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Date:

May 2, 2011

Subject:

Reminiscences of Father of AgBiotech; Many Women, No Cry; Rice is from China (Sorry, India!); USDA’s War on Potatoes; Beachy Leaving USDA

 




* It Is a Long Way to GM Agriculture
* Many Women, no Cry
* Rice is from China (Sorry, India!)
* The Economics of Genetically Modified Crops
* USDA’s War on Potatoes
* Beachy to Leave Key Agriculture Research Post in Washington
* India's Scientific Panel Favors Limited Release of Bt Brinjal
* Master Fellowships in GM Crop Risk Assessment
* The economic potential of plant-made pharmaceuticals

--=========

It Is a Long Way to GM Agriculture

- Marc Van Montagu, Annual Review of Plant Biology, Vol. 62: 1-23; June 2011), (Institute of Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries, Belgium)
-
http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-arplant-042110-103906

When we discovered that crown gall induction on plants by Agrobacterium tumefaciens is a natural event of genetic engineering, we were convinced that this was the dawn of a new era for plant science. Now, more than 30 years later, I remain overawed by how far and how rapidly we progressed with our knowledge of the molecular basis of plant growth, development, stress resistance, flowering, and ecological adaptation, thanks to the gene engineering technology.

I am impressed, but also frustrated by the difficulties of applying this knowledge to improve crops and globally develop a sustainable and improved high-yielding agriculture. Now that gene engineering has become so efficient, I had hoped that thousands of teams, all over the world, would work on improving our major food crops, help domesticate new ones, and succeed in doubling or tripling biomass yields in industrial crops. We live in a world where more than a billion people are hungry or starving, while the last areas of tropical forest and wild nature are disappearing. We urgently need a better supply of raw material for our chemical industry because petroleum-based products pollute the environment and are limited in supply.

Why could this new technology not bring the solutions to these challenges? Why has this not happened yet; what did we do wrong?

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

FINAL THOUGHTS
Like most scientific innovations that impact our society, the field of plant biotechnology did not emerge from targeted research efforts to increase agronomic productivity. Rather, it is the by-product of curiosity and basic scientific questioning. Plant biotechnology is now expected to contribute to strategies for meeting the U.N. Millennium Development Goals the fact that it is even on the agenda for such a noteworthy cause is the result of the scientific discovery of the Ti plasmid and the story that spans the birth and growth of recombinant DNA technology.

This discovery and the revolution that swept science in its wake are dramatic examples of how science works best and how basic research can lead to practical results that were unimaginable when the research began. The story is also a significant example of how inquisitive scientific thought freed from preconceptions can create an entire scientific culture and philosophical framework able to comprehend an increasingly complex larger picture through attention to the minutest detail.

Despite the fact that such enormous progress has been made in fundamental science, the expected innovation boom did not happen. The molecular plant community is still small compared with other life science disciplines. Still, I believe that it will continue to grow once the value of the tremendously wide range of possible applications for humankind has been recognized.

Genetically engineered plants and plant biotechnology have the potential to revolutionize agriculture in a sustainable manner; improve environmental quality; yield new medicines; act as biofactories for the production of pharmaceutical proteins (molecular pharming); generate biofuels; contribute to a less-polluting industry; and profoundly improve the health, quality of life, and livelihood of mankind.

The economic and environmental benefits of GM plants should, however, not be the sole privilege of the developed world. Much work has to be done to lessen and simplify the regulatory burden and to make the technology freely available for those who need it the most.

-==========

Many Women, no Cry

- Marcel Kuntz, OGM (France), April 29, 2011

http://www.marcel-kuntz-ogm.fr/article-aris-72793155.html

A recent publication by Aziz Aris and Samuel Leblanc in the journal Reproductive Toxicology (Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to Genetically Modified Foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada) claims to have detected traces of:
herbicides (used on herbicide tolerant ‘genetically modified’ plant varieties) or their major metabolite, and the insecticidal protein Cry1Ab (produced by certain varieties -called Bt- resistant to insect pests) in the blood of Canadian women, pregnant or not pregnant, and in umbilical cords.

This site will publish any credible information about the validity of these claims and this article will be updated periodically.

