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New $25 million grant will improve cassava breeding - Cornell Chronicle (2012)

New $25 million grant will improve cassava breeding - Cornell Chronicle (2012) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

To improve the productivity of cassava -- a rough and ready root crop that has long been the foundation of food security in Africa -- and plant breeding in sub-Saharan Africa, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom have awarded Cornell $25.2 million to host a five-year research project... 

 

"Partners on the Next Generation Cassava Breeding project will use a state-of-the-art plant breeding approach, known as genomic selection, to improve cassava productivity for the 21st century." ...  "This project will ensure that cassava genetic research is on a par with other top food crops such as wheat, rice, maize and potato." 

 

Africa's small farmers produce more than half of the world's cassava, about 86 million tons from over 10 million hectares. The tough woody plant is predicted to be one of the few crops that will benefit from climate change. It requires few inputs and can withstand drought, marginal soils and long-term underground storage. Cassava is a cash crop as well as a subsistence crop, and the storage roots of this perennial shrub are processed, consumed freshly boiled or raw and eaten by people as well as animals as a low-cost source of carbohydrates. No other continent depends on cassava to feed as many people as does Africa, where 500 million people consume it daily... 

 

In addition to using the latest genomic information from cassava sequencing to improve productivity and yield, project partners will incorporate cassava germplasm diversity from South America into African breeding programs, train the next generation of plant breeders and improve infrastructure at African institutions. They will also hold awareness-building workshops for farmers, scholars, researchers and policy makers.

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

[updated 12 April, 2014]  

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Jennifer Mach's comment, March 30, 2013 9:05 AM
I admit I haven't read this list... but for future reference, I'll definitely have a look.
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CSSA Issues Position Statement on GM Technology - McClure (2014) - CSA News

While the ASA, CSSA, and SSSA Science Policy Office generally focuses on research funding, we also work on policy or regulatory issues that are closely connected to scientific research. The use and regulation of genetically modified (GM) crops is one notable example.

 

It’s an issue where scientific research can and should have a significant impact on how policy is shaped. What does the research tell us about GM crops? How is scientific research being used in the GM debate? What policy recommendations can be made based on GM research? These are some of the questions CSSA wanted to try to address in its new position statement on GM technology... 

 

“The use and regulation of GM technology is a sensitive and often emotional issue for many people,” says Stephen Baenziger, chair of the CSSA Science Policy Committee. “But the research overwhelmingly indicates that GM crops are safe, and for a scientific Society dedicated to crop science, it’s important for CSSA to stand behind the research and convey that message” ... 

 

FDA labeling practices require product labeling when the absence of information would pose a special health or environmental risk. Since the research overwhelmingly indicates there are no significant health or environmental risks associated with GM crops, CSSA sees no basis for requiring a label. 

 

“... we need to have regulatory policies that are evidence-based, and in the case of GM crops, the evidence tells us that those approved by our federal agencies are safe.” The position statement on GM technology was approved by a unanimous vote of the CSSA Board of Directors...

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.2134/csa2014-59-4-8

 

Original statement: https://www.crops.org/science-policy/position

 

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Market realities showcased by turn to GM soybean meal - Poultry Site (2014)

Market realities showcased by turn to GM soybean meal - Poultry Site (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The availability of, and preference for, non-genetically engineered (GE) soybeans as an animal feed is again being debated in Germany. Interest has been rekindled by a recent decision by the German poultry farmers' association to end their 14-year-old policy of only using non-GE soybeans in poultry feed. This action opens a new 800,000-metric ton (MT) soybean meal market to US suppliers.

 

This report contains price spread information on GE versus non-GE soybean meal as reported by farm-level buyers in Germany, information on German food retailer approaches to non-GE and GE fed animals, and German NGOs reactions. 

 

Germany’s livestock industry is a major importer of soybeans and soybean meal for use as animal feed. Imports for all uses (feed, biofuels, etc.) were about 6.8 million tons of soy products in 2013. US soybean and soybean meal exports to Germany are valued at well over $500 million and other major suppliers are Brazil and Argentina. There is very little soybean production in Germany... 

 

For years, the German feed industry has been under steady pressure from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to move away from genetically engineered (GE) soybeans. These efforts have been buttressed by a government-supported ‘non-GMO’ labeling initiative for meats and foods produced without GE soy. However, bucking this trend, in February 2014, the German poultry farmers association’s (ZDG) announced that it was withdrawing its 14 year old commitment to only use non-GE soybeans in poultry feed... 


NGO influence on German retailers to remain ‘non-GMO’ or ‘biotech free’ has diminished. There is also inconsistency at the retail level about which products are expected to come from animals fed a ‘GMO-free’ diet. For example, there is no expectation for pork, a higher expectation for dairy...

