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GM crops, developing countries and food security - Areal &al (2012) - World Agriculture

GM crops, developing countries and food security - Areal &al (2012) - World Agriculture | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The agronomic and economic performance of genetically modified (GM) crops relative to their conventional counterparts has been largely investigated worldwide. As a result there is considerable information to conduct a meta-analysis to evaluate the agronomic and economic relative performance of GM crops vs. non GM crops by crop, GM trait, and country’s level of development. Such meta-analysis has been recently conducted showing that overall GM crops outperform non GM crops in both agronomic and economic terms. 

This paper focuses on the agronomic and economic performance of GM crops in developing and developed countries as well as the potential implications for global food security of adoption of GM crops by developing countries. The presumption that technology only benefits the developed world is not supported by the meta-analysis conducted. No evidence that GM technology benefits more developed than developing countries was found. Indeed, the agronomic and economic performance of GM crops vs. conventional crops tends to be better for developing than for developed countries. 

Although it is manifested that the conventional agronomic practices in developing countries are different to those in developed countries, it is also apparent that GM crop adoption in developing countries may help to tackle the growing concerns over the scarcity of food globally...

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

[updated 12 June, 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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A Rice Which Could Save Millions Of Lives Is Raising The Stakes Over GM Foods - Business Insider (2014)

A Rice Which Could Save Millions Of Lives Is Raising The Stakes Over GM Foods - Business Insider (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Around the world, 250 million children are vitamin A-deficient, including about a third of the world’s preschool-age population. This simple deficiency kills or blinds millions of women and children each year. In places like the United States, where vegetables... are neither expensive nor scarce, it’s difficult to grasp just how pervasive, dire, and deadly a simple vitamin deficiency can be. 

 

Children whose diets are chronically low or lacking in vitamin A are at high risk for xerophthalmia, the most common cause of preventable childhood blindness, and insufficient vitamin A can make children more likely to catch an infection and more likely to die from one when they do... 

 

Programs that aim for widespread distribution of vitamin supplements certainly exist, though they are... complicated, and difficult to sustain. Such programs also sometimes fail to reach the most vulnerable populations in remote rural regions.

 

But if a food that people are already eating could be transformed into a nutritional powerhouse, it could help save the eyesight and the lives of millions of children and mothers around the world... such a... crop already exists. It’s called “Golden Rice.” ... From the beginning, Golden Rice was conceived as a project that could significantly improve global health...

 

Identified in the infancy of genetic engineering as having the potential for the biggest impact for the world’s poor, beta-carotene-producing rice was initially funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the European Union... Beta-carotene, the pigment that makes carrots and squash orange, turns into vitamin A in the human body... 

 

Many environmental groups voiced immediate concerns about Golden Rice and genetically modified food in general. (The scientific consensus on GM foods is that they are just as safe as any other food.) ... Some see Golden Rice as a public relations campaign for genetically modified foods and biotechnology, rather than the most pragmatic solution. Still, The Gates Foundation and other major donors see Golden Rice as an important potential tool in fighting Vitamin A deficiency, and so... the project has moved forward.

 

Even after scientists created the proof-of-concept Golden Rice, much tweaking and additional research was needed. The beta-carotene-rich rice needed to be traditionally bred to work with favoured local rice varieties, a process that is time-consuming and complicated. And Golden Rice backers needed to prove that in spite of what was, for many, unfamiliar technology, the resulting product would be as reliable as supplements for curbing deficiencies.

 

Finally, in a 2009 study, scientists showed that Golden Rice was an effective source of vitamin A... Today, five field trials are wrapping up in the Philippines, primarily testing whether the crop will behave in a way that makes it appealing to local farmers. Researchers will also do additioval... 

 

Rice is a staple food for half of the world’s population, and in countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh, it provides two thirds of all calories consumed. Worldwide, about a fifth of humanity’s calories come from rice. In many countries where rice is an important staple, vitamin A deficiency and its onal safety and efficacy testing before Golden Rice goes up for apprassociated hazards are endemic.

 

Plain white rice is a relatively robust source of energy, but has few nutrients.The seeds of white rice contain no vitamin A, but just one bowl of golden rice would fulfil 60% of a child’s daily vitamin A needs. “When children are weaned, they’re often weaned on a rice gruel... “And if they don’t get any beta-carotene or vitamin A during that period, they can be harmed for the rest of their lives.”

 

While supplemental nutrition programs are both helpful and necessary, they are not enough, and funding irregularities and logistical challenges can make them an inconsistent source of vitamin A. Golden Rice, once it is widely released, will be much more cost-effective...

 

Despite common misconceptions, no one stands to get rich when poor farmers start growing Golden Rice. Instead, it will represent a fundamentally different approach, an embodiment of the old “teach a man to fish” adage... “It can be planted by the farmers using seeds from their own harvest and that would provide sustained supply of betacarotene” ... The risk of not moving forward with this is the continuation of 2 million children dying every year... 

 

http://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-golden-rice-2014-6

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

While overall a good article, unfortunately the journalist yielded to the temptation of going tabloid by unnecessarily exaggerating and polarising -- Golden Rice is not a "miracle rice" but simply one promising tool to help address the severest consequences of one widespread form of micronutrient malnutrition. And -- given the scientific consensus on that matter -- neither is it helpful to elevate the criticism by some (albeit vocal) activists to the level of a "war" over GM foods... 

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Modi-led government approves field trials for 21 new varieties of GM crops - Hindustan Times (2014)

Modi-led government approves field trials for 21 new varieties of GM crops - Hindustan Times (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The new government has approved field trials for 21 new varieties of genetically modified (GM) crops, including staples such as rice and wheat. The controversial move is considered crucial to feeding India’s teeming millions... Other crops approved for the field trials include several varieties of maize and cotton. Another six were deferred for discussion because of want of sufficient information... 


http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/modi-led-government-approves-field-trials-for-21-new-varieties-of-gm-crops/article1-1240373.aspx


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Genetic blueprint of bread wheat genome unveiled - Hutton Institute (2014)

Genetic blueprint of bread wheat genome unveiled - Hutton Institute (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) has published a chromosome-based draft sequence of the bread wheat genome... This genetic blueprint provides new insights into the structure, organisation, and evolution of the large, complex genome of the world’s most widely grown cereal crop, and is the last step before a full genome sequence is reached. 

 

The sequence is an invaluable resource to plant science researchers and breeders. For the first time, they have at their disposal a set of tools enabling them to rapidly locate specific genes on individual wheat chromosomes... 

