Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Biotech Scientists to Meet in Vatican Convened Conference

Some of the world's leading scientists involved in biotech research will gather at the Vatican in Rome in May, according to a report by Nature Biotechnology. The meeting has been organized by Ingo Potrykus, president of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, on behalf of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The Academy has acknowledged that plant biotech has the potential to benefit the poor. According to the article, participants are expected to issue a definitive declaration and work on a roadmap for science-based regulations for genetically modified crops.

Subscribers to Nature Biotechnology can read the full article at http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v27/n3/full/nbt0309-214a.html

Epigenetic Inheritance

“What Genes Remember”


Epigenetic inheritance of acquired characters more powerful than inheritance of genes

The experience of one generation can modify genes passed on to the next via a variety of mechanisms that blur the distinction between epigenetic and genetic Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

“Sins of the fathers, and their fathers”

The experience of young boys could affect not just their own health in later life, but also the health of their sons and grandsons. The UK research team led by Marcus Pembrey at the Institute of Child Health, University College London published their findings in 2006 in the European Journal of Human Genetics [1], accompanied by a News and Commentary piece, “Sins of the fathers, and their fathers” [2].

Two years later, a long feature article, “What genes remember”, in Prospect Magazine stated [3]: “Many geneticists now think that the behaviour of our genes can be altered by experience – and even that these changes can be passed on to future generations. This finding may transform our understanding of inheritance and evolution.”

The significance of the finding is that it departs from well-known and generally accepted environmental effects on the unborn foetus in mother’s womb or other maternal effects, mediated by the many provisions in the egg cell during embryogenesis, and after birth, in mother’s milk.

In contrast, effects passed on through the paternal line are associated with sperm cells that contain very little apart from the father’s genes.

Somehow, the father’s experience as a young boy appeared to have affected his genes and the changes are transmitted to his male offspring in what appears to be a case of Lamarckian inheritance of acquired characters that still gets many biologists hot under the collar (see Box)..

Lamarck, the scourge of neo-Darwinists

French naturalist Jean Baptiste de Lamarck (1744-1829) is credited with having invented the discipline of biology and also for being the first to propose a comprehensive theory of evolution: organisms evolve through natural means and not through special creation. The two main mechanisms in Lamarck’s theory of evolution were: ‘use and disuse’, use enhances and reinforces the development of the organs or tissues while disuse results in atrophy; and ‘inheritance of acquired characters’, transmitting to subsequent generations the tendency to develop certain new characteristic that the organism has acquired in its own development. Lamarck’s theory preceded Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection by more than 50 years [4] (see Lamarck the Mythical Precursor, ISIS scientific publication).

While Darwin invoked the inheritance of acquired characters as a subsidiary mechanism to the natural selection of random variations, his modern-day disciples, the neo-Darwinists, have strenuously opposed any taint of Lamarckism. They insist that genetic variations – changes in base sequence of DNA – arise by random mutations unrelated to the environment or their survival value, which are then subject to environmental selection; those mutants that survive, survive, while the rest die out [5] (see Why Lamarck Won’t Go Away, ISIS scientific publication). This belief is encapsulated in Francis Crick’s Central Dogma of molecular biology, which decreed that genetic information flows strictly one-way from DNA to RNA to protein (that determine the characteristics of the organism selected by the environment), and never in reverse. In their words, the environment can never pass information back to the genes, so acquired characters cannot be inherited.

Since the mid-1970s, if not before, molecular geneticists have been turning up evidence that increasingly contradicts the Central Dogma, and by the early 1980s, the new genetics of the ‘fluid genome’ had emerged [6] (see Living with the Fluid Genome, ISIS publication). But apart from a few ‘heretics’, no one dared to say a word against the Central Dogma or the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution which depends on it.

Things have changed a lot since the human and other genomes were sequenced, and deposited in one freely accessible central database [7] (Death of the Central Dogma, SiS 24). The database is not much good for business, or drug discovery [8] (The human genome sellout, ISIS News 6), but turns out to be very good [7] “for research that exposes the poverty of the genetic determinism ideology that has led to the creation of the database in the first place.”

