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:

October 30, 2000

Subject:

Misguided Western Activism; Managing Bt in Developoing

 

WHEN WESTERN ACTIVISM IS MISGUIDED

P. Chengal Reddy
October 31, 2000

There is nothing so admirable as an energized and active youth involved in
the issues of their day. But from the perspective of a developing country
that desperately seeks to benefit from advances in biotechnology, today’s
young Western activists are a cause for concern.

Certain well-known activist organizations in developed countries have been
attacking the general concept of agricultural biotechnology – perhaps as
the result of living in an affluent society, where choices abound and
hunger and malnutrition are far removed from daily existence. These
organizations and their leaders do so, however, with glaring disregard for
the needs of the developing world. I would like to put forth some hard
facts about Asia’s poor and their problems and ask that that activists
look at the issues of environment protection and biotechnology from a
different angle.

In poor countries people eat only about 30 percent of what is consumed in
the West. In Europe and the USA, per capita consumption of meat is 70
kilos and 200 eggs per year, whereas an Indian consumes 1700 grams of meat
and 28 eggs per year. India has 350 million people below the poverty line,
and many earn less than one dollar per a day.

Seventy percent of the agricultural lands in India are dependent on
monsoons for water. Every year we loose billions of dollars worth of crops
because of drought, floods, pests and diseases. Millions of hectares
cannot be cultivated due to high-salinity. Our productivity levels in most
of crops is less than 50 percent of what is produced in the West.

In India, about 700 million people are dependent on agriculture. Over 500
million are small and marginal farmers with holdings of less than one
hectare. These farmers do not have access to credit facilities, extension
services or quality inputs of seed, fertilizer or pesticides and have no
irrigation facility for their land. The electricity supply is irregular
and very costly. Farmers are forced to spend billions of rupees on crop
protection management. The net result is that farmers are in permanent
indebtedness. Neither God nor the Government is helping them. Every year,
thousands of farmers commit suicide.

Indian agricultural lands are highly divergent in nature. Thousands of
Indian villages are situated on high-salinity, rocky or rainfed lands that
are not suitable for regular cultivation. In the past 50 years the Indian
government has been unable to find any solutions to these problems.

Biotechnology has great potential to help solve the problems of
malnutrition, drought, floods, pest control, salinity, etc. that affect
poor nations. Furthermore, biotechnology has the capability to convert a
simple carbohydrate rice into a value-added variety containing vitamins
and proteins. Yet even as biotechnology offers the possibility of
developing drought-resistant, flood-resistant, pest-resistant and
salinity-resistant seeds, the question remains: will environmentalists
allow us to utilize this technology for agricultural development?

Biotechnology is frontier research, and requires huge investment, hundreds
of scientists and many years to develop and test new seed varieties.
Already, our farmers personally benefit from genetically modified tomato
seeds. They are now producing 15-20 tonnes of tomatoes, against 3-5 tonnes
produced by local varieties. The preservation quality is excellent and we
have had no complaints about any environmental effects from our neighbors,
nor from consumers.

Between 1995 and 2000, thousands of cotton producers in India committed
suicide because of cotton crop failures due to boll-worm. We have heard
and read that BollGard seed produced by Monsanto has helped million of
farmers in the USA, Canada, Brazil, Mexico and especially China to assure
their cotton crop, by using boll-worm resistant seeds. We read that
farmers’ use of pesticides was reduced and that they produced more and
earned a higher income from their cotton crop. Understandably, Indian
farmers who want to produce more want to be able to choose improved seeds
like these over poorer-quality, local varieties. Yet environmentalists
seem to want Indian farmers to do just the opposite, regardless of the
obvious benefits to our livelihoods and well-being.

Americans have been consuming foods produced through biotechnology for the
last 4-5 years. Yet how many farmers have filed complaints of environment
pollution? How many consumers have filed cases of side effects from eating
biotech food?

We are saddened that environmentalists in the USA do not appreciate the
difficulties faced by poor people in developing nations. The young,
idealistic activists of today seem so much at odds with previous
generations, who were primarily motivated to serve and help the poor, and
who came and worked in our villages as service-oriented young Americans
did in the 1960s during John F. Kennedy’s time. Thousands of our farmers
fondly remember the wonderful advice and guidance provided by Peace Cops
volunteers in crop management, animal husbandry, education, hygiene and
sanitation.

If activists are sincere about helping the poor in India or in any
developing nations, they should help farmers adopt the latest agricultural
technologies, information technologies and modern management practices to
increase productivity levels, market produce profitably and provide skills
to farmers’ organizations and leaders so that they can articulate and
address problems by themselves.

