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Minister designate advocates GMO to boost food security | Business News 2013-01-26

Kwame Ogero's insight:

Clement Kofi Humado, Minister designate for the Agric Ministry on Friday advocated the utilization of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) in commercial farming to boost the country’s food security.

He however indicated that because of the exacting nature of some GMO seed varieties, especially maize, on fertilizers for substantial yields, it was important that peasant and rural farmers were insulated from the expensive nature of cultivating GMOs by concentrating on the use of local and hybrid seeds that demanded fewer inputs for desired yields

Mr Humado who gave the suggestion when appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament said the system should be liberalized so that those who can afford to cultivate GMO seed varieties could do so.

He was among the second batch of nominee ministers to be vetted by the legislative committee.

Mr Humado said that his intention was to review the Youth in Agriculture Programme to slant the plan towards processes that would help build the country’s capacity for self sufficiency in livestock, poultry and the rice industry.

He said more youth would be encouraged to go into soybean and yellow maize cultivation, which would be used for feed for the local poultry industry to enable the country wean itself of imports, adding that he would ensure that more educated youth took up employment in the value chain segment to aid in the rapid modernisation of Ghana’s agricultural sector.

Mr Humado said he would pursue reforms aimed at improving subsidy regimes, the efficiency of distributing agricultural inputs and the assessing of needed credit to farmers to increase yields for food security.

He said he would use his experience as a agricultural administrator to leverage funds to improve irrigation and small dams for small to medium scale farmers who constituted the regular food producers in the country.

On livestock improvement, Mr Humado said he initiate a review of the ministry’s plan to develop fodder pastures for livestock farmers in order to confine their rearing to specially demarcated arrears and zone to protect crop producing arrears from the conflicts that arise from the damages to crops through grazing.

He also stressed the need to critically examine the ECOWAS protocol on movement to limit the damage done by the migration of large herds of cattle across the sub-region.

Mr Humado said he collaborate with stakeholders to fast-track the implementation of the Accra Plains irrigation project to that would enable the cultivation of more than 150,000 hectares to improve food security.

He said other segments of the agricultural sector including rice and cotton produce would be given the necessary attention to inure to the country’s capacity to ensure self-sufficiency.

The Minister designate pointed out that there was the need to re-examine the subsidization and the opening up of the fertiliser import market for competition.

He said there was the need for an appraisal of the pricing regime to become favourable to local farmers and discourage smuggling of the commodity to neighbouring counties.

 
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Ten Thousand Years of Crop Improvement

Even without genetic "engineering", how "natural" are our crop plants? How do genetically modified crops differ? Join biologist Maarten Chrispeels and explore how crop plants have changed since...
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Benefits of BIOTECHNOLOGY in agriculture | Agri-biotech

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.

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Global scientific community condemns the recent destruction of field trials of Golden Rice in the Philippines

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Safeguarding science for socioeconomic development: Kindly sign the petition condemning the vandalization of golden rice field trials in the Philippines.

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‘Farmers want the choice to decide whether or not to grow GM crops’

‘Farmers want the choice to decide whether or not to grow GM crops’ | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
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.

 

 

 
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Standard Digital News - Kenya : Lift ban on Genetically Modified Organisms, Oxford researcher urges Kenya

Kenya has been challenged to lift the ban on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for the country to achieve its potential in food production. 

Mr Mark Lynas, a researcher at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, criticised the government’s ban on GM products saying the decision was not informed by science.

“I know the technology is shrouded in controversy inKenya because of the ban but I’m sorry to say the decision was not informed by concrete scientific evidence but rather by falsehood being peddled by forces opposed to the technology,” Mr Lynas said.

Safety concerns

The adoption of the technology has been dogged by controversy over safety concerns, the latest being triggered by a recent French scientific research.

The Seralini report, which has since been disproved by the global scientific community and the French Academy of Sciences as lacking in scientific procedures, claimed consumption of GMOs could cause cancer.

Kenya banned the importation and consumption of the products in December pending investigations into safety issues.

But addressing a press conference at KICC on Thursday, Mr Lynas urged the government to consider lifting the ban noting Kenya had the legal and infrastructural framework to support a safe and sustainable adoption of the technology.

Ironically, Lynas is a former sworn GM critic-turned-advocate and even founded the global movement against GMOs.

“I was an ardent critic of the technology before I saw the light,” said the researcher who gave a public lecture on the technology.

“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:
GLANCE FACTS

 

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.

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Detail view | EASAC - European Academies Science Advisory Council

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 
the prospect of climate change, this century will see world 
agriculture placed under ever greater pressure as it struggles 
to increase food production sustainably. Agricultural 
biotechnology is among the tools by which the challenge 
can be met. But one of biotechnology’s most promising 
achievements, the creation of new plant varieties by genetic 
modification, continues to arouse suspicion, and nowhere 
more so than in Europe. This EASAC report reviews the 
economic, scientific and social consequences of current 
European Union policy on genetic modification and other 
techniques, and argues that Europe and the rest of the world 
have much to gain by reassessing and revising it in the light of 
the accumulated evidence.

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GM crop 'legitimate', says WA Supreme Court - About Organic- GM ...

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: 


The WA Court Decision 29th May 2013. Fascinating detail -- see bold sections below. pdf file of Judge's decision here.

JURISDICTION : SUPREME COURT OF WESTERN AUSTRALIAIN CHAMBERS
CITATION : MARSH -v- BAXTER [2013] WASC 209
CORAM : KENNETH MARTIN J
HEARD : 23 APRIL 2013
DELIVERED : 23 APRIL 2013
PUBLISHED : 29 MAY 2013
FILE NO/S : CIV 1561 of 2012
BETWEEN : STEPHEN WILLIAM MARSH Plaintiff
AND MICHAEL OWEN BAXTER
Defendant 
Catchwords:
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...

...Disposition

25 In the present case the pleadings have long closed and it is clear that the plaintiff's action is:
(a) entirely of a common law character, with the plaintiff seeking injunctive relief and common law damages but no equitable relief;

(b) for permanent injunctive relief upon the common law cause of action grounded upon private nuisance; and

(c) as regards a common law negligence action also raised by the plaintiff, it is clear that the cause of action as articulated by the plaintiff is grounded entirely upon the plaintiff seeking damages or compensation for his pure economic loss.


26 The nature of the economic loss as claimed springs out of the alleged 2010 loss of the plaintiff's organic certification from NASAA. Apparently NASAA applies a 'zero tolerance' policy in its approach to certification. Where a presence of genetically modified matter is identified proximate to land that would otherwise be sought to be categorised as 'certified organic', the NASAA certification is withdrawn.

27 Certain paddocks at Eagle Rest were decertified by NASAA in 2010. These remain decertified in 2013. The only consequence is economic for the plaintiff. This is because it is said that the plaintiff now, in consequence of de-certification, allegedly receives less money for his Eagle Rest grown produce than he otherwise would have received, had his livestock or produce been able to go to market carrying the NASAA certification, 'certified organic'.

