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
ag-biotech.


Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives

Subscribe

 


SEARCH:     

Date:

June 23, 2000

Subject:

Futility of Testing GM Food; GM Crops in China; Biodiversity; Patents

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Don't drop into this hole of stupidity. Not a single Finmark should be
used for this idiotic proposal,the outcome is nil....... We in Austria
have wasted thousands of Schillings to test the difference between
bio-food and conventional food,the outcome was no difference at
all.......It was neither better nor worse.In case you buy sometimes
organic breakfast cereals in open farmer markets,you get the mycotoxins
free house..........Only if you get then green in your face than you can
be sure that you have eaten organic food.....

Sorry to be so sarcastic,but this idiotic movement strikes me since years..

P.Ruckenbauer
Prof.of Plant Breeding and Biotechnology Tulln/Austria
Peter Ruckenbauer, Prof.
email: H330T1@Edv1.boku.ac.at

Tel: ++43 1 47654 - 3301
Fax: ++43 1 47654 - 3342
=========================================================
From: Thomas Bjorkman
Subject: Conventional flies

Realizing that there are some subscribers on the list who are concerned
about accuracy, I need to comment on Andrew Apel's labelling of the great
Naples fly hatch as an organic hazard in a post yesterday. I live within
gossip distance of Naples, so this is a local story.

The facts in the situation are these:

The farmer is not an organic farmer.
The practices used by this farmer in applying raw chicken manure to his
fields are not approved for organic production. Following organic
practices requiring composting the chicken manure would have prevented the
problem.
Composted chicken manure is widely used in this region, mostly by
non-organic farmers.

I have a certain familiarity with organic practices because it is fairly
common in the vegetable industry with which I work. I have felt that I
could be useful to the AgBioView group by providing some accurate
information when other contributors were reaching erroneous conclusions
because they were working with incorrect source information.

However, my main reason for participating has to do with my concern about
the appropriate implementation of genetically engineered crops. It
concerns me when good uses are eliminated for irrelevant reasons, and it
bothers me also when real concerns are blithely dismissed. But I am
personally offended by actions like Apel's, recklessly and needlessly
making enemies, and providing powerful ammunition to those who say that
supporters of GM have no regard for the truth. Please, making stuff up is
NOT helpful.

My institution was recently called "The greatest threat to the environment
of the Finger Lakes" in local media because of our work on engineering
crops for pest resistance. In fact, the work being done here will
dramatically help the environment of the Finger Lakes. It is very
difficult to set the record straight and to defend ourselves against false
accusations like this when our credibility gets cut by declarations like
Apel's. In fact, I have already had this particular one waved in my face.

You owe it to you colleagues to maintain the same standards in this debate
as you do in your scientific work. Don't decend to the standards of "the
opposition."


Dr. Thomas Björkman Assoc. Professor of Vegetable Physiology Department of
Horticultural Sciences NYSAES Cornell University
===============================================

From: Jim Mullen Subject: biodiversity

For thimmaiah sudhir,

Concerning biodiversity. Why do you consider gene technology as destroying
biodiversity? In my mind it is creating more biodiversity. At least if you
believe these arguments concerning superbugs and superweeds to be true
than it is in effect creating a new biodiversity. Our planet as had huge
biodiversities lost through natural selection throughout evolution. Just
because it isn't the biodiversity you are familiar with, doesn't mean it
isn't biodiversity. I'm certain that if you and I were set down in the
Cretaceous Period, the unfamiliar biodiversity would not be very welcome
to our survival. But I digress, I do not believe at all in the proposition
of superweeds and superbugs being created through gene technology. But
still, I perceive gene technology as enhancing our present biodiversity,
so please read on.

I suggest you do some reading on the invasiveness of 'natural' species to
areas where they did not evolve, sometimes called exotic species. There is
a real problem occurring here. The examples of invasion of environments is
well documented in several countries.
=================================================

From: Calestous_Juma/FS/KSG%KSG@harvard.edu Subject: See this on
insurance?

