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Society of Biology responds to latest GM food study - Soc Biol (2012)

The Society of Biology and a number of its learned Fellows have cautioned that the conclusions drawn from a report released this week, claiming long-term health effects from Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and from a type of genetically modified (GM) Roundup-resistant maize, need to be considered in context. The paper published in Food and Chemical Toxicology claims that in lifetime feeding studies, rats fed on a diet containing NK603 Roundup-tolerant GM maize, or given water containing Roundup, died earlier than rats fed on a standard diet - suffering mammary tumours and severe liver and kidney damage. The authors of the paper have been criticised for overstating their conclusions and not providing sufficient statistical backing or experimental information. Comparisons were made between ‘treated’ groups and ‘untreated control’ groups, which each comprised only 10 rats of a particular sex, making it difficult to draw conclusions. The strain of rat used in the study is also known to be susceptible to tumours. Dr Mark Downs, Chief Executive of the Society of Biology, commented: “Studies to assess the safety of food for human and animal consumption are extremely important. However, it is difficult to draw any conclusions from the data in this study and the results need to be considered alongside the accumulated evidence on the safety of herbicides and GM plants.”

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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.) ... 

 

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.
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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Characterization of agronomy, grain physicochemical quality and nutritional property of high-lysine 35R transgenic rice with simultaneous modification of lysine biosynthesis and catabolism - Yang &...

Lysine is the first limiting essential amino acid in rice. We previously constructed a series of transgenic rice lines to enhance lysine biosynthesis (35S), down-regulate its catabolism (Ri), or simultaneously achieve both metabolic effects (35R). In this study, nine transgenic lines, three from each group, were selected for both field and animal feeding trials... 


The transgene(s) caused no obvious effects on field performance and main agronomic traits. Mature seeds of transgenic line 35R-17 contained 48-60-fold more free lysine than in wild type...  Moreover, a 35-day feeding experiment showed that the body weight gain, food efficiency, and protein efficiency ratio of rats fed the 35R-17 transgenic rice diet were improved when compared with those fed wild type rice diet... 


http://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jafc.7b00621


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Advances in the use of genetically modified plant biomass for biodiesel generation - Wan &al (2017) - Biofpr

Advances in the use of genetically modified plant biomass for biodiesel generation - Wan &al (2017) - Biofpr | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Biodiesel is a low-carbon-intensity renewable fuel with up to 99% lower greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum-based diesel. The use of oil crops for biodiesel is under critical examination. It is expensive and suffers from the food versus fuel risk/benefit problem. Consequently, many countries (e.g. Malaysia and countries in the EU) are scaling back the use of oil crops as feedstock for biofuel production. 


The limitations of these traditional crops are leading the renewable fuels industry to consider innovative, sustainable, and profitable biomass-based platforms. Plant genetic engineering and other new breeding technologies are essential for developing such biomass-based platforms because they enhance plant tolerance to abiotic and biotic stresses, resulting in higher feedstock yields, greater net energy gain, and the generation of high-value co-products. 


We review and summarize the recent improvements of oil crops through plant genetic engineering that may increase widespread and cost-effective production of biodiesel and value-added co-products for green chemistry applications.


http://doi.org/10.1002/bbb.1777


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Glyphosate Residues in Feed - Goldstein (2017) - ASAS

There is widespread confusion on pesticide residue tolerances in feed and food. Assumptions that tolerances are safety-based limits and that exceedances will result in a risk of illness in animals or humans are generally incorrect. Tolerances are set based on actual residue values following proper application in accordance with label instructions, and are designed primarily to enforce proper application. 


While tolerances in feed must ultimately protect both animals and animal product consumers (via meat, milk and eggs), the large majority of tolerances fall far below any level of safety concern. Glyphosate residues occur in animal feed because of the use for in-crop weed control in glyphosate-tolerant cropping systems and some use as a pre-harvest desiccating agent. 


Based on extensive data, allowable glyphosate tolerances in feed are set far below levels of health concern. Animal feed efficiency and other data demonstrate no adverse effects of glyphosate residues (or GM crops) on animal performance measures. Actual measurements of glyphosate in meat, milk, and eggs are generally undetectable and overall human intake is far below levels of regulatory concern as reflected in human biomonitoring data. 


https://asas.confex.com/asas/annual17/webprogram/Paper21907.html


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Tillage farming damaging earthworm populations, say scientists - Univ College Dublin (2017) 

Tillage farming damaging earthworm populations, say scientists - Univ College Dublin (2017)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The digging, stirring and overturning of soil by conventional ploughing in tillage farming is severely damaging earthworm populations around the world... Findings... show a systematic decline in earthworm populations in soils that are ploughed every year. The deeper the soil is disturbed the more harmful it is for the earthworms... 


Scientists... analysed 215 field studies from across 40 countries dating back as far as 1950. Each of the studies investigated earthworm populations under conventional tillage and other forms of reduced tillage.

“What we see is a systematic decline in the earthworm population in the soil after continued ploughing and a significant increase in the abundance of earthworms in less disturbed soil,although some soils would need more than 10 years to show good signs of recovery”... 


According to the findings, the earthworm populations most vulnerable to tillage are larger earthworms that move between layers of soil and create permanent burrows between them (anecic earthworms). Small earthworms that live in the top layers of soil and convert debris to topsoil (epigeic earthworms) were also found to be highly susceptible.

Farming practices that involve no-tillage, Conservation Agriculture and shallow non-inversion tillage were shown to significantly increase earthworm populations... These reduced tillage practices are increasingly being adopted world-wide due to their environmental benefits in terms of erosion control and soil protection.

“Our study also identifies the conditions under which earthworms respond most to a reduction in tillage intensity. These findings can be translated into advice for farmers in different parts of the world... For example, strong results are achieved in soils with higher clay contents (>35%) and low pH (<5.5), and retaining organic harvest residues amplifies the effects. The controversial herbicide glyphosate did not significantly affect earthworm population responses to reduced tillage.”

Earthworms are critical to the maintenance of soil functions and the ecosystem services we expect from them... Charles Darwin called earthworms “nature’s plough” because they continually consume and defecate soil enhancing its fertility in the process. In his experiments in England in the late 1800s, Darwin found about 54,000 earthworms inhabited each acre of land and that each of these populations turn over tens of tons of topsoil every year.

