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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 04 November, 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.
Mel H's curator insight, November 30, 2014 8:39 AM

report information

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Optimizing pyramided transgenic Bt crops for sustainable pest management - Carrière &al (2015) - Nature Biotechnol

Optimizing pyramided transgenic Bt crops for sustainable pest management - Carrière &al (2015) - Nature Biotechnol | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Transgenic crop pyramids producing two or more Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins that kill the same insect pest have been widely used to delay evolution of pest resistance. To assess the potential of pyramids to achieve this goal, we analyze data from 38 studies that report effects of ten Bt toxins used in transgenic crops against 15 insect pests.

 

We find that compared with optimal low levels of insect survival, survival on currently used pyramids is often higher for both susceptible insects and insects resistant to one of the toxins in the pyramid. Furthermore, we find that cross-resistance and antagonism between toxins used in pyramids are common, and that these problems are associated with the similarity of the amino acid sequences of domains II and III of the toxins, respectively.

 

This analysis should assist in future pyramid design and the development of sustainable resistance management strategies. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nbt.3099

 

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Organic and Conventional Milk – Comparing Apples to Apples? - Elsevier (2015)

Organic and Conventional Milk – Comparing Apples to Apples? - Elsevier (2015) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Consumers perceive that organic cow milk differs from conventionally produced milk and that these differences justify the premium price for organic milk... researchers in New Zealand found that the differences between organic and conventional milk are not so straightforward.

Reviewing almost 200 publications, researchers concluded that previously conducted controlled studies... have so far been largely ambiguous... "When comparing organic and conventional milk composition... previous studies have generally compared organic dairying with milk produced from grass-fed cows to conventional dairying with milk produced from concentrate-fed cows. The differences in milk composition observed are actually due to the different diets of the cows (i.e. pasture versus concentrate feeding) rather than organic versus conventional farming systems"... 

 

The vast majority of differences reported between organic and conventional milk come from what cows are fed and their breed, and is not anything unique to being organic or conventional in itself." Therefore in terms of nutrients in milk, there is nothing distinct about organic milk that makes it unique from conventionally produced milk once the different factors that influence milk production are compared or adjusted for. If animal genetics, health, breed, diet, management, or environment differs, then so will the composition of the milk produced.

 

http://www.elsevier.com/about/press-releases/research-and-journals/organic-and-conventional-milk-comparing-apples-to-apples

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2014-8389

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"there is nothing distinct about organic milk that makes it unique from conventionally produced milk"

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AckerbauHalle's curator insight, January 22, 12:51 AM

Ist der Vergleich zwischen konventionell erzeugter Milch und Bio-Milch eigentlich sinnvoll?

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Biosafety Management and Pesticide Use in China’s Bt Cotton Production - Huang &al (2015) - China Econ Rev

Chinese government has been increasing its efforts in GM crop biosafety management. However, the rapid expansion of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton varieties and less regulated seed industry also resulted in large amount of Bt cotton varieties bypassed China’s biosafety regulations.

 

This study shows that the Bt cotton varieties without biosafety certificates (BC) have been widely used by farmers in practice... the Bt cotton varieties with BC outperform the varieties without BC in term of pesticides use... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chieco.2015.01.006

 

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Crops can do their own weed control - U Copenhagen (2015)

Weeds are the enemy of crops and agricultural output worldwide... In conventional farming, the most frequently used herbicides for weed control have a negative impact on the environment. On the other hand, organic farmers enlist machines to battle unwanted growth. These machines guzzle fuel and produce CO2, while their tyres compact soil and damage its structure. New research results... report that weeds would have a tough time competing against crops such as corn, grains and beans if farmers were to alter their sowing patterns...

 

Research studies performed in Danish wheat fields, together with recent studies in Colombian cornfields, demonstrate that modified sowing patterns and the nearer spacing of crops results in a reduction of total weed biomass. The amount of weeds was heavily reduced... while grain yields increased by more than 45% in heavily weed-infested fields. The trick is to increase crop-weed competition and utilize the crop's head start, so that it gains a large competitive advantage over the neighbouring weeds. 

 

http://plen.ku.dk/english/news/2015/crops/

Original article on maize: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/wre.12101

 

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Status and market potential of transgenic biofortified crops - De Steur &al (2015) - Nature Biotech

Status and market potential of transgenic biofortified crops - De Steur &al (2015) - Nature Biotech | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

This month marks the 15th anniversary of the publication of pro-vitamin A–enriched 'Golden Rice'. As the crop still awaits regulatory approval, its developers have little reason to celebrate. Golden Rice is not alone in facing a political and regulatory blockade. Several other biofortified transgenic crops also await authorization... 

 

Golden Rice exemplifies the way in which transgenic technology can expand the range of micronutrient strategies available to malnourished populations, especially in poor rural regions, where industrial infrastructure and educational efforts are often lacking and/or can be difficult to implement. Indeed, despite numerous efforts to tackle vitamin and mineral deficiencies through supplementation, industrial fortification or dietary diversification, deficiencies remain widespread among two billion people. This is especially the case in developing regions, where monotonous diets, mainly or solely consisting of staple crops, provide the daily caloric intake of the population. Here, biofortified crops can play an important alternative, agriculture-based strategy to alleviate the burden of micronutrient malnutrition... 

