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Brazil Soy Group Warns Farmers: New Soybean Seed Not Yet Approved By China - NASDAQ (2012)

Brazil Soy Group Warns Farmers: New Soybean Seed Not Yet Approved By China - NASDAQ (2012) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The grains producers' association in Brazil's top soybean-growing state, Mato Grosso, warned farmers this week not to plant a new variety of transgenic soy it says Monsanto Co. (MON) has been distributing. The soybean variety, Intacta RR2 Pro, hasn't been approved in China, where more than two-thirds of Brazil's exports of the oilseed are shipped. Mato Grosso state soybean and corn producers' association Aprosoja said in a statement Monday that farmers using Intacta RR2 seeds could accidentally contaminate shipments of approved soybean varieties, putting exports to China at risk of being refused. Monsanto responded Tuesday, saying the company hasn't allowed commercial sales of Intacta RR2 in Brazil and won't do so until all of the country's main export markets approve it. A stockpile of 600,000 sacks of the seeds, which Monsanto had produced based on the belief that China could approve Intacta RR2 "at any time," will be destroyed, the firm added. Aprosoja said Monsanto had been handing out samples of the new seeds to farmers in Mato Grosso and required them to sign a waiver accepting responsibility for any contamination that occurred.

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Bringing light into the discussion about GMOs? – A rather long reading list

[updated 04 November, 2014]  

 

These days I received an apparently easy request: “Do you have any recommendations for reading about the debate on GMOs? I think there is a lot of heat, but too little light in the discussion; I trust you can send me some…” To which I answered carelessly: “Sure, I will look into it, select a few references and post them…” 

 

I thought I’d have a quick look into my collection of bookmarks and references and post some of the links to satisfy the request. Obviously there would be too many individual studies and crop-specific or country-specific reports, but focusing only (i) on what was published in recent years, (ii) on sources where all this information was already aggregated (literature reviews, meta-analyses, authoritative statements, FAQs, etc.), and (iii) on academic or publicly funded sources should produce a fairly concise list, I thought. 

 

While not unmanageable, the list has become quite long. To get a rough idea of the current state of knowledge, it may be sufficient to peruse the first 1-2 (starred *) references under each heading, and to have a quick look at the abstracts and summaries of some of the others. (Given the controversy surrounding this topic I did not want to suggest just one or two sources, but show a bit the width of the scientific consensus, and to offer some titbits of related information.) ... 

 

http://ajstein.tumblr.com/post/40504136918/
 

 

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Jennifer Mach's comment, March 30, 2013 9:05 AM
I admit I haven't read this list... but for future reference, I'll definitely have a look.
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Plant find could cut fertiliser use - Edinburgh U (2014)

Plant find could cut fertiliser use - Edinburgh U (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Insights on how plants regulate absorption of a key nutrient could help avoid pollution caused by excess fertiliser use. The findings could lead to the development of crop varieties that need less of the primary nutrient - nitrogen - than conventional crops.


It could also inform how much nitrogen should be added to plant feed.
This would allow optimum plant growth without producing excess nitrogen in run-off from fields, which is a major source of water pollution.

 

Agricultural fertilisers typically contain high levels of nitrogen that boost plant growth and yield even on poor soils. This helps plants avoid the typical characteristics of nitrogen deficiency - stunted growth and pale or yellow leaves... 


When nitrogen is absorbed, plant cells produce nitric oxide, which acts as a signalling molecule. This nitric oxide fine-tunes how much nitrogen is used for growth, by signalling to the plant’s cells when to limit its uptake.

 

The scientists say that because nitric oxide plays important roles in shaping the development of plants, and how plants respond to environmental stress, these insights highlight key considerations of how nitrogen-based fertilisers should be used in agriculture.

 

http://www.ed.ac.uk/news/2014/plants-121114

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms6401

 

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Response: Ninety-day oral toxicity studies on two genetically modified maize MON810 varieties in Wistar Han RCC rats - GRACE FP7 (2014)

Response: Ninety-day oral toxicity studies on two genetically modified maize MON810 varieties in Wistar Han RCC rats - GRACE FP7 (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

This letter is sent... in response to the report and press release... issued by [Testbiotech] on its website. In these documents, [Testbiotech] criticize the scientific content of a recently published scientific article on 90-day feeding studies with diets containing genetically modified MON810-maize varieties and their comparators performed within the EU-funded GRACE project.

 

In the annex below, the arguments raised against the scientific content of the publication are discussed in more detail... In brief, it is concluded that:

- Testbiotech’s comments fail to distinguish between statistical significance and biological relevance.

- No differences were found that had not been detected by GRACE, while the comments fail to acknowledge the context provided by the additional statistical comparisons...

 

The research within GRACE is carried out according to established scientific standards and under conditions of well-documented quality control and good practices... The GRACE consortium attaches great value to dialogue and transparency... by involving stakeholders during various stages of the research design, execution, and result interpretation... Data obtained during the experiments have been made publicly available...

 

We would also like to draw your attention to the fact that... the scientific journal in which the above mentioned article was published, offers a platform for scientific discussion of the GRACE results... We hope that our communications in future can be held in the spirit of dialogue and transparency fostered by the GRACE project. 

 

http://www.grace-fp7.eu/content/open-letter-testbiotech-response-its-report-and-press-release-dated-7-11-2014

 

Original study: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00204-014-1374-8

 

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Impact of Herbicide Tolerant Crops on Soil Health and Sustainable Agriculture Crop Production - Lee & al (2014) - Springer

Impact of Herbicide Tolerant Crops on Soil Health and Sustainable Agriculture Crop Production - Lee & al (2014) - Springer | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Genetically modified (GM) crops and conservation tillage adoption can have individual, combined, and synergistic impacts on agricultural systems. The objective of this chapter is to evaluate the impacts of these technologies on the environment and economic returns.