 

http://www.thepoultrysite.com/poultrynews/32017/market-realities-showcased-by-turn-to-gm-soybean-meal

 

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Factors influencing hybrid rice adoption: a Bangladesh case - Mottaleb &al (2014) - AJARE

Factors influencing hybrid rice adoption: a Bangladesh case - Mottaleb &al (2014) - AJARE | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

As rice constitutes the major share in cereal consumption in South and East Asian countries... to ensure food security, governments in these countries are encouraging farmers to adopt hybrid rice. This is mainly because hybrid rice provides a yield gain of 15-20 per cent over conventionally bred varieties in general.

 

Yet, despite strenuous government efforts, farmers’ adoption rates have remained low in India, Bangladesh and Vietnam compared with China. Although studies often claim that higher seed costs and inferior grain quality are the major factors limiting hybrid rice adoption, very few studies examine the importance of socio-economic factors and infrastructure in the adoption of hybrid rice.

 

Using Bangladesh as a case, a comparative analysis has been made on the adoption of hybrid and modern varieties relative to traditional rice varieties and land allocation to these varieties. Econometric results indicate that general land characteristics, loan facilities and general infrastructure, such as roads, irrigation facilities and the availability of government-approved seed dealers, significantly influence the adoption of hybrid and modern rice...

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8489.12060

 
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The Cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms in the European Union: A Necessary Trade-Off? - Randour &al (2014) - JCMS

The Cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms in the European Union: A Necessary Trade-Off? - Randour &al (2014) - JCMS | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

This article analyzes the reasons why in 2010 the European Commission proposed a legislative framework on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that could give some powers back to the Member States. This legislative proposal is puzzling since it moves the centre of decision-making regarding the cultivation of GMOs from the EU level back to the domestic level and it also contradicts the generally acknowledged behaviour of the Commission as a competence maximizer.


Using a multilevel governance perspective and based on an extensive literature review and semi-structured interviews, the article examines the dynamics and relationships between the various levels of governance that generated pressures on the Commission to issue this counterintuitive proposal. The findings suggest that the Commission is making a (necessary) trade-off between, on the one hand, the respect of international obligations and the preservation of the internal market, and on the other hand, internal pressures towards stricter regulation of GMOs.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jcms.12149

 

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Elafin for gluten toxicity faces GMO hurdle, says chief scientist - Bakery (2014)

Elafin for gluten toxicity faces GMO hurdle, says chief scientist - Bakery (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

A protein that could help fight celiac disease gut symptoms may struggle to overcome strict EU rules on genetically modified organisms, says the research director of the institute behind the project. 

 

[French] researchers... have developed a strategy to deliver the human protein elafin... into the guts of mice to reduce inflammatory symptoms associated with celiac disease... The teams described the findings as promising in the battle against celiac disease which [is] currently incurable... 

 

Research in humans would be more complex because the bacterium to deliver the elafin had been genetically modified. EU law bans the use of genetically modified foods, except for use of certain approved GM crops which even then must be labeled... For an incurable disease... any solution - GMO or other - should be seriously considered... 

 

http://www.bakeryandsnacks.com/R-D/Elafin-for-gluten-toxicity-faces-GMO-hurdle-says-chief-scientist

 

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Bill seeks to block mandatory GMO food labeling by states - Reuters (2014)

Bill seeks to block mandatory GMO food labeling by states - Reuters (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

A Republican congressman... introduced legislation... that would nullify efforts in multiple states to require labeling of genetically modified foods. The bill, dubbed the "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act," is aimed at overriding bills in about two dozen states that would require foods made with genetically engineered crops to be labeled as such... 


"We've got a number of states that are attempting to put together a patchwork quilt of food labeling requirements with respect to genetic modification of foods," said Pompeo. "That makes it enormously difficult to operate a food system. Some of the campaigns in some of these states aren't really to inform consumers but rather aimed at scaring them. What this bill attempts to do is set a standard." ... 

 

Genetically modified crops are not materially different and pose no safety risk... labeling would mislead consumers. Pompeo reiterated those claims, stating that GMOs are safe and "equally healthy" and no labeling is needed... 


The measure would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. One provision would make it mandatory for biotech crop developers to notify the Food and Drug Administration before they brings a new biotech seed to market and receive no objection from the FDA. Currently, companies typically voluntarily notify the FDA and consult with the agency, but it is not mandatory for them to do so... 

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/09/us-usa-gmo-lawmaking-idUSBREA381HK20140409

 

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EFSA calls for experts to join Scientific Panels - EFSA (2014)

EFSA calls for experts to join Scientific Panels - EFSA (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

EFSA is urging scientists to make a difference to Europe’s food safety system by joining its teams of risk assessment experts. Applications are invited from high-calibre scientists with expertise in: plant health; genetically modified organisms; feedstuffs; animal health and welfare; plant protection; contaminants in the food chain; biological hazards; and nutrition. In addition to the eight Scientific Panels that cover these areas, EFSA is also renewing membership of its Scientific Committee, which is responsible for overarching issues such as harmonisation of risk assessment approaches and new methodologies.

