NB Benbrook's comments here go beyond RR soya, eg "Look at the new data in Monsanto's recent submission and you will see why Cry3Bb corn is not going anywhere fast, except back to the lab."
originated Prakash's AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org; Archived at http://agbioview.listbot.com
Date: May 02 2001 12:12:13 EDT
Subject: Response to Apel Post
Andrew Apel's post earlier today voices frustration over why the food industry and consumers have not seen the bright light of biotech as illuminating the one and true path. His not-serious solution is for Monsanto to buy up food companies and market food advertised on the basis of the "advantages" of GMO varieties.
Andrew seems to be missing much of the new science that is emerging. There are, for example, major problems on the Roundup Ready soybean front -- not affecting food safety and consumers, at least in any way I know of, but certainly impacting farmers and the environment. Recent evidence published in Agronomy Journal (King et al., "Plant growth and nitrogenase activity of glyphosate-tolerant soybeans in response to foliar application," Vol. 93, pages 179-186; the full text of this very important new study is freely accessible from the Agronomy Journal site).
This report shows that the Roundup sprayed over RR soybeans slows down root development and nodulation, and hence N-fixation, because the bacteria responsible for nodulation is very sensitive to Roundup. The impact is not too serious in fields where there is ample moisture and fertile soils; the plants grow out of the depression. But when conditions are not ideal, the stunted root development and nodulation has season-long impacts and can depress yields, since the bacteria responsible for N-fixation also tends to shut down in the face of drought stress.
There is also new evidence that under some combinations of stress, RR soybean plant aromatic amino acid levels are temporally depressed, probably most significantly soon after a Roundup application, thereby muting or delaying normal plant defense responses; the result can open a window for opportunistic soil-borne pathogens. This mechanism likely accounts for some of the heightened disease losses seen the last few years across the Cornbelt. The lesson -- GMO varieties often can and do perform well under more or less ideal conditions, but under stress from pests or abiotic factors, the plant's normal physiological responses are, in a variety of complex ways, screwing up the expression of various regulatory proteins that in turn either govern plant defenses/responses or control the expression of the desired GMO trait. For more on both these new problems are RR soybeans, see a new report we are releasing tomorrow (Thursday, May 3) via our website (go to what's new, http://www.biotech-info.net). And by the way, the new report presents the first-ever analysis of actual field-level U.S. herbicide data on RR soybeans in contrast to conventional varieties, and should settle once and for all the debate re whether RR beans reduce pesticide use measured in pounds of active ingredient applied per acre (at least for those that pay attention to data).
And on the Bt-transgenic corn front, Andrew also laments the delays occurring in approval of Cry3Bb corn for rootworm. So Andrew, have you looked at the Cry3Bb endotoxin expression levels in various tissues of MON 863 transformed corn, like the grain, pollen and leaf tissues, and compared expression levels to earlier approved Bt corn events, or to levels likely to hammer nontargets? And if biotech is so precise, why are the Cry3Bb expression levels much higher in corn plant tissues where it does no good and poses risks to nontargets, compared to the tissues where it can and no doubt will do some good (roots)?
Look at the new data in Monsanto's recent submission and you will see why Cry3Bb corn is not going anywhere fast, except back to the lab. For those who want more details on this, see comments from UCS on the recent Monsanto application that will be submitted to EPA Thursday, and accessible on their website and on Ag BioTech InfoNet by Friday.
Andrew, I agree with you that some of the GMO-food "problems" that get covered, and which consumers fear, are overblown and probably not worth losing sleep over, but I also think there is a body of evidence emerging that raises important, profound structural questions regarding whether today's GMOs are really going to make the grade, agronomically and ecologically. The biotech industry's future depends greatly on whether it honestly confronts these problems and deals with them in a reasoned way, guided by and true to the favored mantra, "sound science." But if biotech proponents keep attacking the scientists that do this work and those that bring this information to a wider audience, the loss of public confidence will accelerate and when and as more sustainable and beneficial applications come along, the public will not be interested or terribly open to the assurances that "these GMO foods are different..."
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