 

These results have the potential to fundamentally change the way wheat research and breeding are conducted. Access to the entire gene complement in its genomic context will allow researchers to unravel the genetic basis of important agronomic traits much faster and more easily. This will in turn allow breeders to select important traits indirectly using molecular diagnostics at an early stage in crop improvement, accelerating breeding cycles and increasing the rate of genetic gain. This is precisely the type of landmark discovery that is required to address the impending challenges of global food security and environmental change... 

 

With a chromosome-based full sequence in hand, plant breeders will have high quality tools at their disposal to accelerate breeding programmes and allow them to produce a new generation of wheat varieties with higher yields and improved resilience against environmental stress.

 

Wheat is a major dietary component for many populations across the world. Grown on more land than any other crop, more than 215 million hectares of wheat are harvested annually to generate a world production of almost 700 million tons, making it the third most produced cereal after maize and rice. It is the leading source of vegetable protein in human food, having higher protein content than either maize or rice... 

 

http://www.hutton.ac.uk/news/genetic-blueprint-bread-wheat-genome-unveiled

 

http://www.sciencemag.org/site/extra/wheatgenome/

 

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The long march of 'biofortified' GM foods - Japan Times (2014)

The long march of 'biofortified' GM foods - Japan Times (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

In 1992, a pair of scientists had a brain wave: How about inserting genes into rice that would boost its vitamin A content? By doing so, tens of millions of poor people who depend on rice as a staple could get a vital nutrient, potentially averting hundreds of thousands of cases of blindness each year. The idea for what came to be called “golden rice” — named for its bright yellow hue — was proclaimed as a defining moment for genetically modified food.

 

Backers said the initiative ushered in an era when GM crops would start to help the poor and malnourished... “It’s a humanitarian project,” said one of the co-inventors of golden rice, Ingo Potrykus, professor emeritus at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)... 


Yet the rice is still a long way from appearing in food bowls — 2016 has become the latest date sketched for commercialization, provided the novel product gets the go-ahead... First, it took scientists years to find and insert two genes that modified the metabolic pathway in rice to boost levels of beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A.

 

After that came the biosafety phase, to see if the rice was safe for health and the environment — and whether beta carotene levels in lab plants were replicated in field trials in different soils and climates. There were also “bioefficacy” experiments to see whether the rice did indeed overcome vitamin deficiency, and whether volunteers found the taste acceptable... 


“We have been working on this for a long time, and we would like to have this process completed as soon as possible”... But “it depends on the regulatory authorities. That is not under our control.” 


Coming on the heels of golden rice is the “superbanana” developed by the Queensland University of Technology in Australia with the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It too is genetically designed to be enriched with beta carotene... Project leader James Dale said the so-called cooking bananas that are grown as the staple food in East Africa are low in vitamin A and iron. “Good science can make a massive difference here,” he said... 


It took 15 years of enclosed research in the lab for British scientists this year to decide to seek permission for field trials of a plant called false flax... Engineered to create omega-3 fat, the plant could be used as feed in fish farming. It would spare the world’s fish stocks, which provide food pellets for captive salmon, trout and other high-value species...  


Andrea Sonnino, chief of the Research and Extension Unit at the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said ensuring food security and a decent diet are very complex. GM crops have a part to play in the solution, but not exclusively so. “We have to go with a set of possible answers to problems that in many cases are technological and in many cases are not — they are social, economic and so on,” he said. “We have to work in different ways, and not only on the technological front.” 

 

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/07/11/world/science-health-world/the-long-march-of-biofortified-gm-foods/

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

“Access to a better and diverse diet is what people need, not a technical fix, (not) something based solely on rice or bananas.”


>> It's amazing how people always bring up the "let them eat cake" solution as easy way out. If those people could afford a better and more diverse diet they probably would - although there are also instances where people prefer to spend extra money on (processed, sugar- and fat-rich) status food rather than a more nutritionally balanced diet (hence also the growing obesity problem, sometimes in parallel to micronutrient malnutrition).


The challenge is of course to make those people rich enough to be able to afford a proper diet and to educate them about the importance of spending their money this way. But the question remains what meanwhile happens to millions and millions and millions of people/ parents who cannot afford all that yet... 


The assessment that GM crops have a part to play in the solution, but not exclusively so, is much more to the point. 

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Seedy tale: Chinese researchers stole patented corn, U.S. prosecutors allege - Science (2014)

Seedy tale: Chinese researchers stole patented corn, U.S. prosecutors allege - Science (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Employees of the Chinese agricultural company Dabeinong Technology Group Co. (DBN) and a subsidiary sneaked through midwestern cornfields, U.S. prosecutors allege, stealthily gathering patented corn that they attempted to smuggle out of the United States in microwave popcorn boxes. Over a span of years, the associates allegedly came up with various ways of stealing coveted seed lines developed by agricultural giants DuPont Pioneer, Monsanto, and LG Seeds—a feat that, had it succeeded, would have sidestepped years of research. 

 

The case is remarkable in its scope. Experts on Chinese agriculture say that it also reflects real obstacles to innovation within China... 


FBI agents tracked the group for about a year, according to court documents, eventually indicting the alleged ringleader, Mo Hailong, and five partners this past December. Last week, U.S. prosecutors arrested and charged another suspect in the case. Mo Yun, a researcher with a “PhD in an animal science field,” according to court records, heads up DBN’s research and technology division in Beijing. All seven defendants have been charged with being part of a conspiracy to steal trade secrets... 

 

The germplasm, or genetic makeup, of corn lines is a valuable form of intellectual property and is carefully guarded by seed companies. Through extensive research, breeders develop inbred seed lines that have particular traits. They can then be crossbred with other inbred lines to create hybrid lines that are sold to farmers.

 

In China, Mo Yun and her colleagues operated in an atmosphere that works against the homegrown development of such seed lines, say observers of China’s agricultural research programs. China’s plant breeding research is mainly conducted in the public sector, and researchers are not always in close contact with the companies that sell and trade seeds. Less money is available for the private sector, says Huang Jikun, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy in Beijing. “The current institutional setting and incentive system” is a barrier to innovation, he notes.

 

Plant breeding research elsewhere in the world has benefited from advances in genomics and molecular markers, but plant breeding scientists in China do not work closely with researchers in those areas, says Carl Pray, an agriculture, food, and resource economics expert at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, who has worked in China. “Only a few private Chinese companies have developed major biotech and plant breeding research capacities,” he adds. Rather than labor in an atmosphere stymied by poor investment, fragmented research groups, and weak intellectual property protection, the defendants may have seen obtaining patented seed lines as a shortcut. The United States has a climate and crop growing conditions that are similar to China’s, making it a “natural place to look,” Pray says... 

