Mexican Ag Ministry approves planting of GM corn for economic benefits
According to Reuters, Mexico’s Agriculture Ministry approved the country’s first pilot program for planting genetically modified (GM) corn because it will help the agriculture economy. “It is necessary to advance the use of biotechnology to reduce imports and promote national production,” the ministry statement said. Farmers in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, where the pilot program will take place, say GM corn will benefit them because it is “higher yielding and more disease resistant.” Read more.
Ugandan scientists testing GM bananas with potential to resist crop disease
Scientists in Uganda believe that genetically modified bananas could help overcome a disease that is devastating the country’s staple food crop, The Guardian reports. The article says that, “laboratory tests on the genetically modified bananas have been highly promising” with six out of eight strains of the GM bananas proving to be 100% resistant to the disease that has threatened the livelihoods of millions of farmers.
According to Dr. Leena Tripathi, a plant biotechnologist at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), “The beauty of the genetic engineering is that you can be very precise,” Read more.
Bangladeshi farmers adopting GM rice for nutritional benefits
According to the United Nations news service, scientists from the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute are testing zinc-rich rice varieties with the goal of mass producing a GM crop within the next five years. Rice, the staple crop of Bangladesh, naturally contains low levels of iron, so farmers in field trials are producing GM rice with high zinc content “to control abnormalities like stunting, poor immune response and pregnancy complications” which can result from too little iron. Read more.
GM Seeds Raise Incomes and Increase Yields in Africa
An article by Voice of America discusses studies showing that genetically modified crops help Africa to overcome poverty and hunger. It points out that in the book, The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa, Harvard University Professor Calestous Juma “proposes that biotech seeds could dramatically increase yield and raise incomes.” Juma joins other genetic engineering proponents like Margaret Karembu, Director of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Application’s AgriCenter (ISAAA) in Nairobi, who finds that biotech agriculture reduces harmful insecticides, increases yields and raises incomes in countries like South Africa and Burkina Faso.
Author Voices Benefits of Biotechnology on Fox News GM Food Debate
In a Fox News interview with John Stossel, Gregory Conko, co-author of The Frankenfood Myth, says that modern biotechnology “allows for much safer food.” Mr. Conko points out that “if you’ve eaten food in, say, over the last ten thousand years, you’ve eaten something that farmers or plant breeders have intentionally modified at the genetic level.” He explains that ag technology makes it possible to be more precise by identifying “the changes that are made in the genetic structure of an organism.”
Former USDA Chief Scientist Recommends GM Crops for President’s Plan
According to Scientific American, former U.S. Department of Agriculture Chief Scientist and Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics Gale A. Buchanan highly recommends that President Obama incorporate genetically modified crops into his plans to improve global energy productivity and food security. In the article, Buchanan states that “any ‘real, revolutionary’ impact” of the president’s so-called Evergreen Revolution depends on taking advantage of the benefits of GM crops. “The world has got to accept genetically modified plants because not to is to fail to acknowledge one of the most important discoveries of the 21st century,” Buchanan said.
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.
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.
Citrus Greening Disease, a bacterial disease affecting oranges, has spread to nearly every orange-growing county in Florida, cutting orange juice production significantly and hurting farmers and producers. According to a Greenwire article by Paul Voosen, a report released by the National Academy of Sciences concludes that “conventional plant breeding is unlikely to deliver resistant [citrus] varieties” and genetic engineering may be necessary to develop citrus crops that can withstand the disease.
With the exception of the papaya crop grown in Hawaii, genetically modified minor crops like oranges have not been commercialized. However, field tests of citrus trees engineered to resist the Greening Disease are already under way. Southern Gardens, one of Florida’s largest citrus producers, developed engineered trees in a partnership with Texas A&M. However, it is too early in the trials to show conclusive results, and it may take 10-15 years to develop the disease-resistant citrus.