|Development of GM crops stagnating (9/11/2005)|
Don't be fooled by the title of the piece below - 'GM agriculture literatures rises'. (In fact, the original piece in Nature Biotechnology was published under the more neutral title 'Plant transgenic science knowledge'.
The key fact Philippe Vain of the John Innes Centre is pointing to in his analysis of the scientific literature on GM crops is that while the number of articles published is increasing in broad terms, when it comes to articles on how to develop the technology - ie how to genetically modify plants more effectively - this has not significantly increased since 1995!
Given that so many of the objections raised to GM crops stem from the problems with transgene insertion, one might have expected this to be a particular area of priority. But not so, it seems, and the author predicts that this "lack of growth in the production of articles on plant transgenic technology development is likely to hamper the further evolution of basic and applied transgenic science and the development of GM crops."
This finding of stagnation in the underlying literature is not the only indication of major problems with the development of GM crops. Earlier this year the (pro-GM) Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) published a report - Agricultural Biotechnology Withering on the Vine - which showed that "the number of genetically engineered (GE) crops going through the regulatory review process dropped sharply between the late 1990s and the early 2000s" and that "most of the recent crops have been slight variations of previously approved crops."
Gregory Jaffe of the CSPI commented, "the industry is not innovating, it is stagnating. The industry promised a bounty of beneficial crops, but the biotech cupboard remains pretty bare" except for variants on a tiny number of crops.
CSPI found that from 1995 to 1999, 47 crops completed the regulatory process. From 2000 to 2004, only 15 crops completed the process - a drop-off of two-thirds.
GM agriculture literatures rises
However, the number of annual publications focusing on the development of plant transgenic technology has not significantly increased since 1995. The analysis is based on articles published between 1973 and 2003, which were collected from the ISI Web of Science and CAB Abstracts.
In total, 30,624 articles or other records were found: 4,545 focusing on the development of plant transgenic technology; 21,843 focusing on the applications of these technologies; and 4,236 concerned with the development of GM crops.
The paper predicts that the lack of growth in the production of articles on plant transgenic technology development is likely to hamper the further evolution of basic and applied transgenic science and the development of GM crops.
A geographic analysis of the data shows that historically, North America (10,268 total articles cited 181,238 times) and Western Europe (11,532 total articles cited 161,671 times) jointly led research on plant transgenic science, followed by Asia (6,342 articles cited 40,850 times).
During the past decade however, the report says that there has been a sustained expansion of scientific literature in North America, a dramatic increase in Asia, and recently, a slow-down in the rest of the world, including Western Europe.
In 2003, Asia produced the same number of articles on plant transgenic science (1,007) as Western Europe (1,034) or North America (978). Currently, only impact (the number of citations) differentiates the output of these three zones.
Dr. Philippe Vain works at the Crop Genetics Department of the John Innes Center in the U.K.
The report is available online at the link below with a paid subscription.
Meridian Institute: Food Security and Ag-Biotech