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New plan on GMO rules to reduce risks  - Politics and policy |businessdailyafrica.com

New plan on GMO rules to reduce risks  - Politics and policy |businessdailyafrica.com | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it

Kenya plans to develop all the necessary guidelines for handling Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) by the end of year. The National Bio-Safety Authority (NBA) Chief Executive Officer Willy Tonui said the procedures will help consumers tackle the potential risks of biotech products.

“We have already put in place some regulations but by the end of the year, we will have developed all regulations to handle GMOs,” Dr Tonui said during a workshop for the Open Forum for African Biotechnology (OFAB).

He said that so far, there has been no commercial release of biotech products in the market.

“NBA has currently approved five confined trials, including for biotech cotton, fortified sorghum, water resistant maize and cassava,” he said.

He added that NBA only regulates and approves use of biotech products it was up to industry players to meet requirements before their producst are allowed into the market.

Dr Tonui noted that Kenya’s road towards commercialisation of GMOs has been hit by lack of sufficient research to develop products.
Last May, NBA put in place regulations on labeling of products containing GMOs.

“The laws will ensure that consumers are aware of the presence of any GMO material in foods and will also facilitate their traceability,” he said.
According to the authority, there are few certified bio-safety professionals in the country.

“We are therefore developing a curriculum to be used by the universities in order assist in the certification of professionals,” Dr Tonui said.
NBA said Kenya will next month host a national conference to review bio-safety concerns relating to GMOs.

“The first annual Bio-safety Conference will run from Aug 6-9, where over 100 scientists will deliberate on use of biotech to enhance food security in the country,” Dr Tonui said.

 

OFAB Kenya Chapter Chair Margaret Karembu said the country should have biotech crops available by 2014.
“There is a lot of promising research in biotech crops that are key to food security in Kenya and so our hope is to make them available in Kenya as soon as possible,” she said.

Dr Karembu noted that biotech crops will be one of the solutions to Kenya’s perennial food production deficits.

“Crops that can resist drought conditions will be crucial if Kenya is to increase its food production,” said she.
-Xinhua

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Time to transform the agriculture sector is now

Time to transform the agriculture sector is now | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it

For agriculture to make its rightful contribution to the development of Kenya, transforming smallholder farming from subsistence to an innovative, commercially oriented and modern sector is critical.

But this is only possible if farmers, producers, processors and marketers employ the most contemporary methods.

Drought and pests have adversely affected the productivity of maize, the staple food for more than 80 per cent of the population.

The problem of pest attack is further compounded by the high cost of, and occasional adulteration, of pesticides found in the market making them ineffective.

In Kenya, stem borers alone are known to reduce maize production by an average of 13 per cent or 400,000 tonnes, equivalent to the normal yearly quantity the country imports to meet recurrent deficits.

The good news is that it is possible to reverse the trend. Indeed, tripling national average yields of major crop and livestock production systems is easily achievable as demonstrated by the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project. WEMA brings together seven partners including national agricultural research systems of Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda; the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and Monsanto.

For the last five years, the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), together with national and international research organisations through the WEMA project, has been conducting trials on a genetically-modified maize that is resistant to stem borers. This Bt maize has the ability to protect itself from insect pests because it contains a gene derived from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacteria that is naturally present in soil and widely used as a biological pesticide by organic crop producers.

The Bt gene protects the plant from stem borers because it produces a protein that cannot be digested by the insects, but is harmless to humans.

In addition, the maize reduces the need for frequent spraying with expensive insecticide chemicals that are harmful to humans and the environment.

Results from tests carried out in Kenya show that the WEMA Bt maize effectively controls stem borers without the need for insecticides.

Even better news is that the varieties also recorded a yield increase of 3.7 tonnes per hectare above the best commercial hybrid used in the trials.

Following successful confined field trials carried out by Kalro in Kenya, WEMA Project has gathered sufficient performance and safety data on Bt maize, and proceeded to file an application for consideration for approval for environmental release by the National Biosafety Authority.

If the authority grants approval for environmental release of Bt maize in Kenya, further trials will proceed in accordance with existing national policy, legislation, guidelines and procedures governing  variety testing, release and gazettement new plant varieties.

