Plant Molecular Biologist Nairobi Kenya Job. The International Potato Center (CIP) has a Plant Molecular Biologist job. Plant Molecular Biologist to assess the expected result on the plant phenotype and performance of the ...
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Kwame Ogero's insight:
Bt rice (mfb-MH86) produces cry1Ab protein to reduce feeding damage of pests including Asiatic pink stem borer (Sesamia inferens), Asiatic rice borer (Chilo suppressalis), yellow stem borer (Tryporyza incertulas) and rice leafroller (Cnaphalocrocis medinalis). Huan Song of China Agricultural University and colleagues used rice flour from Bt rice and its non-biotech counterpart (MH86) for 90-days feeding test of Sprague-Dawley rats. The researchers separately formulated rodent diets at concentrations of 17.5, 35 and 70 % (w/w).
Overall health, body weight and food consumption were comparable between groups fed diets containing mfb-MH86 and MH86. Differences in haematological and biochemical parameters of the blood samples were noted, but still within the normal range of values for the size and gender of the rats, thus not considered as effect of the treatment. Macroscopic and tissue examinations were conducted, but no significant differences were found.
Based on the results, Bt rice mfb-MH86 is as safe and nutritious as non-GM rice.
[updated 04 November, 2014]
These days I received an apparently easy request: “Do you have any recommendations for reading about the debate on GMOs? I think there is a lot of heat, but too little light in the discussion; I trust you can send me some…” To which I answered carelessly: “Sure, I will look into it, select a few references and post them…”
I thought I’d have a quick look into my collection of bookmarks and references and post some of the links to satisfy the request. Obviously there would be too many individual studies and crop-specific or country-specific reports, but focusing only (i) on what was published in recent years, (ii) on sources where all this information was already aggregated (literature reviews, meta-analyses, authoritative statements, FAQs, etc.), and (iii) on academic or publicly funded sources should produce a fairly concise list, I thought.
While not unmanageable, the list has become quite long. To get a rough idea of the current state of knowledge, it may be sufficient to peruse the first 1-2 (starred *) references under each heading, and to have a quick look at the abstracts and summaries of some of the others. (Given the controversy surrounding this topic I did not want to suggest just one or two sources, but show a bit the width of the scientific consensus, and to offer some titbits of related information.) ...
Via Alexander J. Stein
Biotechnology is the application of scientific techniques
What are the benefits of genetic engineering
certain pests, not just the part of the plant to which Bt
Kwame Ogero's insight:
Safeguarding science for socioeconomic development: Kindly sign the petition condemning the vandalization of golden rice field trials in the Philippines.
Mark Lynas, the environmental activist stunned the world in January when he announced his support for Genetically Modified Organisms.
Kwame Ogero's insight:
Mark Lynas, the environmental activist stunned the world in January when he announced his support for Genetically Modified Organisms, which he said was influenced by a wide array of scientific research.
He recently visited Kenya and Tanzania and spoke to STEVE MBOGO and ISAAC KHISA
Currently, many African countries do not allow the growing of genetically modified crops apart from South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt and now Sudan. What needs to be done to hasten the adoption of GM crops in all African countries?
Two things need to happen. One is that regulatory frameworks need to be established, like the Biosafety Bill now being considered by Uganda’s parliament.
This would give scientists the legal context they need to proceed with their work.
The second thing that needs to happen is for the general public to be better informed about the technology.
People need to understand that these crops are identical to others except for the single genetic change, which scientists are aiming for, such as resistance to diseases or drought.
Do GM and non-GM crops differ in appearance or taste?
I recently visited the National Crops Resources Research Institute in Namulonge, where they are carrying out field trials on GMO cassava and it looks identical to non-GMO cassava.
On taste, I ate some GMO papaya recently in the US and it was the nicest I have ever had — even better than the pawpaw here in Uganda!
What are the likely consequences for developing countries if they do not grow GM crops?
Clearly GM crops are not the single solution. They may not even be the most important — farmers need to have irrigation, fertilisers and better roads so that they can take their surplus produce to the market.
But if GM banana and cassava are prohibited, for example, then it is likely these crops will be lost from much of East and Central Africa because of the bacterial and viral diseases that are affecting them.
There are currently no naturally resistant banana varieties to the bacterial wilt disease.
You were a renowned anti-GM activist, an environmental writer, who even went ahead to form a movement against GM crops. Why did you change your views?
My change of heart came about because I wanted to be a better science communicator and a better environmentalist — and you do not achieve that by fighting scientific facts.
