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September 12, 2012


Greenpeace out to sea on GM rice issue, bioethicist says plus other top stories Sept 14, 2012


Today in AgBioView - September 14, 2012

Greenpeace out to sea on GM rice issue, bioethicist says

Greenpeace’s Golden Rice stand should appall us all

Carotene in Golden Rice is as good as Beta-carotene in oil at providing vitamin A to children

China continues to probe alleged GM rice testing

GM rice test researcher suspended from work

Greenpeace's Crime Against Humanity
GM food production increasing

Court says EU-vetted GMOs not subject to country approval

European Court of Justice confirms farmers' right to cultivate GM crops

To be or not to be transgenic

GMO labelling: Until the last molecule?

Labeling of genetically engineered foods is a losing proposition

Australia: Bogus Claims GM of causing liver disease rejected

Genetically modified crops: the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture

Meet Farmer Chengal Reddy: He wants us to give up the fear of GM crops

A (genetically-modified) apple a day....keeps the browning away. So why are growers resisting it?

The Organic Fable

Does organic farming reduce environmental impacts? - A meta-analysis of European research

Organic farms not necessarily better for environment

Organic food 'not any healthier'


Greenpeace out to sea on GM rice issue, bioethicist says


- Art Caplan, Ph.D., MSNBC, September 14, 2012

Greenpeace, perhaps best known for its battles at sea to protect whales and the oceans, has gotten itself involved in a huge controversy over genetically modified food.

The group is charging that unsuspecting children were put at risk in a “dangerous” study of genetically engineered rice in rural China. It’s a serious claim, because it is putting research seeking to put more nutrition into food at risk.

Genetically engineered rice has the potential to help solve a big nutritional problem—vitamin A deficiency. A lack of vitamin A kills 670,000 kids under 5 every year and causes 250,000 to 500,000 to go blind. Half die within a year of losing their sight, according to the World Health Organization. I think Greenpeace is being ethically irresponsible and putting those lives at continued risk.

Research involving children is often highly controversial. Putting children at risk when there us no certainty of benefit in the hope of gaining new knowledge is, at best, ethically dubious. Research done on kids when the risk is great rightly sets all of our moral teeth on edge.

That is the charge Greenpeace is screaming ethical bloody murder about. They say Chinese children were given dangerous genetically engineered rice in a study without any consent from the kids, parents or the approval of the appropriate review bodies.

Greenpeace does not favor the use of genetic engineering to modify food. It’s been campaigning for years against plans to introduce “golden rice” in China. The claim about the experiment, if true, would drastically slow the very research that will, if successful, lead to a lot more genetically modified food being eaten in China, the U.S. and the rest of the world. Is Greenpeace’s fear of GMOs protecting kids or potentially harming them? The latter seems, sadly, more likely.

As might be expected, the charges of research abuse are causing an explosion of reaction in China. Beijing has launched an investigation, a Chinese researcher has already been suspended and a whole lot of finger-pointing is going on within China. A couple of fingers are also pointing right at the USA, since the rice study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health.
If these accusations were true, this would be one of the worst research scandals of all time. U.S.-funded research involving dangerous food made by big, greedy U.S. companies tested on poor, innocent kids in rural China with no consent— who could trust people willing to do that? The only problem with Greenpeace’s cry of scandal is that it is nonsense.

You can look at the paper on line that is setting off this international moral maelstrom. It appears in the August issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The title of the paper is “Beta-carotene in Golden Rice is as good as b-carotene in oil at providing vitamin A to children”.

Without even knowing what the heck this title means, it tells you something very important — this is an experiment that worked! The engineered rice allowed the kids in the study to get more vitamin A, Guangwen Tang of Tufts University and colleagues report.

The 68 6 to 8-year-olds in the study got either the “golden rice” or spinach.
The beta-carotene in the title is the substance in carrots that gives them their orange color. It occurs naturally in other plants, including spinach. But it does not exist in white rice. B-carotene is used by your body to help make vitamin A.

If you live in a country that relies heavily on white rice and not much else for food, you may be vitamin A deficient. The experiment involved tweaking the genes of rice so the plant produced more beta-caroten. The paper reports that when kids ate this rice in the study, they got as much or more vitamin A then they did eating their usual diet or one supplemented with other sources of carotene. The experiment worked.

Well, you may say, even if the experiment worked, it still is not right to put kids into a nutrition study without their parents’ knowledge or the proper review. True, but the study was neither risky nor lacking in review.

GMO food has been eaten by almost everyone reading this column for years. No study has shown any health danger. The researchers who conducted the China study rightly did not worry about the safety of the rice. The researchers only wanted to see if it helped put Vitamin A into the kids who ate it. It did.
What about consent and review, which Greenpeace says did not happen? The paper says otherwise.

