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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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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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The Costs of GM and Non-GM Co-existence in Processed Food Systems: the Cases of the German Supply Chains of Chocolate and Frozen Pizza - Gabriel & Menrad (2014) - J Ag Food Industr Orga

The Costs of GM and Non-GM Co-existence in Processed Food Systems: the Cases of the German Supply Chains of Chocolate and Frozen Pizza - Gabriel & Menrad (2014) - J Ag Food Industr Orga | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

In contrast to the increasing use of GM plants in agriculture worldwide, the acceptance of GM food is still low in the European Union. If GM food products were introduced in the EU, the German food industry would be confronted with increased efforts to separate GM and non-GM processing lines and it would have to perform compulsory quality management.

 

This paper analyses the costs of co-existence for producers of frozen pizza and chocolate in Germany. In order to provide an idea of the general magnitude of these costs, an adaptive calculation model was developed, supported by qualitative information from expert interviews for both sectors.

 

The case studies reveal that the possibilities of the companies are quite different in terms of size, infrastructure, and available resources to operate parallel production. Companies which already have sufficient existing facilities to run separated production lines might have the opportunity for specialisation and could manage a possible emerging GM market situation.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/jafio-2013-0013

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Interesting also in the context of the labelling debate: Mandatory labelling of approved, legal and safe food will impose costs – and thus raise food prices... 

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The Need for a Closer Look at Pesticide Toxicity during GMO Assessment - Bhat & al (2014) - Wiley

In the matter of health issues, public policy is regularly shaken by health crises or unexpected scientific discoveries. This chapter overlooks pesticide toxicity, focusing on agricultural genetically modified organisms (GMOs) because they are essentially pesticide-plants, designed to tolerate and/or produce new pesticide residues in food and feed. It also describes links between agricultural GMOs and pesticides. The application of genetic engineering in agricultural practices was advocated as the most important recent advance in plant protection for the last decades. The industry claimed to reduce the use of pesticides by introducing genetically modified plants. The chapter also describes how formulated pesticides are mixtures which have not been investigated for their long-term toxicities. Long-term and multigenerational testing in vivo often appears essential. This can be accomplished within two years on rats with raw data being transparent to the scientific community to allow healthy debate before the next health crisis.

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

A new piece by Seralini that (is behind a pay-wall but according to the abstract) associates generic "health crises" with pesticide toxicity with GMOs with an unspecified "next health crisis"; that defines GMOs as "essentially pesticide-plants", presumably by focusing on one type of GM crops (which incidentally uses a toxin that is also used in organic agriculture) while ignoring other types of GM crops; that then criticizes formulated pesticides (which per se have nothing to do with genetic engineering), and that finally presents two-year rat trials as gold standard when it comes to testing long-term toxicities. 

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Emotional attitudes of young people completing secondary schools towards genetic modification of organisms (GMO) and genetically modified foods (GMF) - Jurkiewicz &al (2014) - Ann Agric Env Med

Emotional attitudes of young people completing secondary schools towards genetic modification of organisms (GMO) and genetically modified foods (GMF) - Jurkiewicz &al (2014) - Ann Agric Env Med | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The objective of the study was recognition of the opinions of adolescents completing secondary schools concerning genetically modified organisms and genetically modified food, especially the respondents’ emotional attitude towards scientific achievements in the area of live genetically modified organisms.


The study covered a group of 500 school adolescents completing secondary school... Knowledge concerning the possible health effects of consumption of food containing GMO... is on a relatively low level; the adolescents examined ‘know rather little’...