<http://www.swissre.com/e/publications/publications/flyers1/genetic.html>

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

From: willy.degreef@seeds.Novartis.com
Subject: Re: angela ryan contact

Dear Tony,

There is a place where scientists with different views meet over biosafety
research on GM crops. It is the biannual series of plant biotechnology
seminars, the next one of which will be in Saskatoon, mid July of this
year. The problem we have faced at previous meetings like this is that
quite a few "independent" scientists are not really interested in
subjecting their views to the mainstream scientific community in these
meetings.

Best regards,

Willy De Greef
=====================

from: Andrew Apel Subject: Re: angela ryan
contact

These butterfly studies are all deeply flawed for lack of a proper
control, which would involve spraying them with pesticides. The real, and
only valid comparison to be made is between Bt and chemical sprays, since
one is said to be an alternative for the other.

Studying the difference between the presence and the absence of Bt amounts
to an attempt to show that Bt is "safe for non-target species," which
looks suspiciously like trying to prove that something is completely safe.
Well, nothing is completely safe; some things are just safer than others.

Besides, what is so special about Bt that we have to study it to death to
see if it kills butterfly larvae? Why aren't folks subjecting chemical
pesticides to the same scrutiny and making the same demands of them?

Bt is either better for the environment than chemical sprays, or it isn't.
It is either safer for non-target species, or it isn't. If scientists are
going to put hundreds of thousands of dollars into researching the effects
of Bt, they ought to be trying to answer the relevant questions using
relevant controls.
======================================================

From: Jeanmarie Verchot
Subject: Re: Is research a global public good?

This writing suggests that all ag biotech will be patented and never
released into the public domain. That is not true. There are projects that
are being conducted primarily between European labs and their
African/Asian collaborators to make transgenic plants that are disease
resistant. Crops such as cassava and, banana, are not highly marketable
worldwide but are major crops in these countries. These crops are not very
important to companies like Monsanto and transgenic varieties are more
likely to be freely distributed by the research institutes preparing them
than by major corporations. There was an article in the British newspapers
last year about a rice project between labs in England and the ivory coast
that discussed the benefits of transgenic technology for agriculture in
developing countries.

Now as you most likely know the seed for major crops in the US are
distributed to farmers in different ways. For example wheat varieties are
developed and more likely to be released from academic labs into the
public domain and less is bought from major companies. Vegetable crops and
legumes are different. So in many cases it is likely that universities
will own the patents on some technologies and may not sell them to major
companies. Working in an ag. experiment station it may be more beneficial
to a researcher to release transgenic seeds to farmers than to a major
company. This fits better with their mission. This is an issue that
university administrations may need to address in the future. Not all
transgenic seed produced, necessarily has to be released by a company.
Universities have the same capabilities. In fact in many commodities,
farmers are used to obtaining new varieties that are released freely by
universities. These commodities pay grant money for research to develop
these varieties and they drive the market.

So this leads to two important points. First, in light of the protest and
the required government regulation of transgenic seed, are universities
going to have to change and develop the means to meet new regulatory
standards before releasing transgenic seeds to the public? The protests
suggesting that ag biotech companies may be releasing hazardous seeds may
be more damaging to university and extension workers if protestors
recognize that there is a lack of accountability for universities than for
corporations. So if we need to establish extensive regulations to prove no
environmental damage, and no toxicity for seeds released by Monsanto then
will university researchers dealing with commodities commissions also be
required to provide these same standards? OR because of who we are not
(corporate America), are we therefore exempt from such scrutiny. Or in
light of the potential beaurocracy that universities may face, is
transgenic seed more likely to get into the public domain and get to the
people who need it if we leave it up to corporations. In some crops the
answer may be yes. In other crops it may be no.

Second, with these changes in agriculture that will be continuing at great
speed in the future, is there likely to be a greater need for university
extension programs to change to meet technology based agriculture.
Extension workers now deal with IPM strategies and precision farming. Do
we now need to have extension adopt biotech initiatives as well? There was
an article yesterday on this website about volunteer canola that was
resistant to most herbicides and that it was difficult to clear the
fields. Someone responded about practicing good agriculture and these
things can be avoided. This suggested to me that farming practices may
need to change a little (not drastically) to manage GM crops. Do we need
to make changes in the extension systems so that universities can provide
information directly to farmers about how to best handle modified crops?