“The study recruitment processes and protocol were approved by the Institutional Review Board–Tufts Medical Center in the United States and by the Ethics Review Committee of Zhejiang Academy of Medical Sciences in China. Both parents and pupils [children] consented to participate in the study,” the researchers wrote.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition may not be on your bedroom table for night reading but it is a respected journal that is widely read by leading scientists and doctors interested in nutrition. Either the researchers have put into print before their peers the biggest flat-out lie since Bernie Madoff denied he was running a Ponzi scheme ,or the critics screeching about Chinese kids being used as “guinea pigs” have a whole lot of explaining to do.

Maybe, despite the researchers’ efforts, something went wrong in terms of families really understanding they were in a study. Even if there were no reason to think children were ever at any real risk, that would be a problem. It’s worth checking out, if for no other reason to inform future studies and prevent stinks like this one.

The result of the study shows that there is another tool available to fight the death and blindness caused by diets poor in food that creates vitamin A. The world’s leaders need to be sensitive to fixing real, ongoing problems in trying to do research ethically when subjects are poor and vulnerable. The world needs to tell organizations that have an irrational fear of GMO food even when it might help save kids lives and sight to head back out to sea.

Art Caplan, Ph.D., is the head of the division of medical ethics at the NYU Langone Medical Center


Greenpeace’s Golden Rice stand should appall us all


- Margaret Wente, The Globe and Mail (Canada), Sep. 13 2012, 2:00 AM EDT

Two weeks ago, the Asian arm of Greenpeace issued an alarming press release: “24 children used as guinea pigs in genetically engineered ‘Golden Rice’ trial.” A Chinese news agency leaped on the story and reported that Chinese and American researchers had carried out a dangerous and unauthorized experiment to feed modified rice to a group of rural children in Hunan. The Chinese blogosphere lit up with outrage. China’s top health authority denied that it had approved the research; it suspended a Chinese scientist and demanded that the Americans investigate.

Greenpeace has long been an implacable opponent of genetically modified foods, especially Golden Rice. And it had an especially good reason to be alarmed by this trial: It was a complete success.

The Hunan trial, conducted in 2008, was meant to determine whether a small bowl a day of genetically modified rice (called Golden because of its yellow colour) could effectively deliver enough Vitamin A to make a difference. Vitamin A deficiency is a scourge of the world’s poor (Vitamin A is contained in fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach). According to the World Health Organization, Vitamin A deficiency affects about a third of the world’s children under 5. It claims the lives of more than a million people a year, including hundreds of thousands of children. As many as half a million children go blind every year because they don’t get enough Vitamin A.

Golden Rice was developed in the late 1990s by crop scientists who donated it to the world as a humanitarian tool. It was hailed at the time as a spectacularly promising breakthrough. But, in the early days, Golden Rice couldn’t deliver enough Vitamin A to make a difference. For years, Greenpeace and other anti-GM groups ridiculed it as overhyped and ineffective. They called it a propaganda tool for the evil GM industry.

But now, that problem has been fixed. The trial conducted in Hunan – the results were published last month in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – helps to demonstrate that. It showed that Golden Rice is now as good a source as vitamin supplements, and better than spinach. (For the record, the Americans say the trial was approved by all the proper channels at the time, and was entirely ethical.)

The last thing Greenpeace wants is for Golden Rice to be effective. It insists that the rice poses all kinds of environmental and health risks, even though repeated risk assessments by leading scientific bodies have found no such risks. In fact, according to scientists at the University of California, GM rice reduces pesticide use and improves farmers’ health.

Greenpeace is campaigning vigorously to block Golden Rice trials throughout Southeast Asia. And it has lots of allies, including luminaries such as Naomi Klein and groups such as the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, whose mission is “collaborative campaigning for food sovereignty and environmental justice.” These groups insist that what the poor really need is utopian political solutions. “Food insecurity is brought about by lack of enough land, by decreasing rice production and decreasing incomes,” says one Golden Rice opponent. “Only through a genuine land reform which ensures farmers’ access to sufficient rice and other food sources will farmers start to become healthy again.”

Genetically engineered crops do far more than improve people’s health. They can dramatically boost yields in places such as Africa. They are the key to feeding the world’s exploding population. But GM opponents have been tragically successful in stalling the spread of modified crops to the people most in need of it. In China, where people are already terrified about food safety because of major scandals over tainted milk powder, GM crops are generally shunned.

