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March 15, 2011


World Hunger Crop Yield Idea Jam; Turkey Imports; Consensual Vs. Adversarial Approaches; Africa Desperate For Change


* World Hunger Crop Yield Idea Jam
* India to Plant First Herbicide-Tolerant GM Crop
* Turkey Has to Import GMO Products As Raw Feed Material
* Non-GM Glyphosate Tolerant Flax
* GM Crops Debate: Consensual Versus Adversarial Approaches
* GM Crops, A New Journal
* Farmers in Africa Are Desperate For Change
* Tanzania: Strict bio-safety law stalls GM maize trials
* Kenya to Start Planting Biotech Crops
* The Impact of The EU Regulatory Constraint of Transgenic Crops on Farm Income
* Co-existence, Choice, and Sustainability for Crop Production
* Genetically Modified Organisms in Horticulture
* TWAS Fellowships: 2011 Call for Applications
* Online AgBio Quiz

World Hunger Crop Yield Idea Jam


"Next Generation Biotech, Genetic and Chemical Approaches for Increasing Crop Yield"

The world needs ideas and solutions to the problem of dwindling food supplies, and this is your chance to help make a difference.

We are seeking geneticists, biologists, chemists, biochemists, plant scientists, and other experts to take part in the first ever IdeaConnection Idea Jam. You can earn prizes for contributing, or even for simply referring people to the Idea Jam!

An IdeaConnection Idea Jam is a large gathering of the best and brightest minds, coming together to make a huge collaborative effort to explore and discuss topics that are important to our world. This IdeaConnection Idea Jam is for the following topic: 480 crop scientists, biologists, chemists, geneticists, and
agriculturalists have signed up for IdeaConnections first
international online innovation jam in order to present ideas and
discuss breakthrough ideas about increasing crop yield.

The best and brightest biologists, chemists, plant scientists,
geneticists, and other experts are being invited to come together in a
one-week online collaborative effort to explore ideas for next
generation biotech, genetic and chemical approaches to increasing crop

As well as contributing to a worthy cause, participants will enjoy
meeting and working with their peers, and vying for up to $10,000 in
cash prizes for the top ideas submitted.

The Jam starts on March 21, 2011 and ends on March 28, 2011, but
participants are invited to register now and get their ideas ready to
submit the day the Jam opens. Facilitators will also be joining the
Jam to guide participants in forming their ideas.

Join our Idea Jam of great minds in order to explore and develop ideas. By participating in this Idea Jam, you can:

- Win cash awards up to $10,000 for the top ideas
- Meet and network with other experts in your field
- Have an opportunity for paid consulting work
- Help solve a long outstanding problem

Sign up now to secure your spot:

Please pass this message on to your friends, colleagues, and other chemists, biologists, plant scientists and geneticists


India to Plant First Herbicide-Tolerant GM Crop

- Harish Damodaran, Hindu, March 6 , 2011
- http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/article1514862.ece

The coming kharif season could witness plantings of the first ‘stacked trait' genetically modified (GM) crop in the country.

The Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) has already completed the second-stage Biosafety Research Trials (BRL-2) for four cotton hybrids that harbour two sets of traits – the first for insect resistance and the second for herbicide tolerance.

The hybrids will, in all, incorporate three foreign genes. The first two, cry1Ac and cry2Ab, are isolated from a soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt. While the cry1Ac gene produces proteins toxic against the American bollworm, spotted bollworm and pink bollworm, the cry2Ab gene confers resistance to spodoptera pests (beet and fall armyworms).

The third gene, cp4-epsps, codes for a totally different trait of tolerance against glyphosate. The latter is a herbicide used to control grasses and broad-leaf weeds that grow along with the crops and impact yields by competing for nutrition and water. Being a non-selective, systemic chemical that kills all plants in the field of application – be it weeds or the crop in question – glyphosate cannot be used on ordinary cotton hybrids and varieties.

