September 5, 2001

Biotechnology Helps Scottish Scientists Combat Dutch Elm Disease

Dutch elm disease, which has destroyed more than 20 million trees across Britain in the past 30 years, may have finally met its match.  Scientists at the University of Abertay in Dundee, Scotland, have developed a variety of genetically modified English elm trees that are resistant to the deadly fungus.  

"This is an example of environmentally friendly biotechnology," says Professor Kevan Gartland, the head of molecular and life sciences at the university.  "This work could help damaged landscapes and ecosystems blighted by tree fungal diseases, such as Dutch elm disease and chestnut blight, throughout the world."  

The fungus that caused Dutch elm disease is carried by elm bark beetles that breed under the tree's bark.  The fungus quickly spreads through the tree, preventing water and nutrients from reaching the branches and leaves.  Once this diseased stage takes hold, the tree can die within weeks.  So far, experiments to try to halt the disease using traditional plant-breeding methods have failed.

So far, all of the genetically modified elms have been cultivated under strict laboratory conditions and have not been released into the environment.  Concerns about field tests should be low. Prof. Gartland says under normal conditions in Britain, the English elm does not produce seeds, but reproduces itself by means of suckers which emerge from the trees roots.

The project has been funded by the British Forestry Commission.

"GM Elms 'Immune To Killer Disease'," The Times of London
Chinese Farmers Benefit from Insect-Resistant Cotton

In the summer of 1998, farmers in Eastern China faced an outbreak of bollworm that threatened their cotton crops.  "There were so many bollworms that we had to get rid of them by hand each day," says farmer Guo Chuanyou.

But starting last year, Guo and other farmers have been able to grow cotton genetically enhanced to resist these pests. This cotton type has saved in labor and reduced the need

for pesticides, as well as cutting the risk of poisoning.

Guo says that he still uses pesticides sometimes, but far less than before.  "I feel much more relaxed now about taking care of my cotton," he says.

"Farmers Laud GM Cotton," China Daily

Argentina's Agriculture Secretary Supports Biotechnology
Argentina should continue to promote and development the use of biotechnology in farming in order to cut costs and improve the nutritional value of foods, says Argentina Agriculture Secretary Marcelo Regunage.  He adds that the use of genetically modified plants has a "clear and positive impact on the environment," since it reduces the amount of

chemicals used on the soil.

"Biotechnology is the present and future of agriculture in Argentina and the world," he says.  "Development in the new millennium is directly linked to the development of biotechnology."

"Argentina Advocates Healthy GM Products," Reuters

Desalinating Plants Offer Hope for Sustainable Farming

"Genetically engineered crops are poised to give human society its biggest sustainability gain in almost 100 years," say Dennis T. and Alex A. Avery of the Hudson Institute in Indianapolis.  They are referring to a new genetically enhanced tomato that can remove salt from the soil in which it grows.

This breakthrough, they say, will make the world's irrigated lands permanently sustainable.  

It will also salt-proof the food production in such major irrigating countries as China, India and Indonesia, as well as such poverty-ridden countries as Iraq and Yemen.

"Opinion: Hope for Sustainable Farming in Gene-Altered Crops," Christian Science Monitor

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The stories presented in The Biotech Advantage are compiled and summarized from various media sources. The expressed views and opinions are from those sources and do not necessarily reflect positions of Monsanto.

2001 Monsanto