Are Greenpeace and its allies effectively allowing millions of children to go blind or die when there’s a safe solution? The rest of us should be appalled


Carotene in Golden Rice is as good as _-carotene in oil at providing vitamin A to children


Tang G, Hu Y, Yin SA, Wang Y, Dallal GE, Grusak MA, AMERICAN JOURNAL OF CLINICAL NUTRITION, vol. 96(3), pages 658-64 Sept. 2012

BACKGROUND: Golden Rice (GR) has been genetically engineered to be rich in _-carotene for use as a source of vitamin A.

OBJECTIVE: The objective was to compare the vitamin A value of _-carotene in GR and in spinach with that of pure _-carotene in oil when consumed by children.

DESIGN: Children (n = 68; age 6-8 y) were randomly assigned to consume GR or spinach (both grown in a nutrient solution containing 23 atom% (2)H(2)O) or [(2)H(8)]_-carotene in an oil capsule. The GR and spinach _-carotene were enriched with deuterium ((2)H) with the highest abundance molecular mass (M) at M(_-C)+(2)H(10). [(13)C(10)]Retinyl acetate in an oil capsule was administered as a reference dose. Serum samples collected from subjects were analyzed by using gas chromatography electron-capture negative chemical ionization mass spectrometry for the enrichments of labeled retinol: M(retinol)+4 (from [(2)H(8)]_-carotene in oil), M(retinol)+5 (from GR or spinach [(2)H(10)]_-carotene), and M(retinol)+10 (from [(13)C(10)]retinyl acetate).

RESULTS: Using the response to the dose of [(13)C(10)]retinyl acetate (0.5 mg) as a reference, our results (with the use of AUC of molar enrichment at days 1, 3, 7, 14, and 21 after the labeled doses) showed that the conversions of pure _-carotene (0.5 mg), GR _-carotene (0.6 mg), and spinach _-carotene (1.4 mg) to retinol were 2.0, 2.3, and 7.5 to 1 by weight, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: The _-carotene in GR is as effective as pure _-carotene in oil and better than that in spinach at providing vitamin A to children. A bowl of _100 to 150 g cooked GR (50 g dry weight) can provide _60% of the Chinese Recommended Nutrient Intake of vitamin A for 6-8-y-old children. This trial was registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00680212.


China continues to probe alleged GM rice testing


- CHINA DAILY, Sept 6, 2012

Changsha - Authorities are continuing to investigate whether dozens of children in central China were used as test subjects in a US-China joint research project that included genetically modified rice.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in an online statement that its researcher was not informed that the American side had used GM rice in the joint test, which was designed to study how children's bodies absorb and transform beta carotene.

Sources in the health department of Hunan province, where the test allegedly took place in 2008, on Wednesday said "relevant officials" had gone to Beijing to participate in a joint investigation with the China CDC.

This came after local government officials in Hunan and the provincial CDC had publicly denied the claim. But a lead author of the research paper, published in the August edition of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, insisted that the study had been conducted with all regulatory approvals required by each country.

The paper claimed that Golden Rice, genetically engineered to be rich in beta carotene, is effective in providing vitamin A to children. The experiment involved feeding the rice to 24 children aged between six and eight years old in Hunan in 2008, according to Greenpeace, which broke the news in late August.

The paper's lead author is Tang Guangwen, director of the Carotenoids and Health Laboratory of Tufts University in the United States. While Tang insisted the testing had been approved, both the second and third author -- Hu Yuming with the Hunan CDC and Yin Shi'an with the China CDC -- denied involvement in the GM rice research project.

GM rice test researcher suspended from work


- XINHUA, September 11, 2012

A Chinese researcher involved in the controversial testing of genetically modified (GM) rice has been suspended from his work and put under investigation, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) reported on Monday evening.

China CDC, under orders from the Ministry of Health, is investigating whether dozens of children in central China's Hunan Province were used in 2008 as test subjects in a U.S.-China joint research project that included GM food Golden Rice.

Greenpeace broke the news on the controversial test in late August, saying that the joint research involved feeding Golden Rice, which is genetically modified to be rich in beta carotene, to 24 children aged between six and eight years old in Hunan. It cited a paper published in the August edition of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The paper claimed that Golden Rice is effective in providing vitamin A to kids.

China CDC reported the latest progress of the investigation, saying its fellow researcher Yin Shi'an, the third author of the paper, was inconsistent in his accounts during the investigation. As a result, China CDC has suspended his work and put him under further investigation.