It is the very height of callous disregard to deny modern agricultural
technologies to the world’s most needy, simply at the urging of misguided
youth. Rather, the West should permit farmers to test new scientific
innovations and allow them to make their own decision whether to reject or
adopt those innovations. Leave the choice of selecting modern agricultural
technologies to the wisdom of Indian farmers.

Mr. P. Chengal Reddy is President of the Federation of Farmers
Associations, Andhra Pradesh, India. He can be reached via e-mail at
indian_farmers_federation@yahoo.com.
==========================================

From: "Cohen, Mike"
Resistance management for Bt crops in developing countries

Transgenic crop varieties with toxin genes from Bacillus thuringiensis
(Bt) can be a valuable component of integrated pest management, but these
varieties must be carefully designed and deployed so as to delay the
increase of toxin resistance in pest populations. The "high dose/refuge"
resistant management strategy for Bt crops is being enforced in the USA,
Canada, and Australia. Under this strategy, farmers who grow a Bt crop
must also maintain a refuge consisting of non-Bt varieties of the same
crop.

The question is often raised as to how to implement the high dose/refuge
strategy in developing countries, where there are many millions of small
farmers and where governments have a limited capacity to influence farmer
practices. In a new review, "Bt rice: practical steps to sustainable use",
Fred Gould, J.S. Bentur and I make four recommendations about the design
and deployment of Bt rice varieties in developing countries. The review,
published in International Rice Research Notes, is available online at
http://www.cgiar.org/irri/irrn25-2.htm. We recommend four actions that
seed suppliers and governments can take to implement a functional high
dose/refuge strategy in developing countries. The recommended actions
(appended below) do not require the active cooperation of farmers.

We hope that our review will stimulate discussion on the problem of
implementing resistance management for Bt crops in developing countries,
and that this discussion will lead to a widely accepted set of
recommendations for seed suppliers and governments.

Michael Cohen
Entomology and Plant Pathology Division International Rice Research
Institute Philippines m.cohen@cgiar.org
----------------------------
Excerpt from "Summary and recommendations"

Four practical recommendations for promoting the sustainable use of Bt
rice can be made, on the basis of our specific knowledge of the biology of
rice stem borers and the principles of resistance management:

1. Do not release Bt varieties that do not have a high dose of toxin.
Toxin titers of 2 ug/g of leaf fresh weight or 0.2% of soluble leaf
protein are attainable in rice, and have been shown to act as high doses
against most pests in other crops.

2. Release only Bt cultivars that have two Bt toxin genes. The genes
should not be closely related to each other, and both should be expressed
at a high dose. Two-toxin cultivars require smaller refuges to achieve
successful resistance management.

3. Do not release Bt-transformed versions of all popular rice varieties.
Some popular non-Bt varieties should remain available, to improve the
chances that some non-Bt rice fields (refuges) will exist in all villages.
Sufficient seed supplies of the non-Bt varieties should be maintained.

4. Implement a resistance monitoring program. Several methodologies can be
used to monitor pest populations for the evolution of resistance to Bt
cultivars. The use of "sentinel plots," in which insect damage is
monitored in unsprayed fields of Bt cultivars, is perhaps the most
practical for rice-growing areas. Resistance monitoring programs can serve
as an early warning system for governments and farmers, and provide
valuable information for improved deployment of future pest-resistant
cultivars.
=============================

From: Phil Larkin Subject: trans-species organisms

Another example regarding Drew Kershen request for information on
trans-species organisms.

Triticum agropyrotriticum is a new man-made "species" which is a partial
amphiploid between wheat (Triticum aestivum) and a grass sometimes called
quackgrass or couchgrass, which is Thinopyrum (or Agropyron) intermedium.
This new octoploid species has all the chromosomes of wheat (genomes A, B
and D) and one extra synthetic genome from the quackgrass (composed of
genomes J, Js and S). These plants have 56 chromosomes, are self-fertile
and are grown in a few places around the world for both forage and grain.
They have been independently produced in the former Soviet Union, Canada,
USA, France, Germany and China. Every time a new one is created it can
have a different combination of J, Js and S chromosomes in the fourth
genome of the new plant. Nevertheless these plants are remarkable stable
cytogenetically and quite self-fertile. Indeed there is renewed interest
in these plants because of their prospects as a perennial "wheat" which
has a dual purpose as a forage. In drylands this may be particularly
advantageous for agricultural sustainability.

Some references are

Tsitsin NV (1965) "Remote hybridisation as a method of creating new
species and varieties of plants" Euphytica 14:326-330. Fatih (1983)
Analysis of the breeding potential of wheat-Agropyron and wheat-Elymus
derivatives. Hereditas 98: 287-295. Sinigovets ME (1987) Cytogenetic
structure of 56-chromosome wheat-couchgrass (Triticum aestivum x Elytrigia
intermedia) hybrids. Genetika 23: 854-862. Banks PM et al (1993) Varying
chromosome composition of 56 chromosome wheat x Thinopyrum intermedium
partial amphiploids. Genome 36: 207-215.