Recognizing the critical ecological value of earthworms, Darwin wrote: "It may be doubted whether there are any other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as have these lowly, organized creatures"... 

“Switching to reduced tillage practices is a win-win situation for farmers because they save costs and in return larger earthworm populations help in soil structure maintenance and nutrient cycling.”


http://www.ucd.ie/newsandopinion/news/2017/may/08/tillagefarmingdamagingearthwormpopulationssayscientists/


http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1700396114


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
"glyphosate did not significantly affect earthworm population responses to reduced tillage" >> So planting herbicide-tolerant crops that allow for less tilling seems to better for earthworms and soil health than planting non-GM crops and tilling heavily... 
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Genome Editing to Improve Abiotic Stress Responses in Plants - Osakabe & Osakabe (2017) - Progress Molec Biol Transl Sci

Genome Editing to Improve Abiotic Stress Responses in Plants - Osakabe & Osakabe (2017) - Progress Molec Biol Transl Sci | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Targeted modification of specific genes via genome editing is now used routinely to modify plant genomes. In developing new mutations in plant genomes using the... CRISPR/Cas9 system, it is important for further use in plant molecular studies and crop breeding that the mutations generated are heritable. To date, several improvements to increase efficiency and specificity have been developed to generate heritable mutations in various plant species... 


We focus on strategies to improve genome editing technology to increase heritability in plants, and summarize the process used to generate new mutant alleles of environmental stress response genes in plants. Such studies suggest further applications in molecular breeding to improve plant function using optimized plant CRISPR/Cas9 systems.


https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.pmbts.2017.03.007


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Scientists Complete First EPA-Approved Outdoor Field Trial for Genetically Engineered Algae - UCSD (2017) 

Scientists Complete First EPA-Approved Outdoor Field Trial for Genetically Engineered Algae - UCSD (2017)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Experiment pushes toward the promise of algae as a clean, renewable food and fuel source. Scientists... have successfully completed the first outdoor field trial sanctioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for genetically engineered algae.

In a series of experiments... the researchers tested a genetically engineered strain of algae in outdoor ponds under real-world conditions... The researchers conclude that genetically engineered algae can be successfully cultivated outdoors while maintaining engineered traits, and, most importantly, without adversely impacting native algae populations.

“Just as agricultural experts for decades have used targeted genetic engineering to produce robust food crops that provide human food security, this study is the first step to demonstrate that we can do the same with genetically engineered algae”... 

Under the EPA’s purview over a 50-day experiment, the scientists cultured strains of the algae species Acutodesmus dimorphus – genetically engineered with genes for fatty acid biosynthesis... – in parallel with non-engineered algal species. Testing both algae strains in water samples taken from five regional lakes showed strikingly similar levels of growth in the tests, and that the genetic modification did not change the impact of the cultivated strains on native algae communities.

“This study showed the framework for how this type of testing can be done in the future... If we are going to maintain our standard of living in the future we are going to need sustainable food and energy, and ways of making those that do not disrupt the environment. Molecular biology and biotechnology are powerful tools to help us achieve that. Our experiment was a first-step towards an evidence-based evaluation of genetically engineered algae and their benefits and environmental risks.”

“Progress made in the lab means little if you can’t reproduce the phenotype in a production setting”... Future testing will include additional gene types in experiments that run several months, allowing the researchers to further evaluate influences from weather, seasonal shifts and other environmental factors. “Algae biomass can address many needs that are key to a sustainable future... This is the first of many studies testing this technology in field settings.”

http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressrelease/first_epa_approved_outdoor_field_trial_for_genetically_engineered_algae


Underlying article: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.algal.2017.04.006


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Modified soybeans yield more in future climate conditions - U Illinois (2017) 

Modified soybeans yield more in future climate conditions - U Illinois (2017)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

By 2050, we will need to feed 2 billion more people on less land. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide levels are predicted to hit 600 parts per million – a 50% increase over today’s levels – and 2050 temperatures are expected to frequently match the top 5% hottest days from 1950-1979. In a three-year field study, researchers proved engineered soybeans yield more than conventional soybeans in 2050’s predicted climatic conditions.

“Our climate system and atmosphere are not changing in isolation from other factors – there are actually multiple facets... The effect of carbon dioxide in and of itself seems to be very generalized, but neglects the complexity of adding temperature into the mix. This research is one step in the right direction towards trying to figure out a way of mitigating those temperature-related yield losses that will likely occur even with rising carbon dioxide concentrations”... 

The modified crop yielded more when subjected to both increased temperature and carbon dioxide levels; however, they found little to no difference between the modified and unmodified crops grown in either increased temperature, increased carbon dioxide, or today’s climate conditions... We can harness genetic changes to help offset the detrimental effects of rising temperature...  

“Experiments under controlled conditions are great to understand concepts and underlying mechanisms... But to understand what will happen in a real-world situation, it is crucial to study the responses in a natural setting – and SoyFACE is perfect for this kind of study.”

SoyFACE is an innovative facility that emulates future atmospheric conditions to understand the impact on Midwestern crops. These findings are especially remarkable because the crops... were exposed to the same environmental conditions (i.e. the sun, wind, rain, clouds, etc.) as other Illinois field crops... 

These modified soybeans are just one part of the equation to meet the demands of 2050. This modification can likely be combined with other modifications – a process called “stacking” – to further improve yields. “When we’re trying to meet our food needs for the future, this specific modification is one of the many tools that we’re going to need to rely upon... There is a lot of research across the planet that’s looking at different strategies to make improvements, and many of these are not mutually exclusive.”


http://www.igb.illinois.edu/news/modified-soybeans-yield-more-future-climate-conditions


Underlying study: http://doi.org/10.1093/jxb/erw435


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Scientists Say Agriculture Is Good for Honey Bees - Univ Tennessee (2017) 

Scientists Say Agriculture Is Good for Honey Bees - Univ Tennessee (2017)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

While recent media reports have condemned a commonly used agricultural pesticide as detrimental to honey bee health, scientists... found that the overall health of honey bee hives actually improves in the presence of agricultural production.

