Mind the nuance: Louise O. Fresco

Op zaterdag 2 maart werd prof. dr. ir. Louise O. Fresco in het kader van Mind the Book in de Antwerpse deSingel op de rooster gelegd door Alma De Walsche. Zij interviewde Fresco naar aanleiding van het boek Hamburgers in het paradijsVoedsel in tijden van schaarste en overvloed. En voor een gesprek over die brik van ruim 500 pagina’s kregen beide dames helaas amper een uur toegemeten.

Louise Fresco werkte voor de FAO, de voedsel- en landbouworganisatie van de Verenigde Naties en is momenteel verbonden aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam. Haar aandacht gaat uit naar de grondslagen van duurzame ontwikkeling in internationaal perspectief. Zij is lid van o.a. Académie d’agriculture de France en van de Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry.

De Walsche is journaliste bij MO*, waar zij vooral schrijft over Latijns-Amerika, de landbouw en ecologie.

Een samenvatting van het uiterst interessante interview lees je in zijn geheel op Skepfile.be

Kijk je liever wat video? Hier kun je een gesprek met L. Fresco bekijken dat handelt over haar boek, Hamburgers in het Paradijs.

Bt Cotton, Question and answers, a book by K.R. Kranthi

Foreword

No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious’ –George Bernard Shaw.

The success story of Bt-cotton in India is obvious, but it has indeed become strangely, circumspect to affirmatively answer the ‘obviously easy to answer’ question -‘has Bt-cotton succeeded in India in combating the bollworm menace?’ The answer lies in the simple fact that farmers have endorsed the technology in a vast majority. If Bt-cotton would not have controlled bollworms, the technology would not have moved the distance it has today.

There may be a need for refinement and constant changes are always inbuilt into science. While we progress with advanced technologies for sustainable growth and prosperity, environment should always be uppermost in our minds. Questions must be asked and concerns will be raised, but, science must provide answers and solutions. Bio-safety concerns are paramount to all of us. Answers should be forthcoming from good robust scientific experiments. We need not shy away from moving forward to develop GM technologies in a manner that is profoundly acceptable to the ecology, environment and society. But, any new technology must be compared to the previously used technologies and evaluated for the trade-off benefits, checks and balances and economic gain of the farmers.

It is clear that there is hardly any technology that can be 100.0% safe to everything. Interestingly, Bt-cotton is one of the few technologies having the safest bio-safety profiles. It comes as an alternative to the previously used hazardous concoction of insecticide mixtures. The insecticides used on cotton were known to have ravaged ecology, disrupted the environment, played havoc with human and animal health, were toxic to honey bees, insect-parasitoids and predators, caused allergies and a myriad number of ill-effects. Bt-cotton removed that to a great extent. Strangely, this seems to have been less acknowledged by detractors of the Bt-cotton technology. It is true that insecticides are now being used for sap-sucking pest control on Bt cotton hybrids, but, as mentioned in this book, the increase is because of the susceptible hybrids and has nothing to do with Bt-technology. We cannot afford to move back towards the pesticide era. By all scientific standards, Bt GM Cotton technology is by far the most environment friendly technology available thus far. We must however develop varieties and hybrids that show comprehensive resistance to sucking pests through resistant germplasm sources and to bollworms through Bt genes. This is possible through good plant breeding efforts. Once this is done, it is for sure that insecticide usage will be substantially reduced.

Bt-cotton was the first of GM technologies to be introduced into India. It is beyond doubt that farmers preferred Bt-cotton instead of the hazardous insecticide-cocktails for bollworm control. It is true that because of huge investment potential, multinational companies had the edge to develop the technology more efficiently and at a faster pace, compared to many public sector institutions across the world. But, GM technologies are being developed now more easily than before, as the transformation technology itself has advanced tremendously. India cannot afford to lose the competitive edge in agriculture, in the international arena, by slowing down biotechnology applications in agriculture. While we move forward, it surely becomes everybody’s responsibility to use the best science based technologies available to the farmer after weighing out all concerns and consequences, but, we need to move forward to face future challenges of burgeoning food and clothing demands of the ever-increasing populace.