A publication lacking credibility
Only claims of Aris and Leblanc on Cry1Ab are discussed here for the time being.
The Cry1Ab protein is produced by some Bt cotton and corn (e.g. MON810). Aris and Leblanc claim they detected this protein in 93% of pregnant women and 69% of non-pregnant women tested and believe that this is linked to the consumption of foods derived from Bt varieties, which in Canada must mean corn rather than cottonseed oil.

Surprisingly, the authors do not consider that the origin of Cry1Ab could be food from organic farming (which sprays Cry1Ab, or bacteria producing it, on fruit or vegetable crops) or from its use in gardening (CryA1b is part of available "natural insecticide" formulations).

If we examine the possibility of a Bt corn food origin for Cry1Ab, since these proteins do not bioaccumulate, it is necessary to consider recent consumption.
First question: do 93% of pregnant women in Canada actually consume corn almost daily?
Second question: are the values in blood reported by Aris and Leblanc consistent with the levels present in Bt corn kernels? The answer is no. Here is why:

The authors reported average values of 0.19 nanograms per milliliter (ng / ml) of blood from pregnant women. Knowing that, in corn MON810 for example, levels of Cry1Ab in the grain are between 190 and 390 ng / g fresh weight, assuming that 1% will pass into the blood (which is on the high side taking into account losses during corn storage, cooking, gastric digestion and the intestinal barrier), this would require a woman of 60 kg to consume 120 g of corn (for the mean blood value of 0,19 ng / ml, assuming a plasma volume of 2.5 liters) and about 1.5 kg (for the maximum reported blood values of 2.28 ng / ml), which seems unrealistic ... And even more if one takes into account all extracellular fluids (10 liters, which would imply an average consumption of 490 g of corn and 5.8 kg in order to reach the maximum value in blood).

Third question (which follows logically the above-mentioned findings): is the Cry1Ab detection method used by Aris and Leblanc reliable?

Note first that the test used, marketed by Agdia, is claimed to detect the protein Cry1Ab from 1 ng / ml (read the introduction to this article). While Aris and Leblanc claim to have detected average concentrations lower than the detection limit, e.g. 0.04 ng / ml in umbilical cords!

One can cite the publication by Lutz et al. (J. Agric. Food Chem. 2005, 53 (5) :1453-6) showing that the ELISA test used by Aris and Leblanc is not sufficient to guarantee the identity of positive signals (« to avoid misinterpretation, samples tested positive for Cry1Ab protein by ELISA should be reassessed by another technique »). Note that Aris and Leblanc did not discuss this issue, nor the results of Chowdhury et al. (J. Animal Sci., 2003, 81:2546-2551) which indicate that these ELISAs do not work for blood (from pigs). Moreover, they do not cite the publication by Paul et al. (Analytica Chimica Acta 2008, 607: 106-113) that discusses the validity of the tests available on the market...

(Provisional) answers to the questions that arise: in the absence of the validation of the detection of Cry1Ab, it is likely that the authors, incorrectly, conclude that any signal was indicative of the presence of the Cry1Ab protein, whereas they most likely correspond to false positives.

A possible validation, which surprisingly is lacking in the work of Aris and Leblanc, is the electrophoretic separation of plasma proteins and immunodetection of the protein Cry1Ab ('Western blot', a common laboratory technique).

It therefore appears that this publication, in its present state, is of unsufficient quality to be convincing. It has not undergone a proper review process according to the standards of a scientific journal, which would have required the validation of the results and their discussion in relation to available literature.


An excellent discussion on the topic

http://www.biofortified.org/2011/04/nonsense/

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

Rice is from China (Sorry, India!)

- NYU, May 2, 2011 http://bit.ly/iehz1C

Rice originated in China, a team of genome researchers has concluded in a study tracing back thousands of years of evolutionary history through large-scale gene re-sequencing. Their findings, which appear in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), indicate that domesticated rice may have first appeared as far back as approximately 9,000 years ago in the Yangtze Valley of China. Previous research suggested domesticated rice may have two points of origin—India as well as China.

The study was conducted by researchers from New York University’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology and its Department of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis’ Department of Biology, Stanford University’s Department of Genetics, and Purdue University’s Department of Agronomy.

