Ag Biotech News
33.1K views | +0 today
Follow
Ag Biotech News
Scoops on GMOs, agricultural biotech, innovation, breeding, crop protection, and related info (not necessarily endorsements). CLICK on the titles to get to the full, original, and possibly hyperlinked versions!
Your new post is loading...
Your new post is loading...
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

The Interface Between Trade and Technology Policies - Anderson (2016) - Springer

The Interface Between Trade and Technology Policies - Anderson (2016) - Springer | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Concerns that products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) may be unsafe as food or animal feed, or may harm the environment, have led European countries to procrastinate on approving their production or use despite no evidence of their harm. 


This policy stance, which has discouraged many developing countries from adopting too, is unfortunate because modeling results show that GM crops offer welfare gains that could alleviate poverty and food insecurity directly, substantially, and relatively rapidly in countries willing to allow adoption of this new biotechnology. 


The stakes in this issue are very high because the prospective gains from this new technology will increase as climate change proceeds and requires adaptation by farmers to warming and to increased weather volatility and higher costs of irrigation water.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-46925-0_7


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

After A Sour Decade, Florida Citrus May Be Near A Comeback - NPR (2016) 

After A Sour Decade, Florida Citrus May Be Near A Comeback - NPR (2016)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

In Florida, oranges are so important that they're on the state's license plates. But after 11 years of fighting a debilitating disease, Florida's citrus industry is in a sad state. The disease, called citrus greening, is caused by a bacterium that constricts a tree's vascular system, shriveling fruit and eventually killing the tree. The bacterium is spread by a tiny insect called a psyllid.

Florida's signature orange crop is now less than a third of what it was 20 years ago because of this disease... But, at Florida's Citrus Research and Education Center, researchers are now optimistic they'll win the battle to save Florida oranges, thanks in part to recent advances in developing tougher varieties of citrus... 

One tree that stands out. Unlike the others, it's full of fruit and looks healthy. He says, "Our growers wanted to call this variety 'Bingo.'" It's a small mandarin orange variety, seedless and easy-to-peel, that was developed over years using painstaking conventional breeding... It's one of a few varieties of greening-tolerant citrus that are beginning to provide short-term answers for growers while scientists look for a long-term solution... 

One short term solution that's working is physically protecting the plants from the disease vector... The screened enclosure has shown growers a simple and effective way to protect citrus trees from greening. "It's been a hundred percent successful so far of excluding the psyllid and the disease... We expect it to be a long-term protection system that works"... 

He unlocks the door to one of his massive screened greenhouses. We're immediately buffeted by fans. They're part of a system that makes sure bugs, like the disease carrying psyllids don't get in. Inside, the sun filters through the enclosure's fine mesh screens. There are ten acres of mandarin oranges here.

Because it requires a big capital investment, growing under screens is an option just for farmers who raise fruit that's sold fresh in supermarkets and farm stands. That leaves out the majority of Florida growers whose crop goes to orange juice... 

For growers, some of the best news in the battle against citrus greening is coming, not from the groves, but from research labs... Researchers are using cutting edge technology to develop citrus varieties resistant to the disease... making progress with the gene editing system, CRISPR, which allows scientists to tinker with targeted pieces of DNA... that they can manipulate to make trees resistant to greening... 

Already used CRISPR technology to produce plants resistant to another citrus disease... "a genome-modified plant... written against Canker." It's another disease that brought big headaches to citrus growers, but it's effects paled in comparison to the devastation caused by greening... 


Dundee is one of Florida's oldest grower cooperatives... With greening, the co-op has lost growers. Packing houses and juice plants have closed as the size of Florida's crop dropped by two-thirds. But after years of shrinking crops and growing despair... the new developments have returned hope to the citrus industry... 


http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/12/04/503183540/after-a-sour-decade-florida-citrus-may-be-near-a-comeback


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

Genetically modified bananas: To mitigate food security concerns - Ghag & Ganapathi (2016) - Sci Hort

Genetically modified bananas: To mitigate food security concerns - Ghag & Ganapathi (2016) - Sci Hort | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Banana and plantains are one of the world’s most important food crops and widely consumed by people of all age groups. Bananas are a rich source of carbohydrates, important vitamins like vitamin B and C and minerals like potassium and phosphorous. 


Banana is an economically important cash crop as it fetch large revenue share in the domestic and international market. However, most of the production is consumed by the domestic population as it serves as the staple food for them. 


Bananas are vulnerable to both biotic and abiotic stress factors which limits their production. Improvement of this crop to enhance the nutrient quality and better adapt to the changing environmental conditions and to produce new disease resistant varieties is essential. 


Genetic engineering of banana is considered a perfect alternative for improvement of sterile cultivars or ones which are not amenable to traditional breeding methods. Several successful attempts have demonstrated the strength of this technology in developing abiotic stress tolerance and disease resistant transgenic banana varieties. 


Only few of the GM bananas have qualified for field studies and some are currently undergoing nutritional human trials. GM bananas aim to increase productivity and nutritional value and so could effectively contribute towards food security in the near future. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scienta.2016.11.023


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

Genetic engineering approaches to enhance oil content in oilseed crops - Savadi &al (2016) - Plant Growth Reg

Genetic engineering approaches to enhance oil content in oilseed crops - Savadi &al (2016) - Plant Growth Reg | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Oilseed crops play an important role in the agricultural economy. Apart from being an integral component of human diet and industrial applications, they are also gaining importance as replacement to fossil fuels for meeting the energy needs. The last two decades have been marked by several important events in genetic engineering and identification of gene targets for enhancing seed oil content in oilseed crops, and will aid the successful development of new generation high yielding oil crops. Specifically, genetic engineering has shown real breakthrough in enhancing oil content in oilseed rape, camelina, soybean and maize… Ongoing research efforts… will set a platform to produce transgenic oilseed crops with enhanced oil content. In this review we briefly describe different genetic engineering approaches explored by different researchers for enhancing oil content… 


Energy needs of the world are escalating with the increasing population, urbanization and industrialization. In particular the demand for vegetable oils is increasing rapidly due to increasing per capita consumption and the need for production of biofuels to replace the conventional fossil fuels… Increasing oil yields of oilseed crops is a promising option… Recent superfast developments in high throughput technologies like genomics, proteomics and metabolomics along with new genetic engineering strategies such as altered expression of transcription factors, introduction of novel pathway genes, seed development genes, mutligene engineering and extending length of seed oil biosynthesis will usher tailoring oilseed crops to meet the future energy needs of the world. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10725-016-0236-1


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

CRISPR-Cas9 mediated genome editing in rice, advancements and future possibilities - Mazumdar &al (2016) - Indian J Plant Physiol

CRISPR-Cas9 mediated genome editing in rice, advancements and future possibilities - Mazumdar &al (2016) - Indian J Plant Physiol | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Rice is an important crop for a large portion of the population of the world, being the main source of food and the agriculture of which is the main source of income. Genome editing... is now rightly being targeted towards improving the quality of rice. 


