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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 |

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 May 1, 2017]  


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.) ...


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.
Karen Ashby's curator insight, April 5, 2016 4:26 AM

Conflicted about how your view on GM ties in with a career in Biotech? Look no further

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Closing the agricultural nutrient gap worldwide - EurekAlert (2017) 

Closing the agricultural nutrient gap worldwide - EurekAlert (2017)  | Ag Biotech News |

Genetic and agronomic potential do not result in yield without adequate soil fertility. Crops need to grow in nutrient-rich soil, with available nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. Recent research also shows the importance of micronutrients... plant nutrients can be managed to alleviate global poverty and hunger while protecting the environment.

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Breeding major cereal grains through the lens of nutrition-sensitivity - Yu & Tian (2017) - Molecular Plant

Cereal grains are the common food staples that collectively provide over 50% of dietary calories for the world’s population. Although the Green Revolution has greatly increased the yield of commercial cereal crops, they often lack nutrients essential for human health in the edible tissues. 

In developing nutrition-sensitive agriculture, the nutritional quality of cereal grains has been a target for improvement using breeding and biotechnology approaches. 

This review examines recent progress on biofortification of micronutrients (provitamin A and folates) and an essential amino acid (lysine) in three major cereal grains, wheat, rice and maize, through plant breeding. 

In addition, how natural variations, induced mutations, and the advanced genome-editing technologies can be applied to improving the nutrient content and stability in these cereal grains are discussed. 

High-yield cereal crops pyramided with improved (micro)nutrient contents hold great promise to meet the demand of the nutritionally limited populations and contribute to achieving sustainable nutrition security.

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Responsiveness to Different National Interests: Voting Behaviour on Genetically Modified Organisms in the Council of the European Union - Mühlböck & Tosun (2017) - JCMS

Responsiveness to Different National Interests: Voting Behaviour on Genetically Modified Organisms in the Council of the European Union - Mühlböck & Tosun (2017) - JCMS | Ag Biotech News |

Does voting behaviour in the Council of Ministers reflect different national interests? In this article, we explore this question by studying requests for authorization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). 

The fact that GMOs constitute a highly contentious issue in the European Union enables us to look underneath the ‘culture of consensus’ which usually characterizes voting behaviour in the Council. 

We argue that the focus on one issue area can help us to discover more specific voting patterns than those that have previously been found in EU legislative studies. Indeed, based on a dataset comprising all authorization requests voted on in the Council between 2004 and 2014, we find that ministers' voting behaviour is significantly influenced by important national factors such as public opinion, party politics, and structural as well as sectoral interests...

We find that ministers’ voting behaviour on GMOs is significantly driven by different national interests, which may change over time. Most importantly, we observe a significant effect of national public opinion. Ministers representing publics that are more concerned with the potentially negative effects of GMOs on the environment or on health are less likely to vote in favour of authorization requests. 

Furthermore, Council votes on GMOs are also affected by the ideological background of ministers. Representatives from ecological parties have a higher likelihood of voting against the authorization of a new GM product, whereas representatives from agrarian parties base their voting decisions on the structural dimension of their nation’s agriculture. In Member States where large production units in agriculture are dominant, ministers from agrarian parties are likely to vote against GMOs. 

Finally, sectoral and structural interests within the respective Member State affect voting in the Council. Yet, we found these effect sizes to be smaller than those of public opinion or party affiliation. 

The importance of public opinion for explaining the voting behaviour of national governments in the Council is an important finding and begs the follow-up question of what determines public opinion on GMOs. One possible explanation, rooted in policy process theories, refers to ‘policy narratives’ that supporters and opponents of GMOs develop and convey with a view to determine policy outcomes... 

The contentiousness of GMO authorization and the exceptional availability of data for votes where no qualified majority was achieved provided us with the opportunity to look beneath the usual culture of consensus and to observe more detailed patterns of voting behaviour. However, lacking other studies for comparison, we cannot know whether these patterns are also present for other types of votes...

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First genetically engineered salmon sold in Canada - Nature (2017) 

First genetically engineered salmon sold in Canada - Nature (2017)  | Ag Biotech News |

Genetically engineered salmon has reached the dinner table. AquaBounty Technologies, the company in Maynard, Massachusetts, that developed the fish, announced... that it has sold some 4.5 tonnes of its hotly debated product to customers in Canada. The sale marks the first time that a genetically engineered animal has been sold for food on the open market. It took AquaBounty more than 25 years to get to this point.

The fish, a variety of Atlantic salmon, is engineered to grow faster than its non-genetically modified counterpart, reaching market size in roughly half the time – about 18 months. AquaBounty sold its first commercial batch at market price: US$5.30 per pound ($11.70 per kilogram)... 

AquaBounty raised the fish in tanks in a small facility in Panama. It plans to ramp up production by expanding a site on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, where local authorities gave the green light for construction in June. In the same month, the company also acquired a fish farm in Albany, Indiana; it awaits the nod from US regulators to begin production there.

The sale of the fish follows a long, hard-fought battle to navigate regulatory systems and win consumer acceptance. “Somebody’s got to be first and I’m glad it was them and not me,” says James West, a geneticist... who co-founded AgGenetics, a start-up company in Nashville that is engineering cattle for the dairy and beef industries... 

AquaBounty’s gruelling path from scientific discovery to market terrified others working in animal biotechnology, and almost put the company out of business on several occasions. Scientists first demonstrated the fast-growing fish in 1989. They gave it a growth-hormone gene from Chinook salmon, along with genetic regulatory elements from... the ocean pout. The genetic modifications enable the salmon to produce a continuous low level of growth hormone. 

AquaBounty formed around the technology in the early 1990s and approached regulators in the United States soon after. It then spent almost 25 years in regulatory limbo. The FDA approved the salmon for consumption in November 2015, and Canadian authorities came to the same decision six months later. Neither country requires the salmon to be labelled as genetically engineered.

But unlike in Canada, political battles in the United States have stalled the salmon’s entry into the marketplace. The law setting out the US government’s budget for fiscal year 2017 includes a provision that instructs the FDA to forbid the sale of transgenic salmon until it has developed a programme to inform consumers that they are buying a genetically engineered product... 