The study... evaluated the impacts of row-crop agriculture, including the traditional use of pesticides, on honey bee health. Results indicated that hive health was positively correlated to the presence of agriculture. According to the study, colonies in a non-agricultural area struggled to find adequate food resources and produced fewer offspring.

“We’re not saying that pesticides are not a factor in honeybee health. There were a few events during the season where insecticide applications caused the death of some foraging bees... However, our study suggests that the benefits of better nutrition sources and nectar yields found in agricultural areas outweigh the risks of exposure to agricultural pesticides.”

A​ccording to the study, hives located in areas with high to moderate agricultural vegetation grew faster and larger than those in low or non-agricultural areas. Researchers suggest the greater population sizes enabled better colony thermoregulation in these hives, as well.

Meanwhile, bees located in a non-agricultural environment were challenged to find food. Although fewer pesticide contaminants were reported in these areas, the landscape did not provide sustainable forage. In fact, during the observations, two colonies in the non-agricultural areas collapsed due to starvation. Disruptions and fluctuations in brood rearing were also more notable in a non-agricultural environment. 


Interestingly, brood production was highest in the location that exhibited a more evenly distributed mix of agricultural production, forests and urban activity. “One possible explanation for this finding could be the elevated urban activity in this location... Ornamental plantings... are examples of urban activity that increase the diversity of pollen in an area. Greater pollen diversity has been credited with enhancing colony development.”

Researchers also evaluated trapped pollen from each colony for pesticide residues. Low concentrations... were identified, but at levels well below the lethal dose for honey bees. Imidacloprid was the only neonicotinoid detected, also at sub-lethal levels. Agricultural pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, are considered by some to be a key factor in declining honeybee populations. The... study found that higher exposure to pesticides... did not result in measurable impacts on colony productivity... 

https://ag.tennessee.edu/news/Pages/NR-2017-05-AgGoodForBees.aspx


Underlying study: https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/tox111


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
Interesting take on the net effect of agriculture on bee health. 
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Plant breeding for improving nutrient uptake and utilization efficiency - Ferrante &al (2017) - Springer

Plant breeding for improving nutrient uptake and utilization efficiency - Ferrante &al (2017) - Springer | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Mineral nutrients are essential for plants where they play specific metabolic functions. Macronutrients are required in higher quantities, while micronutrients in smaller amounts. Deprivation or paucity of any macro- or microelement has negative effects on plant development and yield, potentially impairing the plant capability of reaching and completing the reproductive phase. Therefore, the evolution of mechanisms able to maintain the tissue mineral nutrient homeostasis in response to changes in their availability in the growth substrate is a key factor under both the evolutionary (biological) and agricultural (yield performance) points of view. 


The supply/availability/plant intake and assimilation of mineral nutrients are often limited by extrinsic (i.e., environmental) and intrinsic (developmental, biochemical, physiological), plant-related factors. Since all of the latter are under genetic control, use of efficient plant breeding procedures for improving the complex trait of plant nutrient utilization efficiency is of paramount importance. This issue is made more compelling since intensive agriculture, necessary to satisfy the increasing food demand on Earth’s scale, requires, in order to reintroduce into the soil the mineral nutrients removed with plant harvest, the use of large amounts of fertilizers posing serious soil, air and water pollution concerns.

Nitrogen, with phosphorus and potassium, is the macronutrient that more deeply affects crop production. The chapter presents... the main molecular aspects determining the biochemical and physiological bottlenecks that limit Nutrient/Nitrogen Use Efficiency (Nu/NUE) in crop plants, with particular focus on leafy vegetables. The most innovative molecular approaches... based upon the use of novel genome- and transcriptome-based technologies, are reviewed. 


http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-53626-2_8


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Plant genome editing with TALEN and CRISPR - Malzahn &al (2017) - Cell & Biosci

Plant genome editing with TALEN and CRISPR - Malzahn &al (2017) - Cell & Biosci | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The field of genome editing is experiencing rapid growth as new methods and technologies continue to emerge. Using genome editing to boost agriculture productivity is needed as the world population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050 while the amount of arable land decreases. Besides potential for boosting crop yields, genome editing is now one of the best tools for carrying out reverse genetics and is emerging as an especially versatile tool for studying basic biology.

Genome edited plants are differentiated from conventional transgenic plants as they may not incorporate foreign DNA. Although genome editing can be used to introduce foreign DNA into the genome, it may simply involve changes of a few base pairs in the plant’s own DNA. This distinction makes genome editing a novel and powerful breeding tool that has promising applications in agriculture, especially when genome edited crops are not regulated as genetically modified (GM).


http://doi.org/10.1186/s13578-017-0148-4


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Sustainable Environmental Biotechnology - Kaur (2017) - Springer

Sustainable Environmental Biotechnology - Kaur (2017) - Springer | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

In today’s era of rapid globalization, sustainability in the environment has become a priority for world leaders; they affirm their intent to pursue broad range of technologies with the potential to reach the goal of sustainability. Human interferences in terms of their increasing anthropogenic activities, destructive behavior, resource exploitation fueled by growing consumption, and swiftly eroding natural ecosystems are driving us toward an environmental precipice. 


Today’s environmentalists remain alarmed at the inefficient use of technologies by mankind. Therefore, to cope up with this alarming situation, the recent advances in “biotechnology” played an important role. 


Some of the defining technologies of modern biotechnology with the probability of attaining the goal of sustainability are included in fields like food production, various industrial and agricultural practices, capturing valuable products from renewable raw materials, energy sources, waste management, and bioremediation... 


The role of genetic engineering programs toward sustainable agricultural development has become an interesting topic for future studies. Crops developed through advanced biotechnological approaches are much more sustainable and better adapted toward our environment. 


Such plants need lesser pesticide applications, use farming techniques with lesser impacts on soil health and water retention capacity, as well as are suitable for less-plowed soils. Biotechnology also enables agriculturist to adopt no- or reduced-till techniques, which result in maintaining the soil texture, health, and quality through reduced erosion and also result in lesser consumption of fuel on farms which in turn leads to higher carbon sequestration... 