 

http://news.sciencemag.org/asiapacific/2014/07/seedy-tale-chinese-researchers-stole-patented-corn-u-s-prosecutors-allege

 

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Globe-Trotting GMO Bananas Arrive For Their First Test In Iowa - NPR (2014)

Globe-Trotting GMO Bananas Arrive For Their First Test In Iowa - NPR (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Somewhere in Iowa, volunteers are earning $900 apiece by providing blood samples after eating bits of a banana kissed with a curious tinge of orange. It's the first human trial of a banana that's been genetically engineered to contain higher levels of beta carotene, the nutrient that our body converts into vitamin A. Researchers want to confirm that eating the fruit does, in fact, lead to higher vitamin A levels in the volunteers' blood...

 

These are cooking bananas, common in Africa, typically eaten steamed or fried. And that's where the bananas ultimately are headed, if all goes well. They're intended for Uganda, where bananas are a staple food and many people suffer from vitamin A deficiency.

 

Yet if the experience of similar "biofortified" crops is any guide, this banana faces a path strewn with obstacles and uncertainty. More than a decade ago, for instance, researchers created a kind of "golden rice" with high levels of beta carotene — and immediately found themselves in the middle of controversy... 

 

Many regulatory and practical obstacles remain. For the banana to have any impact at all, governments would have to approve it, farmers would have to grow it, and ordinary people would have to be persuaded to eat orange-tinted bananas... 

 

Michael Grusak, a specialist on the nutritional quality of food with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, is convinced that crops with higher nutritional levels are worth the effort, even if their effects are difficult to measure. "We know that people are not getting enough" crucial nutrients, such as vitamin A and iron, he says. "You have to get more in their mouths and hope for the best after that." ... 


http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/07/08/325796731/


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A simulation model to evaluate the effect of cooperation between grain merchants in managing GM and non-GM segregation for maize - Coléno & Hannachi (2014) - Food Control

A simulation model to evaluate the effect of cooperation between grain merchants in managing GM and non-GM segregation for maize - Coléno & Hannachi (2014) - Food Control | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

GM and non-GM coexistence, as defined by the European commission, defines a product as non-GM if it contains less than 0.9% of GM material. To avoid the risk of mixing GM and non-GM in the supply chain it is recommended to separate the two flows with specialized infrastructure. But doing so it is not possible to separate all the product and it lead to an increase of the cost.

 

Using a simulation model of supply chain management we show that if competing grain merchants cooperate by sharing their infrastructure it is possible to increase the quantity of GM and non-GM separated and to decrease the collection cost. Nevertheless such strategy will increase the transaction cost between competing companies. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodcont.2014.06.040

 

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The Cost of a GMO-Free Market Basket of Food in the US - Goodwin &al (2014) - NCSU (PDF!)

Significant technological progress in agriculture has substantially lowered the relative cost of food production. An important component of this technological change has been the advent of genetically modified (GM) commodities. 


Some consumers remain skeptical about the safety and quality of GM foods. Although much research has addressed the impacts of GM innovations on basic commodity prices, much less is known about the costs associated with adoption of a GMO-free diet.

 

We utilize price, consumption, and expenditure data... to empirically evaluate the cost of a GMO-free diet on the typical US household... Our estimates show that current food and beverage expenditures... could increase significantly as a result of adopting a GMO-free diet... 

 

Even small increases in the costs of GMO-free ingredients in food products translate into significant impacts on the typical US household... A GMO-free certification raises prices by an average of 34%. 

 

If the typical family were to purchase only non-GMO food, their food budget would increase from $9,462 to $12,263 each year, or $2,800 per year. Overall... the cost of a typical US family’s market basket of food would rise from 8-50% annually, depending on the impacts on retail prices from going to a GMO-free diet. 

 

If one considers pricing on a per-ounce basis, the GMO-free certification adds 69% to price...

 

http://www4.ncsu.edu/~bkgoodwi/papers/non_gmo.pdf

 

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Seralini Rat Study Revisited - Wyoming Weed Science (2014)

Seralini Rat Study Revisited - Wyoming Weed Science (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Anyone interested in the GMO debate has probably heard about the Seralini paper that... was eventually retracted by the original journal, and it has now been re-published in a different journal... 

 

The Seralini press release for the re-published article states “The raw data underlying the study’s findings are also published” and this claim has been reprinted by many sources without much scrutiny... After a very brief examination of the data files supplied by Seralini’s team, it is clear that they didn’t actually provide all of their raw data... 


> It turns out that the Séralini group did not release all the raw data from the study. For instance, his team took blood samples at 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, and 24 months but only released the data for month 15. They released the tumor and mortality data for each group of rats, but not for the individual rats — which makes it impossible to test for in-group variation (e.g. are we talking about one rat with seven tumors, or seven rats with one tumor each?). -Nathanael Johnson... 


But because there has now been some data released... Curiosity got the better of me... There are no data provided that support any of the statements or conclusions in the section titled “Anatomopathological observations and liver parameters” so nothing we can evaluate there. But we can look through the mortality and biochemistry data... 


For the male rats, there appears to be no strong evidence that their diet influenced mortality... We get similar results looking at the Female rats... Now if we ignore the overall P-value and focus only on individual treatments (generally a bad idea, but humor me), there are some P-values that indicate there were some treatments that may be different from the control. For female rats, the 22% GMO diet + Roundup has a P-value of 0.043... we could interpret this to mean that the female rats are more likely to die from all the treatments... 


But... it seems only fair that we should do the same for the males... This would indicate that all except 1 treatment reduced the hazard to male rats... I can’t really think of any mechanism by which both GMO feed and Roundup in drinking water would have a negative effect on females but a positive effect on males...


The data Seralini provided simply doesn’t support a link between GMOs or Roundup laced diet and premature death... What this means is that the mortality data provided by Seralini are simply not powerful enough to draw any conclusions one way or the other... 

 

Interestingly, there is a column in the biochemistry data named “BW.15” which does not show up in any of the description files, and is also never referenced in the published article... I have received confirmation from someone at King’s College London School of Medicine that the “BW.15″ column is indeed body weight at 15 months. The only reference to body weight in the republished article is near the beginning of the results section: "There was no rejection by the animals of the diet with or without GM maize, nor any major difference in body weight (data not shown)." ... 


I question the interpretation of no “major difference in body weight.” ... For the female rats, there was a significant difference between treatments with respect to the BW variable. The highest dose of Roundup in drinking water... reduced BW by 19% compared to the control group... For the males, there was a very similar pattern... The high dose of Roundup in the drinking water reduced male BW by 23%.


The high-dose Roundup treatment was significantly different from nearly all of the other treatments, including the control. So my conclusion here would be that drinking a 0.5% Roundup solution every day for 15 months will reduce body weight. I can’t quite figure out why the Seralini article didn’t report this very obvious difference (in fact, they made the opposite claim, that there were no differences)... it does seem very odd.

