Research on GM wheat could improve yields and drought tolerance
The New York Times reports that GM research by private companies could lead to drought-tolerant and high-yield genetically modified wheat. Research focuses on “strengthening the rooting structure of wheat, enhancing the intake of water, increasing the plant’s biomass and facilitating CO2 absorption.” Read more.
Increasing number of African countries conducting GM crop trials
According to Reuters, more African countries are likely to start growing genetically modified crops. Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Mali, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Ghana are conducting research and field trials of GM crops such as rice, wheat and sorghum, which may lead to their adoption. Ephraim Mukisira, a director at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, said, “We should rely on biotechnology to prevent further losses in yields and performance of crops. We need to expedite scientific methods that reduce time needed to develop new crop varieties.” Read more.
Forbes blog: Regulation of GM crops hurts agricultural trade
In a Forbes blog, Dr. Henry Miller, founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA and current fellow at the Hoover Institution, says that “discriminatory” government regulations of genetically modified crops around the world have unintended economic consequences, such as disrupting billions of dollars of agricultural trade in export markets.
“The best and most definitive solution of all would be for the harmonization of regulatory approaches in order to eliminate the existing discrimination against and excessive regulation of innocuous genetically engineered plants.” Read more.
Biotechnology solutions could help prevent deforestation
According to TIME’s Ecocentric Blog, research on improving agricultural productivity and efficiency is crucial for helping to prevent deforestation. While the UN Climate Summit’s proposed REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) has received international support, this system of carbon credits to maintain trees could face challenges as farmers clear more land to meet growing global demands for food. The article points out, “Over the longer term, better investment in agricultural research-which has lagged in recent years-can lead to better yields and higher efficiency, reducing the need for more land.” Agricultural biotechnology research provides solutions for growing more crops on less land. Read more.
Australian celebrity chefs voice support for GM food
Two of Australia’s top chefs, Luke Mangan and Glenn Austin, recognize the benefits of genetically engineered food, The Daily Telegraph reports. The article points out that Chef Luke Mangan of the Sydney restaurant glass brasserie has remained receptive to the use of GM food since he wrote a blog in 2008 supporting it as an innovation that could “potentially help millions of people around the world.” He explains in the article, “More info is required but some benefits sound fantastic - drought resistance, higher levels of production and sustainability in the food supply.” Glenn Austin, the first Australian to be voted to the World Board of Chefs and a chef of a multinational dairy company that supports agricultural biotechnology, would like chefs to learn more about the benefits of the technology. “There are a few (chefs) who are trying to have a beat-up about it and they are quite ill-informed. If they went through their own cupboards, they would find that most of what is in there contains genetically modified food,” he said. Read more.
Increased rice yields important for feeding growing world population, BBC News reports
According to a report by the BBC News, rice will play an essential role in meeting the demands of a growing world population. “In 40 years, the global population is expected to swell by 2 billion, so rice, today the fastest growing staple which feeds more than half the world’s population, will become increasingly important to global food security.” The article discusses the role of biotechnology in improving yields for Vietnam, now the world’s second biggest exporter after Thailand. 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.
Interesting ag biotech news from around the world this week includes the promotion of biotech crops by a farmer in Italy and improvements in Asian rice that could result in significant yield increases.
An Italian farmer fights for GM crops
Italian farmer Giorgio Fidenato is determined to promote the benefits of biotech crops, going so far as to plant GM corn on his farm, despite Italy’s moratorium on genetically modified seeds that was enacted in March. “Our biggest goal is to show consumers that it is safe to eat,” he says, in an Associated Press article.
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Here are a few stories that caught our eye this week. From Arkansas to Brussels, policymakers across the globe are considering the benefits of genetically modified (GM) food, and an international consortium continues its work to improve rice crop yields. Read more below.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee
Court decisions curbing sale of genetically modified foods counter ’science-based regulatory decisions’
Court decisions setting back the sale of genetically modified foods do not comply with sound science, according to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). The Hill reports that the senators sent a letter to USDA Sec.Tom Vilsack last month, arguing that such court decisions may “thrust the U.S. regulatory system for agriculture biotechnology into a non-functioning regulatory system.” READ MORE »