Dr Francis Nang’ayo is Senior Manager for Regulatory Affairs at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation

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BASF’s Crop Protection Products Offer Full Range Of Solutions

BASF's Joe Lara talks about innovative technologies such as Intrinsic Brand fungicides and Sultan miticide.
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Anti-GMO Activist Campaign is "Full of Errors, Fallacies, Misconceptions ... - Reason (blog)

Anti-GMO Activist Campaign is "Full of Errors, Fallacies, Misconceptions ... - Reason (blog) | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
Slate article "Unhealthy Fixation" debunk activist campaign against GMOs.
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New Letters Added to the Genetic Alphabet - Quanta Magazine

New Letters Added to the Genetic Alphabet - Quanta Magazine | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
Scientists hope that new genetic letters, created in the lab, will endow DNA with new powers.
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AgBiome, Genective team up to develop insect-resistant crops - Crop Protection News

AgBiome, Genective team up to develop insect-resistant crops - Crop Protection News | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
AgBiome, a leading agricultural research firm, and Genective, a top developer of biotechnology crops, said on Wednesday that the two companies have established a strategic partnership that will speed their development of insect-resistant innovation...
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How scary! An analysis of visual communication concerning genetically modifie organisms in Italy - Ventura & Frisio (2015) - Food Syst Dynam

In the economics literature many studies investigate the factors that drive public resistance: ethical concerns, low public trust in regulatory institution, risk misperception, absence of perceived benefits and media bias.

 

In particular, public attitudes and risk perception about agricultural biotechnology are proved to be influenced by press media communication. This paper aims at gaining insight into the visual communication to which Italian population is exposed about GMOs, in order to investigate if images could have contributed to shape their negative public perception.

 

 

A set of 500 images collected through Google search for “GMO” in Italy are classified considering fearful attributes (i.e. alteration of color, shape or size of plants or animals, mention to death or war, presence of DNA double helix or syringe) and an index that accounts for the scary impact of these images is built. Then the relationship between the index and a set of variables that refer to the context in which images appear is estimated.

 

Preliminary results reveal that the order of appearance of images negatively affect index, namely that the first (and most viewed) Google result pages contain the most frightful images. It suggests that Italian population is subject to overstated negative inputs about GMOs. In addition, it emerges that web contents that show positive or neutral GMO attitudes are barely accompanied with objective and balanced visual communication... 

 

http://centmapress.ilb.uni-bonn.de/ojs/index.php/proceedings/article/view/474

 


Via Alexander J. Stein
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Three years of field trials with N-efficient rice show big yield increases - agprofessional.com

Three years of field trials with N-efficient rice show big yield increases - agprofessional.com | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
Arcadia Biosciences, Inc., has joined with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) to announce the completion of a third year of field trials of Nitrogen Use Efficient (NUE) rice.
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Hornless cattle make case for gene editing and less restrictive regulation of GM animals

Hornless cattle make case for gene editing and less restrictive regulation of GM animals | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it

Hornless cattle, described by GLP’s Jon Entine here last year, have lumbered onto the GMO scene once more. This time they appear as an example in Antonio Regalado’s speculations at Technology Review about the future of GMO regulation, especially animal biotechnology.


Because the cattle are made using gene editing techniques and no genes from other species, the hope by some is that regulators will accept them more readily than they have GM animals produced in other ways. The hornless cattle are the brainchild of molecular geneticist Scott Fahrenkrug, who used to be at the University of Minnesota but left to form his animal GMO startup, Recombinetics. He wants to breed GM pigs as model animals for human disease research as well as cattle without horns.


Hornless cattle are desirable because they are less dangerous to people and to each other. Some breeds are hornless naturally, but dairy cattle breeds usually have horns that are burned or sliced off, a horribly painful process. A Recombinetics investor who took part in dehorning in his youth told Regalado that it was a bloody mess. “You wouldn’t want to show that on TV.”


Fahrenkrug, whose company is using a gene editing method called TALENs, is not the only scientist hoping that gene editing will pass muster with regulators. A few weeks ago I wrote here at GLP about a gene deletion, using a different gene editing technique called CRISPR, which helps wheat resist powdery mildew. The hope is that because the work did not involve gene transfer it will not arouse opposition.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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U.S.D.A. Approves Modified Potato. Next Up: French Fry Fans.

