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





September 1, 2011


Heart-Healthy Soy; Turning Deaf Ear to Science; Precaution without Principle; Indian Farmers Speak Up


Approval sought for low-fat GMO Soybean
EPA’s Proposed Biotech Policy Turns a Deaf Ear to Science
GM crops can play a vital role in health and food security
GM foods and pesticides pose no danger to health
Precaution Without Principle
Cornell Researchers identify how insects resist Bt pesticides
Gassmann Research Is Strong Reminder of Need for Comprehensive IPM
Indian Farmers call to embrace technology in Second Green Revolution


Approval sought for low-fat GMO soybean; soybean industry free fall stemmed from trans fat wars

The Associated Press, September 1st 2011, 11:00 AM

Daniel Acker/Bloombe; Soybean seeds are displayed for a photograph inside a Monsanto Co. lab in St. Louis, Missouri.

The soybean industry is seeking government approval of a genetically modified soybean it says will produce oil lower in saturated fat, offer consumers a healthier alternative to foods containing trans fats and increase demand for growers' crops.

Demand for soybean oil has dropped sharply since 2005, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began requiring labels to list levels of trans fats, which have been linked to coronary heart disease. Vegetable oil does not naturally contain trans fats, but when hydrogen is added to make it suitable for use in the food industry, trans fats are created.

Agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. says oil from its new soybean will meet manufacturers' requirements for baking and shelf life without hydrogenation, resulting in food that's free of trans fats as well as lower in saturated fat.

The FDA approved the new bean, called Vistive Gold, earlier this year, and Monsanto and several state and national soybean groups are now seeking approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service said in an email to The Associated Press that it has no timeline for making a decision.

U.S. farmers harvested more than 3.3 billion bushels of soybeans valued at nearly $39 billion in 2010. But the Iowa Soybean Association said in a letter to APHIS that the industry's share of the food oil market dropped from 83 percent to 68 percent after the FDA enacted the labeling requirements. Iowa grows more soybeans than any other state.

"We believe because of the trans-fat labeling, 4.6 billion pounds of edible soybean oil was not used for food over a three-year period," said Bob Callanan, a spokesman for the American Soybean Association. The oil was turned into biodiesel instead, and farmers got less money for their soybeans, he said.

Industry officials believe Vistive Gold could command as much as 60 cents more per bushel than other soybeans, raising a farmer's income by thousands of dollars.

Jim Andrew, who grows 625 acres of conventional soybeans near Jefferson, Iowa, said he hopes Vistive Gold soybeans also will reduce consumers' fears about biotech crops by providing a direct health benefit. Most genetically modified crops so far have been engineered to fight pests and increase harvests, benefiting farmers.

"I think it's a case where we're trying to modify crops to address specific needs to make other industries more efficient and healthier," Andrew said.

St. Louis-based Monsanto introduced a first generation of the bean, called Vistive, in 2005 to reduce or eliminate trans fats in response to the labeling requirements. Vistive Gold retains those qualities and offers lower levels of saturated fat and higher levels of healthier monounsaturated fats.

Joe Cornelius, a Monsanto project manager who has worked on the Vistive soybeans for 15 years, said Vistive Gold could make a real difference in efforts to produce healthier foods. As an example, he said it could produce French fries with more than 60 percent less saturated fat.

"I don't think we can say fried food will ever be a health food, but you can improve the nutritional profile of that food," Cornelius said.

But Bill Freese, a science policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety, said Vistive Gold and other engineered crops don't face rigorous enough testing. No animal feeding trials were conducted on the new soybean to see what would happen when it was consumed, he said.


EPA’s Proposed Biotech Policy Turns a Deaf Ear to Science

- Nina Fedoroff, Robert Haselkorn, and Bruce M. Chassy; The FASEB Journal, vol. 25 no. 9 , September 2011

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to further expand its regulatory coverage of transgenic crops in a way that cannot be justified on the basis of either scientific evidence or experience. The results of both scientific studies and practical experience gained over the past several decades support the conclusion that molecular modification techniques are no more dangerous than any other modification techniques now in use. A further increase in the regulatory burden would impose steep barriers to scientific innovation and product development across all sectors of our economy and would not only fail to enhance safety, but would be likely to prolong reliance on less safe and obsolete practices.

