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Monsanto points to sabotage at GMO-contaminated wheat field

Monsanto points to sabotage at GMO-contaminated wheat field | GMO research and news | Scoop.it
Biotech giant Monsanto says that its unapproved experimental wheat ended up growing at an Oregon field through what most likely was an isolated act of sabotage.
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Subsidies and GM crops back on food policy menu - IRIN (2013)

Subsidies and GM crops back on food policy menu - IRIN (2013) | GMO research and news | Scoop.it

India imposed a 10-year moratorium on field trials of GM crops in 2012. Organizations like Greenpeace... welcomed India’s decision, but the IFPRI report describes it as a significant setback to food policy, and mainstream scientists argue that GM crops offer a way out of deepening food insecurity as growing conditions like the weather and water become compromised by climate change... the moratorium, "not based on scientific logic, will have negative effects on frontier research and demand-driven technology generation"... 

 

Per Pinstrup-Andersen, 2001 World Food Prize Laureate and the author of a book on the politics of GM food, described India’s moratorium as “nonsensical”, and said it “reduces India’s efforts to assure sustainable food security for its population”. He is among the mainstream scientists who prefer to be open-minded on GM technology and believe that while it might not be the panacea to climate-proof plants, it is a tool with some potential to ensure food security in the coming decades.

“The regulation of the use of improved crop varieties in the United States is best done by the relevant agencies within the federal government, and not by the judiciary,” he told IRIN. “Lack of understanding and insufficient knowledge among some judges are likely to result in erroneous decisions.” 

[Peter Hazell, a leading agriculture expert who has worked with the World Bank and IFPRI], who also backs the mainstream view on GM technology, likens the current situation to the state of computer science in the early 1960s. “While the critics were still obsessed with problems of mainframe computers, the industry was busy developing laptop and portable computers that transformed not only the industry, but also the world. Let’s hope that something similar happens with the plant sciences, otherwise we are going to see a lot more famines and deforestation in the years ahead. None of this is to say that we don’t need sound biosafety regulation, but that should be based on science and national priorities, not driven by the misinformed anti-science views of a few international NGOs." ... 


Via Alexander J. Stein
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Multi-toxin biotech crops not silver bullets, scientists warn

Multi-toxin biotech crops not silver bullets, scientists warn | GMO research and news | Scoop.it

A strategy widely used to prevent pests from quickly adapting to crop-protecting toxins may fail in some cases unless better preventive actions are taken, suggests new research by University of Arizona entomologists published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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

[updated 15 March, 2013]  

 

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 over the last couple of 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 didn’t want to suggest just one or two sources, but to show a bit the width of the scientific consensus, and to offer some titbits of related information.) ... 

http://ajstein.tumblr.com/post/40504136918/ ;


Via Alexander J. Stein
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Jennifer Mach's comment, March 30, 2013 9:05 AM
I admit I haven't read this list... but for future reference, I'll definitely have a look.
Mel H's curator insight, November 30, 8:39 AM

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The Real Seeds of Deception - Kloor (2013) - Discover

The Real Seeds of Deception - Kloor (2013) - Discover | GMO research and news | Scoop.it

The issue of farmer suicides first gained media attention in 1995 as the southern state of Maharashtra began reporting a significant rise in farmers killing themselves. Other states across the country began noticing an increase in farmer suicides as well.

 

But it wasn’t until seven years later — in 2002 — that the U.S.-based agribusiness Monsanto began selling genetically modified cotton seeds, known as Bt cotton, to Indian farmers. The seeds produce insecticides and led to higher yields, but can be up to 10 times more expensive than regular cotton seeds.

 

Within years, a narrative began to take shape that farmers were getting into debt to pay for the seed and when they couldn’t repay the money were killing themselves. Another version was that the GM crop failed, leading to debt, leading to suicide. It is a narrative that is hard to break... 

 

The truth is that the real causes of farmer suicides in India cannot be pinned on Monsanto, however venal you may regard the company. To discuss those causes you have to wade into a very complex equation that includes institutional, social, and governmental factors in India. Doing this requires a cold objective eye and cultural sensitivity.

 

I’m fairly certain that Vandana Shiva, in her heart, knows well why so many Indian farmers have taken their lives over the last several decades. Just as I’m sure that she knows all about India’s high rate of suicide and the reasons for it. After all, she is a student of inequality and social justice.

 

That Shiva prefers to keep the conversation squarely and inaccurately focused on GMOs and Monsanto reveals to me that she cares more about advancing an ideological agenda than addressing the root causes of suicide in India. That she has succeeded in exploiting real tragedy and distracting conversation away from those true causes is something I find utterly offensive...


