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April 19, 2011


Biotech Crops Boosting Agriculture; Gates $ for Golden Rice; Peru Wises Up; EU Still in Denial; GM on the Rise in Africa


• AgBioWorld is now on Twitter and Facebook
• Prakash’s Email address has changed -
• Agriculture Boosted by Biotech Crops – Report
• IRRI gets $10.3-M grant from Gates Foundation
• Peru approves the biosafety law; GM crop commercialization Soon
• EU ‘failing to acknowledge benefits of GMs’
• GM on the Rise in Africa
• Allergenicity Assessment of Genetically Modified Plants
• Why Genetically Modified Crops?

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Sustainable, profitable and productive agriculture continues to be boosted by the contribution of biotech crops


13 April 2011: Dorchester, UK: The latest annual update report of global biotech crop impacts shows the technology continues to provide important economic and environmental benefits and is making positive contributions to global food production and food security

"Biotech crop adoption continues to contribute to reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, decreasing pesticide spraying and significantly boosting farmers’ incomes, especially in developing countries” said Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, co-author of the report. “The technology has also made important contributions to increasing crop yields, reducing risks, improving productivity and raising global production of key crops”

Previewing the findings of the study, the key findings are:

• Biotech crops have contributed to significantly reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices. This results from less fuel use and additional soil carbon storage from reduced tillage with biotech crops. In 2009, this was equivalent to removing 17.7 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing 7.8 million cars from the road for one year;

• Biotech crops have reduced pesticide spraying (1996-2009) by 393 million kg (-8.7%) and as a result decreased the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on the area planted to biotech crops by 17.1%;

• Herbicide tolerant biotech crops have facilitated the adoption of no/reduced tillage production systems in many regions, especially South America. This has made important contributions to reducing soil erosion and improving soil moisture levels;

• There have been substantial net economic benefits at the farm level amounting to $10.8 billion in 2009 and $64.7 billion for the fourteen year period. The farm income gain in 2009 is equivalent to adding 4.1% to the value of global production of the four main biotech crops of soybeans, corn, canola and cotton;

• Of the total farm income benefit, 57% ($36.6 billion) has been due to yield gains, with the balance arising from reductions in the cost of production. Two thirds of the yield gain derive from adoption of insect resistant crops and the balance from herbicide tolerant crops;

• The share of the farm income gains, both in 2009 and cumulatively (1996-2009), has been about 50% each for farmers in developing and developed countries;

• The cost farmers paid for accessing GM technology in 2009 was equal to 30% of the total technology gains (a total of $15.3 billion inclusive of farm income gains ($10.8 billion) plus cost of the technology payable to the seed supply chain ($4.5 billion ));

• For farmers in developing countries the total cost of accessing the technology in 2009 was equal to 18% of total technology gains, whilst for farmers in developed countries the cost was 39% of the total technology gains. Whilst circumstances vary between countries, the higher share of total technology gains accounted for by farm income gains in developing countries relative to the farm income share in developed countries reflects factors such as weaker provision and enforcement of intellectual property rights coupled with higher average levels of benefits in developing countries;

• Since 1996, biotech traits have added 83.5 million tonnes and 130.5 million tonnes respectively to global production of soybeans and corn. The technology has also contributed an extra 10.5 million tonnes of cotton lint and 5.5 million tonnes of canola;

• If GM technology had not been available to the (14 million) farmers using the technology in 2009, maintaining global production levels at the 2009 levels would have required additional plantings of 3.8 million ha of soybeans, 5.6 million ha of corn, 2.6 million ha of cotton and 0.3 million ha of canola. This total area requirement is equivalent to about 7% of the arable land in the US, or 24% of the arable land in Brazil.

For additional information, contact Graham Brookes Tel +44(0) 1531 650123. www.pgeconomics.co.uk


IRRI gets $10.3-M grant from Gates Foundation

- Jose Katigbak, The Philippine Star, April 17, 2011

WASHINGTON – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $10.3-million grant to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines to fund the development of Golden Rice, a genetically modified strain of rice containing beta carotene which the body converts to vitamin A.

Globally vitamin A deficiency alone accounts for 670,000 childhood deaths each year and causes 350,000 cases of childhood blindness, health officials said.

Millions of people rely on rice for up to 80 percent of their daily food intake, and many lack access to or cannot afford nutritious food containing vitamin A. In Southeast Asia alone, more than 90 million children suffer from vitamin A deficiency.

Rice contains negligible amounts of beta carotene so genetic modification is required to boost micronutrient levels.