Based on your research and having been involved in GM issues for awhile, do you think GM crops are the solution to food shortages experienced in sub-Saharan Africa?
It would be too simplistic to say that GM crops are the solution, but all other things remaining equal, if you are in a drought and you have a drought-tolerant GM maize then you will likely get a better harvest.
If you are in an area badly affected by cassava brown streak virus and you want to grow this crop, you will be better off with a GM variety that is resistant to the disease.
The anti-GM activists, including yourself, before you changed your mind, have argued that GM crops pose both health as well as environmental risks. What is your take on this?
The experts say it is completely safe; all the major relevant scientific institutions in the world have issued statements to that effect.
Even so, you have to look at these things on a case by case basis — different techniques are used in different plants, which could have different effects. That is why GM crops are extensively tested in field trials before being released.
Could you comment on the idea that growing GM crops will enslave farmers in developing countries as they will be forced to buy seeds every planting season, hence creating markets for multinational companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta.
That is nonsense. The GM cassava that is being developed will be propagated like any other natural crop, as will the banana.
Once farmers have it, it will remain in their control. All this language about ‘farmer enslavement’ comes from activists who do not want farmers to access modern technology and romanticise ‘traditional’ agriculture, which is currently failing to feed people.
Now that you are a supporter of GM crops, what is your view on those against them?
I am not pro-GM crops, I am pro-choice.
All the farmers I have met say they would like to decide for themselves what to grow, and not be dictated to by foreign-sponsored activists. If they want to stay with the traditional seeds, then farmers have that right.
No-one is going to come to their farms and stop them from saving their own seed. But the truth is they will then continue to have very low yields and remain food insecure.
With improved seeds (I am thinking even of hybrids, not necessarily GMOs), yields can increase by four times what you get from traditional varieties.
So farmers who want them also have that right.
Kenya has been challenged to lift the ban on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for the country to achieve its potential in food production.
“My earlier stance on the technology was informed by lack of information and emotions. But being an environmental scientist and writer, I could no longer stand in the way of proven scientific evidence pertaining to the technology,’ he said.
Kwame Ogero's insight:
Technology could raise maize yields
Kenya currently produces 25 million bags of maize annually against a demand of 40 million bags. The dwindling maize harvest is attributed to rising cost of production, erratic rainfall and crop disease, but GM technology could raise current maize output by between 25-30 per cent.
EASAC - the European Academies Science Advisory Council - is formed by the national science academies of the EU Member States to enable them to collaborate with each other in providing advice to European policy-makers.
Kwame Ogero's insight:
With a burgeoning population, a finite supply of land and
Application for urgent interlocutory - Organic farming - Genetically modified crops - Buffer zones - Prohibition on planting - Balance of convenience - Novel facts - Pure economic loss - Adequacy of damages...
Kwame Ogero's insight:
According to Farm Weekly, Western Australian farmer Michael Baxter’s decision to grow genetically modified (GM) canola is both lawful and legitimate, the WA Supreme Court has said in a written judgement outlining its rejection of an injunction seeking to prevent Mr Baxter from planting the GM crop.They report that Kojonup farmer Steve Marsh had sought the injunction to prevent his neighbour Mr Baxter planting GM canola this season within 400 metres of Mr Marsh’s organic farm. Also noted by FW, Supreme Court Judge Kenneth Martin’s statement was published on May 29 for a judgement delivered extemporaneously on April 23.
More @ GM crop 'legitimate', says WA Supreme Court - Agriculture - Cropping - General News - Farm Weekly:
As governments, food aid organizations and other groups are thinking big in their efforts to fight global hunger, the winners of this year’s World Food Prize had a major impact by focusing their attention on thinking small.
Other management models for transgenic crops than the European one (which allows only the big companies to enter the market) are possible.
In general any scientific advance brings a benefit to society that improves the living standards and eliminates social inequalities. Consider for instance the mechanization, which has improved working conditions and lower costs involving access to goods by a greater section of the population, or how the internet and computers have allowed access to all sorts of information or to communicate easily.
In Europe we are now in a debate on the use of plant biotechnology, the demonized transgenic plants. The problem is that you cannot set up a debate in conditions when most of the information circulating on the subject is inaccurate or false. For starters, we should remember that transgenic technology – i.e. inserting a piece of DNA from one organism into another – already is part of our lives, since this technology is used for many drugs, cotton clothing, Euro bills, enzymes that are used in various industries or in detergents. However, when it comes to GM crops and making this technology available to farmers it is when all misgivings arise, sometimes justified and sometimes not.
