ORGANIZATIONS ISSUE BIOTECH STATEMENT
cannot afford to lag behind other countries in the development
of biotechnology, which holds great promise for the future." This
point was emphasized by 12 organizations of the German food supply
chain which released a policy statement entitled "Promoting
diversity - Safeguarding innovation potential."
signatory organizations include the Federal Association of German
Plant Breeders, Federation of Food Law and Food Science, National
Association for the German Food Industry, National Association
of German Wholesalers and Import/Export Firms, and Federation of
organizations said that they do not categorically say "yes" or "no" to
biotechnology. Instead, they favor an evaluation of each case of
the use of agricultural biotech and evaluating it on the basis
of the intended solution. However, they stressed that agricultural
biotechnology is a global fact of life and that the question is
how best to deal and manage it.
the organizations said that scientific evidence and international
experience "appear to confirm that agricultural biotechnology
is a valuable, beneficial method, which poses no additional, uncontrollable
risks." Hence, they advocate field trials and parallel monitoring.
SFL: GIVE GM CROPS A CHANCE
for Labour (SfL) assert that they are "well aware of the political
hazards (in the current climate) of promoting genetically modified
(GM) crops but we firmly believe that it can be carried out if
there is a clear strategy based on rational dialogue with the public
and vigorous promotion of government-funded research within the
context of sustainable and environmentally sensitive agriculture,
that will be seen to be of benefit to the public in the longer
United Kingdom-based organization, which aims to raise the profile
of science and technology in that country, issued this policy statement
on Science and the Development of Agriculture. They explained that
it believes that the government's current approach of analyzing
the impact of GM crops on a case-by-case basis is correct. However,
the scientists believe that "scientific case for developing
GM crops has been submerged by the vigorous propaganda by the Soil
Association and by organizations such as Greenpeace."
policy statement, Scientists for Labour urged "the government
to vigorously support research and development of the agricultural
sciences as the most rational strategy for meeting the future and
current demands for sustainable agriculture. It further added that
many of the problems arising from the challenges of the rapidly
changing scene in agriculture could be tackled using GM approaches.
full policy statement can be downloaded from http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/
ARS DEVELOPS NEW SALT-TOLERANT
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the US Department of Agriculture
has developed two new lines of salt-tolerant plants. Richard R.C.
Wang, ARS research geneticist, and colleagues developed the new
plants, known as W4909 and W4910, at ARS' Forage and Range Research
Laboratory in Logan, Utah.
tolerance is a prized trait and is especially valuable in the irrigated
wheat producing regions of the American West. Irrigation can accelerate
buildup of salts which weakens or kills plants. Salinity can reduce
crop yields by about 25 percent.
says that W4909 and W4910 contain salt-tolerance genes from wheat
grass and a Ph-inhibitor gene. Presence of the inhibitor gene allows
plant geneticists to move the salt-tolerance genes among domestic
wheats. Normally, a gene called Ph1b would thwart that exchange.
and colleagues are the first to use the Ph1b gene-inhibition technology
to incorporate into wheat genetic material, genes borrowed from
another plant species. The full article is in the January 2003
issue of ARS' Agricultural Research magazine. It is also available
online at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jan03/salin0103.htm
THIRD WORLD DELEGATES:
SUPPORT GM INITIATIVES
the European Association for Bioindustries, reports that representatives
of developing countries in Africa and Asia, visited Brussels to
give their views on the opportunities and challenges of plant biotechnology
in their home countries.
delegation led by James Ochanda, chair of the African Biotechnology
Stakeholders Forum in Kenya, said that European governments should
reflect on the growing demand for biotechnology crops in Third
World countries, and how that technology can offer developing world
farmers another important tool in increasing domestic food production.