Phil Larkin
=============================

International Agricultural Trade Summit: Borlaug -- New Ag technology key
to meeting future food needs

October 31, 2000 COLLEGE STATION

New technological advances in agriculture, including biotechnological
advances, are vital to providing a safe, affordable and plentiful food
supply to meet future demands of the world population, according to a
noted international researcher.

Dr. Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for developing
broadly adapted high-yielding rust resistant wheat varieties and
integrated improved crop management practices that helped feed the hungry
in Third World countries, has been invited to discuss the implications of
these advancements and what future outcome they may have at the upcoming
International Agricultural Trade Summit.

The two-day event is scheduled for Nov. 14-15 at the Hyatt Regency
International in Houston.

"When I was born, nearly 85 years ago, the world population was 1.6
billion people," Borlaug said. "We are now at 6 billion people and adding
80 million more people to the world population every year.

"We must have new technology, including biotechnology, if we are going to
be able to meet the demands for food on a sustainable basis without
destroying the environment. We used to think about hybrid corn here in the
United States as making fantastic progress. And it did, but not compared
to what has happened in the adoption of this new biotechnology (gene
splicing, recombinant DNA, genetic engineering) by farmers." The
international summit will allow producers and agribusinesses to receive a
first-hand look at important issues affecting today's trade of foods and
other agricultural goods. The summit will cater to farmers, ranchers,
agribusinesses, retailers, consumers, government and natural resource
leaders who have a particular stake in the international trade of Texas
agricultural products and commodities.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady has been invited to join Borlaug as the featured
speakers during the evening of Nov. 15. Other speakers throughout the
two-day summit include Susan Combs, Texas Agriculture Commissioner, who
will discuss Texas' role in international agriculture; Gustavo Machin,
First Secretary-Cuban Interest Section of the Swiss Embassy, who will
highlight Cuba's trade and investment priorities; Gus Schumacher, U.S.
under secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, who will lead
discussion about the United States' World Trade Organization priorities;
and Jean-Francois Boittin, economic counselor, Embassy of France, who will
discuss European Union World Trade Organization priorities.

Pat Helton, director of the Texas Tech International Trade Center, will
discuss roles of small business development centers and trade centers; and
Israel Gutierrez, Secretary of Commerce for Mexico, will discuss Mexico's
new administration, trade and investment opportunities. Tim Daughtery,
Farmland Industries' Manager of North American Grain, will highlight
changes in grain marketing and buyer specifications throughout the world.
Robin Tillsworth-Rude, former U.S. Agricultural Counselor to Indonesia,
has been invited to discuss infrastructure and investment in Asia.

According to Borlaug, individuals need to receive a better understanding
of what implications both biotechnology and genetic engineering will mean
for the world's food supply in the future.

"Currently, the general public fails to understand that biotechnology,
including gene splicing, recombinant DNA and genetic engineering, are
newer and vastly more precise tools - part of a continuum - to further
improve our crops and animals beyond the levels that have been achieved
with the traditional genetics in plant or animal breeding," Borlaug said.

These advances will lead to successful production of the quantity of food
that will be needed for the next 25 years, Borlaug said. It could even
lead to sparing or saving vast areas of land for forestry and wildlife
habitat, he notes.

"But only if this new technology is allowed to advance." Summit sponsors
include the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Texas Rice Council, Texas
Wheat Producers Board, Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Grain Sorghum Producers,
Texas Agricultural Market Research Center and the International
Agribusiness Marketing Program.

General registration for the conference is $150, while student
registration is $75. Late registration after Oct. 23 is $175. It will cost
$65 to attend the Tuesday reception and dinner only.

For hotel reservations, contact the Hyatt Regency Houston Airport Hotel at
(281) 987-1234 or on the Web at
http://www.hyatt.com/usa/houston/hotels/hotelhuap.html.