Greenpeace's Crime Against Humanity

http://www.climatedepot.com/a/17410/Former-Greenpeace-cofounder-Dr-P atrick-Moore-rips-Greenpeaces-Crime-Against-Humanity-for-opposing-Golden-Rice-which-can-eliminate-vitamin-A-deficiency

- Patrick Moore, PhD

September 10, 2012

"If you plan to destroy test fields to prevent responsible testing and development of Golden Rice for humanitarian purposes, you will be accused of contributing to a crime against humanity. Your actions will be carefully registered and you will, hopefully, have the opportunity to defend your illegal and immoral actions in front of an international court." -- Dr. Ingo Potrykus to Greenpeace, February 2001

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines "crimes against humanity" as acts that are "committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack - intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health."[1]

According to the World Health Organization between 250,000 to 500,000 children become blind every year due to vitamin A deficiency, half of whom die within a year of becoming blind. Millions of other people suffer from various debilitating conditions due to the lack of this essential nutrient.[2]

Golden Rice is a genetically modified form of rice that, unlike conventional rice, contains beta-Carotene in the rice kernel. Beta-Carotene is converted to vitamin A in humans and is important for eyesight, the immune system, and general good health.[3] Swiss scientist and humanitarian Dr. Ingo Potrykus and his colleagues developed Golden Rice in 1998. It has been demonstrated in numerous studies that golden rice can eliminate vitamin A deficiency.[4]


GM food production increasing


- Rich Keller, Editor, Ag Professional , September 12, 2012

Much of the same lack of confidence of biotech foods exists in India and throughout the world because of the European Union spreading its unfounded concerns about biotech foods and a fringe U.S. scientific community spreading negative quasi science.

Direct consumption of GM foods such as tomatoes are very limited in production in a small number of countries today.

It is also easy for crackpots in undeveloped countries to spread rumors that cast doubt on GM food production to uneducated populations. An example is a Honduran activist who has been quoted as claiming GM crops can cause people to contract AIDS, and that is just one example of the completely outrageous claims that are being put forward to dissuade undeveloped nations’ people and governments from accepting GM foods.

Even with crazy talk against GM crops in Central and South America, the Americas as a whole is by far the leader in GM food and feed production with 12 countries growing GM crops and six of those countries are in the top 10 for 2011 production. In million hectares, the hectares are U.S., 69; Brazil, 30.3; Argentina, 23.7; Canada, 10.4; Paraguay, 2.8; and Uruguay, 1.3.

Brazil probably has the most rapidly expanding GM crop production. The projections are that Brazil will increase its biotech crops by 15 percent for 2012-2013 cropping (Oct. 2012 to Sept. 2013). Much of that anticipated increase is because of new biotech corn approvals, according to the USDA/FAS.

Science doesn’t support limiting GM crop production, and Europe needs to join the 21st century as the European Commission’s chief scientific advisor is quoted as suggesting. “There is no substantial case of any adverse impact on human health, animal health or environmental health, so that’s pretty robust evidence, and I would be confident in saying that there is no more risk in eating GMO food than eating conventionally farmed food,” said Commissioner Anne Glover as published by EurActiv.com.

What seems to scare governments is that once a country allows GM food production it is a no-return path to follow. New GM crops are not going to stop being developed, and what would be the rationale for approving one GM crop and not the next? That is the big question even today as countries approve one crop and refuse registration for another crop with similar registration documentation, data packages?


Court says EU-vetted GMOs not subject to country approval


- Rudy Ruitenberg, BLOOMBERG, Sep 6, 2012

Growing genetically-modified crops such as varieties of Monsanto Co. (MON)'s MON 810 corn can't be subject to national authorization procedures by European Union countries when the bloc has approved their use and marketing, the European Court of Justice wrote in a ruling today.

The lack of national rules to ensure so-called co-existence between modified, organic and conventional crops doesn't entitle an EU member state to prohibit cultivation of biotech crops in a general manner, the court wrote.


European Court of Justice confirms farmers' right to cultivate GM crops


- EUROPABIO, 7 September 2012

On 6 September, the European Court of Justice clarified the legal requirements for the cultivation of genetically-modified (GM) crops in the Member States of the European Union. The Court confirmed that additional national authorization procedures, introduced on top of the existing approval process conducted by the European authorities (European Food Safety Authority) to be unlawful. It also declared that coexistence measures are not mandatory to grow GM plants.

"The cultivation of genetically modified organisms such as the MON 810 maize varieties cannot be made subject to a national authorisation procedure when the use and marketing of those varieties are authorized" said the Court of Justice. The relevant EU legislation "does not entitle a Member State to prohibit in a general manner the cultivation on its territory of such genetically modified organisms pending the adoption of coexistence measures to avoid the unintended presence of genetically modified organisms in other crops" added the European institution.

The ruling concerns a GM product that is allowed for cultivation in Europe but the rights of farmers to choose this legally approved crop were denied in practice by some bureaucratic barriers created by the Italian authorities. Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, EuropaBio's Director of Green Biotechnology Europe, commented, "In 2011, we saw a similar decision by the ECJ on the illegal French cultivation ban. Today's ruling by the highest court in the European Union again confirms that national bans on GM crops are not legally defendable. Farmers' rights to cultivate approved GM crops have to be respected".