In respondents’ opinions the results of reliable studies pertaining to the health effects of consumption of GMO ‘rather do not exist’. The respondents are against the cultivation of GM plants and breeding of GM animals... considered that the production of genetically modified food means primarily the enrichment of biotechnological companies, higher income for food producers, and not the elimination of hunger in the world or elimination of many diseases haunting humans. 


http://aaem.pl/abstracted.php?level=5&ICID=1095368

 

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The role of environmental biotechnology in exploring, exploiting, monitoring, preserving, protecting and decontaminating the marine environment - Kalogerakis &al (2014) - New Biotechnol

In light of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the EU Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources, environmental biotechnology could make significant contributions in the exploitation of marine resources and addressing key marine environmental problems. In this paper 14 propositions are presented focusing on (i) the contamination of the marine environment, and more particularly how to optimize the use of biotechnology-related tools and strategies for predicting and monitoring contamination and developing mitigation measures; (ii) the exploitation of the marine biological and genetic resources to progress with the sustainable, eco-compatible use of the maritime space (issues are very diversified and include, for example, waste treatment and recycling, anti-biofouling agents; bio-plastics); (iii) environmental/marine biotechnology as a driver for a sustainable economic growth.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nbt.2014.03.007


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Effects of the glyphosate-resistance gene and of herbicides applied to the soybean crop on soil microbial biomass and enzymes - Nakatani &al (2014) - Field Crops Res

Effects of the glyphosate-resistance gene and of herbicides applied to the soybean crop on soil microbial biomass and enzymes - Nakatani &al (2014) - Field Crops Res | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide used for the non-selective control of weeds, inhibits... a key enzyme... in plants, fungi and bacteria, thus impairing the synthesis of proteins required for various life processes.

 

Soybean genetically engineered to be glyphosate resistant (GR or Roundup Ready, RR) represents the most cultivated transgenic crop globally, including Brazil. There are concerns about the effects of RR transgenic soybean and of glyphosate on soil microbial communities and their functioning.

 

Our study was designed to detect changes in soil microbial biomass-carbon... and -nitrogen... and in enzyme activities... in a large set of field trials... We evaluated the effects of the RR transgene, glyphosate and weed management... with three pairs of nearly isogenic soybean cultivars...

 

Soils were sampled... microbial parameters and [soil microbial variables] were not affected by the transgene, type of herbicide or weed management. Differences were, rather, related to site, cropping season and cultivar... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fcr.2014.03.010

 

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Performance of dairy cows fed silage and grain produced from second-generation insect-protected (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn (MON 89034), compared with parental line corn or reference corn - Casti...

Corn grain and corn silage are major feed components in lactating dairy cow rations. Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.) is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that produces a protein that is toxic to lepidopteran insects that may damage plant tissues and reduce corn quality and yields...


Cows were offered 1 of 4 rations in which the corn grain and silage originated from different corn hybrids: a nontransgenic corn control (from hybrid DKC63-78; Monsanto Co., St. Louis, MO), a B.t. test substance corn... and 2 commercial nontransgenic reference...


Sixteen multiparous Holstein cows... were... randomly assigned... Milk yield, fat yield, and percentage of fat... milk protein yield and percentage of protein... milk urea nitrogen concentration... and 3.5% fat-corrected milk yield... were not different across treatments.


The results from this study show that lactating dairy cows that consume B.t. corn (MON 89034) do not differ from lactating dairy cows that consume nontransgenic corn in milk yield, 3.5% fat-corrected milk per unit of dry matter intake, or milk components.


http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2014-7894


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Exploring the social value of organic food: a qualitative study in France - Costa &al (2014) - Int J Consumer Stud

Exploring the social value of organic food: a qualitative study in France - Costa &al (2014) - Int J Consumer Stud | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether organic foods are used to signal social identity, class or status, i.e. if they have social value... three research questions: (1) does organic food have social symbolism?; (2) does the social value of organic food depend on the venue where it is obtained?; (3) are other symbols associated with the social value of organic food? ... Results indicate that organic food has a social value... 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ijcs.12100

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

I'm not sure how a study with a sample size of only 20 respondents made it into a journal, but that organic food is little more than a status symbol or a lifestyle choice is not surprising... 

