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Date:

October 18, 2011

Subject:

Where Roses are Mauve; Fate of Bt Protein in Soil; Smarter Toxins; Riling the Enviro Allies

 



Where roses are mauve and zebrafish glow

Embrace GMOs: Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai

Does Bt protein persist or break down during the agricultural cycle?

Scientists debate genetically modified food

Britain’s Mark Lynas Riles His Green Movement Allies

Smarter toxins help crops fight resistant pests

Taking our food for granted

Transgenic rice evaluated for risks to marketability

Ghanaians urged to embrace biotechnology to solve food security problem

DuPont chief: Biotech can help small farmers

APHIS wins in biotech case over eucalyptus tree trials

Mexicans have been genetically altering their corn through eons

--------------------

Where roses are mauve and zebrafish glow

- Pamela Ronald, Tomorrow’s Table, October 19, 2011
http://scienceblogs.com/tomorrowstable/2011/10/where_roses_are_red_and_zebraf.php?utm_source=networkbanner&utm_medium=link

The day your son asks for a genetically engineered glow-in-the dark zebra fish and your wife desires a mauve rose may be the day that public acceptance of plant and animal genetic engineering has finally arrived.

Last week the UC Department of Agriculture concluded that a new variety of rose, genetically engineered to be an unusual shade of blue, does not pose a risk to the economy or ecosystems. This decision paves the way for the company, Florigene, to sell cut roses in the US. The mauve creation is based on the discovery by Davis-based biotech pioneer Calgene Inc, which isolated the "blue gene" from Petunia.

Is genetic engineering for entertainment what it takes for biotechnology to be accepted by consumers?

Physicist and philosopher Freeman Dyson thinks so.

In a provocative lecture on TED.com, Dyson says that proliferation of glow-in-the-dark zebra fish, fruit cocktail trees (7 species on one tree -already very popular with backyard gardeners) or even a grow your own dog kit is exactly what it will take before biotechnology becomes accepted as part of the human condition.

"We should follow the model that has been so successful with the electronic industry." Dyson said. "What really turned computers into a great success in the world as a whole, was toys. As soon as computers became toys, when the kids could come home and play with them, then the industry took off. That has to happen with biotech."

We may believe this or even recognize that it is true, but if so, doesn't this vision condemn us to a kind of self-centeredness? Isn't it a declaration that most of our behavior is governed by an emotional response to pleasure and an acknowledgement that pursuit of entertainment is what truly drives us to action?

I would like to believe that most wealthy world citizens have more compassion, more imagination and more humanity than that. That we will soon wake up and applaud applications of biotechnology that have reduced the amount of insecticides in the environment or those that have the potential to save the lives of thousands of malnourished children.

Will such humanistic inventive applications of biotechnology ever appear as essential to consumers in the developed world as a lego set that self-assembles into a live cat? Are more glofish and strangely colored roses needed before we accept biotechnological advances in agriculture?

==========

Embrace GMOs: Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai

- Fungai Kwaramba, The Zimbabwean, Oct 19, 2011

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has called for Zimbabwe to carefully embrace Genetically Modified Organisms as a panacea to the country’s continued food shortages.

Speaking in Johannesburg at the Agribusiness Conference on Monday, Tsvangirai touched on the subject that has the potential of further dividing opinion in the polarized coalition government.

President Robert Mugabe has, over the years, dismissed any calls for the importation of GMOs, but Tsvangirai suggested at the conference that Zimbabwe and Africa at large could embrace them.

“In the absence of any contrary scientific research, the State should carefully embrace GMO technology in agriculture,” he said.

The Prime Minister added that over the past three years the Zimbabwean government, along with international partners and private financiers, had invested $1.9 billion in the agricultural sector, while budgetary support totals $552 million. Financing from the government almost tripled from $79 million in 2009 to a projected $248.2 for the year 2011.

Even though there has been an increase in investment in agriculture, climate change land insecurity and unresolved land ownership have stalled growth in the industry.