The cp4-epsps gene – sourced from yet another soil bacterium, Agrobacterium tumefaciens – expresses a protein, which inhibits the action of glyphosate. Plants that are genetically engineered to contain this gene are, hence, rendered ‘tolerant' to glyphosate, enabling farmers to apply it in place of manual weeding.

The Mahyco cotton hybrids that have undergone confined BRL-1 and BRL-2 multi-location field tests over three seasons (2008, 2009 and 2010) are set to be the first GM crops in India to harbour herbicide-tolerance trait.

The GM crops being cultivated now are all cotton hybrids containing various Bt genes imparting only insect pest resistance. These are based on proprietary ‘events' – a series of steps and protocols developed to insert a foreign gene into a host plant – of Monsanto, JK Agri Genetics, Nath Bio-Genes, the Rallis India-controlled Metahelix Life Sciences and the Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur (CICR).

The latest Mahyco hybrids combine two Monsanto events: MON-15985 (which is already incorporated in the existing Bollgard-II cottons being grown since 2006) and MON-88913 (a new event). That would make them the first ‘stacked event/trait' GM products to be introduced in the country.

“The BRL-2 trials were conducted under the supervision of the CICR, which is likely to submit its report to the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) by the month-end. As the GEAC normally meets every second Wednesday, it may consider the matter on April 13, paving the way for commercial planting in kharif 2011”, sources told Business Line.

Mahyco, they added, has already undertaken production of around 55,000 packets, containing 450 grams each of the four new GM hybrids, of which two (MRC-8017 and 8031) are for northern States and the remaining (MRC-8347 and 8351) for the south and central zones. The 55,000 packets would suffice for 50,000-odd acres, which can go up in subsequent seasons.

In 2010, GM hybrids/varieties accounted for 9.4 million hectares (mh) out of the country's total 11 mh cotton area. Within the 9.4 mh, 90 per cent incorporated Monsanto's MON-531 and MON-15985 events, with the latter alone covering 6.6 mh.


Turkey Has To Import GMO Products As Raw Feed Material

Prof. Dr. Nazimi Açıkgöz, Black Sea Biotechnology Association (BSBA), March 2, 2011


Turkey consumes about four million tons of corn yearly, periodically covers it with domestic production. Some years amount of imported commodity is as much as the yearly corn harvest. It is proven fact that improvement in meet production causes import of feed material. Turkey’s annual export value of agricultural products has reached to 14 billion US$ lately, in which contribution of animal products is not negligible. Imported raw feed material consists of soybean and corn, which are not segregated as transgenic or non-transgenic during harvesting and/or storage.

Some biotechnology opponents are against such commercial business without any scientific evidence. Their attitude was clearly observed during the period Turkey has been struggling to adopt the "National Biosafety Law". At the same time their mentor countries from EC countries are importing, consuming and now planting transgenics like Sweden, Germany (potato) and Spain (corn - over 10 years). Growing food price may put genetically modified (GM) food on the menu.

More than 90% soybean produced by Argentine is transgenic. Also more than 70% of corn production in the USA is biotech. Both the 5% or 20% refuge and main area products respectively are harvested together without segregation. What are the main advantages of transgenics? In Argentine transgenic soybean varieties (Roundup Ready) with combination of no-till system facilitate growing the second crop after wheat in the year in the same field.

So this country gains simply many million hectare “additional” agricultural area. How can one underestimate such a success? In no-till system you do not control weeds by tillage, hand weeding, and herbicides. It means that crops can be ready before early autumn colds. Since weeds are still on the field fighting them efficiently is only possible through the use of herbicide-tolerant crops (Glyphosate and Glufosinate ammonium Herbicide Tolerant Plants). Such application offers huge economic effect and transgenic soybean is almost 30% cheaper than conventional crop.

Added value of transgenic crops is so attractive that yearly increase in area planted with them was never less than 9%, and reached 148 M hectares in 2010 (Clive James, 2011). Additional profit coming with transgenics is divided between farmers and consumers, patent owners in shares depending on the crop and market conditions.