The announcement that AquaBounty’s fish are landing on Canadian tables is sure to dredge up opposition... The genetically engineered fish are good for the economy – attractive because they can be grown near metropolitan areas rather than being flown in from overseas, bringing salmon-farming jobs back to the United States and Canada. And because the AquaBounty salmon are grown in tanks... they don’t encounter many of the pathogens and parasites that often afflict salmon raised in sea cages.

“I think the larger market is viewing it as a more predictable, sustainable source of salmon... As a first sale this was very positive and encouraging for us.”

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Organic farming: Why organic farmers spray a heavy metal - Spiegel (2017) 

[Machine translated and slightly edited] 

The organic industry is growing... but "without poison", as the Greens promise, also organic agriculture cannot do. 

Organic ("bio") is popular in Germany... Nearly every tenth farmer produces ecologically, and around four percent of the German agricultural sector's revenue is generated by the organic division, with the trend rising since years. 

Sure, there are different reasons to buy organic. One of them can be described by an exaggeration of a phrase from the Greens' Election Program, which sees organic farming as guiding principle: "an agriculture without poisons". 

In fact, organic farming guarantees cultivation without chemical plant protection products. However, this does not necessarily mean that organic plant protection is less "toxic" than the conventional one. The urge for naturalness sometimes leads to solutions that neither serve the farmers nor the environment. And if in doubt, one can even argue whether a pesticide is bio or not. 

A case in  point would be the German organic winegrowers, for which 2016 was a challenging year. Persistent rainfalls caused a damaging fungus, the powdery mildew, to spread rapidly in the vineyards. Potassium phosphonate can help in this situation. Chemically formulated it is an inorganic salt of phosphonic acid; it is produced synthetically. Potassium phosphonate is regarded as comparatively harmless for humans and the environment - as is confirmed by the Federation of Organic Food Industries (BÖLW). 

The product is a special case: Until 2013, organic winegrowers were allowed to use potassium phosphonate, because it was classified as a so-called plant strengthener. By an amendment at EU level, it then fell into the category of plant protection products - and thus, as it is chemically produced, it became off-limits for organic agriculture. Harmlessness is insignificant when it lacks naturalness. 

Bio-winemakers may, however, use a different substance to combat fungi such as the mildew: copper - in the form of the so-called Bordeaux mixture. According to Federal Environment Agency (UBA), "in principle copper is to be considered critically, as high concentrations of the heavy metal in the soil can damage numerous soil organisms, including earthworms." 

Earthworms, you have to add, are sort of the bees of the soil: without them one would have a big problem. Only that they do not pollute, but rather dismantle. In addition, if copper is once in the ground, it remains there. Since copper has been used for many decades - also by conventional winegrowers - and used earlier in much higher quantities, it has been particularly enriched in vineyards. 

The good news: According to a long-term investigation by the Julius-Kühn-Institute (JKI), earthworms and other soil organisms are coping better that thought, for different reasons. Nevertheless, also the JKI considers copper generally critically - for this reason there are strict, very low levels in Germany, which are not allowed to be exceed by farmers per year. The restriction is intended to ensure that the metal can continue to be used against fungal attack in the future if necessary... "If copper would now be submitted for approval as a plant protection product for the first time, it would never pass." 

German organic winegrowers are not happy with the situation. In the summer of 2016, the amount of copper allowed was not sufficient to get rid of the powdery mildew. The wine producers are making efforts to allow potassium phosphonate to be used again for organic winegrowing. It has a "natural character", argues the association Ecovin. The opinion is not shared by everyone. In the past year, Brussels let it be known that it was not possible to ignore experts who considered potassium phosphonate to be incompatible with organic farming. Naturalness is the first priority in organic farming. 

In 2016, a few organic winegrowers nevertheless used potassium phosphonate in order to save their harvest. These producers are therefore not allowed to sell this vintage as a bio-product. Actually, this also applies to some subsequent years, according to the deadline for conversions from conventional to organic farms. But in the hope of avoiding this, a number of federal states started official large-scale trials, in which the winegrowers could participate. This was done less to gain knowledge, but more to circumvent the deadline. Whether that works is still unclear; the decision is at EU level and still pending. 

The bottom line is thus: a heavy metal, which can accumulate in the soil and harm earthworms, is organic. An inorganic salt that is considered safe even by ecological associations is not. After all, according to the directive, organic plant protection must be "of plant, animal, microbial or mineral origin" - although legislation also leaves room for exceptions. 

And: if the conditions are too harsh, organic farmers either have to accept harsh harvest losses or else get out the otherwise hated chemistry toolbox. In the case of wine, a lost harvest, as terrible as it is for the winemaker, may be a luxury problem for society. For potatoes that are also susceptible to fungi, it looks different. 

This all does not mean that the organic industry is the wrong way. But for a sustainable, environmentally friendly agriculture it would be better if the ideological blinders fall and instead optimal solutions would be chosen.

Alexander J. Stein's insight:
A synthetically produced (i.e. "chemical") fungicide would have a "natural character" and should therefore permitted, say organic winegrowers who need it desperately... 

"For a sustainable, environmentally friendly agriculture it would be better if the ideological blinders fall and instead optimal solutions would be chosen." >> Which is exactly what is possible in conventional agriculture, farmers are free to choose optimal solutions and are not forced to follow ideological rules... 
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Cracking the code of megapests - CSIRO (2017) 

Cracking the code of megapests - CSIRO (2017)  | Ag Biotech News |

Researchers have mapped the complete genome of two closely related megapests potentially saving the international agricultural community billions of dollars a year... Researchers identified more than 17,000 protein coding genes in the genomes of the Helicoverpa armigera and Helicoverpa zea (commonly known as the Cotton Bollworm and Corn Earworm, respectively). They also documented how these genetics have changed overtime. 

This level of detail makes it easier for scientists to predict... the caterpillars' weak spots, how they will mutate and... breed plants they will not want to eat. 

The bollworm and earworm are the world’s greatest caterpillar pests... causing in excess of US $5 billion in control costs and damage each year... The bollworm... attacks more crops and develops much more resistance to pesticides than its earworm counterpart. "It is the single most important pest of agriculture in the world, making it humanity’s greatest competitor for food and fibre"... 

