FOOD EXPERTS: BRING TO PUBLIC ATTENTION BIOTECH'S BENEFITS
must do more to explain and bring to the attention of the public
the benefits of food derived from biotechnology, says a panel of
during a forum on "Transatlantic Affairs and Global Nutrition" held
early this month at Johns Hopkins University, Per Pinstrup-Andersen,
senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research
Institute (IFPRI) said public discussion on the safety of biotech
foods has been dominated by multinational nongovernmental organizations
that focus only on "unknown risks" of the technology and
downplaying the potential benefits. The opponents "are blocking
technologies that can benefit the poor people", he said.
proponents, including scientists, should continue to bring to the
attention of the media the fact that biotech foods have been proven
as safe as non-biotech foods, stressed Isi Siddiqui, vice president
of biotechnology and trade for CropLife America. Acceptance of biotechnology
in developing countries will surely increase as they learn more about
the benefits from credible sources, said Siddiqui.
Aaron, a senior international advisor of the law firm Dorsey and
Whitney, noted that European's distrust on biotech foods are based
more on distrust to food safety regulators than on science. The panelist
urged a "harmonized" US-EU food regulatory process based
information visit http://usinfo.state.gov/products/washfile/homepage.shtml#latest
RESOLUTION FAVORS BIOTECHNOLOGY
Parliament adopted what it described as "a very biotechnology-friendly" resolution
based on the European Commission's (EC) communication 'Life Sciences
and Biotechnology: A Strategy for Europe', and further calls on the
Commission to launch a "bEurope" policy in the field of
resolution emphasizes the need for a knowledge-based, predictable
and ethical framework for biotechnology companies and farmers, in
order to secure consumer safety and competitiveness and prevent both
a "brain drain" in this field and future dependency on
the import of biotech products.
also strongly supports an end to the existing de-facto moratorium
on genetically-modified foods in force since 1998, in order to promote
innovation. The Parliament states that biotechnology alone will not
help to overcome hunger in the world but stresses that it might also
be necessary to use GM crops to produce enough food.
information, visit http://dbs.cordis.lu/
FOR STRONG BIOTECH
States of the European Union will decide on pursuing biotechnology
as a central part of Europe's competitiveness strategy. "This
is a welcome signal. Building a knowledge-based economy with biotechnology
as a key area is crucial to Europe's future economic growth and quality
of life," says Feike Sijbesma, Chairman of EuropaBio, the European
Association of Bioindustries.
noted there is strong competition in biotechnology from the US and
that it is creating more biotechnology products and services than
Europe. "For many years, Europe has been the world's life science
leader. Biotechnology provides the power to reaffirm this role and
to spearhead economic recovery in the EU. Action is needed now," says
Schepens, Secretary General of EuropaBio.
scenario in Europe is being affected by a de facto moratorium on
research and development of biotechnology derived plants including
a biotech patent directive which is unimplemented in 9 out of the
15 Member States. This situation has resulted in investors fleeing
to regions where biotech is encouraged.
Secretary General of EuropaBio adds that a lack of policy measures
to encourage investors and companies into biotechnology, as well
as a non implemented EU patent system and a stalled regulatory process
for GM products have contributed to a drain from Europe of researchers,
investors and companies to biotechnology. "Europe has the means
to reverse these trends" says Hugo Schepens. "But it will
require more political leadership and consistency and a greater sense
of urgency than we have seen so far."
developments, EuropaBio said that the European Parliament recommended
an end to the four year de facto moratorium on genetically modified
organisms."Such a move would allow the sale of new plant varieties
developed through biotechnology specifically for European farmers
to be offered to the market, " said Simon Barber, Director of
the Plant Biotechnology Unit of EuropaBio.
details on EuropaBio's pronouncements, visit http://www.europabio.org/pages/index.asp
COMPLACENCY CAUSES FOOD CHAOS IN AFRICA,
SAYS TRADE COUNCIL
Confusion and uncertainty about biotech regulations in Europe and beyond threatens
the lives of desperately poor farmers in southern Africa, warns the International
Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council. The international council is "dedicated
to developing and advocating policies that support an efficient and open global
food and agricultural system."
Council said that despite reassurances by the European Union, the
US government, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization,
leaders of African countries facing starvation rejected shipments
of genetically modified corn offered through food relief programs.
African leaders fear that allowing biotech products into their countries
will make their exports unacceptable to world markets.