Research using the CRISPR genome editing tools has increased the ability to target and modify rice genes for the development of improved varieties... studies indicate that genome editing is a successful and feasible venture in rice. 


Newer developments and improvements of CRIPSR tools have further enabled researchers to modify more genes in rice with increased efficiency... 


CRISPR tools for genome editing in rice will not only help in making site-specific integration events, but will also help in regulating gene expression, gene discovery, rice functional genomics and creating new improved traits in rice.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s40502-016-0252-1


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

Bt cotton and employment effects for female agricultural laborers in Pakistan - Kouser &al (2016) - New Biotechnol

The literature about economic and social impacts of Bt cotton adoption on farm households in developing countries is growing. Yet, there is still uncertainty about wider implications of this technology for rural development, including effects for landless rural laborers. 


Bt-related yield advantages may lead to intensified production and higher demand for labor. Building on farm survey data collected in Pakistan... we analyze employment effects of Bt cotton adoption. 


Model estimates show that Bt adoption has increased the demand for hired labor by 55%. Manual harvesting, which is common in Pakistan, is a labor-intensive activity primarily carried out by female laborers... 


Gender disaggregation shows that the employment-generating effects are particularly strong for women, who often belong to the most disadvantaged groups of rural societies... Bt technology can contribute to additional employment income for the poor and to more equitable rural development. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nbt.2016.05.004


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

Phosphate Mining Firms Set Sights on Southern Africa’s Sea Floor - Inter Press Service (2016) 

Phosphate Mining Firms Set Sights on Southern Africa’s Sea Floor - Inter Press Service (2016)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it
A persistent fear of diminishing phosphorus reserves has pushed mining companies to search… new sources… Countries in southern Africa have the potential to set an international precedent by allowing the first offshore mining operations… questions surround mining’s place in this new economy… 

From April 2007 to August 2008, the price of phosphate, a necessary ingredient in fertilizer, increased nearly 950 percent, in part due to the idea that phosphate production had peaked and would begin diminishing… “A vital and indisputable link exists between phosphate rock and world food supply”… 

Environmentalists argue that not only would phosphate mining destroy marine ecosystems, but… also lead to continued overuse of fertilizers and associated pollution. They call for increased research into phosphate recapture technology… “We could… be solving the problem of too much phosphates in our water and recapturing it. Instead we… destroy our ocean ecosystems”… 
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

Food made from natural gas will soon feed farm animals – and us - New Scientist (2016) 

Food made from natural gas will soon feed farm animals – and us - New Scientist (2016)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

All of the food you’ve ever eaten was made with sunlight captured by plants just a few months or years before you ate it. But some of the energy on your plate could soon come from sunlight captured by plants millions of years ago, thanks to plans to feed livestock with fossil fuels. 


A biotechnology company called Calysta… is set to announce the first ever large-scale factory that uses microbes to turn natural gas – methane – into a high-protein food for the animals we eat. The factory, which will be built in the US in collaboration with food-giant Cargill, will produce 200,000 tonnes of feed a year. The methane-made food has already been approved in the European Union for feeding to farmed fish and livestock such as pigs. Calysta is seeking approval in the US, too – and not just for farm animals. “We want to take it all the way to cats and dogs, and potentially even humans”… 


Is turning fossil fuels into food for livestock a good idea? That depends on what you think is most important when it comes to protecting the environment. If done on a large scale, the process would reduce the demand for land to grow food for livestock, as well as the demand for fish meal to feed to farmed fish… But it would also increase emissions of carbon dioxide, accelerating global warming. “Using fossil fuels as an energy source as opposed to sunlight is not very environmentally sound”… 


The technology might one day also feed explorers of other planets. For instance, SpaceX head Elon Musk’s plans for Mars exploration include generating methane and oxygen for making rocket fuel. Some could be used to make food, too… The process relies on microbes that feed on methane. These methane-munching methanotrophs essentially “burn” methane (CH4) to get energy, producing CO2 and water as waste products. Some of this energy is then used to combine other methane molecules to make more-complex carbon molecules – food, in other words. 


This ability first evolved billions of years ago – it likely predates photosynthesis – and today methanotrophs can be found wherever there’s methane to feast on, from cold seeps on the sea floor to ponds and marshes. Some biologists think that “dark food” from these methanotrophs plays a much bigger role in many ecosystems than thought. Calysta is using a bacterium called Methylococcus capsulatus. The bacteria are grown in vats, fed methane, and are then dried and turned into pellets… 


In theory, carbon emissions could be greatly reduced by using methane from a renewable source, such as biogas from farm waste or landfill sites. This would reduce emissions to levels comparable to those for feeds made from wheat or soya, for instance. “Feeds that have lower carbon emissions, lower land use and lower water use are absolutely needed”… The catch is that there are no big and cheap sources of biogas. “It’s just not going to happen”… 


On the plus side… Calysta’s feed has tiny water and land use requirements compared with all the other methods of producing feeds. Some may think this is even more important than cutting carbon emissions. The technology cannot be expected to do everything… “I’m addressing a food security issue and saving the oceans and not cutting down rainforests for soya… Taking fish out of the sea that you then feed to other fish, that is unsustainable.” 


https://www.newscientist.com/article/2112298-food-made-from-natural-gas-will-soon-feed-farm-animals-and-us/


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

Greener revolutions for all - Flavell (2016) - Nature Biotechnol

To ensure global food security for all, the adoption of crop improvement technologies is no longer just an option – it is an imperative. Providing food and nutritional security for all is one of this century’s most important challenges. Planning to meet future global food requirements is vital because the challenges are enormous and many-faceted. One of the greatest challenges will be to breed successive generations of crops that can produce more per unit area than current varieties, all in the face of more extreme climate conditions and hostile environments and with the onslaught of more virulent diseases and recalcitrant pests.  


Current rates of yield increases in farmers’ fields for rice and wheat, for example, are too low to meet the world’s food needs from these crops in the near future. Make no mistake, a crisis is looming unless much more food can be produced per hectare. At the same time, plant engineering and breeding are entering a new phase of exponential discovery and innovation that can help us achieve the required rate of crop yield improvement… 


And yet the public, the media, funders, policymakers and regulators continue to languish in a circular and unresolvable debate about the pros and cons of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). They should dally no longer. These debates are not only holding back progress; they are also a fruitless distraction from the key problem at hand – how best to sustainably provide healthy food for all. Here, I provide a way forward, suggesting some principles that can guide strategy and policy that will help us to feed the world…  


Whatever the merits and applicability of the above suggestions, current debates in the popular press and high streets about GMOs are obscuring much more important issues. What’s more, current regulatory frameworks that trigger more stringent oversight for any transgenic crop now look obsolete. It is widely recognized that plant regulations, even in the United States, limit innovation in unhelpful ways, unnecessarily increase costs, prevent small companies from testing innovations and are not based on sound science… The consequences of simply sustaining the chaotic status quo… are frightening when one considers mounting challenges to food production, balanced nutrition and poverty alleviation across the world. 