The two most widely adopted genetically modified (GM) crops are illustrative. Insect-resistant GM crops, primarily cotton and corn, require less pesticide than conventional crops. Pesticides are toxic not only to targeted insects, but can also affect non-target beneficial insects, and aquatic life. At high levels of exposure they are toxic to farm workers. Decreasing the use of pesticides is better for farm workers and has less impact on biodiversity. Moreover, contamination by carcinogenic mycotoxins has been shown to be as much as an order of magnitude lower in GM than in non-GM corn. The availability of herbicide-tolerant soybeans has promoted the rapid adoption of no-till farming, a method that markedly decreases soil erosion, builds soil quality, and decreases the carbon footprint of agriculture.

Twenty-five years ago, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy published a policy statement (51 Federal Register; 23302 June 26, 1986) that created a “Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology” in the United States. At the time the Coordinated Framework was articulated, a degree of caution seemed reasonable. The Framework sought to achieve “a balance between regulation adequate to ensure health and environmental safety while maintaining sufficient regulatory flexibility to avoid impeding the growth of an infant industry.” At that time it was acknowledged that the framework should be “expected to evolve in accord with the experiences of the industry and the agencies, and, thus, modifications may need to be made.”

Since then, the results of extensive research, coupled with years of experience, has led to the conclusion that there is no scientific basis to single out plants produced by transgene insertion for special regulatory review, nor to distinguish these products from others on the basis of the process used to create them. The EU has spent more than €300 million doing GM biosafety research over the past 25 years. Its recent lengthy report can be summarized in one sentence: crop modification by molecular methods is no more dangerous than crop modification by any other method. Every serious scientific body that has analyzed the data, including the U. S. National Academy of Sciences and the British Royal Society, has come to the same conclusion.

Golden rice at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. Golden rice has been engineered to produce vitamin A, often in short supply in the diets of people whose main source of calories is rice. Golden rice is highly regulated in Europe due solely to the fact that it has been genetically engineered. Golden rice was developed in Switzerland by Ingo Potrykus, a pioneer in plant transformation using DNA. Image courtesy of IRRT.

As long ago as the late 1980s, a committee of the National Academy of Sciences that studied the question of introducing genetically modified plants into the environment concluded that regulation should focus on the properties of the genetically modified organism, not the process by which it was modified. There is now abundant evidence that the most appropriate regulatory approach would be to require review only of truly novel traits introduced into plants without regard to the methods used for their introduction. Yet the regulatory apparatus in the U.S. has increasingly moved in the opposite direction toward ever greater regulation and increased data requirements for transgenic plants, despite the abundant accumulation of data attesting to their safety.

The scientific community has a strong interest in keeping regulations science-based and commensurate with the risk of the products at issue. In March 2011, the EPA announced (in the Federal Register) a draft proposed rule to codify data requirements for plant incorporated protectants (PIPs). This draft was forwarded by the EPA to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Health and Human Services and Congress for review in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. Based on initial reviews of that draft proposal and recent EPA actions associated with biotechnology-derived crops, it is clear that the EPA is departing from a science-based regulatory process, instead walking down a path toward a policy based on the controversial European “precautionary principle” that goes beyond codifying data requirements for substances regulated as PIPs for the past 15 years. While this principle is politically popular in some constituencies, it is not supported by experience gained over the past several decades with transgenic crops.

We are particularly troubled by proposals to expand the EPA's current oversight into areas such as virus resistance and weediness. These areas have been adequately addressed by the USDA since 1986. Already, the EPA has expanded its oversight into virus resistance, which previously had been the purview of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and which the EPA prudently proposed in 1994 to exempt from its regulations. Under the draft proposed rules, the EPA would further expand its regulations and data demands to other areas historically covered by USDA-APHIS without the slightest justification based on either data or experience.