I congratulate Dr Kranthi for the good effort in bringing out all possible facets of the Bt-cotton technology, especially from the Indian perspective, in the form of questions and answers, which makes the book readable. I hope that this book will enable all stakeholders for better understanding so as to assist in proper assessment of the technology in as rationally a manner as possible.

The book is accessible in its entireness here.

Hawaii’s Biotech Papayas Hold a Lesson for America

A new supply of fresh papayas from Hawaii will reach grocery-store shelves in Japan this year and consumers have biotechnology to thank for it.

The first “Rainbow” papayas–genetically modified to withstand the deadly ringspot virus—are now on sale. They are the first GM food Japan has approved for commercial release.

It represents an important step for a country that has resisted a technology that is now conventional in North and South America and increasingly common in Africa and Asia.

The story of how cutting-edge agriculture defeated disease and saved Hawaiian papayas shows that we have much to gain from GM crops, even as professional protestors peddle scientific ignorance to frighten the public about this essential food source. The rest of the United States may want to pay attention, as voters in California and legislators in more than a dozen states consider burdensome food-labeling laws.

In the middle of the 20th century, as Hawaiian papaya farmers started to enjoy commercial success, the ringspot virus appeared almost out of nowhere to threaten our livelihood. For a while, we were able to contain its spread by destroying infected papaya trees. Yet this was a drastic remedy. One year, I had to cut down half my orchard.

By the 1990s, however, it was almost pointless for Hawaiian farmers to raise papayas. The risk of crop failure was too high. I stopped growing the fruit and so did most of my neighbors.

Meanwhile, scientists worked on the problem. Dennis Gonsalves, then of Cornell University, learned how to take a piece of the ringspot virus and use it to “inoculate” trees, much as vaccines can improve immunity against diseases in people. In 1998, we started to sell GM papayas, which are just as healthy and delicious as the ones they replaced.

This simple innovation saved Hawaiian papayas. The ringspot virus is still out there, ready to wreak havoc–but it won’t infect any of the trees that descend from the innovation of Gonsalves.

Het volledige interview kun je hier lezen. Wie meer info wenst omtrent GGO papaja kan terecht op deze blogpagina van David E. Tribe.

Europees wetenschappelijk panel verwerpt Frans verbod op de teelt van MON810

Het verbod op telen van MON810 werd door het hoogste gerechtshof in Frankrijk reeds in November 2011 vernietigd. In maart 2012 werd het verbod echter door de franse overheid opnieuw ingesteld op basis van het recentste onderzoek uitgevoerd door Séralini, net op tijd om boeren te verhinderen MON810 zaad uit te zaaien. Het valt echter te verwachten dat het hoogste gerechtshof het verbod opnieuw zal vernietigen. Het laatste onderzoek van Séralini valt bezwaarlijk onder de noemer kritische wetenschap te plaatsen.

Nu werd reeds een eerste stap in dit proces gezet door een wetenschappelijk panel van het EFSA. Het door hen geschreven rapport stelt duidelijk dat er geen enkel wetenschappelijk bewijs kon gevonden worden in de door Frankrijk aangebrachte documenten die enig significant gevaar aantoonden van MON810 voor mens, milieu of dier. Het EFSA verwijst verder naar zijn recent gepubliceerd rapport omtrent de teelt van MON810 in Europa, die deze bevindingen evenzeer onderschrijven.

Men kan zich afvragen hoe lang Europa dergelijke onwetenschappelijk spelletjes van Frankrijk en sommige andere lidstaten nog moet blijven verdragen…

De teelt van BT katoen wordt NIET gestopt in Burkina Faso

Last week information was spread that Burkina Faso farmers have decided this year to stop planting Bt cotton. But, reacting to this news, Burkina Faso cotton companies indicate they were very surprised with this information

BURKINA FASO ABANDONS Bt COTTON: «We are surprised by the information» Monday, 14 May 2012.
Following the news, on Radio France Internationale (RFI), announcing that this year, Burkina Faso will stop growing BT cotton generally called GMO cotton, we had an interview with Dr. Dehou Dakuo, Director, Cotton production and development of SOFITEX, who expressed his surprise at the news. To him, it is not true as Burkina Faso is rather cultivating more than 200,000 hectares of the BT cotton seed. He however acknowledged that this year, for purity reasons, lesser seeds were distributed.