 

Worldwide, GM crop adoption is increasing because these crops help simplify farm management, reduce production costs, and improve pest control. A review and meta-analysis of the scientific literature indicated: (1) that even though current herbicide tolerant and non-GM isolines have similar yields, profitability for farmers increased when herbicide tolerant isolines were used and (2) conservation tillage and GM crop adoption are linked.

 

The combined adoption of both technologies reduced agricultural impacts on the environment and often improved soil and water quality. Soil quality improvements have been associated with reduced tillage, decreased erosion, and increased carbon sequestration, whereas water quality improvements are associated with greater post-emergent herbicide use that limit soil exposure and subsequent runoff.

 

Additional benefits from using GM crops may include increased food production and soil resilience. Challenges associated with growing GM crops include the development of resistant pests, which can be minimized by following best management practices.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-55262-5_10

 

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The Role of Biotechnology in Sustainable Agriculture of the Twenty-First Century: The Commercial Introduction of Bollgard II in Burkina Faso - Vitale & Greenplate (2014) - Springer

The Role of Biotechnology in Sustainable Agriculture of the Twenty-First Century: The Commercial Introduction of Bollgard II in Burkina Faso - Vitale & Greenplate (2014) - Springer | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

In the broader context of West African cotton production, we present empirical evidence of how Bt cotton has impacted the Burkina Faso cotton industry based on household surveys that encompass the first 3 years of commercial production, 2009 through 2011. The surveys document the impact of Bt cotton on household income, production costs, pesticide use, and associated health issues.


Briefly, over 3 years, a mean yield increase of 22 % was observed with Bt cotton over conventional cotton with a reduction of insect sprays by at least two-thirds, resulting in significantly reduced human pesticide exposure. Roughly equivalent production costs enabled growers to retain the value of the extra yields, which led to mean income benefits of about $65 per ha and contributed heavily to a national level economic benefit of approximately $53 million over the 3 years surveyed...

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-55262-5_11

 

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Turning the GM Battleship: The Tide of Popular Opinion and the Future of Genetically Modified Foods - McWilliams (2014) - Springer

Turning the GM Battleship: The Tide of Popular Opinion and the Future of Genetically Modified Foods - McWilliams (2014) - Springer | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

GMOs have had a bad run in the popular media... The persistently negative portrayals are unfortunate... because the transgenic technology has the potential to accomplish a number of critical humanitarian and environmental objectives, often ones espoused by those who oppose GMOs.

 

This essay explores the deeper nature of the popular media’s and general public’s failure to grasp and present the benefits of GMOs with scientific accuracy and a sense of objectivity that both the media and public claim to seek... It then examines the matter of how corporations and scientists might better convey their message, exploring the potential of third-party verifiers and labeling initiatives to alleviate much of the public’s mistrust of transgenic technology... the “problem” with GMOs does not inhere in the medium but the message.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-55262-5_6

 

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Agricultural Nanotechnologies: What are the current possibilities? - Parisi &al (2014) - NanoToday

Agricultural Nanotechnologies: What are the current possibilities? - Parisi &al (2014) - NanoToday | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Nanotechnology is recognised by the European Commission as one of its six “Key Enabling Technologies” that contribute to sustainable competitiveness and growth in several industrial sectors. The current challenges of sustainability, food security and climate change are engaging researchers in exploring the field of nanotechnology as new source of key improvements for the agricultural sector. However, concrete contributions are still uncertain.

 

Despite the numerous potential advantages of nanotechnology and the growing trends in publications and patents, agricultural applications have not yet made it to the market... On the one hand, industry experts stress that agricultural nanotechnology does not demonstrate a sufficient economic return to counterbalance the high initial production investments. On the other hand, new nanotech regulation in the EU might create regulatory uncertainty for products already on the market and affect public perception.

 

However, recent studies demonstrate that public opinion is not negative towards nanotechnology and that the introduction on the market of nanotech products with clear benefits will likely drive consumer acceptance of more sensitive applications. The rapid progress of nanotechnology in other key industries may over time be transferred to agricultural applications as well, and facilitate their development.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nantod.2014.09.009

 

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Genetically engineered crops that fly under the US regulatory radar - Camacho &al (2014) - Nature Biotechnol

Recently, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has categorized as outside the scope of its regulations several genetically engineered (GE) crops that rely on either new approaches or new wrinkles on traditional recombinant DNA techniques in their provenance. Indeed, a survey of recent inquiries... suggests that... many... originate from public institutions or small biotech companies, suggesting that the use of technologies, such as null segregants, novel delivery systems, cisgenesis/intragenesis and site-directed nucleases, may be a deliberate strategy for smaller entities to navigate the US GE crop regulatory framework. The fact that the US Coordinated Framework is on the one hand failing to oversee these new product types and on the other overregulating GE crops and technologies with proven track records of safety should be a cause for concern... It is time to reevaluate the US regulatory framework for GE crops and build a system that is based on science, with enough flexibility to evolve with accumulating scientific knowledge and technologies and, importantly, that allows the participation of small companies and public sector institutions... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nbt.3057

 

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Genetic Engineering Will Drive Food Security - Chilton (2014) - CSA

Genetic Engineering Will Drive Food Security - Chilton (2014) - CSA | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, my research team worked out how a plant bacterium can be adapted as a tool to insert genes from another organism into plant cells. This helped open the door to new crop varieties with innovative traits... In 2013, I was one of three scientists honored as World Food Prize Laureates for our contributions to this technology... agricultural biotechnologists were chosen to win the 2013 prize, as it speaks to the importance of this new technology in addressing the food needs of future generations.