Surplus value from transgenics in 15 years reached almost 34 billion US$ globally. Naturally main share of this amount is going to the growers. Economic advantage of biotech crops is facilitating such a competition power that some non-growing countries have started to cut down acreages of those crops. For example Turkish cotton areas dropped by 50% in 2009, because cotton bale had been offered for half price, Izmir delivery, in the previous year.

So why do not Turkish farmers, Turkish economy benefit from such an attractive biotechnology achievement? Why Aegean farmers can not apply second crop (corn)farming? Because existing corn cultivars are sensitive to the European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) and restriction in areal fumigation does not allow growing it. Though at least 100.000 hectare of Bt corn could have been grown in case our biosafety regulations allow growing any GMO corn cultivar in Turkey.

Besides that importing of GM raw feed material is the object for protests from the opponents. Lack of information or misinformation seem to hinder people from think objectively and globally. That explains why they are against importing GMO products as raw feed row material. Who are they working for?

Prof. Dr. Nazimi Açıkgöz (nazimi.acikgoz@gmail.com) is one of the establishers of “Seed Center” of the Ege University. He also moderates agbiyotek; "http://www.agbiyotek.com" a monthly bilingual agrobiotechnological electronic newsletter and a blog: http://agrobiyoteknoloji.blogcu.com

Non-GM Glyphosate Tolerant Flax

- Kelvin Heppner, March 15, 2011

Prairie farmers could soon have access to non-genetically modified, but glyphosate-tolerant, flax varieties.

Jim Radtke is the vice-president of product development with Cibus, a San Diego-based plant trait development company. "We're expecting it to reach the marketplace around the 2015, 2016 timeframe," he says.

Radtke explains they're able to create glyphosate-tolerant varieties through Cibus' Rapid Trait Development System (or RTDS.) "It's basically a form of mutagenesis. We're using the same techniques that plant breeders have used for many years to create new traits, except the difference is ours is quite targeted. We can go right to a piece of DNA and make the change we want to make," he says.

He says regulators in U.S. and Canada agree that their RTDS method is not genetic modification. "So if one can develop traits that are not classified as trans-genic or GM, then certainly it opens up doors from a market access perspective," he says.

The $6 million project is a partnership between Cibus, the Flax Council of Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. "One of the main reasons why we were able to develop this project with the Flax Council was because of the interest in making sure we don't compromise markets in Europe," says Radtke.

So how does Cibus expect to recoup its investment, considering farmers can save seed from year-to-year? "We typically develop a trait which adds value at the farmgate. We hope to be able to share in that value through a royalty situation or something like that," he says.

Radtke notes the RTDS platform will eventually allow them to develop other traits. "That's the real value of our technology. Once we develop the platform for flax, then we can start targeting other genes of interest. We could certainly look at other herbicide tolerances, but there are other possibilities too, such as oil modification, disease tolerance and things like that."


GM Crops Debate: Consensual Versus Adversarial Approaches

- Prof D. Balabramanian, The Hindu (India), March 10, 2011

In general, there are two ways to resolve differences in viewpoints and opinions between individuals or groups. One is the adversarial approach, as adopted in wars between nations, in courts of law between opposite parties, and in democracies, between Government and the opposition. For every winner here, there is also a loser hence making it a zero-sum game. Sport is also adversarial, but in an enjoyable way for participants and spectators alike.

On the other hand, the establishment of viewpoints in science occurs not adversarial app roach but consensual. A quintessential feature of scientific research activity, which every academic scientist takes for granted, but largely unknown to the general public, is that of peer review. Peer review represents the epitome of a consensual approach in scientific discourse.

Because science is human endeavour at the boundaries or frontiers of the unknown, scientists recognize that any new knowledge that is generated can only be assessed and evaluated by other practitioners at these boundaries, namely, their peers. Thus, in addition to undertaking their own research, scientists are under an unwritten moral obligation to accept the task of reviewing the work of their peers. The reviewers are critics but not adversaries, and it is only when they reach consensus with the proponents of the research can a scientific advance be published and made known to the world. Peer review does hav e its share of minor shortcomings in its actual practice.

