GENET-news

 Below you find the postings of the last seven days.

 

2008-09-17 |

New Zealand’s local councils liable for damages by GE crop trials

Northland ratepayers could shoulder the risk if a field trial of genetically modified organisms goes wrong in the region. The risks and management options of GMO trials is being considered by a Northland and Auckland working party, which includes both the Whangarei District and Northland Regional Councils. It found local councils would have to pay for any environmental damage if a GMO release, approved by the Environmental Risk Management Agency, was to go wrong.

2008-09-17 |

Australian Government stops funding GE virus project to kill invasive toads

FUNDING for research on a genetically engineered virus to control toads has been cancelled for fear it could also wipe out native frogs. The Federal Environment Department withdrew funding for the CSIRO research because its long-term feasibility was questionable and because it faced a major hurdle in being approved for release. [...] Prof Alford said immediate results on small-scale toad control were available for low-tech but community friendly methods such as better trapping that greatly reduced numbers. ”We’ve tripled the catch rate simply by playing back toad calls at a trap,” he said.

2008-09-17 |

GE RR lupins are key to Western Australian future

WORD about genetically modified (GM) plants didn’t take long to surface at the International Lupins Conference in WA this week. Strawberry (west Mingenew) farmer Clancy Michael [...] left no doubt that GM lupins was the key to the future. ”There is a compelling case for the development of a glyphosate-tolerant lupin compared to developing similar technology in other crops such as canola and wheat,” he said. Mr Michael said the lupin industry needed a plant that is highly tolerant to a broad spectrum herbicide such as a glyphosate-tolerant variety.

2008-09-17 |

GM crops lobby sees golden opportunity under new government of Western Australia

WA’s major farming groups are pushing for trials of genetically modified canola under a new government, but opponents warn that unleashing the controversial technology will ruin the State’s clean and green image. The farming industry is expecting a more lenient stance from the new government to test the technology and ultimately produce commercial GM crops in WA. ”Industry will be looking to engage in discussions with this government where as they saw absolutely no way forward with the Carpenter Government,” the chairman of industry body AusBiotech, Ian Edwards, said.

2008-09-16 |

Scottish Ministers urge UK-wide ban on GM crops

SCOTTISH MINISTERS are putting mounting pressure on the UK government to end its support for GM crops now that Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have all agreed to become GM-free. In the wake of the latest GM crop contamination revealed on Friday, the Scottish environment minister, Michael Russell, is urging Whitehall to alter its stance to take account of the strong opposition to genetically modified crops in all the devolved administrations.

2008-09-16 |

Illegal GM crops are found In Scotland (UK)

Fields of oilseed rape in Scotland have been destroyed after it was discovered that the experimental seeds which had been sown were contaminated with unauthorised genetically modified material. The unauthorised GM material was contained among seeds of a new variety of oilseed rape from North America. All new varieties must undergo strict quality control tests which are carried out in trials by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB).

2008-09-16 |

GM potato ”of no use” in South Africa

A pest-resistant strain of genetically modified potato, earmarked for possible commercial release in South Africa, will be of no use to local spud farmers, said the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) this week. It will also increase risk to the farmer in an already volatile agricultural sector. [...] ”The tuber moth is not high on the list of problem pests for our farmers,” explained Mayet. ”This cultivar of potato appears to be a solution, developed in a foreign lab, to search for a problem that hardly exists in South Africa.”

2008-09-16 |

South African Ministry rejects warnings on consumer bill including GE food labelling

Warnings of the dire consequences for business if strict product liability were introduced have failed to convince the trade and industry department that such a measure should be left out of the Consumer Protection Bill. [...] the department was open to the idea of product labelling of genetically modified organisms to give consumers choice. Committee members felt quite strongly that there should be such labelling. Ntuli said a requirement for such labelling was in the original draft of the bill but that the agriculture and health departments were opposed to it on the grounds of cost and technical complexity.

2008-09-16 |

South Africa okays GE sorghum greenhouse trials to improve nutrition in Africa

The South African government Thursday approved trials on genetically-modified sorghum in a bid to improve nutrition in Africa, an official statement said. The official nod to undertake the greenhouse trials on sorghum was given to South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), one of the key scientific agencies in an international research project to enhance the nutritional values of sorghum, the CSIR text said.

2008-09-16 |

Kenya civil society warns on dangers of importing GMOs

Ten civil society groups in Kenya on Thursday warned Kenyans that there is strong scientific proof that genetically modified foods (GMOs) are detrimental to human health. The warning comes in the wake of government plans to import GMOs. Last month, Agriculture Minister William Ruto told off civil society groups campaigning against the introduction of GMOs.