The grant will develop and evaluate Golden Rice varieties for the Philippines and Bangladesh with the aim of applying for regulatory approval of these varieties as early as 2013 in the Philippines and 2015 in Bangladesh.

The Gates Foundation said to ensure the safety and effectiveness of Golden Rice the grant includes rigorous safety testing, compliance with international standards, and adherence to the regulations and laws of the countries where they operate.

The Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) have been working with IRRI on Golden Rice for several years. They are leading the development of Golden Rice varieties in their countries.

“We are conducting our breeding carefully to make sure that the new Golden Rice variety retains the same high yield, pest resistance, and excellent grain and eating qualities while helping to address the pervasive problem of vitamin A deficiency in the Philippines,” Dr. Antonio Alfonso, chief science specialist and Golden Rice team leader at PhilRice said in an article published in the IRRI website.


Peru approves the biosafety law paving way for GM crop commercialization

Dear colleagues,

I am glad to inform you that on Friday, April 15th 2011, by means of Supreme Decree DS N° 003-2011-AG, the Peruvian Government has finally approved the Biosafety Regulations for the Development of Activities with Living Modified Organisms and Derived Products in the Agriculture and Forestry Sectors of Peru. The approved Regulations were due since 1999 when the Biosafety Law 27104 was issued by the Congress, and since 2003 when the General Regulation of Law 27104 was then approved.

The Decree DS 003-2011-AG and the full text of the Regulation and its Annexes I and II (in Spanish) are accessible at the website of the National Institute for Agrarian Innovation-INIA, the responsible organzation at the Ministry of Agriculture to implement the biosafety regulations:


Best regards,

Javier Verástegui

Communications, LAC Biosafety Project - Peru
Member of the PeruBiotec Association


EU ‘failing to acknowledge benefits of GMs’

- Caroline Stocks, Farmers Weekly (UK), 18 April 2011
- http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2011/04/18/126405/EU-failing-to-acknowledge-benefits-of-GMs.htm

The European Commission has slammed government across Europe for failing to acknowledge the benefits of allowing farmers to grow genetically modified crops.

In a report published on Friday (15 April), the commission criticised countries for not providing "objective analysis" of the positive impacts GM production could have.

Based on data from member states, including studies, opinion polls and field trials, the 10-page report criticises the "lack of clarity" of analysis carried out by national government on GM technologies.

Talks on the issue must shift from "polarised perceptions to more tangible & objective results", it says.

In its notes accompanying the report, the commission said the data from member states reflected the "polarised opinions built upon a limited fact-based background on the specific European context and preconceived ideas about GMO cultivation".

It had been "difficult and often impossible to pinpoint clear positions or trends at national or European levels and to report them in a statistically relevant way", it added.

While their were some gaps in the data, the commission said studies had shown yield increases for GM maize compared to maize grown by conventional farmers, as well as overall increased gross margins for farmers.

Among the seven member states which allow GM crop cultivation, yield increases of between 7% and 12.5% were reported in Portugal, Rome the Czech Republic.

The results were mirrored by evidence from non-EU countries, with the benefits of GM crops for smallholders "equal or higher than those of large farmers", the report says.

But Mute Schimpf, Friends of the Earth Europe food campaigner, criticised the study for failing to account for "the true environmental and economic costs of GM crops", such as potential contamination damage.

EU farmers group DG SANCO said it regretted that the available information on impacts along the food chain was "rather limited, if not absent".

The report marked a starting point for deeper and more focused discussion among EU institutions, it added.

Mark Buckingham, of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, said it was essential farmer were given the opportunity to use GM technology so they could resources more efficiently.

"This is all the more important with rising food prices and a growing population," he said.

"This report demonstrates yet again the benefits associated with the use of GM technology - based on the experiences of its widespread use over the past 15 years.

"Not only does GM boost farm incomes, it can also play a significant role in reducing the environmental impact of farming, helping to meet emissions reductions targets."


GM on the Rise in Africa

- SciDev Net, April 19, 2011

With Africa under pressure to produce more food for its growing population, more countries across the continent are likely to start growing genetically modified (GM) crops, says an article in Reuters.

Africa has lagged behind other regions in the adoption of GM technology. In addition to the usual debates about the effects of GM on health and the environment, says the article, there have been concerns about the impact of GM crops on export opportunities. The high price of GM crops has also proven a challenge for small farmers.

But now "there is increasing support to test biotech in several African countries," said Diran Makinde, director of the African Biosafety Network of Expertise.

South Africa was the continent's sole cultivator of GM maize, cotton and soya beans until 2008, when Egypt began cultivating GM maize and Burkina Faso started growing GM cotton, says Reuters. Now Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe are conducting research and field trials of GM crops, including maize, rice, wheat, sorghum and cotton, in what could be steps towards adoption.

