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Cognitive Biases in the Assimilation of Scientific Information on Global Warming and Genetically Modified Food - McFadden & Lusk (2014) - AgEcon Search

The ability of scientific knowledge to contribute to public debate about societal risks depends on how the public assimilates information resulting from the scientific community...


The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of prior beliefs on assimilation of scientific information and test several hypotheses about the manner in which people process scientific information on genetically modified food and global warming.


Results indicated that assimilation of information is dependent on prior beliefs and that the failure to update beliefs... is a result of several factors including: misinterpreting information, illusionary correlations, selectively scrutinizing information, information-processing problems, knowledge, political affiliation, and cognitive function... 


As world population increases, so does the need for innovation and increased agricultural productivity. However, agricultural innovators and producers may be limited by consumer aversion to crop and food technology. The future is also uncertain because of challenges presented by global warming, and although ample disagreement exists on which policies are best pursued, the issues is confounded by public dispute over the state of knowledge on the subject.


The ability of scientists, and for scientific knowledge, to contribute to these pressing problems depends on how the public assimilates information resulting from the scientific community. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of prior beliefs on assimilation of scientific information and test several hypotheses about the manner in which people process scientific information on genetically modified food and global warming...


We found... that a prior belief clearly affects how people assimilate information... Results suggest that the extent to which new information is adopted depends on the extent to which it conforms to prior belief... The results here confirmed that people suffering from confirmation bias do indeed misinterpret information, and suggest that people conserving a prior belief misinterpret information...

 

Future research may provide more insights into the kinds of information that are likely to be most influential. In the present study, only declarative scientific information was provided from top scientific organizations. Stories, emotional appeals, or alternative formatting may have more pronounced effects on how people update prior beliefs.

 

http://purl.umn.edu/162532

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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 6:05 AM
I admit I haven't read this list... but for future reference, I'll definitely have a look.
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The 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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A chasm of misunderstanding - Hunter (2014) - EMBO

A chasm of misunderstanding - Hunter (2014) - EMBO | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The gulf between public perception and scientific consensus seems to be widening in a number of key areas with significant consequences for policy, funding and research. The science of climate change has featured prominently in this context, but profound gaps are also evident in some areas of the life sciences, including genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and risk assessment in medicine.

 

Public acceptance and trust in science has not been helped by several high‐profile cases of fraud, deliberate falsification and the withholding of clinical trial data, some cases of which have had significant public health consequences. These have happened at a time when science is reaching ever more deeply into the lives of citizens with the rapid rise of ‘omics’ technologies, which are changing not only the life sciences, but also public health through personal DNA tests... 

 

A similar factor that can skew the public’s perception of scientific expertise is the suspicion that research is driven by vested interests, which has been a major issue in the debate about GM crops, especially in Europe... The public opposition to GM crops continues, despite the lack of evidence of environmental harm, even in places where GM plants have been grown extensively... [There is] consistent lobbying of government and the public by environmental groups opposed to the research, whose claims are aided by the attitude and approach of the GM industry... 


"The anti-GM movement has operated on a wide front and it has been successful, in part, because... They have targeted industrial agriculture because they see that it has unfortunate side effects... Many of these side effects are real, but GM has failed to present itself as a solution, even though it could be. In the eyes of the anti-GM people, the new technology reinforces the problems”.

 

The anti-GM movement has therefore supported what Baulcombe calls the dysfunctional regulatory process, because it is very effective at suppressing the introduction of new crops. “This strategy has a feedback component because the only organizations able to bear the regulatory cost are the large multinational companies...  [Agricultural policymakers] have failed to find a strategy for diversity in agricultural economy in which there is managed coexistence of ecological and industrial agricultural systems that exploits the best of both”... 

 

"The argument in favour of GM crops will gradually win out, simply because of the benefits... emerging traits are so useful—disease-resistant potato for example. I suspect that GM rice in China is the threshold—it has been developed and tested and will influence global perception when it is introduced”...  