Biotechnology prevents loss of crop production and yield by building resistance against various pests and disease... Biotechnology crops undergo vigorous testing over the years before they are put in the farmer’s fields, and also farmers are well trained about the concerns associated with the crops... Regulating agencies ensure that the biotechnological products that are released into the environment do not have any detrimental impacts on the environment. 


The role of biotechnology toward environmental sustainability is a combined effort of various other technologies like biochemistry, environmental molecular biotechnology, environmental engineering, ecology, etc. Taking into consideration the effects of all the technologies, biotechnology acts as a driving force toward environmental protection... Biotechnology is an emerging field that offers new possibilities for developing and building a safe, eco-friendly, and sustainable ecosystem. 


Agricultural biotechnology focuses toward improved agricultural practices and enhanced productivity through newly engineered crops, monitoring bioindicators, reduced greenhouse emissions, thinning the use of pesticides, production of renewable materials and energy, cleaner water and reduced use of fuel, which are the main sectors supporting sustainable development. 


Biotechnological methods redesign processes to replace and minimize harmful impacts of various products released into the environment.


http://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-4041-2_8


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Subchronic feeding study of high-free-lysine transgenic rice in Sprague-Dawley rats - Yang &al (2017) - Food Chem Toxicol

Subchronic feeding study of high-free-lysine transgenic rice in Sprague-Dawley rats - Yang &al (2017) - Food Chem Toxicol | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Lysine is considered to be the first essential amino acid in rice. An elite High-Free-Lysine transgenic line HFL1 was previously produced by metabolic engineering to regulate lysine metabolism. 


In this study, a 90-day toxicology experiment was undertaken to investigate the potential health effect of feeding different doses of HFL1 rice to Sprague-Dawley rats. During the trial, body weight gain, food consumption and food efficiency were recorded, and no adverse effect was observed in rats fed transgenic (T) rice diets compared with non-transgenic (N) or control diets. 


At both midterm and final assessments, hematological parameters and serum chemistry were measured, and organ weights and histopathology were examined at the end of the trial. There was no diet-related difference in most hematological or serum chemistry parameters or organ weights between rats fed the T diets and those fed the N or control diets. Some parameters were found to differ between T groups and their corresponding N and/or control groups, but no adverse histological effect was observed. 


Taken together, the data from the current trial demonstrates that high lysine transgenic rice led to no adverse effect in Sprague-Dawley rats given a diet containing up to 70% HFL1 rice in 90 days. 


https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2017.04.023



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A Meta‐Analysis on the Elasticity of Demand for Pesticides - Böcker & Finger (2017) - JAE

A Meta‐Analysis on the Elasticity of Demand for Pesticides - Böcker & Finger (2017) - JAE | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

There is an increasing policy interest in pesticide taxation schemes as a measure to reduce harmful effects of pesticide use. The effectiveness of such tax depends, however, on the price elasticity of demand for pesticides. Moreover, information on these demand elasticities and their determinants is of crucial relevance for policy-making and normative modeling approaches... 


We present a meta-analysis based on studies that have estimated pesticide demand elasticities in Europe and North America... the own-price elasticities of demand for pesticides are, with a median of -0.28, significantly smaller than zero, but also significantly larger than -1, i.e. to be inelastic. 


We find that the demand for pesticides for special crops is less elastic than that for arable and grassland. In addition, the demand for herbicides is more elastic than for other pesticides... 


http://doi.org/10.1111/1477-9552.12198


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
If the demand for pesticides is rather inelastic, this means farmers respond only weakly to changes in pesticide prices − given that pesticides stabilise yields, farmers' valuation of this "insurance" against crop losses (especially of more valuable speciality crops) probably also plays a role in their response to changing pesticide prices. (If prices go up, farmers still apply the amount of pesticides they consider necessary to optimise/stabilise yields, but if prices go down, there is no need to apply more than the optimal amount of pesticides, i.e. the demand for pesticides changes not that much.) 
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Tackling agriculturally relevant diseases in the staple crop cassava (Manihot esculenta) - McCallum &al (2017) - Curr Op Plant Biol

Cassava is an important staple food crop for millions of people in tropical regions across Africa, South America and Asia. Viral, bacterial and fungal diseases impact cassava yield in all three regions. The viruses causing cassava mosaic disease and cassava brown streak disease have been particularly devastating to cassava production in Africa. 


Improved farming practices and disease monitoring can reduce the impact of cassava diseases in the field. The availability of disease resistant cassava varieties developed through breeding or genetic engineering is key to tackling disease incidence and severity... 


Both breeding and transgenic approaches must be deployed in order to develop improved cassava varieties with increased disease resistance, ideally to multiple diseases. Understanding the underlying mechanisms of susceptibility and resistance in each cassava pathosystem will significantly contribute to breeding and transgenic efforts... 


Our understanding of the causal agents, molecular mechanisms of infection and disease progression, as well as identification of genes underlying resistance hasled to the release of new disease resistant cassava varieties developed through breeding programs. Field testing of transgenic disease resistance traits is underway. 


As new and increasingly virulent disease strains are identified and the incidence of multiple disease infections rises in the field, the need for development of varieties with strong, durable resistance to multiple pathogens is increasingly important to food security... Continued discovery of new resistance mechanisms and breeding stocks, as well as increased acceptance of transgenic technologies, will be essential to tackle cassava diseases in the future.


https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbi.2017.04.008


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Drivers of Insecticide Use - UCSB (2017) 

Drivers of Insecticide Use - UCSB (2017)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The effects of certain landscape characteristics on insecticide use depend on context and crop type... Over the past half century, food production has intensified to meet the growing demand. And as agricultural fields have become ever larger, more pesticides are required to enhance yield.

Among increasingly huge spreads of single crops, insects tend to thrive as the landscape leaves little habitat for natural enemies such as birds or other predators. But whether this plays out in reality has been difficult to determine scientifically.

To date, empirical landscape-scale studies of the drivers of agricultural insecticide use have produced ambiguous results... have been fraught with their own problems: namely, aggregated statistics that make it difficult to tease apart the effects of underlying components.