28 Hence, the case now awaiting a trial in early 2014, is unlike prior cases factually known to the law. Take, for instance, cases where some water or other accumulated substance escapes from land, causing damage to the land or property of a neighbour, such as the classic situation of Rylands v Fletcher [1868] UKHL 1; (1868) CR 3 HL 330 (but see Burnie Port Authority v General Jones Pty Ltd[1994] HCA 13; (1994) 170 CLR 520 555-556). Or where fire or some other harmful phenomenon physically escapes a defendant's property to the plaintiff's property and there causing injury and harm, such as in the Goldman v Hargrave [1967] 1 AC 13; [1966] UKPC 2 series of cases from the Supreme Court of Western Australia to the Privy Council. There are other cases where some potentially lethal virus or disease that ought to have been properly contained and controlled, such as foot-and-mouth disease, escapes and causes injury to a neighbouring plaintiff's land or chattels, see for instance, Weller & Co v Foot and Mouth Disease Research Institute [1966] 1 QB 569. See also the facts of Perre v Apand Pty Ltd [1999] HCA 36; (1999) 198 CLR 180, where potato blight was present on a property and from there escaped in negligent circumstances that caused economic injury to neighbouring land owners and potato growers.

29 Those cases are well established tort law scenarios. The present scenario of pure economic loss from a third party's de-certification as to a status, does not precisely fit those factual categories of case; particularly as the growing of GMC is an entirely lawful activity as explicitly authorised by the Parliament of Western Australia in 2010.

30 It was accepted by Senior Counsel for the plaintiff that the present case is factually somewhat novel. No previous case authority was cited to me from any other common law jurisdiction of a grower of a lawful genetically modified crop who had been restrained by a court from growing that product on a basis of allegedly adverse economic implications for a neighbour. Hence, this tort case falls into a somewhat pioneering class of case, by virtue of its presenting facts.

31 The defendant contends I should evaluate the plaintiff's case at this point as a marginal or weak, and factor that into the weighed interrelationship with the balance of convenience. The plaintiff says that the merits its case for trial should be viewed as more than respectable as a matter of first principles. For myself, the overriding consideration in determining this application must be the balance of convenience as between a grant or refusal of relief for the 2013 growing season. I evaluate the strength of the plaintiff's case viewed at this time on a basis the plaintiff has, in principle, an arguable case, not necessarily a strong or overwhelming case, to take to trial. That, of course, is only my provisional evaluation as of now, on the material before me. A trial has not begun yet.

32 For what I assess as a presently dominant consideration of an evaluation of the balance of an evaluation of convenience, the defendant says against injunctive relief that the balance of convenience favours it rather than the plaintiff. As part of that evaluation and because I am dealing exclusively with a common law cause of action, I am required to also consider whether the more usual common law relief of damages, is an adequate remedy for the plaintiff in the circumstances even if it wins at a trial. The defendant contends that, in the present circumstances, common law damages is a more than adequate remedy for this plaintiff if at the end of the day the matter goes to trial and the plaintiff ultimately proves successful.

33 Those factors are said by the defendant to be enough, either separately or in combination, to defeat this application. The defendant also raises some asserted delays by the plaintiff. But I put those matters to one side for the moment.


34 On the other hand, the plaintiff says by reference to the most recent affidavit by Mr Marsh, that the plaintiff’s paddocks at Eagle Rest, today stand a good prospect of regaining their lost NASAA organic certification and that these restoration prospects are threatened by the defendant’s proposed GMC planting for 2013. The plaintiff says this consideration favours it on an evaluation of the balance of convenience.

35 Mr Marsh’s personal speculation about the future prospects of regaining certification from NASAA has to be treated as somewhat speculative. But even accepting a hypothetical prospect of a potential re-certification of his paddocks from NASAA, the question must be asked where that would take Mr Marsh in terms of an improvement to his overall financial position, post re-acquiring NASAA organic certification. On this key issue, I find the evidence presently before me to be unacceptably vague and highly speculative.

36 There has apparently been exchanged for the purposes of the trial, on behalf of the plaintiff, an expert report from Aberdeen Consulting that deals with the plaintiff's claimed damages in the period of 2010 and thereafter. That expert material might have been exchanged between the parties, but it certainly has not been filed with the court. I have examined the court file and there is no such document. Nor is it appended to any affidavit material relied upon by the plaintiff in this present application.

37 A passing reference was made to the Aberdeen Consulting report yesterday by Senior Counsel for the plaintiff. This was objected to by Senior Counsel for the defendant. I had not at that point appreciated that there was no such report on the court file. But in the circumstances I must afford any observations about its content, no weight. They are in any event speculative.

38 On the other hand, Mr Baxter's affidavit of 19 April 2013, puts up what I assess provisionally at this time to be some very plausible and legitimate reasoning for wanting to grow GMC on two paddocks of Seven Oaks in 2013. In the first place, Mr Baxter farms his properties on orthodox principles of crop rotation. Secondly, at par 19 of his affidavit of 19 April 2013, Mr Baxter deposes to experiencing a rye grass weed problem on the two paddocks of Seven Oaks. He seeks to address that weed problem by growing GMC in 2013 in the paddocks, then subsequently applying a herbicide Roundup, in order to tackle the rye grass weed problem. Mr Baxter says this at par 19(4) and (5) of his affidavit:

In my experience the superior HRWR control associated with the growing of Roundup Ready Canola and though the use of Round Up herbicide will result in significantly higher yields of Roundup Ready Canola compared to the yields if non-GM canola was grown in the same paddock particularly where HRWR is present;

If I am unable to grow Roundup Ready Canola in the Big Dam and Two Dams paddocks in 2013 the HRWR will not be controlled with the result that the yield of any crop grown in such paddocks this year or in subsequent years will be reduced. Round Up herbicide cannot be used on cereal crops or non-GM canola because they are not resistant to Round Up herbicide;Mr Baxter says further at par 20:
The Roundup herbicide programme, used with Roundup Ready Canola, is far more effective and significantly less expensive than the conventional herbicide programs associated with growing non-GM canola.

39 Mr Baxter offers three reasons: 'less application of Roundup herbicide is required when compared to conventional herbicides'; the rye grass at issue is 'resistant to conventional herbicide'; and that 'multiple applications of different conventional herbicides are generally used with non-GM canola with inferior results' when rye grass is present.

40 Mr Baxter concludes that in respect of his proposal to grow GMC on two Seven Oaks paddocks in 2013, he will implement a limited distance buffer zone as between his GMC crop and the plaintiff's property at Eagle Rest. Mr Baxter states as:
(1) I am aware of the GM canola planting practices of other farmers in the Boyup Brook Kojonup district;

(2) GM canola is commonly grown with a buffer zone well less than 300 metres from adjoining farms;

(3) In order to grow Roundup Ready Canola a farmer must be licensed by Monsanto. Under the Monsanto licence conditions the farmer is required to leave a five metre buffer zone between the Roundup Ready Canola crop and another crop.