Agricultural innovation brings positive outcomes for farmers by helping them cope with the various challenges of growing food. Benefits of using GM crops include yield increase, more resistance to target insects and pests, better quality protection after harvest, increased tolerance to stress such as frost, drought, salt or heat, and improved nutritional value of food in very specific ways. This is why more than 16 million farmers are growing GM crops around the world. A 2011 study (Brookes and Barfoot) evaluated that since 1996, farmers globally have gained more than ¤ 44 billion in farm income thanks to GM crops, and 57% of this profit was due to increased yields.

The decision of the European Court of Justice is available at http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=126437&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=1195160


To be or not to be transgenic


Wayne A Parrott, Joseph M Jez & L Curtis Hannah NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY, volume 30(9), pages 825-826 September 2012

It is sad and ironic that even though much progress has been made in deciphering the genetic content of food plants and modifying their genomes for the betterment of humankind, many of the principles of modern plant genetics, firmly established decades ago, are now so easily forgotten or ignored. Such is the case with many of the alarmist arguments raised in the News Feature by Emily Waltz1 in the March issue entitled "Tiptoeing around transgenics." Waltz focuses on the controversy surrounding the regulation of modern (and, in fact, not-so-modern) biotechnological techniques, such as those that alter single base pairs by replacing one nucleotide with another (that is, create singlenucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs). We feel it is important to stress that such genetic changes must be viewed in a historical and biological context to understand why calls for new layers of regulation over technologies that introduce SNPs and other changes are unwarranted.

The most relevant counterargument to the need for regulation is the fact that mutations normally happen. Mutations occur spontaneously in nature, and their rate can be increased by the use of mutagens. On the whole, mutation is a good thing, for without mutation, we would still be biofilm on the bottom of the ocean. Although typical mutation rates are quite low when calculated on a gene or base-pair basis, they are high enough that new mutations are the rule rather than the exception. For example in Arabidopsis thaliana, the mutation rate per base pair per generation is estimated to be 7 per billion base pairs2. Given that there are 125,000,000 base pairs in the A. thaliana genome, 1.75 new SNP mutations are expected per generation per diploid plant. Although SNPs appear to occur at about the same rate in all plants, crop plants have larger genomes, and thus more SNPs. Just one average hectare of 240,000 soybean plants can be expected to contain about 1.8 million novel SNPs.


GMO labelling: Until the last molecule?



In their "Erfurt Declaration" the European network "GMO-free regions" , to which the states of, Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia are connected, calls for "a comprehensive, standardized" labelling. The three states - Bavaria wants to join - and wants an appropriate legislative initiative to contribute to the Federal Council. What exactly is meant by "complete" label, is clarified neither by the Erfurt Declaration nor by the press statements of the three state governments. And for good reason: With the bold claim the country's minister decided on "freedom of choice" and the interests of consumers, without having to say exactly how they are to be effected and how they want to push the meaures through politically.

What is clear that currently excluded labeling is all of the

o Milk, eggs, meat from animals fed with genetically modified plants and products.

Well, it is widely agreed to close this gap. But how do that that go practically remains nebulous. At for the food itself, one cannot detect from which animal it is derived or what that animal has eaten. To prevent consumer deception, we need a complicated, bureaucratic and expensive traceability system to be established.

o Additives, enzymes, vitamins, which are produced with genetically modified organisms.

Also in this area is - as in animal feed - gene technology is widespread. But in each case it is usually only the manufacturer who knows how the materials are produced and processed. That would be verifiable only if the genetic engineering facilities and what is produced by them required authorization - similar to the current cultivation of GM crops. That would bloat the monitoring and control apparatus enormously. For imports of vitamins, enzymes and additives which are now being produced to a large extent in Asia, you would have to check, much like we have to do today with plant agricultural commodities.


Labeling of genetically engineered foods is a losing proposition


- Gregory Conko and Henry Miller FORBES Sept 12, 2012

As Joe Six-pack munches Fritos and popcorn during the opening games of the NFL season, does he care what variety of corn was used to make them? Should he? Should the government require labels that tell him?

Most rational people would say no. But California's Proposition 37, which will appear on the state's ballot in November, would create just such a requirement. Supporters claim it is a simple measure designed to provide useful information to consumers about so-called genetically engineered ("GE") foods. It is not, and the deceptive measure fails every test, from science and economics to law and common sense.

A broad scientific consensus holds that modern techniques of genetic engineering are essentially an extension, or refinement, of the kinds of genetic modification that have long been used to enhance the foods we eat.

