[For further information on the Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and
Agriculture see the Forum website.
Note, participants are assumed to be speaking on their own behalf, unless they state otherwise.]
Sent: 18 June 2009 09:14
Subject: 46: Re: GM cassava - CMVD resistance
I am Paul Anderson, Executive Director of International Programs at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, United States.
I would like to follow up on Message 37 by Mr. R. Ademola Usman regarding the cassava product that was never field tested in Nigeria nor commercialized. I applaud Mr. Usman and the Nigerian government for their commitment to developing improved cassava varieties that will lead to increased food security for the people of Nigeria. The Danforth Center is a committed partner in this project. We strongly support their goal of developing the capacity of Nigerians to be self sufficient in this effort.
I would also like to respond to the setbacks referred to in Message 26 by Doug Gurian-Sherman. He is referring to experimental work to develop resistance to cassava mosaic disease, an extremely devastating disease. The cassava plants to which he refers were generated in our laboratories in St. Louis, USA, in 2003: materials were not tested outside of our labs. To speak of success or failure during the experimental phase of this or other research is not appropriate, as scientists are aware. Encountering problems and solving them is a normal part of the scientific process. Each step of a discovery provides scientists with new information and clues that eventually lead us to the answers to the questions we are investigating.
Biotechnology will play a role in meeting the most pressing challenges facing our generation. Through good science we hope that can discover ways in which to alleviate hunger for all people and sustain our environment for those to come.
Paul Anderson, PhD
Executive Director of International Programs,
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
975 N. Warson Road
St. Louis, MO 63132
pcanderson (at) danforthcenter.org
Sent: 18 June 2009 09:35
Subject: 47: Re: Biotech developments in Argentina in the past
This is Eduardo J. Trigo, again.
I would like to take up some of the comments by Viviana Echenique in Message 41. I think they highlight some of the issues surrounding the biotechnology and GMOs debate. In the first part of my message I will make some general comments, and in the second address some of the specific aspects touched by Ms Echenique in her message.
When discussing biotechnological applications we should not lose sight that we are discussing technological change, not technological 'miracles' and in change - technological and in any other other area of life - there are costs and benefits. Every new technology comes to solve some problem(s), but in turn, creates new ones that need to be managed and, eventually, resolved, most probably through still another new technological concept. This is the history of technological progress, and there is no reason to think that this go around would be no different from other situations in the past. Furthermore, since it is a radical change, biotechnology also brings the need for a new policy and institutional system that fully reflects the characteristics of the new technologies and the processes behind them. One of the issues we probably need to fully confront in today's discussion, is that the policies and institutions that we have today have evolved from and reflect the needs and characteristics of 'conventional' or 'green revolution' technologies, and served well to contain and promote them, but are not well fitted for what the biotech cycle is demanding. Biosafety, intellectual property rights, labeling and segregation, high investment requirements, etc., are all issues that are rather new and 'foreign' to the agricultural research and technology discussion, and if we want to fully benefit from what biotechnology may offer in terms of the sustainable improvement of agricultural productivity and production, we should start addressing the need to move forwards to a better policy and institutional fit.
Now, with comments on message 41: My intention is not to counter-argue, but to put them in context to facilitate the learning process from the Argentinian experience with GMOs. GM crops have meant a real agricultural production revolution, but it is not clear that production increases in these crops have been at the expense of other agricultural activities. In fact, available evidence (see '10 years of GMO crops in Argentinean Agriculture' Trigo EJ and E. Cap, http://www.inta.gov.ar/ies/docs/otrosdoc/resyabst/ten_years.htm), shows that during the first decade of GM crops in Argentina, beef and milk production - both competitive with soybeans in terms of land use - also increased. Most probably, as a consequence of technological intensification in response to the higher land prices, resulting from competition from soybeans.
Environmental costs are also brought up as one of the downsides of GM crops, particularly in connection with deforestation for the expansion of herbicide tolerant (HT) soybean production. This is not a new process, but one that has been underway before the new technologies became available, and clearly a case of policy failure in terms of forest protection and land use planning. HT soybeans availability may have contributed to the process, and even sped it up, but the problem was there independently of GMOs and should be faced on its own merit.
Monoculture and its associated costs in terms of sustainability are also rightly pointed out. Soybeans have significantly increased their participation in the Argentinean agricultural production basket. In spite of the fact that aggregate production has almost doubled, today soybeans represent a larger share of the total than they did ten years ago. No certain answers here, but some leads may help drawing lessons from this experience. HT soybeans never confronted restrictions for export to the major markets - namely the European Union - but other crops, such as maize, did and Argentina, being a major agricultural exporter, put in place a policy of not approving any new GM event which was not already approved in those markets, distorting the local innovative process and upsetting the balance between crops. This and the fact that maize is a more expensive crop to produce and has an unfavourable transport cost to price ratio, triggered the monoculture problem and the associated nutrients loss / soil fertility problems mentioned. Is this a problem with the technology or one of policy failures? Assigning blame is always difficult, but we could agree that here there is more a policy than a technology problem at play. Furthermore, it is estimated that the amount of nutrients lost (phosphorus) is 7-8% of the total benefits generated by HT soybeans. This offers plenty of space for incentives for nutrient replacement by farmers, but there are none in place. These and other environmental issues, should be also balanced against what have been the synergies between GM technologies and no-till agricultural practices in Argentina and their impact on the reversion of soil degradation existing previous to the GMOs and what happened with CO2 emissions. Available evidence regarding both aspects point in the direction of positive impacts ('GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996-2007', http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk).