 

EFSA relies on the expertise and judgement of hundreds of scientists to provide EU decision-makers with the advice they need to protect consumers, animals and plants. The Authority’s Scientific Committee and its Scientific Panels are each composed of up to 21 scientists from across Europe and cover a broad spectrum of disciplines. These experts – from universities, research institutions and national food safety authorities – bring an abundance of scientific knowledge, critical thinking and practical decision-making experience to EFSA, ensuring the scientific excellence of the Authority’s advice.

 

This advice is delivered in the form of scientific opinions, which are published in the EFSA Journal, an open-access, online journal. The EFSA Journal has been accepted for indexation by leading bibliographic databases such as CABI, SciFinder and ISI Web of Science.

 

EFSA’s experts volunteer for this demanding work and are often required to give complex scientific advice at short notice. Sometimes they may even find themselves in the public eye because of the particular nature or sensitivity of the issue they have been asked to assess. 


Professor Anthony Hardy, Chair of the Scientific Committee, said: “Working for EFSA is hard work, and it should be hard work, but the rewards make it worthwhile and I would recommend it to anyone. EFSA to me is the cornerstone of risk assessment in Europe as far as food safety is concerned, and its core values of scientific excellence and transparency are my own core values. I’m very proud to be part of a system that helps to make Europeans’ food safer.” 


Professor Joe Perry, Chair of the Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms, added: “There is a real need to do the work that EFSA does. Risk assessment is important, not just scientifically but for society. That’s one of the reasons that I went into it. Scientists are consumers too – everyone eats food – and many are parents, so it’s an opportunity to give something back as well as to have an interesting time meeting experts from different countries, and to do your best in challenging areas.”

 

Applicants should be able to demonstrate experience in scientific risk assessment and have proven expertise in one or more of the areas of EFSA’s remit... 

 

http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/140409.htm

 

Call for expressions of interest:  http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/scpanels/memberscall2011.htm

 

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Ten Lessons from Biotechnology Experiences in Crops, Livestock and Fish for Smallholders in Developing Countries - Dargie &al (2014) - Asian Biotechnol Dev Rev

FAO recently commissioned... case studies where agricultural biotechnologies were used to serve the needs of smallholders in developing countries. Most involved a single crop, livestock or fish species and a single biotechnology. The biotechnologies covered include some that are considered quite traditional, such as artificial insemination and fermentation, as well as other more modern ones, such as the use of DNA-based approaches to detect pathogens...

 

From the case studies, we havedrawn ten general and interrelated lessons which can be used to inform and assist policy-makers when deciding on potential interventions involving biotechnologies for smallholders in developing countries. 


These include: the absolute necessity for government commitment and backing from donors and international agencies, and of partnerships, both nationally and internationally, and also with the farmers themselves in the planning and implementation of programmes while bearing in mind also the need to retain flexibility in order to respond appropriately to evolving circumstances; and the recognition that while long-term investments in science and technology are critical, the successful use of biotechnologies also requires their appropriate integration with other sources of science-based and traditional knowledge... 


There were no indications that intellectual property issues, access to genetic resources or specific regulatory mechanisms constrained use of any of the biotechnologies or their products. It was also concluded that planning, monitoring and evaluation of biotechnology applications was weak and should be strengthened.

 

http://www.fao.org/docrep/019/as351e/as351e.pdf

 

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Does expression of Bt toxin matter in farmers' pesticide use? - Huang &al (2014) - Plant Biotechnol J

Does expression of Bt toxin matter in farmers' pesticide use? - Huang &al (2014) - Plant Biotechnol J | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Despite the widespread adoption of Bt cotton, farmers still spray excessive pesticides in their cotton fields. In contrast to scientists who always use high quality seeds in the laboratory and/or experimental fields, farmers may plant low quality seeds with a low expression of Bt toxin. How does the expression of Bt toxin influence farmers' pesticide use?


On the basis of a plot-level survey and laboratory test data, this study shows that pesticide use on one cotton plot is influenced not only by the expression of Bt crops in this plot, but also by the average expression in the village in the early stage of the cotton growing season. In other words, high expression of Bt toxin benefits not only the farmers who plant the varieties but also all the other villagers.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/pbi.12189

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

If farmers spray as a function of the (lack of) expression of Bt toxin in the cotton plants in the area it may still be excessive, but at least they do not use pesticides blindly. 

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Scientists say new computer model amounts to a lot more than a hill of beans - U Illinois (2014)

Scientists say new computer model amounts to a lot more than a hill of beans - U Illinois (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Crops that produce more while using less water seem like a dream for a world with a burgeoning population and already strained food and water resources. This dream is coming closer to reality... researchers... have developed a new computer model that can help plant scientists breed better soybean crops.