Scientists needto understand their role in communicating research to the public and the consequences of their behaviour, and the public need to be helped to understand that scientific evidence is rarely one hundred per cent conclusive and that policy judgements have to be

made on the basis of probabilities, rather than irrefutable facts.. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.15252/embr.201439041

 

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Gains to species diversity in organically farmed fields are not propagated at the farm level - Schneider &al (2014) - Nature Communications

Gains to species diversity in organically farmed fields are not propagated at the farm level - Schneider &al (2014) - Nature Communications | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Organic farming is promoted to reduce environmental impacts of agriculture, but surprisingly little is known about its effects at the farm level, the primary unit of decision making. Here we report the effects of organic farming on species diversity at the field, farm and regional levels by sampling plants, earthworms, spiders and bees in 1470 fields of 205 randomly selected organic and nonorganic farms in twelve European and African regions... Average gains are marginal +4.6% at the farm and +3.1% at the regional level, even in intensive arable regions. Additional, targeted measures are therefore needed to fulfil the commitment of organic farming to benefit farmland biodiversity... 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms5151

 

The number of habitats on the land plays an important role alongside the type and intensity of farming practices... The study shows that even organic farms have to actively support biodiversity by, for example, conserving different habitats on their holdings... If types of field boundaries such as grass verges or hedges were included in the comparison, the difference between organic and non-organic decreases... There was little difference in the total number of species on the farms... The occurrence of rare or threatened species did not increase on organic farms... 

 

To increase the number of habitats, the authors of the study recommend adding structural elements, such as woods, grass verges and fallow land, to farms. "Surprisingly, viewed across all regions, we did not find a higher number of natural habitats on organic farms than non-organic farms"... "The results of the study underline the importance of maintaining and expanding natural landscape features"... If these additional habitats are different to the rest of the farm, for example hedges in grassland farms or herbaceous strips in arable farms, they have a huge impact on the biodiversity of a farm.


http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-06/tum-oab062614.php


Alexander J. Stein's insight:

So what matters for biodiversity is not organic vs. conventional but whether or not the farmer cares about it or not; organic certification does not guarantee that the food is produced in a way that increases biodiversity...

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U.S. says science should settle farm debates in trade deal with EU - Reuters (2014)

U.S. says science should settle farm debates in trade deal with EU - Reuters (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

A planned EU/U.S. trade deal should sweep away "non-scientific barriers" to U.S. sales of many genetically modified crops and some chemically treated meats in Europe, the U.S. agriculture secretary said... 

 

The two sides aim to create the world's largest free-trade pact, whose advocates say it could boost their economies by $100 billion a year each. But after a year of talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), agriculture is emerging as one of the most difficult areas. 

 

The European Union has ruled out importing meat from animals injected with hormones and said that it will not simply open the door to GM crops. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said both sides should have the common goal of opening markets and eliminating "non-scientific barriers". "Science is a common language ... We will be working towards making sure that whatever agreements are reached, they are consistent with sound science," he told a media briefing...


In the case of GM crops, the EU has cleared for import some 50 of about 450 commercial strains. The bloc takes in about 30 million tonnes a year for its cattle, pigs and poultry, but EU retailers hardly stock any GM food because of widespread consumer resistance.

Vilsack said it was not acceptable that it took four years or more for GM strains to gain access to European markets after winning clearance from the European Food Safety Authority. That compared with a U.S. norm of about 18 months.

 

The United States is demanding the regulatory process be harmonised... Vilsack said the U.S. government was very concerned about suggestions that GM products posed a safety risk, which he said was not borne out by science. Labelling, suggested by some in Europe, would not be a solution, he said... Insisting on a label indicating a foodstuff contained a GM product risked sending a wrong impression that this was a safety issue... 

 

Vilsack said the European Union should also rethink its current bans on chlorine-washed chicken and beef from cattle raised with growth hormones... the chlorine treatment was a safe way of reducing pathogens... 


http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/17/uk-eu-usa-trade-idUSKBN0ES1G920140617


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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, 9:24 AM

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, 9:51 AM

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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Scientific Opinion on genetically modified oilseed rape MON 88302 - EFSA (2014)

Scientific Opinion on genetically modified oilseed rape MON 88302 - EFSA (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Oilseed rape MON 88302 was developed... [for] tolerance to glyphosate. The molecular characterisation... did not raise safety issues. Agronomic and phenotypic characteristics of oilseed rape MON 88302 tested under field conditions revealed no biologically relevant differences...