Except for wild berries and wild mushrooms, virtually all the fruits, vegetables and grains in our diet have been genetically improved by one technique or another - often as a result of seeds being irradiated or genes being moved from one species or genus to another in ways that do not occur in nature. But because genetic engineering is more precise and predictable, the technology is at least as safe as - and often safer than - the modification of food products in cruder, "conventional" ways. This superior technology is the target of Prop. 37 (cut>


Australia: Bogus Claims GM of causing liver disease rejected


- WEEKLY TIMES NOW (Australia), Septe 12, 2012

Scientists have rejected claims GM wheat may cause a liver disease.

The Safe Food Foundation claimed genetically modified wheat, developed by CSIRO, may cause Glycogen Storage Disease IV, which results in enlarged liver, cirrhosis of the liver and failure to thrive.

University of Canterbury, NZ, Professor Jack Heinemann and Flinders University Associate Professor Judy Carman yesterday released scientific opinions raising concerns about the safety of the GM wheat.

However, University of Melbourne Professor Rick Roush said the claims about the CSIRO starch-modified wheat were "highly speculative."

"They have been advanced by three anti-GM campaigners who have deliberatley bypassed independent scientific assessment of their claims,'' Prof Roush said.

"Instead, this has been launched such that it will become another scientific-souding scare story in cyberspace, a well-worn path of anti-GM so-called "science" by press release."

Prof Roush said he had "absolutely no fear in volunteering to serve as a human volunteer" to test the wheat. (cut)


Genetically modified crops: the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture


- Gurdev S Khush, Agriculture & Food Security 2012, 1:14 doi:10.1186/2048-7010-1-14

The major scientific advances of the last century featured the identification of the structure of DNA, the development of molecular biology and the technology to exploit these advances. These breakthroughs gave us new tools for crop improvement, including molecular markeraided selection (MAS) and genetic modification (GM). MAS improves the efficiency of breeding programs, and GM allows us to accomplish breeding objectives not possible through conventional breeding approaches. MAS is not controversial and is now routinely used in crop improvement programs. However, the international debate about the application of genetic manipulation to crop improvement has slowed the adoption of GM crops in developing as well as in European countries. Since GM crops were first introduced to global agriculture in 1996, Clive James has published annual reports on the global status of commercialized GM crops as well as special reports on individual GM crops for The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). His 34th report, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/ GM crops: 2011 [1] is essential reading for those who are concerned about world food security.


Meet Farmer Chengal Reddy: He wants us to give up the fear of GM crops


- P. Chengal Reddy, Times of India, Sept 10, 2012

The parliamentary committee report on genetically modified (GM) organisms is an attempt to give a quiet burial to biotechnology in India. On behalf of the farmers of India, let me say that this report totally fails to reflect farmers' aspirations, and distorts the scientific significance of biotechnology - including genetic engineering - for the national economy. Instead, it echoes persistent canards by some environmental NGOs.

Indian farming suffers losses of up to Rs 1 lakh crore from pests and diseases annually, apart from natural calamities. Till the 1960s, India used only conventional breeding for seeds - but these traditional varieties were insufficient to feed the country, which became totally dependent on food aid from the US. Then came the Green Revolution which harnessed biotechnology. This saved India from starvation and made it a food exporter.

But the limits of the Green Revolution technology have been reached. We now need new kinds of biotechnology, including GM crops. The govern-ment has created the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) to regulate the entry of new GM crops.
Unfortunately, the parliamentary committee's report seems to have been written for them by green activists without reference to scientists or farmers. Instead of hailing GM crops as a huge success, they are being portrayed as dangerous. This demonisation will demoralise top Indian researchers.

Bt cotton, approved by GEAC in 2002, is one of the most successful stories of Indian agriculture after the Green Revolution. Fifty thousand hectares were planted in 2002, and by 2012 this reached 10 million hectares planted by 10 million farmers in nine states. India became the second largest producer of cotton in the world. It was a boon to Indian farmers. Yet, the parliamentary committee has swallowed NGOs' claims that this has been no use at all for farmers.
GM crops of maize, soya, potato, sugar beet, canola, cotton and alfalfa are grown across the world. The US, Brazil, Argentina and China are massive producers. The global GM crops area increased from 4.3 million hectares in 1996 to 148 million hectares by 2010. Not a single case of any danger to human health has been reported, yet green activists keep spreading false stories about health hazards.

Ten industrial nations and 19 developing countries are producing GM crops. Another 30 countries including EU countries - which do not grow GM crops themselves - are importing and consuming GM foods directly and indirectly.

