Hawaii News Now reports on Hawaii’s first Biotech Summit and the success of the Rainbow Papaya, a genetically engineered papaya that can withstand the ringspot virus and saved the Hawaii papaya industry from devastation.
The U.S. Supreme Court sides with agricultural biotechnology and other news from this week in ag biotech…
Want to learn more about ag biotech? Check out the stories below to read the news we thought was important this week!
Supreme Court lifts the ban on GM Alfalfa Seeds
The Supreme Court decided to overturn a lower court’s ban on planting genetically modified alfalfa seeds on Monday, a sweeping victory for Monsanto Co. in what was the first ruling by the Supreme Court over genetically modified organism (GMO) crops. The ruling, a 7-1 decision, allows the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to consider a partial deregulation of alfalfa during the time when USDA is completing its Environmental Impact Statement, which is necessary before full deregulation of the genetically engineered alfalfa at issue in the case can occur.
At an International Grains Council Conference, Peter Reading, managing director of Australia’s Grains Research and Development Corporation said that Australia should focus its energies on wheat breeding technologies, including GM wheat, in order to address the decline rates in Australia’s wheat productivity growth. However, GM wheat is not expected to be available for another ten years.
Lack of communication between scientists and public, Jia Hepeng says
In a piece Thursday on how well scientists inform the public about food safety, Jia Hepeng said that China’s conflict over genetically modified crops can only be resolved through improved communication between scientists and the public. Citing events such as the Ministry of Agriculture’s announcement that it had issued biosafety licenses to two pest-resistant rice varieties and one phystaze maize, Hepeng calls for more refined, reader-friendly ways of presenting ongoing research on GM crops and better systems for decision-making, regulation, and monitoring.
Tune in at 9PM EST tonight, March 8, and watch a group of agricultural experts discussing the future of food. You are invited to submit questions for the experts by logging in through your Twitter or Vokle account. You can also participate in a real-time chat with other audience members so you can connect and collaborate with others interested in sustainability issues.=
Featured opinion-leaders participating in this week’s EcoChat include:
Michele Payn-Knoper: Michelle is the founder of two popular, weekly moderated Twitter chats, #agchat and #foodchat. She speaks professionally about agriculture, food, nutrition and social media as the voice behind CAUSE MATTERS CORP, and she’s a mom who’s lived on a farm her entire life.
Brandon Hunnicutt: Brandon is a 4th generation Nebraska farmer specializing in corn, soybeans, and popcorn. He’s beginning his 13th year on the land and enjoys playing a little Wii with his kids every now and then.
Learn more about EcoChat and how to tune in: http://www.ecochicago.blogspot.com/
On March 4, 2010 CBI attended The Atlantic Food Summit, an event featuring food and agriculture experts in Washington, DC. The event was held at the Newseum and had over 300 attendees, representing all voices on the food chain, from farmers to processors, to consumers to regulators. The first panel discussion was titled “Feeding the World” and featured Sen. Tom Daschle, Dr. Hafez Ghanem, Assistant Director-General of the UNFAO and Josh Viertel, President, Slow Food USA. The panel was moderated by James Gibney, Deputy Managing Editor of The Atlantic.
While the panelists had different viewpoints regarding the best ways to feed a growing world, they all agreed upon a few principles, including the need to do something to combat hunger and help feed the one billion people who are undernourished or malnourished today. Sen. Daschle believes global hunger can be eradicated by focusing our development efforts on innovation, competition, collaboration and the empowerment of farmers. He sees development as key to the future of agriculture, specifically technological development. Sen. Daschle believes that “we need to embrace science-based solutions aggressively” in order to find ways to feed a growing population.
Dr. Ghanem is also troubled by the number of people worldwide who go hungry every day, and believes that our current food system is not sustainable. With regard to crop biotechnology, he believes that the science has been used successfully in some developing countries so it does not make sense to exclude options that can help feed the world. Conversely, Josh Viertel did not agree that seeds developed by private industry for profit that produce higher yields should be shared with developing farmers.
It was a robust discussion and touched on many of the most debated issues in food and agriculture, including biotech crops, farm subsidies, world hunger and obesity. The panelists all agreed that it was promising to see so many people and governments focusing on ways to eradicate hunger and feed a growing population.
CBI previously blogged about a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos called “Rethinking How to Feed the World.” The panel featured notable leaders and CEOs including Jakaya M. Kikwete, President of Tanzania; Ellen Kullman, CEO of Dupont USA and Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft and co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The panel’s moderator asked Bill Gates, “Are you for or against genetically modified (GM) food?” Mr. Gates showed his support for the transgenic approach, saying it can “probably do better than any other approach” and called the disease resistance opportunities in GM crops “a real help.” Transgenic organisms, a subset of GMOs, are organisms which have inserted DNA that originated in a different species.
Given the rising number of people worldwide that are malnourished or undernourished, Bill Gates advises that we look into all available crop production options. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is currently supporting many organizations that are responsible for helping small farmers in the developing world grow more food and funding R&D in agriculture including ag biotech. For example, the Foundation funds HarvestPlus, a nonprofit that supports molecular breeding research (a type of transgenic engineering that modifies a crop for traits such as disease resistance using genes native to the crop) towards improving plant nutrition in Africa and Asia.
You can watch Bill Gates’ response to the question about GM food here.