It is most troubling that the EPA is also proposing to increase its regulation to cover matters which are still not deemed to be threats even after years of study, such as gene transfer from plants to microorganisms. In other actions, the EPA has expressed its right to regulate plants engineered for altered growth (e.g., by suppression of ethylene production) the same way it regulates synthetic plant growth regulators. The agency does so based on a generous interpretation of the enabling legislation, despite the absence of any scientifically credible hazard.

Such an expansion in regulatory purview would reverse long established and highly successful policy under the Coordinated Framework. Such a shift would 1) create a duplicative regulatory system for very low risk products delivering substantial, demonstrated environmental benefits; 2) increase costs, reduce efficiency and prolong the review timelines, thereby discouraging innovation; 3) dramatically increase the hurdles already facing academic institutions and companies attempting to improve so-called minor use or specialty crops through modern biotechnology; and 4) adversely impact trade in safe and wholesome commodities produced by U.S. growers because of the stigma attached to anything characterized as a “pesticide” (a regulatory label for DNA that is unique to the U.S.) and with no concomitant increase in product safety. In addition, any expansion in regulatory oversight not resulting from documented risk could have global ramifications, as policymakers in other countries routinely consider U.S. policymakers as leaders in the regulation of crops derived from biotechnology.

It is astonishing that the EPA would attempt such an expansion of its regulatory activity in this sphere. We now have the results of more than 30 years of transgenic plant research and 15 years of experience growing and consuming biotechnology-derived crop plants on a large scale. None of the hypothetical risks articulated at the dawn of this era has been realized and caused new environmental problems. On the contrary, billions upon billions of meals derived from these crops have been eaten by humans and livestock around the world with no ill effects. Moreover, environmental impacts of production agriculture and the carbon footprint of agriculture have been significantly reduced using transgenic crops. At the same time, farmers have benefited economically, socially, and through improved health. These indisputable results make a compelling case for the reduction of existing regulatory burdens. There is absolutely no justification in either scientific data or experience for the regulatory expansion proposed by the EPA.

Over the last two decades, advances in sequencing and genomic analysis have revealed that biotechnology is more precise and less disruptive to the genome than traditional plant breeding. In fact, recent genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic comparisons of varieties bred (using conventional and transgenic methods) demonstrate that transgenic plants with incorporated novel traits more closely resemble the parental variety than do new varieties of the same crop plant produced by more traditional breeding or mutagenesis techniques. These findings support the crop-level observations that transgene insertion is not inherently disruptive and that transgenic crops present no new or greater hazards than crops produced by breeding techniques now considered conventional. Indeed, they are not only less disruptive, but far more precise because they introduce or modify the sequence or expression of well-characterized genes in predictable ways, objectives which cannot be achieved by any previous method.

Recent EPA actions signal an intent to expand the agency's regulatory oversight over products regulated by USDA for more than two decades and to products for which there has never been a justification for regulation. These actions are not only inconsistent with regulatory directives mandated by the current administration, but they also erode the integrity of the Coordinated Framework. Such expanded regulation would serve only to increase costs, hinder research, undermine the long-term viability of public university research programs, and limit product development from the private sector. The proposed actions would threaten our ability to produce high quality food at an affordable price and to feed a growing population. They would also weaken the competitive advantage of U.S. public research programs in the global research arena, all with no increase in safety for consumers, farmers, or the environment — indeed, the contrary would be the case in many instances.

The academic community is committed to ensuring that the environmental and food safety benefits of biotechnology-derived plants continue to accrue, and it is essential that all agencies respect the scientific basis for regulation and division of regulatory responsibilities established by the Coordinated Framework. It is critical that regulations focus on scientifically demonstrated hazards, rather than being driven by issues of perception or political expediency. Therefore, we urge that the pending EPA regulatory actions be reconsidered and the rule-making proposal be limited to requirements for substances that have traditionally been regulated by the EPA, such as PIPs, and then only to those requirements that are fully justified on the basis of sound science.


GM crops can play a vital role in health and food security

- Megan Clark, Brisbane Times, August 26, 2011

Research to understand how the genes we inherit from our parents and how they change during our lives has proved invaluable in preventing and treating many diseases. This type of research into how plant genes work is also key to improving the health benefits of the food we eat, increase crop yields and prevent plant disease.