Under current climate conditions, the model predicts a design for a soybean crop with 8.5 percent more productivity, but using 13 percent less water, and reflecting 34 percent more radiation back into space, by breeding for slightly different leaf distribution, angles and reflectivity... 
Plants have evolved to outcompete other plants – for example, shading out other plants or using water and nutrients liberally to the detriment of neighboring plants. However, in an agricultural setting, the plants don’t need such competitive measures.


“Our crop plants reflect many millions of years of evolution in the wild under these competitive conditions,” said... plant biology professor Stephen P. Long... “In a crop field we want plants to share resources and conserve water and nutrients, so we have been looking at what leaf arrangements would best do this.”

The researchers aimed for three specific areas of improvement. First, productivity. Second, water usage. Third, combating climate change by reflecting more sunlight off the leaves. To address all three, they used the unique tactic of computationally modeling the whole soybean plant... 

The model looks at biological functions, such as photosynthesis and water use, as well as the physical environment. The researchers looked at how the plant’s biology changed with varying structural traits such as leaf area distributions, how the leaves are arranged vertically on the stalk, and the angles of the leaves.

For example, by changing the structure so that leaves are more evenly distributed, more light can penetrate through the canopy. This lets photosynthesis happen on multiple levels, instead of being limited to the top, thus increasing the plant’s bean-producing power. A less dense canopy uses less water without affecting productivity. And changing the angle of the leaves can let the plant reflect back more solar radiation to offset climate change.

“Most of the genetic approaches have looked at very specific traits,” Kumar said. “They haven’t looked at restructuring the whole canopy. We have a very unique modeling capability where we can model the entire plant canopy in a lot of detail. We can also model what these plant canopies can do in a future climate, so that it will still be valid 40 or 50 years down the line.”

Once the computer predicts an optimal plant structure, then the crop can be selected or bred from the diverse forms of soybeans that are already available – without the regulation and costs associated with genetic engineering. 

“This kind of numerical approach – using realistic models of plant canopies – can provide a method for trying many more trait combinations than are possible through field breeding... This approach then can help guide field programs by pointing to plants with particular combinations of traits, already tested in the computer, which may have the biggest payoff in the field”... 

According to Long, “The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predict that by 2050 we will need 70 percent more primary foodstuffs to feed the world than we are producing today – and yet will have to do that with probably no more water while at the same time dealing with climate change.” 

“We need new innovations to achieve the yield jump... We’ve shown that by altering leaf arrangement we could have a yield increase, without using more water and also providing an offset to global warming.” 

Next, the researchers plan to use their model to analyze other crops for their structural traits. As part of a project supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Long is leading an international effort to improve rice, soybean and cassava guided by similar computational approaches, with the end goal of making more productive and sustainable crops... 

 

http://news.illinois.edu/news/14/0403soybean_crops_PraveenKumar_StephenLong.html

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12567

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Quite amazing. 

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Norman Warthmann's curator insight, April 6, 1:45 AM

predicting the effect of whole-sale plant architecture 

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Researchers design trees that make it easier to produce pulp - UBC (2014)

Researchers design trees that make it easier to produce pulp - UBC (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Researchers have genetically engineered trees that will be easier to break down to produce paper and biofuel, a breakthrough that will mean using fewer chemicals, less energy and creating fewer environmental pollutants. 

 

“One of the largest impediments for the pulp and paper industry as well as the emerging biofuel industry is a polymer found in wood known as lignin,” says Shawn Mansfield, a professor of Wood Science... Lignin makes up a substantial portion of the cell wall of most plants and is a processing impediment for pulp, paper and biofuel. Currently the lignin must be removed, a process that requires significant chemicals and energy and causes undesirable waste.  


Researchers used genetic engineering to modify the lignin to make it easier to break down without adversely affecting the tree’s strength. “We’re designing trees to be processed with less energy and fewer chemicals, and ultimately recovering more wood carbohydrate than is currently possible”... 

 

Researchers had previously tried to tackle this problem by reducing the quantity of lignin in trees by suppressing genes, which often resulted in trees that are stunted in growth or were susceptible to wind, snow, pests and pathogens. “It is truly a unique achievement to design trees for deconstruction while maintaining their growth potential and strength” ... 


The new technique means that the lignin may be recovered more effectively and used in other applications, such as adhesives, insolation, carbon fibres and paint additives. The genetic modification strategy employed in this study could also be used on other plants like grasses to be used as a new kind of fuel to replace petroleum.


Genetic modification can be a contentious issue, but there are ways to ensure that the genes do not spread to the forest. These techniques include growing crops away from native stands so cross-pollination isn’t possible; introducing genes to make both the male and female trees or plants sterile; and harvesting trees before they reach reproductive maturity.

 

In the future, genetically modified trees could be planted like an agricultural crop, not in our native forests. Poplar is a potential energy crop for the biofuel industry because the tree grows quickly and on marginal farmland. Lignin makes up 20 to 25 per cent of the tree.