 

No differences in the compositional data requiring further safety assessment were identified. There were no concerns regarding the potential toxicity and allergenicity of the newly expressed... protein, and no evidence that the genetic modification might significantly change the overall allergenicity of oilseed rape MON 88302. The nutritional value of oilseed rape MON 88302 is not expected to differ...


There are no indications of an increased likelihood of spread and establishment of feral oilseed rape MON 88302 plants or hybridising wild relatives, unless these plants are exposed to glyphosate. It is unlikely that the observed difference in days-to-first flowering would lead to any relevant increase in persistence or invasiveness... The post-market environmental monitoring plan is in line with the intended uses...


In conclusion, the EFSA GMO Panel considers that the information available addresses the scientific requirements of the EFSA GMO Panel and the scientific comments raised by the Member States, and that oilseed rape MON 88302, as described in this application, is as safe as its conventional counterpart and non-GM commercial oilseed rape varieties with respect to potential effects on human and animal health and the environment... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.2903/j.efsa.2014.3701

 

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Govt plans to introduce genetically modified cotton - Daily Star (2014)

Govt plans to introduce genetically modified cotton - Daily Star (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The government plans to introduce a genetically modified variety of cotton to scale up production of the key textiles raw material and meet rising demand, the agriculture minister said... “Bangladesh wants to introduce genetically modified Bt cotton within a short time, as it did in the case of Bt brinjals, so the country can double its production and farmers have additional income"... 


The government has already introduced a bio-safety rule for the introduction of genetically modified organic crops... "We are eager to expand production but we will have to find suitable land first, so farmers don't give up rice cultivation for cotton farming"... 

 

Genetically modified cotton, which has already been introduced in China, South Africa and India is said to have strong immunity against pests and herbicide, better productivity and greater fibre elasticity.
Millions of farmers around the cotton producing countries have gained significant socioeconomic and environmental benefits as well as advantages in health protection as a result of growing of Bt cotton.

 

Cotton is the second biggest cash crop after jute in Bangladesh. However, its production has failed to keep pace with growth of the textiles sector. A leading consumer, Bangladesh requires about 4.5 million bales of cotton every year to feed the country's textiles industry. However, the country produces only 150,000 bales of cotton, which is around 3 percent of demand, making local textile industries heavily reliant on imports...

 

Kamal Uddin, executive director of BARC, said Bangladesh would be unable to make its cotton production sustainable without research. The three-day meeting aims to create an opportunity for cotton scientists and experts from the public and private sectors in Asia to share their experience, views and ideas for development of the research network among the cotton growing countries in the continent... 


http://www.thedailystar.net/business/govt-plans-to-introduce-genetically-modified-cotton-29197


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The ‘super’ banana for healthy levels of vitamin A - WaPo (2014)

The ‘super’ banana for healthy levels of vitamin A - WaPo (2014) | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

In half of the world’s countries, vitamin A deficiency is a scourge that leaves disease and death in its wake. Every year, it inflicts between 250,000 and 500,000 helpless and malnourished young people with early-life blindness. And in half of those cases, it also brings death... 

 

Scientists are now working to genetically engineer “super” bananas that are fortified with crucial alpha- and beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A... “Good science can make a massive difference here by enriching staple crops such as Ugandan bananas with pro-vitamin A and providing poor and subsistence-farming populations with nutritionally rewarding food.”

 

Some of the genetically modified cooking bananas are being sent to the United States for their first human trial; scientists aim to have them growing in Uganda by 2020... Lab tests in gerbils have been successful... But in order for the crops to be planted in Uganda, the country’s legislature has to approve a bill allowing genetically modified crops. It is currently in the committee phase...

 

“In West Africa farmers grow plantain bananas and the same technology could easily be transferred to that variety as well... This project has the potential to have a huge positive impact on staple food products across much of Africa and in so doing lift the health and well-being of countless millions of people over generations.”


http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2014/06/17/the-super-banana-that-fights-for-truth-justice-and-healthy-levels-of-vitamin-a/


Alexander J. Stein's insight:

The title of the original article -- "The 'super' banana that fights for truth, justice and healthy levels of vitamin A" -- is yet another example of how journalists' hyperbole can be completely off track and, unfortunately, even do damage to a promising cause: Bananas rich in provitamin A can do a lot to improve levels of vitamin A, but how do they fight for truth and justice? Suggesting so much will only open the door to subsequent accusations that such crops are nothing but empty promises. 

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