“But any plans for improving agriculture depend on improving the technical, economic, legal and trade conditions under which farmers and agribusinesses operate,” said Tsvangirai. “We certainly need to inject massive capital into research and extension services, particularly in light of global warming and climate change which have redesigned and reshaped the face of agriculture globally,” said Tsvangirai.

Instead of investing in research, however, the Zimbabwean government has been concentrating on supporting communal and so-called new farmers.

==============

http://www.gmo-safety.eu/science/maize/1338.persist-break-down-bt-protein-agriculture-cycle.html

Does Bt protein persist or break down during the agricultural cycle?

- Dr Martin Müller, GMO SAFETY, Oct 17, 2011

When genetically modified Bt maize is cultivated, Bt protein enters the soil via root exudates, harvest residues and pollen deposits. If Bt maize is used as cattle feed, Bt protein could also enter the soil through liquid manure spread on the fields. Scientists from the Bavarian State Research Centre for Agriculture (Bayerische Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft) and the University of Technology in Munich (TUM) have for the first time investigated what happens to the Bt protein throughout the agricultural cycle - from cultivation to animal feed, to the spreading of liquid manure and the following crop. They were able to gain important insights into the breakdown and persistence of Bt protein in the soil following long-term Bt maize cultivation.

The soil is the basis of production for farming and is a complex ecosystem, in which the individual components are closely interrelated. Organic substances, like proteins compete for binding sites in the soil or are broken down by chemical and microbiological processes. This includes the Bt protein Cry1Ab from MON810 Bt maize, which is effective against the European corn borer. Bt protein is known to enter the soil, particularly through rotting plant remains after harvesting. B

ut it is only now that Helga Gruber, a PhD student at the LfL and TUM has investigated the extent to which this occurs and whether Bt protein can accumulate in the soil as a result of long-term cultivation. She was able to use trial fields on which, during her project, MON810 Bt maize was being grown for the eighth and ninth year in succession. These sites were therefore extremely suitable for investigating the potential accumulation of Bt protein. As a control, the isogenic (not genetically modified) parent variety was also grown on the trial fields.

=========

http://www.abc.net.au/rural/content/2011/s3343523.htm

Scientists debate genetically modified food

- Michael Condon, ABC (Australia), 19 October 2011

Greenpeace has been accused of being anti-science over the destruction of experimental GM wheat trials in Canberra earlier this year. Greenpeace's senior scientist, Dr Janet Cotter, is visiting Australia from the University of Exeter in the UK to counter some of the criticism. Mark Tester is a scientist who is in favour of using GM technology, and he is Professor of Plant Physiology at the University of Adelaide.

In opening the discussion Dr Janet Cotter says she thinks the big issue with GM is crop contamination. She says we are "seeing lots of canola contamination in Australia, and in wheat trials overseas we are seeing contamination of crops".

She says 1970s technology is being used in GM and science has moved on to be more complex and tightly controlled. "The insertion of genes into the genome causes unexpected and unpredictable results such as allergies - allergies are proteins and in peer reviewed studies protein introduced into a pea plant, have caused allergen problems."

Professor Mark Tester disagrees and says "traditional plant breeding shuffles tens of thousands of genes, it's complex, not tightly controlled and there is lots of buffering that happens in normal plant breeding'. He says in contrast there are fewer alterations in the GM process, as it is more predictable and less random. He says Greenpeace is slowing CSIRO research by attacking trials sites.

Dr Cotter says there is the potential for GM food-related health problems to arise when you get fragments and re-arrangements and problems with how the products of gene expression are taken up in our body. Professor Tester disagreed and says GM is not more random, and Dr Cotter has missed basic biology lessons.

The discussion then turned to solving world hunger. Dr Cotter says we've been promised for 15 years that GM can boost production and feed developing nations and the starving masses, but the GM crop market is focussed on selling herbicides and chemicals, not feeding the world. She says how we farm is the problem and we should be using less fertilisers, less herbicides and being more productive in our use of farm land.

Professor Mark Tester agreed and says we need to improve farming systems, farm sustainably and reduce waste.