 

“We’re a petroleum reliant society... We rely on the same resource for everything from smartphones to gasoline. We need to diversify and take the pressure off of fossil fuels. Trees and plants have enormous potential to contribute carbon to our society.”

 

http://news.ubc.ca/2014/04/03/researchers-design-trees-that-make-it-easier-to-make-paper/

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1250161

 

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Scientists discover how to increase the longevity of seeds with genetic engineering - AlphaGalileo (2014)

Scientists discover how to increase the longevity of seeds with genetic engineering - AlphaGalileo (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

A study... has discovered a new way of improving the longevity of plant seeds using genetic engineering... more gibberellin - the hormone that promotes plant growth -, which means the seed coat is reinforced as well. “The seed coat is responsible for preventing oxygen from entering the seed; the increase in gibberellin strengthens it and this leads to a more durable and longer lasting seed”... 


The study has been made on the experimental model plant Arabidopsis thaliana... Researchers... are now trying to improve the longevity of different species that are of agronomical interest, such as tomatoes or wheat... 


This discovery is particularly significant for the conservation of biodiversity, preserving seed species and, especially, for farmers. “In the past, a lot of different plant species were cultivated, but many of them are dissapearing because high performance crops have now become a priority. Seed banks were created in order to guarantee the conservation of species, but they require a periodical regeneration of the seeds. With this mutant the regeneration periods could be extended”...


With regard to farmers... “the increase of the lifespan of seeds would mean a reduction in their purchase price.” 

 

http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=140416&CultureCode=en

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1104/pp.113.232223

 

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GM crops given green light by government - Telegraph (2014)

GM crops given green light by government  - Telegraph (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it
Genetically-modified food which boosts health could be on British dining tables by the end of the decade after the Government gave the green light for the first field trial of nutrient enriched crops. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs today granted permission for Rothamsted Research to grow plants enhanced with the same omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, in a decision branded a 'milestone' by scientists... 

 

If successful the plant oil will be fed to fish, such as farmed salmon, to boost their uptake, but it could eventually be used in oils and spreads such as margarine. Professor Johnathan Napier, lead scientist of this project at Rothamsted Research, said: “Omega-3 doesn’t occur in any other plant species but there is a real pressing need for it for health reasons.


“The way that fish currently acquire their omega-3, from algae, is not sustainable. So we are trying to find another source... This is something that could reduce our dependency on fish or supplements in the long term.” Omega-3 fatty acids have been widely linked to health benefits, such as lowering the risk of heart disease, cancers and neuro-degenerative diseases.

 

Although omega-3 is often described as fish oil, it is in fact made by microscopic marine algae that are eaten or absorbed by fish. Farmed fish grown in cages are unable to absorb sufficient omega-3 in their diets so they have to be fed on smaller fish which critics claim is unsustainable. 


The Rothamsted Research scientists have copied and synthesised the genes from the algae and then spliced them into a plant called ‘Camelina sativa’, known as “false flax”, which is widely grown for its seed oil. Although the main aim of the research is to produce GM crops that could be made into food for farmed fish, the seeds could eventually be used in other foods, such as margarine.

 

It is the first crop to be given permission since a wide-ranging report, commissioned by the government, gave the green light to GM in March... GM crops are already widely used in the US, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and India. Around 85 per cent of all corn crops in the US are now GM. 


Sir Mark has warned that Britain risks falling behind if it does not begin GM production soon. Professor Cathie Martin, the John Innes Centre, which has been producing enhanced tomatoes in green houses said: "Modern diets contain low levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Diets with high omega-3 are strongly associated with health and protection from a range of chronic diseases including cardiovascular diseases. Cultivation of crops that produce oils high in omega 3 offers a sustainable supply of these health beneficial products for the first time.” ... 


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10769797/GM-crops-given-green-light-by-government.html

 

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Genetically modified tobacco plants as an alternative for producing bioethanol - U Navarra (2014)

Genetically modified tobacco plants as an alternative for producing bioethanol - U Navarra (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Researchers... conducted a study into genetically modified tobacco plants from which it is possible to produce between 20 and 40 per cent more ethanol; this would increase their viability as a raw material for producing biofuels. 

 

Tobacco, a high-density crop which is mown several times throughout its cycle, can produce as much as 160 tonnes of fresh matter per hectare and become a source of biomass suitable for producing bioethanol... “tobacco plants as a source of biomass for producing bioethanol could be an alternative to traditional tobacco growing which is in decline in the USA and in Europe because it cannot compete with emerging countries like China"... 

 

The plants were genetically modified to increase their production of starch and sugars, which contributes to the increase in ethanol production... Traditional tobacco growing allows the plant to develop and the leaves to grow and get bigger, as the nicotine is synthesised when the plant is more mature. However, if the plants are used for producing biofuels... “the tobacco plants are sown very close to each other and various mowings are made throughout the cycle. When the plant has grown to a height of about 50 cm, it is cut and the output is taken to the biomass processing factory. That way, it is possible to obtain up to 160 tonnes of matter per hectare over the whole cycle ”.