"Its genomic arsenal has allowed it to outgun all our known insecticides through the development of resistance, reflecting its name – armigera which means armed and warlike." In Brazil the bollworm has been spreading rapidly and there have been cases of of it hybridising with the earworm, posing a real threat that the new and improved "superbug" could spread... 

In the mid-90s CSIRO assisted Australian cotton breeders to incorporate Bt insect resistance genes in their varieties to try and tackle the bollworm. "Bt cotton" plants dispatch an insecticide from a bacteria – Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) – that is toxic to the caterpillar. In the following 10 years, there was an 80 per cent reduction in the use of chemical pesticides previously required to control bollworms.

However the bollworm soon fought back with a small percentage of them building resistance to Bt cotton and scientists introducing further strains of insecticides to manage the problem... While a combination of BT and some insecticides was working well in Australia, it can be costly and it was important to comprehensive studying the pest themselves to manage the problem world-wide.

"We need the full range of agricultural science... Our recent analyses of the complete genome, its adaptations and spread over the years are a huge step forward in combating these megapests."

Identifying pest origins will enable resistance profiling that reflects countries of origin to be included when developing a resistance management strategy, while identifying incursion pathways will improve biosecurity protocols and risk analysis...

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Crops that kill pests by shutting off their genes - ScienceDaily (2017) 

Crops that kill pests by shutting off their genes - ScienceDaily (2017)  | Ag Biotech News |

Plants are among many eukaryotes that can "turn off" one or more of their genes by using a process called RNA interference to block protein translation. Researchers are now weaponizing this by engineering crops to produce specific RNA fragments that, upon ingestion by insects, initiate RNA interference to shut down a target gene essential for life or reproduction, killing or sterilizing the insects... 

As chemical pesticides raise concerns over insect resistance, collateral environmental damage, and human exposure risks, transgenic methods are becoming an attractive option for future pest control. For instance, certain strains of corn and cotton have been modified to produce protein toxins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that poison certain worms, beetles, and moths. RNA interference adds another degree of subtlety, by instead shutting down essential genes in pests that consume crops.

"RNA interference-based pest control can provide protection at essentially no cost because once the variety is developed, the plant can just go on using it instead of needing additional applications of insecticide"... An RNA interference strategy could also address environmental and human toxicity questions around chemical pesticides. "When we target a key pest with RNA interference technology, what we are really hoping for is to see a big reduction in overall insecticide use"... 

Besides application cost and environmental advantages, advocates of the method also point to the flexibility of finding a genetic target and its species specificity. While chemical pesticides such as organophosphates work by overloading an insect's nervous system, a suitable RNA interference target might control something as esoteric, yet indispensable, as cellular protein sorting. Additionally, even when certain target genes are similar across species, optimally designed RNA fragments only inhibit one species and its closest relatives, rather than overwhelming non-threatening insects as some chemical pesticides do...

Underlying article:

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Economic impacts of commercializing insect-resistant GM maize in China - Xie &al (2017) - China Ag Econ Rev

This paper examines the potential economic impacts of China’s insect-resistant GM maize and provides new evidence for decision making concerning its commercialization.

This study uses data drawn from the production trials of insect-resistant GM maize and expert interviews to determine the impacts of commercializing GM maize at farm level under three scenarios with varying severity of insect pest attacks in maize production. Economic impacts are simulated using a modified Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) model.

In farm terms, insect-resistant GM maize increases crop yield and reduces both pesticide and labor inputs. In national terms, China can increase its GDP by 8.6 billion USD and maize self-sufficiency by about 2% given normal insect pest attacks if China commercializes GM maize. 

Additional beneficiaries include consumers and the livestock industry. Non-maize crops can also benefit from land saving through GM maize commercialization. Chemical is a sector with the decrease in its output because demand for pesticides will fall.

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Agricultural Biotechnology and Food Security: Can CETA, TPP, and TTIP Become Venues to Facilitate Trade in GM Products? - Viju &al (2017) - World Ag Res Food Sec

Strong evidence has shown that increased agricultural productivity and opened international trade are required to maintain and enhance food security. The multilateral trading system has been unable to keep trade open for... agricultural products... that use biotechnology in production. 

This chapter assesses whether preferential trade agreements can represent potential alternative sources of trade rules for dealing with trade in the products of biotechnology... 

Those negotiating preferential trade agreements... have shown little inventiveness in their attempts to put in place rules of trade for products of modern agricultural biotechnology... they have only managed to kick it down the road for future negotiators... without any means to force closure on negotiations. 

This result suggests that there is little understanding of the food-security challenges that feeding a 9+ billion population will bring over the next 35 years and the contribution GM technology can make to maintaining or improving the degree of global food security. 

Given the inability to deal with the issue at the WTO or other multilateral forums, the negotiations of major preferential agreements represent a missed opportunity in the quest for food security.

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On the Path to Vitamin A in Rice - Uni Freiburg (2017) 

The lack of vitamin A in food is a major cause of health problems worldwide and can lead to blindness and even death. This is especially a problem in threshold or third-world countries, where children are likely to suffer from a lack of vitamin A or its precursor beta-carotene due to malnourishment. 

Among their many functions, carotenoids are responsible for the bright orange color of sweet potatoes as well as their namesake, the carrot. Thanks to its intense color, beta-carotene is used in the food industry in soft drinks, yoghurts, and other food and is known as food coloring E160. Rice, which is the most important basic nutrient in Asia, has no beta-carotene in its kernel, but there are carotenoids in the leaves of the rice plant. These long, fat-soluble pigments are used by the plant not only in photosynthesis, during which the plant generates energy and oxygen, but in other processes as well.

One of the first precursors to beta-carotene is phytoene, which is colorless and not water-soluble and can be found in the lipid bilayer of plastid organelles – in other words, in the outer layer of these closed cellular compartments, which is involved in many processes including photosynthesis. Here, the enzyme phytoene desaturase (PDS) transforms the phytoene into the next intermediate of synthesis, which already has a yellowish color. 

Researchers... successfully elucidated the three-dimensional structure of PDS in rice, along with the mechanism of phytoene transformation... If the PDS enzyme in a plant does not function properly, for example due to a reaction to a herbicide, then the plant's seedlings become pale and whitish instead of green and the plant dies within a few days. 

