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[genet-news] POLICY & REGULATION: U.S. Agriculture Secretary pledges better international push on GE crops

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: The Des Moines Register, USA

AUTHOR: Philip Brasher


DATE:   21.04.2009

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If there was any question about how the Obama administration would get behind agricultural biotechnology, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is removing any doubt. In fact, he says he?s going to do a better job than the Bush administration.

Just back from the G8 summit in Italy, Vilsack pledged today to bring a ?more comprehensive and integrated? approach to promoting ag biotech overseas.

That will be good news to biotech companies such as Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto but it shouldn?t be much of a surprise. Vilsack was a vocal backer of the biotech industry as governor, and President Barack Obama has been a supporter as well.

Speaking to a group of ag journalists today, Vilsack cited a recent inspector general?s report that said USDA had not done enough to ?facilitate trade opportunities? for biotech products. However, the report noted that some USDA officials have been opposed to getting involved in promoting the products of private companies.

Much of the international opposition to genetically engineered seeds is centered in the European Union but that has led to resistance among countries in Africa and elsewhere that export food to Europe.

The declaration issued at the end of the G8 farm ministers? summit called for increased ?investments in agricultural science, research, technology, education, extension services and innovation.?

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: The Financial Times, UK

AUTHOR: Javier Blas


DATE:   19.04.2009

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The US agriculture secretary has warned that unless countries take immediate steps to sharply boost agricultural productivity and food output and reduce hunger, the world risks fresh social instability.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Tom Vilsack indicated that food security and global stability were tied, in a sign that Washington?s worries about the global food crisis go well beyond its humanitarian implications.

?This is not just about food security, this is about national security, it is about environmental security,? he said on the sidelines of the first meeting of the Group of Eight ministers of agriculture. Although the US has in the past talked about the links, Barack Obama, US president, and his team have made it a priority, officials said.

Last year?s spike in food prices caused riots in about 30 countries, from Haiti to Bangladesh. Leading agricultural commodity exporters, including India and Argentina, imposed bans on overseas sales of food products. ?I can figure out there are only three things that could happen if people do not have food: people could riot, that they have done; people migrate to places where there is food, which creates additional challenges; or people die,? said Mr Vilsack.

The G8 meeting, which ends on Monday, is expected to release a communiqué highlighting a political consensus to raise global food output and investment in developing countries.

A draft of the communiqué said the world was ?very far from reaching? the United Nations? goal of halving the number of people facing chronic hunger by 2015, in the clearest admission yet by leading countries of the failure. This came after the group reviewed what it called ?alarming data? on malnourishment. The UN told ministers that for the first time more than 1bn people went hungry every day and that this was set to rise this year due because of persistently high food prices and the economic crisis.

Despite Mr Vilsack?s comments, the communiqué is not expected to produce any concrete measures or financial initiatives to resolve in the short-term the problems he highlighted.

The charity Oxfam called the meeting ?another nail in the coffin of the goal to reduce world hunger?.

Mr Vilsack said the G8 countries realised food security needed to become ?an issue that is front and central in international discussions?, but he played down chances of a breakthrough to resolve the problem. Officials and delegates said the group was focused on creating a ?framework? to resolve the problem and that the first meeting was a sign of progress.

The draft of the communiqué reflected that consensus, saying ?more should be done to increase the quantity and enhance the quality of agricultural production and enable all citizens to have economic and physical access to safe and nutritious food?.

It also warned that ?structural factors may underpin [higher food] prices over the medium term, and that increased volatility and demand raise important questions about food security for the future?.

The group had a preliminary accord to call for ?well functioning? markets and international trade ?as a means of improving food security?.

Mr Vilsack said the challenge to boost output to feed the world?s population ? expected to reach 9bn by 2050 from today?s 6.5bn ? was compounded by climate change. For that reason, he called on the G8 to back the use of science in agriculture, including genetically modified organisms, to boost productivity.

                                  PART 3

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SOURCE: The Financial Times, UK

AUTHOR: Editorial


DATE:   16.04.2009

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As we agonise about the recession, we should remember that humanity?s greatest economic problem is more basic: how to get enough food, a challenge still faced by millions.

