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2-Plants: How to distinguish GM crops from space

Dear GENET-news reader,

I wonder how satellites can distinguish GE- from non-GE crops when they
are substantially equivalent? And what a wonderful tool to keep track of
patented plants.

Hartmut Meyer

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  How to distinguish GM crops from space
SOURCE: Food production Daily, France, by Anthony Fletcher
DATE:   5 Jul 2005

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How to distinguish GM crops from space

05/07/2005 - NASA satellite technology could soon be used to help food
producers distinguish between GM (genetically modified) crops and non-GM
crops, opening the door to greater acceptance of GM food, writes Anthony

The sale of GM foods has put nations at loggerheads with each other. The
EU and Japan have enacted labelling and traceability requirements for GM
food products, while the US and Canada believe the technology is safe and
that such standards are not necessary.

To date, the consumption of GM foods has not caused any known negative
health effects and current evaluations of GM primarily focus on the
ecological and agricultural ramifications such as gene drift and the
accidental cross-pollination of GM and non-GM crops.

Indeed, a major fear of anti-GM countries is that non-GM crops could
easily be contaminated with GM pollen. If scientists could find a way of
guaranteeing the 'purity' of non-GM crops, this could lead to greater
acceptance of GM products as a category of food that consumers have an
active choice over whether they consume or not.

This is why hyperspectral imaging has such potential. It could be used to
provide data on a crop's health status, need for irrigation, pest
attacks, weed status, soil nutrient and other previously unquantifiable
variables, including gene drift.

Hypersptectral imaging uses a special camera to cut one photograph into
120 color-specific images. Each image shows a unique characteristic, not
visible to the human eye. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is
now working with NASA to adapt hyperspectral imaging for agricultural use.

The technology could also enable the sector to prevent corn pests from
developing resistance. Pest resistance could severely limit the continued
use of some new varieties of corn. The technology could monitor crops and
warn producers of developing pest resistance.

In 2004 about 81m hectares of land was being used to grow GM crops by
seven million farmers in 18 countries, mainly the US, Argentina, Canada,
Brazil, China, Paraguay and South Africa.

The first major GM food was introduced on the market in the mid-1990s and
paved the way for the growing of strains of maize, soybeans, rapeseed and
cotton. GM varieties of papaya, potato, rice, squash, sugar beet and
tomato have been released in certain countries. WHO estimates that at the
end of 2004 GM crops covered about four per cent of the total global
arable land.

Hyperspectral imaging is part of the growing arsenal of precision farming
technologies. These technologies include geographic information systems
(GIS), automated machine guidance, infield and remote sensing, mobile
computing, telecommunications and advanced information processing.

The global positioning system (GPS) is another key technology used in
precision farming that provides highly accurate geo-spatial information.

The hyperspectral camera and its applications were developed by the
Institute for Technology Development at  NASA's Stennis Space Center in


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
In den Steinäckern 13
D - 38116 Braunschweig

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