 

Although the methods section in the paper states that blood samples were taken 10 different times over the course of the study, the paper only presents data from one time point (15 months)... In the paper, Seralini et al. justify presenting only a single time point by saying: "Due to the large quantity of data collected, it cannot all be shown in one report" ... 


Even if true for the actual article, I really don’t see how this restriction would apply to the raw data. It seems like they could have easily added data from the other 9 time points into the same Excel file and provided all the raw data quite easily. But they have not... The easiest way to counter the early accusations of “cherry picking” data would be to release the rest of the data...

 

But we can at least run some more standard statistical tests for some of the variables. In particular... the variables that Seralini’s multivariate analysis suggested were important... The GMO 33% treatment had a serum sodium level about 5.5% lower than the control group (P=0.02). This does seem consistent with Seralini’s results. But what about male rats, which Seralini didn’t present? ... 


There also appears to be a significant difference between the control group and the GMO 33% diet for males (P=0.02). But, the difference is in the opposite direction! The 33% GMO diet that reduced blood sodium levels in females, apparently increased the blood serum sodium levels in males by 8.6%... it seems that both an increase and a decrease in the same ion can’t be indicative of the same problem...

 

Both sexes were also fed the 33% GMO diet that had been treated in the field with Roundup. I would expect that any effect of the GMO that hadn’t been treated with Roundup should still exist if the corn had been sprayed with Roundup. So I compared these treatments... Somehow, spraying Roundup on the GMO corn in the field reversed the blood serum sodium level results. In both sexes. I can think of absolutely no reasonable explanation for this result other than random chance. And analysis of the blood serum chloride shows similarly random results...

 

The variables Seralini et al. found to be most important... seem to be mostly meaningless if you look at more than the two groups they present. I think it is also important to note that Seralini et al. state that the data presented in their article... represents “the most important findings.” So if we can’t make any sense of the most important findings using a reasonable statistical analysis, I really don’t see how there is any real reason why this study, as presented, “deserves to be taken seriously.”

 

http://weedcontrolfreaks.com/2014/07/seralini-rat-study-revisited/

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:
For the quantitatively inclined there's much more detail at the original blog...
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Lone Star Crazy: How Right-Wing Extremists Took Over Texas - Rolling Stone (2014)

Lone Star Crazy: How Right-Wing Extremists Took Over Texas - Rolling Stone (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

In today's Texas, which is falling into the hands of gun nuts, border-sealers and talk-radio charlatans, George W. Bush would practically be considered a communist…

 

American Patriots… excited by concerns both real and obviously paranoid – revolving around gun rights, land rights, the surveillance state, genetically modified food and assorted other "liberty issues" – have come to this field to make their voices heard. The two central issues of the rally are guns... and an opposition to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management… When I ask if there have been threats to take his property, he says, "I don't know! That's the problem."

 

I couldn't have put it any better myself. They don't know; that's the problem. After nearly six years of pumping out cynical horror stories involving our nefarious president and a Washington bureaucracy run amok, the right-wing fear machine has managed to reduce its target audience to a quivering state of waking nightmare, jumping at shadows…

 

It's also interesting to report that nearly everyone I met at the rally turned out to be far quirkier, politically, than any caricatured preconceptions might lead you to guess. While journalistic comparisons between the rise of the Tea Party and the rise of Occupy Wall Street – as two ends of the spectrum responding to economic collapse and elite betrayal – feel like clichéd false equivalency… there's an unruly, anarchistic feel to this crowd that reminds me of the time I spent in Zuccotti Park…

 

Take… Andrew Clements, who… [is] carrying a short-barreled 9mm AR-15… Clements describes himself as a fiscal conservative and a Libertarian on social issues… "You're wasting a vote if you vote for Democrats or Republicans. They're both the same party. Look at the NSA spying. My philosophy is about respecting everyone else's thing: all races, sexual preferences, religions. That's what makes us special as Americans. What's the difference if I have a gun, or if that guy is gay?"

 

"We want homosexual people to protect their marijuana plants with firearms!" chimes in Matthew Short … Short is also given to more conspiratorial lines of thought, advising me to check out some YouTube videos he's posted about Syria, Benghazi and the massive fertilizer-plant explosion that took place last year in rural Texas, where he snuck onto the blast scene with some firefighters. He thinks Monsanto might have had something to do with it…

 

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/lone-star-crazy-how-right-wing-extremists-took-over-texas-20140701

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Strange bedfellows: right-wing Texans and lefties the world over are paranoid about GMOs and spin conspiracy theories about the companies that are developing them... 

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The impact of agricultural biotechnology on supply and land-use - Barrows &al (2014) - Env Dev Econ

The impact of agricultural biotechnology on supply and land-use - Barrows &al (2014) - Env Dev Econ | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

We use aggregate data to estimate supply, price, land-use, and greenhouse gas impacts of genetically engineered (GE) seed adoption due both to increased yield per hectare (intensive margin) and increased planted area (extensive margin).

 

An adoption model with profitability and risk considerations distinguishes between the two margins, where the intensive margin results from direct impacts and higher complimentary input use, and the extensive margin reflects the growing range of lands that become profitable with the GE technology.

 

We identify yield increases from cross-country time series variation in GE adoption share within the main GE crops saved lands and greenhouse gases as the difference between observed hectarage per crop and counterfactual hectarage needed to generate the same output without the yield boost from GE.

 

We find that altogether, GE saved 13 million hectares of land from conversion to agriculture in 2010, and averted emissions are equivalent to roughly one-eighth of the annual emissions from automobiles in the US... 

 

Growing demand forfood, feed, fiber and energy means that without new sources of yield gains, new lands must be recruited into production, or else prices must rise to equilibrate the market. Rising prices disproportionally hurt the poor, while clearing lands generates harmful environmental emissions. Agricultural biotechnology can potentiall y increase yields per hectare, thus boosting supply and preserving lands...

 

We find that adoption of GE has significant impact on the price of cotton, corn and soybeans. As corn and soybeans are used extensively in the production of food, these price effects likely translate into lower food prices, benefiting the poor. The analysis suggests that while high adoption rates of GE cotton and soybean has contributed to a significant price reduction in these commodities, bans and other regulations limited the adoption of GE corn to less than 30 per cent of total corn hectarage, reducing its total price effect.

 

If adoption of corn is expanded globally, we expect much larger increases in supply both because of reduction in pest damage as well the complementary input effect, resulting in further corn price reductions. The use of GE is practically banned everywhere for major food grains like wheat and rice, even though existing traits could reduce pest damage in these two crops.

