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Archive for the ‘GMOs’ Category

Viewpoint: How Bangladesh can use genetic engineering to improve food security

Asma Binti HafizSumon Chandra Shell | Academia | January 10, 2022

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Bt infused eggplants, 'brinjal' are a critical crop for Bangladesh. Credit: Arif Hossain
Bt infused eggplants, ‘brinjal’ are a critical crop for Bangladesh. Credit: Arif Hossain

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation. It is posted under Fair Use guidelines.

Bangladesh has declared self-sufficiency in food in 2013 with a population of 150 million and continued to maintain the status up till this date as the population has increased by another twenty million. Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.SIGN UP

Genetic Engineering is a vital tool for Bangladesh to secure food in its true sense by meeting food needs, reducing poverty, and enhancing environmental sustainability. But, awareness and extent of knowledge and perception on genetic engineering, biotechnology, and GMOs among the people, and especially the producers, are relatively low (Nasiruddin). Here, media, agricultural universities and research institutions, NGOs, political agenda, government policies, and religious bodies have played vital roles in representing Genetic Engineering in food security.For example, bt brinjal, a GMO of Bangladesh, yields 42% higher than the local varieties and reduces 47% of the cost of applying pesticides (Ahmed et al.). But only 17% of the country’s brinjal farmers have adopted this GMO crop (The Wire)

Genetic Engineering has the potential to turn the jolty terrain of food access in Bangladesh into a plane field with sufficient, nutritious, less expensive, and equally distributed food for all the country’s people to meet their dietary needs.

This is an excerpt. Read the original post here.

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China’s GM corn, soybean earn safety approval after pilot program

The project found that GM soybean can increase yields by 12 percent, while GM corn can see yield increases of 6.7 to 10.7 percent.

Zhao Yimeng

Zhao Yimeng

China Daily

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Soybeans are harvested in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province. [Photo/Xinhua]

 January 13, 2022

BEIJING – Genetically modified corn and soybean involved in a pilot program have obtained safety certificates for production and application after an assessment of food and environmental safety that lasted nearly 10 years.

“The application of traits that resist pests and tolerate herbicides and drought has improved the competitiveness of genetically modified crops, such as corn and soybean, in production cost, price and quality,” Qian Qian, director of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences’ Institute of Crop Sciences, said in an interview with Xinhua News Agency.

Li Xiangju, a researcher at the academy’s Institute of Plant Protection, said the results of the pilot program show that the GM soybean varieties perform better as only one spray of herbicide can achieve over 95 percent of the weeding for those varieties.

The effect of GM corn varieties on the fall army worm, a major threat to crops, reached 85 to 95 percent without the use of pesticides, Li said.

The pilot project found that GM soybean can reduce weeding costs by 50 percent and increase yields by 12 percent, while GM corn can see yield increases of 6.7 to 10.7 percent.

Liu Biao, a researcher at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment’s Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences, said the GM corn and soybean in the pilot program had no negative effects on beneficial insects and soil quality.

“The decreased use of pesticides on GM corn boosts ecological and environmental safety,” Liu said, adding that using the same herbicide on GM soybean and corn can help intercropping and rotation of the two crops.

Last year, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs launched pilot industrialization projects for genetically modified soybean and corn.

Liu Peilei, an official with the ministry, said the achievements in the pilot program mark China’s move into the industrialization of GM corn and soybean.

“Promoting the industrialization of GM corn and soybean will break the bottleneck of agricultural production,” Liu said at a news conference last month.

Liu said the GM soybean and corn have excellent traits and can compete with similar overseas products. Four GM corn varieties and three GM soybean varieties have obtained safety certificates for production and application.

Xie Daoxin, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a professor at Tsinghua University, said that since the first commercial planting of genetically modified crops in 1996, the area planted with them globally has increased to 190 million hectares.

The types of GM crops have expanded to 32 species including potatoes, eggplants and apples. In 2019, 74 percent of soybeans, 31 percent of corn, and 79 percent of cotton grown around the world were genetically modified, Xie told Xinhua.

GM crops are currently grown commercially in 71 countries and regions.

Huang Jikun, also an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a professor at Peking University, said the United States, Brazil and Argentina are the top three countries in terms of planting areas of GM crops.

China produced 19.6 million metric tons of soybean last year while importing 100.3 million tons, according to the General Administration of Customs.

Cao Xiaofeng, another academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the competition for genetic resources is becoming increasingly fierce.

“Countries and multinational companies are ramping up efforts to carry out research and development of gene function and genetic diversity while utilizing the crops,” Cao said.