Since the early twentieth century, scientists worldwide have been working to reveal the exact mechanisms of carotene synthesis. This has proven difficult, however, due to the complicated composition of various enzyme complexes and because of their relatively low numbers in plant cells. 

The researchers... were able to elucidate the structure of the PDS enzyme using a specialty: They added a molecule of norflurazon, an herbicide developed in the 1970s, during the isolation of PDS. Due to the presence of norflurazon, PDS is deactivated and thus no longer available to the growing plant, causing it to bleach and die. 

Knowledge about the position and orientation of this bleaching herbicide within the enzyme can therefore be useful to researchers when developing new agents in the future. It is now also possible to induce specific changes in the sequence of the enzyme and use biotechnological procedures to give crops an advantage over weeds.

Underlying article:

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Characterization of scientific studies usually cited as evidence of adverse effects of GM food/feed - Sánchez & Parrott (2017) - Plant Biotechnol J

Characterization of scientific studies usually cited as evidence of adverse effects of GM food/feed - Sánchez & Parrott (2017) - Plant Biotechnol J | Ag Biotech News |

GM crops are the most studied crops in history. Approximately 5% of the safety studies on them show adverse effects that... tend to be featured in media reports. Although these reports are based on just a handful of GM events, they are used to cast doubt on all GM crops. Furthermore, they tend to come from just a few laboratories and are published in less important journals. 

Importantly, a close examination of these reports invariably shows methodological flaws that invalidate any conclusions of adverse effects. Twenty years after commercial cultivation of GM crops began, a bona fide report of an adverse health effect due to a commercialized modification in a crop has yet to be reported... 

In general terms, all papers analyzed here violate at least one of the basic standards for assessment of GM food/feed safety... In contrast to the 35 studies here assessed, when the same events tested have been conducted under a robust study design – i.e. proper statistical analysis, controls, etc., – no adverse effects have ever been observed.

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Genome editing and genetic engineering in livestock for advancing agricultural and biomedical applications - Telugu (2017) - Mammal Gen

Genome editing and genetic engineering in livestock for advancing agricultural and biomedical applications - Telugu (2017) - Mammal Gen | Ag Biotech News |

Genetic modification of livestock has a longstanding and successful history, starting with domestication several thousand years ago. Modern animal breeding strategies predominantly based on marker-assisted and genomic selection, artificial insemination, and embryo transfer have led to significant improvement in the performance of domestic animals, and are the basis for regular supply of high quality animal derived food. 

However, the current strategy of breeding animals over multiple generations to introduce novel traits is not realistic in responding to the unprecedented challenges such as changing climate, pandemic diseases, and feeding an anticipated 3 billion increase in global population in the next three decades... 

Sophisticated genetic modifications that allow for seamless introgression of novel alleles or traits and introduction of precise modifications without affecting the overall genetic merit of the animal are required... The requirement for precise modifications is especially important in the context of modeling human diseases for the development of therapeutic interventions. 

The animal science community envisions the genome editors as essential tools in addressing these critical priorities in agriculture and biomedicine, and for advancing livestock genetic engineering for agriculture, biomedical as well as “dual purpose” applications.

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Genetic Engineering: A Possible Strategy for Protein–Energy Malnutrition Regulation - Guleria &al (2017) - Molec Biotechnol 

Genetic Engineering: A Possible Strategy for Protein–Energy Malnutrition Regulation - Guleria &al (2017) - Molec Biotechnol  | Ag Biotech News |

Protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) has adversely affected the generations of developing countries. It is a syndrome that in severity causes death. PEM generally affects infants of 1-5 age group. This manifestation is maintained till adulthood in the form of poor brain and body development. 

The developing nations are continuously making an effort to curb PEM. However, it is still a prime concern as it was in its early years of occurrence. 

Transgenic crops with high protein and enhanced nutrient content have been successfully developed. Present article reviews the studies documenting genetic engineering-mediated improvement in the pulses, cereals, legumes, fruits and other crop plants in terms of nutritional value, stress tolerance, longevity and productivity. 

Such genetically engineered crops can be used as a possible remedial tool to eradicate PEM.

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Harvesting more grain zinc of wheat for human health - Chen &al (2017) - Sci Reports

Harvesting more grain zinc of wheat for human health - Chen &al (2017) - Sci Reports | Ag Biotech News |

Increasing grain zinc (Zn) concentration of cereals for minimizing Zn malnutrition in two billion people represents an important global humanitarian challenge. Grain Zn in field-grown wheat at the global scale ranges from 20.4 to 30.5 mg/kg, showing a solid gap to the biofortification target for human health (40 mg/kg). 

Through a group of field experiments, we found that the low grain Zn was not closely linked to historical replacements of varieties during the Green Revolution, but greatly aggravated by phosphorus (P) overuse or insufficient nitrogen (N) application. We also conducted a total of 320-pair plots field experiments and found an average increase of 10.5 mg/kg by foliar Zn application. 

We conclude that an integrated strategy, including not only Zn-responsive genotypes, but of a similar importance, Zn application and field N and P management, are required to harvest more grain Zn and meanwhile ensure better yield in wheat-dominant areas.

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New Biotechnological Tools for the Genetic Improvement of Major Woody Fruit Species - Limera &al (2017) - Front Plant Sci

New Biotechnological Tools for the Genetic Improvement of Major Woody Fruit Species - Limera &al (2017) - Front Plant Sci | Ag Biotech News |

The improvement of woody fruit species by traditional plant breeding techniques has several limitations mainly caused by their high degree of heterozygosity, the length of their juvenile phase and auto-incompatibility. 

The development of new biotechnological tools (NBTs), such as RNA interference (RNAi), trans-grafting, cisgenesis/intragenesis, and genome editing tools, like zinc-finger and CRISPR/Cas9, has introduced the possibility of more precise and faster genetic modifications of plants. 

This aspect is of particular importance for the introduction or modification of specific traits in woody fruit species while maintaining unchanged general characteristics of a selected cultivar. Moreover, some of these new tools give the possibility to obtain transgene-free modified fruit tree genomes, which should increase consumer's acceptance... 