The 2004 series Life after the Central Dogma [9] (Science in Society 24) marked the end of genetic determinism, and documented why the new genetics demands a thoroughly ecological approach in our public health, environment, and social policies. Research findings since have strongly reinforced this message to policy makers. It now appears that the experience of individuals during critical periods of early development can influence not just their own lives as adults, but those of their children and children’s children.

The Avon Study

The UK Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) is a long-term health research project involving more than 14 000 mothers enrolled during pregnancy in 1991 and 1992. Analysing data from the study, researchers showed that the sons of fathers who smoked before puberty had a significantly greater body mass index (measure of obesity) at 9 years of age: 18.15 compared with 17.23 in sons of fathers that never smoked [1]. But there was no effect on the body mass index of the daughters.

Faced with this intriguing finding, the research team turned to old records of people born in1890, 1905, and 1920 from Overkalix, an isolated community in Northern Sweden, where previously, they had reported an association of ancestral food supply with longevity and death from cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Re-analyzing the records showed that the paternal grandfathers’ food supply during mid childhood was indeed linked to the risk of death in grandsons, but not in grand-daughters. Poor availability of food was associated with reduced risk of death in grandsons by 35 percent while good availability of food was associated with increased risk of death by 67 percent compared with controls.

In contrast, the nutritional status of the paternal grandmother had no influence on the grandsons, but affected the granddaughter in a similar way. Good food availability increased the risk of death for grand-daughters by 113 percent, while poor food availability decreased the risk of death by 49 percent.

A previous study on the same ALSPAC database had found an association between high birth weight in grand children and type 2 diabetes in maternal grandparents; but not in paternal grandparent [10].

Epigenetic inheritance

The results of the ALSPAC studies imply that experience during a crucial period of life could influence more than one generation in a sex-specific way.

Although the mechanisms involved in humans are not yet known, this kind of trans-generational effects is being taken more seriously because similar effects - now described as ‘epigenetic inheritance’ - have been documented in a substantial number of animal studies. For example, how an adult rat responds to stress was found to depend on whether its mother cared for it adequately as a pup, which marks certain genes for the rest of its life [11] (Caring Mothers Reduce Response to Stress for Life, SiS 24), and we shall update that fascinating story [12] (Caring Mothers Strike Fatal Blow against Genetic Determinism, SiS 41). Another series of studies show that a single exposure of rats during embryogenesis to the fungicide vincozolin is sufficient to cause a range of serious diseases and abnormalities in the adults that are transmitted to three further generations [13] (see Epigenetic Toxicology, SiS 41).

Epigenetic change is usually defined as that which does not involve changing DNA sequences, or “the structural adaptation of chromosomal regions so as to register signal or perpetuate altered activity states” [14], but such definition are rapidly becoming obsolete.

In reality, epigenetic modifications encompass a great variety of mechanisms acting not just at transcription but at post-transcription and translation of genetic messages, and indeed, even rewrites genomic DNA itself [15, 16] (see Epigenetic Inheritance through Sperm Cells, and Rewriting the Genetic Text in Brain Development and Evolution, SiS 41). Epigenetic mechanisms include various enzyme-catalyzed chemical modifications of genomic DNA (methylation of cytosine residues in CpG dinucleotides) and histone chromatin proteins (methylation, acetylation, phosphorylation, ubiquitinylation, etc.), which recruits other proteins such as transcription factors and repressors, that together, determine the activity state of specific genes or sets of genes [17, 18]. Also included are changes to the genetic messages transcribed [19, 20]. RNA editing systematically alters base sequences, such as changing adenosine (A) to inosine (I), which is read as guanosine (G), resulting in an entirely new message. Alternative splicing creates different proteins; and RNA interference determines which messages are cleaved, or blocked from translation. Transcription factors promoting the expression of certain genes may be involved at the same time in repressing neighbouring genes [19]. Finally, epigenetic mechanisms include reverse transcription of altered transcripts [15, 16], which has the effect of rewriting the genetic messages encoded in genomic DNA, and hence distinctly blurring the boundaries between epigenetic and genetic.