Unlike the zero-sum game of an adversarial approach, everyone is a winner here when scientific advances occur in this manner.

Whereas adversarial arguments begin from an assumption of mistrust between the parties, consensual approach rests on an assumption of trust and all the parties are expected to self-declare conflicts of interest. Scientists, therefore, are most comfortable when they participate in consensual discussions. Consensus amongst experts is not unanimity, but at the very least it is an agreement on why they have chosen to disagree.

Given this background, it is indeed a pity that several aspects of debate in this country on genetically modified (GM) crops and foo ds have adopted the adversarial approach rather than a consensual one. Furthermore, academic scientists have been drawn into the discussions on unfamiliar terms and territory that have been dictated by activists and the lay public; this is the experience which has emerged from the consultations on GM brinjal that were held around the country by Minister Jairam Ramesh last year.

Scientists are not trained to hold placards, shout slogans, mobilize crowds, or denigrate their so-called opponents, and hence have been unable to match the activists in their strategies and actions. Indeed, the scientists of this country are being exposed for the first time to practices previously encountered by their counterparts in the developed world, for example on issues such as the debate on creationism versus Darwinism.

Then again, while consensual approach calls for each party to see and to assess both sides of an argument impartially, in the adversarial approach one party may deliberately attempt to shut itself to, or deny, the viewpoints of the other. So it is that even in the legal system (whose primary purpose, as with science, is to unravel the truth), it is arguable whether adversarialism is the best approach, since one party may fail to state its case properly leading to a decision that is not consonant with the truth. The amicus curiae system, and court-appointed expert committees represent forays of the legal systems away from the classical adversarial approach.

Black and white
As a corollary, whereas an activist perceives the arguments for and against GM crops in black and white, the academic scientist is unable to do so. Thus, even if a scientist, after balanced consideration, favours industrial exploitation or environmental release of a GM organism, he will not categorically state that it is absolutely safe. The best that he would say is that there is no evidence of it being unsafe.

There certainly is reason in the scientist's caution. If there is one word that evokes the horror, in all its dimensions, of unforeseen adverse events arising from scientific research, it is not Frankenstein; it is thalidomide.

Use of this drug in the mid-twentieth century for treatment of nausea of the first trimester of pregnancy led to the birth around the world of thousands of unfortunate children with grossly deformed limbs. No scientific advance is guaranteed to be totally free from risk.

And yet it is the balanced approach that permits a scientist to see the other side of the coin as well. The discovery of the technology for creating GM organisms in the 1970's, and its exploitation since, have resulted in manufacture and use of a variety of pharmaceutical products for cancer, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease, as well as of vaccines such as those against hepatitis and diarrhea. These advances have resulted in the saving of millions of lives, without any harm. Adversarialism also thrives to some extent on the deliberate muddling of issues involved, for example by confusing the health and environmental risks of GM crops with arguments on exploitation of farmers, enrichment of multinational companies, and the like.

When it is pointed out that America has adopted GM foods for over two decades without adverse health consequences, that country is decried as the haven of crony capitalism and profit-greedy corporations. It is hard to imagine that the regulatory authorities of the country would have an agenda other than that of the health of its citizens in taking their decisions. Indeed, it was the caution exercised by these authorities that protected the USA from the thalidomide disaster fifty years ago.

Finally, academic scientists are often exhorted to step out of their ivory towers to engage in social discourse in their capacity as experts of their domain. However, this can best be achieved only if the consensual approach is adopted in topics of controversy such as the debate on GM crops. Ivory towers exist not because scientists are callous or oblivious of their societal obligations, but because their task of pursuing knowledge at the frontiers is so intense that any diversion comes at the cost of the pursuit itself. Thus, most sc ientists would rather that they continue their own research instead of indulging in activities that they may perceive as frustrating or less pleasant. The consensual approach would be expected to provide the more favourable milieu for their engagement.

I would therefore urge everyone involved to return to the consensual path in resolving the scientific issues in this debate. Above all else, it is also the more civilized one.