Those who seek to fuel the GMO versus non-GMO debate are perpetuating irresolvable differences of opinion. These debates have long ceased to be constructive. Their arguments are based on out-of-date science, or no science at all… We immediately need to coordinate, implement and teach the urgency for global food improvement with new regulatory and policy strategies that allow diversity in improved food preferences but have the overall common good of ‘healthy food for all’ as the driving principle. 


The strategies and policies must embrace the large populations where more food is needed and anticipate the waves of technologies that will enable success more quickly, safely and effectively. Letting debates over GMOs in resource-rich countries define or determine the future of food will surely lead to failure… The much more important debate now must be over how we get to enough sustainable healthy food for all in the right places, at the right times and the right price. Strategic planning is urgent. Those who seek to perpetuate the GMO controversy and actively prevent use of new technology in crop breeding are not only on the wrong side of the debate, they are on the wrong side of the evidence. If they continue to uphold beliefs against evidence, they will find themselves on the wrong side of history…


http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nbt.3709


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

Model predicts elimination of GMO crops would cause hike in greenhouse gas emissions - Purdue Univ (2016) 

Model predicts elimination of GMO crops would cause hike in greenhouse gas emissions - Purdue Univ (2016)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

A global ban on genetically modified crops would raise food prices and add the equivalent of nearly a billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere… 


Using a model to assess the economic and environmental value of GMO crops, agricultural economists found that replacing GMO corn, soybeans and cotton with conventionally bred varieties worldwide would cause a 0.3 to 2.2 percent increase in food costs… with poorer countries hit hardest… A ban on GMOs would also trigger negative environmental consequences: The conversion of pastures and forests to cropland – to compensate for conventional crops' lower productivity – would release substantial amounts of stored carbon to the atmosphere. 


Conversely, if countries that already plant GMOs expanded their use of genetically modified crops to match the rate of GMO planting in the United States, global greenhouse gas emissions would fall by the equivalent of 0.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide and would allow 0.8 million hectares of cropland to return to forests and pastures. "Some of the same groups that want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions also want to ban GMOs. But you can't have it both ways… Planting GMO crops is an effective way for agriculture to lower its carbon footprint"… 


Three U.S. regulatory agencies – the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency – have deemed GMO foods safe to eat, and the United States is the global leader in planting GMO crops and developing agricultural biotechnology. But in many European and Asian countries, consumer and economic concerns have led to strict regulations on GMO crops, with partial or full bans on their cultivation. [AS: But only few constraints on the import of GMOs as feed] … 


Researchers… used… GTAP-BIO model to investigate two hypothetical scenarios: "What economic and environmental effects would a global ban on GMO corn, soybeans and cotton have?" and "What would be the additional impact if global GMO adoption caught up to the U.S. and then a ban were implemented?" … GTAP-BIO predicted a modest and region-specific rise in overall food costs under a global GMO ban, a result of the lower productivity of non-GMO crops… People in poorer regions would be most burdened by the price increase, as they spend about 70 percent of their income on food, compared with about 10 percent in the U.S. 


Countries that export crops would gain economically by the increase in food prices, while countries that import crops would suffer. As a result, the U.S., despite being the biggest planter of GMO crops, would profit under a GMO ban because of its strength as a crop producer and exporter. China, a major crop importer, would suffer a welfare loss… of $3.63 billion. "The U.S. is the largest agricultural exporter, so if the price of agricultural products goes up, we benefit"… 


Banning GMO crops would also lead to an increase in global cropland of 3.1 million hectares, as land would be cleared to compensate for the lower yields of conventional crops. Converting forests and pastures into farmland is an environmentally-costly process that releases carbon stored in plants and soil, and this expansion of cropland would add the equivalent of 0.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere… 


The economic consequences of a GMO ban came as no surprise… but the toll such a ban would have on the environment was an eye-opener – and a component that is notably missing from global discussion of GMOs. "It's quite fine for people to be concerned about GMOs – there's no scientific basis to those concerns, but that's their right… But the adverse impact on greenhouse gases without GMOs is something that is not widely known. It is important that this element enter into the public conversation." 


http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2016/Q4/model-predicts-elimination-of-gmo-crops-would-cause-hike-in-greenhouse-gas-emissions.html


Underlying article: http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/jep.2016.711127


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
The publisher of the journal is listed as a predatory publisher (https://scholarlyoa.com/publishers/), but Purdue is, presumably, a serious institution. 
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

Trials planned for GM superwheat that boosts harvest by 20% - New Scientist (2016) 

Trials planned for GM superwheat that boosts harvest by 20% - New Scientist (2016)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Genetically modified crops could help us grow more food on less land in a world struggling to cope with climate change, say biologists... Right now... None of the GM crops widely grown around the world are designed to boost yields directly – but that could be about to change.

A team of researchers announced... that they have genetically modified wheat to increase the efficiency of photosynthesis. When the plants are grown in glasshouses, the change boosts yields by 15 to 20 per cent. Now they are applying to the UK government for permission to carry out field trials. 

“It works when you grow it in a pot in a greenhouse... But in the real environment, you often don’t see the same response.” If the plants produce anything like a 15 per cent increase in yield in field tests, it will be a spectacular result... 

In the UK, wheat yields have plateaued at around 8 tonnes per hectare. Getting more wheat from the same area of land would have massive environmental benefits – freeing up land to put aside for wildlife or to capture carbon, for example.

What’s more, the modification helps plants takes advantage of the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. “In higher levels of CO2, this works even better”... 


The team... made other genetic alterations that also boost yields in greenhouse tests...  Several of these yield-boosting modifications could be “stacked” together in a single strain... If the trial succeeds, newer strains of wheat would need to be modified to create commercial products – but that’s a long way off... 


https://www.newscientist.com/article/2111377-trials-planned-for-gm-superwheat-that-boosts-harvest-by-20/


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
"None of the GM crops widely grown around the world are designed to boost yields directly" – This is true, as long as the "directly" is in there: Farmers in industrialised countries who so far managed to control insect damage using insecticides will not see great yield gains when switching e.g. to insect-resistant GM crops (they nevertheless do so to realise savings – of money and labour – by applying less insecticides). However, poor farmers in countries where pesticides are not readily available or affordable and who so far couldn't control insect damages very well, may very well experience higher (effective) yields when they switch to GM crops... 