We recognise that the modification of genes in plants causes concern in sections of the community. However, we also know that many people will be comfortable with genetic modification in food products if they can be assured they are beneficial for human health and safe for the environment.

There is a gap between the concerns of the community and the knowledge of our scientists around genetic research. That gap requires scientists and food producers to understand community views and share their knowledge of the science in order to earn community trust. We must bridge this gap if scientific developments in plant genetics are to improve health and support global food supply.

Advertisement: Story continues below
Plants are more complex than most people realise and, in many cases, have more genes than humans. We research the genes of plants to improve human health outcomes, increase the take-up of nutrients from soil, improve yields and provide resistance to plant diseases. Our genetic modification research generally involves turning off genes, changing the timing of the expression of some genes or inserting genes from different plants.

Anyone who has planted a grafted passionfruit in the backyard can appreciate research to improve the take-up of nutrients from the soil. Grafting uses the genes of one passionfruit variety with sturdy roots and strong growth as the rootstock and the genes of another variety to produce the best fruit for the family pavlova. Our scientists are researching genes that control the root systems in wheat to improve uptake of nitrogen from the soil to reduce fertiliser use.

By studying and understanding the genes of plants, we can use this information to bring better food to market for improved health outcomes. For example, we are researching how changing the digestibility of the starch in grains such as wheat can lower the biomarkers that indicate colon cancer and improve their glycaemic index.

When it comes to our food supply, the world's population could reach 9 billion by 2050 and the global challenge is to produce 70 per cent more food in the next 40 years. To meet that food demand we need to increase our agricultural yields and increase the efficiency of how plants take up nutrients. It means growing plants that use less water to produce the same output and improving resistance to disease and pests.

The world is not turning its back on GM technology. Plantings are rapidly increasing around the world with 1 billion hectares of GM crops planted in 29 countries by 15.4 million farmers in 2010. Indeed, most Australians with insulin dependent diabetes inject themselves daily with insulin produced using GM technology.

Across the very extensive and prolonged use worldwide, there has been no evidence of harm to human health associated with the use of GM technology. In Australia we've been growing and consuming GM products for at least 15 years with GM cotton and carnations grown commercially since 1996 and GM canola since 2008.

Australia has for many decades led the world in plant research and our farming community has had a partnership with science that is truly remarkable on the global stage. Australia leads the world in the understanding of the wheat genome, and Australian farmers supply 10 per cent of the global trade in wheat.

Our research teams work shoulder to shoulder with the world's best public and private partners including plant breeders, Australian farmers, food manufacturers, nutritionists, government research bodies and NGOs, both nationally and globally.

Our plant scientists are unsung heroes in Australia's history and they deserve our support. The partnership they have with our agricultural and food manufacturing community is a foundation of Australia's competitiveness.

It is these partnerships that have led to consistent productivity gains in the past. It is only through such partnerships that we will continue to innovate and make the advances in productivity needed to address global food security challenges and sustain quality human life.

GM technology is just one of several technologies we employ in our research programs that are designed to deliver on this future. CSIRO will continue to conduct research on the genes of plants and investigate GM solutions, given the vital contribution this technology can make to Australia and humanity.
Dr Megan Clark is chief executive of CSIRO.


GM foods and pesticides pose no danger to health

- ACSH, August 31, 2011

In one of his most pompous and slanted columns yet, The New York Times' Mark Bittman alleges that the U.S. government is in cahoots with large agricultural biotech companies that sacrifice the environment for profits. Bittman accuses USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack — “perhaps” under pressure from the president — of succumbing to the demands of Monsanto.