This weekend the Group of Eight leading countries gathers in Italy for its first ever meeting of agriculture ministers. Their goal must be to move food policy up the global political agenda to a position where it is treated as the vital international security matter it is.

Last year?s record-high food commodity prices sparked riots as 100m people needed help from the World Food Programme. Thousands of desperate people in dozens of countries took to the streets in upheavals potentially far more destabilising than any reactions the financial meltdown has yet provoked. This danger will not go away.

Prices have come down, but remain higher than in decades. Even short disruptions cast long shadows: malnutrition in infancy can permanently impair children?s physical and cognitive development. Climate change, decades of declining investment in agriculture, and current policy mistakes conspire to make the crisis structural.

All countries share an interest in food security ? their own, and for the sake of stability, that of others. But they must not confuse security with self-sufficiency. The world can produce enough food for all: as the economist Amartya Sen points out, famines are caused not by lack of food but by income inequality. The poor must get help ? in ways that do not undermine food production.

Food exporters and importers alike need well-functioning international markets in food, which encourage efficient global production patterns. The responses to the crisis, sadly, have been in the opposite direction: export bans, land grabs of arable territory and secretive bilateral barter deals. These policies must stop. They are self-destructive and costly, and for poor countries ruinous. They do harm to others, as they undermine trading systems that benefit all.

Governments must provide global public goods. Research is needed to boost productivity, especially for African crops, and must not be hampered by opposition to genetically modified food. Mechanisms must be found to hedge against price volatility that discourages production even when prices are high.

The G8 has rightly invited important emerging countries to the table. But are agricultural ministers, who usually see their job as helping their own farmers, up to the task? Food security is the greatest threat to human well-being today. It should not be lost in quibbles about the branding of Parma ham.

                                  PART 4

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SOURCE: Monsanto, USA

AUTHOR: K. Randall


DATE:   20.04.2009

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Amid the blooming cherry blossoms, the residents of Washington, D.C. saw a poignant message on the side of a 53-foot-long tractor-trailer--America?s Farmers Feed the World.

This is the message printed in big, bold letters on Monsanto?s Mobile Technology Unit (MTU), which pulled into Washington, D.C. on April 7, 2009, to provide government staffers and 4-H members the opportunity to learn about Monsanto and the remarkable advances underway in U.S. agriculture.

The MTU?s arrival in D.C. marks the first visit to a major urban market. Previously, the biofueled 18-wheeler visited mostly rural communities and agricultural trade shows. Monsanto built the MTU to give both those involved in agriculture and those unfamiliar with the industry a guided tour of our technology.

The tour on the MTU begins with an introductory video from a familiar face--Iowa farm owner and NFL quarterback, Kurt Warner. After the movie, tour participants move into the exhibit room that features the technology behind Monsanto?s seeds. The tour has an informative and hands-on approach that allows tour participants to gain a more in-depth understanding of the time and processes involved in bringing innovative seeds to farmers.

Those on the tour often come away with a new appreciation for agriculture and astonishment at the new products in the pipeline.

?Many are surprised to learn, for example, that we have an Omega-3 soybean in development, or that we are developing seed technologies, such as our Genuity? SmartStax? corn, that will help to enable farmers to reduce their pesticide use,? Kevin Holloway, Monsanto?s vice president of U.S. commercial strategy and operations, said.

Outside of the MTU people are given the opportunity to view ethanol exhibits, including an INDYCAR® racing system, which often has kids and some adults clamoring to investigate. These demonstrate Monsanto?s strong commitment to the ethanol industry through Processor Preferred® High Fermentable Corn (HFC) hybrids, which offer strong yield potential and can produce two to four percent more ethanol per bushel than conventional corn hybrids.

>From ethanol production to seed technology, the MTU tour covers a wide spectrum of technology in agriculture. The MTU is certainly a testament to Monsanto?s role as a technology leader, but it really comes down to one thing--educating people about how the American farmer feeds the world.



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