41 Hence, it appears at this stage that there are plausible, legitimate reasons for Mr Baxter growing GMC on Seven Oaks in the 2013 season. That is, GMC is resistant to the Roundup that would subsequently be applied to control the rye grass, whereas conventional canola is not. This presents now as a powerful reason to justify why the defendant seeks to act as he does imminently in 2013.


42 The plaintiff claims the relief of a 1.1 km buffer zone as between its property and the defendant’s GMC crop for the 2013 growing season. However, the defendant is offering the buffer zone of 300 m for one paddock and 400 m for the other. Mr Baxter is resisting the plaintiff’s claims for a 1.1 km buffer zone free of GMC. I assess no empirical basis on the material before me to support a rationale for Mr Marsh's claim to a further 800 m of buffer distance.

43 The incursion of a 'volunteer' GM canola plant or plants to Eagle Rest in 2010, which led to NASAA subsequently decertifying some of the Eagle Rest paddocks, plainly occurred in circumstances where the defendant in 2010 harvested using the swathing method. That harvesting method seems to be more likely to generate airborne canola matter, that may then lead to a GMC airborne incursion problem by wind to a neighbouring property.

44 But, in 2013, an undertaking not to use swathing as the canola harvesting method and to instead harvest the heads of all GMC in an orthodox fashion has been openly given by Mr Baxter and accepted by the court.

45 For 2013, the defendant, on his own property, is seeking to lawfully grow GMC for legitimate reasons. If he is not allowed to proceed as proposed, his farm may suffer longer term weed problems. In contrast, the plaintiff wants the extra 800 m buffer zone against the defendant's neighbouring GMC paddocks, but does not give any empirical basis to support why the extra 800 metres buffer is sought, in circumstances where there will be no swathing.

46 The plaintiff says that he has got a prospect of getting re-certification for his paddocks for NASAA in 2013. But there is no guarantee and it is something outside his control. In that respect, I have taken into account a witness statement filed by Mr Ayachit on behalf of the plaintiff, for the purposes of the trial. Albeit that it is not sworn, I will evaluate now what Mr Ayachit says at par 23 and par 28 of his statement, concerning the foreshadowed re-certification of the Eagle Rest paddocks at around October 2013.

47 I will take the most favourable view for the plaintiff about his evidence and I will weigh the Ayachit statement for him into the overall equation. Nevertheless, his forensic problem now is not so much in suggesting a looming prospect of re-certification. It is the total absence of any follow-on evidence as to how the plaintiff would stand to be in a better economic position, as a consequence of a possible October 2013 paddock re-certification by NASAA.


48 In his 12 April 2012 affidavit, Mr Marsh accepted that the direct heading of GMC rather than by swathing, would actually reduce a risk of what he referred to as a 'contamination of his property'. In that respect, I refer to pars 118, 119 and 120 of that affidavit, which concluded at 120:
There is much less chance of canola seeds becoming airborne and travelling any great distance if this method of harvesting is used.

49 The potential risk I evaluate now, is in circumstances where there will be no swathing in 2013. Without swathing, that risk of an airborne spread of GMC will be much less, from the plaintiff's own evidence on this application.

50 By a 2013 affidavit, Mr Marsh now seeks to re-establish the risk of GMC contamination. He attempts this by par 17 of his affidavit. I allow par 17, although a foundation\basis for his now expressed fears of a significant risk, on my assessment of his evidence, amount to little more than bare assertions, rather than giving me an empirical foundation in facts for his as expressed fears.

51 I observe, to round matters off, that objection was taken to par 20 through to par 25 of Mr Marsh's 2013 affidavit, on the basis that they express opinions, without a requisite basis in expertise to demonstrate any proper qualification to express those opinions. Again, I allow this material. But, in my view, it is unconvincing, as regards the present efforts to impose a buffer zone of beyond the given 300 m outwards to a buffer range of 1.1 km, as now sought. I do, however, uphold objections to par 33 and par 34 of Mr Marsh's 2013 affidavit as well as an objection to par 35.


Conclusion
52 I must balance what I assess as a threat of tangible physical damage by weeds potentially to the defendant at Seven Oaks if he is unable to proceed with his GMC cropping program for 2013, against a more speculative economic future loss to the plaintiff, if he does not regain his lost NASAA paddock re-certification, which may give rise to what are presently unquantified potential future economic losses for Mr Marsh.

53 On my assessment, the balance of convenience presently does not favour the plaintiff. Injected into this balancing exercise as a factor, in a context of a scenario in which the ancillary jurisdiction of a court of equity is sought to be invoked to assist the plaintiff's common law causes of action, is a need to assess the suitability of the common law's usual remedy of damages, as the potentially adequate remedy, for Mr Marsh, should he win at the trial.

54 I assess the position presently to be that common law damages would be an adequate remedy for this plaintiff, if he wins. Working out these damages is the very exercise that appears to be under way at present, in terms of trying to quantify the economic damage arising out of the 2010 decertification of the plaintiff's Eagle Rest paddocks by NASAA.

55 The balance of convenience, therefore, coupled to damages presenting now to be an adequate remedy, conditions my assessment of an end result now, as overwhelmingly in favour of the defendant. Assessed by reference to the threat carried by planting GMC canola in the 2013 growing season, my assessment is that the plaintiff's interlocutory injunction application fails.

56 Finally, I mention that the defendant relied upon some asserted delays by the plaintiff. It is true that the plaintiff has pursued this action so far, at a rather leisurely pace, since it was commenced about a year ago in April 2012. In all the circumstances, however, bearing in mind explanations offered for why the plaintiff has faced difficulties, particularly by needing to chase overseas expert reports and the somewhat novel character of this action, coupled with the overwhelming counter-force of the other considerations I have mentioned, any delay factor presents to me as essentially neutral.

57 The application for the interlocutory relief will be refused, on the basis of the court's acceptance of the defendant's undertaking not to harvest by swathing in the 2013 growing season.

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Mary-Dell Chilton earns World Food Prize for pioneering plant genetics ... - Washington University in St. Louis News

Mary-Dell Chilton earns World Food Prize for pioneering plant genetics ... - Washington University in St. Louis News | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it

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.

The World Food Prize on Wednesday announced Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, and Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert Fraley of the United States, as winners of the prestigious award in 2013 for their research on plant biotechnology. The award, created by Iowa native Norman Borlaug in 1986, recognizes the work of individuals who have improved the quantity and availability of food throughout the world.

For decades, the scientists toiled individually on ways to alter plants cells so they could carry favorable traits such as improved yields and a resistance to insects and diseases. The World Food Prize said the laureates’ findings are expected to play an even bigger role in the face of a growing global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050 and an increasingly unpredictable climate.

