Manipulating genes to create genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has long provoked fiery debate between proponents and critics, who accuse scientists of “playing God” to produce “Frankenstein foods.”

At the University of Guelph, one of the nation’s most respected agriculture schools, the debate is more sanguine. Members of Parliament meeting with academics and industry stakeholders in Guelph on Wednesday heard that GMOs are a fact of agricultural life, and what matters is ensuring scientists and farmers are responsible in using them.

Food policy experts the world over – even in fields that are traditional enemies of genetic engineering – have turned their attention to the tricky challenge of managing with engineered crops rather than attempting to have them scrapped.

Alex Atamanenko, an NDP MP, renewed the debate last year by introducing C-474, a private member’s bill that would have required a regulatory review of the potential harm to demand for Canadian exports of a particular GMO before its approval, on top of current examinations for its safety for feed, human consumption and environmental release.

The bill died on Wednesday evening by a vote of 178-98, after Conservative and Liberal MPs united to quash it.

Absent from the vote were several of Mr. Atamanenko’s colleagues from Parliament’s Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, who had stopped for the meeting in Guelph as part of a cross-country tour exploring biotechnology. The MPs heard from academics and industry stakeholders, including Derek Penner, president of the Canadian arm of biotechnology giant Monsanto, who opposed the bill.

Their presence, along with the looming federal vote, drew nearly 100 protesters to the Guelph campus, brandishing signs with slogans such as, “I Vote No to GMO.” The group was specifically targeting Enviropigs – genetically modified pigs created by the university to digest phosphorous in its feed differently than normal pigs in hopes that this would make them cheaper and easier for farmers to raise and better for the environment.

The pigs have yet to earn regulatory approval, and the protesters hope they never will.

“The biggest market potential we have for our products is in Europe right now, and Europeans do not want genetically engineered foods,” said Sean McGivern, executive co-ordinator for the National Farmers Union, one of the protest organizers. “There’s no reason for the Enviropig: good farmers with good management skills do not have phosphorous problems.”

-============

Professor (Monsanto) Still Confident on Bt Eggplant Field Testing

- Sun Star Davao (Philippines), February 04, 2011
- .http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/local-news/professor-still-confident-bt-eggplant-field-testing

A PROFESSOR from the University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao on Thursday expressed confidence that Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte will eventually support field testing of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplants at UP campus in Mintal.

Prof. Verna Maries Monsanto-Hearne said in Thursday's first City Council committee hearing on Bt Talong that "contrary to the victory assumed by the anti-GMO (genetically modified organism) group, nobody in the City Government ever said UP Mindanao can never run the experiment again." (From CSP: her name is misspelled with an extra 'S' - it should be Marie and not Maries; But she is for real and I checked it)

She said the uprooting of Bt eggplants at the UP Mindanao in December was issued under administrative reasons and not because of biosafety "contrary to the widely printed and reported misinformation."

"Beyond being women of law, the mayor is a woman of development and progress. It is therefore unimaginable for her to be antagonistic to scientific endeavors which may be able to support four out of 11 thrusts of the city under her governance: environment, health, livelihood, and agriculture and fishery development)," Monsanto said.

Monsanto also reiterated UP-Mindanao's stand that their BT eggplant experiment is safe. "The Bt is derived from Bacillus thuringiensis, is an ubiquitous bacteria that has been popularly sprayed on crops since 1950s to control certain insect pests in a natural, environmentally-friendly and organic manner," she said.

Monsanto said the bacteria has highly specific activity and is therefore unlike most insecticides which can kill beneficial insects.

"After more than 60 years of use, health and environmental protection agencies still have not found any hazards related to the use of B. thuringiensis," she said. "Bt spray's insecticidal property is due to the B. thuringiensis' produce, the Cry protein which gives the insect pests a feeling of satiation, leading to eventually to starvation and death," she said.

Monsanto also stressed how scientific propositions should be backed by valid studies "before they can be announced and printed as facts." She said this in line with the "rapid information relay" that led to the uprooting of the Bt eggplants, which were subjects of UP-Mindanao's scientific research.

"It is very difficult to distinguish facts from speculations and even fiction, more so, when the information is related to very controversial issues like agri-technology," Monsanto said through a position paper presented during the hearing.

The hearing, headed by the committee on agriculture under City Councilor Conrado Baluran, is relative to Item 549, letter of Gerardo Santos in forwarding his separate opinion to the controversial Bt Talong experiment.

