Dolly, the first sheep to be reproduced through cloning technology, has developed arthritis, and officials say it may be due to genetic defects in the cloning process.
Ian Wilmut, a professor who helped to create Dolly, told the British Broadcasting Co. that he wants a research program to establish the impact that cloning can have on animal health, although he is unsure if a definitive answer can be derived.
"There is no way of knowing if this is down to cloning or whether it is a coincidence," Wilmut said. "We will never know the answer to that question."
Animal rights activists say that Dolly's condition is all the more reason that cloning technology should be discouraged "I think of the hundreds and hundreds of other cloned lambs who have been born and had malformed hearts, lungs or kidneys," Joyce D'Silva of the Compassion in World Farming group said.
China farm policy to focus on quality over quantity
The Agriculture Department expects imports of wheat, soybeans, vegetable oils and cotton from China to rise in the years after accession to the World Trade Organization, as new pressures from external competition and internal shifts in consumer preferences reshape the industry.
The department's Economic Research Service recently released a new report that focuses on the long-term expectations for China's agriculture in the face of continued growth and openness to trade.
The report says China's demand for soybeans to feed its emerging livestock and edible oils industries will continue to grow.
Soybean exports are expected to top a record 13.2 million tons in 2000-01.
China's livestock sector is expected to play a significant role in reforming China's agriculture in the future.
Currently, it is competitive in terms of production costs. But sanitary issues limit the amount of crops that can be exported.
The expanding scale of the sector and the shift from backyard to modern feeding operations will expand the demand for feed ingredients, including grains and protein meals.
The report also notes that China is moving away from past policies that emphasized quantity of grain produced over quality.
Protection or support prices for certain types of low-quality wheat and rice have been discontinued. Premium prices are offered for high-quality grains.
China is the world's largest agricultural producer and is the largest producer of many of the world's major agricultural commodities. China is also the world's largest consumer of agricultural products.
China's economy is still one of the fastest growing in the world, with a reported 8 percent gross domestic product growth in 2000.
A surge of foreign investment and continued government spending stimulated the country's economy during the first half of 2001.
In the long term, greater openness to trade and social reforms will boost economic growth, stimulating demand for food and fiber.
Researchers study environmentally sound potatoes
Will consumers pay a premium for potatoes that have been grown to rigorous environmental standards?
Wisconsin growers think they will, and they are working on a project to bring such "eco-spuds" to consumers' tables. They have received a state grant to test market them in the eastern United States.
Randy Duckworth, director of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, explains the label for these potatoes tells the consumer the spuds were grown with a significant amount of ecological management. The idea is to get growers to reduce their reliance on high-risk pesticides and increase the use of biologically integrated management methods. Each grower in the project will be required to meet production standards in nine areas in order to obtain certification.
The association says that if this proves successful, it could serve as a model for other crops.
(by E.W. Kieckhefer)
Organic fiber use on the rise
A new survey contends that U.S. and Canadian manufacturers of organic fiber products have seen their sales grow 22 percent per year during the past five years.
The Organic Trade Association's 2001 market survey also showed that non-clothing items such as linens and personal care products experienced 39 percent growth during the same time period.
Sales of clothing made with organic fiber grew by 11 percent, and a 44 percent growth rate is projected by 2005.
The estimated U.S. harvest of 10,799 acres of organic cotton yielded 4.099 million pounds of cotton in 2000, while U.S. growers planted 11,459 acres of certified organic and transitional cotton. Harvest figures for 2001 are not yet available.
Researchers try to restore oak savannas
Oak trees surrounded by grassy savanna once covered almost one-third of the state of Wisconsin. But development destroyed much of that, and what is left has been choked with underbrush.
A project supported by the Agriculture Department, the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is seeking to restore those oak savannas by introducing long-haired, long-horned cattle from the Scottish highlands.
Those cattle are noted for thriving on brush, cleaning out prickly ash, multiflora roses and gooseberries. A research worker says he has found the cattle prefer prickly ash over clover and they relish wild parsnip.
The bulls of the herds use their long horns to hold down the trees for the females to eat. It is believed to be "courting behavior."
(by E.W. Kieckhefer)
Grains mixed on CBOT
Grains futures were mixed at the close of activity Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Soybean futures were down because the Agriculture Department's weekly export sales figures came in significantly below estimates.
Corn futures were higher because of follow-through buying from Thursday's activity and due to positive spillover from wheat price gains.
Wheat futures were on the rise after many traders ignored the weekly export sales figures that showed declines. The drops were not as large as many traders expected, which was perceived as positive for the crop.
Oats futures were lower as many traders engaged in profit-taking activity to take advantage of price gains in recent days.
Soybeans: Jan 4.24 up 1/4, Mar 4.24 1/2 up 1/2, May 4.28 up 1 1/4, Jul 4.32 1/2 up 3/4.
Corn: Mar 2.10 1/2 unch, May 2.17 unch, Jul 2.23 1/4 off 1/4, Sep 2.28 1/4 up 1/2.
Wheat: Mar 3.07 up 7, May 3.02 1/4 up 5 3/4, Jul 2.98 up 5 1/2, Sep 3.00 1/2 up 5 1/4.
Oats: Mar 2.10 off 1 3/4, May 1.93 off 1 1/2, Jul 1.72 1/4 off 3/4, Sep 1.43 up 1/2.