A former British Science minister speaks out on behalf of biotech crops and researchers in India develop a protein-rich potato that has the potential to improve the diets of millions in developing nations.
Former British Science Minister calls for renewed debate on biotech crops based on scientific evidence
Lord David Sainsbury, a former British science minister, spoke out recently on behalf of biotech crops, sharing that the “technology could play a vitally important role in feeding a global population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050.” Lord Sainsbury told BBC Radio that the UK risks falling behind other world powers like India and China because of the country’s ban on biotech crops. He adds that ruling out this technology would be “very foolish” and not based on scientific evidence. Read more.
Genetic engineering a more precise form of selective plant breeding
While a great deal of recent attention has been devoted to the FDA’s approval process of genetically engineered salmon, Associated Press reporters Seth Borenstein and Malcolm Ritter write that humans have been altering food for the thousands of years through selective plant breeding. Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution, which saved millions of lives in Africa and Asia, would not have been possible without precise breeding methods. The reporters quote CBI Expert Bruce Chassy who adds, “all of the animals, plants and microbes we use in our food system, our agricultural system, are genetically modified in one way or another.” Read more.
Researchers in India develop a protein-packed potato
A genetically modified potato that has up to 60 percent more protein than unmodified potatoes and increased levels of amino acids was developed by researchers in India. According to ABC News, the potato uses a gene from the seed of the amaranth plant (a grain crop) to achieve greater levels of protein. More than a billion people worldwide consume potatoes every day, and the modified potato could have positive public health effects by reducing protein deficiency in developing nations. Read more.
This week, a scientific study out of South Africa shows that GM crops could help alleviate food shortages in sub-Saharan Africa and a scientist expresses concern over global food production.
Scientist warns of potential for global famine
In a keynote speech at the Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference, Australian biotechnology expert Julian Cribb warned governments across the globe that a worldwide famine is a possibility and that they must find a way to more than double food production in the next century. According to AOLNews, Cribb considers this potential food shortage to be more pressing than the global financial and climate change crises.
Academy of Science of South Africa report says GM Crops can help alleviate food shortage
A recently released report from the Academy of Science of South Africa shares that “agricultural biotechnology…can be one of the most vital tools for addressing the chronic food shortages in sub-Saharan Africa.” The Academy’s research found that GM crops increase yields, improve the protein content of starchy foods and the biofortification of local foods. Currently South Africa is one of only three countries in the continent growing commercial GM crops. Read more.
Indian farmers adopt flood-tolerant rice at unprecedented rates
IRRI, a rice research institute, has found that Indian farmers are planting flood-tolerant rice at an unprecedented rate. While the rice is not commercially available yet, IRRI is working with governments, nonprofit organizations and public and private organizations to promote and distribute the genetically modified rice to areas prone to flooding. Within one year of release, the submergence-tolerant, high-yielding rice variety has reached more than 100,000 farmers in India. Read more.
Global food production on agenda at global conference
The Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference (ABIC) begins this Sunday in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, and will focus on the challenges facing global food production. Five keynote and 66 expert speakers in three areas — energy, health and sustainability — will present during the four-day conference, which will have about 1,000 international delegates.
Keynote speakers include Julian Cribb, who authored the recently released “The Coming Famine: Risks and Solutions for Global Food Security,” and Prem Warrior, senior project manager with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program.
Biofortification of staple foods still necessary
According to a report by the International Food Policy Research Institute, the biofortification of staple foods is still relevant in poor countries, despite gains in income and urbanization. The authors of the study, titled Integrated Economic Modeling of Global and Regional Micronutrient Security, suggest that low-income rural populations will continue to derive much of their diets from staple foods, such as cereal grains in South Asia, and roots and tubers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Kofi Annan awarded Norman E. Borlaug medallion
The World Food Prize Foundation this week awarded the Norman E. Borlaug medallion to Kofi Annan during the first-ever African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Annan’s home country of Ghana. According to the World Food Prize press release, Annan was selected for the award based on his “international leadership as Secretary-General of the United Nations and as chairman of the board for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. In both roles, Annan has brought significant attention to the issue of global food security, most notably in establishing the UN Millennium Development Goals during his time at the United Nations.”
Test your biotech knowledge!
This week, we’re asking our readers to take CBI’s quiz to see how much you know about ag biotech and to provide feedback on the information you want to see from CBI. All quiz-takers will be eligible to win a copy of the acclaimed book Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food! Now, for other exciting ag biotech news…
Biotechnology is essential to African food security
At a roundtable discussion, Ghanaian biosafety and biotechnology expert Prof. Walter Alhassan stressed that agricultural biotechnology is crucial to his country dealing effectively with food security issues and the impact of a changing and less predictable climate. He added that “after 14 years of commercial use of genetic modification (GM) crops, no scientifically proved risk has been confirmed due to GM application.” Ghana’s National Biosafety Committee will soon be considering applications to permit field trials of protein-enhanced sweet potatoes and insect protected cowpea in the country. Learn more.
Recent anti-biotech ruling on GM beet sugar harms farmers and consumers
A recent federal district court ruling that limits the application of genetically modified beet sugar will have a negative impact on the price and availability of sugar in America, according to a Forbes article. Genetically modified beet sugar accounts for 95 percent of all sugar grown in the United States. The court ruling, which requires a more intensive environmental impact study by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (the agency that already approved the GM beets in 2005) will result in uncertainty in the sugar marketplace, hurting farmers and consumers. Learn more.