A new study... has overcome that obstacle. Using detailed data from roughly 13,000 fields observed from 2005 to 2013... Ashley Larsen and Frederik Noack parsed the different effects of landscape characteristics such as crop diversity, field size and cropland extent on insecticide use... 

“If we are to minimize the negative effects of insecticides on human and environmental health, it is critical to understand if and how we can leverage landscape features to reduce insecticide use... Unlocking the different landscape components across multiple crops and spatial scales provides a novel understanding of which characteristics are likely to increase or decrease insecticide use for specific crops.”

The analysis... demonstrated potentially valuable benefits to crop diversity and to smaller fields. However, these benefits were highly dependent on crop type... While crop diversity reduced insecticide use, its impact was small in comparison to the differences in insecticide use between different crops. 

“The choice of crops we produce or the type of crops we eat has a much larger impact on overall insecticide use than do landscape characteristics such as crop diversity or cropland extent”... 


Take table grapes as an example. As surrounding crop diversity increased, insecticide use fell by nearly 8 kilograms per hectare. “Grapes use about 49 kilograms of insecticide per hectare, so an 8 kg reduction is a fairly substantial fraction... For oranges, the reduction is less than 2 kilograms per hectare, which is not significant, and for carrots there is no effect at all.”

In addition, the investigators consistently found that larger fields use more insecticide. A huge swath of single crop may serve to meet growing demand, but it also provides an uninterrupted breeding ground for insects, which in turn may promote increased chemical treatment to control the pests.

“There are a lot of moving parts, but on the ecological side, this paper was a big advancement because we haven’t had this type of fine-scale understanding before... We have been able to show that landscape drivers of agricultural insecticide use are very crop specific.” 


http://www.news.ucsb.edu/2017/017964/drivers-insecticide-use


Underlying study: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1620674114


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Genetically Engineered Feed: Impact on Animal Performance, Health and Products - Young & Eenennaam (2017) - ASAS

Genetically engineered (GE) feed crops became widely adopted following their introduction in 1996 and today more than 90% of sugar beet, soy, cotton and corn acreages in the U.S. are planted with GE varieties. 


It is estimated that 70-90% of GE crop biomass has been consumed by multiple generations of food-producing animals for the past 20 years. Numerous studies have shown compositional equivalence between GE and non-GE crops, and hundreds of peer-reviewed studies have shown no deleterious health effects associated with feeding GE crops to livestock. Additionally, the available USDA productivity trends and health metrics for the different livestock industries over the past 20 years do not show unexpected perturbations following the introduction of GE crops into the US feed supply. 


However, a few controversial and highly-publicized studies have claimed that consumption of GE feed resulted in deleterious health effects in a small number of animals. Despite being widely criticized for experimental design and other flaws, these outlier studies have been used to support views that there is a need to label meat, milk and eggs from animals that consume GE crops. 


Neither recombinant DNA (rDNA) nor protein from GE feed crops are reliably detected in the milk, meat and eggs from livestock that have been fed GE feed. Studies have shown that DNA from GE crops is chemically equivalent to DNA from non-GE crops and both are broken down the same way during digestion. The total amount of plant DNA remaining in animal feed is dependent upon many factors including how the feed is processed, and in feed from GE varieties rDNA makes up only a fraction of the total genomic DNA. 


As part of the natural digestive process, dietary DNA has been shown to move across the intestinal wall, but there is no evidence suggesting DNA or rDNA transfer from plants to animals. 


Since dietary DNA and protein cannot be reliably detected in animal products, and considering the wide trade and usage of GE feeds globally, managing separate supply chains to satisfy mandatory labeling requirements for products from animals that consumed GE feed would be complicated and expensive. There would be no food safety benefit from the substantial costs associated with segregating milk, meat and eggs from animals fed GE feed due to the fact that such products are both compositionally and analytically indistinguishable from those derived from animals fed non-GE crops. 


https://asas.confex.com/asas/annual17/webprogram/Paper21526.html


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Mix Is Key in Reversing Pest Resistance to Biotech Cotton - U Arizona (2017) 

Insect pests that are rapidly adapting to genetically engineered crops threaten agriculture worldwide. A new study... reveals the success of a surprising strategy for countering this problem: Hybridizing genetically engineered cotton with conventional cotton reduced resistance in the pink bollworm, a voracious global pest. 

The study is the result of a long-standing collaboration between researchers... Over 11 years, they tested more than 66,000 pink bollworm caterpillars from China's Yangtze River Valley, a vast region... that is home to millions of smallholder farmers... 

This is the first reversal of substantial pest resistance to a Bt crop. "We have seen blips of resistance going up and down in a small area... But this isn't a blip. Resistance had increased significantly across an entire region, then it decreased below detection level after this novel strategy was implemented."

Cotton, corn and soybean have been genetically engineered to produce pest-killing proteins from the widespread soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. These Bt proteins are considered environmentally friendly because they are not toxic to people and wildlife. They have been used in sprays by organic growers for more than 50 years, and in engineered Bt crops planted by millions of farmers worldwide on more than 1 billion acres since 1996. Unfortunately, without adequate countermeasures, pests can quickly evolve resistance.

The primary strategy for delaying resistance is providing refuges of the pests' host plants that do not make Bt proteins. This allows survival of insects that are susceptible to Bt proteins and reduces the chances that two resistant insects will mate and produce resistant offspring. Before 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency required refuges in separate fields or large blocks within fields. Planting such non-Bt cotton refuges is credited with preventing evolution of resistance to Bt cotton by pink bollworm in Arizona for more than a decade. By contrast, despite a similar requirement for planting refuges in India, farmers there did not comply and pink bollworm rapidly evolved resistance.

The ingenious strategy used in China entails interbreeding Bt cotton with non-Bt cotton, then crossing the resulting first-generation hybrid offspring and planting the second-generation hybrid seeds. This generates a random mixture within fields of 75 percent Bt cotton plants side-by-side with 25 percent non-Bt cotton plants. 

"Because cotton can self-pollinate, the first-generation hybrids must be created by tedious and costly hand pollination of each flower... However, hybrids of the second generation and all subsequent generations can be obtained readily via self-pollination. So, the hybrid mix and its benefits can be maintained in perpetuity."