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General Mills defends GMOs in responsibility report - Food Business News (2014)

General Mills defends GMOs in responsibility report - Food Business News (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

General Mills... defended biotechnology in its 2014 Global Responsibility Report... Not only are G.M.O.s safe, the report said, but also they may offer a solution to food insecurity worldwide. “…biotechnology shows promise to address such issues as strengthening crops against drought and extreme temperature, and delivering more nutritious food, even in poor soil conditions... We agree with the U.N. World Health Organization (W.H.O.) that the development of genetically modified organisms (G.M.O.s) offers the potential for increased agricultural productivity or improved nutritional value that can contribute directly to enhancing human health and development.” ... 

 

General Mills said it has found a broad global consensus among food and safety regulatory bodies that biotech crops are as safe as their conventional counterparts. “This technology is not new... Biotech seeds have been approved by global food safety agencies and widely used by farmers in food crops for almost 20 years. Because U.S. farmers use G.M. seed to grow certain crops, 70% of foods on U.S. grocery store shelves likely contain G.M.O. ingredients... Global food safety experts will note there has not been a single incident of harm to health or safety demonstrably linked to the use of G.M.O.s anywhere in the world. Numerous studies have found certain benefits, however.” 


The company said it believes biotechnology helps ensure safe and effective food production because genetically modified crops require less insecticide and less energy use by farmers. Genetically modified crops also are associated with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improved water quality, improved water filtration and reduced soil erosion, the report said... 

 

“We know that some consumers remain uncomfortable with G.M.O.s,” General Mills said. “As a global food company, we produce products without G.M. ingredients in some markets — we also offer organic and non-G.M.O. alternatives in most of our major categories in the U.S.” The company added it opposes state-based labeling of products made with genetically modified ingredients but that it supports national standardized labeling in the United States... 

 

http://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/news_home/Business_News/2014/04/General_Mills_defends_GMOs_in.aspx?ID={8EBE8C7A-FA78-4323-BB7F-0AD0D4EE99D7}

 

Original report: http://www.blog.generalmills.com/2014/04/the-2014-global-responsibility-report/

 

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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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Prospects of genetic engineering for robust insect resistance - Birkett & Pickett (2014) - Curr Op Plant Biol

Prospects of genetic engineering for robust insect resistance - Birkett & Pickett (2014) - Curr Op Plant Biol | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Secondary plant metabolites are potentially of great value for providing robust resistance in plants against insect pests. Such metabolites often comprise small lipophilic molecules (SLMs), and can be similar... to currently used insecticides, for example, the pyrethroids, neonicotinoids and butenolides, which provide more effective pest management than the resistance traits exploited by breeding.


Crop plants mostly lack the SLMs that provide their wild ancestors with resistance to pests. However, resistance traits based on the biosynthesis of SLMs present promising new opportunities for crop resistance to pests. Advances in genetic engineering of secondary metabolite pathways... offer specific new approaches but... are more demanding than the genetic engineering approaches adopted so far... 


Use of non-constitutively expressed resistance traits delivered via the seed is a more sustainable approach than previously achieved, and could underpin development of perennial arable crops protected by sentinel plant technologies.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pbi.2014.03.009


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Crop management practices to minimize the risk of mycotoxin contamination in temperate-zone maize - Munkvold (2014) - Wiley

Crop management practices to minimize the risk of mycotoxin contamination in temperate-zone maize - Munkvold (2014) - Wiley | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

During the growing season, insect control is the most important practice affecting the risk of mycotoxin contamination. The most effective mycotoxin reductions are accomplished with transgenic insect resistance, but properly timed insecticide applications also can be effective...

 

http://books.google.be/books?id=ptZjAwAAQBAJ&lpg=PA59&ots=s80B0zdBh_&lr&pg=PA59#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

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Delivering sustainable crop protection systems via the seed: exploiting natural constitutive and inducible defence pathways - Pickett &al (2014) - Phil Trans R Soc B

Delivering sustainable crop protection systems via the seed: exploiting natural constitutive and inducible defence pathways - Pickett &al (2014) - Phil Trans R Soc B | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

To reduce the need for seasonal inputs, crop protection will have to be delivered via the seed and other planting material. Plant secondary metabolism can be harnessed for this purpose by new breeding technologies, genetic modification and companion cropping, the latter already on-farm in sub-Saharan Africa.