Epigenetic modifications occur in cell differentiation, so that different genes are expressed, different messages are altered, say in brain cells as opposed to skin cells, and they are inherited by the daughter cells in cell division. Most epigenetic changes are ‘erased’ in the germ cells that produce the next generation (DNA methylation is studied in greatest detail in this respect), but some modifications survive, and are passed on to the next generation. We shall be dealing with different examples in other articles in this series.

References

  1. Pembrey ME, Bygren LO, Kaati G, Edvinsson S, Northstone K, Sjöström M, Golding J and ALSPAC Study Team. Sex-specific, male-line transgenerational responses in humans. European Journal of Human Genetics 2006, 14, 159-66.
  2. Whitelaw E. Since of the fathers, and their fathers. European Journal of Human Genetics 2006, 14, 131-2.
  3. Hunter P. What genes remember. Prospect Magazine, May 2008, http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=10140
  4. Ho MW. Lamarck the Mythical Precursor - A book Review. Paleon. Ass. Circ. 1983, 14, 10-11.
  5. Ho MW. Why Lamarck won’t go away. Annals of Human Genetics 1996, 60, 81-84.
  6. Ho MW. Living with the Fluid Genome, ISIS/TWN, London/Penang, 2003.
  7. Ho MW. Death of the Central Dogma. Science in Society 24, 4, 2004.
  8. Ho MW. The human genome – the biggest sellout in human history. ISIS/TWN Report, 2000, http://www.i-sis.org.uk/humangenome.php; also i-sis news6, September 2000.
  9. Ho MW. Life after the Central Dogma series. Science in Society 24
  10. McCarran P, Smith GD, Hattersley AT and ALSPAC Study Team. Type 2 diabetes in grandparents and birth weight in offspring and grandchildren in the ALSPAC study. J Epidemiol Community Health 2004, 58, 517-22.
  11. Ho MW. Caring mothers reduce response to stress for life. Science in Society 24, 11+55, 2004.
  12. Ho MW. Caring mothers strike fatal blow against genetic determinism. Science in Society 41 (to appear).
  13. Ho MW. Epigenetic toxicology. Science in Society 41 (to appear).
  14. Bird A. Perceptions of epigenetics. Nature 2007, 447, 396-8.
  15. Ho MW. Epigenetic inheritance through sperm cells. Science in Society 41 (to appear).
  16. Ho MW. Rewriting the genetic texts in brain development and evolution. Science in Society 41 (to appear).
  17. Reik W. Stability and flexibility of epigenetic gene regulation in mammalian development. Nature 2007, 447, 425-32.
  18. Dong J, Jimi E, Zhong H, Hayden MS and Ghosh S. Repression of gene expression by unphosphorylated NF-kB p65 through epigenetic mechanisms. Genes & Development 2008, 22, 1159-73. Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
  19. Jepson JEC and Reenan RA. RNA editing in regulating gene expression in the brain. Biochim Biophys Acta 2008, 459-70.
  20. Mattick JS and Mehler MF. RNA editing, DNA recoding and the evolution of human cognition. Trends in Neuroscience 2008, 31, 227-33.
  21. Cheng CC, Johnson TL and Hoffmann A. Epigenetic control: slow and global, nimble and local. Genes & Development 2008, 1110-4. University of California, San Diego,

Bayer Invests in Hybrid Rice in Thailand

Germany-based Bayer Group plans to invest 100 million baht (approximately US$2.8M) between 2008 and 2012 on hybrid rice development in Thailand. It expects to commercialize hybrid rice seed under the Arize brand in 2011. Currently, Charoen Pokphand Group, the country's largest agriculture company, is one of a handful of active players in hybrid rice technology. Thailand is the world's sixth-largest rice producer but the biggest exporter, shipping 60 percent of output abroad.