“The biotechnology products have not been without controversy and so having the prize recognize the three scientists and groups who really helped launch this modern era of plant biotechnology I think is special,” said Fraley, who grew up on a farm in central Illinois with an interest in science and a passion for agriculture. “We all recognize that this award says a lot for how important biotechnology is for the future.”

The recipients of the World Food Prize this year were announced on Wednesday in Washington at the State Department. The laureates did not attend the event.



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The Science is not the problem - Mundo Obrero (2013)

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

 


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AckerbauHalle's curator insight, June 8, 2013 6:40 AM

Es gibt auch andere Modelle zur Nutzung von GVOs - hier das Beispiel Argentinien. 

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Clive James : worldVIEW

Clive James : worldVIEW | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
worldVIEW: A Global Biotechnology Perspective
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
James, an eloquent Welshman, first witnessed poverty in the 1970s while working for the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Canadian International Development Agency in countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Mali. “You get immersed when you visit these countries and it creates an impression,” James says. “I became convinced that feeding the world is our most formidable challenge.”

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
James initially focused on brokering tech-transfer deals between private corporations, funding agencies and developing countries. In his first deal, in 1990, James convinced Monsanto to donate its virus-resistant potato technology to the Mexican government for use by small-scale farmers, and got the Rockefeller Foundation to fund the project.

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.

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Genetic engineering: It's a technology, not an ideology - FoodNavigator.com

Genetic engineering: It's a technology, not an ideology - FoodNavigator.com | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
FoodNavigator.com Genetic engineering: It's a technology, not an ideology FoodNavigator.com Genetic engineering shouldn't be a political issue, no matter how much sci-fi-sensitive individuals might be reminded of the plot from The Day of the...
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Ajan Reginald's curator insight, May 29, 2013 5:15 AM

Its how you use the technology

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Minister designate advocates GMO to boost food security | Business News 2013-01-26

Kwame Ogero's insight:

Clement Kofi Humado, Minister designate for the Agric Ministry on Friday advocated the utilization of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) in commercial farming to boost the country’s food security.

He however indicated that because of the exacting nature of some GMO seed varieties, especially maize, on fertilizers for substantial yields, it was important that peasant and rural farmers were insulated from the expensive nature of cultivating GMOs by concentrating on the use of local and hybrid seeds that demanded fewer inputs for desired yields

Mr Humado who gave the suggestion when appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament said the system should be liberalized so that those who can afford to cultivate GMO seed varieties could do so.

He was among the second batch of nominee ministers to be vetted by the legislative committee.

Mr Humado said that his intention was to review the Youth in Agriculture Programme to slant the plan towards processes that would help build the country’s capacity for self sufficiency in livestock, poultry and the rice industry.

He said more youth would be encouraged to go into soybean and yellow maize cultivation, which would be used for feed for the local poultry industry to enable the country wean itself of imports, adding that he would ensure that more educated youth took up employment in the value chain segment to aid in the rapid modernisation of Ghana’s agricultural sector.

Mr Humado said he would pursue reforms aimed at improving subsidy regimes, the efficiency of distributing agricultural inputs and the assessing of needed credit to farmers to increase yields for food security.

He said he would use his experience as a agricultural administrator to leverage funds to improve irrigation and small dams for small to medium scale farmers who constituted the regular food producers in the country.

On livestock improvement, Mr Humado said he initiate a review of the ministry’s plan to develop fodder pastures for livestock farmers in order to confine their rearing to specially demarcated arrears and zone to protect crop producing arrears from the conflicts that arise from the damages to crops through grazing.

He also stressed the need to critically examine the ECOWAS protocol on movement to limit the damage done by the migration of large herds of cattle across the sub-region.

Mr Humado said he collaborate with stakeholders to fast-track the implementation of the Accra Plains irrigation project to that would enable the cultivation of more than 150,000 hectares to improve food security.

He said other segments of the agricultural sector including rice and cotton produce would be given the necessary attention to inure to the country’s capacity to ensure self-sufficiency.

The Minister designate pointed out that there was the need to re-examine the subsidization and the opening up of the fertiliser import market for competition.

He said there was the need for an appraisal of the pricing regime to become favourable to local farmers and discourage smuggling of the commodity to neighbouring counties.

 
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After 30 years, is a GM food breakthrough finally here? - Guardian (2013)

After 30 years, is a GM food breakthrough finally here? - Guardian (2013) | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it

Golden rice, a new strain that boosts vitamin A levels and reduces blindness in developing countries, is about to be sown in the Philippines... In a few months, golden rice – normal rice that has been genetically modified to provide vitamin A to counter blindness and other diseases in children in the developing world – will be given to farmers in the Philippines for planting in paddy fields. 

 

Thirty years after scientists first revealed they had created the world's first GM crop, hopes that their potential to ease global malnutrition problems may be realised at last. Bangladesh and Indonesia have indicated they are ready to accept golden rice in the wake of the Philippines' decision, and other nations, including India, have also said that they are considering planting it.

 

"Vitamin A deficiency is deadly," said Adrian Dubock, a member of the Golden Rice project. "It affects children's immune systems and kills around two million every year in developing countries. It is also a major cause of blindness in the third world. Boosting levels of vitamin A in rice provides a simple, straightforward way to put that right." Recent tests have revealed that a substantial amount of vitamin A can be obtained by eating only 60g of cooked golden rice. "This has enormous potential," said Dubock. 

 

But scientists' satisfaction over the Golden Rice project has been tempered by the fact that it has taken an extraordinarily long time for the GM crop to be approved. Golden rice was created late last century, but its development and cultivation has been opposed vehemently by campaigners who have flatly refused to accept that it could deliver enough vitamin A, ... the anti-GM movement... sees golden rice as a tool of global capitalism.

 

This view is rejected by the scientists involved. "We have developed this is conjunction with organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a way of alleviating a real health problem in the developing world," says Dubock. "No one is going to make money out of it. The companies involved in developing some of the technologies have waived their licences just to get this off the ground." 

 

This view is shared by Mark Lynas, the environmental campaigner and one of the founders of the anti-GM crop movement. He has publicly apologised for opposing the planting of GM crops in Britain. "The first generation of GM crops were suspect, I believed then, but the case for continued opposition to new generations – which provide life-saving vitamins for starving people – is no longer justifiable. You cannot call yourself a humanitarian and be opposed to GM crops today."

 

Golden rice was created by Peter Beyer, professor for cell biology at Freiburg University in Germany, and Ingo Potrykus of the Institute of Plant Sciences in Switzerland, in the late 1990s. They... modified the rice's genes so that the plants started to make beta-carotene, a rich orange-coloured pigment that is also a key precursor chemical that is used by the body to make vitamin A... 


