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Land institutions and supply chain configurations as determinants of soybean planted area and yields in Brazil - Garrett &al (2012) - Land Use Pol

Land institutions and supply chain configurations as determinants of soybean planted area and yields in Brazil - Garrett &al (2012) - Land Use Pol | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Soybean production has become a significant force for economic development in Brazil. It has also received considerable attention from environmental and social non-governmental organizations as a driver of deforestation and land consolidation...

 

Soy planted area and yields are higher in regions where cooperative membership and credit levels are high, and cheap credit sources are more accessible. This result suggests that soybean production and profitability will increase as supply chain infrastructure improves... The yields of competing land uses, wheat, coffee, and cattle production and a complementary use, corn production, also help to determine the location of soybean planted area... Soy yields decline as transportation costs increase, but planted area as a proportion of arable land is highest in some of the areas with very high transportation costs... Soy yields are positively associated with planted area, implying that policies intending to spare land through yield improvements could actually lead to land expansion in the absence of strong land use regulations...

 

The positive relationship between farm size and yields suggests that economies of scale do occur in mechanized soy production. These economies of scale may include reduced input costs, increased access to more technologically advanced machinery, and access to better agronomists. Thus, while the consolidation of soy farms in the hands of fewer producers maybe socially undesirable from an equity perspective, it also has the potential to improve the efficiency of soybean farming in Brazil. Finally, this study also sheds light on the debate about whether soybean yield improvements can spare land in the Amazon and Cerrado.

 

Our results showed that counties with higher yields had higher levels of soybean planted area given the amount of non-protected arable land in their county... Our finding suggests that counties that have total factor productivity advantages over other counties will experience higher levels of land use conversion for soybean production. Increasing soybean yields over time in a given plot of land through technological improvements (such as better cultivars) will only increase the rents from soy on that plot, and increase producer incentives to expand their production... In contrast, a reduction in total factor productivity from climate change could greatly decrease soy rents and reduce incentives for soy producers to expand their production...

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Scoops on GMOs, agricultural biotech, innovation, breeding, crop protection, and related info, incl. on science communication. (Scoops are not necessarily endorsements). CLICK on the titles to get to the full, original, and possibly hyperlinked versions!
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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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Contaminants in food: health risks of natural origin are frequently underestimated - BfR (2017) 

60 percent of the German population view undesirable substances in food as a high or very high health risk. The most well-known of these... contaminants are mercury compounds and dioxins. In contrast, only around 13 percent... heard of the natural contaminants pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs)... and only... one in three of those who have heard of PAs believe these substances pose a significant health risk... 


"People feel most at risk from synthetic substances and heavy metals... Appropriate risk communication on contaminants should take this subjective risk perception into account."

Contaminants are undesirable substances that unintentionally find their way into food products. They can occur naturally in the environment and in the processing of raw materials into food products or can be released into the environment through human activity and thereby enter the food chain. Contaminants are undesirable because they can impair health under certain circumstances.

1,001 people were asked about contaminants in food in the representative population survey... The most well-known contaminants in food are mercury in fish and dioxin in eggs or milk (with scores of 78% and 70%, respectively). In contrast, pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) in tea or honey (13%) and arsenic in rice and rice products (26%) as relatively new consumer protection topics are only known to a minority of respondents. Only 36% and 57% of those who have heard of PAs or arsenic see these substances as posing a significant risk to health.

General attitudes towards contaminants in food and the assessment of potential health risks also differ by population group. Compared to women, for example, men see the risks of undesirable substances in barbecued meat as being lower. Men tend to spend less time in general than female respondents thinking about the issue of undesirable substances in food. 