 

Our analysis suggests that developing new GE varieties in these crops has the potential to reduce their prices as well as the environmental side effects fromproducing these crops. 

 

Finally, we find that GE has had significant environmental benefits, even considering just the intensive margin. We estimate that GE technology slowed land-use change and prevented GHG emissions on the order of one-eighth the annual GHG emissions caused by driving in the US. As the poor are expected to suffer the most from climate change, these environmental gains also mean distributional gains for the poor.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1355770X14000400

 

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Successful crossings with early flowering transgenic poplar: interspecific crossings, but not transgenesis, promoted aberrant phenotypes in offspring - Hoenicka &al (2014) - Plant Biotechnol J

Successful crossings with early flowering transgenic poplar: interspecific crossings, but not transgenesis, promoted aberrant phenotypes in offspring - Hoenicka &al (2014) - Plant Biotechnol J | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

In forest tree species, the reproductive phase is reached only after many years or even decades of juvenile growth. Different early flowering systems based on the genetic transfer of heat-shock promoter driven flowering-time genes have been proposed for poplar; however, no fertile flowers were reported until now. Here, we studied flower and pollen development... 

 

A comparison between intra- and interspecific crossings revealed that genetic transformation had no detrimental effects on F1-seedlings. However, interspecific crossings, a broadly accepted breeding method, produced 47% seedlings with an aberrant phenotype.

 

The early flowering system presented in this study opens new possibilities for accelerating breeding of poplar and other forest tree species. Fast breeding and the selection of transgene-free plants, once the breeding process is concluded, can represent an attractive alternative even under very restrictive regulations.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/pbi.12213

 

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Nigeria to adopt genetically modified crops, says agency - Guardian (2014)

Nigeria to adopt genetically modified crops, says agency - Guardian (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The Federal Government has put in place necessary regulatory guidelines to fast track the adoption of Genetically Modified Organisms (crops) (GMO). Addressing a press conference... on the need for a Biosafety law for the adoption of Biotechnology in the country, NABDA [National Agricultural Biotechnology Development Agency] Director General, Prof. Lucy Ogbadu, said the Federal Ministry of Environment has a Biosafety Unit with well trained staff internationally and nationally to manage Biosafety matters... include Draft Biosafety Regulation on labelling, packaging and transport, draft biosafety regulation on GMOs commercialisation... a biosafety laboratory has also been established for GMOs detection and analysis.

 

Calling for the quick passage of the biosafety bill, Ogbadu noted that the absence of the law has hampered research and development in modern biotechnology in the country and would enable research institutes to carry out their statutory functions... She warned that the absence of biosafety law might make Nigeria a consumer nation of foreign GMO foods, particularly maize products instead of producer, thereby holding farmers hostage to those of other countries... She highlighted some of the importance of Biotechnology in the country to include increase in food supply with less farmland requirement; discovery of new medicines and vaccines... and also clean up of oil spills, prevention of deforestation, provision of eco-friendly materials.

 

http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/news/national-news/171310-nigeria-to-adopt-genetically-modified-crops-says-agency

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Good if African countries start to narrow the molecular divide -- so they can also use a technology that so far only benefits the Americas, Asia and Australia as producers and Europe as importer...

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Beth Henggeler's curator insight, Today, 9:29 AM

The benefits that Prof. Ogbadu mentions are so important.  Increase food security...new medicines...conservation and protection of biodiversity through reducing deforstation.

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GM agricultural technologies for Africa: a state of affairs - Chambers &al (2014) - IFPRI

GM agricultural technologies for Africa: a state of affairs - Chambers &al (2014) - IFPRI | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Agricultural biotechnology has been used to address constraints in agriculture and has the potential to make a major contribution to the overall goal of sustainable intensification. The adoption of agricultural biotechnology, and specifically genetically modified (GM) crops, by many African countries has been quite limited to date, however. To further inform the debate over agricultural biotechnology, this report collects current information on the status of biotechnology in Africa—with an emphasis on GM crops—and assesses the opportunities offered by and constraints on adoption.


The authors provide information about the region’s limited financial, technical, regulatory, and legal capacities while additionally focusing on the role of trade concerns and conflicting information as limiting factors that affect adoption. The authors also identify several initiatives that could help overcome these obstacles, such as increasing public investments in agricultural biotechnology research and development; improving regulatory frameworks and regulatory capacity; and developing an effective and broad-based communications strategy. These and other recommendations should be useful to policymakers, development specialists, and others who are concerned about the potential role that biotechnology could play in Africa as an additional tool for sustainable agriculture development.

 

http://www.ifpri.org/publication/gm-agricultural-technologies-africa-state-affairs

 

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Core Truths: 10 Common GMO Claims Debunked - Borel (2014) - Popular Science

Core Truths: 10 Common GMO Claims Debunked - Borel (2014) - Popular Science | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Genetically modified organisms have become the world’s most controversial food. But the science is more clear-cut... GMOs have been studied intensively, and they look a lot more prosaic than the hype contends... So what, exactly, do consumers have to fear? To find out, Popular Science chose 10 of the most common claims about GMOs and interviewed nearly a dozen scientists. Their collective answer: not much at all. 

 

1) Claim: Genetic engineering is a radical technology. 

 

Humans have been manipulating the genes of crops for millennia by selectively breeding plants with desirable traits... In that sense, GMOs are not radical at all. But the technique does differ dramatically from traditional plant breeding... That process allows for greater precision. "With GMOs, we know the genetic information we are using, we know where it goes in the genome... That is not true when you cross widely different varieties in traditional breeding." 

 

2) Claim: GMOs are too new for us to know if they are dangerous. 

 

It depends on how you define new. Genetically engineered plants first appeared in the lab about 30 years ago and became a commercial product in 1994. Since then, more than 1,700 peer-reviewed safety studies have been published... The scientific consensus is that existing GMOs are no more or less risky than conventional crops. 

 

3) Claim: Farmers can't replant genetically modified seeds.

 

So-called terminator genes, which can make seeds sterile, never made it out of the patent office... Commercial growers typically don't save seeds anyway. Corn is a hybrid of two lines from the same species, so its seeds won't pass on the right traits to the next generation. Cotton and soy seeds could be saved, but most farmers don't bother. "The quality deteriorates—they get weeds and so on—and it's not a profitable practice" ... 

 

4) Claim: We don't need GMOs—there are other ways to feed the world.

 

GMOs alone probably won't solve the planet's food problems. But with climate change and population growth threatening food supplies, genetically modified crops could significantly boost crop output. "GMOs are just one tool to make sure the world is food-secure... It's not the only answer, and it is not essential, but it is certainly one good thing in our arsenal."

 

5) Claim: GMOs cause allergies, cancer, and other health problems.