 

What is more, when the tobacco is integrated into a biorefinery, it is possible to extract interesting by-products like proteins (they constitute up to 30% of the dry weight of the plant and are nutritionally more complete and have a greater protein efficiency rate than those from cow's milk or soya, so they could be used to feed humans or animals)... 


Over the last ten years, the surface area devoted to tobacco growing has been cut in Europe by 45%. In Spain, the main tobacco-growing area is Extremadura, followed by Andalusia. The researchers consider that one of the alternatives to the traditional use of tobacco could be to produce biofuel. From now on, high-density cultivation tests will need to be carried out to see whether the results obtained in the fieldwork, where the cultivated surfaces are very small, are confirmed.


http://www.unavarra.es/actualidad/berriak?contentId=180381


Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11032-014-0047-x


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Capturing social network effects in technology adoption: the spatial diffusion of hybrid rice in Bangladesh - Ward & Pede (2014) - AJARE

Capturing social network effects in technology adoption: the spatial diffusion of hybrid rice in Bangladesh - Ward & Pede (2014) - AJARE | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

We demonstrate a method for measuring the effect of spatial interactions on the use of hybrid rice using a unique, nationally representative data set from Bangladesh... Results indicate that neighbour effects are a significant determinant of hybrid rice use. Further, using two specifications of spatial network systems, one based on same-village membership (irrespective of distance) and the other based on geographical distance (irrespective of village boundary), we demonstrate that a network including nearby hybrid rice adopters is more influential than a network of more distant hybrid rice adopters, and merely having a network with a large number of adopters may be relatively meaningless if they are far away. Furthermore, we show that these network effects are much more important to hybrid cultivation than interactions with agricultural extension officers.


http://10.1111/1467-8489.12058


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Agricultural Biotechnology in Central and Eastern Europe: Determinants of Cultivation Bans - Tosun &al (2014) - Sociologia Ruralis

Agricultural Biotechnology in Central and Eastern Europe: Determinants of Cultivation Bans - Tosun &al (2014) - Sociologia Ruralis | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

By the joining of the European Union (EU), the Central and Eastern European states had to align their agricultural biotechnology regulations to EU standards. In some cases, this meant the adoption of stricter regulations such as for the co-existence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and conventional crops. In other cases, harmonisation with EU rules entailed the need to give up more restrictive national regulation, for example: to allow the cultivation of a limited number of GMOs.


This article examines why some Central and Eastern European states joined the group of Western European countries that instituted bans on the commercial cultivation of GMOs in the EU. This study... contends that the prohibition of the commercial cultivation of GMOs in some Central and Eastern European member states must be interpreted in light of the EU-wide public and political contestation of GMOs. Second, this piece of research shows that the ideological composition of governments matters in explaining the regulation of agricultural biotechnology... going beyond the predominant focus on public opinion when analysing the regulation of GMOs in the EU.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/soru.12046

 

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Evaluating the impact of improved maize varieties on food security in Rural Tanzania - Kassie &al (2014) - Food Sec

Evaluating the impact of improved maize varieties on food security in Rural Tanzania - Kassie &al (2014) - Food Sec | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

This paper investigates... the adoption of improved maize varieties using data from rural Tanzania... Adoption increased food security, and... the impact of adoption varied with the level of adoption.


On average, an increase of one acre in the area allocated to improved maize varieties reduced the probabilities of chronic and transitory food insecurity from between 0.7 and 1.2 % and between 1.1 and 1.7 %, respectively.


Policies that increase maize productivity and ease farmers’ adoption constraints can ensure the allocation of more land to improved technologies and, in doing so, enhance the food security of households.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12571-014-0332-x


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Science in action: observers welcome EFSA’s ongoing open plenary initiative - EFSA (2014)

Science in action: observers welcome EFSA’s ongoing open plenary initiative - EFSA (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

EFSA’s open plenary meetings demonstrate how the Authority is working to serve consumers, promote open science and provide a forum for dialogue and debate. These are the views of observers who came from across Europe to attend the latest open meeting on GMOs at EFSA’s headquarters... 

 

Last month was an important milestone in EFSA’s efforts to increase its openness and transparency to stakeholders. Two years ago the Authority opened its doors for the first time to anyone interested in observing what happens at plenary meetings of EFSA’s Scientific Committee and Panels. Since then 127 observers have passed through EFSA’s doors... 


As well as witnessing first-hand how EFSA’s scientists organise, discuss and make decisions about their scientific work, observers can ask questions, provide their perspectives and enter discussions with leading experts in their field.

 

The GMO Panel meeting held on 9-10 April... In addition to taking questions from the floor on a wide range of topics, it was also business as usual for the GMO Panel. Experts discussed feedback from EFSA working groups, new requests from the European Commission and reviewed two GMO applications; resulting in the adoption of an opinion on a GM soybean... 