Younger people feel less well informed about undesirable substances in food than their older counterparts: some 41% of 14 to 29 year-olds say they are poorly or very poorly informed about undesirable substances in food compared to 15% of those above the age of 60. And it is particularly those respondents who are relatively well informed who would like additional information on possible protective measures, legal regulations and affected product groups...


http://www.bfr.bund.de/en/press_information/2017/31/contaminants_in_food__health_risks_of_natural_origin_are_frequently_underestimated-201850.html


Underlying study: http://doi.org/10.1007/s00103-017-2557-2


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Fertiliser subsidy and agricultural productivity in Senegal - Seck (2017) - World Econ

Fertiliser subsidy and agricultural productivity in Senegal - Seck (2017) - World Econ | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

One of the most complex and multifaceted agricultural policy decisions faced by African governments... whether it makes sense to subsidise fertilisers... [This paper] examine the productive efficiency of farmers who benefited from the subsidy programme in the very atypical irrigated system of the Senegal River Valley. 


The results based on farm-level data indicate that the subsidy programme seems to be working, as it appears to be associated with increased efficiency; hence, providing empirical support to the political will to revamp subsidy programmes...


http://doi.org/10.1111/twec.12487


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Herbicide rotation ineffective against resistance in waterhemp - U Illinois (2017) 

Herbicide rotation ineffective against resistance in waterhemp - U Illinois (2017)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Farmers have been battling herbicide-resistant weeds for generations. A common practice for most of that time has been to rotate between different herbicides every season. But despite farmers’ best efforts, herbicide resistance has grown through the years, with some weed populations showing resistance to not one but four or five different herbicides. A new study... explains why herbicide rotation doesn’t work... 

Herbicide resistance results from random genetic mutations that keep weeds from being harmed by a particular herbicide. When farmers continually spray the same herbicide year after year, those with the mutation, referred to as a resistance allele, survive and reproduce. Over time, the proportion of plants with the resistance allele grows.

Conventional thinking says that any defense trait – in this case, herbicide resistance – should come at a cost to the plant. It might be well protected against the herbicide, but it might not grow as tall, or flower as early. When the trait reduces a plant’s reproductive output, that’s known as a fitness cost.

A fitness cost to herbicide resistance should be apparent in years when alternative herbicides are used. “If plants have glyphosate resistance, but they’re sprayed with 2,4-D, for example, the majority of those plants will die because they’re not resistant to 2,4-D. But no herbicide kills 100 percent of the weeds, resistant or not... You have to think about the small percentage that live.

If there’s a high fitness cost to the glyphosate resistance allele, most of the surviving plants will be small or will flower late and they won’t produce many seeds. But if the fitness cost is low, those plants will produce just as many seeds as plants that don’t have the allele. Herbicide rotation relies on the assumption that the fitness cost is high...

This study tells us that fitness cost isn’t going to help you much in terms of herbicide resistance, so even long rotations aren’t going to work... I tell farmers, ‘Once you have resistance, you’re stuck with it.’ It gives us that much more incentive to do the right things to avoid resistance in the first place. That means using multiple herbicides, using a PRE and coming back with a POST. If you have escapes, getting out of your tractor and getting rid of them before they set seed. Because if they set resistant seed, this study tells you that you will have that resistance trait for life.”


http://news.aces.illinois.edu/news/herbicide-rotation-ineffective-against-resistance-waterhemp


Underlying study: http://doi.org/10.1002/ps.4706


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Degrowth, organic agriculture and GMOs: A reply to Gomiero - Bartkowski (2017) - JCLEPRO

Degrowth, organic agriculture and GMOs: A reply to Gomiero - Bartkowski (2017) - JCLEPRO | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

This paper is a critical response to Gomiero’s analysis of the links between degrowth and agriculture… He makes a number of important points, especially regarding the naivety of some degrowth proposals that amount to romanticising organic agriculture. 