U.S.D.A. Approves Modified Potato. Next Up: French Fry Fans. | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
The so-called Innate potato, which produces less of a cancer-causing chemical when it is fried, was developed by a major McDonald’s supplier.
Kwame Ogero's insight:

A potato genetically engineered to reduce the amounts of a potentially harmful ingredient in French fries and potato chips has been approved for commercial planting, the Department of Agriculture announced on Friday.

The potato’s DNA has been altered so that less of a chemical called acrylamide, which is suspected of causing cancer in people, is produced when the potato is fried.

The new potato also resists bruising, a characteristic long sought by potato growers and processors for financial reasons. Potatoes bruised during harvesting, shipping or storage can lose value or become unusable.

The biotech tubers were developed by the J. R. Simplot Company, a privately held company based in Boise, Idaho, which was the initial supplier of frozen French fries to McDonald’s in the 1960s and is still a major supplier. 

Continue reading the main storyThe potato is one of a new wave of genetically modified crops that aim to provide benefits to consumers, not just to farmers as the widely grown biotech crops like herbicide-tolerant soybeans and corn do. The nonbruising aspect of the potato is similar to that of genetically engineered nonbrowning apples, developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, which are awaiting regulatory approval.
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28 October 2014 - Position statement on new crop breeding tools published by UK’s major plant science funder - BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has published a position statement on new and emerging techniques for crop improvement…
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Biotech crops increase in 2013 in their 18th consecutive year of commercialization

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Standard Digital News - Kenya : Ignore this propaganda and lift ban on GMO imports

Standard Digital News - Kenya : Ignore this propaganda and lift ban on GMO imports | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it

By Bibiana Iraki

It is unfortunate that despite well-documented benefits of modern agricultural biotechnology towards improving food security, alleviating poverty, and enhancing socio-economic development, anti-biotechnology lobbyists have refused to abandon their ill-intended propaganda campaign against this useful technology.

A case in point is the recent article by Kamau Kaniaru in The Standard’s edition of September 3, 2013. Mr Kaniaru’s assertions were not only erroneous but also very cleverly disguised to mislead the public policy-making process and discourse.

The article makes a wild claim that the Cabinet decision to ban importation of genetically modified (GMO) foods was justified because the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had retracted their previous criticisms of the controversial study by Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen in France. This could not be further from the truth.

To begin with, the recent EFSA report does not, at any one time, mention Séralini or his unscrupulous study, nor does it endorse any study suggesting that GMOs may be unsafe.

Secondly, Mr Kaniaru again makes an unsubstantiated claim that a recently published scientific report by EFSA adopts the Séralini study as a standard for long-term studies. This again is a blatant lie because in this report, EFSA further reaffirms its earlier position that Séralini did not follow the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development internationally accepted guidelines and protocols for food toxicity studies. The findings were, therefore, merely scare tactics commonly used by anti-GM lobbyists.

A quick look at EFSA’s frequently asked questions on their website last updated in February 2013 clearly states, “EFSA’s final review reaffirmed its initial findings that the authors’ conclusions cannot be regarded as scientifically sound because of inadequacies in the design, reporting and analysis of the study.”

According to EFSA, it remains impossible to draw valid conclusions about the occurrence of tumours in the rats tested. This begs the question; where did Mr Kaniaru get the impression that EFSA validated the Séralini study?

The simplest and most concrete demonstration that EFSA and European Union member states were not perturbed by Séralini’s well-orchestrated fear-mongering efforts can be seen in the uninterrupted approval of GM food imports in Europe to date. As a matter of fact, the GM maize line used in the Séralini study known as NK603 was approved for food, feed, import and processing by the European Commission for a period of 10 years, starting 2010.

Russia’s government quickly reversed a decision to ban the GM maize NK603 after realising that Séralini’s findings were a hoax. This is a decision that the Kenyan government should emulate, especially considering that it has world-class scientists and able regulatory authorities like the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) within our borders.

Harshly reprimanded

Another wild claim by Mr Kaniaru is that EFSA was harshly reprimanded by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) for its biased review of the Séralini study.

It is important that we separate facts from fiction. For starters, the audit fieldwork was finalised in October 2011, making it impossible for it to have referred to an EFSA review published in 2012. Secondly, the requirements or characteristics analysed within the ECA report relating to the quality of EFSA’s scientific opinion had positive feedback. In view of his unsubstantiated claim, one cannot help but wonder where the author got his citation.

The recurrent question of whether or not GMOs are safe for human health and the environment is easily explained by the upward and consistent adoption trends seen over the last 17 years.