There are strong links between European Union (EU) legislation
and the choices that developing countries make. "Europe seems
to be inward looking when producing biotech legislation. But any
rules set in Brussels will affect the small scale farmer in Africa
or India," says Simon Barber, Director of the Plant Biotechnology
Unit at EuropaBio.
the aims of the delegates to Brussels is to call on the EU to help
set up a technology transfer and capacity building program to the
highest standards for developing countries. The Delegation will
also be urging the EU and Members States to ensure that legislation
on GMOs takes account of farmers in developing countries and does
not become a trade barrier that would impede the adoption of biotech
crops in developing countries.
members of the delegation include Jocelyn Webster of AfricaBio,
S. Jaipal Reddy of the Federation of Farmers Associations in India,
Bintony Kutsaira of Malawi's Parliament, and Margarita Escaler
and Margaret Karembu of the International Service for the Acquisition
of Agri-biotech Applications.
further information, email Simon Barber at firstname.lastname@example.org
CANADA ACCEPTS GM
Dodds, director general of the food directorate of Health Canada,
has notified the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association that two genetically
modified (GM) papaya varieties are now acceptable for human consumption
in Canada. These varieties are Rainbow and Sunup.
news is a big boost for farmers who grow GM papaya in Hawaii. About
75 percent of papayas grown in the island are genetically modified
to resist the ringspot virus. GM papayas have been available in
supermarkets in the US Mainland since 1998.
Visit http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2003/Jan/28/ln/ln28a.html/ for
the article released by Honolulu Advertiser.
EC ESTABLISHES EXPERT
GROUP ON PATENTS
European Commission (EC) has set up a group of experts to advise
and assist it in preparing future annual reports on the development
and implications of patent law on biotechnology and genetic engineering.
This is one move of the EC to fulfill the requirements in Article
16c of the Directive on legal protection of biotechnological inventions.
expert group will analyze important issues surrounding biotechnological
inventions, particularly on legal and technical aspects as well
as on the mutual impact of the legal framework and the research
and innovation area. Chaired by Vincenzo Scordamaglia, a legal
expert and former director of the Secretariat of the Council, the
expert group brings together representatives from the patent profession,
patent practitioners, legal experts and scientists.
the full text of Directive EC 98/44 on the legal protection of
biotechnological inventions at:
composition of the expert group can be found at http://europa.eu.int/rapid/start/cgi/
NEW CHALLENGES FOR
BIOTECH IN KENYA
recent events in Kenya are predicted to affect the development
of biotechnology in Kenya and other countries in the Eastern and
Central African regions. One is the change in government leadership
- from the Kenya African National Union which held power for 40
years - to the National Alliance Rainbow Coalition. The second
event is the death of John Stephen Wafula, the Director of the
African Biotechnology Stakeholders' Forum (ABSF).
notes that before the change of government in Kenya, ABSF and the
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications
(ISAAA) AfriCenter had established dialogue with Kenyan parliamentarians
and members of the regional East African Legislative Assembly.
Several seminars were held to sensitize and educate the legislators
on biotechnology prior to the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
Kenya Government through the National Council for Science and Technology
and the Attorney General's chambers was in the process of preparing
a draft bill on the regulation of biotechnology development and
application for presentation to parliament. More than 50% of the
210 legislators in the previous parliament lost their seats in
the December elections and the majority of legislators in the current
Kenyan parliament are new. Awareness level on biotechnology among
the new legislators is perceived to be lower than that of the previous
also says that with the death of John Wafula, "the Biotech
fraternity in the region lost a strong driving force necessary
to sustain the biotechnology momentum. The challenge is for institutions
and organizations involved in biotechnology development and application
to identify a common rallying point to enhance synergy in advocacy
for sustainable biotechnology development in the region."
is a non-political and non-sectarian association providing a platform
for sharing, debating and understanding all issues pertaining to
biotechnology in agriculture, health, industry and environment.
ABSF represents all stakeholders in biotechnology in Africa currently
with individual members in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda
information on ABSF at http://www.isaaa-africenter.org/absf.htm
GM 'SUPERWEEDS': NOT SUPER AFTER ALL?
results from a field trial in the US show that the effects of gene
flow from transgenic crops may be less than anticipated by environmentalists.