However, Gomiero’s criticism of GM crops, which he contrasts with organic agriculture, is partly outdated and partly misguided. This reply thus presents a different interpretation of the potential of modern green biotechnology, including its possible compatibility with organic agriculture... CRISPR/Cas genome editing relativises many anti-GM arguments. GMOs are not necessarily incompatible with degrowth-compatible organic agriculture… 


Agriculture is arguably one of the most environmentally impactful human activities, both presently and historically; at the same time, it is essential for human survival… 


Turning European society into self-sufficient, no-inputs family farms may not even be feasible, because of a simple biophysical constraint: the lack of land to meet the food demand of its large population… even if we ignore issues such as… the need to hold and feed livestock as a source of manure… Organic farming… is often heavily mechanised and based on large-scale operations… Self-sufficient, convivial agrarian societies are heavily dependent on a large labour force and thus have strong incentives for high fertility (contrary to modern industrialised societies that have already completed the demographic transition)… 


Organic agriculture… can be characterised… by a complex of criteria, particularly rejection of GMOs, synthetic fertilisers and pesticides… Biotech-based agriculture… is explicitly defined by one criterion only – the application and use of GM technology. Implicitly, a number of other characteristics are attached to this type of agriculture – that it is large-scale, industrialised, operating on oligopolistic or monopolistic markets… There is no prima facie reason to identify biotechnology with industrial agriculture… The implicit identification of biotech-based agriculture with all that is usually considered ‘bad’ from the degrowth perspective pre-determines the result of the analysis… 


Organic agriculture and genetic engineering need not be mutually exclusive but may rather be complementary. The general technology used to breed a crop does not predetermine breeding goals – and many breeding goals (e.g. resistance to pests or to environmental stresses) do not presuppose a particular method of cultivation. It is entirely imaginable to have organically cultivated GM crops… GM crops cannot be expected to solve global problems of widespread malnutrition and obesity, food security, fossil fuel substitution etc. But they have the potential to contribute to the solution of these problems…  


http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652617320681


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Corporate Concentration and Technological Change in the Global Seed Industry - Bonny (2017) - Sustainability

Corporate Concentration and Technological Change in the Global Seed Industry - Bonny (2017) - Sustainability | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

In the past three decades, the seed sector has experienced, and is now again experiencing, corporate concentration trends. The fallout of this consolidation is the subject of numerous concerns. However, the seed sector is rather poorly understood. Thus, it is useful... to investigate the potential impact on the agri-food chain of the trend toward increased corporate concentration. 


The first part of this paper presents the main characteristics of the global seed sector, its stakeholders, and its size in the agri-food chain. Next, the corporate consolidation trends of the seed industry over the past two years are examined. The technological evolution of the seed sector is also briefly presented. In the last part of this paper, the fallout of recent mergers and acquisitions in the seed industry are analyzed... 


Stakeholders disagree about the impact of corporate concentration in the seed industry. For many people, it raises considerable concern, and fear of its negative consequences for food security and of the possibility of too much power held by the biggest companies. For a few others, these large seed companies are seen as very creative, and having the capacity to bring innovations critical for future agriculture, food, and the bioeconomy due to their high capacity for R&D. 


These two contrasting views seem to be linked to the controversy over the direction that agriculture should take to face the challenges of the 21st century, particularly between the two options of high-tech agriculture and agroecology.


http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/su9091632


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
Interesting: Figure 1, showing the size of the largest company of each sector in the agri-food chain and in chemicals globally – in the agri-food chain even the bigger seed companies (such as Monsanto) are small fry compared to the likes of PepsiCo, Cargill or Walmart... (And also if compared to key players in the organic or "natural" sector, such as Whole Foods, seed companies would not be very big.) 
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Evaluation of the safety of a genetically modified DAS-444Ø6-6 soybean meal and hulls in a 90-day dietary toxicity study in rats - Papineni &al (2017) - Food Chem Toxicol

Evaluation of the safety of a genetically modified DAS-444Ø6-6 soybean meal and hulls in a 90-day dietary toxicity study in rats - Papineni &al (2017) - Food Chem Toxicol | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

A 90-day sub chronic toxicity study was conducted in rats to evaluate the safety of genetically modified DAS-444Ø6-6 soybeans expressing herbicide tolerant proteins when compared with its conventional comparators (non-transgenic near isoline control soybean and three commercially available non-transgenic line control soybeans). 


Rats were given diets formulated with either 10% or 20% w/w of soybean meal and 1% or 2% hulls of DAS-444Ø6-6 soybean with an equivalent amount of hulls from an isoline non-transgenic control soybean for at least 90 days. In addition, three separate 20% w/w non-transgenic commercially available soybean varieties were also given to groups of rats to serve as reference controls. 


