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

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on

Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives





April 21, 2011


Patents Expiring, Generics In; Cassava Boost; Banana Shows Promise; Deepak Chopra on Agbiotech


* Expiration of Biotech Crop Patents – Issues for Growers
* Danforth Center Gets Big Boost from Gates Foundation
* Vitamin A Enriched Rice In Five Years To Defeat Deficiency
* East Africa: GM Banana Resistant to Fungus Shows Promise
* Biotech Communication Off The Press
* Coexistence of Biotech, Conventional and Organic Foods
* Fashion and Biotech In Biopolis, Singapore
* Deepak Chopra on Agbiotech


Expiration of Biotech Crop Patents – Issues for Growers

- Roger McEowen, Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Crop; Integrated Managerment News via Seedquest, April 2011

In the near future, the last of the Roundup Ready soybean patents will expire. That expiration will be followed by the expiration of other patents on biotech crops and expiring approvals in overseas markets like the European Union and China.

Those expirations could lead to the planting of so-called “generic” versions of Roundup Ready seeds that lack approval in overseas markets, complicating the export process and potentially disrupting billions in trade. Whether the expirations will lead to lower seed prices and more choices for farmers is an open question and greater use of the historic practice of saving some seed and replanting it in the next crop season remains to be seen. But, as patents expire and regulatory approvals for overseas markets become uncertain, a significant question exists as to whether farmers will continue to have access to these markets.

Certainly, as patents begin to expire on various biotech crops, those crops will remain for a period of time in the commercial grain supply chain. That means that steps will likely be necessary to ensure that the crops will still meet requirements imposed by certain buyers such as the European Union and China. Without those steps, U.S. farmers could face problems in maintaining access to those markets. Another potential problem could arise if the holder of the expired patent develops and markets a new product that could potentially compete with the product for which the patent has expired (the so-called generic product).

The patent expiration of the first generation of RR soybean trait in 2014 will be the first time that a major biotech trait will become potentially subject to competition with generic traits. That could result in lower prices and more choices for farmers. That will most likely be the case if Monsanto sticks to its pledges to maintain and extend current licensing agreements and regulatory approval for overseas markets.

Certainly, Monsanto has legal options that it can utilize to extend its existing monopoly and prevent competition among generic seed products. It appears at the present time that Monsanto does not plan to utilize those options to the extent of diminishing competition in the seed market. But, this entire matter is one that is developing.

A complete brief on this topic is posted on the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation website as an April 8, 2011 – Expiration of Biotech Crop Patents – Issues for Growers. This article looks at the laws governing seed sales and the current landscape.
Roger McEowen is the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation director and an agricultural law professor.


Danforth Plant center Project Gets Big Boost from Gates Foundation

-Georgina Gustin, St. Louis Today, April 14, 2011

CREVE COEUR • Researchers working to develop genetically modified, nutrient-dense cassava got another major boost Wednesday with an $8.3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

For the past seven years, scientists at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center have been developing a cassava genetically engineered to contain nutrients or resist disease.

Roughly 250 million people in sub-Saharan Africa rely on the root crop for survival. But cassava, which is something akin to a yam, lacks essential nutrients, including pro-vitamin A, iron and protein. Those who depend on it often suffer from chronic malnutrition, leading to blindness, illness and as many as 500,000 deaths among children each year. "Our end goal is ensuring that consumers of cassava in Africa will receive the key amounts of minerals and nutrients," said Martin Fregene, who is leading the effort.

The Gates Foundation has supported four projects to develop genetically engineered crops in African countries, incluing a banana that supplies more pro-vitamin A in Uganda and sorghum with more easily digestible proteins in Kenya. The foundation has also supported efforts, via the Danforth Center, to develop a virus-resistant cassava in Uganda.

The project receiving this latest infusion of cash, known as BioCassava Plus, focuses on nutrient-enhanced cassava in Nigeria and Kenya.

The funds, according to Fregene, will allow the BioCassava project to take the next critical step. Field trials in both countries have demonstrated that the nutrient-dense cassava can be grown effectively. "Prior field trials were just to demonstrate we can do this in cassava," Fregene said. "Now we've moved on to safety trials to make sure the traits are stable."