The huge ag-biotech company produces a line of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa, as well as the widely used herbicide Roundup. Bitman charges that the USDA, by allowing continued use of these crops despite “concerns” of cross-pollination with non-GM crops, has kowtowed to corporate interests at the expense of the environment. He also claims that farmers who use Roundup are experiencing problems with “superweeds” and “are concerned” about the possible production of "superbugs." Which prompts ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross to pointedly inquire, “Is it possible that the farmers in this country and around the world, where GM technology has revolutionized food production, may actually know more about planting crops and the economic and environmental benefits of GM-agriculture than Mr. Bittman? Further, the ag-biotech industry is far from being given ‘carte blanche’ — another of his false accusations; rather, the technology is hamstrung by a thicket of regulations having nothing to do with protecting either the environment or public health.”

And, in what serves as a timely riposte to Bittman’s latest column, at the 242nd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, esteemed scientist and ACSH friend Dr. Bruce N. Ames, a professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of California at Berkley, spoke of the adverse health effects that unfounded fears of pesticides may have on low-income populations. According to Dr. Ames, many synthetic chemicals and pesticides are inaccurately labeled as hazardous to human health because of the results of high-dose animal studies. To put it in perspective, Dr. Ames explains, the number of chemicals derived from roasting the beans for a single cup of coffee far exceeds the amount of pesticide residues the average person consumes in an entire year. Despite this evidence to the contrary, however, many people — especially in low-income populations — may hesitate to buy the conventionally grown produce they can actually afford. And, since they can ill-afford expensive organic produce, they may then consume fewer healthful fruits and vegetables, warns Dr. Ames.

Conversely, people in high-income populations may flock to more expensive organic products under the false pretense that, because such products cost more money, they must be better for your health. But according to a new study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, researchers from the Limerick Institute of Technology in Ireland found no basis for concluding that organic foods are in any way superior to their conventionally grown counterparts in terms of health benefits. In addition, blind taste tests have failed to demonstrate that organic food actually tastes better.

“The only difference between organic and conventional produce is that the former is more expensive,” says ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. “Health-wise, however, they are nutritionally equivalent.”

Precaution Without Principle

- Alan McHughen and Henry Miller Forbes, August 31, 2011

In recent decades Europeans have suffered a series of food safety setbacks that have roiled public opinion. These have resulted variously from shoddy animal husbandry practices (BSE, or “Mad Cow” disease), negligence (the recent E. coli O401 contamination of organic sprouts) and criminal enterprises (benzene in Perrier water, anti-freeze in wines).

Chastened by such threats and confronted with the prospect of what some call “Frankenfoods” — that is, food derived from genetically engineered new varieties of plants — European consumers have welcomed strict safety regulations based on a postmodern concept called “the precautionary principle.” According to this principle, governments are encouraged to regulate actions that raise conjectural threats of harm to human health or the environment — even if the probability or potential significance of these dangers is uncertain or negligible.

The application of the precautionary principle – which is not really a principle at all, but rather a tautology amenable to various contortions – is sometimes represented as “erring on the side of safety” or “better safe than sorry.” However, this formulation often fails to consider that the status quo is not risk-free and that excessive regulation has costs and can result in an actual increase of risk if important new products and technologies are delayed or abandoned.

In response to supposed public safety concerns about genetically engineered crops, E.U. politicians established a “farm to fork” food safety system in which every aspect of crops used for food production would come under intense scrutiny and documentation.

It starts with the plant breeders who develop new crop varieties and extends through seed production, farmers who cultivate the crops, grain handlers, transporters and processors, and finally to marketers and retailers. With such intensive scrutiny, consumers were supposed to regain confidence in government, whose image had been tarnished by the various food safety causes célèbres. And if something nasty did happen to slip through, the rigorous traceability and labeling requirements would allow swift identification and removal from the market of the offending foods.

It didn’t work. In spite of massive funding to create a food safety bureaucracy and enforce the regulations the disasters continued, with regular reports of contamination by toxic chemicals and pathogenic organisms in a wide range of foodstuffs across the continent. (None of which involved genetic engineering, we hasten to add.) Over the past decade chemical toxins called dioxins were found in bakery products, meat, cheese, poultry and eggs in various European countries, and pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria and E. coli continued to appear in various foods, causing illness and death.

The celebrated but expensive E.U. “farm to fork” food safety policy was supposed to protect European consumers from such hazards. So why has it failed?