One of the arguments of those who advocate the prohibition of GMOs is that they are in the hands of a few companies and that we lose control of our food. Well, actually most of the seeds used in agriculture are already in the hands of these companies, and they sell GMOs on top of that. The paradox is that by wanting to stop them makes it easier for them to succeed. European anti-GMO policy arbitrarily applies the precautionary principle demanding more controls and tests. This increases both the cost of the product and it eliminates the possibility that a small or public can compete, leaving in the race only large multinationals. However, because the European model does not work does not mean that we cannot see how alternatives have been applied in other parts of the world and recognize that there is debate and it is used each year more because the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
Other models of transgenic crop management
Argentina is one of the leading producers of genetically modified soybeans. Being outside the international patent system, it was using Monsanto seeds without paying royalties, until they came to an agreement, but still paying much less. Why has it succeeded? Because by lowering production costs, the technology benefitted mainly small and medium producers who have seen increased profitability of their land. What did the government do? Place a rate of 30% on exports to ensure (besides corruption) the distribution of the profit generated. The Indian model is similar for cotton, since the greatest benefit occurs among small and medium producers (the story of suicides because of transgenics is urban legend.)
The soy “fever” spread to Brazil in a curious way. Lula da Silva came to power with a manifesto that included a rejection of GMOs. However, during his tenure Brazil became the second largest producer of these crops. What brought the change? Basically farmers in Rio Grande do Sul, who obtained GM seeds from Argentina, planted in Brazil and then smuggled their soybeans into Argentina to sell them. He spoke with them and saw that the best thing for the region was to authorize them. As the strategy was working but was in the hands of foreign companies, he decided to make a strong public commitment for the national agricultural company EMBRAPA to create varieties that solved specific problems and so has been launched a transgenic virus-resistant bean variety. This model has been followed by Cuba, which in 2012 has joined the list of countries planting biotech, along with Sudan, which has developed own GM maize varieties for their farmers, and by Nigeria, which has also developed a pest-resistant bean. The next to follow this path is Indonesia, which has begun field trials with drought-tolerant and herbicide-tolerant sugarcane.
So the debate is open and the theme is multifaceted, but total refusal to use this technology only leads to injury to farmers and ultimately society as a whole. We cannot take a stationary position, but have to learn to separate the wheat from the chaff in the debate. Other models of GM crop management than the European (allowing market entry only to big companies) are possible. In these models, the advantages are maximized versus drawbacks. Our country and our citizens have a big stake in this debate.
[Slightly edited machine translation from http://www.mundoobrero.es/pl.php?id=2823
Via Alexander J. Stein
Kwame Ogero's insight:
There’s only one place to find comprehensive global data on biotech crops, and it’s not the United Nations’s Food and Agriculture Organization or the World Bank or any national agency. It’s a tiny not-for-profit called the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, or ISAAA. This group serves as the go-to source for everyone from government officials to journalists. Behind the data is one very connected scientist: Clive James.
A plant pathologist with a more than 40-year career in global agriculture and development, James believes that biotechnology is a viable part of the solution to food insecurity in poor countries, and that the best way to encourage the adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops in those areas is by sharing knowledge about how the technology is being used globally. The task his harder than you’d think. James has spent decades building an extensive network of international fact finders who supply him with numbers on an annual basis; usually more than one estimate for any one data point. It’s a tough task when each country comes up with its own statistics based on its own definitions and, often, its own biases.
ISAAA’s signature data set is a tally of the global land area planted with biotech crops, which has been growing steadily since the organization began tracking it in 1996. According to ISAAA’s graph, a record 395 million acres were planted with biotech crops in 2011 and, most important to James, developing countries for the first time accounted for half of that. “I call it the Clive curve,” says Dafang Huang, former director of biotechnology at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing. Huang says he has used the graph, along with other data, to encourage China’s former and current prime ministers to embrace the technology. “We make policy to develop biotechnology based on that curve,” Huang says.
That’s just how James hoped his data would make its mark. “A farmer in a developing country sees that a farmer in Burkina Faso is using biotechnology and thinks: ‘Why can’t I do that?’” says James. “We share with them what has already been achieved and let them decide what to do.”
It’s not the most direct way to get GM crops into the hands of poor farmers. But as James sees it, knowledge is the foundation for the acceptance of the technology. Without it, fear and misunderstanding stirred up by naysayers would guide policy, leaving no pathway for crop development.