Asian rice, Oryza sativa, is one of world’s oldest crop species. It is also a very diverse crop, with tens of thousands of varieties known throughout the world. Two major subspecies of rice – japonica and indica – represent most of the world’s varieties. Sushi rice, for example, is a type of japonica, while most of the long-grain rice in risottos are indica. Because rice is so diverse, its origins have been the subject of scientific debate. One theory—a single-origin model—suggests that indica and japonica were domesticated once from the wild rice O. rufipogon. Another—a multiple-origin model—proposes that these two major rice types were domesticated separately and in different parts of Asia. The multiple-origin model has gained currency in recent years as biologists have observed significant genetic differences between indica and japonica, and several studies examining the evolutionary relationships among rice varieties supported more than domestication in both India and China.

In the PNAS study, the researchers re-assessed the evolutionary history, or phylogeny, of domesticated rice using previously published datasets, some of which have been used to argue that indica and japonica rice have separate origins. Using more modern computer algorithms, however, the researchers concluded these two species have the same origin because they have a closer genetic relationship to each other than to any wild rice species found in either India or China.

In addition, the study’s authors examined the phylogeny of domesticated rice by re-sequencing 630 gene fragments on selected chromosomes from a diverse set of wild and domesticated rice varieties. Using new modeling techniques, which had previously been used to look at genomic data in human evolution, their results showed that the gene sequence data was more consistent with a single origin of rice.

In their PNAS study, the investigators also used a “molecular clock” of rice genes to see when rice evolved. Depending on how the researchers calibrated their clock, they pinpointed the origin of rice at possibly 8,200 years ago, while japonica and indica split apart from each other about 3,900 years ago. The study’s authors pointed out that these molecular dates were consistent with archaeological studies. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence in the last decade for rice domestication in the Yangtze Valley beginning approximately 8,000 to 9,000 years ago while domestication of rice in the India’s Ganges region was around about 4,000 years ago.

“As rice was brought in from China to India by traders and migrant farmers, it likely hybridized extensively with local wild rice,” explained NYU biologist Michael Purugganan, one of the study’s co-authors. “So domesticated rice that we may have once thought originated in India actually has its beginnings in China.”

“This study is a good example of the new insights that can be gained from combining genomics, informatics and modeling,” says Barbara A. Schaal, Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, who is also a co-author. “Rice has a complicated evolutionary history with humans and has accompanied them as they moved throughout Asia. This work begins to reveal the genetic consequences of that movement.”

The research was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program.
-=======================

The Economics of Genetically Modified Crops

- Matin Qaim, Annu. Rev. Resour. Econ. 2009. 1:665–93 (Georg-August-University of Goettingen, Germany). Full review at http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev.resource.050708.144203

-------------
Genetically modified (GM) crops have been used commercially for more than 10 years. Available impact studies of insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant crops show that these technologies are beneficial to farmers and consumers, producing large aggregate welfare gains as well as positive effects for the environment and human health.

The advantages of future applications could even be much bigger. Given a conducive institutional framework, GM crops can contribute significantly to global food security and poverty reduction. Nonetheless, widespread public reservations have led to a complex system of regulations. Overregulation has become a real threat for the further development and use of GM crops. The costs in terms of foregone benefits may be large, especially for developing countries. Economics research has an important role to play in designing efficient regulatory mechanisms and agricultural innovation systems.

-----------

SUMMARY POINTS
1. GM crops have been used commercially for more than 10 years in developed
and developing countries. So far, herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant Bt crops
have been the primary ones employed.
2. Impact studies show that these crops are beneficial to farmers and consumers
and produce large aggregate welfare gains. In many cases, farmers in developing
countries benefit more than farmers in developed countries.
3. Moreover, GM crops bring about environmental and health benefits. Bt crops in
particular allow significant reductions in chemical pesticides.
4. Bt crops can also be suitable for small-scale farmers. Evidence from India and
other developing countries shows that they contribute to higher household
incomes and poverty reduction, when embedded in a conducive institutional
environment.
5. Future GM crop applications, involving tolerance to abiotic stress and higher
nutrient contents, may lead to much larger benefits.
6. Against the background of a dwindling natural resource base and growing
demand for agricultural products, GM crops can contribute significantly to food
security and sustainable development at the global level.
7. In spite of these potentials, public opinion still regards the use of GM crops as
controversial. Concerns about new risks have led to complex and costly biosafety,
food safety, and labeling regulations.