( For this column, I have taken the permission of my colleague and friend Dr J. Gowrishankar, Director, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad to reproduce his erudite and lucid analysis).


GM Crops, A New Journal

- Prof. Vivian Moses

About four months ago I send you an E-mail about GM Crops, the new peer-reviewed journal on the science, commerce, regulation and politics of genetically modified crops, and on biotechnology generally in agriculture.

The journal was launched a year ago by Landes Bioscience Journals in Austin, Texas (http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/gmcrops) as the first international peer-reviewed journal of its kind; the distinguished editorial board is headed by Editor-in-Chief Professor Naglaa A. Abdallah at the University of Cairo. Professor Channapatna S. Prakash (Tuskegee University) and I joined Professor Abdallah and the board as co-editors in October 2010.

The publication is dedicated specifically to transgenic crops, their products, uses in agriculture, and all the technical, political and economic issues contingent on their deployment. In addition to publishing original research and reviews, GM Crops will also contain regular features, including Extra Views and GM in the Media.

GM Crops offers a welcome 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.

With an increasing international focus on genetically modified crops, improved agronomic traits resulting from the genetic engineering techniques, and applications coupled with the increasingly successful use of the technology in more and more countries with each passing year, the timeliness of the new journal could not be more appropriate. GM Crops fills a significant void in today's scientific literature, serving as an international forum to initiate and facilitate discussion of the progress and problems in this most important area of biotechnology.

A new journal - any journal - needs a good flow of incoming manuscripts in order to establish a recognised position as a voice for a subject. So far those manuscripts are coming in to GM Crops rather slowly, indeed too slowly. Your colleagues the editors would like to urge you again to look favourably on sending your future manuscripts in this area to GM Crops. For further details, please consult the Call for Papers (http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/gmcrops/cfp).

Questions? Please ask Kristine Pipit (mailto:kpipit@landesbioscience.com) or Kim Mitchell I(mailto: kmitchell@landesbioscience.com) (tel: +1-512-637-6050) - or ask me.


Impacts of GM Crops on Biodiversity

- Janet E. Carpenter, GM Crops, Vol. 2, Issue 1, Jan/Feb/Mar2011

The potential impact of GM crops on biodiversity has been a topic of interest both in general as well as specifically in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Agricultural biodiversity has been defined at levels from genes to ecosystems that are involved or impacted by agricultural production (www.cbd.int/agro/whatis.shtml). After fifteen years of commercial cultivation, a substantial body of literature now exists addressing the potential impacts of GM crops on the environment. This review takes a biodiversity lens to this literature, considering the impacts at three levels: the crop, farm and landscape scales. Within that framework, this review covers potential impacts of the introduction of genetically engineered crops on: crop diversity, biodiversity of wild relatives, non-target soil organisms, weeds, land use, non-target above-ground organisms, and area-wide pest suppression.


Farmers in Africa Are Desperate For Change

- Jasson Urbach, March 11, 2011
- http://www.moneyweb.co.za/mw/view/mw/en/page292681?oid=533205&sn=2009+Detail+no+image&pid=287226

The use of genetically modified food crops is a highly emotive issue.

The use of GM (genetically modified) food crops is a highly emotive issue. What should influence the debate between those who support these developments and those who oppose them is a report by the US Department of Agriculture. They estimate that with rising population trends, if no significant reforms are made over the next decade, the number of “food insecure” people (those consuming less than 2,100 calories per day) in Africa, will increase by 30 per cent to 645 million. To make use of the latest available technological developments is, therefore, of paramount importance.

To counter food shortages, farmers need to derive the maximum possible yield from their farms. Worldwide, alfalfa (lucerne) is grown mainly as a food for cattle. The recent development by seed company, Monsanto, of a GM variety of alfalfa that is resistant to herbicides, makes it possible now for farmers to spray their alfalfa with a herbicide, killing the weeds without harming their crop.

Most authoritative reviews conclude that neither GM crops nor food produced from them pose a significant risk to the humans who consume them. Indeed, in its annual State of the World’s Food and Agriculture report, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) states that the balance of evidence suggests that GM technology does not harm humans and GM seeds do not harm the environment.