Finally, social costs. There is no clear evidence on the impact on small farms, but in any case, whatever happened at this level should be set against the impact on job creation (close to a million during the first decade) and the fact that income from soybean export taxes is a key resource to support subsidies to the urban poor instated by the Government since the 2001 crisis (see Trigo and Cap, cited above).
Eduardo J. Trigo
Director GrupoCEO SA
trigoej (at) gmail.com
Sent: 18 June 2009 13:18
Subject: 48: Micropropagation of root crops - Nigeria
I am Uche Chikezie, Biotechnology Lecturer of the Department of Biotechnology, FUTO. P. M. B. 1526. Owerri. Imo State, Nigeria.
While I commend the micropropagation activities of the National Root Crops Research Institute [NRCRI], Umudike, Umuahia, Nigeria, aimed at micropropagation and production of disease-resistant varieties of our staple root crops, cassava, yam, cocoyam etc., using plant biotechnology techniques. I think these agricultural biotechnologies have not fully succeeded, because not many farmers in this part of Nigeria have benefited from the research activities of this Institute.
This could be because, the NRCRI is not adequately funded for large-scale micropropagation of these staple root crops, and may not have well-developed agricultural extension networks, to distribute their varieties to reach the grassroot farmers, in our rural communities, in the South-East Nigeria, where the NRCRI, is located. In Nigeria, the grass root farmers in our rural communities, constitute large proportion of the agricultural sector, and are involved in food production, to meet the needs of their local communities, thereby reducing food scarcity and alleviating hunger. If most of these farmers do not benefit from the agricultural research biotechnologies of research institutes, such as the NRCRI, in their locality, then I think, such agricultural biotechnologies has not achieved the objectives of alleviating food scarcity and hunger, and therefore, has not fully succeeded, in that region.
Finally, I wish to request that donor agencies in the developed nations assist in adequate funding of agricultural development programs, in our research institutes and develop biotechnology labs. in academic institution, and proper training of staff in agricultural biotechnologies, to achieve full success of these technologies.
Dept. of Biotechnology,
Federal University of Technology (FUTO),
P.M.B. 1526. Owerri. Imo State.
uchikezie (at) yahoo.com
Sent: 18 June 2009 13:19
Subject: 49: Re: GM sweet potato - Kenya
I am Bosibori Bett, a Research Scientist with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) - Biotechnology programme.
I concur with Daniel Kamanga in message No. 45 on the facts that he has stated regarding the GM Sweetpotato in Kenya. I 'testify' that I (amongst others) was involved in the transgenic trials and this experience paved the way for making applications/requests/dossiers; carrying out subsequent confined field trials (CFTs) with other GM crops; and implementing risk management and mitigation measures for the same. Additionally on capacity building, I (amongst others) was a beneficiary of the project where I undertook training in Biotechnology under a grant that funded the second phase of the GM Sweetpotato project (Advancement of Transgenic Sweetpotato project). Capacity and infrastructure has been enhanced and since then there have been numerous collaborations with other institutions in the region and internationally in GM-related work (Genetic engineering, transformation, evaluation of transgenic crops under containment and confinement) etc. These indeed are some of the successes of the sweet Sweetpotato story.
Bosibori Bett (Mrs.)
Kenya Agricultural Research Institute
P. O. Box 14733 - 00800
bosiboribett (at) yahoo.com
Sent: 18 June 2009 17:00
Subject: 50: Re: Biofertiliser - Common bean - Mexico
This is Humberto Peralta, again.
In this message I provide more information about the use in Mexico of the Rhizobium-based bioferilizer mentioned in my Message 22.
In 2003, an agreement was signed between the National University with a Mexican private company, called Biofabrica Siglo XXI, to produce the biofertilizer for common bean. The product, named Rhizofer (derived from 'rhizo' [Rhizobium] and 'fer' [fertiliser]), consists of a one pound-bag, sufficient to biofertilize one hectare (10 000 square meters) of the crop. Additionally, it is sold with a 1 kilogram-bag containing spores of a mycorrhizal fungus, Glomus intraradices, to enhance mycorrhization and help the plant to acquire soil nutrients and to solubilize phosphates. This package is sold for the equivalent of 15 USD, and also includes print material, explanation sessions with Biofabrica agronomists and further assistance.
The biofertilizer has been used mainly in the central and northern regions of Mexico, for example the state of Zacatecas (principal common bean producer in the country). Official institutions, such as the Fundacion Produce (a national farmers association, with state branches) and State governments have published the obtained results.
The scientific publication was in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal, 2004, vol. 70, pages 3272-3281 by Peralta et al. -
Humberto Peralta, Ph D
Center for Genomic Sciences
Av Universidad 1001
PO Box 565-A,
e-mail: peralta (a) ccg.unam.mx