New York Times dispels notion that genetic modification is unnatural
The New York Times Freakonomics blog put to rest the assertion that GMOs are “unnatural” in a recent post titled “GMOs and Mother Nature? Closer Than You Think.” The author, James McWilliams, cites a discovery by Swedish scientists that cross-species gene transfer happens even without human intervention in nature, and has been occurring for 700,000 years. This supports the scientific position that genetic modification is just a continuation of the trait selection, and underscores the importance of not excluding any means of food production by incorrectly deeming it “unnatural.” Mr. McWilliams writes, “To divide the precious manifestation of that fight - our food supply - into “real” and “frankenfood” insults not only those who grow and produce our food, but nature itself.” Read more.
Scientists recognize need for GM to feed growing population
According to a Reuters article, the world’s population is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050, and many scientists agree that it will take a variety of farming approaches to feed this increased population, including the application of genetically modified crops. Sir Gordon Conway, an agricultural ecologist and former President of the Royal Geographical Society, says “the organic movement has to evolve, to recognize the enormity of the challenge we’ve got, and look more seriously at sound, sustainable ecological approaches which make minimal use of inorganic fertilizers, industrial pesticides and GM.” Read more.
Golden rice’s golden opportunity
Golden rice could convince skeptics of the technology’s benefits, according to a recent Atlantic article. Golden rice is rice that has been genetically engineered to produce beta-carotene, which the body processes into vitamin A, and which can stave off blindness in children in developing nations. The rice, which was produced through a public-private partnership and will likely become available in the next year or two, has the potential to improve the health of millions and provides a concrete example for consumers of the benefits of genetic modification. Read more.
The Economist Magazine is hosting an online debate discussing whether biotechnology can be used to advance sustainable agriculture. CBI Expert and author of Tomorrow’s Table Dr. Pamela Ronald of University of California - Davis has provided the opening statement on behalf of the motion that biotechnology can contribute to sustainable agriculture. Dr. Ronald writes, “Well-documented benefits of GE crops include massive reductions of insecticides in the environment, improved soil quality and reduced erosion, prevention of destruction of the Hawaiian papaya industry, proven health benefits to farmers and families growing GE crops as a result of reduced exposure to harsh chemicals…”
Vote in the Economist Magazine’s debate: are biotechnology and sustainable agriculture complementary?
You can weigh in with your view and vote in the debate. Voting ends November 10. Vote and read more here.
Several Leading Environmentalists voice support for agricultural biotechnology
In recent years well-known environmentalists such as Mark Lynas, Stewart Brand and Patrick Moore, one of the founding members of Greenpeace, have reversed their unfavorable positions towards genetically modified (GM) crops and have voiced support for GM Crops as a result of data that demonstrates the environmental benefits of agricultural biotechnology. According to a piece in the UK Telegraph, “Mr. Lynas, who along with other activists ripped up trial GM crops in the 1990s, said that GM food had now been consumed by millions of people in the US for more than 10 years without harm, and this had convinced him to change his views.” Read more.
USDA announces plans to re-approve genetically modified sugar beets
The USDA announced plans to move forward with approving genetically modified (GM) sugar beets for a second time this week. A recent federal court ruling has called for an additional environmental assessment of the crop before it can be planted again, despite it having been approved by the USDA five years ago. Genetically modified sugar beets currently account for 95 percent of the U.S. crop and according to an estimate by the USDA, if farmers cannot plant it next spring, U.S. sugar production will be cut by about 20 percent. Read more.
Scientist researching drought resistant wheat
According to NPR, scientists are researching ways to engineer wheat so it can thrive even when water is scarce. A drought impacting Russia this summer pushed wheat prices to their highest in years, underscoring the importance for a variety of wheat that can survive in droughts. In addition to wheat, scientists and researchers have already engineered drought-tolerant maize, and it could be sold commercially in just two years based on the regulatory process. Listen here.
Countries in Africa and Asia have much to gain economically from adopting GM crops
Biofortified posted a piece about a paper by Kym Anderson in New Biotechnology that shows that the potential economic benefits for those countries in Africa and Asia willing to adopt genetically modified (GM) crop varieties can be great. However, the countries would not gain economically under this model if they ban imports of GM crops. Read more.
Argentine Farmer writes that biotechnology is about human rights and eradicating hunger
Global Farmer-to-Farmer Roundtable participant Roberto Peiretti penned a piece about what he labels as “gene-ocide,” negatively portraying genetically modified crops without sound science. Roberto has always supported environmentally responsible agriculture and has committed to no-till agriculture for many years. He writes, “Biotechnology and its synergy with no-till agriculture have the potential to improve nutrition and feed a growing world by boosting agricultural productivity and profitability in a sustainable fashion. This is a synergy we need if we are going to succeed in doubling global agricultural production during the next thirty to fifty years.” Read more.