“New biological breeding technologies keep developing.”

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GMO cowpea is increasing farm revenues – Nigerian farmersSourceJoseph Opoku Gakpo    16 December 2021 9:24amhttps://cdn.vuukle.com/widgets/powerbar.html?version=2.10.13

Genetically Modified (GM) cowpea farmers in Nigeria say their decision to grow the variety is increasing their revenues from the farm.

The farmers say this is the result of improved productivity on their fields following reduced pest attacks, and less investment in pesticides.

Sharing his experience, 19-year-old farmer Osman Yahyah Alhassan who grows a 0.9-hectare cowpea field in the Tudun Wada Local Government Area in the Kano State said; “we got 17 bags with GM cowpea. On the same plot of land, we got only 9 to 11 bags previously.”

65-year-old farmer Dabo Umar who grows cowpea at Rurum in the Kano State has a similar experience.

He said he made additional N20,000 profits from his five acres of GM cowpea fields in 2020, compared to the money he made growing conventional seeds the year before.https://299fda17b2985165f98ce02e910d4d5e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“This cowpea, we farmed it this season, we made more money. Up to 20,000 Naira. This cowpea is better than any other cowpea. This is the best one…And many people are asking how we get this cowpea…No Maruca (pests). We are very happy about that,” Dabo – a father of 20 children and husband of two wives with 35 years of experience growing cowpea – explained.

Goma Lawal, a 54-year-old farmer with two wives and 20 children at Jaja in the Kaduna State says he has also seen his investment in pest protection reduce, following the decision to grow GMO cowpea seeds. This has left him with more resources to take care of his family.

“If you want to talk about money, we don’t spend too much money. Unlike the ordinary cowpea. The ordinary cowpea, we spend N2,000 to N3,000 on pesticides. This one, we don’t spend even up to N1,000,” he said.

Ahiaba M. Sylvanus, a 63-year-old smallholder farmer at the Malgoma-Sabongari local government area in the Kaduna State has a similar testimony.https://299fda17b2985165f98ce02e910d4d5e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

He said when he grew conventional cowpea seeds, it cost him about N20,000 every season. But now he spends less than 500 Naira on pesticides and the variety is still productive.

“I spray less than the other ones we have been handling. And its early maturing and it comes in earlier…I got great relief…You’re having enough to eat. I was able to enjoy extra money from my labor,” he said.

Jamilu Mohammed Ahmed who grows cowpea and other crops at Mando in the Kaduna State also said, “the labor and the drudgery associated with the work” has reduced following the decision to grow GMO cowpea.

“I have been farming cowpea for the last 25 years. And I have not had any good experience as such of PBR. This will serve as an added advantage to serve as another alternative as a source of protein foods to both humans and livestock,” Ahmed added.https://299fda17b2985165f98ce02e910d4d5e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

What exactly is Bt cowpea?

The Nigerian government in December 2019 approved the genetically modified cowpea variety known as Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea (PBR cowpea) or SAMPEA-20T for commercial production.

This allowed for some farmers across the country to have the opportunity to grow it unrestricted in late 2020.

Cowpea is a high protein orphan crop consumed by an estimated 200 million people in Africa daily. It’s usually cooked and eaten with carbohydrate sources like plantain and rice.https://299fda17b2985165f98ce02e910d4d5e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer and consumer of cowpea. But the country’s annual production deficit of cowpea grains stands at more than 500,000 metric tonnes.

Varied reasons are responsible for this including destruction caused to cowpea farms by the Maruca pod borer pest.

The pest can cause 100% yield loss in farmers’ fields. Bt cowpea results from the introduction of a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) – a naturally occurring bacteria that have the capacity to control the pest – into local cowpea varieties. Nigeria is the first country in the world to commercialize Bt cowpea.

Prof. Mohammed Ishiyaku who is executive director of the Institute for Agricultural Research which developed the variety says farmers and the Nigerian economy will make a lot of money following the adoption of the variety.https://299fda17b2985165f98ce02e910d4d5e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“The productivity of this new variety, it has a yield potential of 2.9 tonnes per hectare. Whilst many of the other varieties have a potential yield of 1.9 to 2 tonnes per hectare.

“If 1 million hectares are planted, we estimate that Nigeria is bound to save more than N16 billion in terms of saving from insecticides alone…And a benefit of about 20% yield advantage, farmers are going to make the economic benefit of around N46 billion annually,” he said.

