GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
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News Messages


June 2006 July 2006 August 2006
31 July 2006
Bt Maize in Spain: Greater Quantity, Higher Quality
Bt maize planted in 2005 not only boosted yield for Spanish farmers – those who went GM also enjoyed higher grain quality in critical areas such as grain moisture and contamination with dangerous mycotoxins. A recently released study carried out by scientists at the Institute of Agro-Food Research and Technology (IRTA) in Catalonia surveyed the outcome of the approximately 53,000 hectares of Bt maize produced in Spain in 2005.
Bt maize, which produces a toxin that defends it against the European corn borer, yielded 7.3% more grain that plantings using conventional production systems. Plantings of conventional maize are protected from the corn borer with pesticide applications.
Less damage from the chewing corn borer larvae means that fungal diseases have a harder time taking hold. Transgenic seeds were found to contain 83% less mycotoxins than conventional kernels. Mycotoxins are dangerous chemicals produced by certain kinds of fungal diseases that infect maize ears.
The report also confirmed that a buffer strip of 15-20 metres between GM and conventional maize plantings is enough to keep GM presence in the conventional field below 0.9%. Conventional harvests that exceed 0.9% GM content must be labelled as GM, which could potentially spell economic losses for the conventional producer.
Fundación Antama: News message (Spanish)
ISAAA: News message
GMO Compass: The Bt concept
GMO Compass: Maize and out-crossing
GMO Compass: GM maize in Europe
GMO Database: MON810
29 July 2006
Success of Bt Cotton in China May Be Thwarted by Secondary Pests
Bt maize in China seems to be working like a charm. The crop’s major pest, the cotton bollworm, is nowhere to be found on GM cotton fields, and the pest does not yet appear to have developed any kind of resistance to the Bt-toxin. Although the drastic drop in pesticide applications seen with the onset of Bt cotton in China was a huge advantage to farm economics and to the environment, it also let minor insect pests proliferate. Mirids, cotton pests that were once only secondary in importance, required farmers to spray pesticides in 2004, much like they did before Bt. The returning need for pesticides is cutting into farmers’ profit margins, taking away the economic benefits once enjoyed by farmers who grow Bt cotton.
These latest findings were reported by a team of researchers from Cornell University at the latest American Agricultural Economics Association Annual Meeting in Long Beach, California on July 25th. The results have not yet been published. The report is the first to document long term effects of Bt cotton production, with data spanning over seven years.
In the late 90s, when Bt cotton was new in China, farmers were able to cut pesticide use by 70%. This translated into profit increases of 36% compared to farmers growing conventional cotton. Although it took a few years, the reduction in pesticide use appears to have allowed mirids to become well established. In 2004, there was no reduction in pesticide use to offset the added cost of Bt cotton seeds, and farmers growing Bt cotton in China made 6% less profit than conventional farmers.
Cornell PhD Shenghui Wang, who helped conduct the study, warned, “we do not want to see such a wonderful technology die at age seven.” The Cornell researchers insist that action must be taken to come up with management strategies that can harness the economic and environmental benefits of Bt cotton and still keep secondary pests at bay. This could involve distributing natural predators of mirids, or genetically engineering cotton to resist other insect pests as well.
Huang Jikun, director of the Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, however, considers the Cornell findings too simplistic. His agency provided much of the data behind the Cornell study. Unusually cool and wet conditions prevailed in China in 2004, which Huang claims set up the right conditions for mirids to be a big problem, even for crops besides cotton. Data from 2005 and 2006, which were not considered in the Cornell study, show much smaller mirid populations than in 2004. He also claims that the study failed to account for the overall drop in the bollworm population, which he claims also benefited conventional cotton growers.
Problems with secondary cotton pests have not been observed in other regions of the world growing Bt cottton - including India, the United States, Mexico, Argentina, and South Africa. Unlike in China, farmers in the U.S. are required to plant refuges of non GM cotton to reduce selection pressure for Bt resistant insects. It is thought that pesticides used on the non-GM plantings may be keeping secondary insects in check. Researchers do not yet know if a secondary pest problem will arise outside of China.
Cornell: Seven-year glitch with Bt cotton
SciDev.Net: Input from Huang
GMO Compass: Bt cotton
GMO Compass: The Bt concept
GMO Compass: Cotton and out-crossing
China Daily: Farmer Wang Fengtong found herself in a difficult situation when choosing what kind of cotton to plant in the sprin
27 July 2006
French Court Orders Greenpeace to Withdraw Map of GM Plantings
A court in Paris ordered Greenpeace to take a map off its french website detailing the locations of GM plantings throughout the country. The decision stems from a complaint filed by two French farmers who feared their plantings would be destroyed by activists. The court deemed the map to be a breach of privacy. About half of test plantings with GMOs in France are destroyed by activists each year.
Greenpeace considers the ruling unjust, citing censorship, and is determined to find other ways to disseminate the location of GM plantings in France. They have since responded by symbolically flattening crops in one of the plantings in the shape of an X visible from above.
France’s laws on GMOs make it mandatory to communicate field trials to the general public, but announcing the location of commercial plantings to the public remains voluntary. Greenpeace cites EU directive 2001/18/EC, demanding that all GM plantings be reported in a publicly available register.
France’s plantings with GM maize increased ten-fold this year, from 500 hectares in 2005 to 5,000 hectares in 2006.