 

Many people worry that genetic engineering introduces hazardous proteins, particularly allergens and toxins, into the food chain... That's why biotech companies... perform extensive allergy and toxicity testing... if they're not done, the FDA can block the products... 

 

Researchers from the University of Perugia... published a review of 1,783 GMO safety tests; 770 examined the health impact on humans or animals. They found no evidence that the foods are dangerous.

 

6) Claim: All research on GMOs has been funded by Big Ag.

 

This simply isn't true. Over the past decade, hundreds of independent researchers have published peer-reviewed safety studies...

 

7) Claim: Genetically modified crops cause farmers to overuse pesticides and herbicides.

 

This claim requires a little parsing. Two relevant GMOs dominate the market. The first enables crops to express a protein from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is toxic to certain insects. It's also the active ingredient in pesticides used by organic farmers. Bt crops have dramatically reduced reliance on chemical insecticides in some regions... 


The second allows crops to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate so that farmers can spray entire fields more liberally yet kill only weeds. Glyphosate use has skyrocketed in the U.S. since these GMOs were introduced in 1996. But glyphosate is among the mildest herbicides available, with a toxicity 25 times less than caffeine. Its use has decreased reliance on more toxic alternatives, such as atrazine.

 

8) Claim: GMOs create super-insects and super-weeds.

 

If farmers rely too heavily on Bt or glyphosate, then pesticide resistance is inevitable, says Tabashnik. That's evolution at work... The solution, he says, is to practice integrated pest management... The same goes for any type of farming. 

 

9) Claim: GMOs harm beneficial insect species.

 

This has been been partly debunked. Bt insecticides attach to proteins found in some insects' guts, killing select species. For most insects, a field of Bt crops is safer than one sprayed with an insecticide that kills indiscriminately...

 

10) Claim: Modified genes spread to other crops and wild plants, upending the ecosystem.

 

... The risk for neighboring farms is relatively low. For starters, it's possible to reduce the chance of cross-pollination by staggering planting schedules, so that fields pollinate during different windows of time. (Farmers with adjacent GMO and organic fields already do this.) And if some GMO pollen does blow into an organic field, it won't necessarily nullify organic status. Even foods that bear the Non-GMO Project label can be 0.5 percent GMO by dry weight.

 

As for a GMO infiltrating wild plants, the offspring's survival partly depends on whether the trait provides an adaptive edge. Genes that help wild plants survive might spread, whereas those that, say, boost vitamin A content might remain at low levels or fizzle out entirely. 

 

The Rise of GMO Crops

 

In the U.S., farmers have been planting increasing amounts GMO crops since the seeds became commercially available in 1996. Corn, cotton, and soy—which together occupy about 40 percent of U.S. cropland—are the three crops with the highest GMO fraction by area, each more than 90 percent in 2013.


Dinner, Dissected 


Very few genetically modified crops end up on plates, but the ones that do can be found in roughly two-thirds of processed foods sold in the U.S. Genetically modified bacteria and yeasts are also critical to the production of some foods, including many wines and cheeses... 

 

http://www.popsci.com/article/science/core-truths-10-common-gmo-claims-debunked

 

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Food Security and Public Distribution System in India - Kumar & Ayyappan (2014) - Ag Res

Food Security and Public Distribution System in India - Kumar & Ayyappan (2014) - Ag Res | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

This study was conducted to assess... changes in the status of food security in India... Food security was assessed in terms of its basic pillars—availability access and absorption... Several initiatives have been taken to tackle the challenge of food security, and the public distribution system (PDS) has been the most important instrument of ensuring food security in India. It has been observed that its contribution to poverty reduction and food security improvement has been increasing over time.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s40003-014-0115-9

 

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Are Organic Vegetables More Nutritious After All? - NPR (2014)

Are Organic Vegetables More Nutritious After All? - NPR (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

There may never be an end to arguments over whether organic food is more nutritious. But a new study... finds that organic and conventional vegetables offer similar levels of many nutrients, including minerals, vitamin C and vitamin E. Conventional crops are higher in protein. And there are fewer pesticide residues on organic foods, as you'd expect. But the group found a significant difference in the levels of special compounds called antioxidants... 


These antioxidant compounds, which go by names like flavonoids and carotenoids, are getting a lot of attention lately. Their effects remain somewhat murky, but scientists say they can protect cells from the effects of aging, or from the sort of damage that can lead to cancer. Benbrook says this is a big reason why public health experts want us all to eat more fruits and vegetables: They deliver a good dose of antioxidants... 


Plants make these compounds to protect themselves when they run into challenges like insects or diseases... "Plants in an organic field are getting chewed on" ... 

 

This analysis, however, probably isn't the end of this debate. Jeffrey Blumberg, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University, says attempts to draw conclusions from collections of hundreds of different studies, each one comparing organic and conventional food, are beset by a host of methodological problems. For one thing, there's no single "organic" or "conventional" production system. 


Some organic crops get lots of organic fertilizer; some don't. Some are protected with lots of natural pesticides; some are not. Conventional practices vary widely, too. So it's difficult to know, in the end, what you really are comparing. And food that's compared in these studies may not be the same as the food you're buying in the store.

 

In any case, Blumberg says, the difference in nutritional quality between organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables really isn't that big — especially when you consider the gap between what Americans should eat, and what they really consume... What really will make a difference in people's health, he says, is just eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. If you eat plenty of these foods — whether they're organic or not — you'll get plenty of antioxidants. 

 

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/07/11/330760923/are-organic-vegetables-more-nutritious-after-all

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Apart from comparing apples with oranges, as pointed out by Blumberg, I wonder how the authors of the study designed it: Did they suspect that there was a crucial difference in antioxodants and then tested their hypothesis, or did they engage in data-mining and cast a net over the 340 studies to look what positive results they could get for organics? 

 

And disregarding the apple-oranges problem (as the authors did), why focus on antioxidants and ignore the higher protein content in conventional crops? In a country like the US this may be irrelevant, but in other parts of the world making sure people get enough protein (in diets that are often dominated by starchy staples) is important. And it is the more important if meat consumption should be discouraged (to use scarce resources more efficiently that are needed in its production). 

 

Finally, if antioxidants - such as carotenoids - are so important, shouldn't we ensure that those who cannot afford a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables (but have to rely on a diet consisting mainly of cheap starchy staple crops, such as rice) should nevertheless get more of those valuable compounds? (Until income levels and nutrition knowledge have been boosted sufficiently for everybody to be in a position to eat healthily...) 