According to the FAO, food production must increase by at least 70 per cent to meet the growing demands of a world population expected to surpass 9 billion by 2050. It is essential, however, that increased agricultural productivity be derived from the better use of existing agricultural land and not from an expansion of agricultural land as in the past four decades, when increasing amounts of land were put to use for farming to the detriment of forests, soil, and water.

Like any business, the goal of farming is to deliver the goods required by the market. To achieve this it has to become more profitable by being more efficient, that is by farming more intensively, not extensively. Biotechnology, and, more specifically, genetically modified foods offer a realistic opportunity to meet the demands of growing populations by increasing a farmer’s productivity.

Throughout the world, more and more farmers are recognising the benefits of using the latest available technologies and are switching to transgenic seeds. In 2010, 15.4 million farmers in 29 countries planted 148 million hectares of transgenic crops. The United States is the biggest producer of GM crops, with an estimated 66.8 million hectares followed by Brazil (25.4), Argentina (22.9), India (9.4) and Canada (8.8). South Africa is the 9th largest producer of transgenic crops with 2.2 million hectares, comprising maize, soybean and cotton.

Transgenic seeds offer great promise to poor African farmers who missed the green revolution. Compared to the rest of the world, African countries generally suffer from very low agricultural yields. For example, in the case of maize, the average yield per hectare in the developed world is 10 to15 tons per hectare, whereas the average yield in Africa is 1.4 tons per hectare. Since a large proportion of Africa’s inhabitants are subsistence farmers, these low yields contribute to the continent’s poverty and lack of economic development.

One of biotechnology’s great advantages is that it can become available almost immediately to farmers outside industrialised countries. In just a few years, GM crops could improve the effectiveness of the agricultural sector and food security in many developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. However, there are several barriers that can prevent farmers from using these new age seeds to improve their productivity. They are governmental restrictions, lack of credit, poor infrastructure, high transaction costs, and educational and cultural barriers.

Those farmers who have adopted these modern technologies have seen a substantial increase in their crop yields and a reduction in their workloads. They have been able to produce more than they consume and to sell their excess product. GM crops have improved their health, well-being and overall quality of life. To force these individuals to return to traditional farming methods is out of the question.

*Jasson Urbach is an economist with the Free Market Foundation. This article may be republished without prior consent but with acknowledgement to the author. The views expressed in the article are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation.


Tanzania: Strict bio-safety law stalls GM maize trials

- Al-amani Mutarubukwa BusinessWeek March 2011 22:55 http://thecitizen.co.tz/magazines/-/8728-strict-bio-safety-law-stalls-gm-maize-trials

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania is still lagging behind in conducting confined field trials for genetically modified (GM) maize compared with other East African countries, says a researcher.The situation is mainly attributed to country’s strict bio-safety law.

“We have had successful mock trials since 2009, but we failed to move to the next step last August because the government did not grant us a permit,” the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (Wema) project country coordinator Alois Kullaya told BusinessWeek recently.

Uganda and Kenya began their confined field trials at the end of last year.Organised by the US-based non-profit African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Monsanto and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, the region’s research bodies embarked on the Wema project to developing drought-resistant maize varieties that would then be distributed to farmers after obtaining individual country’s regulatory approval.

The aim is to increase yields by 24-35 per cent.
Dr Kullaya said it was high time that the government used less restrictive national bio-safety regulations, otherwise the country would lose the benefits of that technology.“If all goes well, we are planning to conduct the trials this year, once we obtain the permit from the National Bio-safety Committee,” said Dr Kullaya, who is also a principal agricultural research officer at Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute.

Maize is the most widely grown staple food in Africa. However, frequent and more severe drought due to climate change has prompted researchers to look for more adaptive measures.

The world’s poorest continent, where agriculture contributes up to a quarter of GDP in some countries and is an important source of foreign exchange, is increasingly turning to GM crops to boost food supplies.But critics and consumers, mostly in Africa and Europe, have questioned the safety of GM foods and have banned their import or cultivation due to fears they could harm humans and wildlife.