Power of Being a People Person
He moved to Mexico in 1981 to work for the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) where he served as deputy director general for research. There he developed a close working relationship with Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who is known as the “father of the green revolution.” Borlaug valued strongly the role of technology in achieving food security, and James admired him for that. “It’s not often that you have the chance to get to know a Nobel laureate and travel around the world with him, getting his wisdom,” says James.
James adopted much of Borlaug’s way of thinking. “Norman didn’t fear people and some of that rubbed off on Clive,” says Richard Flavell, chief scientific adviser at Ceres in Thousand Oaks, California, and former secretary to ISAAA. “Norman was willing to say to any government leader what he believed,” Flavell says. “Clive has that directness.”
James’s first major foray into biotechnology was helping create a molecular genetics lab at CIMMYT in 1986. The lab established CIMMYT’s capacity to collaborate in biotech’s early years. It also gave James an opportunity to build a network of international contacts in crop biotechnology. “Clive thought nothing of having breakfast in one country, lunch in another country and dinner in another,” says Ronald Phillips, a genomics professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota who accompanied James on several networking trips to Europe.
But James wanted to do more to bring biotech crops to developing countries. “Clive, from his experience with CIMMYT, felt that developing countries were unlikely to get into the technology with the urgency that we all thought was important,” says Flavell. In 1990 James retired from CIMMYT to found ISAAA.
The Biotech Broker
He was a natural. James went on to broker 10 public-private deals in ISAAA’s first decade. “There wasn’t another organization doing that at the time, and that was its value,” says Flavell. But by the late 1990s, public opinion of biotech had changed. “It became harder to raise money from foundations and part of the reason it was hard was because of the unease stirred up by the Greenpeaces of the world,” says Flavell. Also by then, other agencies began serving as liaisons in agricultural biotech, and ISAAA’s role ceased to be unique, he says.
Undeterred, James began to see knowledge dissemination as the crucial piece to his mission. ISAAA’s primary communication, its annual report, now reaches millions in 70 countries in more than 50 languages. The nearly 300-page document breaks down the distribution of crops by country, crop and trait, and James seems to have much of it memorized. Ask him a question about the regulatory barriers blocking the adoption of biotech crops, and he’ll invariably answer with a number that suggests that things are looking up. “Fifty percent of growth in biotech crop production is in developing countries,” he might say. Like his mentor Borlaug, James’s legacy, in part, may end up being his optimism.
The so-called Innate potato, which produces less of a cancer-causing chemical when it is fried, was developed by a major McDonald’s supplier.
Kwame Ogero's insight:
A potato genetically engineered to reduce the amounts of a potentially harmful ingredient in French fries and potato chips has been approved for commercial planting, the Department of Agriculture announced on Friday.
The potato’s DNA has been altered so that less of a chemical called acrylamide, which is suspected of causing cancer in people, is produced when the potato is fried.
The new potato also resists bruising, a characteristic long sought by potato growers and processors for financial reasons. Potatoes bruised during harvesting, shipping or storage can lose value or become unusable.
The biotech tubers were developed by the J. R. Simplot Company, a privately held company based in Boise, Idaho, which was the initial supplier of frozen French fries to McDonald’s in the 1960s and is still a major supplier.Continue reading the main storyThe potato is one of a new wave of genetically modified crops that aim to provide benefits to consumers, not just to farmers as the widely grown biotech crops like herbicide-tolerant soybeans and corn do. The nonbruising aspect of the potato is similar to that of genetically engineered nonbrowning apples, developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, which are awaiting regulatory approval.
By Bibiana Iraki
It is unfortunate that despite well-documented benefits of modern agricultural biotechnology towards improving food security, alleviating poverty, and enhancing socio-economic development, anti-biotechnology lobbyists have refused to abandon their ill-intended propaganda campaign against this useful technology.
A case in point is the recent article by Kamau Kaniaru in The Standard’s edition of September 3, 2013. Mr Kaniaru’s assertions were not only erroneous but also very cleverly disguised to mislead the public policy-making process and discourse.
The article makes a wild claim that the Cabinet decision to ban importation of genetically modified (GMO) foods was justified because the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had retracted their previous criticisms of the controversial study by Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen in France. This could not be further from the truth.
To begin with, the recent EFSA report does not, at any one time, mention Séralini or his unscrupulous study, nor does it endorse any study suggesting that GMOs may be unsafe.
Secondly, Mr Kaniaru again makes an unsubstantiated claim that a recently published scientific report by EFSA adopts the Séralini study as a standard for long-term studies. This again is a blatant lie because in this report, EFSA further reaffirms its earlier position that Séralini did not follow the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development internationally accepted guidelines and protocols for food toxicity studies. The findings were, therefore, merely scare tactics commonly used by anti-GM lobbyists.