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Biotech crops increase in 2013 in their 18th consecutive year of commercialization

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Standard Digital News - Kenya : Ignore this propaganda and lift ban on GMO imports

Standard Digital News - Kenya : Ignore this propaganda and lift ban on GMO imports | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it

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.

Harshly reprimanded

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

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Visit to vandalized Golden Rice field trial - IRRI (2013)

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. 


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Alexander J. Stein's curator insight, August 11, 2013 10:57 PM

Interesting to read how little regard the anti-GMO activists apparently had for local customs, traditions and beliefs (which otherwise they probably claim to be dear to their heart), simply overpowering local farmers and stakeholders rather than empowering them. (A jeepney can easily accommodate more than a dozen passengers, i.e. a dozen jeepneys can have bussed in more than half of the "farmers" from Legazpi City who vandalised the field trial.) 

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Resistance to agricultural biotechnology: The importance of distinguishing between weak and strong public attitudes - Aerni (2013) - Biotechnol J

Resistance to agricultural biotechnology: The importance of distinguishing between weak and strong public attitudes - Aerni (2013) - Biotechnol J | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it

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. 

Biotech crops were first commercialized in 1996. In 2012, a record 17.3 million farmers grew biotech crops on 170 million hectares... Over 90% of those who adopted GM crops were small resource-poor farmers in developing countries... The adoption of Bt crops... by smallholders turned out to have a positive impact on the environment, farm income and farmer health [1].

 

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 [4]. 

 

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... 


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U.S. farmers continue to prefer biotech crop varieties - Ag Professional (2013)

U.S. farmers continue to prefer biotech crop varieties - Ag Professional (2013) | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it

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... 


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The Good Lord Taverne asks a question in the House, followed up ...

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 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.

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.

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FDA Advisory No. 2013-014

FDA Advisory No. 2013-014 | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
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.

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GMO banana trials to begin Kenya in 2014 - Global Times (2013)

GMO banana trials to begin Kenya in 2014 - Global Times (2013) | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it

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.

"We have proof of concept for bacteria wilt resistance and so another set of trials will be conducted in Kenya from 2014," Tripathi said during an Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology conference (OFAB) in Nairobi. The monthly event brings stakeholders in the agricultural sector to discuss the latest scientific developments. The inserted gene that is responsible for the resistance is common in a broad range of plant species.

The new variety is part of wider efforts to improve the East African Highland banana, a fruit so important to people across the East Africa region. But scientists said delays to a law regulating the commercial growing of GM food in the country means that it is not clear when the improved banana could be released o farmers.

Currently, there is no cure to the bacteria and therefore farmers are advised to remove the infected plant materials and bury them deep into the ground. "While cultural practices can be used to delay the introduction of the bacteria, use of the resistance varieties is the best way of the containing the disease," she said. "Since the bacteria survive in the soil for six months, the land should be left to fallow or be used to plant another crop," Dr. Tripathi said.

The IITA official said that confined field trials began in Uganda in October 2010 in order to evaluate the resistance to the bacteria as well as agronomic performance. "At least 12 transgenic lines showed complete resistance to the wilt over three generations" ...

She noted that the disease is spread by insect vectors moving from one infected plant to another. "Use of infected planting materials and farming equipment could also spread the bacteria," Dr. Tripathi said. The IITA official noted that farmers' yields are also threatened by pests such as nematodes and weevils as well as fungal and viral diseases. "However, bacterial wilt is responsible for the greatest damage by causing premature ripening of the fruit," she said. Uganda is the world's second largest producer but number one consumer of the food crop.

She said that banana is currently the fourth most important crop in Africa. "In fact a third of the world's 130 million tonnes annual production comes from the continent," she said. Experts have estimated that globally, total economic losses from the wilt were between 2 to 8 billion US dollars over the past decade. She noted that final product would be ready by the end of 2018. "However, the actual date of commercial release will depend on when the biosafety authorities will approve the product," the biotechnologist said... 


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A forward-looking Kenya can lead the movement for global food sufficiency

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 (gbor@cuea.edu)

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.

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Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2012 - ISAAA (2013)

Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2012 - ISAAA (2013) | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it

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...

 


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Crop Biotech Update (February 6, 2013) - ISAAA.org/KC

Crop Biotech Update (February 6, 2013) - ISAAA.org/KC | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
February 6, 2013 Issue: A weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter...
Kwame Ogero's insight:
GLOBAL[Top]

 

GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP TO BOOST AFRICA'S AG RESEARCH

 

 

The Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR Consortium) and the African Union Commission (AUC) have signed a Memorandum of Agreement in Nairobi, Kenya for a program that will boost agricultural research and productivity in Africa. Aimed to create a food secure future for Africa, the collaboration will support the efforts of research institutions in Kenya, and in continental Africa.

Piers Bocock, director of knowledge management and communications at the CGIAR Consortium said that the project will realize science-based agricultural transformations and advance science and technology agendas, and that research will focus on Africa's most pressing agricultural challenges.

More information about this is available at http://www.scidev.net/en/agriculture-and-environment/news/global-partnership-launched-to-drive-africa-s-agricultural-research-.html.

 

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US-INDIAN PROJECT TO DEVELOP IMPROVED PIGEONPEA CULTIVARS

 

 

A pigeonpea molecular breeding project between the United States and India was recently launched in Hyderabad to help boost food, nutrition and income security of the world's dryland poor. The three-year project, named "Pigeonpea Improvement Using Molecular Breeding," will receive support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) India Mission, and will be implemented by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) together with various government research institutions in India.

The project have research component during its first phase, and application component in the second phase. Dr. William Dar, ICRISAT Director General, said that under the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes led by ICRISAT, genomic research plays a crucial role in speeding up the development of improved varieties for smallholder farmer crops such as pigeonpea.

The project team looks forward to enhancing pigeonpea productivity to help ensure food security in India, the world's largest producer, consumer, and importer of pigeonpea; and boost farmer income in Africa, where the crop is grown partly for export to India, but grown mostly in marginal environments.

To learn more about this partnership, read the ICRISAT news release available athttp://www.icrisat.org/newsroom/news-releases/icrisat-pr-2013-media4.htm.

 

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AFRICA[Top]

 

BURKINA FASO'S COTTON OUTPUT INCREASES BY 57% DUE TO GM

 

 

According to Burkina Faso National Cotton Producers' Union (UNPCB), Burkina Faso's cotton output for 2012 (which includes January 2013) has increased by 57.5 percent due to higher number of farmers who adoptgenetically modified (GM) cotton. Compared to its cotton output in the previous year (2011-2012) which accounted to 400,000 tonnes, the country's output for 2012-2013 rose to 630,000 tonnes .

Burkina Faso, which relies on cotton as one of its major exports, is one of the first countries in Africa to approve GM cotton. The government authorized the planting of Monsanto's Bt cotton in 2008. The country's greater-than-expected output could also boost the regional total for West Africa for the year. In an April survey in six West African countries, producers had a forecast  of 29 percent increase to 1,738,500 tonnes for 2012-2013.