 

Once such solution could consist of encouraging the adoption of carotenoid-rich GM rice ("Golden Rice") and other crops (such as sweet potatoes) that have been developed over the last years to help address vitamin A deficiency, which is prevalent in populations that have to rely on monotonous diets. If those crops are grown "conventionally" they would not only have higher levels of carotenoids but (if the study is true) also of protein, which is also relevant for their target groups... 

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Alexander J. Stein's curator insight, July 12, 12:24 PM

Apart from comparing apples with oranges, as pointed out by Blumberg, I wonder how the authors of the study designed it: Did they suspect that there was a crucial difference in antioxodants and then tested their hypothesis, or did they engage in data-mining and cast a net over the 340 studies to look what positive results they could get for organics? 

 

And disregarding the apple-oranges problem (as the authors did), why focus on antioxidants and ignore the higher protein content in conventional crops? In a country like the US this may be irrelevant, but in other parts of the world making sure people get enough protein (in diets that are often dominated by starchy staples) is important. And it is the more important if meat consumption should be discouraged (to use scarce resources more efficiently that are needed in its production). 

 

Finally, if antioxidants - such as carotenoids - are so important, shouldn't we ensure that those who cannot afford a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables (but have to rely on a diet consisting mainly of cheap starchy staple crops, such as rice) should nevertheless get more of those valuable compounds? (Until income levels and nutrition knowledge have been boosted sufficiently for everybody to be in a position to eat healthily...) 

 

Once such solution could consist of encouraging the adoption of carotenoid-rich GM rice ("Golden Rice") and other crops (such as sweet potatoes) that have been developed over the last years to help address vitamin A deficiency, which is prevalent in populations that have to rely on monotonous diets. If those crops are grown "conventionally" they would not only have higher levels of carotenoids but (if the study is true) also of protein, which is also relevant for their target groups... 

AckerbauHalle's curator insight, July 12, 12:51 PM

Der Vergleich Öko vs. Konventionell ist und bleibt methodisch schwierig. Ich halte persönlich das Argument eines höheren Gesundheitswertes für relativ schwach, obwohl es von Verbraucherinnen und Verbrauchern recht häufig als Kaufargument genannt wird. Übrigens war dies vor 10-15 Jahren noch deutlich stärker ausgeprägt. Inzwischen tauchen auch Argumente wir Umwelt- und Klimawirkung sowie Tierhaltung auf. 

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Bt corn to aid Philippines become global exporter of chicken - Far Eastern Ag (2014)

Bt corn to aid Philippines become global exporter of chicken - Far Eastern Ag (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The Philippines can secure a niche in the global chicken export market if it can reduce feed prices by producing more high-yielding Bt corn... the country... may even succeed in being self-sufficient in chicken if it can sustain the growth in corn production.

 

Edilberto de Luna, chief of National Corn Program (NCP), said that with a huge stockpile of corn and the expected bumper harvest... the country might be able to supply the feed ingredients that the poultry industry needs for the rest of the year. 

 

De Luna credits the increase in corn production by farmers cultivating biotech corn for the achievement, noting that since 2003, the land devoted to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn had skyrocketed to 750,000 hectares. He added that the country used to import about one million metric tonnes (MMT) of corn to support the livestock industry... 

 

http://www.fareasternagriculture.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3623

 

Original report: http://searca.org/index.php/knowledge-management/knowledge-resources/kr-monographs/1310-productivity-growth-in-philippine-hog-and-poultry-industries

 

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Federal, state officials talk GMOs at Maui council - The Republic (2014)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials told a Maui County Council committee they haven't heard of any health issues related to eating genetically engineered rainbow papaya.

 

Eating rainbow papaya is the same as eating a papaya with a virus, which is a "common occurrence," Chris Wozniak, an EPA biotechnology special assistant, told the committee... A Maui doctor countered there could still be risks... Dr. Lorrin Pang said that just because it occurs naturally doesn't make it safe... 


http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/a61e0243c8ea47efb58b31b6e499d534/HI--GMO-Papaya


Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"just because it occurs naturally doesn't make it safe" >> A very peculiar argument for an opponent of agricultural biotechnology. Does this mean all "organic" and "natural" practices and products need to be tested for their safety and approved? Very well. 

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Insights: Africa's future... can biosciences contribute? - Heap & Bennett (2014) - B4FA

Insights: Africa's future... can biosciences contribute? - Heap & Bennett (2014) - B4FA | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

By 2050 the world’s population will rise to 9 billion. To satisfy demand, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has predicted that food production will need to increase by 70 per cent. Meanwhile, land and water resources are increasingly being degraded and depleted, which has serious implications for developing countries, and in particular for the African continent. These are huge challenges, but one possible solution is for farmers to combine their expert local knowledge with recent advances in biosciences.

 

The 18 short essays in Insights were commissioned to examine the implementation of biosciences for farming in Africa. The essays are eclectic and personal, sharply focused and intended to inform decision-makers whether relaxing on long-haul flights, or in deepest deliberation with colleagues. They do not advocate a position, rather they argue from experience, and offer an authoritative, independent and peer-reviewed brief. All address the grand challenge facing the best brains and entrepreneurs alike, whether in laboratories, farms, in businesses or partnerships – how will we be able to produce 70 per cent more food sustainably, sufficient to feed a predicted population of 9 billion in 2050.

 

http://b4fa.org/insights-biosciences-africa/

 

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GM Crops are an Appropriate IPM Component Technology - Hillocks (2014) - Outlooks Pest Management

Genetic engineering for enhanced crop performance is now main-stream technology, the first GM crops having been planted in the mid 1990s. More than 175 million ha are now planted worldwide, with the largest areas in the USA, Brazil, Argentina, India, Canada and China.


In 25 years of growing GM crops, no consistent scientific evidence has emerged of significant risk to human health or the environment, yet Europe and Africa lag well behind the other continents in adoption of GM crops.


The EU continues to enact legislation to decrease the use of conventional pesticides on European farms, while stringent and expensive regulation hampers the development and deployment of alternative crop protection technologies. One only needs to compare the large number of biopesticides registered in the USA with the few available in Europe.


GM crops now widely grown outside of Europe, are a proven pest management tool and have decreased insecticide use... It is unfortunate that most [NGOs] ... that argue for even stricter regulation of conventional pesticides in European farming... are also opposed to the use of GM crops. European farming is, therefore, deprived of the one technology currently available that could immediately decrease pesticide use without decreasing crop productivity... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1564/v25_jun_07

 

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Vulnerability of African maize yield to climate change and variability during 1961-2010 - Shi & Tao (2014) - Food Sec

Vulnerability of African maize yield to climate change and variability during 1961-2010 - Shi & Tao (2014) - Food Sec | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Because of the necessity of feeding growing populations, there is a critical need to assess the variation and vulnerability of crop yields to potential climate change.