« Le Pays »: Burkina Faso woke up today to hear news on RFI announcing the cessation of the cultivation of the BT cotton this year. What is it in reality?

Dr Déhou Dakuo: we were also surprised by that information especially because at the moment we are holding our pre-seedling forums with our producers. The setting for the genetically modified cotton (GMC) as well as biological cotton seeds is 80% ready meaning most of the cotton producer groups have been supplied with BT cotton seeds. SOFITEX specifically (Editor’s note: there are two other cotton companies: SOCOMA and Faso Coton) expects to grow 200 to 300 thousand hectares of BT cotton during the 2012/2013 season. Just last week, Faso Coton went to the Kourouma delinting factory in Kenedougou to withdraw their stock of GMC seeds. I think it is the turn of SOCOMA to do the same this week. We are therefore very surprised to hear that Burkina Faso wants to stop growing BT cotton.

How can you explain the release of such information? Could it be a wrong source of information or a manipulation?

I cannot explain it. One thing is sure: it was false information. I spoke to many people in and outside the cotton industry in order to understand what really happened but no one was able to explain it. Unless there are other intentions behind the release of that piece of information by RFI, this year, a general evaluation of the cotton industry was conducted and the Association Interprofessionnelle du Coton du Burkina (AICB) held a press conference on the state of cotton growing in Burkina Faso. Documents are available and were disseminated. Things were transparent at that level.

De rest van het interview kun je hier lezen.

Hier vind je een artikel dat ook dieper ingaat op de kwestie (Frans).

Stop worrying; start growing

Risk research on GM crops is a dead parrot: it is time to start reaping the benefits of GM

Torbjörn Fagerström, Christina Dixelius, Ulf Magnusson & Jens F Sundström

Ever since the Asilomar Conference on ‘Recombinant DNA’ in February 1975, regulatory policies relating to recombinant DNA technology have focused on the idea that this technology implies threats to human health and the environment [1]. As a consequence, the explicit goal of these policies is to protect society and nature from an assumed hazard, or, if protection is not possible, at least to delay the implementation of the technology until scientific evidence shows it to be harmless. These policies were widely accepted at the time, as public concerns were, and still are, important. As time has gone by, the evidence for negative impacts of genetically modified (GM) crops has become weaker. However, the regulatory policies within the EU are still rigid enough to prevent most GM crops from leaving the confined laboratory setting; should some candidate occasionally overcome the hurdles posed by these policies, the precautionary principle is invoked in order to ensure further delaying in its use in the field. The reason for this over-cautious approach is widespread public resistance to GM crops, caused and amplified by interested groups that are opposed to the technology and invest heavily into lobbying against it.

As time has gone by, the evidence for negative impacts of genetically modified (GM) crops has become weaker

Het volledige report vind je hier terug.

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On the ‘Failure of Bt Cotton’ Analysing a Decade of Experience

Given that the controversy over success and failure of Bt technology still exists, this paper discusses the available field studies that have addressed agro-economic questions of Bt cotton cultivation in India. Since a meta-analysis of studies can give only partial conclusions, owing to differences across study methodologies and coverage, this paper takes a different strategy, i e, looking not simply at differences between Bt farms and non-Bt farms, but at the experience of farmers before growing Bt and after switching to Bt. It also examines the more general problem of comparing field studies and suggests ways to use farmer behaviour as a proxy for settling different interpretations of agro-economic effects of the new technology. The study explains why there has been so much controversy given virtually universal adoption of Bt technology in cotton and concludes that in the battle of numbers around Bt cotton, those of the farmers have been curiously missing.