The EU countries that widely oppose GM crops have barely 15 million farmers, and follow double standards. They import huge quantities of cattle feed and beef from GM crop-producing countries including Brazil, so GM crops are very much in the European food chain. Besides, over 20 million European tourists visit the US and Latin America every year and happily consume GM food there with no adverse health effects. Yet, they make a huge noise in their own countries. But today, even the EU has allowed some GM crops: Spain with 76,575 hectares of Bt maize is the leader.

China is growing Bt cotton, tomato, papaya and sweet pepper. In 2007, it gave in principle approval for Bt rice and Bt maize. As of 2010, China was cultivating 3.5 million hectares of Bt crops. All other large nations with big populations have also prioritised GM crop production and marketing because of the economic benefits and food needs of their masses. India must do the same.
The parliamentary committee report has belittled the hard work by various ministries, the Planning Commission, private companies and the agriculture universities that evolved policies and programmes to propel biotech research to help our nation.

Our eminent agriculture scientists such as Gurdev Kush, Ganesh Kishore, C S Prakash, S R Rao, Anand Kumar and Kailash Bansal - along with hundreds of other young and dedicated scientists - have dedicated their lives to this technology.

Bt cotton was approved during the NDA rule. In the past five years, the UPA government has granted Rs 350 crore for biotech research, resulting in over 150 research projects. This has the potential to convert India into the world's largest seed producer. But this has now been dealt a setback by the report.

If we look at future growth, India's population will rise from the present 1.2 billion to 1.8 bilion by 2050. There is already strong competition on farms for food, fuel, feed and fodder. Huge swathes of farmland are being diverted for infrastructure and urbanisation. This will only grow more acute as our population grows.

The solution is to increase per hectare productivity, which includes resistance to pests and diseases. This is possible only with new techno-logies such as GM. We cannot let the report dampen Indian scientific morale; that would have huge adverse effects. We must enable India's 600 million small farmers to compete with farmers in the US, Brazil and China. For that, GM crops are an absolute must.

P Chengal Reddy is secretary general,Consortium of Indian Farmers' Associations.


A (genetically-modified) apple a day....keeps the browning away. So why are growers resisting it?


- Henry I. Miller and Robert Wager, Hoover Inst. Sept, 2012

A Canadian company has petitioned both U.S. and Canadian federal regulatory authorities to permit the marketing of a new apple variety called Arctic Apple that contains a commercially significant, consumer-oriented trait: It is highly resistant to the unappetizing browning that occurs when an apple is cut or bruised. The biology that made this possible is elegant and intriguing, but the public policy toward this innovative product may pose a problem.

Enzymatic browning is caused by the apple's chemical reaction to cell injury, such as when the fruit is bitten or sliced, which ruptures the cells and triggers a chemical reaction between the enzyme polyphenol oxidase (PPO) and chemicals in the apple that cause the apple flesh to turn brown. A family of four genes controls the majority of PPO production, so scientists turned off those genes, and the resulting "Arctic Apple" variety doesn't undergo enzymatic browning

Ordinarily, this development of another new apple variety would be a non-event-except, perhaps, for apple growers and retailers who would relish a new product with additional appeal to consumers-but the seeds of discontent have been sown: Because the shutoff of the four genes was done with recombinant DNA technology (aka "genetic engineering" or "genetic modification" i.e. GM), the proposed commercialization of this new variety has been met with objections and consternation.

Simply because this highly precise and predictable technology was used, some apple growers are worried that this new variety could threaten other apple crops and their incomes.


The Organic Fable


- Roger Cohen NEW YORK TIMES, September 6, 2012

London - At some point - perhaps it was gazing at a Le Pain Quotidien menu offering an "organic baker's basket served with organic butter, organic jam and organic spread" as well as seasonally organic orange juice - I found I just could not stomach the "O" word or what it stood for any longer.

Organic has long since become an ideology, the romantic back-to-nature obsession of an upper middle class able to afford it and oblivious, in their affluent narcissism, to the challenge of feeding a planet whose population will surge to 9 billion before the middle of the century and whose poor will get a lot more nutrients from the two regular carrots they can buy for the price of one organic carrot.

An effective form of premium branding rather than a science, a slogan rather than better nutrition, "organic" has oozed over the menus, markets and malls of the world's upscale neighborhood at a remarkable pace. In 2010, according to the Organic Trade Association, organic food and drink sales totaled $26.7 billion in the United States, or about 4 percent of the overall market, having grown steadily since 2000. The British organic market is also large; menus like to mention that bacon comes from pampered pigs at the Happy Hog farm down the road.


Does organic farming reduce environmental impacts? - A meta-analysis of European research


- H.L. Tuomisto, I.D. Hodge, P. Riordan and D.W. Macdonald JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, vol. 112, pages 309-320

Organic farming practices have been promoted as, inter alia, reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture. This meta-analysis systematically analyses published studies that compare environmental impacts of organic and conventional farming in Europe. The results show that organic farming practices generally have positive impacts on the environment per unit of area, but not necessarily per product unit. Organic farms tend to have higher soil organic matter content and lower nutrient losses (nitrogen leaching, nitrous oxide emissions and ammonia emissions) per unit of field area.