For Kenya to reap the benefits of modern agricultural biotechnology, our policy makers need to listen to scientifically sound advice from our expert institutions on the subject, like the NBA and the numerous world-class scientists conducting first-class research at institutes like the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute.

In his recent speech at the Uwezo Fund launch, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the government places stakeholder consultation at the heart of its administration. In light of this, it is high time the relevant authorities started dialogue with experts to find a practical and lasting solution to the food insecurity that has endlessly plagued this country.

 

The writer is the Communications Officer at the African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum

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Visit to vandalized Golden Rice field trial - IRRI (2013)

IRRI and PhilRice officials visit the Golden Rice field site that was vandalized... A crowd of 300 had stormed the Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Field Unit 5's (RFU5) Bicol Experiment Station, overwhelming the police and guards, and vandalizing the research plots of Golden Rice... 

 

Regional Executive Diretor Bragas said that they were taken by surprise. They had assembled DA officials and staff in the office, waiting for the group to come in and sit down for a peaceful dialogue. Instead, the militants poured into the compound, overwhelmed the police and village security, broke down a section of the fence surrounding the research area, and entered, uprooted, and trampled the crop. 

 

The officials shared that there were farmers in the group, but they just watched and stayed on the sidelines. Local customs and traditions dictate that the destruction of a living field brings bad fortune – Bicolanos refer to it as "Bosung". Those who entered the field to vandalize were mostly young men and some covered their faces. 

 

The local officials and the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) recounted that the rallyists had been assembled in Legazpi City the day before, and brought overnight to Naga City in a convoy of about a dozen jeepneys. In Naga City they had been housed in local hotels. It was reported that the group included foreigners. 


Via Alexander J. Stein
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Alexander J. Stein's curator insight, August 11, 2013 10:57 PM

Interesting to read how little regard the anti-GMO activists apparently had for local customs, traditions and beliefs (which otherwise they probably claim to be dear to their heart), simply overpowering local farmers and stakeholders rather than empowering them. (A jeepney can easily accommodate more than a dozen passengers, i.e. a dozen jeepneys can have bussed in more than half of the "farmers" from Legazpi City who vandalised the field trial.) 

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Ban on GM foods imports to be lifted in two months- Kenya's Deputy President, Hon. William Ruto

Ban on GM foods imports to be lifted in two months- Kenya's Deputy President, Hon. William Ruto | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
Cabinet expected to discuss the matter before nodding to biotechnology products, says DP William Ruto.
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Rice revolution? New rice could help feed world, fight climate change. - Christian Science Monitor

Rice revolution? New rice could help feed world, fight climate change. - Christian Science Monitor | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
A new strain of rice produces more and larger grains and reduces methane emissions from rice farming, perhaps the largest human-based source of the greenhouse gas. But it's genetically modified, which could lead to a backlash.
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Give scientists space to deliver better products to farmers | The Star

Give scientists space to deliver better products to farmers | The Star | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
Kwame Ogero's insight:

The debate on whether Kenya should adopt modern agricultural biotechnology continues to receive mixed reactions with anti-GMOs group calling for rejection of biotech products until the safety of such crops is proven. This controversy has given some politicians and anti-GM technology alike, a platform to spread propaganda with allegations that consumption of GMOs will have unknown health impacts on consumers.

Like their counterparts in the rest of the world, Kenyan scientists including biotech experts, continuously avoid plunging into the treacherous world of politics where lies and truth are the “same.”

In Kenya, the debate on agricultural biotechnology, which include unfounded statements that the country has inadequate capacity to appropriately handle GMOs, is the clearest indicator that some policymakers need to be encouraged to make informed opinions or decisions by visiting universities, research centres and regulatory institutions to familiarise themselves with progress that the country is making in the field of modern biotechnology.