 

I have seen this technology develop from its early infancy to the fruition of the crops we see in the field today. It has been an amazingly rewarding journey to see what started out as a fundamental scientific and curiosity-driven study evolve into such wide application in the field. It is clear from the statistics, which show the many millions of acres of biotech-modified crops being harvested around the world, that the technology has taken off with remarkable speed...

 

The only sustainable approach to food security in 2050 and beyond is to unlock the potential of plants through innovation. Growers are rapidly adopting combined-trait crops for insect control, water optimization, yield improvement, oil and protein quality, and improved bioprocessing. Ultimately, these technologies help reduce chemical applications and provide simpler, more environmentally friendly farming practices (e.g., no till). Agricultural biotechnology will be a key driver of sustainable food production in the future...

 

In a real sense, the process that we use for genetically engineering a plant is a natural one. We learned how Agrobacterium manages to put genes into plant cells, and then we copied that process. We borrowed from a natural process... we can now do by choice what nature only does by chance.

 

With genetic engineering, we have a wide choice of genes... and we can precisely choose the genetic regions where we want to insert them, without any unintended consequences. In traditional cross-breeding, extra genes that you don’t want also find their way into the plant. It is impossible to avoid. As I see it, a genetically engineered plant is a much more defined and precise product...

 

What should be done by governing bodies, international organizations, funding agencies, and the scientific community to help feed the world in 2050? The single most important contribution that others can make is to provide accurate information about the food security challenge we are facing and the solutions that can meet the challenge. For too long, there has been misunderstanding and misinformation about modern agriculture technologies, especially GMOs. This has led to a state of public confusion and unnecessary concern over what this process is and how safe it is. I find this very unfortunate because it did not need to happen.


We have spent far too much time trying to correct false impressions rather than focusing on all the benefits that these technologies can provide. Let us focus on their potential for the future. The world will become a hungry place in one more generation. We will need this wonderful technology to improve the seeds of the future.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.2134/csa2014-59-11-8

 

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Breeding Soybeans That Can Tolerate Heat, Drought - SDSU (2014)

Breeding Soybeans That Can Tolerate Heat, Drought - SDSU (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Hot, dry conditions can wreak havoc on a field of soybeans... “drought is the greatest threat to profitability.” Work underway... may change that... Jai Rohila... is uncovering the molecular mechanisms that lead to drought and heat tolerance. This will help breeders develop soybean varieties that can survive heat and drought.

“Ultimately our goal is to help the farmers in the field,” Rohila said.
To do this, he is working with University of Minnesota soybean breeder Jim Orf, who provided Rohila with two varieties of soybeans, one that has greater tolerance to hot, dry conditions, and another that is susceptible... “Drought and heat are very complicated”... because multiple genes affect the plant’s physiological and biochemical response to environmental stressors. “I am going to build a bridge between the physiology and the gene discovery.” 


By comparing the two soybean varieties, Rohila and... Aayudh Das hope to identify the key genes that lead to increased tolerance. Genes regulate the expression of proteins and chemical signaling pathways that determine the plant’s response to heat and lack of water... Das has found 90 proteins that are differentially expressed during drought and heat conditions... These proteins then interact with enzymes that affect the plant’s metabolism... A drought-stressed soybean plant... closes its pores or stomata to prevent water from escaping; however, this action has a cost—it limits the plant’s ability to take in carbon dioxide and ultimately to make the carbohydrates it needs...


In comparing enzyme levels in the two soybean varieties, he identified two enzymes which are up regulated significantly in the variety that performs better under heat stress. “Up regulation of these enzymes also protects other enzymes,” he said, which then helps the plant tolerate heat... the next step will be to see if overexpressing these enzymes can further protect the soybean plant... 

 

http://www.newswise.com/articles/breeding-soybeans-that-can-tolerate-heat-drought

 

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No-till agriculture may not bring hoped-for boost in global crop yields - UC Davis (2014)

No-till agriculture may not bring hoped-for boost in global crop yields - UC Davis (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

No-till farming, a key conservation agriculture strategy that avoids conventional plowing and otherwise disturbing the soil, may not bring a hoped-for boost in crop yields in much of the world, according to an extensive new meta-analysis... 


As the core principle of conservation agriculture, no-till has been promoted worldwide in an effort to sustainably meet global food demand. But after examining results from 610 peer-reviewed studies, the researchers found that no-till often leads to yield declines compared to conventional tillage systems. It still shows promise for yield gains in dryland areas, however... 

“The big challenge for agriculture is that we need to further increase yields but greatly reduce our environmental impacts... The common assumption that no-till is going to play a large role in the sustainable intensification of agriculture doesn’t necessarily hold true, according to our research findings.”

Conservation agriculture is currently practiced on 125 million hectares of land globally, an area nearly as big as the total U.S. cropland. Three key principles guide the concept: minimizing soil disturbance (also called no-till farming), protecting the soil with cover crops or leftover crop residue, and rotating the crops.

The goals of conservation agriculture are to improve long-term productivity, profits and food security, particularly under the threat of climate change. Because conservation agriculture avoids tillage, it is less time-consuming and can be more cost-effective than conventional farming methods... 

