GENET archive


6-Regulation: Fewer restrictions will lead to new advancements in transgenic crops

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Panelists at AAAS Forum Urge More Aggressive Anti-Poverty Effort
SOURCE: Edward W. Lempinen
        files attached: 0217povertypanelists.jpg & 0217poverty.jpg
DATE:   17 Feb 2006

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Panelists at AAAS Forum Urge More Aggressive Anti-Poverty Effort

Panelists (from left): Per Pinstrup-Anderson, Peter Raven, John Mutter

Ugandan woman seeking to feed her family.
[Photo 2003WFP/Debbie Morello.]

ST. LOUIS -- On a typical day, tens of thousands of people worldwide will
die of causes related to poverty. What compounds the tragedy is that
humans have the scientific, technological and medical tools to prevent
those deaths, if only the world were committed to the goal.

That was the assessment shared by a panel of researchers and policy
experts Thursday at the AAAS Annual Meeting in St. Louis. Gathered for
the meeting's first formal session -- a breakfast with some 60 U.S. and
international reporters -- the panelists stressed that much could be done
immediately to relieve world poverty, and that the effort would bring
benefits not only to poor nations, but to affluent nations as well.

"It's very sad and makes the world much more dangerous," said Per
Pinstrup-Anderson, a professor of food, nutrition and public policy at
Cornell University in New York. "More people will be motivated to commit
acts of terror to express their rage at the growing disparity and
unfairness between the rich and poor."

Speakers at the forum offered the journalists a troubling foundation of
facts. World population has grown from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 6.5 billion
today, with another 2 to 3 billion expected in the first half of the 21st
century. Some 800 million people worldwide don't get enough to eat every
day. The three richest people in the world have more money combined than
the 550 million poorest.

A global map on display at the discussion showed infant mortality rates,
with the countries of sub-Saharan Africa appearing as a mosaic of human
disaster. "There is almost no reason for death at this scale except for
poverty," said John Mutter, a professor and deputy director/associate
vice provost of The Earth Institute at Columbia University.

In the past 30 years, there have been 26 international conferences on
poverty and hunger, said Pinstrup-Anderson. While all ended with goals
and targets for improvement, none have been achieved.

For more AAAS news from the 2006 Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Mo., click here.

"Even though 186 countries agreed with the Millennium Development Goals
to reduce the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day by
half, no one's doing anything about it," said Pinstrup-Anderson, former
director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute.
"It's disgraceful -- it's immoral and appalling. We could achieve the
goals, but won't."

Population growth and the increasing rate at which we're using available
resources makes the prospects for improving the world situation
"extraordinarily difficult," said panelist Peter Raven, president of the
Missouri Botanical Garden and a former president of AAAS.

For example, he pointed to the growing use of cars in China and the
importance of such transportation to the economy of both the country and
world automakers. But the negative impact of cars on the environment is
already well-known, he said. "What we need to do in science and
technology is to innovate in ways that are sustainable."

Claude Fauquet, an expert on the cassava plant at the Donald Danforth
Plant Science Center in St. Louis, said the starchy tropical root crop is
one of the top calories sources in poor countries. While productivity
averages about 10 tons per acre, it could be raised to 80 tons per acre
with improved cultivation techniques and better pest and disease control.

Other panelists urged support for genetically modified crops, saying that
Western political opposition results in hunger and death in the
developing world.

A woman who has just lost her child because of drought and crop failure
"couldn't care less" if food was genetically modified, Pinstrup-Anderson
said. "She wants a solution."

"Genetically modified crops need to be developed according to the needs
of different places in the world," said Raven. "But insisting on the idea
that they are the solution, or that they should be proscribed -- it
doesn't make sense in either direction."

Panelist Roger N. Beachy, president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science
Center, said scientists and technological experts must go into poor
countries as equal partners with local researchers and officials, sharing
their knowledge and acknowledging their ignorance. "There is a lot for
all of us to do, in all disciplines," he said.

                                 PART II
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TITLE:  Researcher: Fewer Restrictions Will Lead To New Advancements in
        Transgenic Crops
SOURCE: Texas A&M University, USA, AgNews, by Blair Fannin
DATE:   09 Mar 2006

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Researcher: Fewer Restrictions Will Lead To New Advancements in
Transgenic Crops

COLLEGE STATION - Less regulation will allow public entities, including
universities, to pursue more transgenic crop research, which will help
reduce the number of diseases found in plants, a researcher said Wednesday.

"The impact of regulatory costs on getting a transgenic crop to the field
and commercialized is very high," said Dr. Roger Beachy, president of the
Danforth Plant Science Center.

With commercialization costs of $1 million to $50 million, most research
investment is spent on high-return crops, such as cotton, corn and
soybeans, Beachy said.

"But the small crops that are important to Texas and California, like
vegetables, they are mostly locally-grown produce and are inaccessible,"
he said.

Beachy was the keynote speaker at the Molecular and Environmental Plant
Sciences Symposium at Texas A&M University.

The high cost for commercialization "prices us from participating in this
sector," Beachy said. This means bacterial diseases and fungi on smaller-
return crops will continue to be treated by chemical pesticides.

"We are being hamstrung, I think, by current policies on regulation and
the cost that regulation imposes," he said. "Don't get me wrong,
regulation is important, but let's do it with a sense of what agriculture
is and can be, and how biotechnology can play an important role.

"We don't want to expose the public to danger; that's not my point. My
point is there are some things out there that we know are safe ... these
are genes moved from one plant to another plant. There's a great
opportunity for plant biologists and biotechnologists such as those
within the Texas A&M University System to contribute."

Beachy, who in the 1980s pioneered the development of virus-resistance in
plants through the use of transgenic technology, continues to examine
protein movement in tobacco mosaic virus.

Another area of his research is mechanisms which express viral coat
proteins responsible for disease-resistance in transgenic plants.

His discoveries in the 1980s were part of an effort to combat tobacco
streak virus in India's transgenic groundnuts. The disease has also
affected cotton, marigolds, okra and sunflowers, he said.

"It looks like this 20-year-old technology will be useful in India, and
it does it in a setting where it will affect up to 20 million farmers,"
he said.

Beachy said his approach to studying viruses transmitted in transgenic
plants is to fully understand what the pathogen does.

"Otherwise, you're taking a shotgun approach," he said.

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