The answer can be found in large part in the E.U.’s skewed, ideological interpretation of the precautionary principle — specifically the assumption that all new products, processes and technologies are inherently hazardous and must be proven safe before they can even be tested in field trials, let alone commercialized. But apart from the scientific impossibility of proving anything absolutely and incontrovertibly safe, European regulators assumed that currently used products and practices, especially those that seem intuitively to be more “natural,” are inherently safe and thus need no regulatory oversight. Nowhere is this misconception more dangerous than in agriculture and food production.

E.U. policymakers have focused much of their zeal and attention on important but incremental technological advances such as the genetic engineering of plants. Never mind that numerous professional medical and scientific societies around the world had concluded as early as the 1980s that the new molecular techniques of genetic engineering posed no greater risks to health or environment than other products. And after a quarter century of rapidly expanding cultivation and consumption of genetically engineered crops and foods around the world, there remains no documented example of harm to either health or the natural environment attributable to the modern techniques of genetic engineering. (The crops are currently cultivated in three dozen countries, and the inhabitants of North America alone have consumed more than 3 trillion servings of foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients.) Nevertheless, European politicians chose to compound their initial mistakes and to maintain unnecessarily onerous, expensive and obstructionist regulations that apply only to genetic engineering, while genuine threats to food safety go unchecked.

Consider the spring 2011 E. coli O401 disaster in Europe. Thousands were stricken, and more than 40 people died as a result of the contaminated foods not being subject to regulatory safety checks. Because organic foods are often exempt from farm-to-fork policies in the postmodern Euro-Zeitgeist, the source of the outbreak could not be readily identified. This led to frantic searches, false accusations and unnecessary destruction of harmless, wholesome foods — not to mention losses to markets and the livelihoods of blameless farmers and workers. With thousands of consumers succumbing to severe food poisoning and the body count rising, widespread consumer panic was understandable. Eventually, the actual source, organic sprouts, was found and contained.

E.U. regulators could have neutralized this outbreak much earlier had they listened to their scientists instead of capitulating to certain NGOs’ genetic engineering-phobic interpretation of the precautionary principle. It may have been politically expedient to limit farm-to-fork food safety policies to genetically engineered plants and the foods derived from them, but the price of such foolishness has been the health of thousands of European consumers, and the trust of millions more.

The expensive lesson from E coli O104 seems to be going unheeded, with Euro-regulators preferring their perverse, populism-driven application of the precautionary principle to a scientific approach to food safety.

Alan McHughen, a molecular geneticist, is a professor of botany and plant sciences at the University of California, Riverside. He is currently a Jefferson Science Fellow at the U.S. Department of State.

Henry 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 FDA’s Office of Biotechnology.

Cornell Researchers identify how insects resist Bt pesticides

- Ping Wang, Cornell Univ. Aug. 29, 2011

For the first time, researchers have identified how cabbage looper caterpillars in the field develop resistance to the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which naturally occurs in the soil and on plants and has been developed into the most successful and widely used biological insecticide.

When ingested, the insecticidal toxins in Bt kill insects by destroying their guts. Insects in the field develop resistance to it, however, via a genetic mechanism that alters a toxin receptor in the insect's gut, two Cornell researchers have discovered. The receptor belongs to a class of digestive enzymes called aminopeptidase N (APN), two of which undergo changes when cabbage loopers develop resistance to Bt on crops.

Under normal circumstances, the Bt toxin Cry1Ac, which is a caterpillar-specific toxin, binds to an enzyme called APN 1 along the wall of the insect's gut, where the toxin destroys the gut lining. But when cabbage loopers develop resistance, APN 1 significantly decreases while another aminopeptidase, APN 6, which does not bind to Bt, significantly increases, allowing the insect to properly digest food and Bt without harm.

"If an insect loses an aminopeptidase N, you will expect to see an negative effect on the physiology of the insect gut," said Ping Wang, associate professor of entomology and senior author of the paper published online in the Aug. 15 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Kasorn Tiewsiri, a postdoctoral associate in Wang's lab, is the paper's lead author.