If the maize is approved, it will be licensed to AATF, which is funded by the United States and British governments.
“We are expecting to have the commercial multiplication of the seeds by 2017,” said Dr Kullaya.

“The expected Wema transgenic drought-tolerant maize seed will be sub-licensed to local seed companies royalty-free for a term or duration to be determined based on future product deployment agreements,” James Gethi, the Wema country coordinator in Kenya, told BusinessWeek recently in Dar es Salaam.

Trials are also planned for Mozambique and South Africa where GM regulations are less restrictive.
More than 30 countries, including all of the European Union, have restricted or banned the production of GM crops because they are not considered proven safe.

Meanwhile global plantings of genetically modified crops increased 10 per cent last year compared to the previous year, according to a study released by an organisation that promotes crop biotechnology.

Last year, 15.4 million farmers in 29 countries planted genetically modified crops on 148 million hectares (366 million acres), said the report from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).

The group’s chairman, Clive James, said a rapid increase since 1996 shows that “biotech crops are the fastest-adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture.”The United States remained the largest biotech crop growing country with nearly 67 million hectares (165 million acres) of soybeans, corn and cotton.

Brazil was second with 25 million hectares (62 million acres), an increase of 19 percent over 2009 Developing countries grew 48 per cent of biotech crops last year, the report said, adding that they will surpass industrialized countries by 2015.


Kenya to Start Planting Biotech Crops

- KABURU MUGAMBI, Daily Nation, February 28 2011 http://www.nation.co.ke/Features/smartcompany/Kenya+to+start+planting+biotech+crops++/-/1226/1116244/-/ndt636/-/index.html

The government says it will publish biotechnology guidelines in two months, setting the country on course to join developing countries planting genetically modified crops.

President Kibaki signed the Biosafety Act in February 2009 but the law needed guidelines to facilitate implementation. Without them, the government can approve applications for biotechnology products only for research trials.

National Biosafety Authority acting chief executive Roy Mugiira says indecision on labelling of genetically modified products should and how much application fees the authority should charge dragged formulation of the regulations.

“We are working with the State Law Office because we need to prescribe packaging that will be acceptable because even globally labelling of genetically modified products remains contentious,” Dr Mugiira said.

“We will borrow from Kenya Bureau of Standards because it already has standards of packaging and labelling of biotechnology products.”

Many consumers insist on their right to know what they are eating and their right to choose. Many governments have begun to heed and have either implemented labelling regulations or are working on them.

Dr Mugiira said the authority has not authorised importation of any genetically modified material for release into the environment. “I have received many applications in my office but I am telling them to wait until regulations are in place,” he said.

Dr Mugiira said Africa cannot continue to ignore biotechnology. He said Kenya Agricultural Research Institute is at the forefront of biotechnology as it is developing biofortified sorghum with more nutrients.

It is modifying sorghum to reduce production of a chemical that makes it to have bitter taste.

Dr Mugiira said KARI would soon register a patent for a genetically modified technology. “KARI is at the forefront of developing certain technologies that in the next five to 10 years may be out being commercial products and therefore we need to see ourselves as originators of these technologies not only as recipients,” he said.

Scientists, agricultural organisations and policymakers have tried to introduce GMOs in Kenya since 1998. When the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was opened for signatures in 2000, Kenya was the first country to sign up.


The Impact of The EU Regulatory Constraint of Transgenic Crops on Farm Income

Julian Park, Ian McFarlane, Richard Phipps and Graziano Ceddia, New Biotechnology, February 2011

World population and the need for nutritious food continue to grow. For 14 years farmers from a range of countries across the globe have been accessing transgenic technologies either to reduce crop production costs, increase yield and/or to exploit a range of rotational benefits. In 2009 134Mha of transgenic crops was grown. The arable area of the EU27 is approximately 102Mha; however, only about 0.1Mha of transgenic crops, mainly maize in Spain, is grown in the EU.