2008-09-15 |

Welsh (UK) farmers hit out at opposition to GM

NFU Cymru has criticised the Welsh Assembly Government’s plans to do everything possible to exclude genetically modified crops from playing a part in Welsh farming. Union president Dai Davies says taking the most restrictive and precautionary stance on GM commercialisation in Wales could damage the industry. ”This cautious and restrictive approach to GM technology gives me some cause for concern, especially as it has the potential to leave Wales’ farmers at a competitive disadvantage,” he said.

2008-09-15 |

BASF Plant Science and the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (Belgium) boost cooperation

BASF Plant Science and VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology) today signed a major cooperation agreement. The focus is on plant genetic mechanisms that increase yield and improve tolerance to envi-ronmental stress such as drought and cold. This is the third research project, in which BASF Plant Science and the VIB-UGent Department of Plant Sys-tems Biology join forces: earlier this year, both had signed a license agree-ment on yield increasing genes and extended an existing cooperation project, which aims to optimize the growth process of corn roots to enhance nutrient and water absorption.

2008-09-15 |

Economy of Bt maize, HT canola and sugar beets evaluated for the Czech Republic

Transgenic crops - officially genetically modified (GMC) - when properly used can bring benefit to farmers and consumers. Unfortunately the benefit to consumers is reduced by European legislation that requests many measures - mostly useless but costly. However the benefit to farmers can be calculated. The detail calculation was performed at the Czech University of Agriculture, Department of Agroecology and Biometeorolgy. In the frame of PhD thesis M. Čeřovská calculated economy tables of growing Bt maize, herbicid tolerant (HT) rape seed and sugar beet compared with standard crops.

2008-09-15 |

GE food news from Belarus and Ukraine

Information about content of genetically modified components in food products will be identified at the price labels in the stores in Belarus since September 12, Аgrobel.By reported. The governmental resolution No 1115, coming into force since September 12, foresees provision that obligates the seller ”in case of content of genetically modified components in food products to additionally inform customers about GMO content, identify it on the price labels by any other ways (using labels, stickers or posters) ”, the Ministry of Trade of Belarus reported.

2008-09-15 |

Turkey eyes EU funds for biotechnology

Turkey has received the first round of proposals for new projects aimed at tapping a considerable amount of the 188 million euro fund allocated by the European Union for biotechnology projects under the Seventh Framework Program. The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, or TÜBITAK, which coordinates the cooperation with Brussels, will start the second call for project proposals in September.

2008-09-15 |

Danish farmers trained to grow GM crops in 2009

More than 250 Danish farmers are ready to begin growing genetically modified crops in the autumn of 2009. At the top of the interest list is a type of GM corn that is resistant to weeds as well as a variety of potato that has a starch content suitable for use in the textile industry. [...] The Danish authorities will allow the farmers to begin growing EU-sanctioned GM crops after they have attended an educational course.

2008-09-12 |

Virus that infects mosquitoes could lead to weapon against disease

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found a new virus that infects the world’s most dangerous mosquito. Although the virus appears harmless, the scientists proved that it can be genetically manipulated. In theory, this means it can be modified to kill the mosquito or prevent it from transmitting malaria. However, the authors cautioned, that could take 5 to 15 years of work.

2008-09-12 |

Venture capital funding for U.S. biotech companies withering

Significant changes occurring in the global economy, in general, and venture investing, in particular, have finally caught up with venture capital (VC) support for biotech companies. Despite an abundance of funding as well as scientific and technological progress, the environment for investing in the life science industry seems to have changed dramatically. For example, the first quarter of 2007 enjoyed record highs in venture investments in biotechnology, medical device, and healthcare firms. In fact, average investments in these areas maintained nearly the same levels through the end of the first quarter of 2008. This year’s second quarter, however, has not fared as well. Second quarter venture investing in general made a major downturn, and there were no public offerings of any venture-backed company.

2008-09-12 |

Brno (Czech Republic) bids to be global biotech hub

The plan is to turn Brno, a 13th-century city that went the way of manufacturing under communism, into a modern biotech hub and attract firms eager to tap into a skilled work force, even as a strong currency drives up costs and wages. ”We are trying to connect industry, education and infrastructure to make it easier for companies to come here to create an environment that suits biotech companies best,” Brno’s mayor Roman Onderka told Reuters. The Czech Republic now hosts around 60 biotech firms, mainly near Brno and the capital of Prague.

2008-09-12 |

Big pharma swallows biotech’s pride

The proposed acquisitions in July by Roche and Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) for Genentech and ImClone, respectively, are the latest attempts by pharma to recapture the growth that defined its business for so long. Of the two, the offer by Roche, of Basel, is more shocking, both because of the size and because neither Wall Street nor Genentech saw it coming - CEO Art Levinson was told just hours before Roche made the offer public. Even Roche Chairman Franz Humer admitted the move comes ”out of the blue sky.”