Other than that, using the term "super-" in the headline is exactly the kind of stupid attention-grabbing journalism that raises the public's expectations beyond what's reasonable, especially given the early stage of the project. (And indeed, one of the interviewed researchers cautioned that "It works when you grow it in a pot in a greenhouse... But in the real environment, you often don’t see the same response.")  
more...
No comment yet.
Rescooped by Alexander J. Stein from Global Nutrition
Scoop.it!

Improving half the world’s diet - Johnson (2016) - Melbourne U 

Improving half the world’s diet - Johnson (2016) - Melbourne U  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it
The humble rice grain is the staple food for billions of people throughout the developing world, but there is little nutritional value in the grain beyond providing carbohydrates for energy. Until now… Researchers are on the cusp of making a real difference by developing a new strain of rice that contains much higher quantities of the essential micronutrients iron and zinc in the grain. This has the potential to reduce chronic malnutrition disorders that can be caused by an over-reliance on rice in the human diet. 

Some two billion low-income people around the world aren't getting enough vitamins and minerals from their food in what is called "hidden hunger"… 30 per cent of the world's population is anaemic, in many cases because people simply aren't getting enough iron in their diet. Anaemia leaves people weak and lethargic and it is a significant, even fatal, health risk to pregnant women and children. Similar numbers of people are at risk of not getting enough zinc, resulting in stunted growth and impaired immune function… 

A genetically modified (GM) strain of "biofortified" rice that produces grains with significantly more iron and zinc. In recent field trials the researchers not only beat their targets for increased grain iron and zinc concentration, but the biofortified rice proved to be just as high-yielding as conventionally bred rices. Rice grains usually contain just 2-5 parts per million (ppm) of iron and the researchers… managed to get to 15 ppm. Similarly, they had been aiming to increase the amount of zinc from 16 ppm to 28 ppm, but they managed to get to 45 ppm…  

"The results show that this technology actually works in the field… We exceeded our biofortification targets and the rice was just as high yielding as existing rice varieties." Crucially, the field testing also showed that while the genetic modification had enabled the biofortified rice to take up more iron and zinc from the soil, it didn't increase the take-up of harmful heavy metals such as cadmium. Nutritional testing of the grain also showed that if we were to eat this rice, our bodies would readily absorb the higher quantity of iron and zinc. The scientists were able to determine this by "feeding" the rice to… a human cell line that can be grown in the lab to resemble the cells of the small intestine… 

"There are no deal-breakers in these results. We have proven our concept in a major variety of rice, and we are now ready to move this into a developing country… Rice is the staple food for billions of people today and that isn't going to change anytime soon, so rice biofortification is a tool that we can use to address hidden hunger in a huge number of people. Over time that should lead to healthier and more productive populations in the developing world, boosting local economics and eventually supporting more diverse and balanced diets. We can and do use vitamin and mineral supplements and food processing to help people suffering from micronutrient deficiencies, but those interventions are recurrent costs and need industrial processing that may not be readily available in developing countries. Biofortification is a sustainable solution because once it's in the seeds you've increased the nutritional quality of the crop itself. The farmer simply needs to plant biofortified seeds." 

Dr Johnson's research has been funded and supported by several partners including the Australian Research Council and the not-for-profit HarvestPlus initiative… backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation... Dr Johnson's ambition is that farmers around the world would face no additional cost for adopting the iron and zinc biofortified rice… His fascination with plants goes back to his childhood when he was enthralled by seeds growing into something that his family could eat. He remembers following his mother around the garden and impatiently digging up her plants to see what they looked like as they were growing. Now as a scientist, he has had to learn the patience of a good gardener. 

"Given the huge opportunity we have here to fight human malnutrition, there are times when the project doesn't seem to be going fast enough. But plants can only grow so fast and we need time for replicated field trials in multiple countries. It's important that we fully understand how our biofortified rice grows in as many different environments as possible"… his colleagues are now aiming to introduce the iron and zinc biofortified rice into Bangladesh where almost 80 per cent of cultivated land is dedicated to rice, but where more than half of all children and 70 per cent of women are iron-deficient. He says iron biofortified rice could have a huge impact in this country. 

Another reason that the team is targeting Bangladesh is that it has already released other GM crops such as an eggplant variety that has allowed farmers to drastically reduce their insecticide use… Dr Johnson says that there is a wealth of information showing that GM crops are safe and notes that more than a hundred Nobel Prize winners, from a range of mostly science disciplines, recently penned a letter asking Greenpeace to end its opposition to genetically modified organisms. "Hidden hunger isn't a hypothetical problem, it is a real problem, and biofortification is a real solution. I've not met anyone who is against that."  



Alexander J. Stein's insight:
"His fascination with plants goes back to his childhood when he was enthralled by seeds growing into something that his family could eat. He remembers following his mother around the garden and impatiently digging up her plants to see what they looked like as they were growing… Backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation… [At the University of Melbourne, i.e. in the public sector] Dr Johnson's ambition is that farmers around the world would face no additional cost for adopting the iron and zinc biofortified rice" 
 >> Another of those biotech shills without real interest in nor a feeling of responsibility for what they're doing, who'd sell their mother for money…
more...
Alexander J. Stein's curator insight, November 2, 2016 8:07 AM
"His fascination with plants goes back to his childhood when he was enthralled by seeds growing into something that his family could eat. He remembers following his mother around the garden and impatiently digging up her plants to see what they looked like as they were growing… Backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation… [At the University of Melbourne, i.e. in the public sector] Dr Johnson's ambition is that farmers around the world would face no additional cost for adopting the iron and zinc biofortified rice" 
>> Another of those biotech shills without real interest in nor a feeling of responsibility for what they're doing, who'd sell their mother for money… 
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

Can Biofortified Crops Help Attain Food Security? - Hefferon (2016) - Curr Mol Bio Rep

Can Biofortified Crops Help Attain Food Security? - Hefferon (2016) - Curr Mol Bio Rep | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Malnutrition, or “hidden hunger,” continues to linger throughout the developing world. This is partially the result of a lack of access to a diversified diet. A burgeoning human population and the advent of climate change have resulted in the forecast of increases in food insecurity for at-risk populations. The following report describes the use of agricultural biotechnology to generate crops which are biofortified with vitamins and minerals. Crops designed through biotechnology that possess additional health benefits such as preventing the onset of non-communicable diseases including hypertension and cancer are also presented… The report ends with a discussion of the state of these technologies in the world today and their prospects for improving global food security. 