After assessing more than 5,000 side-by-side observations, the researchers concluded that on average no-till negatively impacts yields at the global scale, yet several opportunities exist for more closely matching or even exceeding conventional tillage yields.

For example, yield reductions were minimized when the principles of crop rotation and residue retention were also practiced, highlighting the importance of implementing all three conservation agriculture principles as part of an integrated management system rather than no-till alone.

Moreover, when adopted in dry climates in combination with the other two principles of conservation agriculture, no-till farming performed significantly better than conventional tillage, likely due to the higher retention of soil moisture. Dryland ecosystems are home to 38 percent of the world’s population, and millions of acres of land in arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have been identified as suitable for sustainable intensification... 

 

http://news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=11062

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13809

 

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50 Years of Successful Partnership: The Joint FAO/IAEA Division - IAEA (2014)

Established in 1964, the objective of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture was to use the talents and resources... to broaden cooperation between... countries in applying nuclear technology and related biotechnologies to develop improved strategies for sustainable agricultural development and food security.


From research laboratories to global agrarian systems, nuclear techniques play a vital and distinct role in agricultural research and advancement. They are used in a wide range of applications, from food preservation to crop production and from soil management to animal disease control. The collaborative work of the Joint Division has over the years helped countries solve practical, as well as costly, problems in a variety of areas.


The work addresses the application of isotopes and radiation technology in areas such as soil fertility, irrigation, and crop production; plant breeding and genetics; animal production and health; insect and pest control; the control of food contaminants and other food safety issues; and food preservation.... The joint partnership has witnessed numerous successes, which if not addressed would have had disastrous worldwide implications...


• Global freedom from rinderpest

• The use of mutation induction to develop crop varieties with resistance to the wheat rust disease Ug99

• The eradication of the tsetse fly in Zanzibar Island, Tanzania

• The establishment of the regional analytical laboratory network... 

• Water-saving agriculture in seven African countries


For almost five decades, the activities supported by the Joint FAO/IAEA Division worldwide have contributed prominently to Member States by helping them to sustainably increase agricultural production, food security and food safety. This model of cooperation within the UN system will undoubtedly continue to produce successes in the years to come. 


In English: http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Magazines/Bulletin/Bull552/55206010909.pdf


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Farm tech isn't a war between good and evil – it's a quest for whatever works - Grist (2014)

Farm tech isn't a war between good and evil – it's a quest for whatever works - Grist (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued a call for a “paradigm shift towards sustainable agriculture and family farming” ...  What FAO... said was that we should be making agriculture more sustainable by any means that can work: agroecology, climate-smart farming, biotechnology, and, yes, GMOs. “We need to explore these alternatives using an inclusive approach based on science and evidences, not on ideologies” ... 

This may provoke cognitive dissonance in North America, but only because we have a muddled vision of agriculture. We’re used to thinking of two separate and oppositional forms of farming: One that uses technology to suppress nature, and another that works in low-tech harmony with nature. But in reality, it’s not two separate paths – it’s a spectrum. There are farms that use all sorts of high technology to stay in sync with natural cycles, and even the best low-tech organic farmers find themselves fighting nature every year. Poor farmers trying to support their families don’t experience this cognitive dissonance. It only makes sense that they would want the tools and techniques that will give them the best chance of success.

The argument for better agricultural technology often starts by saying that we need to produce more food to feed the world. I think that’s backward. Instead, we need good technology to help small farmers get out of poverty... it’s politics, not lack of agricultural technology, that causes famines... Access to technology as one of the entitlements people need to insure their livelihood. Small farmers need technology to break out of the cycle of poverty. This technology can take the form of agronomic practices, or it can arrive as high-tech, high-yielding seeds. Often it’s both, working hand in hand...

The point is, for most farmers, the choice is not between technology and ecology. Instead, they figure out what combination of technologies and techniques work best for them. “It’s about optimization... There are very few things in this world that work best if they are all one way or all the other.” This does not mean, however, that all technologies go hand in hand with good sustainable agriculture... There is a tendency for the use of one technology to trigger the need for another and another... But that doesn’t mean we have to abandon technology. We can tweak it... Instead of trying to abstain from agricultural technologies, poor farmers are better off if they look for smart ways to integrate the best technologies into ecological practices... 

 

http://grist.org/food/farm-tech-isnt-a-war-between-good-and-evil-its-a-quest-for-whatever-works/

 

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Helping Wheat Defend Itself Against Damaging Viruses - K State (2014)

Helping Wheat Defend Itself Against Damaging Viruses - K State (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Wheat diseases caused by a host of viruses that might include wheat streak mosaic, triticum mosaic, soil-borne mosaic and barley yellow dwarf could cost producers 5 to 10 percent or more in yield reductions per crop, but a major advance in developing broad disease-resistant wheat is on the horizon... 


Genetic engineering technology... builds resistance to certain viruses in the wheat plant itself. And although genetically engineered wheat is not an option in the market today, their research is building this resistance in non-genetically engineered wheat lines as well... Wheat streak mosaic virus is one of the most devastating viruses... In addition to that, we have several other diseases, triticum mosaic virus and soil-borne mosaic virus, that are serious diseases... 


Now [researchers] have developed transgenic wheat lines that contain small pieces of wheat streak mosaic virus and triticum mosaic virus RNA... “What happens is the plant recognizes this RNA isn’t right, so it clips a piece of it and chops it up, but then it keeps a copy for itself. Then we have a resistance element.” Fellers compared the process to the old days of viewing most wanted posters on the post office wall. The piece of foreign RNA from the virus, which is a parasite, is one of those most wanted posters. Because the virus is a parasite, it has to seize or hijack part of the plant system to make proteins that it needs to replicate. When the virus comes into the plant, the plant holds up that poster from the post office wall, recognizes the virus, and doesn’t allow the virus to replicate and go through its lifecycle.