- See more at: http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/give-scientists-space-deliver-better-products-farmers#sthash.vWuO8EOh.dpuf

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Trends in Global Approvals of Biotech Crops (1992–2014)- Crop Biotech Update ( 7/8/2015 ) | ISAAA.org/KC

Trends in Global Approvals of Biotech Crops (1992–2014)- Crop Biotech Update ( 7/8/2015 ) | ISAAA.org/KC | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
Trends in Global Approvals of Biotech Crops (1992–2014): With the increasing number of genetically modified (GM) crops, approval of these technologies may vary depending on the needs, demand, and trade inter...
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Profiling the controversial organic-funded activist professor, Gilles-Éric Séralini

Profiling the controversial organic-funded activist professor, Gilles-Éric Séralini | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
Gilles-Éric Séralini | | June 18, 2015 |
Kwame Ogero's insight:

Gilles-Éric Séralini is a French scientist who has been a professor of molecular biology at the University of Caen since 1991. Known for his research concluding that genetically modified food is unsafe for human consumption, his latest publication, released in PLOS ONE on July 2, 2015–“Laboratory Rodent Diets Contain Toxic Levels of Environmental Contaminants: Implications for Regulatory Tests”–maintains that all safety studies of pesticides and genetically modified foods are ‘invalid’ because, the researchers claim, the dried feeds used as control diets for lab animals are “contaminated” by GMOs, pesticides, heavy metals and other substances.

Funding for PLOS ONE Study and other Séralini Research

Funding for this study and much of Séralini’s previous research comes directly from one of the US organic industry’s leading figures, Anthony Rodale–chairman emeritus of Rodale’s Organic and founder of theRodale Institute, a 501c3 that bills itself as “advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating consumers about how going organic is the healthiest option for people and the planet.” Rodale works closely with former Patrick Holden, former director of the UK Soil Association, which calls itself a “charity campaigning for planet-friendly organic practices” and “healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use.”

They two provide money via a U.S. NGO known as the Sustainable Food Alliance (SFA) to overseas organic and anti-GMO groups, including scientists such as Séralini, without having to make the grants public. About US$2 million appears to have gone from this NGO to research for “herbicide” and “toxic evaluations” between 2011-2013. Seralini’s research group acknowledged support from SFA in the PLOS ONE article. Séralini has previously received funding from Greenpeace, which financed a 2007 study that claimed that GM corn caused health problems in rats. The study was reviewed by the European Food Safety Authority, which concluded that all of the statistical anomalies cited by the study group were attributable to “normal biological variation.”

Sources of funding listed for his current study:

CRIIGENJMG Foundation (formerly the Goldsmith Foundation, led by ecology environmental activist Ben Goldsmith)Lea Nature, an organic and natural products companyFoundations Charles Léopold Mayer for the Progress of HumankindNature Vivante, an ecological trade associationMalongo, a fair trade, organic coffee companyDenis Gouchard, a natural living foundationThe Sustainable Food Alliance,a non-profit organization run by Rodale Organic’s Anthony Rodale whose mission is “To educate the public about the positive health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming.” Board members include: Patrick Holden, Owsley Brown, Clair Peters and Ed Baldrige.
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Download Genetic Engineering Ebook

___Browse And Download This Ebook now. ___Download now at : http://bit.ly/1Iwxe2t ___If you can't To download Registration First ...
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GMO Potatoes And Apples Earn FDA Approval: Coming Soon To A Restaurant ... - Medical Daily

Two varieties of genetically engineered apples and six varieties of genetically engineered potatoes have been approved by the USDA and FDA.
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A 90-day subchronic feeding study of genetically modified rice expressing Cry1Ab protein in Sprague–Dawley rats - Online First - Springer

A 90-day subchronic feeding study of genetically modified rice expressing Cry1Ab protein in Sprague–Dawley rats - Online First - Springer | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
Kwame Ogero's insight:

Bt rice (mfb-MH86) produces cry1Ab protein to reduce feeding damage of pests including Asiatic pink stem borer (Sesamia inferens), Asiatic rice borer (Chilo suppressalis), yellow stem borer (Tryporyza incertulas) and rice leafroller (Cnaphalocrocis medinalis). Huan Song of China Agricultural University and colleagues used rice flour from Bt rice and its non-biotech counterpart (MH86) for 90-days feeding test of Sprague-Dawley rats. The researchers separately formulated rodent diets at concentrations of 17.5, 35 and 70 % (w/w).

Overall health, body weight and food consumption were comparable between groups fed diets containing mfb-MH86 and MH86. Differences in haematological and biochemical parameters of the blood samples were noted, but still within the normal range of values for the size and gender of the rats, thus not considered as effect of the treatment. Macroscopic and tissue examinations were conducted, but no significant differences were found.

Based on the results, Bt rice mfb-MH86 is as safe and nutritious as non-GM rice.