He wouldn't say GM will provide the solutions to world hunger, unlike some pro-GM proponents, but it is another tool to contribute to global food security.

"I support GM research as I've seen the limitations of conventional breeding, and in a recent critical scientific study, by Brookes and Barfoot, large areas of land have been found to have been saved and food production increased, by using GM".

But Dr Cotter says the study he refers to is not a valid study as the Brookes and Barfoot researchers are economists who don't publish in scientific journals.

"We have seen a huge increase in herbicides like glyphosate, and that has increased weed resistance.

"That then makes it necessary to apply more and stronger chemicals, and other stronger herbicides and that will attack insect resistance and there are valid concerns about non-target species like butterflies being killed off".

Professor Mark Tester says chemical increase is not happening, and will not be accepted as farmers won't pay more money for GM crops if they have to pay more for pesticides and herbicides.

He says chemical use is down as a result of GM technology. He says farmers are not stupid, they'll change their systems to reduce the emergence of resitance, such as the example of BT cotton, where farmers used clever agricultural techniques and many farmers have been able to avoid resistance with careful management.

Listen to the debate in Audio
http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rural/201110/r842427_7875578.mp3

===========

Britain’s Mark Lynas Riles His Green Movement Allies

- Keith Kloor, Yale Environment 360, Oct 19, 2011

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/britains_mark_lynas_riles_his_green_movement_allies/2449/

Activist Mark Lynas has alienated his green colleagues by renouncing long-held views and becoming an advocate for nuclear power and genetically modified crops. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he explains why he rethought his positions and turned to technology for solutions.

In his new book, The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans, British author, journalist, and environmental activist Mark Lynas argues that the world’s gravest ecological problems can be addressed with existing technological solutions. For environmentalists, he writes, “This means jettisoning some fairly sacred cows.” Nobody knows this better than Lynas, who has recently renounced his own previous positions and now embraces nuclear power and genetic engineering. That has enraged his erstwhile colleagues in the green movement, yet Lynas is unapologetic.

“We cannot afford to foreclose powerful technological options like nuclear, synthetic biology, and genetic engineering because of Luddite prejudice and ideological inertia,” he writes in The God Species.

Mark Lynas
In a recent interview with Yale Environment 360 contributor Keith Kloor, Lynas talked about his change of heart, his embrace of genetically modified crops as a key solution to possible food shortages, and his disgust at seeing some environmentalists largely ignore the devastation from the recent Japanese tsunami while over-hyping the dangers of radiation from the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant. “They believe in what they’re doing, but these people are nuts,” says Lynas. “And they’re doing real harm by spreading fear.”

Yale Environment 360: The main thesis of your new book is that humans have to take an active role in managing the planet if we want to keep it from being “irreparably damaged.” But much of what you prescribe, such as wider deployment of nuclear power and genetically engineered agriculture, is anathema to many greens. This also flies in the face of your own history as an environmental activist, in which you were anti-nuclear and anti-GMO until just a few years ago. What’s caused you to do an about-face?

Mark Lynas: Well, life is nothing if not a learning process. As you get older you tend to realize just how complicated the world is and how simplistic solutions don’t really work... There was no “Road to Damascus” conversion, where there’s a sudden blinding flash and you go, “Oh, my God, I’ve got this wrong.” There are processes of gradually opening one’s mind and beginning to take seriously alternative viewpoints, and then looking more closely at the weight of the evidence. It was a few years ago now that I first started reassessing the nuclear thing. But I didn’t want to go public then. I knew that would be the end of my reputation as an environmentalist, and to some extent, it has been.

-----cut-------
e360: In your book, you argue that GMOs [genetically modified organisms] are a win-win for the environment and also an important tool in the fight against climate change. But in 2008, in an article for the Guardian, you wrote that, “the technology moves entirely in the wrong direction, intensifying human technologies and manipulation of nature, when we should be aiming at a more holistic ecological approach.” What caused you to change your mind?