 

Trick said it wasn’t difficult to incorporate the RNA into the wheat, as it involved a standard transformation process where the DNA encoding the RNA was introduced into plant cells, plants were regenerated from these transformed cells, and then the transgenic plants underwent testing for disease resistance. “The problem with this technology is the most wanted poster is only for one individual... If we were trying to target multiple genes, we’d have to make another vector for a second virus, then create that transgenic, which we have done... 


“We’re now able to target barley yellow dwarf and soil-borne mosaic viruses... We’ve also done mixed infection tests with wheat streak mosaic and triticum mosaic (viruses), and our initial results now are that they’re all resistant. We’re very cautious, but our initial indications show we have come up with something that provides broad resistance to these four viruses. We thought it was important enough to file for a patent.” 


Fellers said this work is a proof of concept... The fact that the process uses genetic engineering would mean that getting broad-resistance wheat would take some time considering the public and industry would have to accept it first. However... they are now pursuing a non-genetically engineered method that involves turning off specific plant genes using mutations. With this method, the researchers could develop the technology and incorporate it into the K-State breeding program without regulations. “We would hope the turn around time would be quick, but it’s still classical breeding,” Fellers said of using mutations... 

 

http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/news/story/damaging_viruses111714.aspx

 

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Juncker still mulling scientific advice after Glover's position axed - EurActiv (2014)

Juncker still mulling scientific advice after Glover's position axed - EurActiv (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The function of Chief Scientific Adviser to the European Commission "has ceased to exist", Anne Glover confirmed... but that does not mean the position will not be re-established by the new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker... European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has not yet decided whether to replace the role of former chief scientific adviser (CSA) Anne Glover when she leaves the EU executive next year. 

 

“President Juncker believes in independent scientific advice," said Commission spokesman Mina Andreeva. "He has not yet decided how to institutionalise this independent scientific advice”... 

 

The role of the scientific adviser was created by then Commission President José Manuel Barroso in 2012 to provide independent expert advice on any aspect of science, technology and innovation requested by him, usually in relation to major policy proposals being submitted to the EU executive. The job was created in response to repeated calls to strengthen scientific advice and evidence-based policy in Europe...

 

In scientific circles... Glover has attracted more praise than criticism, and 40 scientific institutions sent a letter supporting her role to Juncker over the summer. As previously reported... Glover has argued for an “evidence centre” to be established at the European Commission that would disconnect the EU’s evidence gathering processes from the “political imperative” that drives policy proposals...

 

MEPs reacted angrily to  the news of Glover's departure, claiming that Juncker had assured them that the post would be preserved in his new administration. "I am deeply disappointed by this news. I wait to hear the details but on the face of it this looks like a complete volte face by Mr Juncker. I believe that in a leaner, less bureaucratic, growth-focused Europe, the role of science should be augmented not diminished," said Conservative environment spokesman Julie Girling... "We need more scientific input, not less. That's how we keep flaky legislation off the statute books”.. 

 

http://www.euractiv.com/sections/innovation-enterprise/juncker-still-mulling-scientific-advice-role-309999

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Other news: "In a letter to the President of the European Parliament and to the Italian Presidency... Juncker proposes a better coordinated working program of EU institutions and fleshes out the 10 priorities he has identified... specifying what he thinks could be achievable already in 2015... 

 

10.) A Union of democratic change: 

- Review of legislation for the authorisation of GMOs

- ...

 

Juncker further tells Schulz and to Renzi that his services are ready in the coming weeks to exchange views on these issues with the institutions they represent..." 

 

http://www.euractiv.com/sections/eu-priorities-2020/juncker-defines-10-priorities-eu-seeks-inter-institutional-support

 

>> Democratic change -- does this mean should people vote on what safe practices other people are allowed to follow?

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Yield and economic performance of the use of GM cotton worldwide over time: Yield and economic performance of the use of GM cotton worldwide over time - Witjaksono &al (2014) - China Ag Econ Rev

Yield and economic performance of the use of GM cotton worldwide over time: Yield and economic performance of the use of GM cotton worldwide over time - Witjaksono &al (2014) - China Ag Econ Rev | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it
The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the current state of knowledge on the economic performance of genetically modified (GM) cotton worldwide based on a wide range of data and source from available literature, and second to assess yield gain and economic performance...  This paper depicts positive impact of commercialized GM cotton in terms of net revenue, and the benefits, especially in terms of increased yields, are greatest for the mostly farmers in developing countries who have benefitted from the spill over of technology targeted at farmers in industrialized countries...  The paper clearly indicates that China is the highest cotton yield of GM cotton, the lowest cost of GM seed and the lowest cost of chemical spray compare to any other countries. Therefore, this is the fact that the adoption of GM cotton has been widely spread among the farmers across the regions in China...  Peer-reviewed surveys and field trials indicate positive impacts of commercialized GM cotton in terms of net revenue with few exceptions, that GM cotton have benefitted farmers in developing countries. The benefits, especially in terms of increased yields, are greatest for the mostly farmers in developing countries who have benefitted from the spillover of technology targeted at farmers in industrialized countries.
The results of yield indicates that farmers in developing countries are achieving greater yield increases than farmers in developed countries. The largest yield increase found in this review (country-specific analysis) are reported for GM cotton in China. Authors generally concur that Chinese consumers are more accepting of biotech cotton than are consumers in other countries...