FUTURE ISSUES
1. Overregulation has become a real threat for the further development and use of
GM crops. The costs in terms of foregone benefits may be large, especially for
developing countries.
2. Economics research has an important role to play in finding ways to maximize
the net social benefits. More work is needed to quantify possible indirect effects
of GM crops, including socioeconomic outcomes as well as environmental and
health impacts.
3. Furthermore, economists need to contribute to designing efficient regulatory
mechanisms and innovation systems.
4. Although the gradual move from public to private crop-improvement research is
a positive sign of better-functioning markets, certain institutional factors seem to
contribute to increasing industry concentration.
5. Especially with a view to small-scale farmers, more public research and institutional support are needed to complement private sector efGM crops have been used commercially for more than 10 years.

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

USDA’s War on Potatoes

- Bruce M. Chassy and Henry I. Miller, National Review, May 2, 2011

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/print/266075

When it comes to food, the government should not dictate our choices.

Government bureaucrats can be dumber than Mr. Potato Head. The USDA has mounted an inexplicable attack on one of Americans’ best-loved and most-consumed staples: the potato.

Never mind that this venerable vegetable is one of the world’s leading crops — behind only corn, rice, and wheat — with 315 million metric tons produced in 2005, about 7 percent of which was grown in this country. Europeans consume daily more than a half-pound, and Americans about a third of a pound.

Potatoes sometimes get a bad rap as junk food because they lend themselves so well to being fried or served with wonderfully rich and unctuous additives — smothered in cheesy toppings and butter and sprinkled with crumbled bacon, for example — but the tuber itself contains no fat and is relatively low in calories. A boiled or baked potato supplies about the same nutrition as a banana, though bananas have a much better image because they’re a fresh fruit that is seldom fried or smothered in unhealthy toppings. (However, did we hear a distant voice say, “banana split”?)

The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine recently recommended that the potato should be, in effect, blacklisted from the variety of starchy vegetables to be included in the federally funded, state-provided Women, Infants and Children (WIC) welfare program. The proposed ban on potatoes is now trickling down into school-lunch programs, forcing them to turn to more expensive and less well-accepted substitutes.

The IOM’s true rationale for condemning this popular vegetable is unclear, but ostensibly it wants to increase dietary diversity. Maybe they think potatoes are always eaten fried, and therefore qualify as a junk food whose elimination might stem the rising tide of the obesity epidemic. But if they are concerned about calorie-dense potato recipes, the bureaucrats could make recommendations about the way potatoes are cooked and served — cheese, for example, although a nutritious and recommended part of a varied and healthy diet, is also high in calories and should be consumed with that in mind. Maybe the IOM bureaucrats are simply not as expert as we assume they are.

Some foods are more nutrient-dense than others, and some clearly have too many calories and too much fat to be eaten frequently or in large amounts. But the potato has been a staple of the Western diet since it was introduced to European consumers several hundred years ago, when Spanish explorers brought potatoes from the Americas. Therefore, the widespread and intensive daily consumption of potatoes antedates the obesity epidemic by centuries.

It’s worth pointing out that potatoes are often served to recovering patients in hospitals; they’re a comfort food that is easy to digest. They frequently appear in military and institutional meals. Potatoes prepared in various ways are a staple of school lunches, which are often designed by registered dieticians. Menu planners know that potatoes are well-liked, while other vegetables often end up in the garbage can or fed to the golden retriever. (Try offering Brussels sprouts to middle-school students; they’re likely to end up as projectiles.)

The biggest problem with the IOM-USDA approach to attacking obesity is that it fails to grasp the causes of the epidemic or to address them. To begin with, there is ample research to show that children and young adults will compensate for the loss of potatoes or other desired foods by finding “satisfying” alternatives. And their unsatiated desire for foods like potatoes may be satisfied with Krispy Kremes or Twinkies. A more effective approach would be to implement a proactive program that teaches smart diet choices. And the bureaucrats need to keep in mind that young people acquire their eating habits first from their home, second from their peers, and last from schools and institutions.

Obesity is far too complex and multifactorial to be amenable to such simplistic and draconian efforts as getting rid of potatoes. The genetic underpinnings of obesity probably originate with the fundamental evolutionary pressures that have shaped humans. As a species, we are programmed to accumulate fat against the possibility that food will not be available for a prolonged period, a basic survival mechanism that drives over-eating. In animals, there is even emerging evidence that overweight mothers produce overweight children. We often see obesity running in human families. This is due not only to the genes that families share, but also to a phenomenon called epigenetic programming: the modification of genetic information by environmental factors. Nurture plays a role as well. Learning good eating habits, exercising, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress all contribute to effective weight management. In the long term, weight-control diets and pills seldom work any better than banning potatoes; there’s an old quip about having lost 500 pounds — 20 pounds at a time, regaining the weight in between.