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Ghana resumes approval process for insect-resistant cowpea, its first GMO crop

BY JOSEPH OPOKU GAKPO

DECEMBER 6, 2021

Now that it has a new governing board, Ghana’s National Biosafety Authority says it is ready to resume its approval of insect-resistant Bt cowpea, the country’s first genetically modified (GM) crop.

“We will be able to bring very soon to the public domain, cowpea at Tamale,” a major cowpea growing area, said Board Chair Prof. Charles Antwi Boasiako at its inauguration in Accra. “Everything is ready. Like our friends and our sisters in Nigeria have done, we will see a well-regulated biotechnologically modified cowpea coming from the northern part of the country to serve Ghanaians.”

Farmers, seed producers and scientists have expressed frustration over the government’s delayed approval of the crop, popularly called beans, as the price of the commodity has doubled since the beginning of the year. The price hike has been partly blamed on pest damage, which the GM variety can resist.

Cowpea is a popular, protein-rich staple crop eaten by millions. But it’s very vulnerable to the Maruca pod borer pests, which can destroy 80 to 100 percent of a farmer’s crop. To control the pest, farmers typically spray their fields with pesticides between eight and 12 times in the 12-week life cycle of the crop. The GM variety, which includes a gene from a naturally occurring soil bacterium known as Bt, is resistant to the pest. Confined field trials have shown farmers can reduce their spray regimen to just twice per season while gaining a five-fold increase in yield.

“GMOs, this is what is going on in the whole world,” Boasiako said. “We will ensure it benefits Ghanaians. We will not do anything that goes against the law.”

Dr. Kwaku Afriyie, Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, swore in the 13-member board and charged its members to make decisions using science-based approaches.

“Look at the issue backed by science and not by sentiments. Because in my office I know that (there are) GMO-linked products which are waiting for go ahead for the next phase… You have to make sure that biological products are used for the benefit of the country,” he urged.

“It’s a very contentious issue,” Afriyie continued. “It raises its head and cools down. But it will never go away. Because as you know, we are using a lot of GM products in this country. In fact, it’s something that must be settled once and for all. So, your onus is to give education to Ghanaians.”

Scientists at the state-run Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) submitted documents to the authority last January, requesting environmental release of the variety following 12 years of research. But the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) asked the scientists to hold on and re-apply after a new governing board was named, following the expiration of the mandate of the earlier one.

“Now, with the board in place, they can submit,” NBA Chief Executive Officer Eric Okoree told the Alliance for Science in an interview. “The board’s role is to ensure risk assessment is done, the various processes are followed and a decision is taken on that. We have heard about the campaign of some Ghanaian farmers for the release of the Bt cowpea, which SARI has been working on. When the application gets into our hands, we will look at it transparently and objectively and seek public opinion in the decision.”

SARI scientists have indicated they will soon re-apply for environmental release of GM cowpea. Once the application is submitted, it will take between 90 and 180 days before the authority returns with a decision.

“It’s supposed to be released into the environment,” Okoree explained. “In doing so, we look at the information provided by the application, the risk assessment to be done by the technical assessment committee, and then we look at the socio-economic considerations and then the information provided by the public. That is the transparency side.”

Added Boasiako: “The intention is not to cause any genetic erosion. We will make sure that when we use this cowpea, still our traditional varieties will play hand in hand.”

Image: Cowpea, known as beans in Africa, is a popular, protein-rich food. Photo: Shutterstock/Jaime Garcia M

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GMO crops have reduced pesticide poisoning among farmers, report finds

Joseph Maina | Cornell Alliance for Science | December 6, 2021

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Credit: Agroportal
Credit: Agroportal

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation. It is posted under Fair Use guidelines.Many countries have enjoyed improved economies and healthier populations by farming genetically modified (GM) crops, according to a report from the United Kingdom.

A primary benefit has been a reduction in pesticide poisoning among farm workers, particularly smallholder farmers, due to the low pesticide use associated with GM crops, observes the Report on Genetic Technologies by the UK’s Regulatory Horizons Council.

In India, for instance, the report cites a 50-to-70 percent reduction in pesticide applications on insect-resistant GM (Bt) cotton, which has led to significant health benefits.

“It has been estimated that this GM crop helps to avoid several million cases of pesticide poisoning per year,” the report states. “There have also been significant economic and health benefits for small farmers growing cotton in South Africa.”

Pesticide poisoning is a persistent challenge dogging agricultural production in many parts of Africa. Despite glaring evidence of potential harm to human beings and the environment, commercial and political interests often encumber mitigation efforts. Shocking reports of pesticide poisoning keep emerging from the continent.