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

[updated 04 November, 2014]  

 

These days I received an apparently easy request: “Do you have any recommendations for reading about the debate on GMOs? I think there is a lot of heat, but too little light in the discussion; I trust you can send me some…” To which I answered carelessly: “Sure, I will look into it, select a few references and post them…” 

 

I thought I’d have a quick look into my collection of bookmarks and references and post some of the links to satisfy the request. Obviously there would be too many individual studies and crop-specific or country-specific reports, but focusing only (i) on what was published in recent years, (ii) on sources where all this information was already aggregated (literature reviews, meta-analyses, authoritative statements, FAQs, etc.), and (iii) on academic or publicly funded sources should produce a fairly concise list, I thought. 

 

While not unmanageable, the list has become quite long. To get a rough idea of the current state of knowledge, it may be sufficient to peruse the first 1-2 (starred *) references under each heading, and to have a quick look at the abstracts and summaries of some of the others. (Given the controversy surrounding this topic I did not want to suggest just one or two sources, but show a bit the width of the scientific consensus, and to offer some titbits of related information.) ... 

 

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

 


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.
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Ten Thousand Years of Crop Improvement

Even without genetic "engineering", how "natural" are our crop plants? How do genetically modified crops differ? Join biologist Maarten Chrispeels and explore how crop plants have changed since...
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Benefits of BIOTECHNOLOGY in agriculture | Agri-biotech

Biotechnology is the application of scientific techniques 
to modify and improve plants, animals, and microor­
ganisms to enhance their value. Agricultural biotech­
nology is the area of biotechnology involving applica­
tions to agriculture. Agricultural biotechnology has been 
practiced for a long time, as people have sought to im­
prove agriculturally important organisms by selection 
and breeding. An example of traditional agricultural bio­
technology is the development of disease-resistant wheat 
varieties by cross-breeding different wheat types until 
the desired disease resistance was present in a resulting 
new variety. 
In the 1970s, advances in the field of molecular biol­
ogy provided scientists with the ability to manipulate 
DNA—the chemical building blocks that specify the char­
acteristics of living organisms—at the molecular level. 
This technology is called genetic engineering. It also al­
lows transfer of DNA between more distantly related or­
ganisms than was possible with traditional breeding tech­
niques. Today, this technology has reached a stage where 
scientists can take one or more specific genes from nearly 
any organism, including plants, animals, bacteria, or vi­
ruses, and introduce those genes into another organism. 
An organism that has been transformed using genetic 
engineering techniques is referred to as a transgenic or­
ganism, or a genetically engineered organism. 
Many other terms are in popular use to describe these 
aspects of today’s biotechnology. The term “genetically 
modified organism” or “GMO” is widely used, although 
genetic modification has been around for hundreds if 
not thousands of years, since deliberate crosses of one 
variety or breed with another result in offspring that are 
genetically modified compared to the parents. Similarly, 
foods derived from transgenic plants have been called 
“GMO foods,” “GMPs” (genetically modified products), 
and “biotech foods.” While some refer to foods devel­
oped from genetic engineering technology as “biotech­
nology-enhanced foods,” others call them 
“frankenfoods.” For the reasons discussed later in this 
publication, controversy affects various issues related 
to the growing of genetically engineered organisms.

What are the benefits of genetic engineering 
in agriculture? 
Everything in life has its benefits and risks, and genetic 
engineering is no exception. Much has been said about 
potential risks of genetic engineering technology, but 
so far there is little evidence from scientific studies that 
these risks are real. Transgenic organisms can offer a 
range of benefits above and beyond those that emerged 
from innovations in traditional agricultural biotechnol­
ogy. Following are a few examples of benefits resulting 
from applying currently available genetic engineering 
techniques to agricultural biotechnology. 
Increased crop productivity 
Biotechnology has helped to increase crop productivity 
by introducing such qualities as disease resistance and 
increased drought tolerance to the crops. Now, research­
ers can select genes for disease resistance from other 
species and transfer them to important crops. For ex­
ample, researchers from the University of Hawaii and 
Cornell University developed two varieties of papaya 
resistant to papaya ringspot virus by transferring one of 
the virus’ genes to papaya to create resistance in the 
plants. Seeds of the two varieties, named ‘SunUp’ and 
‘Rainbow’, have been distributed under licensing agree­
ments to papaya growers since 1998. 
Further examples come from dry climates, where 
crops must use water as efficiently as possible. Genes 
from naturally drought-resistant plants can be used to 
increase drought tolerance in many crop varieties. 
Enhanced crop protection 
Farmers use crop-protection technologies because they 
provide cost-effective solutions to pest problems which, 
if left uncontrolled, would severely lower yields. As 
mentioned above, crops such as corn, cotton, and potato 
have been successfully transformed through genetic 
engineering to make a protein that kills certain insects 
when they feed on the plants. The protein is from the 
soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, which has been 
used for decades as the active ingredient of some “natu­
ral” insecticides. 
In some cases, an effective transgenic crop-protec­
tion technology can control pests better and more cheaply 
than existing technologies. For example, with Bt engi­
neered into a corn crop, the entire crop is resistant to