However, ammonia emissions, nitrogen leaching and nitrous oxide emissions per product unit were higher from organic systems. Organic systems had lower energy requirements, but higher land use, eutrophication potential and acidification potential per product unit. The variation within the results across different studies was wide due to differences in the systems compared and research methods used. The only impacts that were found to differ significantly between the systems were soil organic matter content, nitrogen leaching, nitrous oxide emissions per unit of field area, energy use and land use. Most of the studies that compared biodiversity in organic and conventional farming demonstrated lower environmental impacts from organic farming. The key challenges in conventional farming are to improve soil quality (by versatile crop rotations and additions of organic material), recycle nutrients and enhance and protect biodiversity.

In organic farming, the main challenges are to improve the nutrient management and increase yields. In order to reduce the environmental impacts of farming in Europe, research efforts and policies should be targeted to developing farming systems that produce high yields with low negative environmental impacts drawing on techniques from both organic and conventional systems.


Organic farms not necessarily better for environment



Organic farming is generally good for wildlife but does not necessarily have lower overall environmental impacts than conventional farming, a new analysis led by Oxford University scientists has shown.

The researchers analysed data from 71 studies published in peer-reviewed journals that compared organic and conventional farms in Europe.

This literature revealed that whilst organic farming almost always supports more biodiversity and generally has a positive wider environmental impact per unit of land, it does not necessarily have a positive impact per unit of production.

Organic milk, cereals, and pork all generated higher greenhouse gas emissions per unit of product than their conventionally farmed counterparts - although organic beef and olives had lower emissions in most cases. In general organic products required less energy input, but more land than the same quantity of conventional products.

In terms of biodiversity, generally organic farms had 30% higher species richness than conventional farms but a minority of studies (16%) suggested that organic farming could have a negative impact on species richness.


Organic food 'not any healthier'


- BBC News,

Eating organic food will not make you healthier, according to researchers at Stanford University, although it could cut your exposure to pesticides. They looked at more than 200 studies of the content and associated health gains of organic and non-organic foods.

Overall, there was no discernible difference between the nutritional content, although the organic food was 30% less likely to contain pesticides.

Critics say the work is inconclusive and call for more studies. The research, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, looked at 17 studies comparing people who ate organic with those who did not and 223 studies that compared the levels of nutrients, bacteria, fungus or pesticides in various foods - including fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, milk and eggs.

None of the human studies ran for longer than two years, making conclusions about long-term outcomes impossible. And all of the available evidence was relatively weak and highly variable - which the authors say is unsurprising because of all the different variables, like weather and soil type, involved.

Fruit and vegetables contained similar amounts of vitamins, and milk the same amount of protein and fat - although a few studies suggested organic milk contained more omega-3.

Organic foods did contain more nitrogen, but the researchers say this is probably due to differences in fertiliser use and ripeness at harvest and is unlikely to provide any health benefit. Their findings support those of the UK's Food Standards Agency, which commissioned a review a few years ago into organic food claims.

Organic food is produced to standards designed to keep the production more "natural", using environmentally and animal-friendly farming methods
Fewer, if any, chemicals are used and most pesticides are banned or very carefully controlled. Various bodies in the UK, including the Soil Association, certify food and producers as organic

Food certified as organic is not allowed to contain genetically modified ingredients
Prof Alan Dangour, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who carried out that work, said: "Consumers select organic foods for a variety of reasons, however this latest review identifies that at present there are no convincing differences between organic and conventional foods in nutrient content or health benefits. "Hopefully this evidence will be useful to consumers."

Dr Crystal Smith-Spangler, the lead author of the latest review, said there were many reasons why people chose to eat organic, including animal welfare or environmental concerns. "Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious. We were a little surprised that we didn't find that. "There isn't much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you're an adult and making a decision based solely on your health."

But the Soil Association said the study was flawed. "Studies that treat crop trials as if they were clinical trials of medicines, like this one, exaggerate the variation between studies, and drown out the real differences.

"A UK review paper, using the correct statistical analysis, has found that most of the differences in nutrient levels between organic and non-organic fruit and vegetables seen in this US study are actually highly significant."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Evidence has not yet emerged that there are nutritional benefits from eating organically produced foods compared to conventionally produced foods. We will continue to review research on this subject."

The study was funded by Stanford University.

(Thanks to Dr. Vivian Moses for his newsletter as I used his material to develop this newsletter - CSP)