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Soy protein can be replaced by rapeseed protein - ScienceDaily (2013)

Soy protein can be replaced by rapeseed protein - ScienceDaily (2013) | GMO research and news | Scoop.it

Today, more than 500 million people are suffering from a lack of adequate protein in their diet... providing enough food, particularly sufficient protein for the increasing populace is a challenging task for societies all over the world... a progressively smaller proportion of human protein requirement can be provided by animal proteins such as meat, eggs, and milk. "However, by feeding valuable plant protein to animals, almost two third of it is wasted as it is transformed into animal protein"... 

 

Rapeseed oil with its high nutritional value due to significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids has gained a strong place in the human diet in recent years... "Annually, 60 million tons of rapeseed are harvested worldwide, corresponding to about 15 million tons of rapeseed protein which is fed only to animals. We are taking a keen interest in making this important protein source available for human consumption." The research team at Jena University has now conducted the first human study worldwide on the use of rapeseed protein for human nutrition... 

 

"Our findings have shown that there is no difference in the bioavailability between these two protein sources. Thus, soy, mostly cultivated in South and North America, and diversely used in the production of foods, can be fully replaced by rapeseed protein harvested in Europe." Currently, legislation in Europe prevents the use of rapeseed protein for human nutrition. It requires registration as a "novel food" by the European Union. Ireland has already agreed to its use. In Germany, producers capable of isolating rapeseed protein are already waiting in the wings... 


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EFSA Press Release: Séralini et al. study conclusions not supported by data, says EU risk assessment community

EFSA is the EU risk assessment body for food and feed safety. It provides independent scientific advice to risk managers.
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Mexico's decision on GM maize postponed until next year

Mexico's decision on GM maize postponed until next year | GMO research and news | Scoop.it
A decision as to a widespread planting of genetically modified (GM) corn or transgenic maize in Mexico will not be made under the outgoing government of President Felipe Calderón. It will now await until sometime next spring.
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What Will Convince People That Genetically Modified Foods Are Okay? - Smithsonian (blog)

What Will Convince People That Genetically Modified Foods Are Okay? - Smithsonian (blog) | GMO research and news | Scoop.it
Smithsonian (blog)What Will Convince People That Genetically Modified Foods Are Okay?
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E.U. Patents on Transgenic Chimps Challenged - Science (2012)

Animal rights activists in Germany are contesting three patents on genetically engineered chimpanzees granted this year by the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich. One of the challenges was filed today; the other two will follow shortly, says Ruth Tippe, a spokesperson for a German advocacy group called No Patents on Life... 

 

Patent number EP1456346 was granted to Intrexon, a company based in Blacksburg, Virginia, in February. In it, the company claims to have invented a way to introduce into chimpanzees—as well as rats, rabbits, horses, and other animals—a system to switch specific genes on or off. The animals are intended for pharmaceutical research...


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Argentina accelerates its biotech crop approval process - AgraNet (2013)

Argentina accelerates its biotech crop approval process - AgraNet (2013) | GMO research and news | Scoop.it

It took 20 years for Argentina to approve the first 13 genetically engineered crops for commercial planting, and 15 more were approved in the past three years, but a new regulatory framework for approval aims at further accelerating the process, EU Food Law reports.

 

The multi-year regulatory streamlining process culminated with the agriculture ministry's launch, on March 23, of a comprehensive regulatory framework for the review and approval of GE seed technology. This framework is expected to accelerate the process of evaluating the risks and benefits of adopting new seed varieties...


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Super maize can put sustainable food on the table - Aarhus U (2013)

Super maize can put sustainable food on the table - Aarhus U (2013) | GMO research and news | Scoop.it

A new research project financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation should pave the way towards a cheap and sustainable solution to some of Africa’s food problems. Researchers at Aarhus University are involved in the efforts to develop maize that can create its own fertiliser. On a global scale, this could lead to a reduction in the use of artificial fertilisers and thereby less environmental pollution.

 

Crop yields are often much too small for African farmers, who cannot afford artificial fertilisers. It is hard to feed their families, let alone make a profit out of farming. However, if the maize the farmers grow could provide its own fertiliser, yields would soon increase and there would also be less hunger. This is no longer wishful thinking, but is a prospect that scientists are actually working towards – including researchers at Aarhus University.

 

Professor Jens Stougaard spearheads a research team that has already discovered how legumes are capable of establishing symbiosis with bacteria that can use nitrogen in the air so that the plant – to put it simply – creates its own fertiliser. In collaboration with international colleagues, the team is now in the process of studying how this mechanism can be transferred to cereal plants such as maize. Maize was chosen because it is the main source of nutrition in the sub-Saharan regions.