This is in part due to limited approvals before the establishment of a moratorium on the cultivation of transgenic crops. In this paper we estimate the revenue foregone by EU farmers, based on the potential hectarage so fIR and HT transgenic crops that have been economically successful elsewhere if they were to be grown in areas of the EU where farmers could expect an overall financial benefit.

This benefit would accrue primarily from reduced input costs. We estimate that if the areas of transgenic maize, cotton, soya, oilseed rape and sugarbeet were to be grown where there is agronomic need or benefit then farmer margins would increase by between ¤443 and ¤929 M/year. It is noted that this margin of revenue foregone is likely to increase if the current level of approval and growth remain slow, as new transgenic events come to market and are rapidly taken up by farmers in other parts of the world.

The complete article can be downloaded from - http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B8JG4-521M6KH-1&_user=10&_coverDate=01%2F25%2F2011&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=gateway&_origin=gateway&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1674778077&_rerunOrigin=google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=33b24df0ffa11c9d7e12a96890b30757&searchtype=a


Co-existence, Choice, and Sustainability for Crop Production

- Eighth BIGMAP Symposium, April 19 & 20, 2011, Ames, Iowa. https://www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/bigmap/quickregister.html

This year's 1 1/2 day event is titled "Co-existence, Choice, and Sustainability for Crop Production." Scheduled speakers include: Getachew Belay, Senior Biotechnology Policy Advisor, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA); Rikin Gandhi, Executive Officer, Digital Green, India; Dennis Garrity, Director General, World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF); Rick Hellmich, Research Entomologist, USDA/ARS; and Kathleen Delate, Professor of Agronomy & Horticulture, Iowa State University.


Genetically Modified Organisms in Horticulture

- White River, South Africa; September 12-15, 2011 http://www.gmo2011.co.za

The International Society for Horticulture Science in conjunction with the local organizing committee in South Africa is pleased to announce the 2nd International Society for Horticulture science (ISHS) Genetically Modified Organisms in horticulture (GMO 2011).

The theme of the symposium is “Paving the Way for a Sustainable Future”. The symposium will be held in The second ISHS GMO symposium in Horticulture is a follow-up on the first symposium held in Ski (Oslo), Norway, in 2007. We would like to invite you to join the South African community at the II ISHS GMO Symposium 2011, where science, decision makers and industry will come together. We aim to facilitate a platform for sharing of results, learning from each other as well as application in industry, decision making and regulation.

This 2011 event will be an update of progress and challenges in plant biotechnology for horticulture crops with an extra focus on developing countries. This will also be an opportunity for plant biotechnologist to share their knowledge on new technologies to the horticultural research community. It will be relevant for research scientists and the industry involved in the developing of biotechnology products in the world. The four day program will be structured in such a way so that it will provide an opportunity for those involved in the research, development, testing, regulation, assessment and management of GMO’s worldwide to share experiences with colleagues from around the globe. It will offer an unique opportunity for scientists and other stakeholders to work together to pave the way for a sustainable future.

Adri Veale (Convener and chair of organizing committee)
adri.veale@up.ac.za; ishsgmo2011@gmail.com


TWAS Fellowships: 2011 Call for Applications


Postgraduate, postdoctoral, visiting scholar and advanced research fellowships available to scientists from developing countries

TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world, is now accepting applications for its postgraduate, postdoctoral, visiting scholars and advanced research fellowship programmes.

The fellowships are offered to scientists from developing countries and are tenable at centres of excellence in various countries in the South, including Brazil, China, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan and Thailand.
Eligible fields include: agricultural and biological sciences, medical and health sciences, chemistry, engineering, astronomy, space and earth sciences, mathematics and physics.


Online AgBio Quiz


This test doesn't require scientific training. All it takes is knowing the recent history of agricultural biotechnology, so the playing field is level.

See how much you know about this remarkable field, and at the same time, determine how much you believe that's actually misinformation. It's permitted to search the web for your answers -- and GMObelus Custom Websearch is your best bet.

And please ignore question #3, or give '1984' as the answer.