 

Over the past two years, observers from industry, industry associations and consultancies have accounted for the bulk of attendees. However, increasing numbers of officials from European public bodies and visiting foreign delegations are coming to Parma; this meeting’s record number of observers (41 in total) was boosted by a delegation from ASEAN countries on an official visit to EFSA.

 

Many students, researchers and academics – potential EFSA experts of today and tomorrow – from European universities and other academic institutes are increasingly interested in seeing how EFSA works behind the scenes. The Authority has also received journalists and observers representing civil society organisations and openly encourages more observers from these organisations to become involved in future... 

 

Joe Perry, Chair of EFSA’s GMO Panel... said that it was important that people have the opportunity to see risk assessment carried out first-hand... “As the observers saw over the last two days, 30 EFSA scientists sitting round a table generate a lot of debate. That’s positive because the issues we deal with are challenging and they need to be examined with scientific rigor. This is part and parcel of EFSA’s policy on transparency, which I fully support.” 


http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/140410.htm


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USDA officials promise quicker GM crop approvals - AgraNet (2014)

USDA officials promise quicker GM crop approvals - AgraNet (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

USDA is committed to accelerating its approvals of genetically modified crops and aims to reduce the backlog of deregulation petitions under review from 16 to eight by next year... But the department also remains concerned that an overly aggressive effort to quicken review timeframes could leave decisions vulnerable to legal challenges... 


http://www.agra-net.com/portal2/fcn/home.jsp?template=newsarticle&artid=20018107577&pubid=ag096


Alexander J. Stein's insight:

If the US speeds up its approval process, this means the number of asynchronous approvals will increase... 

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Drought-tolerant varieties begin global march - Marshall (2014) - Nature Biotechnol

175.2 millionhectares of biotech crops were grown globally in 2013. In the United States, the first commercialized drought-tolerant maize (MON87460)... was planted by 2,000 farmers over 50,000 hectares. Indonesia also approved drought-tolerant sugarcane... Other drought-resistant varieties of sugarcane, maize, wheat and rice are also in field trials in Argentina, Brazil, India, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya and Uganda. Brazil continues to lead the world in annual growth (10%) of transgenic acreage... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nbt.2875

 

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Modelling ex-ante the economic and environmental impacts of Genetically Modified Herbicide Tolerant maize cultivation in Europe - Tillie &al (2014) - Ag Syst

Modelling ex-ante the economic and environmental impacts of Genetically Modified Herbicide Tolerant maize cultivation in Europe - Tillie &al (2014) - Ag Syst | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Genetically Modified Herbicide Tolerant (GMHT) maize - tolerant to the broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosate - is a possible addition to the weed control toolbox of European farmers. We modelled ex-ante the economic and environmental changes associated with the adoption of GMHT maize in Europe... 

 

We also calculated the Environmental Impact Quotient Index (EIQ) associated with herbicide use when switching to GMHT maize. In ES, PT and CZ, countries with a high baseline of herbicide use in maize, the majority of adopting farmers (60-79%) will also experience reductions in EIQ, realising the economic and environmental potential of the technology. In contrast, for countries such as FR, DE and HU, only a fraction (19-28%) of adopting farmers experiences a decreased EIQ. In this situation, a purely economic-driven adoption may result in increased EIQ for many adopting farmers.

 

We also explored the effects of additional scenarios introducing more complex herbicide programmes for delaying weed resistance and changes in the technology fee of GMHT seeds. In these scenarios adoption levels decrease but the technology is still economically attractive for a large share of farmers (14-86%), showing that a sustainable use of the technology to lower the risk of weed resistance development is not in contradiction with its economic attractiveness... 

 

The pattern of two groups of countries in terms of potential environmental effects remains and calls for a better identification of the subset of farmers with economic and environmental potential for the technology. Finally, our results confirm that farmers are the main economic beneficiary of GMHT maize introduction while the technology provider is not able to capture all the benefits generated by the technology due to heterogeneity within the farmer population.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2014.03.004

 

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Impact of Improved Maize Adoption on Welfare of Farm Households in Malawi: A Panel Data Analysis - Bezu &al (2014) - World Dev

This paper assesses rural households’ decision to use improved maize varieties in Malawi and examines its impact on household welfare using a three-year household panel data. The distributional effect of maize technology adoption is investigated by looking at impacts across wealth and gender groups...


We found that area under improved maize varieties is positively correlated with own maize consumption, income and asset holdings... improved maize adoption has a stronger impact on welfare of poorer households.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2014.01.023

 

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A new approach to detecting unintended changes in GM foods - Crop Sci Soc Am (2014)

A new approach to detecting unintended changes in GM foods - Crop Sci Soc Am (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Does genetic manipulation cause unintended changes in food quality and composition? Are genetically modified (GM) foods less nutritious than their non-GM counterparts, for example, or different in unknown ways?