A quick look at EFSA’s frequently asked questions on their website last updated in February 2013 clearly states, “EFSA’s final review reaffirmed its initial findings that the authors’ conclusions cannot be regarded as scientifically sound because of inadequacies in the design, reporting and analysis of the study.”
According to EFSA, it remains impossible to draw valid conclusions about the occurrence of tumours in the rats tested. This begs the question; where did Mr Kaniaru get the impression that EFSA validated the Séralini study?
The simplest and most concrete demonstration that EFSA and European Union member states were not perturbed by Séralini’s well-orchestrated fear-mongering efforts can be seen in the uninterrupted approval of GM food imports in Europe to date. As a matter of fact, the GM maize line used in the Séralini study known as NK603 was approved for food, feed, import and processing by the European Commission for a period of 10 years, starting 2010.
Russia’s government quickly reversed a decision to ban the GM maize NK603 after realising that Séralini’s findings were a hoax. This is a decision that the Kenyan government should emulate, especially considering that it has world-class scientists and able regulatory authorities like the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) within our borders.
Another wild claim by Mr Kaniaru is that EFSA was harshly reprimanded by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) for its biased review of the Séralini study.
It is important that we separate facts from fiction. For starters, the audit fieldwork was finalised in October 2011, making it impossible for it to have referred to an EFSA review published in 2012. Secondly, the requirements or characteristics analysed within the ECA report relating to the quality of EFSA’s scientific opinion had positive feedback. In view of his unsubstantiated claim, one cannot help but wonder where the author got his citation.
The recurrent question of whether or not GMOs are safe for human health and the environment is easily explained by the upward and consistent adoption trends seen over the last 17 years.
For Kenya to reap the benefits of modern agricultural biotechnology, our policy makers need to listen to scientifically sound advice from our expert institutions on the subject, like the NBA and the numerous world-class scientists conducting first-class research at institutes like the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute.
In his recent speech at the Uwezo Fund launch, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the government places stakeholder consultation at the heart of its administration. In light of this, it is high time the relevant authorities started dialogue with experts to find a practical and lasting solution to the food insecurity that has endlessly plagued this country.
The writer is the Communications Officer at the African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum
IRRI and PhilRice officials visit the Golden Rice field site that was vandalized... A crowd of 300 had stormed the Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Field Unit 5's (RFU5) Bicol Experiment Station, overwhelming the police and guards, and vandalizing the research plots of Golden Rice...
Regional Executive Diretor Bragas said that they were taken by surprise. They had assembled DA officials and staff in the office, waiting for the group to come in and sit down for a peaceful dialogue. Instead, the militants poured into the compound, overwhelmed the police and village security, broke down a section of the fence surrounding the research area, and entered, uprooted, and trampled the crop.
The officials shared that there were farmers in the group, but they just watched and stayed on the sidelines. Local customs and traditions dictate that the destruction of a living field brings bad fortune – Bicolanos refer to it as "Bosung". Those who entered the field to vandalize were mostly young men and some covered their faces.
The local officials and the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) recounted that the rallyists had been assembled in Legazpi City the day before, and brought overnight to Naga City in a convoy of about a dozen jeepneys. In Naga City they had been housed in local hotels. It was reported that the group included foreigners.
Via Alexander J. Stein
Empirical research shows that European governments and retailers are unlikely to be directly punished by taxpayers and consumers if they move away from their anti-GMO positions and policies. However, it is ultimately not the weak attitudes of taxpayers and consumers that matter to governments and retailers but the strong attitudes of the noisy anti-biotech movement.
Despite the problems resulting from inappropriate management practices (risks that GM crops and conventional crops have in common), gene technology overall proved to be a worldwide success in terms of value creation, poverty alleviation, land conservation, pesticide reduction and climate change mitigation [2, 3] – and there is no real evidence supporting the argument that genetically modified crops and sustainable agriculture may be incompatible .
Yet, the optimistic global situation stands in strong contrast to the situation in Europe and Africa... In Africa there is only Sudan, Egypt, Burkina Faso and South Africa that have approved GM crops for commercial release. South Africa remains, however, the only significant grower of GM crops with a size of 2.8 million hectares in 2012...
One reason for the paradoxical situation is organized public resistance to genetic engineering in agriculture that is portrayed in the media channels as an expression of general public concern. As politicians in European democracies want to be re-elected they cannot ignore public opinion. The same applies to European retailers... For them, it is not science but consumer perception that matters in the set-up of sourcing policies and private standards...