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/CAER-02-2013-0028

 

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Sustainable Agriculture and Soybean Breeding: Contribution of Soybean Yield Increase to Sustainable Agriculture - Stojsin &al (2014) - Springer

Sustainable Agriculture and Soybean Breeding: Contribution of Soybean Yield Increase to Sustainable Agriculture - Stojsin &al (2014) - Springer | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Soybean production has increased steadily in the USA since the beginning of twentieth century due to increases in yield... and total area for soybean production... This chapter discusses factors that influenced the increase in soybean production and its association with yield as an important contributor to sustainable agriculture.

 

Four distinct eras for soybean production have been identified. The first era (prior to 1942) was characterized by adaptation of soybean land races introduced to the USA. The second era (1943-1977) was defined by cultivars that resulted from public breeding programs, followed by predominantly private sector breeding effort during the third era (1978-1998). The fourth era (1999-now) is defined by introduction of biotechnology traits.

 

Yield increase was observed throughout this 87-year period, with the greatest rate of increase... associated with the biotechnology trait era. Soybean yield improvements were generally due to breeding effort, optimization of agronomic practices, increased investment in research, and advances in biotechnology. Farmland used for soybean production increased during the first two eras, showed fluctuations during the third era, and stayed generally flat for the fourth era.


Greater yield allowed for less farmland required for soybean production. It has been estimated that if US farmers were to grow low yielding soybean cultivars from 1924, they would need to plant almost four times as many hectares to achieve 2010 soybean production. In that respect, the continual effort of modern agriculture towards increasing soybean yield is one of the most important contributors to sustainable agriculture.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-55262-5_9

 

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GNG's curator insight, November 13, 10:02 AM

Great resource on the benefits of biotechnology in growing soybean production for sustainability.

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The Water Efficient Maize for Africa Project as an Example of a Public-Private Partnership - Oikeh &al (2014) - Springer

The Water Efficient Maize for Africa Project as an Example of a Public-Private Partnership - Oikeh &al (2014) - Springer | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project was started in 2008 with the main objective of developing drought tolerant white hybrid maize for smallholder farmers of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) that yields at least 20 % more under drought conditions compared to commercial check hybrids. To achieve this, a combination of breeding and biotech approaches are followed to introduce drought tolerance in African maize varieties. To protect the yield benefit, the insect protection trait (Bt) was added in the year 2011.

 

This work is conducted through a public–private partnership led by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation based in Kenya with collaborating partners that include the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Monsanto Company, and five National Agricultural Research Systems for Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, Uganda, and the Republic of South Africa.

 

Among the key achievements for the first 5 years of the project (Phase 1) include the successful running of confined field trials for transgenic maize varieties in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa and the submission of conventional drought tolerant maize hybrids into the national performance trials in Kenya. The next Phase 2 of the program (2013–2017) involves the deployment of the WEMA products. The first WEMA conventional drought tolerant maize hybrids are scheduled to be released to farmers in the year 2013. These are WEMA hybrids that outperformed some of the best local check hybrids on the market.

 

Next for release in 2016/2017, subject to receiving appropriate regulatory approvals, will be the transgenic products of WEMA which will carry two biotech traits, Bt insect protection trait and the drought tolerance trait from the cold shock protein B (cspB). The overall impact of WEMA project will be the availability of both transgenic and non-transgenic drought tolerant maize hybrids for use by smallholder farmers in SSA.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-55262-5_15

 

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Who Owns the Intellectual Property Rights to Chinese Genetically Modified Rice? Evidence from Patent Portfolio Analysis - Lijun & Cong (2014) - Biotech Law Report

Who Owns the Intellectual Property Rights to Chinese Genetically Modified Rice? Evidence from Patent Portfolio Analysis - Lijun & Cong (2014) - Biotech Law Report | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Concerns about the IPRs of the Chinese GM rice were first raised by Greenpeace, the international environmental protection non-governmental organization (NGO), which largely opposes biotechnology activities. Around the time the biosafety certificates were granted to the GM rice varieties of Bt Shanyou 63 and Huahui 1, Greenpeace issued two major reports, claiming that the Chinese-developed GM rice may fall into the ‘‘foreign patent trap,’’ as these rice varieties may have used patents owned by foreign entities. In particular, in the first report, Greenpeace declared that at least 11 to 12 patented or proprietary methods and materials associated with three varieties of Chinese GM rice may belong to major international agribusiness companies... 

 

Our analysis indicates that R&D of Bt Shanyou 63 is potentially covered by approximately five foreign-patented components and technology, which is, however, fewer than the Greenpeace estimate of a dozen foreign patents. Furthermore, it must be clearly stated that because all of these foreign patents have not earned protection in China until now, if there is no relevant material transfer agreements or other contracts signed between the Chinese developer and the foreign patent owners, there will not be any IP risks associated with the commercial activities in China. Therefore, Greenpeace’s argument is not valid, and Chinese farmers do not have to pay royalties to foreign companies and organizations for growing the Bt rice on Chinese land. 

 

However, it is premature to conclude that there would be no challenges facing China in commercialization of GM rice in the international market. Particularly if the seeds or other living organism generated from the Bt Shanyou 63 flow into the U.S., EU, Japan, or Australia between now and 2018, while some of the above-described technologies are under patent protection in these countries, the Chinese developer could be sued by the relevant patent holders. Moreover, given that no clear legal and internationally accepted rules on whether nonliving products are subject to biotechnological patent protection, the trade on food and feedstuff produced by the Chinese GM rice may also face lawsuits in these countries. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/blr.2014.9971

 

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Towards genetically-improved conifers - EU (2014)

Pines are... a tree species of high commercial importance... valued for their timber and wood pulp... A European Research project... is planning to unravel the pine genome... The trouble is that pines have a complex genome – seven times larger than the human genome... The project’s goal is to identify genes and gene networks controlling important traits of ecological and economic relevance. These include traits able to control tree productivity, growth, drought and cold stress, in trees subjected to climate change... 