Animals were evaluated by cage-side and hand-held detailed clinical observations, ophthalmic examinations, body weights/body weight gains, feed consumption, hematology, prothrombin time, urinalysis, clinical chemistry, selected organ weights, and gross and histopathologic examinations. 


Under the conditions of this study, the genetically modified DAS-444Ø6-6 diets did not cause any treatment-related effects in rats following 90 days of dietary administration as compared with rats fed diets with soybean of isoline control or commercial reference controls and are considered equivalent to the diets prepared from conventional comparators.


http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691517305070


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Case studies on genetically modified organisms (GMOs): Potential risk scenarios and associated health indicators - Santis &al (2017) - Food Chem Toxicol

Case studies on genetically modified organisms (GMOs): Potential risk scenarios and associated health indicators - Santis &al (2017) - Food Chem Toxicol | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Within the frame of the EU-funded... project, background data were reviewed... measuring health indicators during post-market monitoring for potential effects of feeds, particularly genetically modified (GM) feeds, on livestock animal health... 


Four case studies of potential health effects on livestock were framed and the current knowledge of a possible effect of GM feed was reviewed. 


Concerning allergenicity, there are no case-reports of allergic reactions or immunotoxic effects resulting from GM feed consumption as compared with non-GM feed. 


The likelihood of horizontal gene transfer of GMO-related DNA to different species is not different from that for other DNA and is unlikely to raise health concerns. 


Concerning mycotoxins, insect-resistant GM maize may reduce fumonisins contamination as a health benefit, yet other Fusarium toxins and aflatoxins show inconclusive results. 


For nutritionally altered crops, the genetic modifications applied lead to compositional changes which require special considerations of their nutritional impacts.

No health indicators were thus identified except for possible beneficial impacts of reduced mycotoxins and nutritional enhancement... 


https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2017.08.033


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Pesticides, human health, and food security - Bonner & Alavanja (2017) - Food Energy Sec

Pesticides, human health, and food security - Bonner & Alavanja (2017) - Food Energy Sec | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The worldwide population is projected to increase to 9 billion by 2050. To accommodate this increase, food production will necessarily need to increase as well. However, new agricultural land is limited, so sustainable production and increasing productivity of existing agricultural land is an important aspect to addressing global food security... 

Given that there is limited additional land available for agriculture and sites for fish farming coupled with increasing economic pressures to produce agricultural commodities for industrial purposes, including fiber and biofuels, strategies to increase agricultural yield will need to be used... For the near and foreseeable future, pesticides may be an important component of a comprehensive strategy to increase crop yield by preventing both pre and postharvest loss to pests. 


With the role that pesticides may have to play to provide food security for an increasing world population, our commentary focuses on the important contribution epidemiology can make in helping to inform environmental health policy to safely meet the many challenges involved with ensuring food security... 


To help provide food security, we need more epidemiological research that evaluates specific pesticides and their mode of action on a number of health outcomes. Identification of the most sensitive outcomes, coupled with balancing the short- and long-term risks is necessary to develop risk management strategies that will optimize benefit and mitigate risks... 


If careful use of pesticides can minimize health risks while increasing nutritional quality and quantity of foods, then a beneficial consequence of pesticide use could be improved nutritional status and a corresponding improvement of public health...


http://doi.org/10.1002/fes3.112


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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 | Scoop.it

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.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12033-017-0033-8


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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 | Scoop.it

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.


https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-07484-2


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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 | Scoop.it

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.


https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2017.01418


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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.  


http://doi.org/10.1017/err.2017.11


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CRISPR/Cas9 Mediated Genome Engineering for Improvement of Horticultural Crops - Karkute &al (2017) - Frontiers Plant Sci

CRISPR/Cas9 Mediated Genome Engineering for Improvement of Horticultural Crops - Karkute &al (2017) - Frontiers Plant Sci | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Horticultural crops are an important part of agriculture for food as well as nutritional security. However, several pests and diseases along with adverse abiotic environmental factors pose a severe threat to these crops by affecting their quality and productivity. This warrants the effective and accelerated breeding programs by utilizing innovative biotechnological tools that can tackle aforementioned issues. 