For more information from the Biotechnology and Biosafety Information Center (BBIC-Thailand) visit http://www.safetybio.agri.kps.ku.ac.th/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5015&Itemid=42

Friday, March 13, 2009

Despite Legal Setback, Raw Almond Fight Continues

The Cornucopia Institute

The dismissal, on technical grounds, by a federal court judge on Monday of a lawsuit challenging the USDA’s raw almond pasteurization mandate will likely not end the controversy.

“The court’s decision sidestepped the merits and substance of the lawsuit,” said Will Fantle of The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based family farm research group and organizer of the almond lawsuit.

The USDA’s lack of legal authority to enact the controversial raw almond regulation and its fumbling of the rule’s implementation were among major substantive claims detailed in the lawsuit—none of which the court has yet to rule on. Eighteen California almond farmers and wholesale nut handlers had filed the suit against the USDA last September.

“Instead,” said Fantle, “the judge decided on procedural grounds that almond farmers, just like consumers and retailers, have no right to have their concerns about the illegal nature of the almond treatment scheme heard in court.”

Implemented in September 2007, the almond pasteurization rule requires treatment with a toxic gas (propylene oxide) or steam heat for all raw almonds produced by American growers and sold commercially to domestic consumers. (Click here for a factsheet on this issue.)

Oddly, imports into the U.S. of foreign nuts are exempt from the rule as are exports shipped from the U.S. to other countries. These imported nuts, generally of lesser quality, are now destroying the livelihood of raw and/or organic, family-scale almond farmers in California. Consumers and retailers have turned to foreign suppliers, taking advantage of the regulatory loophole, for untreated raw and organic almonds.

“Cornucopia and our attorneys are carefully exploring legal options, including appeals and other strategies,” Fantle said. “We are not abandoning the fight to return to grocer’s shelves an American-grown, highly nutritional raw food that has been eaten with confidence and enjoyment for decades. We believe the fundamental points of our lawsuit are valid and need to be tested.”

“This issue clearly illustrates how the Bush administration, at the USDA, sold out the interests of organic consumers and farmers in deference to those of corporate agribusiness, said Mark A. Kastel, who is Cornucopia’s Senior Farm Policy Analyst.

When the almond pasteurization mandate was first proposed, the USDA notified 200 industry representatives who submitted, nationally, a total of only 18 formal responses during the legally mandated public comment period.

When The Cornucopia Institute alerted almond growers, consumers, and retailers, well over 10,000 comments came into the USDA, asking the department to re-open comments and take their concerns into consideration. What many consumers and retailers found most repugnant was that despite the mandated fumigation or steam treatment, almonds would still be labeled in the marketplace as “raw.”

Bush administration officials, who first entertained the idea of a “compromise” whereby organic and other high-quality smaller growers could continue to sell truly raw almonds, including a notice telling consumers that they had not been pasteurized, later informed Cornucopia that they had rejected the alternative proposal and decided to “side with the industry.”

In addition to their court case, The Cornucopia Institute last month launched a campaign asking President Obama and the newly appointed USDA secretary, Tom Vilsack, to clean house at the USDA’s National Organic Program and appoint officials who will promote a fair shake for family-scale farmers and consumers who are demanding authentic food in the marketplace.

Interested members of the organic community can make their voice heard by sending Mr. Obama and Secretary Vilsack a proxy-letter, which is available on the Cornucopia Institute’s web site.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stop Federal Takeover of Food Regulation in H.R. 875

by Ethan Huff, citizen journalist
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(NaturalNews) The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund recently reported the unveiling of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 (H.R. 875) on Feb. 4, 2009, by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), to both the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Committee on Agriculture. Cosponsored by 36 other Congressmen, all Democrats, H.R. 875 would essentially transfer all state control over food regulation to the Food Safety Administration (FSA), a newly-established federal bureaucracy to be created within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Its implications point to the elimination of all independent, family farms as well as all organic farming operations due to overbearing federal regulations subjectively determined by FSA in favor of corporate factory farms.