Mhlanga, former general manager of Zimbabwe's Agricultural and Rural
Development Authority says that biotechnology offers great promise
for African farmers, but a complex and confusing array of regulations
makes African farmers wary of using it. "Farmers in poor countries
do not have the production, storage or transportation systems to
meet impractical, dissimilar and changeable global regulations. If
regulations are not more practical, more consistent, and more constant,
poor farmers will find it too costly to adopt biotechnology they
need to increase their food production."
suggests ways for poor farmers to have the technology they need while
consumers can have the choice they want. He says:
labeling regulations should be based on detectability, not production
labeling thresholds should not be set at arbitrary levels; they
must reflect the realities of the global grain trade;
thresholds need to accommodate the unintentional co-mingling of
thresholds should be internationally harmonized;
should create a "mutual recognition" system to facilitate
trade when approvals in one country lag those in another;
labeling should allow food companies to label foods that do not
contain biotech products, for those consumers who wish to avoid
them, rather than require labels on all foods that do contain biotech
organizations should help developing countries create the capacity
to evaluate and develop biotech crops; and
agencies should evaluate the potential risks and benefits of adopting
new technologies - as well as the risks and benefits of not adopting
the Trade Council at http://www.agritrade.org/New%20Home%20Page.htm
MODERNIZE FARMING SECTOR, SAYS FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE
is no other alternative than to modernize agriculture with the application
of scientific and technological innovations to support more than
a billion people solely dependent on agriculture", says former
chief justice A. Laxamana Rao of Allahabad Court, Hyderabad, India.
the potential of agri-biotechnolgy in improving agricultural productivity
by citing experiences of countries extensively using GM crops and
the potential benefits the technology offers.
1986, India had already recognized that biotechnology applications
would bail out the agricultural sector, according to Rao. The problem,
however, is that India "has been dithering and dilly-dallying
in taking the decision for using transgenic seeds in augmenting agricultural
it is high time that serious thought be given to taking appropriate
decisions to modernize Indian agriculture as being done by other
countries. He further stressed that modernizing agriculture by adopting
GM crops will solve the problems of farmers in India.
chief justice delivered the lecture "Will Modernization of Indian
Agriculture Provide Permanent Solution to Rural Problems of Malnutrition,
Unemployment and Social Imbalance" during the 10th Annual Day
Celebration of Peddi Reddy Thimma Reddy Farm Foundation in Hyderabad.
Chengal Reddy at firstname.lastname@example.org for
an electronic copy of Rao's memorial lecture.
CROPS FROM BAYER AND PIONEER
CropScience has released a new transgenic cotton variety, FiberMax
5024BXN. According to David Becker, seed breeder of Bayer CropScience,
the variety will be competitive with other transgenic and conventional
stripper varieties in terms of yield and quality. Growth characteristics
include: medium to early maturity, storm resistance, competitive
yields, good fiber quality and transgenic weed control.
5024BXN will be available commercially during the 2003 growing season.
Pioneer Hi-bred likewise reports that 12 new Pioneer(r) brand corn
hybrids will be available for the 2003 planting season. Seven of
the hybrids carry new Herculex1 I insect protection while the other
five deliver the Roundup Ready2 gene.
in a collaborative research effort between Pioneer Hi-Bred and Dow
AgroSciences, the Herculex I gene, according to Pioneer, provides
highly effective protection against European corn borer and control
against black cutworm larvae.
STRESS-TOLERANT RICE VARIETY
strain of rice plant that fared better under stressful conditions
was developed by a team of scientists based at the Cornell University.
article that appeared in an online site Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences (PNAS), scientists reported they introduced a
gene for trehalose, a sugar that helps plants withstand abiotic stress.
The scientists first fused two genes from E. coli that synthesize
the sugar and then introduced them into the rice plant.
Garg, one of the principal researchers, said few plants produce trehalose,
but is a major component in the growth of "resurrection plants" that
can survive long period of droughts and revive quickly once moisture
has been restored. Garg said experiments showed the transgenic rice
plant is about twice as resistant to salt water, can withstand temperatures
about 10 degrees lower than ordinary rice varieties, and higher capacity
for photosynthesis in both stress and non-stress conditions.
of the paper can be viewed at http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.252637799
HAVE POSITIVE ATTITUDE TO GM CROPS
Adult Costa Ricans have an overall positive acceptance on the use of genetically
modified (GM) crops. So says Ana Sittenfeld and Ana M. Espinoza, researchers
from the University of Costa Rica who investigated attitudes to GM organisms.
The survey revealed that only 21% of the respondents believing that GM foods
posed a health risk.
the survey's respondents had some knowledge of GMOs. People living
closer to the capital, younger people and those with a higher level
of education were more likely to have heard of GM technology. The
media was found to be an important source of information on GMOs.
Men were more likely to gain information from newspapers whereas
women found the television more informative.
found that overall, the national awareness levels of GM crops and
their risks and benefits in Costa Rica was more in line with public
opinion in the USA than that of European consumers. Between 40 and
50% of Costa Ricans who were aware of GM crops said that they would
buy food obtained from them if the price was the same as normal crops
and if the GM crops did not pose a risk for the environment.
30% of those questioned were supportive of research into GM crops
and a similar percentage trusted their regulatory institutions.
of the researchers' study are in Trends in Plant Science (http://www.trends.com/
plants/default.htm) Volume 7, Number 10.
Ana Sittenfeld of the Centro de Investigacion en Biologia Celular
y Molecular, Ciudad de la Investigacion, Universidad de Costa Rica
BUDDING IN RUSSIA
government's Business Information Service for the Newly Independent
States (BISNIS) released an article saying that a biotech market
is "budding" in Russia. President Vladimir Vladimirovich
Putin requested the Government to set more ambitious goals for economic
growth and pay greater attention to the creation of a knowledge-based
economy. BISNIS states that "the growing frequency and quantity
of government decrees and initiatives in the biotechnology sector
indicates that it is viewed as a high priority sector for Russia".