Jeanmarie Verchot

>Is research a global public good?
>Per Pinstrup-Andersen
>Research, and in particular biological research, today is very likely to
be patented and thus may not benefit the poor in the developing countries.
It is no longer a public good. This conflicts with the
==========================================================
From: "Andrew D. Powell" RE>: GM Crops In China

John Mottley et al:

I run a small bio-business consulting group based in Singapore with
activities throughout east Asia. We are currently preparing a status
report on "GM Crops in China 2000" in collaboration with Beijing Orient
Agribusiness Consultants.

The report will include sections on Seed Industry. Plant variety
protection etc. Research and Development in GMOs in China.- . Research
trends, targets, varieties, crop areas, future developments etc. Crops
reviewed will include oil seeds, corn, wheat, vegetables, cotton,tobacco
ornamentals etc. Biosafety regulations, regulatory structure. Implications
of the development of the GMO industry- International trade, the
agricultural sector in China. Attitudes to GMOs. etc
For more details please email me direct at adpowell@pacific.net.sg

BUT to your questions.....

China has commercialized cotton, tomato, tobacco, and there are reports of
cucumber, a type of green pepper and morning glory as well.

Cotton probably has been the most successful GM crop and certainly the one
with most profile.

There are three growing areas for cotton in the country, the Yellow River
Basin, the Yangtse River area and Xinjiang in the very far west. Bt cotton
has been well accepted in the Yellow River area. More than 80% of the
cotton area in Hebei Province is under Bt. In Hebei farmers have embraced
the technology which was introduced about 3-years ago. In the early to
mid-nineties crops were decimated as a consequence of resistance to the
pyrethroid pesticides which had been seriously over-used. Around 250,00
hectares was probably under Bt cotton last year in Hebei out of a total of
just over 300,000. More land was put to cotton than the government quota-
farmers simply wanted to grow it. At the last count 10 Bt varieties were
in the market place. These have been developed by Chinese seed companies
and research establishments (especially the Cotton research institute in
Anyang) as well as by the the Monsanto jv with DPL and a Singapore group.
There is considerable home grown expertise in transgenics in China (the
activists who say that Western technology is being forced upon the
developing world insult the indigenous capabilities of the researchers in
Asia as a whole- they have the expertise to develop their own technology,
thank you very much!)

Cost wise the Bt seeds are 42 RMB per kg from Monsanto jv. Local companies
I met last year were similarly priced but they suggested that their price
for this year would be 20 RMB. There is little argument that the seed from
Monsanto jv is of better quality i.e. germinability, vigour and purity but
the local varieties are improving. Saved seed is a major issue for all
companies.

Even with the higher costs of seed the farmers make more money from their
very small (in most case) plots. Xinjiang is the exception with huge farms
run by the state and the Red Army.
On a per hectare rate they made in 1998 approx 2-3 time more money with Bt
varieties compared to non-Bt. This arose from increase in yield (30-40%)
and a reduction in costs associated with reduced pesticide applications.

Bt cotton use is spreading throughout the Yellow River area and is now in
Anhui and Henan. It is likely to spread further in the Yangtse but
unlikely to move to the major growing area of Xinjiang as bollworm is not
a problem there. Fungal diseases in the Yellow and Yangtse river areas are
now a major focus of the researchers- Fusarium and Verticilium are
particular problems. Red spider and aphids also cause major losses. In
Xinjiang better drought tolerance is a major goal.

Pesticide usage is down in the Bt growing areas with spraying now mainly
targeted at the fungal diseases and aphids. Some of the health problems-
skin lesions etc. can be pretty horrific so any reduction in usage is a
plus.

The Chinese government is putting into place regulations for the trial and
commercialization of GM crops. These are likely to pragmatic rather than
paranoid but there is potential for the establishment of rules and regs
that may represent non-tariff-trade barriers (more stringent trials and
testing for foreign germplasm for example).