By claiming to represent the public interest, anti-biotech advocacy groups have gained public trust. As a consequence they are increasingly courted by politicians who represent power and retailers who represent money. Both need public trust as a source of legitimacy for their actions. Consequently, they tend to embrace the extreme views of activists not because they represent the public interest but because they are likely to make them look good in public...
Via Alexander J. Stein
Because of the environmental, economical and societal benefits they provide, genetically engineered (GE) varieties of soybeans, cotton and corn are the preferred choice of U.S. farmers, according to newly released data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)...
“Scientific innovation and seed technology allow growers to produce the most reliable and abundant yields with less tilling of the soil and fewer applications of insecticides. These practices promote environmental sustainability, reduce on-farm fuel use, increase profit margins for U.S. farming families and keep food costs affordable for U.S. consumers.
“Modern agricultural systems, including the use of biotechnology, are more important than ever as we look to provide the food, feed, fuel and fiber for nine billion people by 2050. Farmers in the United States and around the world need access to these kinds of technology to meet demand amid the challenges of climate change.
“Currently, a record 17.3 million farmers in 28 countries are using seed varieties improved through genetic engineering and biotechnology. Ninety percent (more than 15 million) of these are resource-poor farmers in developing countries...
Via Alexander J. Stein
Genetically Modified Crops Question 3.30 pm. Asked by Lord Taverne To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress they have made in seeking to reform the regulations regarding the commercial cultivation of genetically modified crops.
Kwame Ogero's insight:
Genetically Modified CropsQuestion3.30 pm
Asked by Lord Taverne
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made in seeking to reform the regulations regarding the commercial cultivation of genetically modified crops.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, the EU has robust and comprehensive regulations governing GM crops. These regulations were designed to provide fair and predictable market access for products that have undergone a rigorous, case-by-case safety assessment. In practice, polarised views across EU member states mean that the scientific evidence is often ignored and crops remain stuck in the system. It is therefore difficult to make progress on this issue.
Lord Taverne: I should declare an interest as founder of the charity, Sense About Science. Over 14 years ago, several reports from the Royal Society, supported by every single national academy of sciences in the world, concluded that GM crops were no danger and caused no harm to human health or the environment. Since then, the enormous expansion in the cultivation of GM crops outside Europe and especially in emerging countries has strongly reinforced that conclusion. Will my noble friend convey to the Secretary of State congratulations on basing policy on evidence? Will he assure us that the Government will stand firm against the scaremongering of the Daily Mail, our leading anti-science paper, and recognise that its attacks on GM crops have no more evidence to support them than its disgraceful and scandalous campaign against MMR vaccines?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, first, let me say that my noble friend has a great deal of knowledge in the area of science and GM specifically. His science-based approach is very welcome. I agree with what he says. That is why, despite the difficulties, we will work to
26 Jun 2013 : Column 737
unblock the situation. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State says, we are going to need all the tools in the box to feed the rapidly growing world population. As he also says, we want the United Kingdom to have a leading role in feeding the world and increasing the resilience of global food supplies, and not to stand by watching others take the lead and forge ahead. The UK is the natural home for scientific research. We want companies and research providers to know that the UK is the best place for them to carry out their work.
Lord Winston: My Lords, I am sure that it will not have escaped the Minister’s attention that a number of your Lordships’ House are genetically modified. When it comes to plants, does he not agree that there is colossal evidence that, given the shortage of water in the world and of food in many countries, the need for genetically modified plants is ever increasing and that this is an important technology to help many people who are starving?
Lord De Mauley: Yes, my Lords, yes and yes.
Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, has said, there is no shred of scientific evidence to suggest that GM foods carry any risk to human health. All talk in the media of “Frankenstein foods” is nonsense. Many GM crops have been cultivated with improvement in the quality of the crops and in their yields in many countries across the world. Is it not now perverse and misguided for the European Union, for instance, to have imposed a ban on the cultivation of GM crops? Can we do better?
Lord De Mauley: The noble Lord makes a really important point. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State and I have discussed this issue with Commissioner Borg in order to emphasise the importance of finding a solution that gets the current system working. The commissioner has signalled that he wants to try to resolve the problems at European level and we look forward to further discussions on this issue.
Viscount Ridley: My Lords, can my noble friend explain why, for 20 years, a group of environmental activists has been allowed to deny the British consumer choice in this matter: the choice to buy GM crops if they prefer them because they think they are good for human health and the environment?