Secondary metabolites offer the prospect of pest management as robust as that provided by current pesticides, for which many lead compounds were, or are currently deployed as, natural products.


Evidence of success and promise is given for pest management in industrial and developing agriculture. Additionally, opportunities for solving wider problems of sustainable crop protection, and also production, are discussed.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2012.0281

 

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Safety assessment of genetically modified plants with deliberately altered composition - Halford &al (2014) - Plant Biotechnol J

Safety assessment of genetically modified plants with deliberately altered composition - Halford &al (2014) - Plant Biotechnol J | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The development and marketing of ‘novel’ genetically modified (GM) crops in which composition has been deliberately altered poses a challenge to the European Union (EU)'s risk assessment processes, which are based on the concept of substantial equivalence with a non-GM comparator. This article gives some examples of these novel GM crops and summarizes the conclusions of a report that was commissioned by the European Food Safety Authority on how the EU's risk assessment processes could be adapted to enable their safety to be assessed... 

 

New approaches will also need to be developed to assess novel GM crops containing constituents that are not normally found in that species, with GM oilseeds containing LC-PUFAs that are otherwise found only in fish oils being an obvious example. The concept of ‘history of safe use’, which is already a valuable tool in risk assessment, would be particularly useful here: if an applicant could demonstrate that the novel constituent in the GM plant had a ‘history of safe use’ in food or feed, even if it had previously come from a different source, this would give confidence in its safety... 


Any system put in place for risk assessing and licensing novel GM traits must work efficiently. This is important not only for the development of these traits (some of which have clear consumer benefits) in Europe, but also because, as the world's most lucrative market for food commodities, Europe's regulatory processes affect the development of crop biotechnology well beyond its borders. The system must also have the confidence of consumers, and the report recommended that public consultation be viewed as an important element of the risk assessment process...  

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/pbi.12194

 

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Researchers rethink 'natural' habitat for wildlife - Stanford U (2014)

Researchers rethink 'natural' habitat for wildlife - Stanford U (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Protecting wildlife while feeding a world population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050 will require a holistic approach to conservation that considers human-altered landscapes such as farmland, according to Stanford researchers.

 

Wildlife and the natural habitat that supports it might be an increasingly scarce commodity in a world where at least three-quarters of the land surface is directly affected by humans and the rest is vulnerable to human-caused impacts such as climate change. But what if altered agricultural landscapes could play vital roles in nurturing wildlife populations while also feeding an ever-growing human population?

 

A new study... finds that a long-accepted theory used to estimate extinction rates, predict ecological risk and make conservation policy recommendations is overly pessimistic. The researchers point to an alternative framework that promises a more effective way of accounting for human-altered landscapes and assessing ecological risks.

 

Current projections forecast that about half of Earth's plants and animals will go extinct over the next century because of human activities, mostly due to our agricultural methods. "The extinction under way threatens to weaken and even destroy key parts of Earth's life-support systems, upon which economic prosperity and all other aspects of human well-being depend," said co-author Gretchen Daily... But that grim future isn't a foregone conclusion. "Until the next asteroid slams into Earth, the future of all known life hinges on people, more than on any other force," Daily said.


Conservationists have long assumed that once natural landscapes are fractured by human development or agriculture, migration corridors for wildlife are broken, blocking access to food, shelter and breeding grounds. A scholarly theory was developed to estimate the number of species in such fractured landscapes, where patches of forest surrounded by farms resemble islands of natural habitat...


The theory drives the default strategy of conserving biodiversity by designating nature reserves. This strategy sees reserves as "islands in an inhospitable sea of human-modified habitats" and doesn't adequately account for biodiversity patterns in many human-dominated landscapes, according to the Stanford study.