certain pests, not just the part of the plant to which Bt 
insecticide has been applied. In these cases, yields in­
crease as the new technology provides more effective 
control. In other cases, a new technology is adopted be­
cause it is less expensive than a current technology with 
equivalent control. 
There are cases in which new technology is not 
adopted because for one reason or another it is not com­
petitive with the existing technology. For example, or­
ganic farmers apply Bt as an insecticide to control in­
sect pests in their crops, yet they may consider transgenic 
Bt crops to be unacceptable. 
Improvements in food processing 
The first food product resulting from genetic engineer­
ing technology to receive regulatory approval, in 1990, 
was chymosin, an enzyme produced by genetically en­
gineered bacteria. It replaces calf rennet in cheese-mak­
ing and is now used in 60 percent of all cheese manu­
factured. Its benefits include increased purity, a reliable 
supply, a 50 percent cost reduction, and high cheese­
yield efficiency. 
Improved nutritional value 
Genetic engineering has allowed new options for im­
proving the nutritional value, flavor, and texture of foods. 
Transgenic crops in development include soybeans with 
higher protein content, potatoes with more nutritionally 
available starch and an improved amino acid content, 
beans with more essential amino acids, and rice with 
the ability produce beta-carotene, a precursor of vita­
min A, to help prevent blindness in people who have 
nutritionally inadequate diets. 
Better flavor 
Flavor can be altered by enhancing the activity of plant 
enzymes that transform aroma precursors into flavoring 
compounds. Transgenic peppers and melons with im­
proved flavor are currently in field trials. 
Fresher produce 
Genetic engineering can result in improved keeping 
properties to make transport of fresh produce easier, giv­
ing consumers access to nutritionally valuable whole 
foods and preventing decay, damage, and loss of nutri­
ents. Transgenic tomatoes with delayed softening can 
be vine-ripened and still be shipped without bruising. 
Research is under way to make similar modifications to 
broccoli, celery, carrots, melons, and raspberry. The shelf 
life of some processed foods such as peanuts has also 
been improved by using ingredients that have had their 
fatty acid profile modified. 
Environmental benefits 
When genetic engineering results in reduced pesticide 
dependence, we have less pesticide residues on foods, 
we reduce pesticide leaching into groundwater, and we 
minimize farm worker exposure to hazardous products. 
With Bt cotton’s resistance to three major pests, the 
transgenic variety now represents half of the U.S. cot­
ton crop and has thereby reduced total world insecticide 
use by 15 percent! Also, according to the U.S. Food and 
Drug Administration (FDA), “increases in adoption of 
herbicide-tolerant soybeans were associated with small 
increases in yields and variable profits but significant 
decreases in herbicide use” (our italics). 
Benefits for developing countries 
Genetic engineering technologies can help to improve 
health conditions in less developed countries. Research­
ers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology’s In­
stitute for Plant Sciences inserted genes from a daffodil 
and a bacterium into rice plants to produce “golden rice,” 
which has sufficient beta-carotene to meet total vitamin 
A requirements in developing countries with rice-based 
diets. This crop has potential to significantly improve 
vitamin uptake in poverty-stricken areas where vitamin 
supplements are costly and difficult to distribute and 
vitamin A deficiency leads to blindness in children.

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Global scientific community condemns the recent destruction of field trials of Golden Rice in the Philippines

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Kwame Ogero's insight:

Safeguarding science for socioeconomic development: Kindly sign the petition condemning the vandalization of golden rice field trials in the Philippines.

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