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ISPP MEDIA WORKSHOP

At the 1st Asian Congress of Plant Pathology

Beijing, August 2000

Organized by Professor Tang Wenhua

China Agricultural University

1. Title:

Role of biotechnology for solving plant disease problems in sustainable agriculture

2. Sponsor:

ISPP Policy Group, supported by Asia-Pacific Crop Protection Association.

3. Goal:

To influence the policy debate that is currently ongoing in Asian countries by providing scientific information on key issues related to the role of modern technology in sustainable agriculture, with special emphasis on biotechnology.

4. Scope:

The significance of plant pathology to sustainable agriculture and the potential of transgenic crops in relation to plant pathology.

5. Target participants:

Agricultural journalists specializing in features, from key media in Asia, especially China.

6. Format:

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) to be discussed over three hours by knowledgeable resource persons working as a scientific panel. Sample FAQs are as follows.

a) What are the issues in Asian agriculture and what modern technologies can contribute to their resolution?

b) How important are plant diseases in Asian agriculture and what can be done to reduce the impact of diseases on sustainability?

c) How can modern biotechnology be applied to sustain productive agriculture that meets societal needs and expectations?

d) What is the current status of biotechnology applications in different world regions?

e) What are the biosafety, environmental safety, and food safety issues associated with biotechnology?

f) How are potential moral and ethical issues in genetic engineering addressed?

g) What are the known benefits from biotechnology and GM crops?

h) How can biotechnology contribute to a cleaner environment and more food?

7. Resource scientists in panel:

Dr. Peter Scott, CAB International, President of ISPP

Prof. Tian Po, Academician, China

Dr. Ed French, International Potato Center (CIP), Peru

Dr. Paul S. Teng, Monsanto Company - Asia Pacific

Dr. Tom Mew, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI ), Philippines

8. Journalists attending:

CHINA

Zhao Wei                               Beijing Youth Daily

Xiao Lianbing                         Guangming Daily

Chen Yi                                 Economic Daily

Liu Zhongzhi                          Science & Technology Tide

Qian Sanmei                         Science & Technology Daily

Yang Shuguang                    Farmer's Daily

Liu Zhonghua                        People's Daily

Sun Leixin                             Biotech Information

Wang Kai                              World Agriculture

Cai Fang                               China Environment Daily

He Yi                                      China Commerce

INDIA

Mr. Joseph Vackayil                 The Financial Express, Chennai

Ch. Prashanth Reddy               The Hindu Business Line, Hyderabad

MALAYSIA

Ms. SEE Yee Ai                      The STAR, Kuala Lumpur

9. Sample articles published:

CHINA

·         CCTV, Channel 7 reported the workshop, August 30

·         Science & Technology Daily published report

·         Farmer Daily published report

·         World Agriculture, News of China Agricultural University, published reports

·        

·National Bureau of Environment Protection published report.

·

   

INDIA

China tightens controls on gene modified crops

Ch. Prashanth Reddy

Recently in Beijing

Hindu Business Line, 7 September 2000

CHINA, which has been the first Asian country to commercialise genetically modified plants, has now become more stringent and critical in evaluating the environmental and bio-safety aspects of transgenics.

The Chinese Government is now setting up a centre to monitor the environmental effects of the transgenic crops, according to Prof. Jialin Yu of the National Laboratory for Agrobio-technology, Beijing Agricultural University.

This critical evaluation follows the Japanese rejection of the Chinese made soya sauce in April this year on the ground that it was prepared with genetically modified soyabeans imported from the US. Today, many European countries as well as Japan are asking China to certify that its food products are bereft of transgenic material. Prof. Yu, however, said no adverse effects of transgenic plants were witnessed in China so far. Regardless, the Government regulations pertaining to transgenic crops, particularly food crops, had become more stringent of late.

On the other hand, China was conducting extensive research for producing transgenic plants. It was now ready for the commercialisation of genetically modified maize. There were also reports that China had begun construction of a $36-million facility in northeast Jilin province to produce pest-resistant crops. As per the proceedings of the first Asian Conference on Plant Pathology held in Beijing in the last week of August, research on the production of pest-resistant crops was being held at various Chinese institutes and universities. These included the Fujian Agricultural University, Shandog Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Zhongshan University, China Agricultural University, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

The research in these organisations pertained to the development of pest-resistant crops and transgenics of rice, wheat, papaya, potato, cabbage, Chinese pear and cucumber. In particular, research was being done for the production of transgenic papaya plants resistant to papaya ringspot virus, for obtaining virus-free sweet potato and for inducing viral gene-mediated resistance to barley yellow dwarf virus in wheat.