Although, NBTs have a common goal i.e., precise, fast, and efficient crop improvement, individually they are markedly different in approach and characteristics from each other. In this review we describe in detail their mechanisms and applications for the improvement of fruit trees and consider the relationship between these biotechnological tools and the EU biosafety regulations applied to the plants and products obtained through these techniques.... 

Biotechnological techniques have undergone rapid development adding novel and valuable tools for plant breeders. These techniques make it possible to create desirable crop cultivars in fast and more efficient ways to meet the demand for improved crops to support sustainable agricultural productivity and in order to cater for the ever-increasing world population... 

Commercial applications of genetically modified fruit trees are so far limited. The only fruit plants available on the market are the “Rainbow” virus resistant papaya since September 1997... and the arctic apple approved by the USDA in February 2015... The virus resistant Honey Sweet plum cultivar attained approval for commercialization in USA but has not reached the market yet.

The limited application of GM technology in fruit trees can be explained by (1) the difficulties in developing efficient regeneration and transformation protocols for many cultivars of the different species as many fruit tree species are recalcitrant, (2) the regulatory requirements. These reasons lead to the limited commercial exploitation of GM fruit trees by the fruit industry hence limited investment in fruit tree biotechnologies by plant breeders and the biotech industry...

The NBTs such as cisgenesis and intragenesis could raise less biosafety concerns and should be considered more similar to conventional breeding techniques; RNAi introduces no new proteins in the plant, which means no novel allergenicity issues and that a lightened risk assessment process should be required. Furthermore, gene editing techniques, especially CRISPR/Cas9 combined with RNPs delivered directly to the protoplast, are more precise and targeted techniques and less likely to create unintended off-target mutations as RNPs are quickly cleared from the cell via protein degradation pathways resulting in a modified plant free from any foreign materials from the CRISPR/Cas9 RNPs complex.

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Knowing Is Not Believing: Values Trump Science Every Time - Chakraborty & Bobo (2017) - Europ J Risk Regul

What you believe depends on who you are, not what you know... The Pew Research Center released a report depicting Americans sharply divided regarding the foods they buy. Pew polled a nationally representative sample... which found that approximately 39% of American adults believe genetically modified (GM) foods to be less healthy than non-GM foods. With regard to organic foods, approximately 55% of the sample polled believed organic foods to be healthier than those grown using conventional farming methods. 

While participants who identified themselves as Democrats showcased slightly higher attitudes towards increased health benefits in consuming organic foods, party affiliation as an indicator proved weak... When it comes to GM and organic food, the divide is between consumers and scientists, not the divide so often evident in American domestic politics. 

The public perceptions... that organic foods are “healthier” have no basis in science. Classification of foods as “organic” is a certification that a product has met the standards... for marketing purposes as defined by USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP). Organic food differs from conventionally-produced food in the way it is grown or produced, not in relation to its nutritional value or the characteristics of the final product. The USDA makes no claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food, or that it has been produced in a more sustainable manner... 

Many proponents of GM foods find public opposition to such products inconsistent with the broad public support for biotechnology in the health sector. “Prospect theory”, however, provides a lens for understanding these seemingly different views. In fact, according to prospect theory both positions make perfect sense. People are risk taking when it comes to loss avoidance, such as when one is sick and a drug may make one better. However, most consumers view food as perfectly safe... 

In addition, cognitive behavioural scientists have been able to explain disengagement with contradictory information through “cognitive dissonance”. Cognitive dissonance explains why people are motivated to reduce or avoid psychological inconsistencies, or new information that is at odds with existing beliefs. We know that changes in attitudes can lead to changes in behaviour, but dissonance theory also explains how the pressure to feel consistent will often lead people to bring their beliefs in line with their behaviour... 

the term “myside bias” better encompasses the nature of the heuristic. They assert that incredulity to new and inconsistent information is not random, but there is a tendency to remain to true to one’s original viewpoint or position or “myside”... 

Research indicates that improving upon a sense of shared values between individuals and policymakers could potentially build trust and improve cooperation in policy outcomes.15 Public trust will be vital in ensuring the success of bringing GM food products to market produced through new breeding techniques (e.g., white-button mushroom). While establishing and/or building trust is notoriously difficult, it will be imperative as new information on novel technologies is presented to the public.

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Multi-nutrient rice against malnutrition - ETH (2017) 

Multi-nutrient rice against malnutrition - ETH (2017)  | Ag Biotech News |

Researchers have developed a new rice variety that not only has increased levels of the micronutrients iron and zinc in the grains, but also produces beta-carotene as a precursor of vitamin A. This could help to reduce micronutrient malnutrition, or «hidden hunger», which is widespread in developing countries. 

Nearly every second person [worldwide] eats primarily rice to meet the daily calorie needs. A meal of rice stops the hunger, but contains only very few or none of the essential micronutrients. As a consequence, large segments of the human population are malnourished, especially in Asia and Africa. They do not obtain enough iron, zinc and also vitamin A to stay healthy. 

Insufficient iron intake results in anemia, retards brain development and increases mortality among women and infants. If children are deficient for vitamin A, they can turn blind and their immune system is weakened, often causing infectious diseases such as measles, diarrhea or malaria. 

To combat malnutrition, ETH researchers... developed a new rice variety already many years ago that in 2000 became known as «Golden Rice». This was one of the first genetically modified rice varieties in which the researchers could produce beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A, in the endosperm of the rice grain. Golden Rice was later improved and is now used in breeding programs in several countries, primarily in Southeast-Asia. 

To address other micronutrient deficiencies, researchers... also developed rice varieties with increased iron levels in the rice and wheat grains, for example. All of the new transgenic rice varieties have one thing in common, however: they can only provide one particular micronutrient. Until to date, combining several micronutrients into one rice plant was a dream that had not been realized. 

Now a group... report a success in creating a multi-nutrient rice.... succeeded in genetically modifying rice plants such that in addition to sufficient levels of iron and zinc, they also produce significant levels of beta-carotene in the endosperm of the grain compared to normal varieties. «Our results demonstrate that it is possible to combine several essential micronutrients – iron, zinc and beta-carotene – in a single rice plant for healthy nutrition»... 

