Environmentalist discusses benefits of GM crops for global food security
In a Bloomberg column, an environmentalist says Genetically Modified (GM) crops should be part of the solution for preventing global food shortages. Sheril Kirshenbaum, a science writer and research associate at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin, points out that golden rice, which is genetically modified with more vitamin A and to improve nutrition, should be made available in developing countries because it “would save thousands of lives, and it would be more cost-effective than providing vitamin supplements or fortifying foods.” Read more.
Reuters: weather unpredictability makes GM crops crucial
According to Reuters, developing countries are choosing to invest in GM crops engineered to grow in droughts or floods to help farmers maintain a food supply despite the challenges of climate change . “If you can’t predict the weather then you can try to beat it-with new genetic strains of grain plants that will boost yields.” Read more.
Bangladesh plans Golden Rice field trials to fight vitamin A deficiency
The Daily Star reports that Bangladesh intends to go forward with field tests of Golden Rice, genetically engineered rice that helps fight vitamin A deficiency, which causes blindness in children. With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute is applying to import a variety developed in the Philippines that is rich in beta carotene, a source of vitamin A.
According to the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, “Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children. Globally, approximately 670,000 children die every year and another 350,000 go blind because they are vitamin A deficient,” Read more.
UK scientist recommends GM crops for global food security
Sainsbury Laboratory scientist Jonathan D.G. Jones wrote an article about the widespread misunderstanding of GM crops and the importance of their adoption, ISAAA reports. The article, titled “Why Genetically Modified Crops?”, strongly recommends the use of genetic modification “at a time when we need every tool in the toolbox to ensure adequate food production in the short, medium and long term.” Read more.
GM banana could help prevent spread of fungal disease in East Africa
According to All Africa, a GM banana with improved resistance to a devastating fungal disease could help smallholder farmers in East Africa save their crops. A leaf fungus has spread through the region over the last three decades, threatening to halve fruit production on affected plantations. A team of scientists at Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Institute (NARL) said field trials of GM bananas have shown “promising results.” Read more.
New York Times columnist Nick Kristof
New York Times columnist Kristof supports biofortification to battle malnutrition
In a New York Times article, Nicholas Kristof discusses the importance of biofortified crops in aiding the battle against poverty and malnutrition. He points out that sweet potato, golden rice and other crops genetically engineered with vitamin A help poor countries like those in Africa where distribution of vitamin A capsules is costly and vitamin-rich crop varieties are scarce. Kristof also addresses critics of biofortification: “the European left’s sad hostility to scientific tinkering with crops may slow acceptance of biofortification. If that hostility gains ground, it will be harder to save children from blindness and death.” Read more.
USDA petition for genetically modified apples that won’t turn brown
According to the Associated Press, a Canadian biotechnology company petitioned the USDA to approve a genetically modified apple that won’t brown soon after it is sliced. Neal Carter, president of the company that developed the apples, says the improvement could make apples more popular in snacks, salads and other meals. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service explains that biotechnology regulations are meant to ensure that genetically modified crops are just as safe for agriculture and the environment as conventionally bred crop varieties. Read more.
Anti-biotechnology crimes pressure Europe’s brightest researchers to quit
A Wall Street Journal piece calls it “a shame and a tragedy” that France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research will no longer develop new varieties of genetically modified crops. Marion Guillou, head of the organization, explains that the decision followed the destruction of €1.2 million in experimental crops by radical activists, and was just one example of crimes that have caused many other European farmers to quit. Guillou pointed out that advancements in the genetic research of wealthy countries such as France have made significant contributions to improvements in agricultural production. Read more
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.
Science journal Nature published editorials on the need for a second green revolution to eliminate world hunger by 2050 and how overregulation is slowing down a rice variety than can lower the risk of blindness in children, while the production of a biotech crop in India yields advantages for female employment opportunities and earnings.
“Second green revolution” necessary to eliminate world hunger
A second green revolution with a new focus in agricultural research will be needed to provide enough food for the world’s population in 2050, according to an editorial published by science journal Nature on July 28. In order to achieve a Green Revolution, we will need to invest in high-tech seeds and low-tech farming practices. The editorial was part of Nature’s latest issue where the theme was food and agriculture. READ MORE »