The recent technique of genome editing... CRISPR/Cas9 has greatly advanced the breeding for crop improvement due to its simplicity and high efficiency over other nucleases such as Zinc Finger Nucleases and Transcription Activator Like Effector Nucleases... 


The use of CRISPR/Cas9 in horticultural crops is limited to few crops due to lack of availability of regeneration protocols and sufficient sequence information in many horticultural crops. In this review, the present status of applicability of CRISPR/Cas9 in horticultural crops was discussed along with the challenges and future potential for possible improvement of these crops for their yield, quality, and resistance to biotic and abiotic stress.


https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2017.01635


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Improved access to agricultural biotechnologies needed to help defeat hunger, malnutrition and poverty in the Asia-Pacific region - FAO (2017) 

Improved access to agricultural biotechnologies needed to help defeat hunger, malnutrition and poverty in the Asia-Pacific region - FAO (2017)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Smallholder farmers in the world’s hungriest and most populous region need greater access to  biotechnologies to improve food and nutrition security and fight poverty, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said today.

While the safe agricultural uses of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) continue to monopolize the debate, FAO is urging countries in Asia and the Pacific to adopt a more holistic approach and consider the wider range of low- to high-tech solutions present in the biotechnology toolbox. Closer attention should be paid to many of the other forms of agricultural biotechnologies in use today. These include the use of biofertilisers or biopesticides... artificial insemination... DNA-based tools to diagnose diseases of farmed fish... 

“Gaining greater access to, and utilizing, these various forms of agricultural biotechnologies can contribute to greater food security for the region and increased profits for smallholders who produce the vast majority of the food we eat each day,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General... “If this region is to meet the ambitious SDG targets and eliminate hunger, malnutrition and poverty by 2030, countries need to look at every safe, evidence-based form of food production and ensure the benefits of science can reach the smallholders”...  

“There is significant divergence among countries... in the levels of adoption of relevant agricultural biotechnologies as well as in their capacities to develop them and in the degree of support available in each country... The biotechnology divide is widening in the region and... a subset of emerging countries moving forward very quickly while many others are not accessing or investing in recent advances in science and technology”... said Samy Gaiji, Head of FAO's Research and Extension Unit... “exchange of ideas based on concrete and practical case studies where biotechnologies have been applied to benefit smallholder farmers, food producers and consumers, especially in developing countries”... 


FAO is encouraging member countries in the region and beyond to establish partnerships through South-South cooperation, with the aim to increase effective collaboration and resourcing in this field.


http://www.fao.org/asiapacific/news/detail-events/en/c/1036208/


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Reply: Greener revolutions for all require transparency and diversity, not secrecy - Flavell (2017) - Nature Biotechnol

[GMOs] ... the often-quoted principle that food should be judged “by the products themselves, not how they were made”... is in fact how it is and how it has inevitably always been. Very few consumers know how current food varieties and hybrids were created, and not even the most expert evolutionary geneticists understand the mutations, deletions, rearrangements and assimilation of genetic information from other species that made the wild forms of our crop species. So, the inevitable fact is that we judge each food on a product-by-product basis according to its own merits, not on the basis of how it was put together genetically. Therefore, it is logical to question why we single out genes that we do understand and build new regulations around them, whereas we have near-complete ignorance about most of the genetic information in our food and therefore sensibly have safety legislation on the finished products... 




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Zinc fertilization increases productivity and grain nutritional quality of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata [L.] Walp.) under integrated soil fertility management - Manzeke &al (2017) - Field Crops Res

Zinc fertilization increases productivity and grain nutritional quality of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata [L.] Walp.) under integrated soil fertility management - Manzeke &al (2017) - Field Crops Res | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Cowpea is an important but under-studied grain legume [that] can potentially contribute to improved dietary zinc (Zn) intake in sub-Saharan Africa. 