Malnutrition and hunger remain the biggest threats to mankind. While approximately 800 million people around the world are undernourished (meaning that they do not consume an adequate number of calories), over half of the world’s population is malnourished (meaning that they lack access to essential micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals). Most of the “food insecure,” as they are referred to, are located in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia… Often, rural farmers in developing countries find it difficult to recover from or be resilient to environmental shocks such as drought, excessive temperatures, or flooding. The advent of climate change will make these… more numerous. Furthermore, the world’s population is predicted to increase to 9-10 billion… To keep up with the expected burgeoning population, agricultural productivity must double by 2050… 


In the middle of the twentieth century, the world faced a similar challenge of food security. As a result, a “Green Revolution” was launched. This included the introduction of new, high-yielding dwarf crop varieties, accompanied by synthetic inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides, as well as modern irrigation technologies into current agricultural practices. The Green Revolution changed the fortune of India, which faced certain mass famine at that time, and improved cereal production in a matter of years, so that the country today has become a major exporter of cereal crops. Other developing countries such as China adapted similar strategies and also soon emerged as viable and strong economies. Regardless… sub-Saharan African agricultural development has largely remained stagnant to this day… 


Agricultural biotechnology refers to the use of new scientific techniques based on our understanding of DNA to improve crops and livestock that cannot be achieved through conventional breeding alone. Modern molecular plant breeding techniques… has enabled plant breeders to identify better traits in plants more rapidly than conventional breeding. Recombinant DNA technology, such as genetic engineering, can result in crops with new traits that cannot be achieved by conventional breeding practices… A well-known example of a GM food crop that produces a biofortified product is Golden Rice… created philanthropically with the intent of alleviating vitamin A deficiency in developing countries… 


Much of the developing world consumes a monotonous diet of grain crops such as rice, wheat, or maize. The rural poor lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables, rich sources of vitamins, and minerals. Unfortunately, grains tend to not provide a full complement of micronutrients essential for human health. Common health deficiencies include vitamin A, folic acid, iron, zinc, and selenium. Deficiencies in these nutrients can lead to a variety of… health defects, and can compromise the immune system. 


Biofortification of crops through genetic engineering is… more cost-effective than other… strategies. Biofortified crops can be adapted through pre-existing seed and crop distribution channels and can be maintained by the farmers themselves… Increasing micronutrients through agronomic bioavailability, on the other hand, through the application of fertilizers on soil can also largely be successful, but depends on the mineral and crop species, cannot target specific edible plant organs, and cannot be an approach to provide vitamins or other bioactive compounds that requires synthesis by the plant. Similarly, conventional breeding for mineral dense varieties can be very time consuming and largely depends on the gene pool that pre-exists in a crop species. 


Genetic engineering is often the only feasible option to increase micronutrient availability in a crop that does not produce that particular micronutrient, as is the case of β-carotene in rice grain. There are some caveats to producing biofortified crops, including regulatory restrictions, which could delay approval of the crop. Metabolic engineering of a biochemical pathway itself can be difficult to manage… The following provides a few examples of biofortified crops that have been generated through genetic modification… 


It is tempting to imagine that nutritionally enhanced crops could play a significant role in reducing global malnutrition; however, several concerns must be dealt with. Paramount is the issue of how public perception and international policy will influence biotech crop regulation in the future. Under today’s regulatory environment, GM crops must undergo rigorous risk assessment… In 2013, a record of 175 million hectares of biotech crops were grown . The fact that farmers who try out GM crops replant them from one year to the next provides a strong indicator that farmers are pleased with this technology’s performance. It is important to note that over 90 % of those who planted transgenic crops are poor small shareholder farmers living in developing countries… 


In keeping with the Sustainable Development Goals set last fall, it is paramount that biofortified crops… be developed and provided to the rural poor to alleviate malnutrition. Recently, a strong letter, signed by 100 Nobel laureates… has spelled out how narratives against genetically engineered crops damage the world’s most needy. Biofortifed crops, developed through modern technology, has a place in the solution to global food insecurity. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s40610-016-0048-0



more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

Genetically Altered Goats May Produce Milk that Causes Fewer Allergic Reactions - Wiley (2016) 

The presence of the allergen β-Lactoglobulin (BLG) in the milk of goats and other ungulates restricts the consumption of goat’s milk by humans. In a new study, researchers bred goats to lack BLG or to express human α-lactalbumin in place of BLG...


Milk from these goats triggered less severe allergic reactions in susceptible mice, suggesting that this technology might be an effective tool to reduce allergic reactions to milk and improve nutrition... 


http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/PressRelease/pressReleaseId-129928.html


Underlying article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/febs.13950


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
... so in the end instead of causing allergies, GMOs may well reduce them... 
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

Development and field performance of nitrogen use efficient rice lines for Africa - Gomez &al (2016) - Plant Biotechnol J

Development and field performance of nitrogen use efficient rice lines for Africa - Gomez &al (2016) - Plant Biotechnol J | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Nitrogen (N) fertilizers are a major input cost in rice production and its excess application leads to major environmental pollution. Development of rice varieties with improved nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) is essential for sustainable agriculture. 


Here, we report the results of field evaluations of marker-free transgenic NERICA4 (New Rice for Africa 4) rice lines over-expressing barley alanine amino transferase (HvAlaAT)... 


Field evaluations over three growing seasons and two rice growing ecologies (lowland and upland) revealed that grain yield... was significantly higher than sibling nulls and wild type controls under different N application rates. 


This genetic modification can significantly increase the dry biomass and grain yield compared to controls under limited N supply. Increased yield... was correlated with increased tiller and panicle number in the field, and evidence of early establishment of a vigorous root system in hydroponic growth... 


Expression of the HvAlaAT gene can improve NUE in rice without causing undesirable growth phenotypes. The NUE technology... has the potential to significantly reduce the need for N fertilizer and simultaneously improve food security, augment farm economics and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from the rice ecosystem. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/pbi.12675


more...
No comment yet.
Rescooped by Alexander J. Stein from Food Policy
Scoop.it!

Stop buying organic food if you really want to save the planet - New Scientist (2016) 

Stop buying organic food if you really want to save the planet - New Scientist (2016)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Wander around the local supermarket and you will struggle to find any clues to the environmental impact of the food you eat. If you are lucky, some of the seafood might bear the mark of the Marine Stewardship Council, which certifies fish caught in a sustainable way, but that’s about it.

Yet farming is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, only slightly behind heating and electricity. And while it’s relatively easy to cut emissions from electricity by switching to solar, reducing emissions from farming is a tougher nut to crack.

You might think buying local food is always preferable to imported food when it comes to carbon emissions, but even this is not a reliable guide. Food flown thousands of miles can still have a much lower carbon footprint than, say, local produce grown in heated greenhouses.

The one label you’re likely to find on many food items is the “organic” one. But if you care about the environment, don’t buy it (it’s not healthier either, but that’s another story).