Lynas: Well, I actually refer to that article in my new book as being a real turning point. To be brutally honest, the article was something I’d dashed off in 20 minutes without doing any research. And it was reading some of the online comments from readers, just pointing out that I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about, which really brought me up short. And I decided at that point, basically, to shut up for awhile and do some reading, which I then did for two years. I didn’t write about this issue again for a while, right up until the book. But I think what gave me the courage to just be honest with others about this was reading Stewart Brand’s recent book [Whole Earth Discipline: An Eco-Pragmatist Manifesto] because he really just lays it down straight and I thought, “Well, if he can put it in these terms, so can I.”

e360: So briefly, what’s the case for GMOs and why, in your mind, is there such opposition to it, especially in Europe?

Lynas: There are arguments for and against, as with any technology. But most of the concerns we had 10 years ago about health and environmental There hasn’t been a single GMO-related health issue I’m aware of after over a decade of research.” impacts were clearly overblown. There hasn’t been a single GMO-related health issue I’m aware of after over a decade of research and testing. And environmentally GMOs have been beneficial, even in their current limited sense, which merely promotes monoculture with herbicide tolerance and insect-resistance. In the future we will be looking at nitrogen-efficient, drought-tolerant GMO crops with many other traits, which will minimize land use whilst increasing yields.
-------cut-------------
=============

Smarter toxins help crops fight resistant pests

- Daniel Stolte, University of Arizona, Oct 9, 2011

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-10/uoa-sth100611.php

A slight change in molecular structure introduced by genetic engineering gives crop-protecting proteins called Bt toxins a new edge in overcoming resistance of certain pests, a UA-led team of researchers reports in Nature Biotechnology



IMAGE: Bruce Tabashnik, head of the University of Arizona's entomology department, led the research team.

One of the most successful strategies in pest control is to endow crop plants with genes from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt for short, which code for proteins that kill pests attempting to eat them.

But insect pests are evolving resistance to Bt toxins, which threatens the continued success of this approach. In the current issue of Nature Biotechnology, a research team led by UA Professor Bruce Tabashnik reports the discovery that a small modification of the toxins' structure overcomes the defenses of some major pests that are resistant to the natural, unmodified Bt toxins.

“A given Bt toxin only kills certain insects that have the right receptors in their gut,” explained Tabashnik, head of the UA’s entomology department in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “This is one reason why Bt toxins are an environmentally friendly way to control pests,” he said. “They don’t kill indiscriminately. Bt cotton, for example, will not kill bees, lady bugs, and other beneficial insects.”

Unlike conventional broad-spectrum insecticides, Bt toxins kill only a narrow range of species because their potency is determined by a highly specific binding interaction with receptors on the surface of the insects’ gut cells, similar to a key that only fits a certain lock.

“If you change the lock, it won’t work,” Tabashnik said. “Insects adapt through evolutionary change. Naturally occurring mutations are out there in the insect populations, and those individuals that carry genes that make them resistant to the Bt toxins have a selective advantage.”




The diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella), one of the world's most destructive vegetable pests, has evolved resistance to native Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) toxins, but it can be killed with genetically modified...


The more a toxin is used, the more likely it is pests will adapt. Bt toxins have been used in sprays for decades. Crops that make Bt toxins were commercialized 15 years ago and covered more than 140 million acres worldwide in 2010, according to Tabashnik.

In a joint effort with Alejandra Bravo and Mario Soberón at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Tabashnik’s team set out to better understand how Bt toxins work and to develop countermeasures to control resistant pests.

“Our collaborators developed detailed models about each step at the molecular level,” Tabashnik said, “what receptors the toxins bind to, which enzymes they interact with and so on.”

Previous work had demonstrated that binding of Bt toxins to a cadherin protein in the insect gut is a key step in the process that ultimately kills the insect. Results at UNAM indicated that binding of Bt toxins to cadherin promotes the next step - trimming of a small portion of the toxins by the insect's enzymes. Meanwhile, Tabashnik's team identified lab-selected resistant strains of a major cotton pest, pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella), in which genetic mutations altered cadherin and thereby reduced binding of Bt toxins.