Scientifically, the success was the engineering of a gene cassette containing four genes for the micronutrient improvement that could be inserted into the rice genome as a single genetic locus. This has the advantage that iron, zinc and beta-carotene levels can be simultaneously increased by genetic crosses in rice varieties of various countries. Otherwise it would be necessary to cross rice lines with the individual micronutrients to reach the improved micronutrient content in rice grains... 

«If one would substitute 70 percent of the currently consumed white rice with the multi-nutrient variety, this could markedly improve vitamin A supplementation already in addition to sufficient iron and zinc in the diet»... 

The new multi-nutrient rice lines are still in their testing phase. Until now the plants have been grown in the greenhouse and analyzed for their micronutrient content. «We will improve the lines further»... It is planned to test the plants in confined field trials to determine if the micronutrient traits and also agronomic properties are equally robust in the field as they are in the greenhouse... «It will probably be five years before the multi-nutrient rice can be used to reduce hidden hunger»...

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Dramatic changes needed in farming practices to keep pace with climate change - Lancaster U (2017) 

Major changes in agricultural practices will be required to offset increases in nutrient losses due to climate change... 

To combat repeated, damaging storm events, which strip agricultural land of soil and nutrients, farmers are already adopting measures to conserve these assets where they are needed. But... researchers investigating nutrients in runoff from agricultural land warn that phosphorus losses will increase, due to climate change, unless this is mitigated by making major changes to agricultural practices. These changes could include a more judicious use of fertilizer including strategies to use soil phosphorus more efficiently, or physical measures to reduce the losses of nutrients from fields... 

“The warmer, wetter winters predicted for the future will result in more phosphorus transferred from agricultural land into the rivers and ultimately the oceans. Although farmers are already doing what they can to prevent these losses, the currently adopted measures are not likely to be enough to offset the increase expected under climate change... This paper should alert policy makers and government to the help and support that farmers will need to achieve the scale of agricultural change that may be necessary to keep up with the increase in pollution due to climate change.” 

Nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen are essential to crop and animal growth, but too many nutrients cause algal blooms in rivers and lakes. These suffocate fish and other organisms and require costly remediation by water supply companies. Fertilisers and manures washed off in storms are a major source of nutrients, with more than 60 per cent of the nitrogen and 25 per cent of the phosphorus in our rivers coming from agriculture... 

“State-of-the-art high resolution climate models... showed that the main factor driving increased future phosphorus losses was the projected increase in winter rainfall.”

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Mark Moreno's curator insight, September 6, 1:24 AM
Managing water ( in or out) isn't getting easier. Getting on top of your farm or orchard can help you out. Aerial data analysis and review can potentially identify ares of concern, and often times do so ealier than b other methods.
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Unjustified delays in approving biotech crops take thousands of lives - Wageningen UR (2017) 

Unjustified delays in approving biotech crops take thousands of lives - Wageningen UR (2017)  | Ag Biotech News |

Uncertainty and confusion on genetic engineering of main food crops in Africa have delayed the acceptance and application of these crops by smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Model calculations by a team of researchers... reveal that the costs of a one year delay in approving the pod-borer resistant cow-pea in Nigeria will cost the country 33-46 million dollar; and more disastrously, will take theoretically 100 to 3000 lives... 

Scientists, policy makers, and other stakeholders have raised concerns that the approval process for new crops causes delays that are often scientifically unjustified. These delays are not only causing costs via foregone economic benefits, but also lives via foregone calorie supplies for malnourished children... 

The research team calculates these effects for the genetically engineered crops: cooking banana (matoke), cow pea, and corn (maize) for five countries in Africa. They found that in Kenya, the benefits from reduced malnutrition can be larger than the total economic surplus. The benefits can be up to about 1150 million dollar for banana in Uganda, and about 795 million dollar for corn in Kenya.

Kenya, Uganda and many other African countries had the chance to follow South Africa’s example of adopting genetically engineered (GE) crops – also called GM or biotech crops. The researchers report, if Kenya had adopted GE corn in 2006 – according to an earlier project this was possible – between 440 and 4000 lives could theoretically have been saved. Similarly, Uganda had the possibility in 2007 to introduce the black sigatoka resistant banana, thereby potentially saving between 500 and 5500 lives over the past decade. The introduction of Bt cowpea is expected... in 2017 in Benin, Niger, and Nigeria... ‘Depending on approvals’. A one-year delay in approval would especially harm Nigeria, as malnourishment is widespread there. 

The results reported might have underestimated the cost of delay, especially in evaluating the benefit of adopting insect resistant cowpea, as they only consider the energy content of this crop. Further, environmental and health benefits from reduced pesticide use for pest and disease control are not explicitly included.

The calculation model the authors used includes economic benefits for producers and consumers as well as the benefits of reduced malnutrition among subsistence farm-households often not explicitly considered in previous studies. The authors also consider the uncertainty policy makers face caused by contradicting statements from lobby groups. They calculate the implicit costs attached. 

In general, uncertainty about future costs weighs higher than uncertainty about future benefits. One unit of costs needs about 1.5 units of benefits for compensation under uncertainty and explains why policy makers are more responsive to statements about the costs than the benefits of genetically engineered crops. “This explains why those opposing genetically engineered crops have it easier to convince policymakers”... 

“Time is money, and lives! ... Reducing the approval time of genetically modified crops results in generating economic gains, potentially contributing to reducing malnutrition and saving lives, and can be an inexpensive strategy for reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goal of eradicating malnutrition by 2030... But this might also be important for Europe as it reduces migration”.

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Promise, problems and prospects: agri-biotech governance in China, India and Japan | China Agricultural Economic Review | Just Accepted

We examine the potential of agri-biotech to play a role in meeting the world’s food, feed, fibre and fuel needs. Using case studies, policy developments in the key Asian countries of China, India and Japan are also scrutinized to determine the extent to which they enable or obstruct biotech’s potential.

We first examine some key challenges facing the agriculture and agri-food sector and the potential role biotech can play in addressing them. These challenges include feeding the world’s growing population, improving nutrition worldwide, dealing with allergen risks, reducing nutrient and chemical loading in watersheds, addressing water scarcity issues, and reducing waste in the food system. 

