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The GE Information Bulletin



An independent digest of widely-sourced information relevant to the GE Debate


No. 37 September 2005



> Kenya Stops Research On GM Maize

> Bt Cotton Ineffective Against Bollworm

> 'Secret' GM Milk Sale Attacked

> US Needs To Pay Attention To Customers

> GM Crops Research Pipeline Going Dry

> WA Seeks National GM Liability Laws

> Scientists Warn Of GM Superweed Risk

> Toxic 2ndry Metabolite Production In GM Potatoes

> Focus On Horizontal Gene Transfer


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The Kenyan government stopped their first ever crop trial due to a pesticide application that threw the results of the trial into question. The agriculture secretary also cautioned scientists against succumbing to outside pressures that might undermine Kenyan standards and safety. Research is showing Indian GE cotton seeds to have problems with pesticide production, making them susceptible to insect attack, confirming NGO and farmer complaints. The journal Nature Reviews Microbiology has a special issue titled Focus on Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT). It attempts to summarise existing knowledge from several disciplines and help build a "holistic picture" of HGT and its effects. And a soybean industry expert is saying that the US will lose footing in the food-grade soy market unless it starts listening to customers rather than forcing GE crops on them.


Sunday Nation, August 28, 2005
(Kenya) The Government has terminated the first ever GM maize experiments recently launched by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and an American firm, Sygenta, and ordered the crop destroyed. A technician sprayed the trial maize crop with a restricted chemical, Furadan, which meant it could no longer be possible to tell if it was the Bt maize or the chemical that would influence results being examined. At the same time, local bio-technology researchers have been cautioned against succumbing to pressure from international organisations at the expense of standards and safety. "We don't have an enabling legal framework to fall back on should anything nasty happen. [That] should be reason enough to be extra vigilant in biosafety. Unfortunately, there's an emerging tendency by our scientists yielding to pressure from international collaborators pushing to secure approvals for their projects faster, sidestepping procedures," Agriculture secretary, Dr Wilson Songa said. Full item:


Financial Express, August 1, 2005
(India) Research findings on Bt cotton published in Current Science have placed the country's regulatory authority, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee in the dock. A team of scientists from the Central Institute of Cotton Research recently found that the resistant power in cotton plant remains only for 110 days, after which the crop can be exposed to bollworm attacks. The Cry1Ac level declines as the plant grows and is found to drop below its "lethal level" within 110 days after sowing. The study further said that toxin expression [was] lowest in the ovary of flowers and rinds of green bolls - the most favoured sites of bollworm attack. "[It] means that the farmer has to apply more chemical pesticides to save his crop. Already, the cost of Bt cotton seeds are high and this incurs additional costs on pesticides. Eventually, he lands up in heavy debts," a researcher said. In the past three years of commercial cultivation of Bt cotton, several other NGOs conducted studies and came out with similar results. These NGOs and farmers' organisations had cautioned GEAC to withdraw approval to Bt cotton. Full item:


Western Mail, August 27, 2005
(UK) Shoppers have sounded an emphatic "No" to GM milk, which campaigners claim is "secretly" sold by major supermarket stores. Greenpeace claims thousands of tonnes of GM animal feed comes into UK ports each year to be used as feed for dairy herds that supply all the major supermarkets. "Given the choice, 97% of the thousands we have polled in South Wales said they don't want it, which seems to be pretty conclusive," Ben Ayliffe, a Greenpeace campaigner, said. "GM in milk is something the supermarkets are quite tight-lipped about... once we tell people, they are genuinely shocked. Especially given all the reassurances from supermarkets about GM food, they assume the same goes for milk." The Welsh Consumer Council found almost 3/4 of consumers said all food with GM ingredients should be labelled as such even if they contain only a tiny amount. Full item:


Agri News, August 30, 2005 (USA) The United States needs to start listening to its customers if it wants to remain a player in the soybean export market, a soyfoods industry expert said. Peter Golbitz, president of Soyatech, said the United States' share of that market is decreasing because US farmers aren't growing what the world's consumers want. He said soybeans [are] the world's largest protein and oil crop. If the US soybean industry wants to be a player, it needs to invest in food-grade soybeans and adjust its attitude. The US can no longer be the bully that tells other nations what they have to buy. "There's really no excuse in today's market not to give the consumer what he wants." The crop changed dramatically in 1996 when US farmers began planting Roundup Ready beans. Now, 86 percent of US soybeans are genetically modified. Eight to 9 percent are food-grade soybeans and 5 percent to 6 percent are feed and seed. If any more GMO soybeans are grown, the United States will be out of the food-grade market, Golbitz said, and may have to import to meet US consumer demand. Full item:


The Hindu Business Line, August 21, 2005
(India) The bio-technology industry says it has turned its focus on drought- resistant and health providing GM crops. But world-wide data shows that the pipeline of GM crops research is drying up. In the US not a single petition has been filed for field trials this year. According to the US Department of Agriculture, there has been a slide since 1995 when 15 petitions were filed. The lowest number of applications - five - were filed in 2002 and things improved marginally during 2003 and 2004. In Canada, confined research field trials of GM crops have declined from 178 in 2000 to 64 in 2004. In the EU, environmental release of GM crops has slid from 264 in 1997 to 68 in 2004. One reason for the loss of interest in carrying out research in GM crops could be the length of time taken to review the petitions by the authorities, especially in the US. During 1995-99, the FDA took six months to review a petition but between 2000 and 2004 [it] was 13-14 months. Full item:


August 9, 2005
(Australia) Western Australia's Minister for Agriculture Kim Chance says he would like to see national legislation governing liability for GM contamination. The call comes after preliminary test results in WA identified a small amount of GM canola in non-GM canola. "The question of liability laws is one that the pro-GM groups ought to support as well. Properly constructed, it would give a degree of legal certainly to both sides," he said. The issue is set to widen, with th[is] discovery coming just weeks after a similar incident in Victoria. Authorities believe the source of the contamination could be from lines of commercial seed sold to farmers all over Australia. Full item:


The Guardian, August 18, 2005
(UK) Scientists have identified 15 weed species that are resistant to a herbicide widely used on GM crops and are warning farmers they may become a serious problem on "a global scale," unless a strategy for dealing with them is developed. Some of the most common weed species either have some strains with a natural resistance to the widely used GM herbicide glyphosate or have developed one. Writing in the journal Outlooks on Pest Management, four scientists argue there is a danger that by ignoring the threat these weeds pose, farmers maybe giving them a huge advantage over other plants which are killed by glyphosate. The paper says that glyphosate has been used by farmers to kill off weeds for 30 years but since the 1990s, when GM crops were modified to resist glyphosate, worldwide use has increased from 5,000 tonnes a year to more than 30,000 tonnes in 2002. "The problem of glyphosate-resistant weeds is real, and farmers have to realise that the continuous use of glyphosate without alternative strategies will likely result in the evolution of more glyphosate-resistant weeds." Full item:


J. Agric. Food Chem., September 2, 2005
Potatoes produce a number of toxic secondary metabolites. The development of GM potato varieties has made it prudent to ascertain whether there may be changes in the amounts or types of these secondary metabolites either as a direct effect of the transgene or due to its interactions with environmental variables. Transgenic potato lines were exposed, along with nontransgenic lines, to a range of biotic and abiotic stresses and a range of environmental conditions in the field and store. Significant differences were observed... Research News:


Nature Reviews Microbiology 3, Vol 3 No 9; September 2005
Foreword: Barth F. Smets & Tamar Barkay
The evidence indicates that HGT is a central process in microbial activities that control our health and the environment, and that it holds promise as a tool for their improvement. Several scientific disciplines are addressing HGT, each providing their unique perspective and each using different approaches and methodologies - evolutionary biology, molecular ecology and molecular biology. With such distinct perspectives, conflicts are bound to arise, but opportunities for synthesis are certain to emerge. The ability to control harmful effects and to enhance desired attributes of HGT depends on the integrated understanding of HGT as a continuum and its integration within an ecological framework. The goal of this Focus issue is to present HGT from the perspective of these different disciplines and to provide a path towards the construction of a holistic picture of HGT and its effects on extant microbial communities. Research News:


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