Some of the requirements set forth within H.R. 875 include:

- Designating FSA as sole regulator of food safety rather than the individual states, including granting FSA the power to implement and administer a "national system for regular unannounced inspection of food establishments" under its own terms.
- Reclassifying all farms as "food production facilities", ensuring they come under the regulatory and inspection protocols of FSA as well as enforcing compliance with whatever FSA deems as appropriate food safety requirements.
- Requiring farmers to comply with FSA-established "minimum standards" for farming practices, including requiring them to establish Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans and other written documentation as determined and mandated by FSA.
- Granting FSA the power to arrogate "preventative process controls to reduce adulteration of food" as it deems fit.
- Instituting FSA as food safety law enforcement, allowing it to assess civil penalties and fines for violation of any and all FSA safety laws up to $1 million for each violation. Collected fines would become unappropriated slush funds to be used however FSA deems fit in order to "carry out enforcement activities under the food safety law".

While many of these provisions may appear benign due to language emphasizing safety and to standardized regulations, the implications are far more mischievous. While stripping states of what little tenth amendment powers remain, H.R. 875 would establish a central regulatory body with even more unaccountable authority than that of the FDA. Similar to the provisions contained in the Obama "stimulus" package and the Bush "bailout" before it, H.R. 875 would bolster the ever-burgeoning federal empire in eliminating state sovereignty and individual freedom, particularly in relation to food.

The legality of any type of raw milk distribution across the country is also in jeopardy as H.R. 875 would grant FSA the statutory authority to impose a ban on its sale and distribution, period. If, for example, FSA determines that pasteurization is a necessary "preventative process" for safe milk production, it could override any current state provisions permitting intrastate raw milk sales, an area where even the overbearing FDA does not have legitimate jurisdiction. This limit would not apply to FSA, however, which would be granted unlimited jurisdictional power over all decisions concerning food safety, despite the unconstitutionality of such authority.

Additionally, the bill contains language that would expand the definition of the word "contaminant" for purposes of widening the scope of what constitutes "adulterated food". In other words, the vague, open-ended language would grant seemingly unlimited authority to FSA to arbitrarily levy fines whenever and to whomever it deems fit for breaching its subjective food safety rules.

The full text of H.R. 875 can be found here as well as committee contacts and a listing of the bill`s cosponsors. It is important to keep in mind that Rep. DeLauro`s husband, Stanley Greenburg, works for biotechnology giant Monsanto, the multi-national corporation responsible for the creation of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in cows, the perpetuation of "Round-Up Ready" sugar and soy products hidden in conventional foods, and the instigation of lawsuits against farmers whose fields were contaminated by Monsanto`s patented seeds. H.R. 875 provides the means by which corporations like Monsanto can seize control of the last-remaining independent farming operations in the United States.

H.R. 875 is still being reviewed by the committees with no official date set for a vote. Now is the time to contact both the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Committee on Agriculture to express opposition to this federal takeover of the food supply. Also, be sure to contact your representatives to express opposition as well.

"Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people." -Henry Kissinger, 1970

Sources:
Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
House Committee on Energy and Commerce
House Committee on Agriculture
govtrack.us - H.R. 875
United States House of Representatives

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The opinion of a friend about "The Food Safety and Modernization Act of 2009" aka HR 875

Monsanto's dream bill, HR 875
by Linn Cohen-Cole

To begin reversing GM contamination will require ending the power biotech companies such as Monsanto exert over our government and through that, over our food.

HR 875, was introduced by Rosa DeLauro whose husband Stanley Greenburg works for Monsanto.

The bill is monstrous on level after level - the power it would give to Monsanto, the criminalization of seed banking, the prison terms and confiscatory fines for farmers, the 24 hours GPS tracking of their animals, the easements on their property to allow for warrantless government entry, the stripping away of their property rights, the imposition by the filthy, greedy industrial side of anti-farming international "industrial" standards to independent farms - the only part of our food system that still works, the planned elimination of farmers through all these means.

The corporations want the land, they want more intensive industrialization, they want the end of normal animals so they can substitute patented genetically engineered ones they own, they want the end of normal seeds and thus of seed banking by farmers or individuals. They want control over all seeds, animals, water, and land.