The findings from UNAM and UA considered together implied that in resistant strains of the pest, naturally occurring genetic mutations changed the lock -- the cadherin receptor -- so that Bt toxin – the key – no longer fits. As a result, the trimming does not occur, the whole chain of events is stopped in its tracks, and the insects survive.


Said Tabashnik: “So our collaborators in Mexico asked, ‘Why don’t we trim the toxin ourselves, by using genetic engineering to create modified Bt toxins that no longer need the intact cadherin receptor to kill the pests?’”

In initial tests, the researchers found that the modified toxins killed caterpillars of the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta, in which production of cadherin was blocked by a technique called RNA interference. The modified toxins also killed resistant pink bollworm caterpillars carrying mutations that altered their cadherin.

“Those experiments led us to hypothesize that any insect carrying a mutant cadherin receptor as a mechanism of resistance would be killed by the modified Bt toxins,” Tabashnik said.

To find out, the team invited colleagues from all over the world to participate in an ambitious experiment. “We sent them native and modified toxins without telling them which was which and asked them to test both types of toxins against the resistant strains they have in their labs,” Tabashnik said.

It turned out things are more complicated than the hypothesis predicted. The modified toxins did not always work on insects with cadherin mutations, and they worked surprisingly well against some insects whose resistance was not caused by a cadherin mutation.

“We still don’t know why the modified toxins were so effective against some resistant strains and not others” Tabashnik said. “The take-home message is we need to look at this on a case-by-case basis.”

Tabashnik pointed out that “based on the lab results, we think the modified Bt toxins could be useful, but we won’t know until they're tested in the field.” He said the results are promising enough that Pioneer, a major agriculture and biotechnology company, made a significant investment to pursue the technology.

Through the UA’s Office of Technology Transfer, the UA's stake in the technology has been licensed to UNAM, which in turn selected Pioneer as their commercial partner in exploring its potential for commercialization.

“At the very least, we've learned more about the pests and their interactions with Bt toxins, ” Tabashnik said. “In a best-case scenario, this could help growers sustain environmentally friendly pest control.”

============


Taking our food for granted

http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/business/taking-our-food-for-granted/story-e6fredj3-1226163843953

- JULIAN SWALLOW , AdelaideNow, October 11, 2011

Professor Peter Langridge inside the plant accelerator facility at The University of Adelaide Waite campus. Picture: Brooke Whatnall

THE reluctance of Australian consumers to embrace genetically-modified food crops shows complacency about securing our food supplies, an expert says.

Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics chief executive Professor Peter Langridge said that while Australia was a net food exporter, recent extreme weather events, such as Cyclone Yasi, which struck north Queensland in February, along with persistent drought demonstrated our ongoing food needs could no longer be guaranteed.

"I think the community take for granted there will be high-quality supplies of food always available," Prof Langridge said. Prof Langridge will discuss Australia's food security needs at the AusBiotech 2011 national conference in Adelaide, which opens this Sunday and runs to October 19.

The conference will bring together delegates from across the world to the Southern Hemisphere's largest industry gathering, and includes an invitation-only Australasian Life Science Investment Summit. The summit will welcome 40 of Australia's best local companies, which will be showcased to international and Australian investors on October 19.

Prof Langridge said the Australian public's attitude now needed to change. "We have access to some of the highest-quality, safest food in the world," he said. "That's a capability that shouldn't be taken for granted."

Prof Langridge, who last year led the food security committee of the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, said Australia's political leaders had a vital role to play in changing public perceptions. "Decisions made about food production and processing are being made by people who know nothing about it," Prof Langridge said. "We need politicians who are informed and lead debate rather than following."

He suggested one way to protect the country's food supply was through the increased development of genetically-modified crops that are weather-resistant and provide increased yields.