The hearing, held at the session hall, was attended by more than 350 people composed of both from UP-Mindanao; and opposing groups under Go Organic Mindanao (GOM) and organic farmers in Mintal. Councilors Melchor Quitain and Marissa Salvador-Abella were also present during the hearing.

Monsanto said oppositors of the experimentation, created a "mental model" that viewed UP-Mindanao to have allegedly placed the public at risk. "The bickering and confusion that surrounds a controversial and explosive piece of research is one of the reasons why the scientific community arrived at a position where it is widely accused of putting the public at risk," said Monsanto, daughter of Central 911 head Ret. Colonel Verner Monsanto.

Monsanto cited similar cases wherein "science, in its quest for truth, lost to popular and salable information." Monsanto said "the infamous Pusztai affair", referring to Arpad Pusztai, in August 1998 created the mental model "that GMOs are not safe."

"Pusztai went to the media to announce his research that feeding genetically modified potatoes had negative effects to stomach lining and immune system. Pusztai was flawed as (1) the diets did not contain adequate amounts of protein, (2) the intake of nutrients was not the same for experimental and control animals, and (3) the conslusion was made from use of raw potatoes, which naturally contain high levels of natural toxins. Nevertheless, people (began to have mental models) that GMOs are not safe," she said.

Monsanto explained there is a need for genetic modification "so that the crops, like Bt corn (i.e. corn paste used in making corn flakes) and Bt talong will produce the Cry protein.

An entomologist from UP-Los Baños, Dr. Lourdes Taylo, also said that the development of Bt eggplant is being undertaken to provide farmers a cheaper alternative, wherein there would be lesser expenses on insecticide.

"It is undertaken precisely to provide the farmers with an alternative high yielding variety of eggplant with commercially useful levels of resistance to EFSB (or worms) that will ultimately reduce overdependence on insecticides," Taylo said. Taylo said that as the UP schools develop Bt Talong, farmers would then have a choice whether to go with open-pollinated or a hybrid variety of Bt eggplant. (JCZ)

-=========

Lift the Moratorium on Bt Brinjal: Indian Scientists

- Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education (FBAE), Bangalore; February 8, 2011

‘Leading Indian Scientists Say GM Crops Are Critical For the Socio-Economic Growth of India’

Bengaluru,: On the eve of the first anniversary of the moratorium on Bt Brinjal, the Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education (FBAE), Bangalore, called for an immediate lift on the moratorium on the commercial release of Bt Brinjal.

Reiterating the concerns raised by over 40 Indian scientists at a workshop organized by the FBAE in July 2010 in Delhi, and the memorandum submitted to the central Government then, the FBAE cited recent important publications on the socio-economic benefits such as better living standards, health and education, and reduced tension, among the farming community and a healthier product to the consumer, that would accrue from the adoption of Bt Brinjal.

Scientists said that the moratorium on Bt brinjal was strongly influenced by those opposed to agricultural biotechnology than by credible, critical, and balanced scientific judgment of technologists and biosecurity experts on Bt Brinjal, which is accepted by Philippines to process their Bt brinjal varieties to be released next year.

"The government's decision of imposing a moratorium on Bt brinjal seriously affected research and development activities in the country's agricultural biotechnology sector," Prof. C Kameswara Rao, Executive Secretary, Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education (FBAE) said. He further added, “The moratorium has created a regulatory uncertainty on the development of all genetically engineered crops in the country. In a year, there has been no palpable, effective and time bound effort to lift the moratorium or to resolve the uncertainties caused by the moratorium. ”

Dr T M Majunath, Consultant-Agricultural Biotechnology said, “Considering that the product efficacy, biosafety and environmental safety of Bt brinjal were evaluated for over seven years, as per international standards, involving over 200 scientists and more than a dozen public and private sector research institutions, Bt Brinjal should be commercially released without further delay.”

“This moratorium has obfuscated the entire issue. With emotion riding a rough shod over scientific reason, decision making has been further politicized. The moratorium prevents the deployment of a safe technology aimed to benefit the public. The critical science based activity of biosecurity evaluation of GE crops is now replaced by the whims of the politicians and professional protestors sidelining statutory bodies. At this rate, the nation will not be able to derive the full benefit of modern agricultural biotechnology for a very long time to come,” said Prof Rao.

In developed countries, modern methods of agriculture were providing 80 per cent of the theoretical yield of food crops and GM technology can push it up to 90 per cent. Productivity levels in India are at 30-40 percent and safe and scientifically proven technologies would have a tremendous impact.