"For the growers in China, this practice provides short-term benefits... It's not a short-term sacrifice imposed on them for potential long-term gains. The hybrid plants tend to have higher yield than the parent plants, and the second-generation hybrids cost less, so it's a market-driven choice for immediate advantages, and it promotes sustainability. Our results show 96 percent pest suppression and 69 percent fewer insecticide sprays."
 
Although seed mixtures of corn have been planted in the U.S. since 2010, the effects of seed mixtures on pest adaptation were not tested before on a large scale... "Our study provides the first evidence that planting mixtures of Bt and non-Bt seeds within fields has a resistance-delaying or, in this case, resistance-reversing effect"...

Unlike the strategy in China, the corn seed mixtures planted in the U.S. do not involve interbreeding. Also, the corn seed mixtures have as little as 5 percent non-Bt corn, which may not be enough to battle resistance effectively. "This study gives a new option for managing resistance that is very convenient for small-scale farmers and could be broadly helpful in developing countries like China and India"... 


"A great thing about this hybrid seed mix strategy is that we don't have to worry about growers' compliance or regulatory issues... We know it works for millions of farmers in the Yangtze River Valley. Whether it works elsewhere remains to be determined."


https://uanews.arizona.edu/story/mix-key-reversing-pest-resistance-biotech-cotton


Underlying study: http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1700396114


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What are farmers really planting? Measuring the presence and effectiveness of Bt cotton in Pakistan - Spielman &al (2017) - PLOS One

What are farmers really planting? Measuring the presence and effectiveness of Bt cotton in Pakistan - Spielman &al (2017) - PLOS One | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Genetically modified, insect-resistant Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton is cultivated extensively in Pakistan. Past studies, however, have raised concerns about the prevalence of Bt cotton varieties possessing weak or nonperforming insect-resistance traits... We examine this issue using data drawn from a representative sample of cotton-growing households that were surveyed in six agroclimatic zones spanning 28 districts... as well as measurements of Cry protein levels in cotton tissue samples collected from the sampled households’ main fields. 


The resultant dataset combines information from 593 sampled households with corresponding plant tissue diagnostics... 11 percent of farmers believed they were cultivating Bt cotton when, in fact, the Cry toxin was not present in the tested tissue... 5 percent of farmers believed they were cultivating non-Bt cotton when, in fact, the Cry toxin was present in the tested tissue... 17 percent of all sampled farmers were uncertain whether or not they were cultivating Bt cotton. 


Overall, 33 percent of farmers either did not know or were mistaken in their beliefs about the presence of the cry gene in the cotton they cultivated... Toxic protein levels in the plant tissue samples occurred below threshold levels for lethality in a significant percentage of cases, although these measurements may also be affected by [other] factors... Nonetheless, results strongly suggest wide variability both in farmers’ beliefs and in gene expression. Such variability has implications for policy and regulation...  


https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0176592



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Syngenta OKs ChemChina bid - China Daily (2017) 

Syngenta OKs ChemChina bid - China Daily (2017)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

China National Chemical Corp, also known as ChemChina, said... that shareholders of Syngenta AG, the Swiss agrochemical and seed producer, have accepted its $43 billion takeover bid, paving the way for completion of China's biggest international acquisition deal.

Based on preliminary numbers, 81 percent of shares were tendered in favor of the acquisition, higher than the minimum acceptance rate of 67 percent needed for the deal to go through... The first payment settlement is scheduled for May 18. The Chinese company plans to delist Syngenta's shares in Switzerland and the United States at an appropriate time.

"The completion of this deal will help ChemChina become one of the world's largest suppliers of pesticides and other crop-care chemicals"... However... Dow Chemical Co's merger with DuPont Co and Bayer AG's purchase of Monsanto Co... would continue to provide intense market competition with ChemChina, as the top six international suppliers including Syngenta and BASF, have all been vying for market share and financial resources to push research and development of new products...  

China could use Syngenta's deep experience and resources in intellectual property, risk control and environmental management to bring its products to global markets. "On the other hand, Syngenta will have better access than other global companies to sell its products in our domestic [Chinese] markets... China's pesticide industry is riddled with low profitability and only global scale can improve that."

China has been encouraging its companies to use both domestic and global resources to ensure the country's grain and food security in its agricultural policy...  The deal would generate a positive outcome for China to upgrade its abilities in grain and food production, supply chain building and processing.   

Syngenta has 28,000 employees in more than 90 countries... Its sales revenue dropped 1 percent year-on-year to $3.7 billion in the first quarter of 2017. Beijing-headquartered ChemChina possesses production, research and development, and marketing systems in 150 countries and regions. Materials sciences, life sciences, high-end manufacturing and basic chemicals are its main businesses...  

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2017-05/06/content_29229354.htm


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Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016 - ISAAA (2017)

Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016 - ISAAA (2017) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications publishes the Annual Global Review of Biotech Crops... For the first time, Nobel Laureates released a statement in support of biotechnology... The G20 countries and other like-minded bodies, guided by 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Agriculture have committed to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in 15 years or less... The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a review of 900 researches on biotech crops since 1996 and found that genetically modified crops and conventionally-bred crops have no difference in terms of probable risks to human health and the environment. Biotech crops have now had an unblemished record of safe use and consumption for over 20 years. Future generations can benefit more from wide choices of biotech crops with improved traits for high yield and nutrition as well as safe for food use and environment... 


In 2016, the global market value of biotech crops... was US$15.8 billion (up by 3% from US$15.3 billion in 2015); this represents 22% of the US$73.5 billion global crop protection market in 2016, and 35% of the US$45 billion global commercial seed market. The estimated global farm-gate revenues of the harvested commercial “end product” (the biotech grain and other harvested products) are more than ten times greater than the value of the biotech seed alone. 


Biotech crops contributed to food security, sustainability and climate change by:


 • increasing crop productivity: 574 million tons valued at US$168 billion in 1996-2015...  

 • conserving biodiversity in 1996 to 2015 by saving 174 million hectares... 

 • providing a better environment by: saving 620 million kg. active ingredient of pesticides... reducing pesticide applications, saving 8%... reducing Environmental Impact Quotient by 19% in 1996-2015... 