The Danforth Center is working with research partners based in both countries. The ultimate goal is to get the improved cassava into the hands of farmers without any royalty fees, meaning they can save and share their planting materials. Fregene says that could happen in as little as four or five years.

According to the Danforth Center, the total funding from the Gates Foundation now tops $20 million. When the cassava is distributed, it would be the center's first major contribution in a developing country.


Vitamin A Enriched Rice In Five Years To Defeat Deficiency


Agriculture scientists in Bangladesh have plans to develop genetically-engineered Vitamin-A enriched rice variety in five years. A genetically modified variety, the Golden Rice will go through greenhouse and field tests before advancing into production phase, like cultivation and harvest.

Unlike other poor countries, pregnant women and school children in Bangladesh suffer from preventable diseases which could be conquered by Vitamin-A supplements through most consumed food item.

Vitamin-A deficiency is a major cause of preventable blindness in children in Bangladesh. It also impairs growth, lowers resistance to infections and increases the risk of dying. In pregnant and postpartum women, Vitamin-A deficiency can have serious consequences for the health and survival of women and for the Vitamin-A status of their children.

In another front, government is expecting to fortify 300,000 metric tons of edible oil sold in retail markets. The initiative will ensure to reach remote villages, where Vitamin-A capsules is difficult to distribute.
“This week we are applying for permission to import the beta carotene-rich BRRI Dhan-29 from the IRRI experiment field and make a greenhouse trial at BRRI prior to going for open field trial in Bangladesh,” Dr Alamgir Hossain, principal plant breeder at Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) told independent English newspaper Daily Star.

Dr Hossain told The Daily Star on Saturday that once released commercially, consumption of only 150 gram of Golden Rice a day will supply half of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A for an adult. This is expected to revolutionize fighting Vitamin-A deficiency in the mostly rice-eating Asian countries where the poor have limited access to vitamin A sources other than rice.

Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on April 13 provided a grant of over $10 million to IRRI to develop and evaluate Golden Rice varieties for Bangladesh and the Philippines. It is expected that the Golden Rice variety of BRRI Dhan-29 will be ready for regulatory approval by 2015.
HKI Vice President and Regional Director for Asia-Pacific Nancy Haselow says, “The most vulnerable children and women in hard-to-reach areas are often missed by existing interventions that can improve Vitamin A status, including Vitamin A supplementation, food fortification, dietary diversification, and promotion of optimal breast-feeding.”

AUTHOR: Saleem Samad
URL: http://bangladeshwatchdog.blogspot.com
E-MAIL: saleemsamad [at] hotmail.com


East Africa: GM Banana Resistant to Fungus Shows Promise

- John Kasozi and Joyceline Edwards, All Africa, April 20, 2011

Kampala — A banana strain resistant to a common fungal disease could help smallholder farmers in East Africa better control the crippling disease, which has been spreading across the region over the last three decades.

The results of confined field trials of a genetically modified (GM) banana with improved resistance to a black sigatoga disease, the devastating leaf spot fungus, are promising, researchers have told SciDev.Net.

The disease is caused by the fungus Mycosphaerella fijiensis and it can halve fruit production in affected plantations. It is easily spread by airborne spores, rain, planting material, irrigation water and packing material used in transporting goods between banana-growing countries.

The dark leaf spots caused by the fungus eventually enlarge and merge together, causing much of the leaf area to dry.

The team led by Andrew Kiggundu - head of banana biotechnology research at the Uganda's National Agricultural Research Laboratories Institute (NARL) in Kawanda - analysed 19 lines of GM bananas and found promising results in five of them. Andrews told SciDev.Net further research is needed to calculate the exact yield gains from using the resistant banana strain.

The researchers inserted genes for chitinase - an enzyme that breaks down chitin, the hard substance that makes up the cell walls of the invading fungi - preventing the fungus from invading the plant cells and causing the disease.

Kiggundu said laboratory tests using leaves from transgenic plants showed almost full immunity when cultured fungi were applied to the leaves.

Researchers collaborated closely with the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, where several banana lines were engineered to include the chitinase gene before being brought to NARL for testing.

However, Settumba Mukasa, resident banana expert in the department of crop science at Uganda's Makerere University, said the field trials had more significance for building research capacity in Uganda than the development of a new disease-resistant banana.

