Friday, March 12, 2004

mexican corn

"Father of the Green Revolution" Norman Borlaug writes to AgBioView
The fear of 'pollution' of the local varieties by transgenics that Dr. Ignacio Chapela and his colleagues from the University of California have spread among small farmers in isolated areas of Mexico, is ill-founded. It will have no measurable reduction on yield, nutritive quality or disease or insect resistance. From the standpoint of fear of loss of genetic variability and resistance for future maize breeding programs, this is another fear that is ill-founded. CIMMYT (the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center), has a collection of all of the primitive-unimproved 'land races' (varieties) from all parts of Mexico and Central America that are stored under low temperature--low humidity conditions, whereby germinability can be maintained for decades. Small amounts of seed of these materials are made available upon written request to maize researchers from any countries of the world.
With all due respect, I think I'll base my decision on the NAFTA report [AP story for lazy people]. And as this article reminds us, pharmaceutical genes are a whole different ballgame. But Bt corn does have at least one potential benefit to consumers: W. P. Williams, et al., "Aflatoxin Accumulation In Conventional And Transgenic Corn Hybrids Infested With Southwestern Corn Borer (lepidoptera: Crambidae)," Journal of Agricultural and Urban Entomology 19/4 (2002), 227 - 236; abstract:
Aflatoxin is a potent carcinogen produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus. Aflatoxin contamination of corn greatly diminishes its value and is a major impediment to profitable corn production in the South. Aflatoxin contamination is frequently linked with drought, high temperatures, and insect damage. The effects of southwestern corn borer, Diatraea grandiosella Dyar, damage on aflatoxin contamination were investigated.

Aflatoxin contamination levels in conventional nonBt corn hybrids and transgenic Bt hybrids after inoculation with A. flavus and infestation with southwestern corn borer were compared. Aflatoxin contamination was highest when hybrids were inoculated with A. flavus using a technique that wounded the kernels.

Aflatoxin contamination was significantly greater in non-Bt than in Bt hybrids when ears were inoculated by spraying with an A. flavus conidial suspension and concurrently infesting with southwestern corn borer. Infesting conventional non-Bt hybrids with southwestern corn borer resulted in significant leaf feeding, stalk tunneling, stunting, yield loss, and aflatoxin contamination. Losses were significantly reduced in transgenic Bt hybrids.

Also see CSPI's Gregory Jaffe, "Regulating Transgenic Crops: A Comparative Analysis of Different Regulatory Processes," Transgenic Research 13/1 (2004): 5-19. I'm sure he'll be assualted by the usual industry shills for these radical ideas:
The key components discussed include: (1) mandatory pre-market approval; (2) established safety standards; (3) transparency; (4) public participation; (5) use of outside scientists for expert scientific advice; (6) independent agency decisions; (7) post-approval activities; and (8) enforcement authority and resources

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