The information generated during the project will... make it possible to uncover the genome structure. As a result, it will contribute to identify the underlying molecular bases explaining pines’ adaptability to external stresses imposed by climate change. The hope to infer information that can be transferred to other conifer species of high importance in European forestry... 

Experts believe that calling upon genomic tools in forestry can help solve several problems. First, it will contribute to optimise productivity. “We need to produce more biomass with new and improved properties from our forests in order to meet the challenges of the future... We want to replace fossil fuels and materials dependent on oil with renewable biomaterials and biofuels.”

Second, this research will help produce trees that are adapted to external conditions. “These tools will also help to breed for trees that are better adapted to the rapid climate change with increased drought resistance, better water use efficiency and resistance against various insect and fungi pathogens” ... 

By acquiring knowledge of all the conifer genes, we can, for instance, help pinpoint, which ones are active in response to changes in photoperiod and temperature and in response to drought or cold. This will, in turn, help identify which of these changes are most important for adaptation to design an efficient breeding program...

Another advantage of the genomic approach, it that is also informs ecological processes and their underlying genetic mechanisms. This is the case “for example, in species interactions, such as in the mycorrhizal association between trees and fungi” ... 

 

http://cordis.europa.eu/news/rcn/122560_en.html

 

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A 90-day subchronic feeding study of genetically modified rice expressing Cry1Ab protein in Sprague-Dawley rats - Song &al (2014) - Transgenic Res

A 90-day subchronic feeding study of genetically modified rice expressing Cry1Ab protein in Sprague-Dawley rats - Song &al (2014) - Transgenic Res | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) transgenic rice line (mfb-MH86) expressing a synthetic cry1Ab gene can be protected against feeding damage from Lepidopteran insects... 


Rice flour from mfb-MH86 and its near-isogenic control MH86 was separately formulated into rodent diets at concentrations of 17.5, 35 and 70 % (w/w) for a 90-day feeding test with rats, and all of the diets were nutritionally balanced... The responses of rats fed diets containing mfb-MH86 were compared to those of rats fed flour from MH86.


Overall health, body weight and food consumption were comparable between groups fed diets containing mfb-MH86 and MH86. Blood samples were collected prior to sacrifice and a few significant differences were observed... However, the values of these parameters were within the normal ranges of values for rats of this age and sex, thus not considered treatment related. In addition, upon sacrifice a large number of organs were weighed, macroscopic and histopathological examinations were performed with only minor changes to report.


In conclusion, these results demonstrated that no toxic effect was observed in the conditions of the experiment, based on the different parameters assessed. GM rice mfb-MH86 is as safe and nutritious as non-GM rice.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11248-014-9844-6

 

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A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops - Klümper & Qaim (2014) - PLOS One

A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops - Klümper & Qaim (2014) - PLOS One | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Despite the rapid adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops by farmers in many countries, controversies about this technology continue. Uncertainty about GM crop impacts is one reason for widespread public suspicion. 


We carry out a meta-analysis of the agronomic and economic impacts of GM crops to consolidate the evidence... Studies were included when they build on primary data from farm surveys or field trials anywhere in the world, and when they report impacts of GM soybean, maize, or cotton on crop yields, pesticide use, and/or farmer profits... 

 

On average, GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%. Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries...


The meta-analysis reveals robust evidence of GM crop benefits for farmers in developed and developing countries. Such evidence may help to gradually increase public trust in this technology.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0111629

 

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AckerbauHalle's curator insight, November 4, 4:52 PM

Meta-Analyse zum Einsatz von transgenen Pflanzen

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IPCC AR5 overlooked the potential of unleashing agricultural biotechnology to combat climate change and poverty - Zilberman (2014) - Global Change Biology

IPCC AR5 overlooked the potential of unleashing agricultural biotechnology to combat climate change and poverty - Zilberman (2014) - Global Change Biology | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The role that agricultural biotechnology can play in the mitigation of climate change has been ignored in the new IPCC report. This is unfortunate in light of results seen in a growing body of literature, which show that genetic engineering (GE) has already contributed to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and indicate that it can play a large role in both the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, especially under less-restrictive regulations.

 

Conversion of non-cropland to cropland is a major contributor to the greenhouse gas increase in the atmosphere. An important way to decrease pressure for land conversion is to increase productivity on land currently used for food and feed crop production. Here, GE has proven benefits and huge untapped potential.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12765

 

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Off-Label Prescription of Genetically Modified Organism Medicines in Europe: Emerging Conflicts of Interest? - Schagen &al (2014) - Human Gene Therapy

Off-Label Prescription of Genetically Modified Organism Medicines in Europe: Emerging Conflicts of Interest? - Schagen &al (2014) - Human Gene Therapy | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Recently, the first human medicine containing a genetically modified organism (GMO medicine) was authorized for use in the European market. Just as any medicinal product, the market authorization for a GMO medicine contains a precise description of the therapeutic use for which the medicinal product is intended. Within this use, the application of the GMO medicine is permitted, without the need for the institution to obtain a specific permit. In practice, however, medicinal products are also frequently prescribed for treatment outside the registered therapeutic use, a practice that is referred to as “off-label use.”