 

Biofortification can be achieved by conventional breeding or by plant biotech. Conventional breeding is possible only between closely related (sexually compatible) individuals (and thus relies on natural variation of the target compound within parental lines) and is also time-consuming... the minimum number of breeding generations... for self-fertilizing crops (e.g., rice, wheat and sorghum) [is estimated to be] 9 generations... In some cases, however, natural variation of the desired micronutrient is insufficient for conventional breeding. Moreover, in cereals, most of the vitamins and minerals are concentrated in the outer layers and the embryo of the kernel, which are usually removed upon milling to prolong storage, leaving only the endosperm. Thus, conventional breeding of cereals would have little or no effect on their vitamin and mineral content after milling... 

 

Transgenic biofortification is not a panacea for eliminating malnutrition, but it does offer a complementary, cost-effective intervention...

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nbt.3110

 

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Effects of media headlines on consumer preferences for food safety, quality and environmental attributes - Ortega &al (2014) - Aus J Ag Res Econ

Effects of media headlines on consumer preferences for food safety, quality and environmental attributes - Ortega &al (2014) - Aus J Ag Res Econ | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

We focus on shrimp... to evaluate consumer willingness-to-pay (WTP) for enhanced food safety, use of antibiotics and eco-friendly practices... Specifically, this research assesses the effects of news headlines regarding product safety, as information shocks on U.S. consumer demand... Media headlines were found to have a statistically significant effect on consumer preferences and WTP for product characteristics... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8489.12097

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Media headlines affect consumer preferences... 

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Diversification practices [do not] reduce organic to conventional yield gap - Ponisio &al (2014) - RSPB

Diversification practices [do not] reduce organic to conventional yield gap - Ponisio &al (2014) - RSPB | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

[Also see comment at the end...] 

 

Agriculture today places great strains on biodiversity, soils, water and the atmosphere, and these strains will be exacerbated if current trends in population growth, meat and energy consumption, and food waste continue. Thus, farming systems that are both highly productive and minimize environmental harms are critically needed.

 

How organic agriculture may contribute to world food production has been subject to vigorous debate over the past decade. Here, we revisit this topic comparing organic and conventional yields with a new meta-dataset three times larger than previously used (115 studies containing more than 1000 observations) and a new hierarchical analytical framework that can better account for the heterogeneity and structure in the data.

 

We find organic yields are only 19.2% (±3.7%) lower than conventional yields, a smaller yield gap than previous estimates. More importantly, we find entirely different effects of crop types and management practices on the yield gap compared with previous studies. For example, we found no significant differences in yields for leguminous versus non-leguminous crops, perennials versus annuals or developed versus developing countries. Instead, we found the novel result that two agricultural diversification practices, multi-cropping and crop rotations, substantially reduce the yield gap (to 9 ± 4% and 8 ± 5%, respectively) when the methods were applied in only organic systems...

 

The yield gap between organic polycultures and conventional monocultures (9± 4%) was significantly smaller than when both treatments were monocultures (17± 3%) or both polycultures (21± 6%). We found a similar result with crop rotations. The yield gap was smaller when the organic system had more rotations (8± 5%) compared with when both treatments had a similar number of rotations (20± 2%) or did not have crop rotations at all (16± 5%). These results also suggest that polyculture and crop rotations increase yields in both organic and conventional cropping systems... 

 

Given that there is such a diversity of management practices used in both organic and conventional farming, a broad-scale comparison of organic and conventional production may not provide the most useful insights for improving management of organic systems. Instead, it might be more productive to investigate explicitly and systematically how specific management practices (e.g. intercrop combinations, crop rotation sequences, composting, biological control, etc.) could be altered in different cropping systems...

 

Historically, research and development of organic cropping systems has been extensively underfunded relative to conventional systems; thus, research priorities would need to shift to provide for this needed work... 

 

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/282/1799/20141396

PDF: http://nature.berkeley.edu/~leithen/pdfs/ponisio_2015_1396.pdf

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

This study finds that organic yields are about 20% lower than conventional yields. (While previous studies found a difference of about 25%.) The authors may have a different frame of reference, but IMHO 20% is still a lot. (I wonder whether the authors would accept a cut of "only 19.2%" in their salaries, if this is such a negligible percentage...) 

 

Also, the authors compare the organic yields achieved with recommended practices (such as crop rotation) versus conventional yields without these practices -- and find that organic yields are (still) about 10% lower. However, such a comparison between best practices here and muddling through there seems a bit disingenuous, a comparison of apples with oranges.

 

And indeed, as the authors report hidden in the text, when both systems follow the same practices, the yield gap is twice as high and conventional farming yields 15-20% more than organic agriculture...

 

The authors imply that organic farming per se is more sustainable ("Although the terms 'organic' and 'sustainable' agriculture are not equivalent, studies of organic agriculture have revealed better performance than conventional systems on some (but not all) sustainability metrics"), without addressing e.g. the question how the much higher land requirements of organic agriculture affects the sustainability of this system? (If yields are 20% lower, then 20% more land is needed to produce the same amount -- or even more land is needed, given that the yield gap for cereal crops, which are cultivated on large areas, is even greater.)

 

The authors suggest that organic farming is lagging behind conventional agriculture because more research has been done for the former. This is an interesting point: 100 years ago most farming was "organic" by default, then research brought synthetic fertiliser, hybrid seeds, and much more -- and conventional agriculture split from "organic" production. So now the suggestion is for researchers to go back to square one (where conventional agriculture was 100 years ago), to help organic agriculture catch up with where conventional agriculture is now?