People used to say, “Hey, it’s a free country.” But since then, we’ve moved more toward a paternalistic nanny state. When it comes to food, with very few exceptions, the government should not dictate our choices. Limitations on sugar-laden soft drinks, French fries, and potato chips are a preemption of our right of self-determination and undermine efforts to teach young people that the individual is ultimately responsible for what he chooses to consume. The cure for the obesity epidemic is not government diktats; Thomas Jefferson observed that “a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement.” That includes the occasional buttery, cheesy baked potato.

— Bruce M. Chassy is a Professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution; he was the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA.

-==========

Beachy to Leave Key Agriculture Research Post in Washington

- Erik Stokstad, Science, 29 April 2011
- http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/04/beachy-to-leave-key-agriculture.html?ref=hp

Roger Beachy, the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is leaving his post next month after serving less than 2 years. "What a huge loss," says Karl Glasener, director of science policy for the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America. The decision was announced in a USDA memo (see below) this morning.

A pioneer in the genetic engineering of plants at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL and the former director of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Beachy was recruited to add momentum to changes at USDA that were designed to increase the profile and success of agricultural research. The 2007 Farm Bill had created NIFA, and Congress subsequently boosted the institute's budget for competitive grants by 30% in FY 2010, to $260 million. He took over in September 2009; a few months later, however, his boss, Rajiv Shah, left to become head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Beachy put roughly half of the competitive funds into larger, multidisciplinary grants focused on "grand challenges," such as dealing with the impact of climate change. Not only did the number of grant applications rise significantly, but the approach tapped into a much larger pool of researchers beyond the department's traditional constituency of agriculturally focused land-grant universities. "I feel pretty good that we've been able to do as much as we have," he told ScienceInsider.

The budget picture has darkened since then. This year's pot for competitive grants is down about 1%, a far cry from the 64% increase that the Obama Administration had requested for FY 2011. And reflecting larger fiscal realities, the department's request for FY 2012, submitted in February and still pending before Congress, was scaled back substantially, although still a robust 25% increase.

Beachy says his decision to leave on 20 May has nothing to do with the budget, but rather represents a desire to be with his family, which has remained in St. Louis. "It's strictly for personal reasons," he says. He will return to WUSTL as a professor in the biology department and hopes to continue to advocate for agricultural research.

"He gave us a face for agricultural science that I've never seen before—modern [and someone] talking about change," says Glasener. "It was really refreshing."

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

40 Findings on the Impacts of CGIAR Research 1971–2011

http://cgiar.org/pdf/Forty-findings-CGIAR%20_March2011.pdf

The collaborative work of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has resulted in development impacts on a scale that is without parallel in the international community. They are the result of “international public goods,” includingimproved crop varieties, better farming methods, incisive policy analysis and associated new knowledge. These products are made freely available to national partners, who transform them into locally relevant products that respond effectively to the needs of rural households in developing countries.

Following are 40 largely quantitative findings on CGIAR impacts since its
inception in 1971. Most were gleaned from a 2010 Food Policy journal article
authored by Mitch Renkow of North Carolina State University in the USA and
Derek Byerlee, a former adviser in the World Bank’s Agriculture and Rural
Development Department and co-author of the World Development Report 2008:
Agriculture for Development. The article provides a quite comprehensive overview
of hard evidence published in the last decade on CGIAR research impacts.
Much of this impact has resulted from collaborative research on crop improvement,
whose products figured so importantly in the Green Revolution and in
subsequent efforts to extend the initial gains in agricultural productivity.

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

India's Scientific Panel Favors Limited Release of Bt Brinjal

- Crop Biotech update, isaaa.org

An independent joint panel of India's Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee and eminent scientists on gene technology favor the lifting of the moratorium and allow limited release of Bt brinjal under strict monitoring during the first meeting of the expert panel held on April 27, 2011 in New Delhi, India. The expert panel was invited by the GEAC to examine new safety standards for Bt brinjal and deliberate on issues relating to the moratorium on the commercial release of Bt Brinjal .

