viernes, 16 de abril de 2010

New from the ACB: GM Sugarcane: A long way from commercialisation?

Despite the best part of a decade of research and field trials,
genetically modified sugar cane in South Africa remains a long way
from commercial cultivation. Numerous research projects are currently
under way at a number of publicly and privately funded research
bodies, most of which are concentrating on increased sucrose and
biomass content. Late last year the Department of Science and
Technology announced the creation of a strategic sugar research
platform to be overseen by the PlantBio Trust, a branch of the
Department of Trade and Industry that focuses on plant biotechnology.

Internationally, both Brazil and Australia lead the way in GM sugar
cane research, and both countries believe they can bring it to market
commercially within the next 5 years. Under the guise of south –
south co-operation, Brazil has been particularly active in extending
its influence as the world’s largest sugarcane producer into the
African continent. Huge sugarcane for ethanol investment deals have
been signed with Mozambique, while a steady succession of research
partnerships have been undertaken between Brazilian and South African

The biotech industry, either through direct research and acquisitions
or indirectly via a number of lobby groups, has been very active in
both GM sugarcane and sugarbeet. In 2009 GM sugarbeet adoption in the
US and Canada occurred at a faster rate than for any previous GM crop.
The Better Sugarcane Initiative (BSI), formed in 2005, is the
‘environmental round-table’ of the sugarcane world (and by
definition industry). Already active in South Africa, the BSI’s
members include some of the world’s largest food, commodity, and oil
companies. While their position on GM sugarcane remains publically
neutral, the experience of other rountables, notably the Roundtable on
Responsible Soy (RTRS), points to another potential industry conduit
into the environmental policy discourse.

Finally, developments around transgenic sugarcane cannot be viewed in
isolation from those around the global agrofuel drive. South Africa
has had a national agrofuels strategy in place since 2007, with
several massive projects already in operation around the country using
conventional sugarcane. So far GM sugarcane has been kept off the
agrofuel agenda, but there is no doubting the potential compatibility
of the two, nor the political and economic clout of those who seek
their union.

You can download the paper from our website from this link.

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