But he acknowledged public opinion remained divided, and that this was unlikely to change until Australia was confronted with a situation - such as an extreme drought and a food shortage caused by an expanding population - in which the need for more technologically-advanced crops became obvious. "The majority of Australians are sitting on the fence and don't see any evidence of why we need this," Prof Langridge said. "When people see the direct need, they will support the technology."

Yet Prof Langridge said the window of opportunity was short. "The decisions we make now will impact on what we can do in 20 years' time," he said. "It puts a very different perspective on things."

SA Farmers Federation president Peter White said urban expansion, climate change and continuing political interference had all impacted upon the ability of the state's farmers to meet demand for food, and this was likely to get worse. "We're going to have to grow a lot more food in less area with less people (to grow it)," he said.

Mr White said SA was the only mainland state with a moratorium against growing genetically-modified crops and this needed to change. "It's (genetically-modified crops) not a silver bullet but it's a tool to help meet our targets for food production," Mr White said. With an expanding global population, Mr White said Australia could not afford to simply rely on food imports as a fall-back.

=============

http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org/landingpage.cfm?article=ca.E.v065n03p161&fulltext=yes

Transgenic rice evaluated for risks to marketability

- Dustin R. Mulvaney, Timothy J. Krupnik and Kaden B. Koffler , UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA - CALIFORNIA AGRICULTURE, July-September 2011

Abstract: The California Rice Certification Act mandates specific planting and handling protocols for rice varieties, including transgenic rice, that may pose economic risks to California rice growers. Based on a literature review and extensive interviews, we describe this policy's evolution as a system for identity preservation and explain how it shapes the potential commercialization of transgenic rice. Several studies suggest that transgenic rice would be profitable for California growers, but the challenges in assuring 100% identity preservation - especially when access to export markets is at risk - means that the commercial approval of transgenic rice in California is unlikely until there is widespread market acceptance and growers are assured of no sales interruptions.

=============

Ghanaians urged to embrace biotechnology to solve food security problem
http://www.ghanabusinessnews.com/2011/10/02/ghanaians-urged-to-embrace-biotechnology-to-solve-food-security-problem/

- Ghana Business News, October 2, 2011

The use of biotechnology will significantly help to solve food security problem and reduce poverty in the country, Dr. Yaa Difie Osei, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology of University of Ghana, Legon, said on Friday.

Urging Ghanaians to embrace biotechnology, she said, the application of Genetically Modified (GM) technology would not only increase crop yields, but also fight insects to enable farmers to save money for other uses.

“This approach will enable Ghana enhanced nutritional values and increase the life shelves of produce to sustain socio-economic development of the country”, she said.
Dr. Osei made the call at the first monthly session meeting of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) on “Biotechnology: Its Principle and Potential Uses in Ghana” in Accra.

The meeting was aimed at bringing together stakeholders in biotechnology and facilitates interactions between scientists, journalists, civil societies, law makers and policy makers.

The initiative served as a platform for stakeholders to share knowledge and experiences and explore new avenues for un-leashing biotechnology.
Biotechnology involves the use of genes, cells and tissues to manufacture substances including food.

According to statistics, 25 countries worldwide were using biotechnology with 14 million farmers cultivating 125 million hectares in 2008. In Africa, Burkina Faso is using the GM technology to increase her cotton production from 8,500 hectares in 2008 to 15,000 hectares in 2009, Egypt’s maize production has increased by 15 per cent and South Africa is also recording an increase of 17 per cent maize production within the same period.

Only South Africa, Egypt and Burkina Faso can commercialise their GM crops but only South Africa is currently commercialising Bt Maize, Bt cotton and Bt soyabean.
Dr Osei explained that biotechnology was like any technological application that used biological systems, living organisms to make or modify products.

She said biotechnology was a vital technology which if it’s properly harnessed could augur well for the development of this country’s agricultural, manufacturing and health sectors. She said modern biotechnology complemented traditional technologies in effectively addressing food security problems while increasing farmers’ income.

According to her, some critical challenges facing farmers including weeds, pests and diseases, spoilage due to over-ripening, inadequate irrigation and lack of mechanization could be addressed through effective application of biotechnology.