The Chinese are actively pursuing GM maize, wheat, canola, as well as
about another 7 vegetable and fruits. My feeling is that the rest of the
world should be paying more attention to developments in China. The
implications for those countries that sell major amounts of commodities
into China are significant if China enhances their yields for these crops
as effectively for cotton. China joining the WTO will, however, cause
heavy pressure on the ag sector in China and just how competitive these
crops in China will be in a global market place post 2005 remains to be
seen. ( Projections from FAO for the cotton industry post WTO are hardly
bullish).

Best wishes to the group.

Regards

Andrew

Andrew D. Powell, B.Sc. (Edinburgh), Ph.D. (Seed Physiology, Calgary) ARB
Consultants
21 Nathan Rd.
#03-07
Singapore 248743

Phone: (65) 737-2151
Fax: (65) 735-2119
Email: adpowell@pacific.net.sg
==================================
Subj: Northern Light.com's new GM website
From:"Clothier, Jeffrey"

All,

Northern Light Technologies, an online search and indexing concern, has
launched a website on the GM debate which has received a lot of publicity
(Reference: PRNewswire story at
< http://library.northernlight.com/FB20000619810000174.html
<http://library.northernlight.com/FB20000619810000174.html> >. One might
suppose that what is essentially a reference site would be fairly
objective in its approach, however, a quick glance at the site's homepage
< http://special.northernlight.com/gmfoods/#over
<http://special.northernlight.com/gmfoods/#over> > shows a clear anti-GM
bias in my opinion. Northern Light's location, Cambridge, Mass., might
give some clue as to the origin of the bias, but that's neither here nor
there. I invite others to judge for themselves, and to suggest ways to
encourage the owners of the site to adopt a balanced approach.

Jeff Clothier
Web Coordinator
Corporate Communications
Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.
Des Moines, IA 50306

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

MONSANTO OFFERS REFUND TO SOUTHERN COTTON GROWERS DEVASTATED BY DROUGHT
CONDITIONS June 21, 2000
From a press release
ST. LOUIS -- In response to serious drought conditions, Monsanto Company
today announced it would offer a refund to cotton growers in Alabama,
Georgia, Florida and South Carolina devastated by this year’s drought.
Monsanto will extend the crop-loss deadline on its Bollgard
insect-protected and Roundup Ready herbicide-tolerant cotton to July 15,
or 60 days from planting—whichever is later—offering refunds of the
standard technology fee to growers whose cotton was destroyed in that time
by extreme drought conditions in these areas.

By extending the deadline through mid-July, approximately 50 percent of
cotton acres in these states that otherwise would not have been eligible
for technology-fee refunds because of the date the seed was planted, now
would be eligible for the full refund if the drought destroys the 2000
crop. "Monsanto made this policy change because cotton growers are
important to us," said Carl Casale, Monsanto’s vice president for North
American agriculture markets. "The severity of this year’s drought is well
known, especially in the farm community. We recognize that this drought
has hit growers hard economically and that we had an opportunity to make
our customers’ lives a bit easier in this time of need." Monsanto’s
announcement is an extension of its existing crop-loss policy, whereby, if
growers’ crops are destroyed for any reason within 60 days of planting,
Monsanto issues a full refund of the technology fee for the seed used to
plant lost crop acres.

"With all other tools the farmer uses to grow his crop, he has to absorb
100 percent of the cost if the crop fails," Casale said. "In this case,
the grower doesn’t get the benefits of using our technology, so we aren’t
going to charge him for something he doesn’t receive the benefits of
using." Cotton growers in Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina who
are interested in applying for the full technology-fee refund should
contact their local Monsanto sales representative, agricultural chemical
or seed dealer, or call 1-800-Roundup for more information.

Monsanto introduced cotton developed through biotechnology in 1996, and
Monsanto varieties of Bollgard and Roundup Ready cotton were planted on
more than half of the U.S. cotton acres in 1999. In just four years since
introduction, new Monsanto cotton varieties have saved more than 1 million
gallons of pesticide from being sprayed, saved growers millions of dollars
in inputs and helped promote the adoption of more sustainable farming
practices. www.monsanto.com
=======================================