Lord De Mauley: My noble friend is quite right that there are groups—interests—that have been successful in creating controversy around GM which has devalued the public debate and means that people have not been able to reach a balanced view of the pros and cons. We will strive to change that.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, will the Minister undertake to express to his right honourable friend the Secretary of State the strength of support in this House for the science and evidence-based approach
26 Jun 2013 : Column 738
that he is advocating and wish him luck in the European Union in taking that forward? Would it not be truly irresponsible, given the need, as he has said, to cope with a rapidly expanding and often malnourished and starving population, not to take the opportunities offered by GM and by the independent scientific expertise in this country to move forward and save lives, as GM cotton manufacture has saved the lives of agricultural workers across the world?
Lord De Mauley: I agree with the noble Baroness. I am extremely grateful to her and other noble Lords who have spoken positively today, and I will certainly take her words and the words of other noble Lords back to my right honourable friend.
Baroness O’Cathain: My Lords, in all this euphoria about GM crops—and I think it is wonderful that at last we have some positive news—let us not forget that there are areas in the world that are going to be badly affected by this because the plants do not produce seeds on the same basis as current crops. I suggest that in all discussions that go on about this, particularly with the European Union, steps should be taken to ensure that the people who are going to make a lot of money out of these GM crops, such as seed merchants, do something to help those people in other areas in the world who will not be able to do the usual agriculture they have at the moment. We just cannot lose sight of that. I would like him to make sure that that will happen.
Lord De Mauley: My noble friend raises an issue that is known as “terminator technology”; that is, the concept that seeds may not reproduce. Terminator technology is a concept rather than something that is being applied in practice. There are no GM crops in existence, to my knowledge, that produce sterile seed and no plans to market such crops.
Kwame Ogero's insight:
The Safety of Genetically-Modified Foods Produced Through Modern Biotechnology
On September 5, 2002, the DOH issued a Press Statement on the Safety of the Genetically Modified (GM) Food (http://www.doh.gov.ph/press/September052002.html). The FDA hereby reiterates that all GM food products derived from modern biotechnology that are currently on the market have passed food safety assessment based on the UN FAO/WHO CODEX Alimentarius Risk Analysis of Food Derived form Modern Biotechnology (CAC/GL 44-2003) and Guidelines for the Conduct of Food Safety Assessment of Foods Derived from Recombinant-DNA Plants (CAC/GL45-2003). All food derived from GM crops in the market have met international food safety standards and are as safe as and as nutritious as the food derived from conventional crops for direct use as food, feeds and for processing.
Statistics shows that in 2012, 17.3M farmers in 28 countries planted 170.3M hectares of farm lands to GM crops, which is 6% or 10.3M hectares more than in 2011. Data also showed that in 2012, 82% of total land area planted with cotton was planted to GM cotton. The global adoption rate for GM soya, GM corn and GM canola, was 75%, 32% and 26%, respectively, in 2012. (Clive James, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2012).
Different GM crops that are propagated or are undergoing limited or multi-location field trial possess certain traits, like herbicide resistance, pest resistance, improved disease resistance, drought resistance, or biofortified with Pro-vitamin A, and have certain genes integrated in the genome. This means that the safety of these specific GM crops should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, following the CODEX Alimentarius guidelines for determining their safety, including toxicity, allergenicity and nutritional quality, or assessment of any nutritional claim.
It is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods. As the National Competent Authority, the FDA supports the robust science-based evaluation system of CODEX Alimentarius Commission using data and information from field trials as well as laboratory tests. For processed food, the main focus of food safety review is on the objective characteristics of the product and on any health or nutritional claims. The focus of evaluation is on the food product and not on the technology used to produce the product.
Confined field trials on Genetically Modified banana variety genetically engineered to resist a bacterial disease that has been decimating crops across Africa will begin in Kenya in 2014, a researcher said on Thursday. International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Plant Biotechnologists Dr. Leena Tripathi told journalists in Nairobi that the research conducted so far in Uganda shows that the variety holds a lot of promise.
Via Alexander J. Stein
A newly-elected government provides a country with a rare opportunity for a fresh start, and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s nomination this week of Mr Felix Kiptarus Kosgey to become Kenya’s next Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries offers our nation a remarkable opening to make a hard push for food security.
Success, however, will require President Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, Mr Kosgey, and the rest of our new government to set aside the bad mistakes of the recent past and embrace biotechnology.
There’s every reason to hope that they will. At the launch of the Jubilee Coalition manifesto in February, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto promised to “put food and water on every Kenyan’s table”. At his inauguration, President Kenyatta reaffirmed that his government will fully implement the manifesto.