In this study, surveys were conducted on smallholder farms in Zimbabwe during 2014/15 to determine the influence of diverse soil fertility management options on cowpea grain productivity and nutrition quality... Field experiments were conducted to investigate the influence of Zn fertilizer on the productivity and quality of cowpea under integrated soil fertility management (ISFM)... 


Cowpea grain yields on surveyed farms ranged from 0.3 to 0.9 t/ha, with grain Zn concentration ranging from 24 to 30 mg/kg. The highest grain Zn concentration was on fields where organic nutrient resources were applied in combination with mineral N and P fertilizers. 


Within the field experiments, mean grain yields of cowpea increased by... 12 and 18%... when Zn fertilizer was applied... on red clay and sandy soils, respectively. When Zn fertilizer was co-applied with organic nutrient resources, grain Zn concentrations of cowpea reached 42 mg/kg (red clay) and 45 mg/kg (sandy) against grain Zn concentrations of 36 mg/kg and 31 mg/kg measured in cowpea grown with no Zn fertilizer... 


Agronomic biofortification of legumes is feasible and has the potential to contribute significantly towards increasing dietary Zn intake by humans. A greater increase in grain Zn of cowpea grown on sandy than red clay soils under Zn fertilization illustrates the influence of soil type on Zn uptake, which should be explored further in agronomic biofortification programs.


http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378429017307086


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Genome Editing for Global Food Security - Ma &al (2017) - Trends Biotechnol

Global food security is increasingly challenging in light of population increase, the impact of climate change on crop production, and limited land available for agricultural expansion. Here we outline how genome editing provides excellent and timely methods to optimize crop plants, and argue the urgency for societal acceptance and support... 


Global food security is an enormous challenge with multifaceted social and economic implications; it therefore requires enormous coordinated efforts within this century. While large-scale and complex agricultural production chains contribute extensively to satisfying the food supply in highly developed countries, these facilities are not equally available to less-developed nations... 


Precise crop optimization with regard to yield, nutrition balance, and plant fitness using genome editing would be a necessary strategy to address current and potential agricultural challenges, thereby securing the food supply: investment costs for farmers can be kept low while globally diverse threats can be addressed in parallel. 


Rapid developments in genome editing technologies will decrease the costs and time required to produce optimized crops in the future, and the broad adoption of genome editing technologies for crop optimization requires government support in setting up an updated regulatory framework, which should be guided by reasonable discussion with the public. 


In countries that follow product-based regulation (e.g., USA), only minor hurdles are expected regarding the implementation of gene-edited crops. In regions in favor of process-based regulation (e.g., the European Union), crop varieties... [with] no traces of transgenic elements, should be treated similarly to varieties developed through traditional breeding... 


http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167779917302238


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Agricultural technology adoption and child nutrition enhancement: improved maize varieties in rural Ethiopia - Zeng &al (2017) - Ag Econ

Agricultural technology adoption and child nutrition enhancement: improved maize varieties in rural Ethiopia - Zeng &al (2017) - Ag Econ | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Adoption of improved crop varieties can lead to multiple benefits to farm households, including increased productivity, incomes, and food consumption. However, possible impacts... on child nutrition outcomes are rarely explored... 


This article helps bridge this gap through an impact assessment of the adoption of improved maize varieties (IMVs) on child nutrition outcomes using a... household survey from rural Ethiopia. 


The conceptual linkage between IMV adoption and child nutrition is first established using an agricultural household model. Instrumental variable estimation suggests the overall impacts of adoption on child height-for-age and weight-for-age... to be positive and significant... 


Impacts are largest among children with poorest nutrition outcomes... The increase in own-produced maize consumption is the major channel through which IMV adoption affects child nutrition.


http://doi.org/10.1111/agec.12358


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Biodiversity analyses for risk assessment of genetically modified potato - Lazebnik &al (2017) - Ag Ecosyst Env

Biodiversity analyses for risk assessment of genetically modified potato - Lazebnik &al (2017) - Ag Ecosyst Env | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Arthropod diversity in potato differs between years and sites... Differences between potato cultivars outweigh those between GM and non-GM lines. 