For more information, go to http://www.fibre2fashion.com/news/textile-news/newsdetails.aspx?news_id=120666 and http://www.sharenet.co.za/news/Burkina_Faso_cotton_output_soars_575_
pct_due_to_GMOs_producers/c1c24aabd780db9068e132867b233950.

 

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[Top]

 

TANZANIA HOSTS KEY INTERNATIONAL FORUM ON PLANT VIRAL DISEASES

 

 

Tanzania recently hosted the week long 12th International Plant Virus Epidemiology (IPVE) symposium from January 28 to February 2. With the theme "Evolution, Ecology and Control of Plant Viruses," the conference brought together over 200 scientists and leading experts on plant viruses from 40 countries all around the world.

Dr. Lava Kumar, a virologist with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and chair of the 12thIPVE Symposium invited the participants to share experiences and the latest knowledge and technologies to control plant viruses. He also encouraged the development of a global strategy to combat emerging and reemerging plant virus diseases with a focus in Africa. An opening message from Dr. Fidelis Myaka, the Director for Research and Development at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives (MAFC), delivered by Dr. Elly Kafiriti, the Director of the Naliendele Research Institute, noted the negative impact of plant viruses on food security in the continent where they are fueled by poor agronomic practices of resource-poor small-holder farmers. They also assured that the Tanzanian government is supportive of all efforts aimed at finding solutions to control plant viruses in the country.  

The meeting was co-organized by IITA, MARI Tanzania, the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) of Uganda, AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center in Arusha, and CORAF under the auspices of the International Committee on Plant Virus Epidemiology (ICPVE), a specialist committee on plant virus epidemiology of the International Society of Plant Pathology (ISPP).

To read the full article, go to http://bit.ly/XneN2S.

 

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[Top]

 

GHANA'S MINISTER SUGGESTS THE USE OF GMOS TO BOOST COUNTRY'S FOOD SECURITY

 

 

Clement Kofi Humado, Minister-designate for the Agricultural Committee in Ghana has advocated the utilization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in commercial farming to boost the country's food security. Humado gave the suggestion when he appeared before the Appointment Committee of Ghana's Parliament so that farmers who can afford to cultivate GMO seed varieties could do so.

Humado added that more youth should be encouraged to cultivate soybean and yellow maize, the staple feed of the country's poultry industry. He also vowed to incorporate more educated youth in the agricultural sector to aid the rapid modernization of Ghana's agriculture; and to pursue reforms aimed at improving subsidy regimes, the efficiency of distributing agricultural inputs and assessing the needed credit to farmers to increase yields for food security.

For more information, visit http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=263246.

 

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[Top]

 

NIGERIA TO HOST UNN BIOTECHNOLOGY SUMMIT

 

 

Nigeria will host the UNN Biotechnology Summit of the International Scientific Advisory Board for the International Institute for Biotechnology, at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka from 4 to 8 February 2013. The institute, a UNESCO Category II facility is the first Institute of its kind in Africa, established through an agreement between UNESCO and the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 15 October 2012 in Paris. 

Stakeholders and experts in biotechnology from the region and beyond are expected to attend the week-long meeting, which is expected to address critical issues of food security and tropical disease research in Africa. A highlight of the meeting of the Scientific Board will be a one-day seminar with the theme, Biotechnology: Prospects and Challenges for Africa, to be discussed by Professor M. Nalecz, director of the Division of Basic Science and Engineering and Director General of the International Basic Science Program (IBSP) at UNESCO HQ.

For more details on the event, go to http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/all-events/?tx_browser_pi1[showUid]=12315&cHash=37ae6b6b3d.

 

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AMERICAS[Top]

 

RESEARCH SHOWS NEW MEANS TO BOOST MAIZE YIELDS

 

 

Scientists at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York have finally proven a simple hypothesis for making significant increases in maize yields. Led by CSHL Professor David Jackson, the team looked at how quantitative variation in the pathways regulating plant stem cells contributes to its growth and yield. According to Jackson, "Our simple hypothesis was that an increase in the size of the inflorescence meristem will provide more physical space for the development of the structures that mature into kernels."

Dr. Peter Bommert, a former postdoctoral fellow in the Jackson lab, performed an analytical technique on maize variants that revealed quantitative trait loci (QTLs), and the analysis pointed to a gene that Jackson has been interested in since 2001, when he was first to clone it, a maize gene called FASCIATED EAR2 (FEA2). The research has shown that by producing a weaker-than-normal version of the FEA2 gene, it is possible, to increase meristem size, and get a maize plant to produce ears with more rows and more kernels.

The news release about this research is available at http://www.cshl.edu/Article-Jackson/plant-scientists-at-cshl-demonstrate-new-means-of-boosting-maize-yields. Results of this research appear online in the February issue of Nature Genetics. The paper can be viewed at:http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/index.html.

 

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[Top]

 

COSTA RICA APPROVES GM CORN CULTIVATION

 

 

The National Biosecurity Technical Commission of Costa Rica has authorized a local subsidiary of multinational biotechnology company Monsanto to grow genetically modified (GM) corn in the country. The decision was confirmed by Alejandro Hernández, a member of the commission representing the Ministry of Science and Technology, and by a locally-based NGO in the country Coecoceiba.

The ruling allows Monsanto to grow corn for obtaining seeds or for research purposes, but not for consumption or marketing in the country, as all seed to be produced will be exported. Currently there are 443.1 hectares ofbiotech crops in Costa Rica, of which 394.3 are of cotton, 44.6 are soybeans, 3.2 are pineapple and 1 is banana. They belong to Semillas Olson, D & PL Semillas, Bayer, Semillas del Trópico and Del Monte, according to data of Costa Rica's government agency Phytosanitary Service.

See the original article at http://www.ticotimes.net/Current-Edition/News-Briefs/Costa-Rica-OKs-genetically-modified-corn_Monday-January-21-2013.

 

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[Top]

 

DRAFT OF CHILE GENOMIC SEQUENCE COMPLETED, HOPE TO IMPROVE CHILE BREEDS

 

 

A high resolution draft of the chile pepper genome has been completed by researchers from New Mexico State University's (NMSU) Chile Pepper Institute and Seoul University in South Korea.

"Having a sequenced genome will unlock the genetic secrets of the chile pepper providing a powerful tool to examine previously unimagined questions and will accelerate efforts to breed improved cultivars," said Paul Bosland, NMSU Regents Professor and director of the university's Chile Pepper Institute.

According to the draft sequence, the chile pepper has approximately 3.5 billion base pairs and an estimated 37,000 chile pepper genes. NMSU researchers plan to use the data to decipher genes for resistance to chile wilt and to look at carotenoid genes for fortification in crops as well as in the food coloring industry.