We then turn our attention to the agri-biotech systems in three Asian giants, including China’s centralized governance approach, India’s central-local policy and regulations, and Japan’s pragmatic and evidence-based regulatory framework... 

Each nation has evolved its own system of governance... Systems that are less evidence-based appear to be more discretionary and therefore are less predictable in their outcomes. This increases risks to prospective exporting firms and importing firms, driving up system costs and effectively serving as barriers to entry and to trade. It also dampens and distorts entrepreneurial and innovation incentives... 

The sometimes disjointed, sometimes strategic use of biotech regulations have fragmented markets and created fiefdoms which undermine the potential of novel technologies to address the challenges facing society... 

This study... includes discussions relating to bureaucratic and administrative behavior which erodes the extent to which markets can be contested. This results in balkanized markets and non-cooperative behavior that undermines and distorts incentives for entrepreneurial effort and innovation. That such behavior takes place in markets and disciplines that are fundamental to assuring food security, nutrition and health, as well as good governance of scarce water and land resources is of considerable concern.

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What Would Happen If We Don’t Have GMO Traits? - Taheripour & Tyner (2017) - World Agricultural Resources and Food Security

The purpose of this chapter is to ask and answer the question of what would happen if Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) plant materials were banned. We report on two studies – one with United States only ban and one with a global ban. 

We used a global computable general equilibrium (CGE) model, Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP), for the analysis... Our use of the model was to estimate the crop yield benefits for the major GMO crops, and then to convert this to a loss if the GMO traits were banned. We then shocked the GTAP model with the yield losses and estimate economic, land use, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission impacts. 

We found that losing the GM technology would cause commodity and food prices to increase and also bring about a significant increase in GHG emissions. The increase in emissions is caused by the need to convert forest and pasture to compensate for the lost production. 

Another interesting conclusion of the global ban study is that economic well-being for the United States, the world’s largest GMO user, actually increases with a ban. Many regions that ban or use little GMO varieties like the European Union, India, China, and Japan all see economic well-being decrease. These counterintuitive results are driven mainly by trade patterns... 

GMO technology helps agriculture reduce its carbon footprint. Without this technology, agricultural land-use GHG emissions increase as do food prices. Some groups would like to see GMOs banned and also see GHG emissions fall. You cannot have it both ways... 

The conservative case for soybeans was zero yield increase... 

Others have identified environmental benefits of GMO technology that go beyond reduction in GHG gasses. For example, herbicide-tolerant varieties permit the use of chemicals that are perceived as being less dangerous for the environment... 

Without GMO varieties, it is harder for farmers to use no-till cultivation practices; we did not include that effect. There may be cost reductions or increases in using GMO technology, and these have not been included as well...

Alexander J. Stein's insight:
"The conservative case for soybeans was zero yield increase... Without GMO varieties, it is harder for farmers to use no-till cultivation practices; we did not include that effect."
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The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions - Wynes & Nicholas (2017) - Env Res Letters

Current anthropogenic climate change is the result of greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere, which records the aggregation of billions of individual decisions. Here we consider a broad range of individual lifestyle choices and calculate their potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries, based on 148 scenarios from 39 sources. 

We recommend four widely applicable high-impact (i.e. low emissions) actions with the potential to contribute to systemic change and substantially reduce annual personal emissions: 

- having one fewer child (an average for developed countries of 58.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent (tCO2e) emission reductions per year), 

- living car-free (2.4 tCO2e saved per year), 

- avoiding airplane travel (1.6 tCO2e saved per roundtrip transatlantic flight) and 

- eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tCO2e saved per year). 

These actions have much greater potential to reduce emissions than commonly promoted strategies like comprehensive recycling (four times less effective than a plant-based diet) or changing household lightbulbs (eight times less). 

Though adolescents poised to establish lifelong patterns are an important target group for promoting high-impact actions, we find that ten high school science textbooks... fail to mention these actions... instead focusing on incremental changes with much smaller potential emissions reductions. Government resources on climate change from the EU, USA, Canada, and Australia also focus recommendations on lower-impact actions. 

We conclude that there are opportunities to improve existing educational and communication structures to promote the most effective emission-reduction strategies and close this mitigation gap.

Alexander J. Stein's insight:
... according to the supplementary material, the authors suspected that having one fewer dog could also represent a high-impact action, but the available literature on this topic was too scarce to substantiate their suspicion. 
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Should Genetic Engineering Be Used as a Tool for Conservation? - Conniff (2017) - Yale E360

Should Genetic Engineering Be Used as a Tool for Conservation? - Conniff (2017) - Yale E360 | Ag Biotech News |

Researchers are considering ways to use synthetic biology for such conservation goals as eradicating invasive species or strengthening endangered coral. But environmentalists are worried about the ethical questions and unwanted consequences of this new gene-altering technology.

The worldwide effort to return islands to their original wildlife, by eradicating rats, pigs, and other invasive species, has been one of the great environmental success stories of our time. Rewilding has succeeded on hundreds of islands, with beleaguered species surging back from imminent extinction, and dwindling bird colonies suddenly blossoming across old nesting grounds.

But these restoration campaigns are often massively expensive and emotionally fraught, with conservationists fearful of accidentally poisoning native wildlife, and animal rights activists having at times fiercely opposed the whole idea. So what if it were possible to rid islands of invasive species without killing a single animal? And at a fraction of the cost of current methods? 

That’s the tantalizing – but also worrisome – promise of synthetic biology... genetic engineering, but made easier and more precise by the new gene editing technology called CRISPR, which ecologists could use to splice in a DNA sequence designed to handicap an invasive species, or to help a native species adapt to a changing climate. “Gene drive,” another new tool, could then spread an introduced trait through a population far more rapidly than conventional Mendelian genetics would predict.  

Synthetic biology, also called synbio, is already... manufacturing processes in pharmaceuticals, chemicals, biofuels, and agriculture. But many conservationists consider the prospect of using synbio methods as a tool for protecting the natural world deeply alarming... On the other hand, a team of conservation biologists... ran off a list of promising applications for synbio in the natural world, in addition to island rewilding... 

