A new educational resource on agricultural biotechnology has been released by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation. “Food Biotechnology: A Communicator’s Guide to Improving Understanding, 3rd Edition,” will provide health professionals and food and nutrition stakeholders with tools to help them communicate about the science and benefits of food biotech.
“Whether it is to provide an overview of the science or respond to a media inquiry, the guide provides communicators with key facts and resources on food biotechnology to help tailor the message to the specific audience,” IFIC said.
The guide includes key messages and a menu of science-based supporting points on food biotechnology as it relates to food safety, consumer benefits, sustainability, and feeding the world; ready-made handouts that can be shared with audiences; and guidelines for working effectively with journalists and bloggers on food biotechnology stories.
The new version reflects the latest developments in food biotechnology research, regulation, and product availability, as well as new consumer insights and changing communications methods, most notably the advent of online media.
An electronic version of the full guide and PDF files of the individual chapters are available here. The PowerPoint slides are also available on the homepage of www.whybiotech.com.
Activists’ claims that the cultivation of GMO crops have harmed bumblebee colonies have been upended by a study just published in Britain. The study casts doubt on the suggestion that neonicotinoid pesticides, used in conjunction with GM crops, are a major factor in the decline of bumble bee colonies. The UK’s Food & Environment Research Agency studied bumblebee colonies placed near fields of canola crops that had been grown from seeds treated with the insecticides in question, and compared them with colonies near untreated crops. The result: “bumblebee colonies remained viable & productive in presence of neonicotinoid pesticides under field conditions.” Read the full study here.
Today is World Water Day, a day set aside annually on March 22 as a means to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and to encourage people everywhere to sustainably use water resources. It’s also a day to think about the role agricultural biotechnology can play in helping people who most rely on water for their livelihood - our farmers.
Water in the form of irrigation and rainfall is essential for all food production. And agriculture accounts for about 70% of global freshwater usage, according to the United Nations, and as much as 90% in some fast-growing economies.
Fresh in our memory is last summer’s record drought, the worst experienced in the United States since 1988. About 87 percent of the nation’s corn crop and 85 percent of soybeans experienced drought conditions last July and August, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The result was lower corn, soybean and other crop yields across the Midwest and South, generating less income for farmers and farm communities.
Amidst last year’s drought, there was hope offered by new biotechnology technologies that can help farmers cope with drought. Farmers who planted new varieties of drought-tolerant corn last year found these crops to be more resilient to drought conditions than other varieties. There are other promising biotech seed varieties in the research and development pipeline that will help farmers get “more crop per drop” of precious water.
For farmers, the reality is that every day is World Water Day, because crops will always need water. But any technology that enables plants to use it more efficiently can give our farmers an edge - even a small one - to grow the food we need to feed America and export to others around the world.
On National Agriculture Day, it’s good to remember the large, positive impact that agricultural biotechnology has had on the farm economy of the United States. Farmers in the United States and around the world have embraced crops enhanced through biotechnology because they provide value and solve real problems.
U.S. farmers in particular have taken advantage of biotechnology. The USDA estimates that in 2012, farmers in the United States planted biotech varieties of soybeans, corn and cotton on 168 million acres of land. This includes:
- 93 percent of all soybeans planted, on 71 million acres;
- 88 percent of all corn planted, on 85 million acres;
- 94 percent of all upland cotton planted, on 12 million acres.
These crops are very valuable. It’s estimated that the sale value of biotech corn, soybeans, and cotton crops in the U.S. in 2012 was around $113 billion.
Biotechnology improves yields and allows farmers to raise crops with fewer inputs such as insecticides and weedkillers. The cost savings have been substantial since biotech crops were first commercialized in the 1990s. According to economists Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot of PG Economics, from 1996 to 2010, U.S. farmers saw a positive impact on their earnings of $35 billion attributable to biotechnology. READ MORE »
Hawai’i is on the wrong track in trying to require state-level labeling of food products to indicate if any ingredients were derived from plants produced with genetic engineering, according to the state’s attorney general. The bill runs afoul of federal law and policy and would “very likely be found unconstitutional” if challenged in court, the opinion said.
“There is no basis in fact or in the federal misbranding laws to require what would amount to a GMO ‘warning’ label,” said an opinion approved by Attorney General David M. Louie. The bill has passed the House and is pending in the Senate. The legislature failed to state “any purpose at all” for the bill, which makes it almost impossible to defend in federal court, he warned. The opinion added that food labeling is basically preempted by the FDA, which specifically opposes mandatory GMO labeling. Precedent from other cases shows that the bill would likely fail in the courts, the opinion added.
“Any state effort (regardless of how well-intentioned) to require labeling that is inconsistent with federal law, particularly where the veracity and relevance of the information sought to be mandated remain a matter of contention at the federal level, will be met with great skepticism in federal court,” Louie warned. Read the letter here.