 

Wouldn't it make more sense to drop the label "organic" and instead promote (research into) more sustainable practices and technologies in "conventional" agriculture? The more so because organic agriculture takes place on only 0.9% of agricultural lands, and it is really only the result of certification based on random criteria (which allows producers to demand a price premium in a niche market) and not, as also the authors acknowledge, an equivalent to sustainable agriculture.

 

Finally, it is unclear how "The Limits of Organic Food Production" should be overcome, i.e. how organic agriculture can maintain its yields if nutrient-rich fertiliser (manure) can no longer be imported from conventional agriculture into organic production (Box 2,  http://www.ifpri.org/gfpr/2013/sustainable-agricultural-intensification).

 

Added: For a related comment also see  http://gmopundit.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/can-organic-farming-feed-world-its.html?m=1

 

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Perceptions of Non-Europeans of Biotechnology in Europe: Bridging the Knowledge Gap - Moualhi &al (2014) - ABDR

Perceptions of Non-Europeans of Biotechnology in Europe: Bridging the Knowledge Gap - Moualhi &al (2014) - ABDR | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Countries around the world are utilising the new tools of modern biotechnology in their national agricultural research and development programmes to enhance food and nutritional security and foster economic growth. While the...debate and controversy on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Europe is widely known, this article sets out to understand to what extent the stakeholders globally are aware of the actual involvement of Europe in GM activity ... surveyed 107 stakeholders from 43 countries from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.


While there is some awareness among global stakeholders on the public acceptance and perception of GMOs in Europe, the survey results indicate that the global stakeholders have limited information and knowledge on R&D programmes, public and private sector engagement, commercial cultivation and management of GMOs in Europe. Bridging this knowledge gap and creating greater awareness among global stakeholders on GMO issues in Europe is critical to reduce the misinformation, misperception and misguided policy implications in the developing world. 


Not only can countries that are considering the utilisation of GM technology learn from decades of experience, successes and mistakes of Europe and the US, but their awareness of European GM policy is also important in relation to international trade. Evidence-based outreach and educational initiatives can play an important role in bridging this knowledge gap and can also help raise trust and confidence of policymakers to make evidence-based informed decisions on the use of GM technology to benefit society... 


There is considerable lack of awareness amongst the stakeholders surveyed on the availability and use of biotechnology products in Europe as well as on the existence of a regulatory body and a commercial sector in Europe. For example, about 40 per cent of the stakeholders indicated that they did not know whether or not European countries grow GMO’s or conducted research field trials, while 10 per cent wrongly assumed that Europe does not grow genetically engineered crops at all... Globally, of the 28 countries that planted GM crops in 2012, five were in Europe...

 

There is a similar knowledge and information gap concerning the consumption of GM food products. Europe is a major importer of GM soybean and GM maize products that provide an important source of protein and feed particularly for livestock... all European countries consume GMOs or products derived from them to some extent... 

 

http://www.ris.org.in/publications/journals/asian-biotechnology-development-review/758.html

 

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What are the socio-economic impacts of genetically modified crops worldwide? A systematic map protocol - Garcia-Yi &al (2014) - Env Evidence

Genetically modified (GM) crops have generated a great deal of controversy. Since commercially introduced to farmers in 1996, the global area cultivated with GM crops has increased 94-fold. The rapid adoption of GM technology has had substantial socio-economic impacts which a vast amount of... literature has addressed in the last two decades... Extensive and transparent reviews concerning this contentious and complex issue could help promote evidence-based dialogue among the diverse parties involved. 

 

This protocol specifies the methodology for identifying, evaluating, and mapping evidence related to the main review question: what are the socio-economic impacts of genetically modified crops worldwide? This question has been subdivided into the following topics: (a) farm-level impacts; (b) impacts of coexistence regulations; (c) impacts along the supply chain; (d) consumer-level impacts; (e) impacts on food security; and (f) environmental economic impacts.


The search strategy includes the identification of primary studies from general scientific databases; global, regional, and national specialist databases; an on-line search engine; institutional websites; journal websites; subject experts/researchers; and serendipity. Searches will be conducted in six languages... Identified studies will be screened for inclusion/exclusion criteria by a group of multi-language reviewers.


Finally, pre-defined data from the studies will be extracted, mapped, and presented in a report. Potential research gaps will be identified and discussed, and the review process will be documented in an open-access database...


http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/2047-2382-3-24

 

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Can Synthetic Biology Sidestep the G.M.O. Backlash? - New Yorker (2014)

Can Synthetic Biology Sidestep the G.M.O. Backlash? - New Yorker (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

On a cold weekend last month, more than two thousand undergraduate scientists took over two levels of Boston’s Hynes Convention Center. Some wore full-body banana costumes, many wore coördinated team sweatshirts, and all appeared sleep-deprived... The occasion was the 2014 iGEM Giant Jamboree, a global contest to design and build novel forms of life. (GEM stands for “genetically engineered machine.”) At the core of the Jamboree was a discipline called synthetic biology.


Whereas developers of genetically modified organisms – herbicide-resistant soybeans, carotene-enriched rice, faster-growing salmon – tweak a plant or an animal’s DNA with genes borrowed from elsewhere in nature, synthetic biologists assemble new gene sequences from scratch. The science has attracted a good deal less press than G.M.O.s, but it has already moved beyond the lab. The Swiss company Evolva, which has designed a strain of yeast that turns sugar into vanillin (rather than the usual mix of alcohol and carbon dioxide), recently partnered with a flavor-and-fragrance multinational to bring the product to market... 