At the National Laboratory for Agrobio-technology, research was being done on tomato and chilli pepper. Prof. Jialin Yu said the transgenics of chilli pepper was ready for commercialisation. The research on tomato was being done on two aspects - one was to produce disease-resistant crop and the other was aimed at producing tomatoes which would have a longer shelf-life.

On the other hand, at the Institute of Plant Virology of the Fujian Agricultural University, emphasis was placed on regeneration and culture of large number of transgenic rice plants with different phenotypes, and the assay of relationship between the expression of viral genes and the phenotype of transgenic plants.

Related links:

More Asian nations to introduce transgenic crops
More takers for biotech crops
The biotechnology debate -- Health\eco concerns vs. feeding the millions

•   More Asian nations to introduce transgenic crops
Ch. Prashanth Reddy
Recently in Beijing
Hindu Business Line, 3 September 2000

IN the next five-year span, at least half-a-dozen Asian countries are expected to introduce transgenic crops, according to the scientists at the media workshop organised here by the International Society for Plant Pathology (ISPP) on the occasion of the first Asian Congress of Plant Pathology (ACPP).  The scientists said India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia had so far conducted field trials of certain transgenic crops which were likely to be commercialised in the next few years. Till now, China was the only country in Asia which had commercialised transgenic crops.

The workshop was addressed by the ISPP President, Dr. Peter Scott, Chinese Academician, Prof. Tian Po, Dr. Ed French of the International Potato Centre, Peru, Dr. Paul S. Teng of Monsanto and Dr. Tom Mew of the International Rice Research Institute, the Philippines.  Referring to the perceived risks involved in the application of bio-technology, Dr. Scott expressed the hope that in the next five years, scientists would have learnt to manage and deploy the transgenic technology in a publicly safe and acceptable manner.

In 1999, transgenic crops worldwide were estimated to have covered an area to the extent of 39.9 million hectares, a steep growth compared to just 1.7 million hectares covered in 1996. Significant increases in the crop area were noticed in China, Argentina, Canada and South Africa. The number of countries growing transgenic crops had also increased from one in 1992, to six in 1996, to nine in 1998 and 12 in 1999.  The higher adoption rates were stated to be on account of these crops offering more convenient and flexible management, higher productivity and safer environment through decreased use of conventional pesticides.  In fact, Dr. Paul S. Teng said it was witnessed that more number of birds were visiting transgenic crops due to the reduced use of pesticides.

Prof. Chen Zang Liang of the Beijing University said China had conducted the field trial of a transgenic crop for the first time in 1994. The crop was tobacco. Now, the largely used transgenic crop in the country was Bt cotton. The country was now ready for the commercialisation of genetically improved maize.  He said the Chinese Government was very restrictive in allowing the transgenics being brought from the lab to the field stage. Thereafter, on successful completion of the tests, it was more liberal when compared to other countries in releasing the transgenics.

The four-day ACPP on the "Role of bio-technology for solving plant disease problems in sustainable agriculture" was jointly organised by the Chinese Society for Plant Pathology, the Phytopathological Society of Japan and the Korean Society of Plant Pathology. ISPP supported the event.  Over 330 papers were submitted at the conference by the scientists from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, England, the US and Vietnam.  The principal aim of the conference was to create a forum for the Asian plant pathologists who were interested in or related to scientific work, information or business in plant pathology. The conference was mainly dedicated to reviewing of the current status and advances of plant pathology and sharing of new achievements in the Asian countries.

The scientists who addressed the media workshop expressed concern that today there was a public complacency about food. They said by the year 2050 the world population was likely to touch 10 billions resulting in an enormous demand for food products. As much as 65 per cent of the world population would be concentrated in Asia while the Sub-Saharan region would account for 19 per cent.  They said unless food production was increased steeply, it would be difficult to feed the growing population of the world, particularly in Asia and the Sub-Saharan region.

In this context, they said bio-technology was one of the important tools for enhancing the food production and productivity of crops. They felt that it was necessary to tap the technology to grow genetically improved crops to meet the growing demand for grains.

Related links: More takers for biotech crops