Databases of maize yields and climate variables in the maize growing seasons were used to assess the vulnerability of African maize yields to climate change and variability with different levels of management at country scale between 1961 and 2010... yield deviation and climate variables including temperature (Tmean), precipitation (P) and standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI) were used to analyze the vulnerability of maize yields to climate change and variability for each country in Africa.


Most countries, where soil fertility had been declining owing to low levels of fertilizer use over many years and limited water resources, had decreasing maize yields. The negative impacts of increasing temperature and decreasing precipitation and SPEI on maize yields progressively increased at the whole continent scale over the time period studied.


During the maize growing seasons 1961–2010, each 1°C of Tmean increase resulted in yield losses of over 10% in eight countries and 5-10% in 10 countries, but yields increased by more than 5% in four relatively cool countries. Decreases of 10% average P resulted in more than 5% decreases in yields in 20 countries and each decrease of 0.5 SPEI resulted in over 30% losses of maize yields in 32 countries...


Better irrigation and fertilizer application will be important to sustain higher yields in the future, as will the development of maize varieties with greater heat and drought tolerance.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12571-014-0370-4


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Setting the standards: who regulates Australian GM food? - FoodMag (2014)

Setting the standards: who regulates Australian GM food? - FoodMag (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

In the past, new crops were introduced into the food supply without any formal scientific evaluation. Humans learned by trial and error how to safely prepare foods such as cassava and potato, even though they can be toxic. With the advent of crop genetic engineering in the 1980s, public controversy and intense public scrutiny over genetically modified (GM) foods meant that the trial and error method of discovering whether new GM foods were safe became unacceptable. 


Scientific safety assessment of new GM foods as well as government regulation of their introduction was introduced in many countries.

In Australia... safety assessment of GM foods became the responsibility of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)... 


The presence of thousands of potentially toxic natural substances in plant foods meant that the safety assessment of GM foods had to be done by different procedures than those that had worked well with food additives and synthetic pesticides. Regulators realised that if the hundreds of thousands of natural substances present in plant foods... were subjected to the same standards used with food additives and synthetic pesticides, all food – GM or non-GM – would fail regulatory standards.

 

A solution to this quandary was developed. Relative safety of GM foods is assessed by systematically looking for all the chemical differences that can be found between: (i) a GM food and (ii) an otherwise comparable non-GM food that can be presumed to be already safe because of its history of safe use. If no meaningful differences are detectable in a new crop variety, the GM food can be assumed to be at least as safe as its non-GM counterpart. 


The standards agency FSANZ provides many further details of how safety assessment of GM foods is carried out, before they are allowed to enter the commercial marketplace... Most GM crops are commodities that are extensively traded on world markets, such as maize, soybeans and canola. These have to meet food and regulatory standards in several different jurisdictions (such as in the US, the EU, Japan and China)... 


Genetically modified foods have now been in the marketplace for nearly two decades without any harmful effects identified. The absence of any evidence pointing to the lack of food safety in the recent farmer court case in Western Australia... underlines the overall conclusion that there is no credible evidence of any food safety risk with the GM foods that have been approved so far.

 

More tangible problems of food safety – such as the mould toxins that can ruin staple grains and cause cancer in developing countries should now get more attention.

 

http://www.foodmag.com.au/features/setting-the-standards-who-regulates-australian-gm

 

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Bt Cotton, Pesticide Use and Environmental Efficiency in Pakistan - Abedullah &al (2014) - J Ag Econ

Bt Cotton, Pesticide Use and Environmental Efficiency in Pakistan - Abedullah &al (2014) - J Ag Econ | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

There is a broad literature on the impact of Bt cotton adoption in different countries, but few studies have explicitly looked at environmental and health effects from an economic perspective. We analyse the impact of Bt cotton on environmental efficiency in Pakistan, using farm survey data...


Negative environmental and health effects of chemical pesticide use are quantified with the environmental impact quotient. Bt-adopting farms have higher cotton yields, while using lower pesticide quantities and causing less environmental damage.


Bt farms are both technically and environmentally more efficient than non-Bt farms. Bt adoption increases environmental efficiency by 37%. Achieving the same reduction in negative environmental and health impact without Bt would cost conventional cotton farmers US$ 54 per acre in terms of foregone yields and revenues (7% of total revenues).


Extrapolating this shadow price of the technology's health and environmental benefits to the total Bt cotton area in Pakistan results in an aggregate value of US$ 370 million. These benefits are in addition to the profit gains for Bt-adopting farmers. Our results suggest that Bt technology can contribute to sustainable agricultural development.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1477-9552.12072

 

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The Extent to which Potential Benefits to EU Farmers of Adopting Transgenic Crops are Reduced by Cost of Compliance with Coexistence Regulations - McFarlane &al (2014) - AgBioForum

The Extent to which Potential Benefits to EU Farmers of Adopting Transgenic Crops are Reduced by Cost of Compliance with Coexistence Regulations - McFarlane &al (2014) - AgBioForum | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

This article forecasts the extent to which the potential benefits of adopting transgenic crops may be reduced by costs of compliance with coexistence regulations applicable in various member states of the EU.

 

A dynamic economic model is described and used to calculate the potential yield and gross margin of a set of crops grown in a selection of typical rotation scenarios. The model simulates varying levels of pest, weed, and drought pressures, with associated management strategies regarding pesticide and herbicide application, and irrigation.

 

We report on the initial use of the model to calculate the net reduction in gross margin attributable to coexistence costs for insect-resistant (IR) and herbicide-tolerant (HT) maize grown continuously or in a rotation, HT soya grown in a rotation, HT oilseed rape grown in a rotation, and HT sugarbeet grown in a rotation. Conclusions are drawn about conditions favoring inclusion of a transgenic crop in a crop rotation, having regard to farmers’ attitude toward risk... 

 

Of the established transgenic crops, only insect-resistant (IR) maize is approved for cultivation in the European Union (EU), and that crop is grown mainly in Spain and Portugal. Some of the other established transgenic crops could potentially be profitable for farmers to adopt in some parts of Europe, but it is likely that the improvement in gross margin relative to a conventional crop would be offset by the cost to the farmer of compliance with coexistence regulations... 

 

The way in which the cost of compliance with regulations for coexistence of transgenic crops with conventional crops in EU arable farming falls entirely on the adopter of the transgenic crop presents a significant economic disincentive for transgenic crop adoption... There are numerous crop rotation scenarios where weed and pest pressures are high, in which the aggregate economic outcome could potentially lead to greater profit for the farmer if established transgenic crop varieties replaced conventional equivalent crops.

 

http://agbioforum.org/v17n1/v17n1a05-mcfarlane.htm ;

 

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