 • reducing CO2 emissions in 2015 by 27 billion kg, equivalent to taking 12 million cars off the road for one year; and 

 • helped alleviate poverty by helping 18 million small farmers, and their families totaling >65 million people, who are some of the poorest people in the world... 


Thus, biotech crops can contribute to a “sustainable intensification” strategy favored by many science academies worldwide, which allows productivity/production to be increased only on the current 1.5 billion hectares of global crop land, thereby saving forests and biodiversity. 


Biotech crops are essential but are not a panacea and adherence to good farming practices, such as rotations and resistance management, are a must for biotech crops as they are for conventional crops... 


In 2016, global hectarage of biotech crops increased from 180 million hectares to 185 million hectares, a 3% increase equivalent to 5.4 million hectares.... influenced by several factors. In 2016, these factors were: acceptance and commercialization of new products in the USA, Brazil and Australia; increasing demand for pork and livestock feeds in Brazil; needs for livestock and poultry feeds in Vietnam; favorable weather conditions and improved market price for maize in the Philippines and Honduras; need to address corn borer infestation in Spain and Slovakia; government’s strategic plan to harness biotechnology and improve economy in Canada; the lifting of the GM ban in West Australia; and consumers demand for more of the clean and healthy brinjal in Bangladesh... 


Finally, biotech crops... will continue benefiting the burgeoning population with new biotech crops and traits to cater to the needs of farmers and consumers alike. However, even after 21 years of successful commercialization of biotech crops, some challenges remain including: 


 • First, the regulatory barriers that limit scientific innovation and restricts technology development that would have benefited farmers and consumers. 


 • Second, the growing trade disruptions brought by asynchronous approvals and thresholds on low level presence in GM crop trading countries... Countries allow entry of only approved biotech events, and a threshold for unapproved events. Some countries have stringent or long process of approvals that cause problems if imported products contain unapproved events... There are large volumes of trade worth billions of dollars at risk... 


 • Third, the need for continuous dialogue among all stakeholders for the expeditious understanding and appreciation of biotechnology, emphasizing benefits and safety. Innovative communication modalities using social media and other forms of venues should be tapped... 


That requires a cooperative partnership among the North and the South, East and West, and public and private sector. Only through partnerships can we be assured that nutritious and sufficient food will be readily available on the table, stable supply of feed for our poultry and livestock, and accessible clothing and shelter for everyone. 


http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/briefs/52/executivesummary/default.asp


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Ensuring the safety of genetically engineered and modified organisms for food production - Tutel’yan (2017) - Her Russ Acad Sci

Ensuring the safety of genetically engineered and modified organisms for food production - Tutel’yan (2017) - Her Russ Acad Sci | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it
Supplying the growing human population with food has become a global problem today. Continuous growth of overall production and diversification of raw materials for the food industry can be reached only using the newest technologies, biotechnology in particular. 

Modern biotechnology, which is on the List of Critical Technologies of the Russian Federation, is one of the most advanced and rapidly developing trends; it rests on basic research and is of high practical importance. It is based on genetic engineering, which makes it possible to obtain valuable biologically active substances (antibiotics, hormones, enzymes, immunomodulators, synthetic vaccines, amino acids, etc.) and to create new plant varieties and animal breeds. 

Among the potential opportunities opened by genetic engineering are new methods of changing the DNA and RNA structure, manipulations with genes, and changes in the genotypes of whole organisms – microorganisms, plants, and animals. While genetically modified (GM) microorganisms, which are widely used in medicine, pharmaceuticals, and the food industry, drew the attention of specialists... the question of the use of GM plants has gone far beyond academic interests and has actively been discussed by society for more than 15 years. This paper mainly focuses on the problem of GM plants that are most widely used in agriculture...

The agricultural production of GM crops was launched in 1996; over 20 years crop acres of GM organisms (GMO) of plant origin increased by more than 100 times and totaled... 12% of the area of worldwide cultivated lands. The main GM crop is soybean... second place belongs to corn; and then follow cotton and rapeseed. Land under GM soybean constitutes more than 85% of the total area... In 2015, GM crops were grown in 28 countries, including five EU countries (Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania). Russia has never grown such crops...

The central link ensuring possible GMO use for food is safety assessment, which guarantees the absence of a negative effect on the health of both the present and subsequent generations. Methods of risk assessment used by various countries relative to foods and feeds derived from GM crops are based on general principles formed from the experience and scientific knowledge accumulated over recent decades... 

In the Russian Federation, GMO safety for food use is ensured by four mutually complementary legislated components of the state regulation system: 
- the presence of a reliable system of GMO safety assessment; 
- an effective system of control over GMO turnover; 
- monitoring the effect of GMOs on humans and the environment; 
- the availability of information about GMO use in food production for consumers. 

The development of the respective legislative, regulatory, and methodological base was begun in the late 1990s; the institutions of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences; the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being; the Russian Ministry of Health and Social Development; and the Russian Ministry of Education and Science participated in its creation... 

International and domestic experience shows that, in parallel with the development and introduction of new technologies, especially those directly related to food production, it is necessary to prepare society to understand these technologies. An insufficient level of awareness on the part of society gives rise to antagonism to innovative technologies, affects decisions, and artificially slows down the process. In the existing situation, we consider it our main task to work with the mass media, to prepare publications in popular- science publications, and to deliver lectures and seminars, i.e., to form a maximally accessible informational space about this issue... 

One can conclude that Russia has performed much scientific work on ensuring GMO safety; has accumulated significant factual material; and has created a regulatory-methodological base and a significant reserve for further basic and applied scientific studies in the sphere of the creation, safety assessment, and methods of detecting GMOs in food production within the effective legislation. At the same time, trends in the development of biotechnology determine the need for further studies and new methodological approaches based on integration of the efforts of not only scientists in medicine and biology but also specialists in mathematical analysis, informatics, analytical chemistry, and other fields.

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Food processing and breeding strategies for coeliac-safe and healthy wheat products - Jouanin &al (2017) - Food Res Int

Food processing and breeding strategies for coeliac-safe and healthy wheat products - Jouanin &al (2017) - Food Res Int | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

A strict gluten-free diet is currently the only treatment for the 1-2% of the world population who suffer from coeliac disease (CD). However, due to the presence of wheat and wheat derivatives in many food products, avoiding gluten consumption is difficult. Gluten-free products, made without wheat, barley or rye, typically require the inclusion of numerous additives, resulting in products that are often less healthy than gluten-based equivalents. 