Greenpeace International: Map censored
EU: Directive 2001/18/EC
GMO Compass: GM crops in the EU
GMO Compass: Overview of EU laws on GMOs
21 July 2006
UK Moves Forward with Coexistence Plans
Defra, the UK’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, proposed measures yesterday for securing coexistence between GM, conventional, and organic crops. A 92 page document with Defra’s proposed coexistence measures supported by abundant background information is open for input from the public until October 20th, 2006.
At this time, there is no commercial GM crop production in the UK. For lack of finalised coexistence regulations, and considering the fact that the EU’s currently approved GM crops don’t target problems faced by UK farmers, GM crops are not expected to come into the picture until at least 2009.
Environment Minister Ian Pearson emphasised the importance of working on coexistence guidelines. “We have a responsibility to be fully prepared if crops which meet the [EU’s] safety criteria are developed and grown here in the future. That’s why strict separation distances will be enforced so that organic and conventional farmers don’t lose out financially and people can make a choice between GM and non-GM products. We also want to hear people’s views on the wider issues we have raised in the consultation paper. Those views will inform our further thinking.”
Defra proposes separating GM and conventional grain maize by 110 metres. For rapeseed, Defra suggests 35 metres separation. Minimum separation distances were not deemed necessary to segregate GM and conventional potatoes or sugar beets, but Defra did propose that farmers take care to remove self-sowing volunteers. Input is also being sought regarding voluntary GM-free zones, a public register to record GM plantings, and liability schemes in the case of economic losses suffered by organic farmers or farmers growing conventional crops.
Press release (Defra)
Defra: Consultation document on coexistence proposals
GMO Compass: Coexistence
19 July 2006
Biotech Company Announces Plan to Market Plant-made Human Insulin
The Canadian biotech company SemBioSys announced yesterday that it has developed transgenic safflower that bears seeds harbouring human insulin. The company predicts that the economics of plant-based insulin production will make current biotech methods using genetically modified bacteria or yeast obsolete.
With insulin making up 1.2 percent of the seed’s total protein weight, SemBioSys claims it can provide 2,500 patients with a year’s supply of insulin from just one acre of GM safflower. According to the company, plant produced insulin demands 70 percent lower start-up costs for equipment, and overall production costs are 40 percent lower than the microorganism based systems used today. Reducing the costs of insulin will likely be critical, as needle-free inhalation-based insulin delivery systems recently approved in the US and the EU pump out 5 to 10 times more insulin per dose than direct injection.
Safflower is grown as a food crop, but plantings are few and far between. The company hopes that the sparseness of safflower plantings, along with plant’s pollination patterns, will help facilitate biocontainment and keep food supplies free from contamination. The company plans to apply to the FDA (USA) for authorisation in 2007 and conduct clinical trials by 2008.
Insulin now joins the host of other pharmaceuticals that have been produced in transgenic plants. Field trials are underway in France with GM maize producing lipase and in Germany with GM potatoes producing a protein designed to aid in the uptake of oral vaccines. Many more plant made pharmaceuticals are being grown and tested around the world in labs, greenhouses, and enclosed bioreactors.
SemBioSys: Press Release
GMO Compass: Farm Fresh Pharmaceuticals
GMO Compass: Breeding Aims, Pharming
11 July 2006
USA: GM Crops Still Gaining Ground
The American market for biotech crops has still not been saturated. The latest report from the US Department of Agriculture’s statistics service confirms that once again in 2006, for the eleventh consecutive year, US farmers planted more acres of GM crops than the year before.
GM soybeans and GM cotton have almost completely replaced conventional varieties from coast to coast. This year 89 percent of all soybeans being grown in the US are genetically modified, as well as 83 percent of the United States’ cotton. GM maize production jumped 7 percent this year, now accounting for 63 percent of the country’s maize crop. The total area planted with genetically modified crops in the United States now adds up to 53.8 million hectares.
The US Department of Agriculture releases its statistics on the country’s most important crops each year on the 30th of June. The report includes figures on GM soybean, maize, and cotton cultivars. The National Agricultural Statistics Service prepares the report, which is based on assessments from seed distributors and census data from US farmers.
GMO Compass: GM crops growing around the world
US Department of Agriculture: Crop acreage statistics 2006
US National Agricultural Statistics Service

Messages 2014
April
Messages 2013
September
July
Messages 2012
October
May
Messages 2011
January
Stories
The issue of contradictory results of biosafety studies
Opposition decreasing or acceptance increasing?
An overview of European consumer polls on attitudes to GMOs
German ban on MON810 maize: will the courts now decide?
China plans to invest in GM crops R&D and consumer education
"Find the wisdom to allow GM technology to flourish"
Results of the GMO Compass snapshot poll
Genetic engineering of cut flowers
Preliminary studies raise hopes: Golden Rice works well!
GMO labelling of foodstuffs produced from animals – the discussion continues
GM Crops in Australia – will the moratoria end?
International study: consumers would buy GM products
GM plants no problem for the honey industry
Are GMOs Fuelling the Brazilian Future?
Latest Eurobarometer: Yes to Biotech – No to GM Food
Barley, Beer and Biotechnology
Farm Fresh Pharmaceuticals
Study: GM Soy Dangerous for Newborns?
Safety evaluation: GM peas in Australia with unexpected side-effects
The western corn rootworm: A pest coming to a maize field near you
Plants for the Future
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