 

“There’s an enormous need for alternative methods of fertilisation that are cheap and environmentally responsible, so we can provide sustainable food production for the future global population. Even a small increase in the amount of nitrogen the plants get will have a major impact and be more valuable in large parts of Africa,” ...

 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation... has granted almost USD 10 million to the international research team working to create symbiosis between cereal crops such as maize and nitrogen-fixing bacteria... The symbiosis will make it possible for the maize to obtain nitrogen from the air. A ‘natural fertilisation package’ will get the maize to provide greater yields, and thereby put more food on the table for small-scale African farmers who grow crops to feed their own families and the local community. This type of farming is widespread in many parts of Africa.

 

“We need innovation for farmers to increase their productivity in a sustainable way so that they can lift themselves and their families out of poverty,” says Senior Program Officer Katherine Kahn, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Improving access to nitrogen could dramatically boost the crop yields of farmers in Africa.” If the project is successful, the method will be both cheap and sustainable for the farmers. Cheap, because the fertiliser mechanism is built into the grain they already use. Sustainable, because using a fertiliser is unnecessary...

 

“This is an example of years of basic research now leading to innovative, applied research that can be of great importance for many people... the prospects are great in a world where the population is growing and there’s increasing pressure on resources” ... Even small increases in the nitrogen level could improve yields for African farmers who cannot afford fertiliser, and the aim is to deliver the technology through locally produced seeds... 


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Philippines: Farmer-leader backs wider propagation of biotech corn

Philippines: Farmer-leader backs wider propagation of biotech corn | GMO research and news | Scoop.it
The online version of the Philippines' leading business newspaper features virtually all the stories and statistical data available in the print edition.

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Genetically Modified Goat Milk Benefit: Aids Digestion, Fights Diarrhea - Medical Daily (2013)

Genetically Modified Goat Milk Benefit: Aids Digestion, Fights Diarrhea - Medical Daily (2013) | GMO research and news | Scoop.it

Genetically modified goat milk containing higher levels of a human antimicrobial protein was effective in treating iarrhea in young pigs- a finding that displays a potential benefit of genetically modified organisms in promoting human digestive health... 

 

Every year, 1.8 million children around the world die of diarrheal diseases, caused mainly by the bacteria E. coli. Millions more who survive are still left with physical and mental impairments... 

 

"These results provide just one example that, through genetic engineering, we can provide agriculturally relevant animals with novel traits targeted at solving some of the health-related problems facing these developing communities." ... 

 

Murray hopes that the genetically modified goat milk's benefits for the pigs used in this study can apply to human children suffering from bacterial diarrhea as well, though it will likely take years before the transgenic milk can be studied sufficiently and approved as safe for human consumption.


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How Genetically-Modified Crops Can Save Hundreds of Thousands from Malnutrition - Lynas (2013) - Breakthrough

How Genetically-Modified Crops Can Save Hundreds of Thousands from Malnutrition - Lynas (2013) - Breakthrough | GMO research and news | Scoop.it

Despite the rapid progress made towards reducing poverty in many developing countries in recent years, high rates of malnutrition persist – and Vitamin A deficiency remains a persistent challenge. One cause for optimism is that new approaches to ‘biofortification’ are beginning to offer hope of improved strategies with the potential to save tens to hundreds of thousands of lives per year... 

 

"Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections. In pregnant women VAD causes night blindness and may increase the risk of maternal mortality... An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 vitamin A-deficient children become blind every year, half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight." These numbers are striking... this implies an annnual death toll of 125,000 to 250,000 children – a staggering mortality rate for this little-known affliction.

 

WHO promotes an ‘arsenal’ of nutritional weapons, including “a combination of breastfeeding and vitamin A supplementation, coupled with enduring solutions, such as promotion of vitamin A-rich diets and food fortification”. Vitamin A supplements in the form of capsules to young children are highly effective but time-limited – their effects last only 4-6 months, so WHO says “they are only initial steps towards ensuring better overall nutrition and not long-term solutions”.

 

Instead, “food fortification takes over where supplementation leaves off. Food fortification, for example sugar in Guatemala, maintains vitamin A status, especially for high-risk groups and needy families.” Fortification means artificially mixing in vitamin A with foods which people buy and consume, and as the WHO suggests, it can play a major role...

 

A complementary approach is ‘biofortification’, where the missing nutrients are  bred into staple crops either through conventional selective breeding or – if no genes are availble in related plants – through genetic engineering... 