Here, we summarise and contrast two broad approaches to decrease wheat gluten immunogenicity for CD patients. The first is based on food processing strategies, which aim to remove gliadins or all gluten from edible products. We find that several of the candidate food processing techniques to produce low gluten-immunogenic products from wheat already exist. 


The second approach focuses on wheat breeding strategies to remove immunogenic epitopes from the gluten proteins, while maintaining their food-processing properties. A combination of breeding strategies, including mutation breeding and possibly genome editing, will be necessary to produce coeliac-safe wheat. 


Individuals suffering from CD and people genetically susceptible who may develop CD after prolonged gluten consumption would benefit from reduced CD-immunogenic wheat. Although the production of healthy and less CD-toxic wheat varieties and food products will be challenging, increasing global demand may require these issues to be addressed in the near future by food processing and cereal breeding companies. 


https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2017.04.025


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Developing climate-resilient wheat varieties - ASA (2017) 

Developing climate-resilient wheat varieties - ASA (2017)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Increases in climate variability have placed new emphasis on the need for resilient wheat varieties. Alongside demands for increased resiliency, consumer interest in healthier, more functional foods is growing. Therefore, the identification of potential breeding targets to create climate-resilient, nutritionally improved wheat varieties is of particular interest.

Fructans are carbohydrates found in many plants, including wheat, which serve physiological roles in both plants and humans. Within plants, fructans are essential in conferring tolerance to stresses associated with climate variability (i.e., drought, cold temperatures, and salinity). And fructan consumption by humans promotes improved health through modulation of gut health... 

A paper... examines connections between fructans in wheat plants, wheat-based food products, and impacts of fructan consumption on human health. Drawing upon the current state of knowledge about wheat grain fructans and human health, potential breeding methodologies and goals were suggested... for... the development of climate-resilient varieties with increased nutritional value.


https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-05/asoa-dcw042817.php


Underlying article: http://doi.org/10.2135/cropsci2016.11.0955


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Agriculture Biotechnology - Talukdar &al (2017) - Springer

Agriculture Biotechnology - Talukdar &al (2017) - Springer | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Agricultural biotechnology is the area of biotechnology involving applications to agriculture. Agricultural biotechnology has been practiced for a long time, as people have sought to improve agriculturally important organisms by selection and breeding... 


Breeding became more sophisticated, as the traits that breeders select for include increased yield, disease and pest resistance, drought resistance and enhanced flavor. Traits are passed from one generation to the next through genes, which are made of DNA. Based on an understanding of DNA, scientists have developed solutions to increase agricultural productivity. 


Starting from the ability to identify genes that may confer advantages on certain crops and the ability to work with such characteristics very precisely, biotechnology enhances breeders’ ability to make improvements in crops and livestock... 


Biotechnology clearly holds promise as a solution to some developing country production problem and to solve them in an environmentally friendly manner. Crop improvement can only be complemented by innovative crop management. The relevance of biotechnology is most liable to diminish yield variability but not to increase maximum yield... 


Public sector agricultural research in many developing countries is rigorously underfunded and human capital development may not be satisfactory for the successful improvement of agricultural biotechnology. Agricultural modernization is nowadays progressively carried out by the private sector and public research projects are conducted in a different policy and market environment... this research stands a much greater chance of success if it is not performed but in partnership with scientist of developing countries... 


http://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-4041-2_13


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Top scientific advisers publish explanatory note on new techniques in agricultural biotechnology - European Commission (2017) 

Top scientific advisers publish explanatory note on new techniques in agricultural biotechnology - European Commission (2017)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The High Level Group of the Commission's Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) has published an independent Explanatory Note on ‘New Techniques in Agricultural Biotechnology’... the scientific advisers provide a detailed scientific description of the full spectrum of agricultural breeding techniques used in plants, animals and microorganisms. Drawing on the best available scientific reviews, expert opinions and reports, the document describes and compares the new techniques with conventional breeding techniques and with established techniques of genetic modification... 


"This comprehensive scientific comparison of the various breeding techniques demonstrates the value of the Scientific Advice Mechanism... Citizens, policy makers, scientists, and a host of other stakeholders will welcome this independent, balanced, and up to date scientific reference work, which will inform future discussions in this area." 


The main observations are:
- The new techniques in agricultural biotechnology (which include genome editing and others) differ significantly from each other, and their grouping together is not optimal from a scientific and technical point of view. 

- Often, the new techniques are used in combination with conventional breeding or with established techniques of genetic modification.
- The new techniques are very versatile and can make a number of types of changes to plants, animals and microorganisms... in a precise and targeted way...  
- This precision and control... is greater than with the use of conventional breeding or established techniques of genetic modification... these new techniques result in fewer unintended effects.
- Assessments... of the organisms... can only be made on a case-by-case basis taking into account... the specific mutation; unintended effects; the species into which the mutation is introduced; the environment in which the end product is used; the agricultural practice applied, and its planned use and exposure.

The Note will be used by the Commissioners to support public debate with stakeholders including a high level conference on modern biotechnologies in agriculture which the Commission is organising in Brussels, 28 September, 2017.

The Explanatory Note draws on a comprehensive review of publicly available scientific literature, in which the High Level Group was assisted by experts nominated by the five European Academy Networks - All European Academies (ALLEA), Academia Europaea, European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC), European Council of Academies of Applied Sciences, Technologies and Engineering (Euro-CASE) and Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM).

Conventional breeding techniques include for instance sexual crosses and mutation breeding while established techniques of genetic modification are transformation in plants and microorganisms and transfection in animals. The new techniques covered in the report include: genome editing (oligonucleotide directed mutagenesis and site-directed nucleases), cisgenesis/ intragenesis, agro-infiltration, RNA-dependent DNA methylation, grafting, and reverse breeding... 

http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=newsalert&year=2017&na=na-280417


https://ec.europa.eu/research/sam/index.cfm?pg=agribiotechnology


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