Our farmers are good stewards. That is who is threatened by Rosa DeLauro's bill (and because of that, we all are). At a time in this country when wise stewardship and the production of anything real - especially good food - is what is most needed, it is our best stewards whom Rosa DeLauro threatens, under the cruelly false name of "food safety."

And now Monsanto wants its own employee, Michael Taylor - the man who forced genetically engineered rBGH on us (unlabeled so us, unaware) when the Clintons placed him over "food safety" in the 90s - back in government, this time to act with massive police power as a "food safety tsar" from inside the White House. HR 875 would give him immense power over what is done on every single farm in the country and massive police state power to wield over farmers and punishments to break them at will.

The following quotes show Monsanto and its biotech ilk are not "stewards" at all. Their inhuman focus on profit has led to inhuman, insane, sickening products that require intense corruption of democracy and science institutes and media, to foist them on country after country which don't want them.

It is our farmers who stand between us and this outrage which masquerades as science, as food, as normal business, as government. And it is or farmers who need not only protecting and but actual freeing from government intrusion, control and harm.

Vegetarians and vegans do not identify with farmers who raise animals but what is at stake here is critical for all of us. "First they came for the Jews" is an apt reminder of what matters in standing with each other because the overwhelming bureaucratic burdens, the recording over every single thing done on a farm, the warrantless inspections, the end of farmers markets, the criminalization of seed banking, the ten years in prison for stepping out of line in any way, will next be applied not to animals breaking out of fence onto a neighbors' farm, but for such things as not spraying pesticides on an organic farm to eradicate earthworms (now listed as an invasive species) because the government's "food safety tsar" has deemed it necessary. It is totalitarian control (and HR 875 epitomizes it) which we stand against, and now it is aimed with ferocity at farmers with animals. Stopping it now keeps all farmers safe.

Rosa DeLauro and Stanley Greenburg have a great deal to account for in attempting through a mislabeled bill with hidden intent to wipe out our farmers and harm all of us. HR 875 gives Monsanto greater power and opens doors wider to the following ...

Monday, March 9, 2009

FDA approves first engineered animal - without public input

Picture of goatUnion of Concerned Scientists
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first commercialization both of a drug from a genetically engineered (GE) animal and of the animal itself. Although the agency previously assured the public that it would offer opportunities for public input into decisions to approve GE animals, the FDA made the approval without requesting input either from the public or an FDA advisory committee. The animal is a goat engineered to produce milk containing a human protein that is intended to prevent blood clots. A Massachusetts company is raising a herd of the GE goats to produce the protein. Under the FDA's process, there were no discussions of the safety or ethical implications of the approval, nor were regulations developed to keep the goats and their milk from contaminating the food supply. The FDA is using drug laws as the basis to regulate all GE animals, even though most GE animals do not produce drugs, and even though the drug laws affirmatively discourage public participation, transparency, and appeal of approvals. Read more from The New York Times.

"The behind-closed-doors process used to approve the first GE animal shows why the use of the drug laws for GE animals is wholly unacceptable. We need new legislation to require a transparent, participatory regulatory system for GE animals." ~ Margaret Mellon, Food & Environment Program Director

Sunday, March 8, 2009

70 Percent More Energy Required to Make Ethanol than Actually is in Ethanol: Cornell

CU scientist terms corn-based ethanol 'subsidized food burning'

Neither increases in government subsidies to corn-based ethanol fuel nor hikes in the price of petroleum can overcome what one Cornell agricultural scientist calls a fundamental input-yield problem: It takes more energy to make ethanol from grain than the combustion of ethanol produces.

At a time when ethanol-gasoline mixtures (gasohol) are touted as the American answer to fossil fuel shortages by corn producers, food processors and some lawmakers, Cornell's David Pimentel takes a longer range view.