The adoption of Bt Brinjal would help millions of farmers by reducing the use of synthetic insecticide up to 77 per cent and losses from the brinjal shoot and fruit borer (SFB), resulting in an increase in marketable yield, reducing costs of production. There would be about 60 per cent consumer benefit as well. As per a recent publication from the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research, an ICAR institute, Bt Brinjal adoption would add between 30,000 to 119,000 tons to the total production of brinjal, depending upon the extent of cultivation in different areas / States. The absolute annual gain at the country level from Bt Brinjal cultivation would be about Rs. 577 crore at an adoption level of 15 per cent, about Rs. 1,167 crore at 30 per cent and Rs. 2,387 crore at 60 per cent adoption levels.

Over 25 years of research experience, over 13 years of experience in commercial cultivation in about 30 countries have demonstrated that Bt crops are effective and safe for use. The benefits from Bt technology have been amply demonstrated in India as well by the commercial cultivation of Bt cotton since 2002.

The critical need of the hour is for the government to lift the ban on Bt Brinjal, reach out to the society to educate them about the benefits and safety of modern crop biotechnology, and create proper awareness about the developments in science and technology in a way the public can understand.

-==============

Genetically Modified Plants Hold the Key to Saving The Banana Industry

http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-02-genetically-key-banana-industry.html

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) scientists have genetically modified a trial crop of banana plants to survive a soil-borne fungus which has wiped out plantations in the Northern Territory and is threatening crops across the globe.
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Professor James Dale, director of the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities based at QUT, said the destruction of crops in Queensland by Tropical Cyclone Yasi proved just how important it was to have a back up available.

Professor Dale said if genetically modified plants could overcome the disease, known as Tropical Race Four, it would act as an insurance policy to supply resistant plants in the event that the disease moved into the banana production areas in north Queensland.
He said Tropical Race Four attacked Australia's favourite banana plant, the Cavendish, inside and out.

"It is caused by a fungus in the soil called Fusarium and causes the leaves to wilt and rots the inside of the plant," Professor Dale said.
"The disease has swept through much of Asia and is also found in the Northern Territory.

"From Australia's perspective the biggest concern is that the disease will find its way from the Northern Territory to North Queensland and if that occurs it would severely impact the nation's Cavendish banana industry."
Professor Dale, who leads a team of a dozen researchers, has been awarded $750,000 from the Australian Research Council to plant four acres of genetically modified bananas in diseased soil in the Northern Territory.

"We are planning to take the plants up in April and get them acclimatised to the Darwin weather. We'll be looking at the first planting around June and we'd be hoping to be able to gauge their resistance as early as the first half of next year," he said.
Professor Dale said for banana farmers the disease was devastating.
"The disease is known to harm only banana plants and can survive in the soil for decades. The worst thing is it can't be controlled with chemicals."
He said as part of the genetic modification, a gene capable of starving the fungus to death had been inserted into the plant.

"For years it has been thought that the fungus injected toxins into the plant, killing cells and gorging on the waste," he said.
"But we believe that these toxins don't actually kill. Instead they switch on a certain mechanism in the plant and the plant actually kills itself."

Professor Dale said the mechanism was known as "programmed cell death" "Our thinking is that we can insert a gene that inhibits this process, starves the fungus and tells the plant to not kill itself."

Professor Dale said there was a great fear that Tropical Race Four disease would reach Latin America, making the disease a global threat "This project has significance on an international scale," he said.

"If we can prove genetically modified bananas can be resistant to this disease, we can make a huge contribution to the future of banana production worldwide."
Provided by Queensland University of Technology

-==========

Genomic Misconception of Transgenesis


- Klaus Ammann, Ask Force, Feb 7, 2011
-
The difference between GM- and non-GM-crops on the level of
molecular processes has been overestimated. Full document at

http://www.ask-force.org/web/AF-9-Differences-GM-non-GM-crops/AF-9-Genomic-Misconception-20110207-opensource.pdf

1. The Genomic Misconception of Transgenesis is a major source of erroneous decisions in the regulation of GM crops. The difference between GM- and non-GM-crops on the level of molecular processes has been overestimated. And even more so, as soon genetic engineering has been applied to crop breeding, the misunderstandings grew out of politically motivated fear-mongering. The uncontested understanding among scientists and in particular in risk assessment community was in the wake of molecular breeding, that GM crops pose by principle some novel risks, unprecedented in conventionally bred crops. This view has then unfortunately been taken up in the United Nations Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety 1 without scientific scrutiny, which needs to be questioned in certain basic aspects.