"To compensate for the loss of the enzyme APN 1, the activity of APN 6 jumps up high, and that allows the insect to perform a normal digestive process, where Bt no longer binds to the gut," Wang added.

Organic farmers use Bt as a key weapon against insects, and crops genetically engineered with insecticidal Bt genes are now sown on 59 million hectares (more than 145 million acres) worldwide.

Farmers first reported Bt resistance in the field 20 years ago. Since then, researchers have uncovered a number of mechanisms for resistance in insects in the lab, but then learned that lab insects, which don't face the same stressors as field insects, develop different tactics for overcoming Bt.

In this study, Wang and Tiewsiri obtained cabbage loopers from greenhouses in British Columbia that were resistant to Bt and crossed them with a lab strain that had no resistance. The progeny carried the isolated Bt-resistant trait from their field-stressed parent. The researchers then used that line of cabbage loopers to conduct biochemical, proteomic and molecular studies.

Next, the researchers plan on trying to identify which gene mutates in the Bt-resistant insects, how that gene controls the expression of targeted proteins, and uncover resistance mechanisms to other Bt toxins, as many varieties are used in agriculture. The researchers hope their studies will lead to new management strategies for Bt-resistant insects, Wang said.

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


Gassmann Research Is Strong Reminder of Need for Comprehensive IPM

- Monsanto Press Release, August 29, 2011

On July 29, Dr. Aaron Gassmann, an entomologist at Iowa State University, published a paper in the online journal PloS ONE entitled “Field-evolved Resistance to Bt Maize by Western Corn Rootworm.” In his study, Dr. Gassmann reports western corn rootworm (WCR) in four fields in Iowa have developed resistance to the single Bt protein Cry3Bb1 – used in Monsanto YieldGard® VT Triple and Genuity® VT Triple PRO™ corn products.

Both of these products continue to perform very well for growers in 2011, providing the expected level of WCR control on more than 99% of the acres planted with this technology. However, we take performance and efficacy of our products seriously, and we are collaborating with Dr. Gassmann to better understand his initial data and to determine if and how they impact our IPM recommendations to growers. It appears he has demonstrated a difference in survival in the lab, but it is too early to tell whether there are implications for growers in the field.

Since launching a product with this trait in 2003, we have monitored and studied a consistently low incidence of performance issues in limited areas with high WCR densities and under specific environmental conditions. There has been no measurable increase in the frequency of these performance issues over time. Ongoing studies with Dr. Gassmann and others are critical to understanding the factors that lead to these performance challenges. The studies will help us further refine local agronomic recommendations and identify other crop protection products that offer growers the best options to manage corn pests and improve overall corn production.

From agronomic recommendations to innovative trait combinations to a robust discovery platform, we are taking a comprehensive approach to the stewardship of insect-protected traits.

1. First launched in 2010, the portfolio of Genuity® SmartStax™ multi-trait corn hybrids continues to grow, providing dual modes of action and increased protection for growers – especially in those areas with increased WCR pressure.

2. Through the expansion of Refuge-in-the-Bag (RIB) products such as Genuity® SmartStax™ RIB Complete, farmers are able to more easily ensure refuge compliance.

3. Researchers continue to discover and develop unique genes in our pipeline that offer farmers new hybrid options with additional modes of action.

4. We continue to gather and assess the most current scientific knowledge to develop effective, comprehensive IPM recommendations that strike a balance with grower practicality, acceptance and implementation of the plan.


Indian Farmers call to embrace technology in Second Green Revolution

Business Standard (India) August 17, 2011, 14:50 IST

“Farmers come together with scientists and agri-biotech industry to appeal Indian Parliament to expedite pending legislations”

Farmers came together Wednesday with scientists and agri-biotech industry to demand the second green revolution in India. Speaking in a unified voice they agreed that use of new technologies in agriculture was the only hope for farmers and solution to address the challenges of food security. According to a working paper by Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) India would have to double its food production by 2025. Faced with tremendous challenges of ever reducing arable land & water resources, quality of soil, climate change, and shortage of labour farmers find it difficult to enhance their farm yields and need technology push.