For starters, you are not helping wildlife. Yes, organic farms host a greater diversity of wildlife than conventional ones. But because the yields are lower, organic farms require more land, which in the tropics often means cutting down more rainforests.

And organic food also results in higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional farming.

The trouble is, there is no way to tell whether that basic loaf of bread is better in terms of greenhouse emissions than the organic one sitting next to it on the supermarket shelf.

This divide will become ever greater in the future, because the organisations that set the rather arbitrary standards for what counts as “organic” have firmly rejected the technology showing the greatest promise for reducing farming emissions: genetic modification.

Existing GM crops may already be reducing carbon emissions even though they were not designed to do so. Next up: crops that can capture more of the sun’s energy, require less fertiliser and tolerate drought or salt.

But the organic movement will have none of it. There was a faint hope that some might at least accept gene editing, given that gene-edited crops can be genetically indistinguishable from conventional crops. But no... 

What we really need are climate labels on foods... This isn’t going to be easy. Measuring all the emissions associated with producing food and getting it onto a supermarket shelf is extremely complex... Most schemes so far have foundered. Tesco tried introducing its own carbon labelling in 2007... but eventually abandoned the idea.

And it’s pointless unless the labels are easy to follow. One promising proposal is to describe the greenhouse emissions associated with particular food items in terms of what percentage of a person’s typical daily carbon footprint they represent.

Climate labelling is definitely worth pursuing despite the challenges. The only alternative is to allow consumers to continue being hoodwinked by feel-good mumbo jumbo – and the stakes are far too high to let this happen. 


https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23231022-900-stop-buying-organic-food-if-you-really-want-to-save-the-planet/


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

Plant genome editing in the European Union – to be or not to be – a GMO - Sprink &al (2016) - Plant Biotechnol Rep

Plant genome editing in the European Union – to be or not to be – a GMO - Sprink &al (2016) - Plant Biotechnol Rep | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

New plant-breeding techniques [NPBTs] have been boosting plant breeding, since only a few years but already first promising products are pushing to the market. In contrast to this, in many countries, the current Directives regulating genetically modified organisms have been established more than 25 years ago, especially in the European Union being based on clear differentiation between transgenic plants and conventional breeding. Therefore, the question arises if these Directives are suitable to face the new challenge of genetic engineering or if there is a need for updated regulations... 


Since the legislation regulating the development and commercialisation of GMOs in the EU has been put in place to handle issues of safety and uncertainty, more than 25 years passed by. During this time, scientific progress concerning biosafety of GMOs and genetics has been made, providing us with tremendous knowledge about genomes, genome structure, and the genetic interaction between various organisms... 


During the last 15 years, more than 50 plant genomes have been sequenced and due to decreasing sequencing costs... By sequencing different varieties of crops genetic variability even in the same species has been unveiled and it has been shown that spontaneous mutations are a common phenomenon in nature and that these mutations occur even in self-pollinating populations as they pass from generation to generation and are part of the molecular evolution. 


Therefore, in respect to hazards, plants produced via the NPBTs should be discussed in the context and the baseline of natural occurring genetic variation and the variation using classical breeding approaches. Recent discoveries widened our knowledge on genetic variation and horizontal gene transfer and showed that horizontal gene transfer or “natural transgenes” seem to be common phenomenon. This is all part of the natural biological evolution and similar events might also happen with GMO or GE crops. Therefore, estimation or assumption of risks by GE plants should be in the same order of magnitude as for those alterations involved in natural genetic variation or in conventional breeding methods. 


From a scientific point of view, it is illegitimate to propose that genetic alterations caused by NPBTs per se pose a higher risk than natural occurring or alterations caused by conventional breeding. If a breeder uses the NPBTs to mimic a mutation of a crops wild relative in elite breeding material in just one or two generations, it is from a scientific point of view illogical to propose that this mutation poses a higher risk compared to a plant with the desired mutation achieved by crosses of the wild relative with the elite material followed by a number of backcrosses. The genetic difference between the plant produced using the NPBTs and the elite line would even be less compared to the backcross line. 


In addition, the breeder would save time and money as he would receive his desired trait much easier and faster... 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11816-016-0418-3


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

Progress Isn't Natural: Humans invented it – and not that long ago - Atlantic (2016) 

Progress Isn't Natural: Humans invented it – and not that long ago - Atlantic (2016)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it


How and why did the modern world and its unprecedented prosperity begin? … One way of looking at the question is by examining something basic, and arguably essential: the emergence of a belief in the usefulness of progress. 

Such a belief may seem self-evident today, but most people in the more-remote past believed that history moved in some kind of cycle or followed a path that was determined by higher powers. The idea that humans should and could work consciously to make the world a better place for themselves and for generations to come is by and large one that emerged in the two centuries between Christopher Columbus and Isaac Newton. Of course, just believing that progress could be brought about is not enough – one must bring it about. The modern world began when people resolved to do so. 

Why might people in the past have been hesitant to embrace the idea of progress? The main argument against it was that it implies a disrespect of previous generations… With the great voyages and the Reformation, Europeans increasingly began to doubt the great classical writings on geography, medicine, astronomy, and physics that had been the main source of wisdom in medieval times. With those doubts came a sense that their own generation knew more and was wiser than those of previous eras…  

Interestingly, by the time of Adam Smith and Benjamin Franklin, the number of major inventions enabled by better science was still small, and most material progress was still little more than a promissory note. On the eve of the Industrial Revolution, in 1759, Samuel Johnson wrote, “When the Philosophers of the last age were first congregated into the Royal Society, great expectations were raised of the sudden progress of useful arts … The [gout] and [stone] were still painful, the ground that was not ploughed brought no harvest… The truth is, that little had been done compared with what fame had been suffered to promise.” 

And yet, the optimism that bubbled up in the 17th century turned out to be irrepressible and began to ring increasingly true… The belief in progress has always had opponents… the Jesuit order fought tirelessly against such godless innovations as Copernican astronomy and infinitesimal mathematics. During the Industrial Revolution, many writers, following the lead of Thomas Malthus, were convinced that unrestrained population growth would undo the fruits of economic growth, a belief that still had adherents in the late 1960s, such as Paul Ehrlich. 

Nowadays, unsubstantiated fears of… genetic engineering (including, God forbid, smarter people, drought-resistant crops, and mosquitoes that don’t transmit malaria) threaten to slow down research and development in crucial areas, including coping with climate change. Progress, as was realized early on, inevitably entails risks and costs. But the alternative, then as now, is… worse. 