Kenya may lead the way, looking to conduct open trials of GM crops this year after enacting biosafety regulations. Industry officials expect the draft regulations to be published in May.

"Kenya will be open to cultivating GM crops. I can assure you Kenya will be the fourth county to allow GMO [GM organisms]," said Felix Mmboyi, deputy director of Africa Biotechnology, who added that other countries were keenly watching Kenya, where GM imports have been a controversial issue.

Countries such as Malawi, Mauritius, South Africa and Zimbabwe have enacted biosafety laws, removing a major obstacle to adoption. Most other African governments are also drafting guidelines and regulations

However, some 23 countries have biosafety laws with strict liability clauses which make someone liable for any mishaps without the need to prove any fault on their part. "No private sector will invest in a country where they can be sued for the slightest or even imaginary damage. This is a no-go area for the biotech crop developer," said Makinde

A report from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) showed an 87-fold increase in GM crop area globally between 1996 and 2010, making biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture.


Suggested Improvements for the Allergenicity Assessment of Genetically Modified Plants Used in Foods

- Richard E. Goodman & Afua O. Tetteh, Current Allergy and Asthma Reports


Genetically modified (GM) plants are increasingly used for food production and industrial applications. As the global population has surpassed 7 billion and per capita consumption rises, food production is challenged by loss of arable land, changing weather patterns, and evolving plant pests and disease. Previous gains in quantity and quality relied on natural or artificial breeding, random mutagenesis, increased pesticide and fertilizer use, and improved farming techniques, all without a formal safety evaluation.

However, the direct introduction of novel genes raised questions regarding safety that are being addressed by an evaluation process that considers potential increases in the allergenicity, toxicity, and nutrient availability of foods derived from the GM plants. Opinions vary regarding the adequacy of the assessment, but there is no documented proof of an adverse effect resulting from foods produced from GM plants. This review and opinion discusses current practices and new regulatory demands related to food safety.


Why Genetically Modified Crops?

- Jonathan D. G. Jones, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 13 May 2011 vol. 369 no. 1942 1807-1816

Abstract: This paper is intended to convey the message of the talk I gave at the Theo Murphy meeting at the Kavli Centre in July 2010. It, like the talk, is polemical, and conveys the exasperation felt by a practitioner of genetically modified (GM) plant science at its widespread misrepresentation. I argue that sustainable intensification of agriculture, using GM as well as other technologies, reduces its environmental impact by reducing pesticide applications and conserving soil carbon by enabling low till methods. Current technologies (primarily insect resistance and herbicide tolerance) have been beneficial. Moreover, the near-term pipeline of new GM methods and traits to enhance our diet, increase crop yields and reduce losses to disease is substantial. It would be perverse to spurn this approach at a time when we need every tool in the toolbox to ensure adequate food production in the short, medium and long term.

Conclusion and overview

GM is a method to introduce new genes that can improve crop performance. In the last 14 years, both GM HT and insect resistance have been enthusiastically adopted by farmers in the USA, Argentina, Brazil, India and China. The outcomes have broadly been positive; easier weed control, better insect control with reduced insecticide applications, increased carbon sequestration by low till agriculture, and increased farm incomes. However, activists in Europe have greatly retarded adoption of GM, and the public has been misled by unwarranted criticisms of the technology from its opponents. This is unhelpful at a time when we need to use all available technology to secure food supplies over the next 20–40 years.

Europeans should consider the following questions about GM. First, why is so little consideration given to the costs of not using GM? For example, in the UK alone, farmers spend approximately £50 million per year to control late blight, and a 10 year delay in solving the problem thus costs £500 million. The major beneficiaries from any such delay are the fungicide manufacturers such as Bayer and Syngenta, and the major losers are consumers.

Second, European politicians generally support the desirability of strengthening the European bioeconomy, but how are we to compete successfully with the USA when our regulatory burden is so much more severe? Companies such as Monsanto are the major beneficiaries from excessive and expensive regulation; it increases the barriers to entry from competitors, and maintains their monopoly position. Third, EU taxpayers spend considerable sums both nationally and Europe-wide on plant science and technology that could result via GM in EU crops with better performance and reduced environmental impact. However, excessive regulation is preventing EU taxpayers from benefitting from their own investment—why? Finally, EU regulations on import of GM crops are influencing policies in developing countries and retarding the deployment of solutions to problems of food availability and quality. How can the harm that results from these European anti-GM prejudices be justified?

(The Sainsury Laboratory, Norwich Research Park, Norwich NR4 7UH, UK