((M2 Communications Ltd disclaims all liability for information provided
within M2 PressWIRE. Data supplied by named party/parties. Further
information on M2 PressWIRE can be obtained at http://www.presswire.net on
the world wide web. Inquiries to info@m2.com)).
==========================

From: "ceri"
Subject: Conference Invite

WORLDwrite, Millfields lodge, Millfields Road, London E5 OAR Tel/fax (00
44) 020 8985 5435 Email: worldwrite@easynet.co.uk Website: www.
worldwrite.org.uk Registered Charity No. 1060869

Dear friends

I am writing to inform you of a conference you may wish to participate,
being hosted by WORLDwrite. This is a follow on from the highly successful
‘Development in Danger’ and Institute of Ideas satellite conference that
we held earlier this year. We do hope that you may be able to attend and
participate in the event which will take place on Thursday 7 December
between 9.30am – 4.00pm at: Library Hall, Islington Central Library
(London)

The conference will provide a forum to consider key international
concerns. The day will consist of three round table discussions. The first
will look at ways forward for poverty reduction, the second will be a
student panel discussion on voluntary work and the third considers
environmentalism and the developing world. I have attached a copy of the
conference agenda as well as pasting it at the bottom of this document.
Please do forward these conference details to friends, colleagues and
organisations who may be interested. Please phone our national centre on
020 89895 5435 or email worldwrite@easynet.co.uk if you would like any
further information. I do hope you will be able to attend.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Best wishes.
Sam Powell & Ceri Dingle
-------
WORLDwrite Conference : Beyond Poverty: Developing our World Thursday 7th
December 9.30am – 4.00pm Library Hall, Islington Central Library 2
Fieldway Crescent, off Holloway Road, London N5 1PF (Nearest Tubes:
Holloway Road or Highbury & Islington)

John Pender – Writer and researcher on development policy issues and
author of ‘From Economic Growth to Poverty Reduction’. John will discuss
the transformation of the World Bank’s approach to development.

Emmanuel Ajei Domson – Outgoing President of the National Union of
Ghanaian Students. Domson will provide a first hand account of student
action in opposition to cuts in higher education in Ghana. He will also
discuss the current international focus on the provision of basic
education and its implications for higher education.

James Heartfield – Author and researcher, recent publications include ‘The
Politics of Food: Two Cheers for Agribusiness’ and ‘Great Expectations:
The Creative Industries in the New Economy’. James will discuss whether
agribusiness is a problem or a solution for the developing world.

Kirk Leech - Assistant Director of WORLDwrite Kirk will provide an
eyewitness account of the problems caused for local people by the creation
of a nature sanctuary in the Namarda Valley, India.

Sam Powell – Development studies post-graduate. Sam will speak on the
conflict between conservation and development in East Africa.

Philip Stott – Professor of Biogeography in the University of London,
regular newspaper columnist and broadcaster, and an author of the recently
published book ‘Political Ecology: Science, Myth and Power’. Philip will
discuss ways in which ‘environmentalism’ in rich countries of the North
may hinder development in poorer countries of the South, focussing on
tropical rainforests, climate change, biotechnology and organic farming.
Ceri Dingle & Anabelle Lylles will outline the planned Ghana exchange
visit in August 2001, which will investigate education and poverty
reduction programmes. Places are available for students aged 16 and over
on this exchange.

Tickets cost £2 students & concessions, £5 waged. Advance booking is
advisable. Please send payments (make cheques payable to WORLDwrite) to
the WORLDwrite centre, Millfields Lodge, Millfields Road, London E5 OAR.
For further details please phone WORLDwrite on 020 8985 5435 or email
worldwrite@easynet.co.uk
=================

From: "Geoffrey Wollaston"
Subject: GM in the UK.

What a wonderful feast of positive information your site has provided over
the past few months, and thank you for your great contribution in
providing the means of sharing the knowledge of those involved in and
supporting GM in all its aspects.

However, you may be interested that to know that The Daily Telegraph,which
calls itself the UK's Biggest Selling Quality Newspaper, has sought fit to
publish the following little letter. "Sir, Isn't it reassuring to know
that those civil servants and politicians who aren't guilty and won't be
prosecuted over the BSE scandal are the same ones who are reassuring us
that genetic engineering is safe.L.Charlton, Lutterworth,Leics."

What hope is there of turning round public opinion in the face of such
abysmal ignorance and inaccuracy. The media, however grand a position they
like to award themselves, take every opportunity to support the opponents
of GM by innuendo of this nature.

G.Wollaston.
===========================
New Conference: Global Agriculture 2020: which way forward?

18-20 April 2001, John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK. An international
conference to evaluate current and projected demands on global
agriculture, and to identify opportunities and priorities in biosciences
research strategy to assist agricultural development.

Global Agriculture 2020: which way forward? will create a forum for
dialogue and recommendations on research priorities and development
strategies. The conference will address opportunities to be derived from
plant sciences research, and the subsequent application and
commercialisation. It will include discussion of the development of
policies to maximize agriculture's contribution to global food security,
industry and economic development. Formal presentations will be balanced
by panel-led audience discussion.

For further information and registration visit
http://www.jic.bbsrc.ac.uk/events/agric2020 or if you have difficulties
with this web site email Dr Clare Robinson clare.robinson@bbsrc.ac.uk