This is both a tall order and a worthy goal — and one of the surest ways to achieving it is by accepting the latest advances in agricultural biotechnology, recognising that they have become conventional practices in many countries and should become so here as well.
Everywhere farmers have had the chance, they have adopted genetically modified crops. Last year, more than 17 million farmers around the world planted more than 170 million hectares of GM crops, according to a new report from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.
This is an all-time high. Moreover, farmers in poor countries made it possible: For the first time, developing nations accounted for more than half of the world’s GM crop plantings.
Unfortunately, as much as Kenyan farmers have hailed the Green Revolution of the 20th century, they have not yet participated in this Gene Revolution of the 21st century.
Our scientists have made strides towards developing biotech crops that would flourish in our soil and climate, but a toxic mix of scientific illiteracy and political pressure has prevented the commercialisation of these promising plants.
To make matters worse, the previous government banned the importation of GM foods and ordered the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation to remove all GM foods from grocery stores.
This tragic decision came last November in the wake of a controversial French study that claimed to find a connection between GM food and tumours in rats.
The results were immediately widely debunked by renowned scientists from around the world. Yet the political activists whose personal ideology opposes agricultural biotechnology — many of them wealthy Europeans who don’t have to wonder about their next meal — managed to smear a vital tool for fighting hunger.
The government cannot move swiftly enough to overturn the previous government’s misbegotten ban on GM food. It may be the single most significant step they can take to improve our nation’s food security.
They should accept what respected organisations, ranging from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to Britain’s Royal Society, have said for a long time: GM food is safe to grow and eat. We have nothing to fear from it — and a great deal to gain.
While farmers in countries like Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and the United States have jumped at the chance to take advantage of high-yielding GM crops, farmers in Kenya and its neighbours have been relegated to the side-lines.
Last year, Sudan became only the fourth African country to permit the planting of GM crops, following the leads of Burkina Faso, Egypt, and South Africa.
The boost in farm productivity alone is enough to justify Kenya’s adoption of crop biotechnology, because it would help us feed a growing population. But the benefits would not stop there. Improved access to GM seeds would create jobs by supplying the raw materials for our textile industries.
Our leaders can show Africa a way to a better tomorrow — a future in which we enjoy true food security. After all, we elected this government on a platform of taking the country to the next level — through science and technology.
Mr Bor teaches Commerce at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Eldoret, and is the chairman of Chepkatet Farmers Co-operative Society (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kwame Ogero's insight:
The new Kenyan government should urgently re-visit the temporary hold on GM food imports. Attaining food security will require us to embrace technologies that will help deal with crop production constraints such as droughts, insect pests and diseases. Biotech crops have clearly demonstrated this.
A record 170.3 million hectares of biotech crops were grown globally in 2012, at an annual growth rate of 6%, up 10.3 million from 160 million hectares in 2011. 2012 was the 17th year of commercialization of biotech crops... 2012 marked an unprecedented 100-fold increase in biotech crop hectarage from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 170 million hectares in 2012; this makes biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent history – the reason: it delivers benefits.
In the period 1996 to 2012, millions of farmers in ~30 countries worldwide, adopted biotech crops at unprecedented rates. The most compelling and credible testimony to biotech crops is that during the 17 year period 1996 to 2012, millions of farmers... worldwide, elected to make more than 100 million independent decisions to plant and replant an accumulated hectarage of more than 1.5 billion hectares – an area 50% larger than the total land mass of the US or China; there is one principal and overwhelming reason that underpins the trust and confidence of risk-averse farmers in biotechnology – biotech crops deliver substantial, and sustainable, socio-economic and environmental benefits...
Of the 28 countries which planted biotech crops in 2012, 20 were developing and 8 were industrial countries... Thus there are three times as many developing countries growing biotech crops as there are industrial countries... More than half the world’s population, 60% or ~4 billion people, live in the 28 countries planting biotech crops...
In 2012, a record 17.3 million farmers, up 0.6 million from 2011, grew biotech crops – notably, over 90%, or over 15 million, were small resource-poor farmers in developing countries. Farmers are the masters of risk aversion and in 2012, 7.2 million small farmers in China and another 7.2 million small farmers in India, collectively planted a record ~15.0 million hectares of biotech crops. Bt cotton increased the income of farmers significantly by up to US$250 per hectare and also halved the number of insecticide sprays, thus reducing farmer exposure to pesticides...
Via Alexander J. Stein