|I'll use this first item to highlight current info, and post links to it as and when.|
|Just setting this up, and will post research/financials as available & time permitting|
|This crop revolution may succeed where GM failed
Gene splicing has been made obsolete by a cutting-edge technology that greatly accelerates classical plant breeding
Thursday October 26, 2006
For years, the life-science companies - Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Pioneer etc - have argued that genetically modified food is the next great scientific revolution in agriculture, and the only efficient and cheap way to feed a growing population in a shrinking world. Non-governmental organisations - including the Foundation on Economic Trends, of which I am president - have been cast as the villains in this agricultural drama, and often categorised as modern versions of the Luddites, accused of continually blocking scientific and technological progress because of our opposition to GM food.
Now, in an ironic twist, new cutting-edge technologies have made gene splicing and transgenic crops obsolete and a serious impediment to scientific progress. The new frontier is called genomics and the new agricultural technology is called marker-assisted selection (MAS). The new technology offers a sophisticated method to greatly accelerate classical breeding. A growing number of scientists believe MAS - which is already being introduced into the market - will eventually replace GM food. Moreover, environmental organisations that oppose GM crops are guardedly supportive of MAS technology.
Rapidly accumulating information about crop genomes is allowing scientists to identify genes associated with traits such as yield, and then scan crop relatives for the presence of those genes. Instead of using molecular splicing techniques to transfer a gene from an unrelated species into the genome of a food crop to increase yield, resist pests or improve nutrition, scientists are now using MAS to locate desired traits in other varieties or wild relatives of a particular food crop, then crossbreeding those plants with the existing commercial varieties to improve the crop. This greatly reduces the risk of environmental harm and potential adverse health effects associated with GM crops. Using MAS, researchers can upgrade classical breeding, and cut by 50% or more the time needed to develop new plant varieties by pinpointing appropriate plant partners at the gamete or seedling stage.
Using MAS, researchers in the Netherlands have developed a new lettuce variety resistant to an aphid that causes reduced and abnormal growth. Researchers at the US department of agriculture have used MAS to develop a strain of rice that is soft on the outside but remains firm on the inside after processing. Scientists in the UK and India have used MAS to develop pearl millet that is tolerant of drought and resistant to mildew. The crop was introduced into the market in India in 2005.
While MAS is emerging as a promising new agricultural technology with broad application, the limits of transgenic technology are becoming increasingly apparent. Most of the transgenic crops introduced into the fields express only two traits, resistance to pests and compatibility with herbicides, and rely on the expression of a single gene - hardly the sweeping agricultural revolution touted by the life-science companies at the beginning of the GM era.
There is still much work to be done in understanding the choreography, for example, between single genetic markers and complex genetic clusters and environmental factors, all of which interact to affect the development of the plant and produce desirable outcomes such as improved yield and drought resistance. Also, it should be noted that MAS is of value to the extent that it is used as part of a broader, agro-ecological approach to farming that integrates new crop introductions with a proper regard for all of the other environmental, economic and social factors that together determine the sustainability of farming.
The wrinkle is that the continued introduction of GM crops could contaminate existing plant varieties, making the new MAS technology more difficult to use. A landmark 2004 survey conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that non-GM seeds from three of America's major agricultural crops - maize, soya beans and oil-seed rape - were already "pervasively contaminated with low levels of DNA sequences originating in genetically engineered varieties of these crops".
Not surprisingly, MAS technology is being looked at with increasing interest within the European Union, where public opposition to GM food has remained resolute. In a recent speech, Stavros Dimas, the EU's environment commissioner, noted that "MAS technology is attracting considerable attention" and said that the EU "should not ignore the use of 'upgraded' conventional varieties as an alternative to GM crops".
As MAS becomes cheaper and easier to use, and as knowledge in genomics becomes more easily available over the next decade, plant breeders around the world will be able to exchange information about best practices and democratise the technology. Already plant breeders are talking about "open source" genomics, envisioning the sharing of genes. The struggle between a younger generation of sustainable-agriculture enthusiasts anxious to share genetic information and entrenched company scientists determined to maintain control over the world's seed stocks through patent protection is likely to be hard-fought, especially in the developing world.
If properly used as part of a much larger systemic and holistic approach to sustainable agricultural development, MAS technology could be the right technology at the right time in history.