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
“When the Philosophers… first congregated into the Royal Society, great expectations were raised of the sudden progress of useful arts… The truth is, that little had been done compared with what fame had been suffered to promise.” >> Also in the past people/critics of technology had a tendency to hype and expect too much and then be disappointed at what (nevertheless) is achieved (at a lower pace)... 
more...
scarchasing's comment, November 29, 2016 10:23 PM
nice
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

Engineered crops could have it made in the shade - Stokstad (2016) - Science

Engineered crops could have it made in the shade - Stokstad (2016) - Science | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Traditional plant breeding has boosted yields of popular crops considerably, but the gains have stagnated at less than 1% per year because plant growth is now limited by the efficiency of photosynthesis itself. 


Researchers have contemplated streamlining an aspect of photosynthesis called photoprotection, in which plants guard themselves from bright light at the cost of reducing photosynthesis in the shade. 


Now, plant biologists have cleverly manipulated plants to adjust more quickly to shade. These genetically engineered tobacco plants had up to 20% more biomass. The big question is whether similar manipulations in food crops will mean more consumable yield... 


Just because plants photosynthesize doesn’t mean they can’t get... damage caused by overexposure to light. That’s why all plants rely on a mechanism that defends against excessively bright sunlight... But... this botanical sun shield is slow to turn off when a shadow passes over a leaf. The result: Photosynthesis stays depressed. 


Now, plant biologists seeking improved photosynthesis – and, ultimately, more bountiful crops – have cleverly manipulated plants to adjust more quickly to shade. Genetically engineered into tobacco plants, the faster response yielded up to a 20% increase in biomass... 


Traditional plant breeding has greatly boosted yields of popular crops. During the green revolution, for example, Norman Borlaug and others nearly doubled wheat yields by creating plants with short, sturdy stems that could hold a greater load of grain. Nowadays, breeders can get crops to put about 50% to 60% of their biomass into seeds. 


But the gains have stagnated at less than 1% per year because plant growth is now limited by the efficiency of photosynthesis itself. Research teams are trying to break the bottleneck in multiple ways... 


Regardless of how it’s done, boosting photosynthesis could help researchers answer critics of plant biotechnology who complain that genetically modified plants have not boosted harvests... “Making plants that yield more: That is something that everyone should be happy about.” 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.354.6314.816


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
"critics of plant biotechnology who complain that genetically modified plants have not boosted harvests" >> Such critics are a bit disingenuous to start with: In places where farmers could not control insects very well (e.g. because of problems accessing pesticides), the introduction of insect-resistant crops did increase effective yields. (Even if the intrinsic yields of the crops had not been boosted.)
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

Pest control: Wicked weeds may be agricultural angels - Cornell Chronicle (2016) 

Pest control: Wicked weeds may be agricultural angels - Cornell Chronicle (2016)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Farmers looking to reduce reliance on pesticides, herbicides and other pest management tools may want to heed the advice of... Let nature be nature – to a degree. 


“Managing crop pests without fully understanding the impacts of tactics – related to resistance and nontarget plants or insects – costs producers money... We are taking a renewed look at a holistic, sustainable integrated pest management (IPM) approach”... 

In corn production, for example, maintaining a few villainous milkweed plants in the middle of a cornfield may help minimize crop loss from the destructive European corn borer. The milkweed plants can harbor aphids (destructive sap-sucking flies) that produce a nectar food source for beneficial parasitic wasps Trichogramma. The wasps, in turn, lay eggs inside the eggs of the European corn borer, killing the corn borer eggs – reducing damage to the crop.

“Production management rarely considers the benefits of weeds in agricultural ecosystems... If we open our eyes – even if it’s a weed growing in the cornfield – we show it could be beneficial. Integrating weed benefits will become increasingly important, as pest management is likely to move from total reliance on herbicides and transgenic crop traits for control, because of increasing resistance of weeds to these products.”

One additional side benefit for having a few milkweed plants in a field of corn is that it serves as a breeding place and food source for monarch butterflies. As of late, monarch numbers are down, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is evaluating a petition to have them protected under the Endangered Species Act... With increasing no-till production, producers will inevitably see rebounds in perennial weeds – such as milkweed... Thus, some growers may be willing to tolerate a low milkweed population in favor of providing livable plant space for monarchs.

“Every organism in an agricultural system plays multiple roles... If management decisions are based solely on the negative aspects, yield and profit can be lost in the short term and broader problems can arise in the longer term.” Integration of the weed costs and advantages will become important. “The benefits of weeds have been neglected. They’re often seen as undesirable, unwanted. We’re now beginning to quantify their benefits”... 

“It’s very important to recognize the benefits of all the species within the crop field – that includes both the crops and the weeds – not to mention cover crops. Weeds can offer ecosystem services, such as soil erosion protection and pollination services for the benefit of insects... They can be part of a restorative cycle”... 


http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2016/11/pest-control-wicked-weeds-may-be-agricultural-angels


Underlying article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1614/WS-D-16-00052.1


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

UF/IFAS study: People who know about genetically modified food agree with science: They’re safe - Univ Florida (2016) 

People who know a lot about genetically modified foods are inclined to agree with the scientific consensus that such foods are safe to eat. But, those who know plenty about global warming are cautious about the science that says humans cause the phenomenon... Furthermore... some people still make what researchers call “illusionary correlations,” such as “genetically modified foods cause autism.” 


Perhaps science communication should address people’s perceptions about illusionary correlations versus their knowledge of global warming and genetically modified foods... Merely providing people with information is insufficient to change behavior... 


McFadden cited in his paper a... survey of scientists and the U.S. general public. Most of the scientists (88 percent) agreed that GM foods are safe to eat, compared to 37 percent of U.S. adults. The survey also found that most scientists (87 percent) agree that human activities cause global warming, compared to 50 percent of American adults.

McFadden wanted to know more about the reasons for the gap between public opinion and scientific consensus. In a study... McFadden surveyed 955 people online to measure their actual and perceived knowledge about genetically modified food and human-caused global warming... 

“Intuitively, it would seem that greater knowledge would be associated with being more agreeable with science,” McFadden said. “Indeed, individuals with greater knowledge are more agreeable with science in general; however, people with greater knowledge become less agreeable when the issues are contentious.” 


http://news.ifas.ufl.edu/2016/11/ufifas-study-people-who-know-about-genetically-modified-food-agree-with-science-theyre-safe/


Underlying article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0166140


Public perception that diverges from the scientific community may decrease the effectiveness of scientific inquiry and innovation as tools to solve these challenges. The objective of this study was to identify the factors associated with the divergence of public opinion from scientific consensus regarding the safety of genetically modified (GM) foods and human involvement in global warming (GW). 


Results indicate that the effects of knowledge on public opinion are complex and non-uniform... Political affiliation affects agreement with science; Democrats were more likely to agree that GM food is safe and human actions cause GW. Respondents who had relatively higher cognitive function or held illusionary correlations about GM food or GW were more likely to have an opinion that differed from the scientific community. 