 

At this year’s Jamboree, more than two hundred teams, from universities as far afield as Bandung, Indonesia, and Manaus, Brazil, competed alongside repeat winners such as Heidelberg University and Imperial College London. (The banana-clad team, it turned out, came from Wageningen University, in the Netherlands, and were the creators of Banana Guard, a soil bacteria that excretes antifungals in the presence of the banana pathogen Fusarium oxysporum... 


What will the public make of this new technology? As voters in Colorado and Oregon considered ballot initiatives to require labelling of G.M.O. foods – the Colorado proposal failed, and Oregon’s has just gone to a recount – the hundred and fifteen iGEM judges seemed acutely aware of synthetic biology’s potential image problem. Would the ability to turn hamburger grease into hemp oil be enough to persuade most eaters to release lab-designed flora into their own intestines? 

 

I asked Randy Rettberg, iGEM’s president, about the challenge of getting a skeptical public to embrace new technology. “We used to say we just needed to educate people about the science,” he told me. “We said that if they understood it, they would accept it.” This is a familiar refrain, echoed mournfully by G.M.O. supporters and genetic engineers alike. But, Rettberg continued, as tempting as it is to imagine that simply telling people what’s good for them will change their minds, it doesn’t work. Instead, he explained, “to create an environment where these students can live this future, what we really need to do is involve people.”

 

In practical terms, this meant that the 2014 Jamboree, iGEM’s tenth, was the first to allow entries from so-called community labs – projects run by citizen biologists with no institutional affiliation – and to place an increased emphasis on risk assessments, feasibility studies, and user surveys. It was also the first to incorporate an art-and-design category... Design offered scientists and engineers a different framework through which to think about their work – “to ask disruptive questions and to speculate about possible futures”... By going through the design and production process... teams had been able not only to anticipate problems with their proposed methods but also to consult non-scientists – air-traffic regulators, municipal water-treatment engineers, farmers, and plumbers – and discuss with them how the products might work in practice... 


Randy Rettberg called this year’s experiment with art and design a success. “This competition is a structure to seed the values you want to see in the field,” he said – to develop thoughtful solutions that solve substantive problems with community participation. In other words, the Jamboree, an undergraduate contest to design new biological systems, is itself a method for prototyping the ways in which life will be designed in the future. And, if the organizers get it right, the synthetic life-forms that some of these students create in their professional careers will live up to iGEM’s lofty goals... 

 

http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/can-synthetic-biology-sidestep-the-gmo-backlash

 

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25 years of public research programmes on biosafety: Environmental impacts of genetically modified plants - Federal Ministry of Education and Research (2014)

25 years of public research programmes on biosafety: Environmental impacts of genetically modified plants - Federal Ministry of Education and Research (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it



English summary from p. 9 onwards: 

http://www.bmbf.de/pub/BMBF_zur_biologischen_Sicherheitsforschung.pdf

 

Agricultural cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops and their use in food and feed has been a controversial subject of political and public debate for years... Besides ethical aspects, the public debate has focused on the impacts of plant genetic engineering on humans, animals and the environment.

 

In 1987... in order to bring more objectivity to the GM crops debate and place it on a scientific footing, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) set up a funding programme for biosafety research in the area of GM crops. The aim was to increase our knowledge about the safety aspects of using GM plants... The German government hoped this would create the conditions necessary for the government and the public to assess the opportunities and risks associated with plant genetic engineering impartially and on the basis of scientific facts.

 

Some of the biosafety research projects focused on scientifically plausible objections and fears that have emerged in the public debate about plant genetic engineering. In order to maximise transparency, the ministry organised a fact-based, constructive dialogue process to accompany the research, involving the key stakeholder groups and interested members of the public... the dialogue process succeeded in improving the factual basis and information available, and helped shape public opinion.

 

The results of 25 years of biosafety research show no higher risk to the environment from the cultivation of GM crops than from conventionally bred plants.

 

In view of climate change and population growth and the urgent challenge of providing sufficient food and renewable raw materials for manufacturing and power generation, developing a sustainable, productive agricultural sector is an important government objective. Future BMBF funding programmes will therefore support projects that assess the social, economic and ecological impacts of plant-breeding innovations within specific cultivation systems (e.g. organic or conventional farming), regardless of the breeding method used. This improved knowledge base can be used to develop fact-based decision-making aids for farmers – tools that can help farmers evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of modern plant-breeding methods (including genetic engineering) for the cultivation system in question.

 

To date, the BMBF has invested over 100 million euros in more than 300 projects relating to biological safety research. Of these, more than 140 projects concerned risk assessments of GM plants... The projects selected for BMBF funding were chosen by independent, national and international experts. More than 60 universities and other research institutes took part in the research projects. Besides laboratory experiments, numerous field trials were conducted as part of the funded research projects. Field trials are essential for biosafety research because laboratory and greenhouse experiments cannot fully simulate natural environmental conditions... 

 

The selected plants were developed for agricultural purposes and were intended for use in e.g. food or feed. As such, they do not present any specific negative impacts for the environment compared with conventionally bred plants... So far, the projects have not found any scientific evidence that GM plants per se present a higher risk than conventionally bred crop plants... 

 

English summary from p. 9 onwards: 
http://www.bmbf.de/pub/BMBF_zur_biologischen_Sicherheitsforschung.pdf

 

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School masters about their canteens: "I often think I wouldn't eat that" - Spiegel (2014)

[Machine translated and only slightly edited.]

