This year, midway through Argentina’s 2005–2015 Strategic Plan for Biotechnology, a long-stalled update of the Seed Law circulating in Buenos Aires may finally reach the legislative floor. The current law, which facilitated the rapid boom of transgenic crops in Argentina in the 1990s—60% of Argentina’s soy crop was genetically modified for herbicide resistance within three years of the introduction of Roundup Ready soy—is a source of conflict over intellectual property rights, as it permits farmers to retain seeds without paying royalties.
However, the meteoric rise in GM crop production was not solely the function of the seed law. Compatible agricultural practices in the early 1990s and a welcoming government contributed. Critics and fans alike say it’s a model from which other developing countries can learn important lessons. Continue reading
A molecular biologist could face a prison sentence for criticizing a report on transgenic gene spread. Ernesto Bustamante Donayre, vice president of the Peruvian College of Biologists, a professional organization, stands accused of defamation, a criminal offense, which in Peru can carry a prison term or fine. What triggered the suit was his public criticism of a report prepared by Antonietta Ornella Gutiérrez Rosati, a biologist at the La Molina National Agricultural University in Lima, identifying a P34S promoter and NK603 and BT11 transgenes in 14 of 42 maize samples from the Barranca region. Continue reading
A fully equipped laboratory for studying pathogen-resistant transgenic plants will close its doors by the year’s end. The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) Biosafety Outstation in Ca’Tron di Roncade, Treviso, Italy, was set up to study potential risks concerning genetically modified crops and plant pathogens of importance to the developing world. The outstation’s facilities, part of the ICGEB, were refurbished with financing from Treviso-based Cassamarca Foundation, supported by banking group Unicredit. But the bank’s financial woes have prevented the foundation from renewing the €4-million ($5.7 million), 5-year contract, says Mark Tepfer, leader of the outstation’s Plant Virology group. Continue reading