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

A 90-Day Feeding Study in Rats to Assess the Safety of Genetically Engineered Pork - Xiao &al (2016) - PLoS

A 90-Day Feeding Study in Rats to Assess the Safety of Genetically Engineered Pork - Xiao &al (2016) - PLoS | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Our laboratory recently produced genetically engineered (GE) Meishan pigs... These GE pigs develop and grow as normal as wild type pigs but produce pork with greater lean yield and lower fat mass. 


To assess any potential subchronic toxicity risks of this GE pork, a 90-day feeding study was conducted in Sprague-Dawley rats. Rats were randomly divided into five groups, and fed for 90 days with basic diet and basic diets formulated with low dose and high dose pork prepared from wild type pigs and GE pigs, respectively. 


Animal behaviors and clinical signs were monitored twice daily, and body weight and food consumption were measured and recorded weekly. At days 45 and 90, blood tests were performed. Additionally, gross pathology and histopathological analyses were performed for major organs in each group. 


Data analysis shows that there were no significant differences in growth rate, food consumption, and blood test parameters between rat groups fed with GE pork and wild type pork. Although differences in some liver function parameters and white blood cell counts were observed... all test results in rats fed with GE pork are in the normal range...  


Overall, our results clearly indicate that food consumption of GE pork... did not have any long-term adverse effects on the health status in rats. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0165843


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

Metabolic engineering of micronutrients in crop plants - Blancquaert &al (2016) - Annals NY Acad Sci

Metabolic engineering of micronutrients in crop plants - Blancquaert &al (2016) - Annals NY Acad Sci | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

Micronutrient deficiency is a widespread phenomenon, most prevalent in developing countries. Being causally linked to the occurrence of a range of diseases, it affects billions of people worldwide. 


Enhancing the content of micronutrients in crop products through biotechnology is a promising technique to fight micronutrient malnutrition worldwide. Micronutrient fortification of food products has been implemented in a number of Western countries, but remains inaccessible for poor rural populations in a major part of the developing world... 


Biofortification of crop plants... is a promising alternative or complement in the battle against micronutrient deficiencies. Owing to a growing knowledge... it is today possible to enhance micronutrient levels in crop plants, offering a sustainable solution to populations with a suboptimal micronutrient intake... 


Although biofortification through metabolic engineering is not the ultimate answer to address the malnutrition problem, it surely offers an alternative and/or a complementary strategy to other interventions. In this respect, conventional breeding... and metabolic engineering should go hand in hand to create multibiofortified crops with health benefits... 


Several factors, such as micronutrient stability and bioavailability, need to be considered to target specific micronutrient levels in crops in order to meet the different RDAs. Through the use of semistrong promoters driving (trans)gene expression and the selection of engineered lines with moderate but appropriate levels of the target compound(s), the risk of going above the upper limit of the intake of the micronutrient(s)... can be avoided. 


With the appearance of new techniques in genome editing... populations suffering from micronutrient deficiencies will surely benefit.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/nyas.13274


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
"With the appearance of new techniques in genome editing... populations suffering from micronutrient deficiencies will surely benefit." >> "Surely?" Perhaps this is a bit of a pious hope, given that also GMOs were largely blocked by western activists and other stakeholders – once the GM soybeans and the GM maize were on the market that ensure a supply of cheap feed and thus cheap meat for western societies, as well as the GM cotton that ensure cheap clothes for rich people... While poor populations in some developing countries do benefit from the cultivation of GM cotton in particular, so far there are hardly any commercialised GM crops that benefit them specifically. Let's hope this will be different in future... 
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

The Global Importance of Transgenic Cotton - Anderson & Rajasekaran (2016) - Springer

The Global Importance of Transgenic Cotton - Anderson & Rajasekaran (2016) - Springer | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it

The origins of transgenic cotton are reviewed including the original objectives, early efforts to establish the technical capabilities, selection of initial traits for development, market place benefits, and global acceptance of the technology... 


Consideration is given to cotton’s place in the effort to meet the projected demands for food and fiber...  traits and technologies under development, and the need for close public and private research collaboration in order to address the issues facing the world’s farmers... 


Impact of transgenic cotton on global economy, environment, genetic diversity, and safety is also highlighted...  


It has been just 36 years since we and others began in earnest to invent, refine, and deploy cotton biotechnologies. We have made tremendous strides... 


In these relatively short years, we have seen transgenic cotton go from 0 to 68% of the world’s cotton acres and the safety and performance record is remarkable. No one is forcing smallholder cotton farmers to plant transgenic cotton, but there are many using misdirected law and regulatory processes to forcibly prevent many from doing so. 


We have achieved productivity gains as measured in yield per hectare between 12 and 100% depending on the country. Safer production practices have been enabled by in-plant insect resistance and the poorest of the world’s smallholder cotton farmers have benefitted the most when they have been allowed access to the technology. 


These are accomplishments which the entire industry and public institutions are and should be proud of. We do not live in an either/or world. It will take far more than biotechnology to enable cotton to keep pace with the increasing need for natural fiber, vegetable oil, and meal, but biotechnology is surely needed... 


Advances in how we break negative linkages are allowing extremely high-quality fiber to be carried in high-yielding cultivars. A significant portion of yield improvement in cotton production comes from the development of better systems for planting, cultivating, and GPS guidance for the purpose of “surgically” applying fertilizers, nutrients, and controlling pests. 


All of that notwithstanding, there remain many traits that can and will be brought into cotton via transgenic methods much more efficiently than by any other of the means just described. All of these cross-functional approaches must be embraced and deployed if we are to meet the demands of the world’s population in the year 2050. 


http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-44570-0_2


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Alexander J. Stein
Scoop.it!

The Coexistence of Genetically Modified, Organic and Conventional Foods - Springer (2016) 

The Coexistence of Genetically Modified, Organic and Conventional Foods - Springer (2016)  | Ag Biotech News | Scoop.it
In many ways, the debate about coexistence is about the future of the global food system and its capacity to meet the rapidly growing demand for food and nutrition. Since their commercial introduction in 1995 and 1996, genetically modified (GM) crops have been adopted by farmers around the world at impressive rates. In 2014, over 180 million hectares of GM crops were cultivated by more than 18 million farmers in 28 countries. 

Soybeans, maize, cotton, and canola are the primary GM crops worldwide... Soybean producers have adopted GM varieties at the highest rate; over 80% of global soybean area is planted with GM varieties. Nearly 70% of cotton area, 30% of maize area, and 25% of canola area are produced using GM varieties. Overall, of all crops for which GM varieties are available, nearly half the production area is planted with GM varieties. 

In the next decade, global adoption is expected to grow further as the research pipeline for new biotech traits and crops has increased almost fourfold in the last few years. 


more...
No comment yet.