Too much sausage and chips, too few vegetables: school cafeterias could offer better food, says Minister Schmidt – and at the same price. Is that right? Schools and caterers tell how it really is. On average, primary schools receive from the students' parents 2.83 € per meal, in secondary schools it is 3 Euros...

Rainer Bothe, 51, caterer from Hamburg: "I do not make a cent profit... I would only do that if I saved on the food. But that I do not want to do. I use 60 percent organic products, everything is freshly prepared, without ready-made sauces. For a meal I get 3.50 EUR, 2.94 EUR after taxes remain with me. Of this I have to pay not only the ingredients, but also my staff... the rent for my three kitchens... and the cost of 20 vehicles for delivering. For the food itself remain only 1.20 Euro" ...

http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http://www.spiegel.de/schulspiegel/schulessen-forderungen-nach-besserem-mittagessen-unrealistisch-a-1005504.html

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

So there's not enough money to provide school kids with a proper, healthy and nutritious meal – and what do caterers spend the money on?! On 60% organic food!

 

If they wouldn't spend the little money they get on overpriced organic ingredients (that do not have any added health or nutritive value), the money would stretch a little further – and perhaps help give the kids food that's really healthy and nutrition, like more fruit & veggies...

 

As it is, the lifestyle choices of an affluent minority and the marketing efforts of a high-margin niche industry cause our kids to be poorly fed.

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Public funded field trials with transgenic plants in Europe: a comparison between Germany and Switzerland - Nausch &al (2016) - Current Opinion in Biotechnol

Public funded field trials with transgenic plants in Europe: a comparison between Germany and Switzerland - Nausch &al (2016) - Current Opinion in Biotechnol | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Field trails are indispensable for the scientific analysis of risks and potential benefits of genetically modified plants. The dramatic reduction of field trials in the European Union (EU) coincides with increasing safety demands, decreases in funding, and changes in the European directives. In parallel, opposition from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has grown, and public acceptance has decreased.

 

The cultivation of events approved by the EU is still allowed in principle, nevertheless, at least in Germany, there is a de facto moratorium on cultivation. In Switzerland, where development was much more hesitant compared to Germany, field trials are now possible, and a protected site has been established by the government. Public acceptance for scientific trials in Switzerland has risen, despite the continued moratorium on the cultivation based on a referendum. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.copbio.2014.12.023

 

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Heterogeneity of Property Rights Strategies in A Global Context: The Case of Genetically Modified Soybean Seeds - Monteiro &al (2015) - Global Strategy J

Heterogeneity of Property Rights Strategies in A Global Context: The Case of Genetically Modified Soybean Seeds - Monteiro &al (2015) - Global Strategy J | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The protection of property rights is a pressing strategic issue in the genetically modified soybean seed industry. Because the soybean plant is characterized by self-reproducibility, it is essential for biotechnology firms to establish strategies of property rights appropriation. To obtain new insights into this issue... we analyze three cases of property rights protection with respect to soybean seeds... 


In the U.S., biotechnology firms design strategic mechanisms based on the establishment of technology licensing contracts in addition to using the legal system. To characterize this protection strategy, we first describe the U.S. regulatory framework that governs the protection of biotechnology innovations in agriculture. Then, we examine the collection of royalties on GM soybean seeds... 


In Brazil, biotechnology companies found a way to collect royalties even where the institutional environment is weak. The solution involves the construction of two distinct governance structures: the introduction of contracts in the Southern region of Brazil and the issuance of payment slips in the country's Midwest. In the following, we present a historical analysis of property rights on plants in Brazil and investigate the economic rationale that guides the collection of royalties on GM soybean seeds... 


The fundamental characteristic of the regulatory framework in Argentina is recurring change in the institutional structure. Moreover, from 2000 to 2004... a severe economic crisis... resulted in an abandonment of government oversight over property rights on plants... Such unstable dynamics increase the possibility of abuse of delegated discretion by farmers and hinders the establishment of efforts by firms to protect property rights. Perhaps more importantly, companies that operate in Argentina have difficulties claiming patent protection for new varieties of plants or genetically modified organisms. The weakness of the institutional environment – both in terms of the institutional instability and in terms of the absence of an effective patent system – implies that the misappropriation of property rights on biotechnological innovations tends to be high in Argentina. As a result, firms protect property rights through private efforts. When the private protection is too costly, firms may abandon valuable attributes in the public domain... 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/gsj.1091

 

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GM rice commercialization and its impact on the global rice economy - Durand-Morat &al (2015) - AgEcon

Genetically-modified (GM) rice is an important technology surrounded with controversy and uncertainty, hence it warrants more in-depth analysis... This study assesses the impacts of GM rice commercialization on the global rice market... Scenarios of adoption, diffusion and acceptance of Bt rice by Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, and the Philippines are compared against baseline projections.

 

The results focus on world trade, world and domestic prices, resource savings, domestic production, consumption, and stocks. Bt rice adoption has the potential to significantly impact the global and national rice economies... the adoption of Bt rice in selected importing countries will generate significant import substitution effects that will ameliorate the substantial expansion in international trade forecasted over the next decade... China might substitute over 85% of its imports by 2023... 

 

Consumers worldwide are expected to benefit from lower prices as a result of the adoption of Bt rice, primarily those from adopting countries... At the global level, impacts are for the most part marginal except for the international reference price, which is estimated to decrease by 6% a year as a result of the Bt rice adoption rates and yield gains...