The group strongly appealed that the Indian Parliament clears the long-awaited Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill (BRAI) and Seeds Bill. They also emphasized on expeditious approvals of biotech crop trials and commercialization under the existing system till the BRAI is approved.

Plant biotechnology is a powerful tool that helps farmers provide food, feed, fiber, and fuel to a growing global population in a sustainable manner, while reducing agriculture’s footprint on environment. Biotech crops have helped farmers increase their productivity while protecting biodiversity by increasing yield per acre.
Panduranga Wamanrao Iname, a farmer from Ranjangaon in Aurangabad said, “Biotechnology offers one way out of this dilemma of growing more with less. It’s nothing less than a miracle crop that requires fewer resources and produces greater yields than old-fashioned cotton, bringing prosperity to many families. With more than 90 percent of India’s cotton famers taking advantage of biotechnology, I would appeal to the government to replicate the benefits to other crops.” Nandkishore Chandrabhan Raut, another farmer from Yavatmal supported this view.

Prof C Kameswara Rao, eminent agri-biotech scientist and founder, Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness & Education cautioned, “Some groups with vested interests are providing misleading information to public, media and policy makers and this is dangerous. Biotech crops undergo rigorous safety assessments following international and national guidelines and no verifiable cases of harm to human or animal health have occurred.”

Mr. V Ram Kaundinya, Chairman, ABLE-AG said, “We are committed as an industry to prove the safety of biotech crops and adhere to very robust trials rules laid out by the Government of India. Our compliance to the regulatory processes is complete and sacrosanct. Extensive studies examining the safety of biotech crops have been conducted by various independent bodies, including the World Health Organization. These bodies have overwhelmingly concluded that there are no adverse effects on human health. Twenty five Nobel Prize recipients and more than 3,400 prominent scientists have expressed their support for plant biotechnology as a “powerful and safe” way to improve agriculture and the environment.”

Prof Mugdha D Karnink, Sociologist and Director - Centre for Extra Mural Studies, Mumbai said, “To oppose any new scientific invention and innovation is a mark of a primitive mindset. Opposition to GM foods, which are proven safe, is a manifestation of such mindset.”

In 2010, more than half the world’s population (59% or 4 billion people) lived in the 29 countries, which planted 148 million hectares of biotech crops. UN WHO, FAO, EFSA, Royal Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Sciences, French Academy of Medicine, British Medical Association, 25 Nobel laureates (incl. Norman Borlaug) all concluded that biotech crops are as safe as conventional crops. 59 countries have granted regulatory approvals for biotech crops for import for food and feed use and for release into the environment since 1996 incl. USA, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, South Korea, the Philippines, New Zealand, the European Union, Brazil and China. In India, large amount of edible oil is imported from various countries which produce them from biotech crops and no scientifically proven effect on people’s health has been observed.

Karnail Singh of Fajilka, Punjab who recently won the best farmer award from the Punjab government said, “As illustrated by the success of Bt Cotton, the benefits are clearly in favor of us. Our earnings have improved considerably, commensurate with dramatic increases in cotton yields over the past decade. We want the benefits to continue and urge the government to expedite legislations in agri biotech so that more brothers from my community reap the benefits.”

Said Mr. Kaundinya, “Today, Indian and international corporations as well as Indian universities and other research institutes across the country are testing technologies or conducting field trials both independently and in partnerships. He further added, “There should be a level playing field for all companies who invest millions in research and the there should be more efforts at encouraging further research on Indian soils for the benefit of India’s farmers and future of the country.”

Biotech cotton constitutes more than 90% of the total cotton grown in India. Bt cotton is safe and with no negative impact on soil. Families of Bt cotton seed farmers are increasingly enjoying a higher standard of living – purchasing cars, motorcycles, building pucca and larger houses, enrolling their children in English medium schools, or sending them abroad for education, investing in agricultural land, and farm equipments like tractors, drip irrigation, pipeline, tube wells and more. The ABLE-AG industry group also called for creating an enabling environment for adoption of biotechnology in agriculture in the country.