De volledige studie is hier raadpleegbaar en extreem aangeraden!

Shocks and disruptions : The Relationship Between Food Security and National Security

Food is one of mankind’s most basic needs, and inadequate provision is a tragedy for hundreds of millions of people living in the developing world. yet the importance of the world’s food supply extends far beyond the threat of shortages, hunger and poverty. The availability and cost of food affects many areas of domestic policy, as well as national and international security.

This wide-ranging and comprehensive report attempts to address the challenges that flow from a supply chain that is under increasing pressure. chief among them is the need to increase agricultural productivity, reduce food waste, and improve distribution networks. Such steps must be prioritised if production is to keep pace with the demands of a world population set to exceed 9 billion by 2050.

consideration is also given to the increasing cost of food. Recent spikes in commodity prices have exposed the

fragility of the world’s food production base, and the precarious balance between supply and demand. Rising prices have an effect on the health of the uK economy, as well as political stability in foreign countries. as the arab Spring has demonstrated, countries that are economically weak are acutely vulnerable to fluctuations in cost.

This report also makes an important evaluation of the domestic agricultural sector, and the security of the uK’s food supply. While the uK and europe are world leaders in production, the food chain resilience must be kept under constant review in an age of ‘just-in- time’ delivery models.

The crop Protection association is to be congratulated for commissioning a thought-provoking study, and George Grant of The Henry Jackson Society should be commended for producing a readable and timely evaluation of this topic.

Pagina 22-25 van het rapport gaan specifiek over ggo’s in Europa.

Vertragingen in Europese toelatingsprocedure van veilige ggo’s

Volgens de Europese wetgeving moet om een ggo op de markt te brengen een aantal stappen doorlopen worden. De eerste is een rigoureuze wetenschappelijke risico analyse die uitgevoerd wordt door het European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Op het moment dat het EFSA een bepaald genetische gemodificeerd gewas als veilig beschouwt, dan wordt de autorisatie een politieke beslissing. Volgens de Europese wetgeving moet de bevoegde commissie binnen de 3 maanden een stemming houden omtrent de autorisatie. Als de benodigde meerderheid voor of tegen niet verkregen wordt (zoals meestal) moet het dossier binnen de 2 maand doorgestuurd worden naar een beroepscommissie. Hieronder vind je het overzicht van de 16 ggo gewassen die door het EFSA als veilig bestempeld worden en dus enkel nog wachten op autorisatie door de Europese Commissie. Uit de tabel blijkt dat sommige gewassen reeds in 2005 veilig werden bevonden, maar waar nog steeds geen oordeel geveld is omtrent de autorisatie.

Veel meer info over de toelatingsprocedures van ggo gewassen vind je hier.

De discrepantie tussen de door de wet voorgeschreven tijdslijnen en de administratieve praktijk als het gaat over de cultivatie van ggo’s en ggo’s als voeding voor mens en dier worden besproken in de gelinkte rapporten van de EU commissie.

Romania, GE, and Changing a Nation

The last talk of the IHC2010 session on transgenic plants and public policy was Dr. Carmen Popescu.  Her first words hit me in the chest like a sledge hammer and I’ll save them for the conclusion of this entry.  Dr. Popescu is a scientist in Romania, working at one of the country’s several  crop testing laboratories.  The information herein is paraphrased from her presentation.

First let’s talk about Romania.  I’m no expert, but I’ve hosted Romanian scientists in my lab.  It is a country and people trying to join the highly industrialized nations of the world.  There is a desire to move from the historical challenges of being a former Eastern Bloc nation into a modern economic power.  Right now a sagging economy is weighing heavily on the country and impairing their ascent.

Until recently, one of their strengths was agriculture, and one of their major crops was potato. In particular, they used Bt-producing transgenic potato to resist attack of the Colorado Beetle, a beetle clearly out of its jurisdiction in Romania.  Switching to Bt potato saved $10 million USD a year for farmers, $4 million in insecticides and $6 million in their application.  Here transgenic technology made the farmer more competitive and helped Romania grow as a food exporter.

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