2. Summary
After an early phase of risk assessment, including the results of the Asilomar Conference on biosafety, a premature divide has been created in basic concepts of risk assessment developed between Canada, the USA and Europe including a majority of UN signatory countries. Researchers like Werner Arber, based onearlier molecular insights and on his own experience in genetic engineering claim that related to molecular processes there is no difference between genetically engineered and natural mutation, thuscontradicting clearly the European and unfortunately also the view of UN agencies. This transatlantic divide can be solved with some more innovative regulatory proceedings. -


-============

National Agricultural Biotechnology Council Conference

- June 15 - 17, 2011, Minneapolis/St. Paul

http://nabc23.umn.edu/

The College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences is pleased to host the 23rd annual National Agricultural Biotechnology Council Conference on June 15-17, 2011 at the Hilton MSP Airport - MOA in Bloomington, MN. NABC 23 will feature experts in the fields of agriculture, public health, biotechnology, climate change, natural resource management, and plant and animal biosecurity engaging the broad issues underlying global food security through discussion and discourse on the following topics:

Sustainability and Needs of 2050 Agriculture;
Systems-Based Approaches to Food Protection and Security;
Emerging Biotechnologies to Promote Safety, Enable Defense, and Discourage Fraud; and
Preparing for Emerging and Unknown Threats.
Attendees will have excellent opportunities to network with colleagues during the welcome reception on June 15 and the keynote banquet on June 16. All activities will take place onsite at the Hilton MSP-MOA hotel.

Student Voice

The Student Voice at NABC is a program designed to allow graduate students from NABC member institutions the opportunity to attend the annual conference at a reduced cost by providing a travel stipend of up to $750 and free conference registration (including most meals and all conference materials).

- Jessica Weaver; University of Minnesota; 612-625-1573 - weave109@umn.edu
-
-=============

International Conference Focuses on Improving Health and Nutrition through Agriculture

- The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI),
- http://www.ifpri.org

New Delhi - More than 900 participants are gathering today at an international conference from February 10-12 to examine ways that agriculture can enhance the health and nutritional status of poor people in developing countries.

"Agriculture is much more than just producing food and other products. It is linked to people’s well-being in many ways, and it has the potential to do much more to improve their nutrition and reduce their health risks. But to accomplish this, we need to re-imagine agriculture," said Shenggen Fan, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

To work toward this goal, IFPRI organized the conference, "Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health." The event will bring experts together from all three sectors to take stock of current knowledge, share information and best practices, and build consensus on the actions most needed to move forward.

Agricultural scientists have traditionally focused on developing more productive crops and livestock and on reducing their susceptibility to disease. But the conference organizers contend that by incorporating nutrition as a goal, researchers and breeders could provide farmers with a wide range of healthier products. For example, breeding crops with higher levels of micronutrients like vitamin A and iron can potentially reduce death and disease, especially among women and children.

"Increasing crop productivity overall is not enough. A new paradigm for agricultural development is needed, so that agricultural growth leads also to improved nutrition and health," said Fan.

Research suggests that agricultural growth, if done right, is the engine to reduce poverty in developing countries. But according to "The Nexus between Agriculture and Nutrition," a paper released at the conference, individual subsectors within agriculture, such as staple crops or livestock, have different effects on development outcomes, including on nutrition and health, and policymakers need to pay attention to these differences.

Improvements in other factors such as land distribution, women’s status, rural infrastructure, and health status, can have a positive effect on nutrition, the paper contends. Complementary investments in rural roads, nutrition programs, and other targeted interventions can make a huge impact.

Conference organizers also maintain that the development community needs to be conscious of the entire value chain, including production, storage, transportation, marketing, and consumption, as all of these have implications for health and nutrition. After harvest, there are opportunities for improving health and nutrition, from better storage and transport to stronger nutritional marketing from retailers.

In developing countries, consumption of unsafe food and water is one of the major causes of preventable illness and death. Farmers are exposed to pesticides and contaminated water. Toxins, such as cyanide and aflatoxins contaminate food. Avian flu and other diseases can spread from livestock to humans. The conference will seek to identify strategies to reduce health risks throughout the value-chain.

"Agriculture, nutrition, and health programs should be designed so that they reinforce each other, to unleash this untapped potential. This can only happen if practitioners, researchers, and policymakers from all three sectors join forces to coordinate their efforts and find better solutions," said Rajul Pandya-Lorch, head of IFPRI’s 2020 Vision Initiative and lead organizer of the conference.

Speakers at the event will include Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; M. S. Swaminathan, Chairman, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation; John Kufuor, Former President, Republic of Ghana; David Nabarro, U.N. Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition, and many other high-level experts and officials.