See the news article at http://newscenter.nmsu.edu/9188/nmsu-researchers-sequence-chile-genome-hope-unlock-genetic-secrets.

 

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ASIA AND THE PACIFIC[Top]

 

TWO SEASONS OF GOLDEN RICE TRIALS IN THE PHILIPPINES COMPLETED

 

 

The two seasons of multi-location field trials of Golden Rice have been completed in the Philippine province of Camarines Sur. Data generated from these multi-loc trials are now being compiled to be submitted to the  Bureau of Plant Industry under the Department of Agriculture (DA-BPI), who will evaluate the data as part of the government's biosafety regulatory process.

Golden Rice is a new type of rice that contains beta carotene, a source of vitamin A. Leading nutrition and agricultural research organizations are working together to further develop and evaluate Golden Rice as a potential new way to reduce vitamin A deficiency. Golden Rice will only be made available broadly to farmers and consumers in the Philippines if it is approved by DA-BPI and shown to reduce vitamin A deficiency. This process may take another two years or more.

View IRRI's news release http://www.irri.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=12466:two-seasons-of-golden-rice-trials-in-camarines-sur-concluded&lang=en.

 

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[Top]

 

ILOILO AGRI EXTENSION OFFICERS GET UPDATES ON CROP BIOTECH

 

 

Around 80 municipal agriculture officers, agriculturists, and extension workers from the five districts of Iloilo province took part in the "Seminar on Crop Biotechnology for Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture" last January 29, 2013 in Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center, Iloilo City, Philippines.

Philippine biotech experts and proponents of the University of the Philippines Los Baños' (UPLB) fruit and shoot borer resistant Bt eggplant, presented the significant global and local impacts of biotech crops, the science, safety, and potential benefits of Bt eggplant, and biosafety policies. 

The seminar was organized by the DA-Region 6, Provincial Agriculture Office of Iloilo, ISAAA, Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture-Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA BIC), and Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSPII).

For more information about crop biotech developments in the Philippines, visit http://www.bic.searca.org/, or e-mail bic@agri.searca.org.

 

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[Top]

 

PHILIPPINE POLICY MAKERS RECOGNIZE LOCAL BIOTECH RESEARCHES AND PRODUCTS

 

 

Philippine policy makers including the House of Representatives Speaker Jose Belmonte, Jr. and Chair of the House Committee on Science and Technology Congressman Julio Ledesma IV recognized the potentials of biotechnology in improving the country's food security during a four-day biotech exhibit and seminars conducted at the House of Representatives last January 21-24, 2013.

The activity aimed to showcase local biotech efforts and raise awareness among policy makers and other constituents on the technology's benefits and potentials for the country. It involved biotech seminars for media practitioners and policy makers which served as an avenue to clarify the issues and concerns. The scientists and expert-resource speakers explained the importance of continuing public biotech researches such as the research and field trials on the insect resistant Bt eggplant. They said that these were government-funded projects, hence, the technology benefit should go back to the Filipino people. These upcoming biotech crops and technologies were also shown by studies to hold great potentials in bringing socio-economic benefits to its adopters.

The activity was organized by legislative committees in science and technology, and food security, public sector organizations, ISAAA, SEARCA - Biotechnology Information Center, and Philippine Science Journalists Association, Inc. (PSciJourn). 

For more information about crop biotech in the Philippines, visit SEARCA BIC's website,http://www.bic.searca.org/, or e-mail bic@agri.searca.org.

 

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[Top]

 

SURVEY ON EXTENSION OFFICIALS' AWARENESS ON BT BRINJAL

 

 

Scientists at Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (IIVR) conducted a survey to evaluate the awareness and knowledge level of extension officials in Eastern Uttar Pradesh about Bt brinjal (eggplant), a biotech crop nearing commercialization in India. Results showed that most of the respondents (77.12%) have inadequate basic knowledge about the crop. Thus, it is recommended that an awareness program would be implemented to increase the knowledge of extension officials on Bt brinjal. This is important because extension officials are the institutional mechanism of extension in the country and they are in direct contact with the farming community.

The research article is published at a special issue of Indian Research Journal of Extension Education:http://www.seea.org.in/special_issue/vol1/45.pdf.

 

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[Top]

 

STUDENTS VISIT BIOTECH INSTITUTES IN BANGLADESH

 

 

Bangladesh Biotechnology Information Center (BdBIC) of ISAAA in collaboration with Biotechnology Department of Bangladesh Agricultural University organized a study tour for 30 biotech students last December 17-18, 2012. The visit was conducted in Jute and Macrophomina genome sequencing laboratories of Bangladesh Jute Research Institute, National Institute of Biotechnology, and Bangladesh Sugarcane Research Institute. Biotech facilities and on-going activities of the laboratories were shown and explained, including the Genome Sequencing Lab where Jute and Macrophomina have been sequenced and published recently.

For details, contact Prof. K. Nasirrudin of BdBIC at nasirbiotech@yahoo.com

 

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[Top]

 

KOREA APPROVES GM CORN STACKS FOR IMPORTATION

 

 

The Korean Regulatory Authorities have approved the importation of Syngenta's biotech corn Agrisure Viptera 3110 and 3220 trait stacks for food and feed use within Korea. The two stacked traits offer a broad spectrum of above-ground lepidopteran insects such the European corn borer and corn earworm. The same stacked traits have been given import approval from regulatory authorities in the Philippines, Japan,Mexico, South Africa, and Taiwan, and cultivation approval in the United States and Canada.

See the original news for details at http://www.syngentacropprotection.com/news_releases/news.aspx?id=171519

 

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EUROPE[Top]

 

GM TOBACCO PRODUCES ANTIBODIES FOR POSSIBLE RABIES TREATMENT

 

 

A new research reports that scientists have produced a monoclonal antibody in genetically modified (GM)tobacco plants that can neutralize the rabies virus. This new antibody prevents the virus from traveling to the brain and from attaching to nerve endings around the bite site.

A group of scientists from the Hotung Molecular Immunology Unit at St. George's University of London led by Leonard Both "humanized" the antibody sequences so people can tolerate it. The antibody was then produced from purifying GM tobacco leaves, and is active in neutralizing a broad panel of rabies viruses.

According to Both, untreated virus infection is nearly 100 percent fatal, but producing an inexpensive antibody using GM plants makes rabies prevention possible, especially for low income families in developing countries.

The report appears in the January edition of the FASEB Journal, published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).

The abstract is available at http://www.fasebj.org/content/early/2013/01/31/fj.12-219964.abstract.

 

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BASF STOPS EU APPROVAL BID FOR GM POTATOES

 

 

The German plant biotech company BASF Plant Science has announced that it will "discontinue the pursuit of regulatory approvals for the Fortuna, Amadea, and Modena potato projects in Europe because continued investment cannot be justified due to uncertainty in the regulatory environment and threats of field destructions."