"Abusing our precious croplands to grow corn for an energy-inefficient process that yields low-grade automobile fuel amounts to unsustainable, subsidized food burning," said the Cornell professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Pimentel, who chaired a U.S. Department of Energy panel that investigated the energetics, economics and environmental aspects of ethanol production several years ago, subsequently conducted a detailed analysis of the corn-to-car fuel process. His findings will be published next month in the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Physical Sciences and Technology.

Among his findings:

* An acre of U.S. corn yields about 7,110 pounds of corn for processing into 328 gallons of ethanol. But planting, growing and harvesting that much corn requires about 140 gallons of fossil fuels and costs $347 per acre, according to Pimentel's analysis. Thus, even before corn is converted to ethanol, the feedstock costs $1.05 per gallon of ethanol.

* The energy economics get worse at the processing plants, where the grain is crushed and fermented. As many as three distillation steps are needed to separate the 8 percent ethanol from the 92 percent water. Additional treatment and energy are required to produce the 99.8 percent pure ethanol for mixing with gasoline.

* Adding up the energy costs of corn production and its conversion to ethanol, 131,000 Btu are needed to make 1 gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 Btu. "Put another way," Pimentel said, "about 70 percent more energy is required to produce ethanol than the energy that actually is in ethanol. Every time you make 1 gallon of ethanol, there is a net energy loss of 54,000 Btu."

* Ethanol from corn costs about $1.74 per gallon to produce, compared with about 95 cents to produce a gallon of gasoline. "That helps explain why fossil fuels -- not ethanol -- are used to produce ethanol," Pimentel said. "The growers and processors can't afford to burn ethanol to make ethanol. U.S. drivers couldn't afford it either, if it weren't for government subsidies to artificially lower the price."

* Most economic analyses of corn-to-ethanol production overlook the costs of environmental damages, which Pimentel says should add another 23 cents per gallon. "Corn production in the U.S. erodes soil about 12 times faster than the soil can be reformed, and irrigating corn mines groundwater 25 percent faster than the natural recharge rate of ground water. The environmental system in which corn is being produced is being rapidly degraded. Corn should not be considered a renewable resource for ethanol energy production, especially when human food is being converted into ethanol," Pimentel said.

* The approximately $1 billion a year in current federal and state subsidies (mainly to large corporations) for ethanol production are not the only costs to consumers, the Cornell scientist observes. Subsidized corn results in higher prices for meat, milk and eggs because about 70 percent of corn grain is fed to livestock and poultry in the United States. Increasing ethanol production would further inflate corn prices, Pimentel said, noting: "In addition to paying tax dollars for ethanol subsidies, consumers would be paying significantly higher food prices in the marketplace."

Nickels and dimes aside, some drivers still would rather see their cars fueled by farms in the Midwest than by oil wells in the Middle East, Pimentel acknowledges, so he calculated the amount of corn needed to power an automobile:

* The average U.S. automobile, traveling 10,000 miles a year on pure ethanol (not a gasoline-ethanol mix), would need about 852 gallons of the corn-based fuel. This would take 11 acres to grow, based on net ethanol production. This is the same amount of cropland required to feed seven Americans.

* If all the automobiles in the United States were fueled with 100 percent ethanol, a total of about 97 percent of U.S. land area would be needed to grow the corn feedstock. Corn would cover nearly the total land area of the United States.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

US Growers Willing to Adopt GM Wheat, says Survey

A survey conducted by the US National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) showed that US farmers are willing to adopt genetically modified wheat. More than three-quarters of wheat growers responding to the NAWG survey would like biotech traits, such as disease and pesticide resistance and drought and freezing tolerance, in their arsenal. NAWG said that national wheat organizations support biotech commercialization but private technology providers need to be assured of ground-level support for their efforts before undertaking the decade-long, multimillion-dollar path toward commercialization of a trait.

"Until now, there has only been speculation about the breadth of grower support for biotechnology in wheat," said NAWG CEO Daren Coppock. "This petition was designed to gather those answers from across our wheat producing areas, and now we have an objective and clear answer."

The press release is available at http://www.wheatworld.org/html/news.cfm?ID=1558 More information about the petition and survey is at http://www.wheatworld.org/biotech.