However, the sector is constrained by financial conditions.
estimated that the current capacity of the Russian market for biotechnology
products for agriculture is $500 million a year. However, about 95%
of biotech preparations in animal farming and 75% for the plant sector
are imported. There is a potential demand for GM soy seeds however
it is constrained by public acceptance. Meanwhile, the annual demand
of the Russian food processing industry is around $100 million in
the form of yeast, ferments for alcohol distilling, beer and wine
manufacturing, bacterial products for milk processing and GM additives
for meat processing.
prospects for the Russian market in general are:
Bioactive Dietary Supplements - products for sport, immune system boosters,
targeting specific problem (cancer prevention, digestion improvement), food
products with bioactive additives.
Equipment - laboratory, diagnostic and research equipment, production
equipment (bio-reactors, extractors, fermentation equipment, etc.)
products for farming - feed and supplements for poultry, hog, cattle
farms, crop improving products, modified seeds and crops.
and ingredients for food processing - technology of production and
application of ferments, enzymes, bacteria, final products and production
technology of modified fiber, proteins, polysaccharides, various
food additives (amino acids, flavorings, etc.)
- agricultural and industrial waste/cleanup systems, metal extraction
technologies, oil spill treatment, wood-working waste processing.
can be viewed at http://www.bisnis.doc.gov/bisnis/bulletin/sept02bull7.htm while
a more elaborate report can be found at http://www.bisnis.doc.gov/bisnis/isa/020729biotech_rfe.htm.
TO EXPAND PLANT BIOTECH
The South Korean Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is planning to
strengthen the seed industry and the biotechnology research network to boost
exports. The Asian market will be a key focus for Korea's seed developers.
MAF also said it will ensure the safety of genetically modified (GM) organisms.
The ministry says GM crops provide benefits such as increased yield and quality
improvement, but they note concerns raised by consumer and environmental organizations.
introduced regulations to create a GMO safety management system,
and introduced a GMO display system applied to soybeans, corn and
bean sprouts which has been enforced under the Agricultural and Marine
Product Quality Management Law since 2001.
South Korea's MAF at http://www.maf.go.kr/english/maf_2000.asp
WEBSITE LINKS BIOTECH SECTOR IN NZ
primary biotech companies have provided basic company details and
website links in a new website called "Biosphere New Zealand".
The new website provides listing of companies with interest in biotechnology
applications and innovations. New breakthroughs, discoveries, and
achievements in the field of biotechnology are also highlighted in
in the website are 393 companies that comprise New Zealand's biotech
industry working in 11 primary sectors: agri-forestry (232); animal
bioproducts (64); bioprospecting (5); bioinformatics (13); biomedical
and health care (50); bioprocessing (14); molecular pharming (20);
waste treatment (9); forensic (12); nanotechnology (5); and nutraceutricals
Biosphere New Zealand can be visited at http://www.biospherenz.com
to the World Health Organization (WHO) malnutrition accounts for
over three million childhood deaths a year in developing countries.
The other risk factors making it to the top ten are unsafe sex; high
blood pressure; tobacco consumption; alcohol consumption; unsafe
water, sanitation and hygiene; iron deficiency; indoor smoke from
solid fuels; high cholesterol; and obesity. These were identified
based on the burden of disease they cause and together, these account
for more than one-third of all deaths worldwide.
was said to be one of the most prevalent nutrient deficiencies in
the world, affecting an estimated two billion people, and causing
almost a million deaths a year. Vitamin A deficiency was identified
as the leading cause of acquired blindness in children. While iodine
deficiency is probably the single most preventable cause of mental
retardation and brain damage. Sever zinc deficiency is a significant
cause of respiratory infections, malaria and diarrhoeal disease and
causes short stature, impaired immune function and other disorders.
of the report in six languages can be downloaded at http://www.who.int/whr/en/.
UNIDO PUBLISHES BIOSAFETY REPORT
National Industrial Development Organization Regional Office in Thailand
has published a report on "Biosafety Policy Options and Capacity
Building Related to Genetically Modified Organisms in the Food Processing
Industry of ASEAN". Dr. Sakarindr Bhumiratana of Thailand's
National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC),
prepared the report which contains an overview of the structure of
the GMO-based food processing industry in ASEAN member countries;
a review of the policy and institutional framework at both country
and regional levels; an analysis of the main emerging issues, challenges
and trends relating to GM food and the GMO-based food processing
industry; as well as recommendations on possible policy options and
viable mechanisms for their implementation.
from UNIDO. the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech
Applications also supported this publication.
report can be downloaded at http://www.isaaa.org/kc/Global_Status/global/
Biosafety/biosafemenu.htm in PDF and html.
POSITION PAPERS ON CROP BIOTECH
number of national and international organizations, scientific bodies,
and governments have spoken in support of agricultural biotechnology.
A collection of position statements, press releases, and official
documents are available at the http://www.isaaa.org/kc/Issues/Position/postmenu.htm website.