In the same press release, the company said it will also no longer pursue research and development activities into nutritionally enhanced corn for strategic reasons. The company, however, intends to strengthen its effort in developing high yielding and stress resistant crops in its research headquarters in the United States. A key focus of its new plant biotech research strategy will be in delivering fungal resistant corn.

Read BASF's official press release at: http://www.basf.com/group/pressrelease/P-13-133. ; Follow related news article at: http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/BASF-stops-seeking-EU-approval-of-GM-potatoes.

 

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Research[Top]

 

COMPARISON OF AGROBACTERIUM AND PARTICLE BOMBARDMENT FOR DEV'T OF HIGH-EXPRESSING, LOW-COPY TRANSGENIC PLANTS

 

 

Scientists at the University of Queensland in Australia conducted a study to compare two mechanisms used in genetic transformation of plants, the Agrobacterium-mediated transformation (AMT) and particle bombardment using whole plasmid (WP) and excised minimal cassettes (MC). They aimed to compare the two in terms of transformation efficiency, transgene integration complexity, and transgene expression in plants.

For direct comparison, the researchers used identical expression cassette for the linked selectable marker and reporter genes in all treatments. Results showed that there were no significant differences in the transformation efficiencies of WP and MC when equal amounts of DNA were delivered. When the MC concentration was decreased, the transformation efficiency became equivalent with ATM, and thus both can be used efficiently to generate sugarcane lines with low transgene copy numbers and strong transgene expression.

Read the research article at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11248-012-9639-6#page-1.

 

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[Top]

 

EXPRESSION OF AQUAPORIN GENE IN SALT-STRESSED RICE PRE-TREATED WITH DOPAMINE

 

 

One of the major problems in rice production is coping with saline soils. Thus, Amal Abdelkader from Ain Shams University in Egypt, together with other scientists, conducted a study to investigate the function of neurotransmitter dopamine in enhancing salinity tolerance of rice by adjusting the plasma membrane intrinsic proteins (PIPs).

Using RT-PCR, the expression of aquaporin gene (OsPIP1-s) was increased as a response to mild salt concentration. On the other hand, the expression of the gene was decreased in response to dopamine, which may imply that dopamine could have a regulatory role in water penetration. It was also observed that the content of pigment and proline was regulated significantly when the plants were pre-treated with dopamine before exposure to salt stress. Low membrane leakage was observed in salt stressed rice pre-treated with dopamine.

The researchers concluded that dopamine has a role in regulation of OsPIP1-s gene, which is concentration-dependent. It was recommended that pre-treatment of dopamine in low concentrations can be a cheap and potential mechanism to improve salt stress-tolerance in rice through the neurotransmitter's effect on plasma membrane aquaporins.

Read the abstract at http://www.pomics.com/abdelkader_5_6_2012_532_541.pdf.

 

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Beyond Crop Biotech[Top]

 

RNA FRAGMENTS FROM MICROVESICLE CAN BE USED FOR CANCER DIAGNOSIS

 

 

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital discovered that strands of information preserved on microvesicles called exosomes may help detect and monitor progession of several types of cancers. Instead of conducting multiple biopsies, which could be life-threatening, new exosomal diagnostic tests can be done.

Through the new tests, the exosomes from bio-fluids can be used to extract information on the genetic changes that occurred. Once the specific cancer mutation is known, additional bio-fluids can be collected at certain periods of time to monitor mutation levels as well as the patient's response to therapy.

Read the original article at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=rna-fragments-may-yield-rapid.

 

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[Top]

 

MANIPULATION OF MOSQUITO GUT BACTERIA TO FIGHT MOSQUITO-BORNE DISEASES

 

 

Using metagenomics, an approach that studies different genomes of organisms in an ecosystem, a research group led by New Mexico State University assistant professor Jiannong Xu attempts to reduce the population of disease transmitting mosquitoes. Malaria, Dengue Fever and West Nile virus kill million of people in poor developing countries for decades and an effective control is yet to be discovered.

The team previously found that there is a dynamic bacterial community that exists in the mosquito gut. Recently, the team developed a protocol to be able to perform mosquito metagenomic RNA sequencing. Hence, they were able to characterize taxonomic and functional composition of the gut microbiome. Moreover, the mosquito gut bacterial genome of Elizabethkigia which the group isolated was found to be identical with the one found in Europe, which means that the bacterium is very common with malaria transmitting mosquitos. Future collaborations and research is hoped to produce engineered bacterium that produce toxins in the mosquito gut.

For more details on this story, see http://newscenter.nmsu.edu/9187/nmsu-researchers-fight-mosquito-borne-diseases-manipulation-mosquito-gut.

 

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DOCUMENT REMINDERS[Top]

 

DEVELOPING SOYBEAN CULTIVARS, A VIDEO PRESENTATION

 

University of Maryland Emeritus Professor William J. Kenworthy discussed in a video presentation how the inheritance of soybean cultivar traits impacts the breeding program to develop new cultivars. Genetic principles that influence selection response and breeding techniques were discussed for the understanding of soybean growers. A 5-minute Executive Summary video and the Full Presentation video (27 minutes) can be viewed and downloaded athttp://www.plantmanagementnetwork.org/edcenter/seminars/Soybean/DevelopingSoybeanCultivars/.

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Burkina Faso cotton output soars 57.5 pct due to GMOs: producers

Burkina Faso cotton output soars 57.5 pct due to GMOs: producers | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
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Kwame Ogero's insight:

Cotton production in Burkina Faso, one of the first countries in Africa to approve genetically modified cotton, jumped 57.5 percent in 2012-2013 due to an increase in GMO crops, the producers' association said.

 

Output for the year to end-January 2013 rose to 630,000 tonnes from 400,000 tonnes in 2011/2012 and exceeded the association's expectations for 532,000 tonnes, the Burkina National Cotton Producers' Union (UNPCB) said on Thursday.

 

Burkina Faso, which relies on cotton as one of its major exports, approved the planting of Monsanto's Bt cotton GMO variety in 2008.

 

"Genetically modified cotton production is experiencing growth every year," said Karim Traore, UNPCB president.

 

Burkina Faso's top cotton producer, SOFITEX, collected 500,000 tonnes, 55 percent of which came from genetically modified crops, while the Gourma Cotton company collected 100,000 tonnes, he said.

 

The country's greater-than-expected output could also boost the regional total for West Africa for the year. In an April survey in six West African countries, producers had forecast a 29 percent increase to 1,738,500 tonnes for 2012-2013.

 

Although an increasing number of farmers are turning to cotton in West Africa, production remains hobbled by a lack of agricultural technology and stiff competition from subsidised growers such as in the United States.

 

The Benchmark March cotton contract on the ICE Futures U.S. exchange was trading at 83.19 cents per lb, up 0.27 percent by 1612 GMT on Thursday.

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