An environmental risk assessment for the introduction of genetically modified crops includes assessing the consequences for biodiversity. In this study arthropod biodiversity was measured... We tested the impact of site, year, potato genotype, and fungicide management regime... 


Three potato genotypes were compared: the cultivar Désirée, susceptible to the late blight pathogen Phytophthora infestans, a genetically modified cisgenic clone of Désirée resistant to P. infestans and the cultivar Sarpo Mira, also resistant to late blight. 


We aimed to test several ways to measure biodiversity in the context of risk assessment by using both univariate biodiversity indices and multivariate ordination methods... 


The effect of genotype was due to cultivar differences... rather than between the GM-event and its isogenic comparator... 


https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2017.08.017


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Health effects of feeding genetically modified (GM) crops to livestock animals: A review - Vos & Swanenburg (2017) - Food Chem Toxicol

Health effects of feeding genetically modified (GM) crops to livestock animals: A review - Vos & Swanenburg (2017) - Food Chem Toxicol | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

A large share of genetically modified (GM) crops grown worldwide is processed into livestock feed. Feed safety of GM crops is primarily based on compositional equivalence with near-isogenic cultivars and experimental trials in rodents. However, feeding studies in target animals add to the evaluation of GM crops with respect to animal health. 


This review aimed to evaluate the possible health effects of feeding GM crops to livestock by reviewing scientific publications on experimental studies in ruminants, pigs, and poultry in which at least one of the following health parameters was investigated: body condition score, organ weight, haematology, serum biochemistry, histopathology, clinical examination, immune response, or gastrointestinal microbiota. 


In most experiments, either Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) maize, Roundup Ready (RR) soybean, or both were fed to livestock animals... most effects measured were unlikely to be of biological significance and were within normal biological ranges... We conclude that there is no clear evidence that feed composed of first generation GM crops has adverse effects on animal health.


http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691517304829


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Application of secondary nutrients and micronutrients increases crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa - Kihara &al (2017) - Agron Sust Dev

Application of secondary nutrients and micronutrients increases crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa - Kihara &al (2017) - Agron Sust Dev | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Secondary and micronutrients are important in enhancing crop productivity; yet, they are hardly studied in sub-Sahara Africa. In this region, the main focus has been on macronutrients but there is emerging though scattered evidence of crop productivity limitations by the secondary and micronutrients. Elsewhere, widespread deficiencies of these nutrients are associated with stagnation of yields. 


Here, we undertake a meta-analysis using 40 articles reporting crop response to secondary and micronutrients to (1) determine the productivity increase of crops and nutrient use efficiency associated with these nutrients, and (2) provide synthesis of responses to secondary nutrients and micronutrients in sub-Sahara Africa... 


Data from publications constituted response to S (49.4%), Zn (23.0%), S and micronutrient combinations (11.5%), and <10% each for Cu, Mo, Fe, and B... most yield data are for maize (73.6%), followed by sorghum (6.7%) and wheat (6.1%) while rice, cowpea, faba bean, tef, and soybean each accounted for less than 5%. 


The major points are the following: (1) application of S and micronutrients increased maize yield by... 25% over macronutrient only treatment and achieved agronomic efficiencies (kilograms of grain increase per kilogram of micronutrient added) between 38 and 432 and (2) response ratios were >1 for S and all micronutrients... indicates positive crop response for a majority of farmers. 


We conclude that S and micronutrients are holding back crop productivity especially on soils where response to macronutrients is low and that more research is needed to unravel conditions under which application of S and micronutrients may pose financial risks.


http://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-017-0431-0


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Closing the agricultural nutrient gap worldwide - EurekAlert (2017) 

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

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. 


https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-08/asoa-cta082417.php


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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.


http://doi.org/10.1016/j.molp.2017.08.006


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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 | Scoop.it

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... 


http://doi.org/10.1111/jcms.12609


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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 | Scoop.it

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.”


http://doi.org/10.1038/nature.2017.22116


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