 

Lagging in Bt rice adoption can have significant welfare costs as estimated for the case of Nigeria. This provides the incentive for countries to keep up with the leaders in adopting new
technologies.

 

http://purl.umn.edu/196979

 

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GM crops to be fast-tracked in UK following EU vote - EurActiv (2015)

GM crops to be fast-tracked in UK following EU vote - EurActiv (2015) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

GM crops could be speedily brought to the UK market after MEPs voted to allow countries to choose whether to grow the crops... The new EU law, which comes into force this spring, will allow states to cultivate GM crops that have already been approved by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa). 

 

According to... the UK’s head of GM policy and regulation... “new applications should be approved much more quickly than has been the case until now”... The Liberal Democrat... welcomed the new rules... “We are keeping strict safeguards in place but the decision on whether or not to grow approved genetically modified crops is being returned to national governments... This will give us a stronger legal framework in which countries, farmers and scientists can work” ... The Labour party also views biotechnology as a way to strengthen the UK’s food chain and reduce environmental damage... 

The chair of Efsa’s GMO panel... said that its 20 academic experts would provide a stringent regulatory buffer against any threat to the environment or human health. “Half a billion European consumers can be assured that when an opinion declares food from a GM crop plant to be safe, it can be consumed with confidence... The current delay in approvals to import and cultivate GM crops within the EU is due to political disagreements, not due to disagreements over the quality of the risk assessments” ... 

The new law does allow governments to opt out of GM cultivation either by negotiating with the firms for a territorial exclusion, which the companies may refuse, or by imposing national bans on single crops – which the companies can challenge... 


http://www.euractiv.com/sections/agriculture-food/gm-crops-be-fast-tracked-uk-following-eu-vote-311313

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

“European consumers can be assured that when an opinion declares food from a GM crop plant to be safe, it can be consumed with confidence... The current delay in approvals... is due to political disagreements, not due to disagreements over the quality of the risk assessments”

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Impact of insect-resistant GM rice on pesticide use and farmers’ health in China - Huang &al (2015) - Sci China Life Sci

Impact of insect-resistant GM rice on pesticide use and farmers’ health in China - Huang &al (2015) - Sci China Life Sci | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The economic benefits of insect-resistant genetically modified (GM) crops have been well documented, but the impact of such crops and the consequent reduction in pesticide use on farmers’ health remains largely unknown. Through the analysis of the data collected from the physical examination from farmers in China, we show that GM rice significantly reduces pesticide use and the resultant not only visible but also invisible adverse effects on farmers’ neurological, hematological, and electrolyte system. Hence, the commercialization of GM rice is expected to improve the health of farmers in developing countries, where pesticide application is necessary to mitigate crop loss... 

 

This study shows that commercialization of GM rice may reduce pesticide use by more than 2/3. This equals a national pesticide reduction of more than 196,000 t, or about 6 billion RMB, annually). More importantly, this study provides new evidence on the benefits of GM technology to the health of farmers. It should be noted that 8% of rice farmers still suffer from acute pesticide-related poisoning. According to the national statistics, the average pesticide level per hm2 for cash crops is even higher than that of rice, and there are more than 200 million farming households in China. Thus, the estimated 16 million farmers who suffer acute poisoning illnesses each year can benefit from the use of GM technology and the consequent reduction in pesticide exposure.

 

More importantly, this study provides empirical new evidences on the benefits of GM technology to farmers’ health. Our results show that GM technologies such as GM rice can significantly improve farmers’ health through avoiding incidence of pesticide-related illness (or visible effect) and invisible short time effects on farmers’ neurological system, hematological system and blood electrolytes. While most of the effects observed in this study are short-term (e.g., invisible effects within 24 h), farmers spray pesticides many times during the entire crop-growing season. It follows that frequent short-term effects may affect the long-term health of farmers... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11427-014-4768-1

 

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AckerbauHalle's curator insight, January 15, 12:41 AM

Verminderung des Einsatzes von Pflanzenschutzmitteln durch GVO Reis

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Exploring antecedents of healthy food choices: Label information - Dharni & Gupta (2015) - Int J Con Stud

Exploring antecedents of healthy food choices: Label information - Dharni & Gupta (2015) - Int J Con Stud | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Label information on food items is seen as a tool to facilitate better choices. Merely, provision of label information may not lead to the desired outcome. Comprehension and processing of label information during consumer decision making is crucial... Label reading does not amount to label use. Findings... suggest that comprehension of label information leads to increase in its perceived usefulness. Further, increased perceived usefulness facilitates better food choice... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ijcs.12156

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Just labelling something does not necessarily help consumers. 

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Insect-resistant transgenic crops: retrospect and challenges - Bakhsh &al (2015) - Turkish J Ag Forest (pdf)

The advent of genetic engineering has revolutionized agriculture remarkably with the development of superior insect-resistant crop varieties harboring resistance against insect pests. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) has been used as a main source for insect-resistant genes. In addition to Bt endotoxins, various plant lectins and other non-Bt genes from different sources have also been introduced in crop plants of economic importance. The insect-resistant crops have made a huge economic impact worldwide since their commercial release. The cultivation of insect-resistant cultivars has resulted both in increased crop productivity and in decreased environmental pollution.


Although insect-resistant crops have been allowed to be commercialized following proper biosafety guidelines and procedures, still these crops face many challenges in order to be fully adopted and accepted... Although no concrete evidence regarding any significant hazard of genetically engineered crops has been presented... the debate still remains intense. Impartial and professionally competent regulatory mechanisms for the evaluation of insect-resistant and other transgenic crops must be fully functionalized... 