Stewart and his team at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville
crossed a genetically modified oilseed rape crop with a wild relative
Brassica rapa. They then backcrossed the resulting hybrid with
the wild plant again, and released the resulting 'superweed' into
a field of wheat. The "superweed" was evaluated for its
ability to compete with other weeds including non-GM weeds which
the team introduced for comparative analysis. The team found out
that the transgenic weed was not dominant, having 20% less effect
on wheat yield than the unmodified B. rapa weeds.
says that genetically modified crops are currently "over-regulated".
He opines that modified weeds lose potency because they are disrupted
by the genetic load of crop genes being carried over with the Bt
full article is in Nature 421, 462 (2003).
WB TACKLES AGRI SCIENCE
paper of the World Bank Group proposes an international assessment
of the scientific, technical and institutional issues associated
with agricultural production, food (systems, safety, quality, security)
and livelihood improvement This consultative process, led by the
World Bank, reviews the risks and opportunities of using agricultural
science to reduce hunger and poverty.
proposed international assessment aims to provide quality information
for decision makers (both at the national and international levels),
farmers and consumers. This entails a focused and appropriate agricultural
research agenda, and the conduct of a global dialogue to address
the conflicting views on key issues such as organic farming, traditional
plant breeding, new farming technologies, and biotechnology.
concept paper highlights the current difficulties experienced by
nearly 800 million people worldwide in availing sufficient, safe
and nutritious food. In the next few decades there is a possibility
that the production of agricultural products (vegetables, fruits,
meat, fish, forest products and commodities) will dwindle, and
eventually be insufficient to meet the demands.
World Bank Group urges that immediate action must be undertaken
to increase agricultural productivity and product diversification.
These measures are also required to protect the environment, encourage
the sustainable use of natural resources, and ensure a stable economic
growth. An equitable policy environment, in both developed and
developing countries, is also required to address other key issues
such as trade, intellectual property rights, and land tenure.
full paper is available at http://www.fao.org/ag/magazine/0301sp1.htm and http://www.agassessment.org/pdfs/roleofag.pdf.
NEW INSIGHTS ON THE
biologists now believe that the DNA is much more than its famous
structure. Recently, researchers examined the DNA molecule as it
coils in the cell nucleus. They found out that the double helix
regularly morphs into alternative shapes and weaves itself in knots.
Contrary to the popular belief, researchers now have realized that
the DNA has a fascinating life in three or perhaps four dimensions.
This makes the DNA more than a simple string of code like it was
believed for 50 years.
researchers believe that these mysterious movements may be just
as important as the genetic sequence itself in deciding which genes
are switched on and off.
full report is published in Nature, Vol 421 or visit http://www.nature.com/nature.
BIOTECH CREATES NEW
1953 discovery of the structure of the DNA did not only give Jim
Watson and Francis Crick a Nobel Prize in 1962, but it also encouraged
many scientists to maximize the potentials of the genetic information.
inspired Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer in 1973 to develop DNA
cloning and recombinant DNA, giving birth to a modern-biotech industry
that integrates biology, chemistry, engineering and computer science.
Ernst and Young estimated that this industry has created over 200,000
jobs across 4,000 biotech companies worldwide. The diverse applications
of modern biotechnology have benefited the medicine, environment,
food and feed industries.
special report is published in Nature, Vol 421 or visit http://www.nature.com/nature.
FARMER CASE STUDIES ONLINE
a consumer and media information initiative, has made available
online its six-part illustrated study "GM Around the World".
It provides case studies of GM farmers in Australia, Romania, South
Africa, Argentina, Spain and the United Kingdom. The study can
be found on CropGen's Web site at http://www.cropgen.org/databases/cropgen2.nsf/?Open.
2003: Technology for Life will be held on July 17-20, 2003 at the
Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall, Pattaya, Thailand. The
event aims to update the academic, research and industrial communities
with new innovations in the field, and promote the bio-business
opportunity in the region. For more information, visit http://biothailand2003.biotec.or.th