Dr. Osei commended government for the passage of Biosafety Bill to allow farmers to use the GM technology to enhance production, which would ensure food security and contribute immensely towards attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. She said this would also alleviate fear that GM products were unsafe to reconsider their position.

OFAB Ghana Chapter which is the sixth to be established in Africa is a collaborative initiative between the African Agricultural Technology Foundation based in Kenya and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). OFAB seeks to promote and sustain a well informed and interactive society capable of making informed decisions regarding research, development, regulation and commercialisation of agricultural biotechnology products.
===========

DuPont chief: Biotech can help small farmers

http://www.courierpostonline.com/article/20111016/NEWS02/310160026/DuPont-chief-Biotech-can-help-small-farmers




CEO Ellen Kullman said DuPont is pushing to develop biofuels made from crop residue rather than corn. / Gannett file

- PHILIP BRASHER, Gannett, Oct. 15, 2011


WASHINGTON — DuPont’s top executive says it will take “world-class science” to produce the food the world will need in coming years, rebuffing critics who say the genetically engineered seeds her company produces will be of little help to poor, small-scale farmers in Africa and other needy regions.

But Ellen Kullman, DuPont’s chairwoman and CEO, acknowledged Thursday that high-tech farming tools won’t be enough to help farmers grow more food, and that solutions to poor production need to be tailored to local needs.

“At DuPont, we are under no illusion that laboratory science can drive food security on its own,” Kullman said in a luncheon address to the World Food Prize annual conference.

But she said that increasing food production will “require a continual stream of science-based innovations” that are “precisely tailored to the solutions that are local.”

Her remarks came a day after philanthropist Howard G. Buffett warned that soil fertility was the biggest issue facing farmers in Africa, and that pushing biotech seeds and other U.S.-style methods on growers there could actually worsen their problems. Other critics have argued that U.S. agricultural methods have led to environmental problems and given large-scale farms an edge over smaller-scale farmers who can’t afford expensive seed and other inputs.

DuPont is parent to Johnston, Iowa-based Pioneer Hi-Bred, one of the world’s largest producers of biotech seeds. Pioneer’s genetically engineered corn varieties are widely used in South Africa but are not yet permitted on much of the continent, although several countries are moving toward permitting the use of biotech food crops. Pioneer has collaborated with Buffett in developing a more nutritious variety of sorghum, a food grain in Africa.

Pioneer’s broadly spread work force will play a role in assuring that the seeds the company sells will be appropriate to the places they are sold.

Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont is best known to the public as a chemical manufacturer, but it has been steadily expanding into food and agriculture. It now accounts for nearly 30 percent of its revenue with the recent acquisition of Danisco, a manufacturer of food ingredients.

Kullman said DuPont is moving forward with its plans to develop next-generation biofuels made from crop residue rather than corn. She indicated the technology was still years from being fully commercialized. The project started as a joint project of DuPont and Danisco.

“We’re making great progress. The industry as a whole is making great progress. We’ve seen tremendous improvement in our pilot” plant in Tennessee, she said.
============


http://agri-pulse.com/Trees_BIO_case_10072011.asp#.To95epCUSuM.twitter

APHIS wins in biotech case over eucalyptus tree trials

- Sarah Gonzalez, Agri-Pulse, Oct. 7, 2011

Washington - A coalition of environmental groups lost a Florida court case against USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regarding field trials of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees.

ArborGen, developer of the eucalyptus trees, and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) helped USDA's APHIS in its defense against allegations that USDA did not adequately prepare an environmental review before allowing the company's field trials to move forward. The environmental groups alleged that APHIS did not comply with federal law in issuing certain permits to ArborGen.

On July 1, 2010, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, the Dogwood Alliance, the Global Justice Ecology Project, the International Center for Technology Assessment and the Sierra Club brought the case against APHIS and USDA.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida denied the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment yesterday and granted the summary judgment motions for the government, ArborGen and BIO.

====================


Mexicans have been genetically altering their corn through eons


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEiTUMfBmvY