Une décision fiscale met en péril le secteur florissant des biotechnologies en France. Des lanceurs d’alertes s’inquiètent des conséquences de la grève actuelle d’un chaînon indispensable à la recherche clinique. En six mois, une centaine de millions de contrats perdus par un pan du métier, plusieurs dizaines de dossiers en attente, des surcoûts pour les industriels du médicament qui, en prime, perdent du temps dans un secteur où arriver le premier est primordial. Tout cela pour que l’Etat engra
Biotechnology is the application of scientific techniques to modify and improve plants, animals, and microor ganisms to enhance their value. Agricultural biotech nology is the area of biotechnology involving applica tions to agriculture. Agricultural biotechnology has been practiced for a long time, as people have sought to im prove agriculturally important organisms by selection and breeding. An example of traditional agricultural bio technology is the development of disease-resistant wheat varieties by cross-breeding different wheat types until the desired disease resistance was present in a resulting new variety. In the 1970s, advances in the field of molecular biol ogy provided scientists with the ability to manipulate DNA—the chemical building blocks that specify the char acteristics of living organisms—at the molecular level. This technology is called genetic engineering. It also al lows transfer of DNA between more distantly related or ganisms than was possible with traditional breeding tech niques. Today, this technology has reached a stage where scientists can take one or more specific genes from nearly any organism, including plants, animals, bacteria, or vi ruses, and introduce those genes into another organism. An organism that has been transformed using genetic engineering techniques is referred to as a transgenic or ganism, or a genetically engineered organism. Many other terms are in popular use to describe these aspects of today’s biotechnology. The term “genetically modified organism” or “GMO” is widely used, although genetic modification has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years, since deliberate crosses of one variety or breed with another result in offspring that are genetically modified compared to the parents. Similarly, foods derived from transgenic plants have been called “GMO foods,” “GMPs” (genetically modified products), and “biotech foods.” While some refer to foods devel oped from genetic engineering technology as “biotech nology-enhanced foods,” others call them “frankenfoods.” For the reasons discussed later in this publication, controversy affects various issues related to the growing of genetically engineered organisms.
What are the benefits of genetic engineering in agriculture? Everything in life has its benefits and risks, and genetic engineering is no exception. Much has been said about potential risks of genetic engineering technology, but so far there is little evidence from scientific studies that these risks are real. Transgenic organisms can offer a range of benefits above and beyond those that emerged from innovations in traditional agricultural biotechnol ogy. Following are a few examples of benefits resulting from applying currently available genetic engineering techniques to agricultural biotechnology. Increased crop productivity Biotechnology has helped to increase crop productivity by introducing such qualities as disease resistance and increased drought tolerance to the crops. Now, research ers can select genes for disease resistance from other species and transfer them to important crops. For ex ample, researchers from the University of Hawaii and Cornell University developed two varieties of papaya resistant to papaya ringspot virus by transferring one of the virus’ genes to papaya to create resistance in the plants. Seeds of the two varieties, named ‘SunUp’ and ‘Rainbow’, have been distributed under licensing agree ments to papaya growers since 1998. Further examples come from dry climates, where crops must use water as efficiently as possible. Genes from naturally drought-resistant plants can be used to increase drought tolerance in many crop varieties. Enhanced crop protection Farmers use crop-protection technologies because they provide cost-effective solutions to pest problems which, if left uncontrolled, would severely lower yields. As mentioned above, crops such as corn, cotton, and potato have been successfully transformed through genetic engineering to make a protein that kills certain insects when they feed on the plants. The protein is from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, which has been used for decades as the active ingredient of some “natu ral” insecticides. In some cases, an effective transgenic crop-protec tion technology can control pests better and more cheaply than existing technologies. For example, with Bt engi neered into a corn crop, the entire crop is resistant to
certain pests, not just the part of the plant to which Bt insecticide has been applied. In these cases, yields in crease as the new technology provides more effective control. In other cases, a new technology is adopted be cause it is less expensive than a current technology with equivalent control. There are cases in which new technology is not adopted because for one reason or another it is not com petitive with the existing technology. For example, or ganic farmers apply Bt as an insecticide to control in sect pests in their crops, yet they may consider transgenic Bt crops to be unacceptable. Improvements in food processing The first food product resulting from genetic engineer ing technology to receive regulatory approval, in 1990, was chymosin, an enzyme produced by genetically en gineered bacteria. It replaces calf rennet in cheese-mak ing and is now used in 60 percent of all cheese manu factured. Its benefits include increased purity, a reliable supply, a 50 percent cost reduction, and high cheese yield efficiency. Improved nutritional value Genetic engineering has allowed new options for im proving the nutritional value, flavor, and texture of foods. Transgenic crops in development include soybeans with higher protein content, potatoes with more nutritionally available starch and an improved amino acid content, beans with more essential amino acids, and rice with the ability produce beta-carotene, a precursor of vita min A, to help prevent blindness in people who have nutritionally inadequate diets. Better flavor Flavor can be altered by enhancing the activity of plant enzymes that transform aroma precursors into flavoring compounds. Transgenic peppers and melons with im proved flavor are currently in field trials. Fresher produce Genetic engineering can result in improved keeping properties to make transport of fresh produce easier, giv ing consumers access to nutritionally valuable whole foods and preventing decay, damage, and loss of nutri ents. Transgenic tomatoes with delayed softening can be vine-ripened and still be shipped without bruising. Research is under way to make similar modifications to broccoli, celery, carrots, melons, and raspberry. The shelf life of some processed foods such as peanuts has also been improved by using ingredients that have had their fatty acid profile modified. Environmental benefits When genetic engineering results in reduced pesticide dependence, we have less pesticide residues on foods, we reduce pesticide leaching into groundwater, and we minimize farm worker exposure to hazardous products. With Bt cotton’s resistance to three major pests, the transgenic variety now represents half of the U.S. cot ton crop and has thereby reduced total world insecticide use by 15 percent! Also, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “increases in adoption of herbicide-tolerant soybeans were associated with small increases in yields and variable profits but significant decreases in herbicide use” (our italics). Benefits for developing countries Genetic engineering technologies can help to improve health conditions in less developed countries. Research ers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology’s In stitute for Plant Sciences inserted genes from a daffodil and a bacterium into rice plants to produce “golden rice,” which has sufficient beta-carotene to meet total vitamin A requirements in developing countries with rice-based diets. This crop has potential to significantly improve vitamin uptake in poverty-stricken areas where vitamin supplements are costly and difficult to distribute and vitamin A deficiency leads to blindness in children.
Trois contrats de filières ont été présentés au Comité stratégique de filière des éco-industries : énergies renouvelables, eau et déchets. Ils engagent réciproquement l'Etat et les industriels dans une stratégie de développement à long terme.
La Cour des comptes a rendu mercredi un rapport dans lequel elle juge le Crédit Impôt Recherche (CIR) coûteuse et mal contrôlée. L'institution préconise notamment la dématérialisation de la déclaration du CIR.
Céline Bouquerel's insight:
Le CIR n'est peut-être pas efficace poru tout le monde, mais de nombreuses entreprises de R&D ne pourraient pas financer leur recherche sans lui, à l'heure où les marchés de capitaux sont aussi très frileux.
Il est un domaine en France où l'innovation, la recherche, le financement semblent à la hauteur de la compétition internationale : les biotechnologies. De nombreuses jeunes pousses émergent, se développent souvent...
Céline Bouquerel's insight:
Un article très positif sur la qualité de la chaîne de financement des start-ups biotechs en France
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light...
Céline Bouquerel's insight:
L'article fait une synthèse très didactique de l'évolution du business model de développement de nouveaux médicaments par l'industrie pharma, en expliquant la différence entre molécules chimiques et biologiques, les investissements de productivité réalisés sur les 40 dernières années, avec des résultats bien moindres qu'anticipés, et l'impact sur la chaîne de financement de l'industrie.
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