· Jeremy Rifkin is the author of The Biotech Century
|I lost a bundle on this. I bought in at launch of The Exchange who were taken out by MAS.|
|Goodbye MAS - this chapter has now closed|
|I see that today that Court Approval has been obtained and that shares will delist. Presumably, shareholders will not get more than 42p and so should sell?|
|I see that at the recent EGM approval was given to the acquistion - but there are still various conditions to be satisfied before the shares are delisted. What percentage of approvals does MAS need to delist - is it 90%? MAS has not issued any statement on the overall approvals to date (other than what was voted for at the EGM). Should ordinary shareholders hang on in case Vertex needs to increase its offer to buy out enough ordinary shareholders to achieve the 90% to compulsory acquire the remainder?|
|Ah, sometimes investing is this simple! Anyway, if you're looking for another exceptionally cheap asset, check out Ceres Power (CWR). It's likely to do a D1 Oils (DOO).|
|off topic big buys now appearing on pbh only 10 days to agm/egm poss..good news|
|seeing some decent buying now and ticking up gradually|
|starting to get interesting, let us see how long it takes before a level is hit|
|starting to get interesting, let us see how long it takes before a level is hit|
|The company clearly has some very strong assets and a virtual monopoly in the Exchange. My concern is the value that they are able to obtain from LAMDA have positioned it for use by run-off companies. Thre seem to be no new sales going through. The decision to put the group up for sale was worded rather desperately. Any sign of anyone sniffing around?
|How unloved is Marlborough??!! A bargain for anyone in need of a Valentine's date ;)|
|Surprising lack of interest by this BB for a set of very high quality assets. OK - putting yourself up for sale is not good - a la Eidos (itself a short from here). However, the quality and desirability of these assets should not be under-estimated:
ExWeb - A genuine monopoly - extremely rare. How many VCs would queue up to get their hands on that? Previously management quoted that they would like to recoup invested capital of c80-90m vs current market cap of £75m. Expect a discount but implies the rest of the biz is nearly worthless - wrong.
Mortgage - This business is GREAT. It is right-sized, delivering very high profitability and has nothing wrong with it.
Life & Pensions - The sub-scale dog - but is it worthless? NO. The problem is and has been judged to always be - distribution - i.e. MAS has never been able to be big enough to sell what is widely and correctly acknowledged as VERY GOOD SOFTWARE. This asset would be worth an enormous amount to anyone with global scale. It's a shame, a partnership with IBM would have worked a treat but clearly the time-frame is too long for this to work as a listed company and for a clearly short-term chairman! Again a VC or an IT Services company looking to sell lots of man-hours would find this incredibly attractive.
Conclusion - There are no skeletons in the closet here - this is a VERY CLEAR BUY (as Fidelity, Hermes etc seem to think).|
|Stock mkt rpt :
Pity the poor investors that couldn't dump their shares in Marlborough Sterling after its announcement just before the close on Tuesday. The company said its turnaround strategy had failed, it warned revenues would be lower than last year and that Paul Fullagar, who became chairman only three months ago, is quitting. Oh dear, oh dear.|
|This is steadily dripping down to 8p........watchout for another BANG factor...
Professor Marcos Van Shagger........updating level 4
|With tangible assets of only 11p a share, why should shareholders be expecting much more than this figure, from the sale of those assets?
They have been trying to flog off bits for several months with no buyers - extreme caution is advisable in my opinion|
|I'll go for a psr of around 1 - possibly get 35p per share.|
|Well, with all the uncertainty I would be amazed if they get more than £50M for the business. I'll nail my colours to the mast and say my target here is 20p. SHORT.|
|I was puzzled by this passage in the statement
"We will now commence a process in conjunction with our bankers to engage with potential partners who may wish to enter more formal joint venture or acquisition discussions.
where the phrase in bold seems suggestive of some sort of financial distress and yet they had £12m cash at 30 June and operating outflow only £1.2m in H1. H2 was expected to be worse but still difficult to see how there could be any real liquidity problem at this point. But why then the emphasis on our bankers?|
|"client's strategic issues....." what a complete load of corporate bullspeak. Could mean anything, but the most worrying would be: "clients dont like our products any more and have found better ones..."!; or "clients have told us they dont want our products any more - at least until they are vastly improved at great R&D expense to us...."!.|
|What value for the parts of MAS now it is being broken up.?|
|What chance for the little man in the street when chairman is jumping ship|