The increasing world population, to reach 9.7 billion in 2050, is a true challenge for the scientific community. We cannot feed tomorrow’s population with yesterday’s technology. Therefore, we cannot ignore the huge potential of transgenic technology to enhance the food supply for an increasing population. Following proper biosafety guidelines, integration of modern technologies to develop insect-resistant crops in conventional breeding methods and their economic benefits downstream are quite promising for the future of agriculture. 


http://journals.tubitak.gov.tr/havuz/tar-1408-69.pdf



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Will the Public Ever Accept Genetically Engineered Plants? - Broer (2014) - Springer

Will the Public Ever Accept Genetically Engineered Plants? - Broer (2014) - Springer | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Compared to transgenic herbicide- or insect-resistant plants, pathogen-resistant ones are rarely found in the field. There are several economic reasons for this, but an additional cause is the scientific and public debate about potential risks and a low attractiveness for consumers to buy these plants and their products.

 

This paper gives a short overview of traits theoretically available or already on the market and describes the concerns raised that reduce their market opportunity. Finally it proposes solutions on how to proceed in the future to allow a rational dealing with the technology...

 

There seem to be several reasons for the minimal use of transgenic pathogen resistant plants in the world. In many countries, economic concerns might be of most importance. In Europe, political and public concerns are dominant while scientific concerns seem to matter less...

Public acceptance is a prerequisite for the cultivation. This seems only achievable when there is an advantage for the consumer that is directly obvious, which unfortunately seems to be not the case for ecological advantages...

 

It is unrealistic to think that there will be transgenic pathogen resistant plants on the market in Europe in 10 or even 20 years. Here, scientists should prepare for the time when cultivation of transgenic plants will be needed and possible too, since it takes more than 20 years from the first idea to a safety assessed transgenic variety ready for the market. This is only possible if field trials can be conducted...

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-08575-3_16

 

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Sustainable replacement of South American soybean meal by European protein proves difficult - Wageningen UR (2014)

Sustainable replacement of South American soybean meal by European protein proves difficult - Wageningen UR (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Replacement of soybean meal of South-American origin in a starter pig diet by European protein sources currently in most cases does not decrease the Carbon Footprint (CFP). Innovations are required to reduce the CFP of European proteins. This is concluded by a sustainability analysis performed by Wageningen UR... in cooperation with ... a Dutch NGO... the Dutch feed industry... and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.

 

Imported soybean meal from South-America currently is one of the most important protein sources in animal feed. There is an increasing demand for protein sources of European origin. The sustainability of the alternative protein sources, in comparison to the current situation based on imported soybean meal, is an important question for the feed industry. To investigate this, a study was performed to determine the sustainability of a number of European protein sources... 

 

For this study, the following ingredients are selected: soybean meal cultivated in The Netherlands and in Ukraine, sunflowerseed meal, poultry meat meal, DDGS (Distillers Dried Grains with Solubles), meal worms, algae protein, and single cell proteins. Based on data... the nutritional value and CFP of the ingredients is determined. The ingredients are involved in the feed optimization of a starter pig diet, thereby maintaining the nutritional values of the diet. Subsequently, the CFP of the starter diet is calculated, with and without the contribution of “land use and land use change” (Luluc).

 

The CFP of the starter diet containing South-American soybean meal is considered as reference value. The different scenarios were calculated according to the principles of the called ‘attributional LCA’ approach, which does not take the displacement effects into account. Additional, three scenarios are worked out according to the principles of a ‘consequential LCA’, in which displacement effects are considered.

 

The most important conclusions... Only two options... are able to replace soybean meal from South-American origin... without increasing the CFP of the diet... all other scenarios result in an increase of the CFP of the diet.

 

Innovations are required to reduce the CFP of European proteins... aquatic proteins, e.g. seaweed and algae, lay a limited claim on consisting farmland, and therefore, the development of these cultivations can contribute to the increase of the European protein production. Insects are able to convert low value protein into higher value protein, and therefore insects can have a valuable contribution to the European protein supply. The conversion of low valuable proteins to insect protein, however, means an additional link in the food chain. This means the occurrence of inevitable losses, thereby increasing the CFP.

 

For further reducing the carbon footprint of EU protein sources, it is required that these crops will be produced more efficiently. Therefore, more attention should be given to breeding and improving of management conditions, resulting in a higher yield per hectare. The development of more efficient drying techniques is required, resulting in reduction of the carbon footprint of products that originates from wet processes (e.g. DDGS and aquatic proteins).

 

http://www.wageningenur.nl/en/newsarticle/Sustainable-replacement-of-South-American-soybean-meal-by-European-protein-proves-difficult.htm

 

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Why Did Vitamins Disappear From Non-GMO Breakfast Cereal? - NPR (2014)

Why Did Vitamins Disappear From Non-GMO Breakfast Cereal? - NPR (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Remember when Cheerios and Grape-Nuts went GMO-free? That was about a year ago, when their corporate creators announced that these products would no longer contain ingredients made from genetically modified organisms like common types of corn, soybeans or sugar beets.

 

When they actually arrived on supermarket shelves, though, there was a mysterious change in their list of ingredients. Four vitamins that previously had been added to Grape-Nuts – Vitamins A, D, B-12 and B-2 (also known as riboflavin) – were gone. Riboflavin vanished from Cheerios. Wayne Parrott, a professor of crop science... criticized General Mills and Post Foods for marketing their non-GMO cereals as especially wholesome. "The new version [of Cheerios] is certainly less nutritious"... 