- Giving corals that are vulnerable to bleaching carefully selected genes from nearby corals that are more tolerant of heat and acidity. - Using artificial microbiomes to restore soils damaged by mining or pollution.
- Eliminating populations of feral cats and dogs without euthanasia or surgical neutering, by producing generations that are genetically programmed to be sterile... 
- And eradicating mosquitoes without pesticides, particularly in Hawaii, where they are highly destructive newcomers... 

Conservationists and synbio engineers alike need to overcome what now amounts to mutual ignorance. Conservationists tend to have limited and often outdated knowledge of genetics and molecular biology... “it would be a disservice to the goal of protecting biodiversity if conservationists do not participate in applying the best science and thinkers to these issues.... it is necessary to adapt the culture of conservation biologists to a rapidly-changing reality... embrace concepts of synthetic biology, and both seek and guide appropriate synthetic solutions to aid biodiversity”...

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Perspectives: Chemistry seeks its new level in agtech - Meadows-Smith (2017) - Chem Engin News

Biotechnology has moved on from pharmaceuticals to agriculture, creating new opportunities for chemists. The agricultural chemicals sector is currently undergoing a fundamental transformation, one in which the term “chemicals” has already become a misnomer. The rise of biologics – that is, natural products, plant extracts, and agents derived from beneficial bacteria and fungi – has had a significant impact on product development... 

Big names in agricultural chemicals... are all gearing up in biology... the two sciences work well in partnership, a partnership that is likely to create more opportunities than obstacles for chemists in the sector – an outcome we have already witnessed with the rise of biologics in pharmaceuticals... 

Biotechnology began growing as a market segment in the pharmaceutical industry in the early 1970s. Since then, companies have developed technology and infrastructure to support research, advancing scientific methods and reducing costs. As an example, sequencing a genome has dropped in price from $10 million to less than $1,000 in the past decade and has become a standard tool... 

Technical innovation and cost-effective research platforms have similarly opened doors for biology in commercial agriculture. While not considered biologic, incorporation of genetically modified traits in crops has existed since the early 1980s. Bt crops, which are plants genetically engineered to produce the same protein toxin as the natural bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, were first approved... in 1995. Today, 79% of corn grown in the U.S. has the inserted Bt gene that protects the corn from insect pests. The bacterium was originally used as a... biopesticide beginning as early as 1920.

Technology transfer from pharmaceuticals to agricultural products has happened as well... Microbiome analysis and microbial identification rely heavily on the machines and skills developed originally for pharmaceutical research, especially gene sequencing.

Biotechnology has demonstrated some clear advantages over chemistry in agricultural products. In general, ag biologics face lower cost hurdles than chemistries do throughout the development process. A synthetic pesticide costs about $250 million to develop and register in a... 10-year timeline. A GM trait may come in at half the cost but has a longer time to market. A biopesticide, on the other hand, can be developed and registered for close to $20 million within a... seven-year period. 

The challenge of producing food for a growing global population on increasingly limited arable land has fueled activity in biotech research on agriculture. In the past five years, the big six agchem companies – Monsanto, Bayer Crop Science, BASF, Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, and Dow AgroSciences – have all made moves to support the incorporation of natural, sustainable biologic products into commercial agricultural practice... 

In the new agtech world, the Monsanto-Novozymes BioAg Alliance recently announced its improved formulation for JumpStart, a naturally occurring fungus product used as a yield-boosting seed treatment for corn... The original JumpStart, like many microbials, survived for only a limited time on the seed. This meant growers using the inoculant for plant health promotion had to treat seeds for a second time, closer to their planting date. The new formulation keeps the microbe viable for two years on seeds... 

Biologicals further offer an answer to major traditional agriculture challenges such as leaching, runoff, and resistance by allowing for a reduction in the amount of chemicals used without a loss of efficacy. Chemistry is typically at the center of these advances. Researchers have successfully combined chemicals and spore-forming bacteria into seed treatment products. Continued work is needed for further breakthroughs that combine more sensitive microorganisms with chemical pesticide products or fertilizers. Chemists must innovate in the formulation area to develop this synergy between new biologicals and traditional chemistries as biotech becomes more of a standard in the agriculture industry. 

Agricultural chemical companies nowadays recognize that biology is chemistry at work, and therefore their R&D teams include biologists and chemists... Each step... requires consideration of the chemical environment into which microbes will be delivered and how they will function in that environment. With this knowledge in hand, the microbial selection process can be designed to identify microbes that are best suited to those environments. The development of the final product then relies on the expertise of formulation chemists working with biologists to deliver the microbes...

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The End of the GMO? Genome Editing, Gene Drives and New Frontiers of Plant Technology - Hefferon & Herring (2017) - Rev Ag Studies

Im­prove­ments to agri­cul­ture will con­sti­tute one of the world’s great­est chal­lenges in the com­ing cen­tury. Po­lit­i­cal and so­cial con­tro­ver­sies, as well as com­pli­ca­tions of plant breed­ing, in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, and reg­u­la­tion, have com­pro­mised the promised im­pact of ge­net­i­cally en­gi­neered... crops... 

Genome edit­ing is a new suite of mol­e­c­u­lar tools for as­sist­ing bi­ol­o­gists iden­tify genes that con­trol agro­nomic traits such as drought tol­er­ance and pest re­sis­tance... This tech­nol­ogy has... abil­ity to ac­cel­er­ate the crop breed­ing process in an un­prece­dented fash­ion and ex­pand the range of crop va­ri­eties with im­proved pre­ci­sion and lower costs. 

This re­view ex­plains the basic con­cepts and pro­vides ex­am­ples of how genome edit­ing could help ad­dress the United Na­tion’s Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals with re­spect to food, agri­cul­ture, and med­i­cine. It con­cludes with a dis­cus­sion of the po­ten­tial so­cial im­pact... 

These ef­fects are con­tin­gent on the res­o­lu­tion of novel eth­i­cal and reg­u­la­tory chal­lenges that add new lay­ers of com­plex­ity to so­ci­etal ques­tions of ap­pro­pri­ate tech­nol­ogy, in agri­cul­ture and be­yond. We ex­pect these ques­tions to re­place the ir­re­solv­able GMO de­bate.

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