 

Biofortification is particularly useful for reaching the rural poor who grow the food they consume, and are therefore largely outside the reach of food fortification programmes, which work best in urban areas where most food is purchased in markets. Unlike supplements, biofortified vitamin A-enriched food and crops will continue to protect children from deficiencies in a sustainable way at little extra cost as they are harvested each year.

 

Although it has been a long time in development, vitamin A-enriched ‘golden rice’ could soon be a breakthrough intervention in south and east Asia, where the largest-scale deficiency problem persists. It has now been scientifically established that golden rice “is an effective source of vitamin A” ... and thereby potentially an effective intervention to save lives in areas where white rice is the staple food...

 

Even so, continued opposition threatens to derail this progress. Much of this focuses around the idea that other approaches to vitamin A deficiency are more ‘appropriate’ than one involving GMOs and should be tried first. This seems to me to run counter to the WHO’s ‘arsenal’ approach – why not try everything you can in response to a crisis which takes the lives of up to a quarter of a million young children per year? A common variant is the ‘let them eat broccoli’ argument (with apologies to Marie Antoinette) – that promoting a more balanced diet is more appropriate than fortification of staple foods.

 

No-one disputes that a balanced and nutritionally-adequate diet is the best long-term soluton to vitamin A deficiency and malnutrition in general. But achieving this requires the elimination of poverty (which is why rich countries do not have this problem), something which will take time and decades of economic growth in the developing world. In the meantime, millions of preventable deaths will occur, and many of those children that survive will have their life prospects permanently harmed...

 


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Wheat Genetically Engineered to Make it Nearly Gluten Free - ISAAA (2012)

Wheat Genetically Engineered to Make it Nearly Gluten Free - ISAAA (2012) | GMO research and news | Scoop.it

An international team of researchers has succeeded in genetically engineering wheat seeds to prevent gluten production in subsequent plants.

 

The researchers focused their work on DEMETER (DME), the enzyme that activates the group of genes responsible for the production of gluten. Using genetic engineering techniques, they managed to suppress DME by 85.6 percent which then reduced by 76.4 percent the production of gluten in wheat seeds.

 

The team, with researchers from China, Germany and the United States, says that flour made from the altered seeds appears to be suitable for making bread, and that the next level of their work will determine if these grains can be used in foods for people suffering from celiac disease. 


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Rice of the future gets financial boost - IRRI (2012)

Rice of the future gets financial boost - IRRI (2012) | GMO research and news | Scoop.it

The pursuit to rein in hunger with the development of a “cutting-edge” rice of the future has received a financial boost, and is now rolling into its second phase. Led by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the project seeks to create "C4 rice" – rice with a built-in fuel injector to better convert sunlight into grain, potentially resulting in up to 50% higher production all while using less water and nutrients. 

 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the UK government, and IRRI have put $14 million behind C4 rice over the next three years... This new funding will enable the International Rice Research Institute to begin producing prototypes of this ‘super rice’ for testing. This could prove a critical breakthrough in feeding an ever-growing number of hungry mouths.” 


C4 rice research, currently in its early phases, hopes to develop a new type of rice with improved photosynthesis capacity, known as C4. There are classes of plants known as “C3” and “C4” – referring to how they convert light energy into sugar or photosynthesize. Rice has a C3 photosynthetic pathway. C3 photosynthesis is inefficient at converting inputs to grain, as opposed to the C4 pathway, in which resources are processed more efficiently and converted into higher grain production.

 

“Other plants, such as maize, already have C4 photosynthesis,” says IRRI’s Dr. Paul Quick, coordinator of the C4 rice project that brings together 17 research institutes worldwide. “We want to incorporate this natural energy booster into rice, which usually just has C3 photosynthesis, so that it can achieve much higher yields,” he added. “It’s important to incorporate C4 in rice because rice grows in places where other crops such as maize do not grow and because rice is the staple food of more than half the world, including many people who live in poverty.”

 

The researchers have already identified crucial genes needed to assemble C4 photosynthesis in rice, defined the basic elements required for functional C4 photosynthesis, and successfully introduced 10 out of the 13 genes needed for C4 rice...


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French activists "empowered" by junk science, destroy GM soy ...

One hundred anti-GMO activists have destroyed a cargo of transgenic soybean import the port of Lorient, to denounce the presence in the food chain of a product they consider to be "toxic" There were a hundred of the, ...
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California genetic food vote is no victory for science - opinion - 15 November 2012 - New Scientist

California genetic food vote is no victory for science - opinion - 15 November 2012 - New Scientist | GMO research and news | Scoop.it
Researchers hailing the Californian vote against proposals for mandatory labelling of genetically modified food are missing the bigger picture, says...
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