 

While off-label use of conventional medicines is permitted and has been very useful, the off-label use of GMO medicines is not covered in the European Union (EU) legislation or guidelines and falls under each member state's national environmental legislation. This implies that in the Netherlands and most other EU member states, an environmental permit will be required for any institution that uses the GMO medicine outside the registered application(s).

 

In the Netherlands, this permit is identical to the permits required for the execution of clinical trials involving nonregistered GMOs. The application procedure for such permit is time-consuming. This process can therefore limit the therapeutic options for medical professionals. As a consequence, desired treatment regimens could be withheld for certain patient (groups). To make future off-label use of GMO medicines permissible in a way that is acceptable for all stakeholders, regulators should adopt a proactive attitude and formulate transparent legislative procedures for this. Only then the field can maintain the public acceptance of GMO medicines, while maintaining the freedom to operate of medical professionals... 

 

Just as with conventional medicines, it is to be expected that GMO medicines can be prescribed outside their registered therapeutic scope. This might place the medical professional in a dilemma with the patient interest on the one hand... the regulations need to be adapted in anticipation of the off-label use of GMO medicinal products. If not, the full potential of particular GMO medicines will probably not be exploited and, even worse, might be exploited without proper notification... In view of the general public perception on GMOs in Europe, the last scenario is risky and may in fact jeopardize the public opinion and acceptance of GMO medicines in general. 


This calls for a solution that is fully supported and acknowledged by the medical professionals and might encompass a simplified and accelerated procedure when the environmental risks have been assessed before. With the authorization of the first GMO medicines to the European market, the off-label prescription of this type of medicines becomes a matter of time. Hopefully, policymakers can be incited to address this issue in a timely manner.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/hum.2014.090

 

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Facing food insecurity in Africa: Why, after 30 years of work in organic agriculture, I am promoting the use of synthetic fertilizers and herbicides in small-scale staple crop production - Lotter (...

Facing food insecurity in Africa: Why, after 30 years of work in organic agriculture, I am promoting the use of synthetic fertilizers and herbicides in small-scale staple crop production - Lotter (... | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Food insecurity and the loss of soil nutrients and productive capacity in Africa are serious problems in light of the rapidly growing African population... currently practiced traditional crop production systems are no longer adaptive. Organic crop production methods alone... are not feasible for these small-scale farmers because of the extra land, skill, resources, and... years needed to benefit from them... Maize, grown by 94 % of farmers, has substantial nitrogen needs.

 

The most practical ways of satisfying maize nutrient needs is via integrated soil fertility management, a combination of organic and Green Revolution methods. Maize has been shown in research to outyield the indigenous crops millet and sorghum in nearly all situations including drought. Conservation Agriculture (CA) in Africa has two main categories—organic and herbicide-mediated. The organic version of CA, despite years of promotion, has had a low rate of adoption.

 

Herbicide-mediated zero tillage CA via backpack sprayer can substantially increase conventional maize yields while at the same time nearly eliminating erosion and increasing rainwater capture up to fivefold. Glyphosate herbicide is a non-proprietary product produced in Africa and approved for small farm use. The systemic nature of glyphosate allows the killing of perennial grasses that would otherwise need deep plowing to kill. The rooted weed residues protect the soil from erosion. The risks of glyphosate use are substantially outweighed by the benefits of increased food security and crop system sustainability.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10460-014-9547-x

 

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A Case for Stronger Protection of Intellectual Property in Agricultural Biotechnology; Comparing the United States, India, and Argentina - Becker (2014) - Drake U

Overall, the agricultural biotechnology industry is a risky and high cost industry, but with the proper investment and protections on that investment, it can be very profitable. The industry can also solve some of the world’s largest problems, including how to feed a growing populations and middle class. Also, with proper intellectual property protection, the industry may try harder to branch out from the current focus to solve other problems that it does not currently focus on. 


There is a current disconnect throughout the world regarding intellectual property rights for agricultural biotechnology. There is much variation starting in the developed countries, which tend to have very strong intellectual property rights, down to the developing and least developed countries... This is seen in the model countries analyzed here, in the United States, India, and Argentina.

 

The United States sees itself as the model for intellectual property rights, and was the driving force in implanting basic minimum intellectual property rights in the TRIPS agreement. India, as a developing country has intellectual property protections for processes of making agricultural products, as well as protections for plant varieties. There are, however, still questions as to whether India is in compliance with the TRIPS agreement, as it does not allow product patents on living organisms. Argentina is on the opposite spectrum of intellectual property rights from the United States.  Argentina does not currently allow patents on biotechnology, with limited protections on plant varieties. Both India and Argentina allow the agricultural biotechnology traits to be used by the farmer in a secondary manner such as reusing the seed, even if there is a contract and a patent on the technology.


These three countries are a perfect tool for analysis, as they represent a broad spectrum of intellectual property rights in this arena; they are three of the largest agriculture markets in the world; and they all allow the use of genetically modified plants in agriculture.

 

Many commentators note that stronger intellectual property rights in agricultural biotechnology will bring large foreign investments into developing countries. This article outlines three major reasons why this should be... First, there is an economical argument, where investment is not possible in situations where corporations are not given protection to their huge investments that are full of risk. Second, there is a scientific argument that this technology has the same inventive process as any other subject matter allowed to be patented in most countries. Third, the allowance of strong intellectual property rights helps countries to invest in resource wealthy nations using regional genetic resources to solve local problems...  

 

http://works.bepress.com/james_becker/1/

 

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