Despite extensive cultivation and testing of GM foods, those questions still linger in the minds of many consumers. Now a new study... demonstrates a potentially more powerful approach to answering them... scientists used a water-alcohol solvent to extract roughly 1,000 biochemicals, or “metabolites,” from the fruit of tomatoes they’d genetically engineered to delay fruit ripening. They then compared this metabolic profile from the GM fruit to the profile of its non-GM, parent variety.

 

Many metabolites, including pigments, amino acids, sugars, and various health-promoting compounds, are known to contribute to fruit quality and nutrition. And extracting and analyzing hundreds of them at once gives researchers a snapshot of the fruit’s physiology — known as the “metabolome” — which can be compared against others. In this way, “metabolomic” analysis is very similar to genomics, where geneticists compare DNA sequence data to understand how genetically divergent different organisms are...

 

When the scientists compared the metabolome of the GM tomato with those of a wide assortment of garden, heirloom, and other non-GM tomatoes, they found no significant differences overall. In other words, although the GM tomato was distinct from its parent, its metabolic profile still fell within the “normal” range of biochemical diversity exhibited by the larger group of varieties.

 

The finding suggests little or no accidental biochemical change due to genetic modification in this case, as well as a “useful way to address consumer concerns about unintended effects” in general... the FDA already requires developers of GM crops to compare a handful of key nutritional compounds in GM varieties relative to their non-GM parents. Part of biotechnology risk assessment, the process is designed to catch instances where genetic manipulation may have affected nutritional quality, for example...

 

“We accept that there isn’t just one kind of tomato at the farmer’s market. We look for diverse food experiences,” Hoekenga says. “So we think that establishing the range of acceptable metabolic variability [in food] can be useful for examining GM varieties.” At the same time, this brand of “non-targeted” metabolomics is expensive, and the chemistry methods it employs aren’t robust enough yet to be used in official safety assessments, Hoekenga acknowledges... 


https://www.crops.org/story/2014/apr/thu/a-new-approach-to-detecting-unintended-changes-in-gm-foods

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.3835/plantgenome2013.06.0021

 

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The non-GM crop regime in the EU: How do Industries deal with this wicked problem? - Inghelbrecht &al (2014) - NJAS

In the European Union (EU), genetically modified (GM) crops are regarded as a socially-sensitive technology. At present, GM crops are rarely cultivated in the EU and non-genetically modified ingredients dominate the EU market.

 

However, most consumers are unaware of the fact that many genetically modified ingredients (GMI) are present in EU supermarkets in spite of this virtual ban on GM. For example, eggs, meat or milk derived from GM-fed animals are marketed without a GM label.

 

Moreover, the EU political landscape has failed to create a stable and predictable environment in which to either implement or reject GM crops and their applications. As such, the present non-GM crop regime in the EU presents a tricky and challenging environment for agribusiness companies to determine their GM business policy.

 

Few academic studies have analysed this industry perspective on the current EU non-GM crop regime. In this paper, we therefore analyse which discourses influence the GM business policy of agribusiness companies that are active on the EU market and how these discourses influence the decision-making process of several agricultural industry sectors on whether to include or exclude GMIs in products for the EU market.

 

The paper outlines three discourses that shape the discursive space of GM crop applications in the EU from an industry perspective, (i) GMIs as an agricultural payoff; (ii) GMIs as a marketing threat; and (iii) non-GM crops as a preset end goal.

 

The paper also discusses how these discourses influence the GM business decision-making process for several agricultural industry sectors, these being the agricultural biotech industry, the compound feed industry, the food manufacturing and marketing industries, the potato industry and the organic farming sector. Accordingly, our research classifies the present non-GM crop regime in the EU as a “wicked problem”, due to the high level of conflict, discord and complexity involved... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.njas.2014.02.002

 

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A dynamic adoption model with Bayesian learning: an application to U.S. soybean farmers - Ma & Shi (2014) - Ag Econ

A dynamic adoption model with Bayesian learning: an application to U.S. soybean farmers - Ma & Shi (2014) - Ag Econ | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Adoption of agricultural technology is often sequential, with farmers first adopting a new technology on part of their lands and then adjusting their use of the new technology in later years based on what was learned from the initial partial adoption.


Our article explains this experimental behavior by using a dynamic adoption model with Bayesian learning, in which forward-looking farmers take account of future impacts of their learning from both their own and their neighbors’ experiences with the new technology. We apply the analysis to a panel of U.S. soybean farmers surveyed from 2000 to 2004 to examine their adoption of the genetically modified (GM) seed technology.


We compare the results of the forward-looking model to that of a myopic model, in which farmers maximize current benefits only. Results suggest that the forward-looking model fits data better than the myopic model does. And potential estimation biases arise when fitting a myopic model to forward-looking decision makers. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/agec.12124


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