 

Recently... as we interviewed scientists who are using genetically altered yeast and bacteria to make nutrients and flavors, we recalled the strange case of the vanishing vitamins. We wondered: Do GMO microbes make vitamins, too? Is that why they can't be used in non-GMO cereals? The companies directly involved weren't terribly helpful... 

 

We dug further and discovered that vitamins may fail the non-GMO test for a variety of reasons. Some companies are most likely making vitamin B-12 and riboflavin using genetically modified microbes; they have, at least, published scientific papers showing how this can be done. On the other hand, these vitamins don't necessarily come from GMO microbes. There are strains of bacteria that produce these vitamins naturally. Yet even such microbes may not qualify for non-GMO status, because... vitamin-makers have to show that their microbes consumed feed... that came from non-GMO sources. 

 

There's a further complication. Some vitamins have to be mixed with other substances, such as cornstarch, to handle them easily. Can't prove that the cornstarch was free of genetic modification? Sorry, no non-GMO certification from the Non GMO Project, an independent organization... It is still possible to find non-GMO vitamins, she says. Increasingly, you can get them from China. But it requires additional time and attention. Big cereal manufacturers... may find it easier just to drop vitamins from the recipe... 

 

That leaves one method of vitamin production that's cheap, industrial-scale, and reliably non-GMO: synthetic chemistry. Vitamins are commonly manufactured from scratch in chemical factories, using ingredients that cannot be linked to any genes or biological process at all. That technology may not inspire great affection, but it does, at least, qualify as non-GMO. 

 

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/12/05/368248812/why-did-vitamins-disappear-from-non-gmo-breakfast-cereal

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The Yield of Plant Variety Protection - Thomson (2014) - AJAE

The prospects for plant variety protection to deliver improved varieties of self-pollinating crops is assessed using the experience of the Australian wheat breeding sector as a natural experiment. The analysis is based on detailed new data on the agronomic performance of all wheat varieties released by Australian breeders between 1976 and 2011.


The results indicate that plant variety protection, and associated reforms, led to a substantial fall in breeder output. Qualitative evidence indicates that this was caused by a combination of fewer research spillovers, lower release standards, and a possible fall in total investment in breeding.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ajae/aau099

 

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Limits of the current EU regulatory framework on GMOs: risk of not authorized GM event-traces in imports - Roiz (2014) - OCL

Limits of the current EU regulatory framework on GMOs: risk of not authorized GM event-traces in imports - Roiz (2014) - OCL | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Since their first commercialization in the 1990’s, the number of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) cultivated around the world has steadily increased. This development has been accompanied by the development of regulatory and policy environments which vary from one country to another.


Today, the European food and feed sectors are faced with the increasing risk of finding traces of not authorized GMOs in imports. Under the EU zero tolerance for unapproved GMOs, this situation may lead to trade disruptions with important cost implications. A regulatory environment which minimizes the risk of such disruption is therefore indispensable.


To address this issue, the EU has adopted the “technical solution” but this remains insufficient to provide the necessary legal certainty which is needed to operate in such context... 


Incidents related to traces of not authorized GM material into imports have occurred in the past. So far, the EU food and feed business operators have been trying to secure their supplies by minimizing the risks involved with the trading of commodities. But with the increased planting and harvesting of GMOs around the world, the probability of having a non-authorized event showing up in supplies is going to intensify, despite the precautions taken.

 

In this context, the current EU regulatory framework does not provide the legal certainty which is necessary for the EU food and feed sectors to operate. The absence of technical solution for food leaves the food operators increasingly exposed to face enormous financial losses due to non compliant shipments.

 

While countries around the world discuss and consider how to address low level presence of unapproved GMOs with practical solution in a view to maintain sourcing of raw materials, the political sensitivity of the GM issue in the EU is preventing non-emotional analysis and search for solution to anticipate trade disruptions.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/ocl/2014037

 

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Using modern plant breeding to improve the nutritional and technological qualities of oil crops - Murphy (2014) - OCL

Using modern plant breeding to improve the nutritional and technological qualities of oil crops - Murphy (2014) - OCL | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The last few decades have seen huge advances in our understanding of plant biology and in the development of new technologies for the manipulation of crop plants. 


The application of relatively straightforward breeding and selection methods made possible the “Green Revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s that effectively doubled or trebled cereal production in much of the world and averted mass famine in Asia. 


During the 2000s, much attention has been focused on genomic approaches to plant breeding with the deployment of a new generation of technologies, such as marker-assisted selection, next-generation sequencing, transgenesis (genetic engineering or GM) and automatic mutagenesis/selection (TILLING, TargetIng Local Lesions IN Genomes). 


These methods are now being applied to a wide range of crops and have particularly good potential for oil crop improvement in terms of both overall food and non-food yield and nutritional and technical quality of the oils. 


Key targets include increasing overall oil yield and stability... and very high oleic acid content in seed and fruit oils for both premium edible and oleochemical applications. Other more specialised targets include oils enriched in nutritionally desirable “fish oil”-like fatty acids... or increased levels of lipidic vitamins such as carotenoids, tocopherols and tocotrienes.


Progress in producing such oils in commercial crops has been good in recent years with several varieties being released or at advanced stages of development.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/ocl/2014038

 

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