2008-09-12 |

Is the U.K. biotech industry on the skids?

If you listened to certain speakers at the recent ERBI ”Cambridge Biopartnering Exchange,” it would seem as if the glory days of U.K. biotech are over. Only Abcam, a Cambridge-based research antibody supply company, was held up as a example of how U.K. biotechs need to be to survive. So what’s wrong? [...] ”In 2007 and 2008, lots of U.K. biotechs didn’t deliver, and investors did not make a return, so VCs are increasingly moving away from early-stage companies.”

2008-09-12 |

Lord Winston’s fury as red tape drives British GM pig transplant experiments to the U.S.

A furious Robert Winston has condemned the red tape that has killed off pioneering British experiments that could solve the shortage of transplant organs. The TV presenter and fertility expert has been forced to transfer life-saving research using ’designer pigs’ to America, where regulations are less strict.
The move has robbed Britain of a potential breakthrough that could also have earned it millions of pounds. Lord Winston said: ’Our U.S. friends will benefit from our technology and yet another British innovation will be jeopardized. ’The income we might have generated for Britain will be lost.’

2008-09-11 |

EU GM study adds to pressure on Brussels

The Joint Research Centre, the European Union’s scientific and technical research laboratory, released a study on the health impact of GM foods on Thursday. While admitting that ”little is known about the potential long term health effects” of GM foods, it said foods put forward for regulatory approval to date had not had harmful effects. It also said GM crops approved in the EU were not found to have caused allergies such as skin reactions. Robert Sturdy, a member of the European parliament who sits on the environmental and agricultural committees, said the report showed Europe needed to ”move forward” on the GM debate.

2008-09-11 |

Campaigners attack plans to plant GM trees in UK

FRIENDS of the Earth have hit out at controversial plans by scientists at Southampton University to grow genetically modified trees on Forestry Commission land. It is the first time scientists have tried to grow GM trees in Britain since 1999 when activists destroyed 115 modified trees in Berkshire. Environmental campaigners say the dangers of contamination – especially as trees live so long – the complex mechanics of tree reproduction and the risk to biodiversity are all so great the idea should be rejected.

2008-09-11 |

U.S. Riceland co-op tensions rise over rice-contamination suit

Disillusionment among members of Arkansas’ largest farmer-owned cooperative has begun bubbling to the surface in the wake of an ongoing lawsuit involving the 2006 contamination of U. S. long-grain rice supplies by unapproved, genetically engineered rice. Some members of Stuttgartbased Riceland Foods Inc. believe the co-op’s managers are keeping secrets from them, said John Alter of DeWitt, whose family has been a Riceland member for three generations.

2008-09-11 |

Western corn rootworm in Germany: Pest control with side-effects

So far only small numbers of insects have been found, but it is only a matter of time before the Western corn rootworm becomes a problem for maize farmers in Germany. In North America, and in many countries of Southern and Eastern Europe, the beetle is spreading rapidly. Once it has become established it is not easy to control. In the spring numerous bee colonies died in south-west Germany because of incorrect treatment of the maize seed. The authorities had ordered the measure in order to halt any further spread of the Western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera).

2008-09-11 |

U.S. education programmes on GE crops: Germany, Guatemala, Japan

Farmers in Germany, particularly those with larger operations in Eastern Germany, have shown a growing interest in using biotechnology despite public opposition against biotech foods. To explain the benefits and the advantages of using biotechnology in crop production, FAS Germany organized a week-long outreach program in June 2008 in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Program (ITP). The main feature of the outreach program involved a speaking duo consisting of a farmer from Iowa and a Bioindustry Project Manager from the Iowa State University.

2008-09-11 |

Hawaii County (USA) moves to ban GMO coffee, taro

Hawaii County is a step closer to being able to prevent the introduction of genetically modified taro and coffee. The County Council Environmental Management Committee unanimously sent a bill to prohibit growing genetically modified versions of those two crops to full council with a positive recommendation. Council Vice Chairman Angel Pilago, North Kona, introduced the bill, which provides for criminal prosecution of anyone bringing in and growing the genetically modified plants.

2008-09-10 |

World needs GMO wheat to fight hunger says CIMMYT boss

Japan and Europe need to embrace genetically modified wheat to combat food shortages in poor countries, rather than pander to consumer fears, the head of a global wheat research institute said on Wednesday. Resistance from the public and consumer groups in rich countries to genetically modified (GM) wheat has forced major producing countries, such as Australia, the United States and Canada, to steer away from growing GM crops. But GM crops can boost yields and help poor countries feed their people at a time of food shortages and rising world prices, said Thomas Lumpkin, head of the Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre.

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