"[The project] is a stepping stone for subsequent breeding programs and genetic engineering programmes. As a consequence of this project we can now do transformations of other varieties of bananas and other crop species," said Mukasa.

While black sigatoka is among the top three diseases affecting bananas in Uganda it mainly affects Cavendish, which are not as widely cultivated as other types of bananas.

But for the few farmers in Uganda who do grow Cavendish bananas, the development may be useful since the disease is currently controlled by aerial pesticide spraying which is expensive for smallholders and affects their health.

"Farmers cannot afford that because they are small and they have few plants. Here, chemical control is not viable, so this approach may be the only available method to manage the disease," Mukasa said.


Biotech Communication Off The Press


Asia and the Pacific are expected to spearhead the global market for crop biotechnology. Four countries in Asia and the Pacific-Australia, China, India, and the Philippines are mega biotech countries or those that grew 50,000 hectares or more of biotech crops. These countries take the lead in sharing their experiences in communicating biotechnology in a book Communication Challenges and Convergence in Crop Biotechnology edited by Drs. Mariechel J. Navarro and Randy A. Hautea of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). Science communication initiatives of countries such as Philippines, China, Australia,Thailand, India, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam as well as the Organization of Islamic Conference countries and CropLife Asia are discussed in the 13 chapter, 310 page book.

The authors say that the book presents case studies that offer unique and rich examples of how countries have been able to guide through the 'drama' of crop biotechnology as they shepherd innovations from the laboratory, greenhouse trials, multi-location trials, and hopefully to farmers' fields. "Each country is making its own contribution, and together they converge to form a consensus on crop biotechnology," they added. Lessons learned from counter experiences will hopefully contribute to a better appreciation and understanding of the crucial role of science communication in the laboratory to farmer's field continuum.

The case studies show that despite diversity in culture, political set-up, economic development, religious beliefs, and language, countries have been able to address specific issues that impede or hasten the development of crop biotechnology. "An appreciation of science communication and appropriate strategies have led to a better understanding of the societal environment where the technology can best thrive," the authors conclude. The book is jointly produced by ISAAA and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture.

Get your copy at http://tinyurl.com/3t2t2fq


Achieving Coexistence of Biotech, Conventional and Organic Foods in the Marketplace

- Vancouver, Canada, October 26-28, 2011; GMCC Coexistence Conference

On the coexistence of biotech, conventional and organic foods. World class academic and industry experts, regulators, policy makers and other key stakeholders from around the world gather to discuss the challenges and opportunities in managing the growth of different types of foods in the global marketplace. In order to ensure that all sectors continue to thrive to meet the growing food demand around the world and satisfy the preferences of different consumer segments, industry, governments and stakeholder groups engage in active discussions on proper market practices and government policies. Every two years, the GMCC conferences provide a big stage for active debate on policy, legal, economic, and technical solutions that seek to facilitate coexistence.

The Executive Organizing Committee

Prof. Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes (Co-Chair), University of Missouri
Dr. Stuart Smyth (Co-Chair), University of Saskatchewan
Prof. Peter W.B. Phillips, University of Saskatchewan
Prof. Ken Schneeberger, University of Missouri


Fashion and Biotech In Biopolis, Singapore

- Crop Biotech Update, ISAAA.org
- http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/article/default.asp?ID=7692

An auditorium in the biotechnology hub of Singapore, BioPolis became glitzy during a recent fashion show organized by the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC), International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and Genetic Modification Advisory Committee of Singapore. The fashion show featured outfits carrying the elements of modern biotech such as DNA, plasmids, Bt corn, Bt brinjal, and Golden Rice among others. It was part of a Public Forum on Biotechnology Communication where experts from India, Kenya, and Malaysia shared their experiences in bridging the gap between science and society.

This is the third biotech fashion show organized by MABIC which aims to make biotechnology more attractive to the lay public and to reach out to a wider audience. The young designers from Universiti Teknologi Mara, Malaysia explained the biotech behind their creations. They had no science background and read up on modern agri-biotechnology to be able to create the unique designs. Designers and their lecturers vowed to continue using biotechnology motifs in their work.


Deepak Chopra on Agbiotech

Deepak must stick to selling spirituality, and not expose his bias and ignorance on agbiotech issues!

Watch - http://livestre.am/I3Q1