The majority of the scientists present in the meeting opined that there was no need to carry out any further tests since the safety of Bt gene in brinjal has been established by the safety tests that had already been carried out and that more time must not be lost in conducting more tests and field trials. Scientists of the expert panel viewed that sufficient long-term studies have been done and in case additional tests are to be implemented, parallel testing could be conducted along with the partial release of Bt brinjal for cultivation. The expert panel will meet again next month before arriving at the final recommendation.

In October 2009, India's GEAC declared Bt brinjal safe and recommended its commercial approval to the environment minister Mr. Jairam Ramesh who subsequently imposed a moratorium on commercial release on Bt brinjal in February 2010. Since then, national and international literature has been generated on the safety of GM food crops and six top science academies of India endorsed the safety of Bt brinjal and recommended its commercial approval in the "Inter-Academy Report on GM Crops" release in Sept 2010.

Important documents on Bt brinjal :

GEAC decision on Bt brinjal, Oct 2009
http://moef.nic.in/divisions/csurv/geac/decision-oct-97.pdf

Report of the Expert Committee (EC-II) on Bt brinjal Event EE-1, Oct 2009 http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-
information/Report%20on%20Bt%20brinjal.pdf

Environment minister decision on Bt brinjal, Feb 2010
http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/minister_REPORT.pdf

Inter-academy report on GM crops (Bt brinjal), Sept 2010
http://insaindia.org/pdf/Updated%20Inter%20Academy%20Report%20on%20GM%20crops.pdf

The development & regulation of Bt brinjal in India; Jan 2009 http://isaaa.org/resources/publications/briefs/38/download/isaaa-brief-38-2009.pdf

-=========


Master Fellowships in GM Crop Risk Assessment

http://www.icgeb.org/~bsafesrv/MScFellowships.html

The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) is an international, intergovernmental organisation conceived as a centre of excellence for research and training in genetic engineering and biotechnology with special regard to the needs of the developing world, and implements a comprehensive programme on biosafety centred on capacity building and dissemination of scientific information. The ICGEB is currently offering five biosafety fellowships in the framework of a capacity building initiative focused on sub-Saharan Africa.

The prime objective of this initiative is to strengthen the ability of developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa to fully integrate into the worldwide effort to assure full and balanced consideration of biosafety issues in pursuing the appropriate uses of modern biotechnology in agriculture. A key activity is the provision of support to local and regional regulatory systems overseeing the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and as such, the ICGEB will fund five fellowships for a one-year MSc course “Managing the Environment” (specifically the Risk Assessment of GM Crops pathway) offered by the world renowned Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, UK (http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/ibers/) commencing on 26 Sept 2011.

The course (http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/ibers/studying/taught-postgraduate-courses/msc-man-env/risk_assessment_of_gm_crops/) has been designed to provide students with the principles of environmental risk assessment, knowledge and experience of the processes required to compile a risk dossier in different geographic regions and an understanding of how to evaluate the relevance of underpinning scientific data. Training is provided on the risk assessment process from the perspective of a GM regulator, a commercial breeder of GM crops, a governmental funding body of GM risk assessment research or a publicly-funded research scientist. The importance of context is illustrated through a series of case studies covering a diversity of crop-transgene-location combinations. Training in problem formulation, designation of assessments endpoints, evaluation of publicly available data and identification of critical gaps in knowledge, as well as the concept of tiered risk assessment are essential elements of the course. Students are also provided with the practical experience of the processes involved in compiling and evaluating a range of risk dossiers across different geographic regions and with different GM crops exhibiting divergent risk profiles, and are expected to learn how to access, evaluate and compile data from the literature for inclusion in dossiers.

-=========


The economic potential of plant-made pharmaceuticals in the manufacture of biologic pharmaceuticals

- James Kaufman and Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, Journal of Commercial Biotechnology (2011) 17, 173–182. doi:10.1057/jcb.2010.37; published online 18 January 2011

http://www.palgrave-journals.com/jcb/journal/v17/n2/abs/jcb201037a.html

Biologic pharmaceuticals have emerged to treat a number of diseases such as cancer and immune disorders. Although these drugs provide significant benefits, they have tended to be costly to produce. Production technologies that grow biologic drugs in plants offer the potential to lower those costs. This article uses a system of simulation models to compare the economics of plant made pharmaceuticals (PMP) to incumbent productions systems. Although it is found that significant cost savings are possible, RD investment in PMPs continue to be limited, which suggests that there are a number of obstacles that limit adoption.