 

"This paper shows that farmland and forest remnants can be more valuable for biodiversity than previously assumed," said Daniel Karp... "If we're valuing coffee fields and other human-made habitats at zero, we're doing a disservice to ourselves and wildlife"... "Conservation opportunities for tropical wildlife are tightly linked to adequate management of these human-modified habitats," said co-author Christoph Meyer...

 

Especially in the tropics, island biogeographic theory's application is "distorting our understanding and conservation strategies in agriculture... "Not only do more species persist across the 'sea of farmland' than expected by island biogeographic theory, novel yet native species actually thrive there," said co-author Elizabeth Hadly... "This indicates that human-altered landscapes can foster more biological diversity than we anticipated" ... 


http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/april/bats-rethink-habitat-041714.html


Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13139

 

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Reasons Analysis of Chinese Urban Consumers Opposing Genetically Modified Food—An Empirical Analysis based on a Metropolitan Representative - Ma (2014) - Stud Asian Soc Sci

Scientific experiments... proved that genetically modified food possesses many advantages such as insect resistance, herbicide tolerance and disease resistance. However... many Chinese consumers prefer conventional food to genetically modified food when they go to supermarket... The reasons were attributed to four aspects... risk... human health... environment hazards... profit... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.5430/sass.v1n2p11

 

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Application of the Theory of Planned Behavior to genetically modified foods: Moderating effects of food technology neophobia - Kim &al (2014) - Food Res Int

Application of the Theory of Planned Behavior to genetically modified foods: Moderating effects of food technology neophobia - Kim &al (2014) - Food Res Int | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The purpose of this study is... to identify the structural relationships among ecological concerns and the Theory of Planned Behavior’s... constructs (attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioral control, and behavioral intention)... to examine the moderating effects of food technology neophobia... neophobia had a statistically significant effect... 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2014.03.057


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Plants That Practice Genetic Engineering - NYT (2014)

Plants That Practice Genetic Engineering - NYT (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

In the debate over genetically modified crops, one oft-said word is “unnatural.” People typically use it when describing how scientists move genes from one species into another. But nature turns out to be its own genetic engineer. Genes have moved from one species of plant to another for millions of years. 


Scientists describe a spectacular case... in which ferns acquired a gene for sensing light from a moss-like plant called hornwort. Gaining the gene appears to have enabled the ferns to thrive in shady forests... The scientists found that roughly 100 million years ago, ferns exploded into a number of new lineages. Eighty percent of today’s fern species can be traced to that evolutionary burst.

 

Intriguingly, these successful ferns also evolved a new kind of light-sensing protein. Known as a neochrome, it makes ferns sensitive to dim levels of light. These neochromes may have enabled ferns to thrive on shady forest floors... Fay-Wei Li, set out to discover the origin of neochromes... But as hard as Mr. Li looked, he couldn’t find a light-sensor gene in ferns that was closely related to the neochrome gene... 


He found one. To his surprise, however, the gene was not in a fern. Instead, it belonged to a hornwort. These primitive plants, which lack roots or stems, grow in mats on damp banks or on trees. It was a strange connection to find because hornworts are only distantly related to ferns. 


“The first thing that came to my mind was that this must be a contamination,” Mr. Li said. A neochrome gene must have somehow been mixed into a sample of hornwort DNA. The only way to know for sure was to look at more hornwort DNA... Mr. Li and his colleagues came up with an unexpected hypothesis for how ferns got their neochromes. Neochromes did not gradually evolve in ancient ferns. Instead, a single lineage of ferns picked up the neochrome gene from hornworts... 

 

Mr. Li speculates that the transfer took place between a hornwort and a fern growing in intimate contact. Once a fern picked up the neochrome gene, his research indicates, it moved into other fern species as well. It’s possible that acquiring this gene enabled ferns to thrive in dark forests...

 

Previous studies suggested that plants sometimes replaced one of their genes with a version from another species... The fern study, on the other hand, shows that plants have also gained functions by acquiring new genes from other plants... 

 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/17/science/plants-that-practice-genetic-engineering.html ;
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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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