As noted in one study on smallholder pesticide use in sub-Saharan Africa, pesticides are a common cause of acute poisoning in the region, with many cases going unreported. GM farming has been touted as a safe way of practicing agriculture because many GM crops serve to reduce pesticide use.

The adoption of Bt cotton, for instance, can substantially reduce the risk and incidence of pesticide poisonings, as shown by a pioneering study conducted in China. Using data from a survey of farmers in northern China, the report provided evidence of a direct link between the adoption of a GM crop and improvements in human health. Similar results have been documented for Bt maize.

The adoption of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso significantly lowered pesticide use in that crop. Farmers went from spraying their conventional cotton fields 15 times per season to control bollworm to spraying only twice with Bt cotton, which saw the crop’s popularity soar. By 2014, more than 70 percent of all cultivated cotton in Burkina Faso was GM. However, the government halted the crop in 2015, causing production to plummet and pesticide use to increase as farmers returned to growing conventional varieties.

The Regulatory Horizons Council report outlines two broad classifications of genetic technologies: First-generation genetic technologies, which are the basis of today’s widely used genetically modified (GM) crops; and the more recent second-generation technologies, which include genome editing, synthetic biology and engineering biology.

The report provides an edifying treatise on first-generation GM crops, showing their potential benefits for agriculture, the environment and society. It further scrutinizes the emerging opportunities, regulations and products associated with second-generation technologies.

GM crops were first introduced in the 1990s and have seen the fastest uptake by farmers over any other modern agricultural technology. Cultivation of GM crops expanded from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 179.7 in 2015 and now accounts for over 10 percent of the world’s arable land. Reported benefits include better economic outcomes for farmers, a reduction in pest-infestation in crops, increased insect biodiversity on farms resulting from adoption of insect-resistant crops, savings in the CO2 emissions that contribute to global warming, soil improvement and productivity gains resulting in potential land-saving outcomes.

The report also elucidates the emergent opportunities in agricultural biotechnology for post-Brexit UK, vouching for a rapid adoption of regulations that will be amenable to genetic technologies.Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.SIGN UP

Despite the proven potential of agricultural biotechnologies to meet societal needs that include provision of healthier diets, climate change mitigation and contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, scientists, companies and policy makers in the UK and the EU concede that the European regulatory system for genetic technologies inhibits useful innovation, thus disadvantaging farmers.

“Since the UK is no longer a member of the EU, the Government has an opportunity to take a leading role in demonstrating how current regulatory systems can be adapted, or new regulatory systems developed, to enable innovative, safe and beneficial products of genetic technologies to reach their intended markets, at home and abroad,” states the report.

The EU adopted a process-based approach in regulating first-generation GM products, which lumped the process of genetic modification itself alongside all its products, regardless of their properties, within a common regulatory regime. This approach contrasts with the United States’ product-based approach, which focused on the product, its benefits and risks. The EU regulatory framework, along with the very precautionary and politicized approach to its implementation, has resulted in the absence of any significant adoption of GM crops in the EU and the departure of European companies working on GM technologies to the US and other countries.

Dr. Joseph Maina is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Macquarie University. Joseph’s ultimate goals are to understand and predict the impacts of environmental variability and change on social and ecological systems at local and global scales to support spatial planning & management.

A version of this article was originally posted at the Cornell Alliance for Science and is reposted here with permission. The Cornell Alliance for Science can be found on Twitter @ScienceAlly

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Nigeria urges Africa to follow its lead on GM cowpea

BY JOSEPH OPOKU GAKPO

DECEMBER 1, 2021

Nigeria is urging the rest of Africa to follow its lead and approve genetically modified cowpea to help ensure food and nutrition security on the continent.

The Nigerian scientists and government officials who developed and approved the world’s first genetically modified (GM) cowpea say their successful commercial release of the variety should give other African countries the confidence to do the same. The improved variety reduces pesticide use and increases yields by providing resistance to the destructive pod borer pest.

“It is getting too late,” said Prof. Mohammed Ishiyaku, executive director of Nigeria’s Institute for Agricultural Research and principal investigator on the GM cowpea project. “It is high time for Ghana and other countries to hasten the processes to ensure these seeds get into the hands of farmers for them to be able to unlock the benefits in this new variety. It is highly beneficial not only in terms of productivity, but it reduces the use of harmful insecticides in our environment.”

Cowpea is a high-protein staple food crop consumed by an estimated 200 million people in Africa daily. Though Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of cowpea, commonly known as beans, it has been unable to produce enough to meet its own needs. Nigerian officials anticipate that GM cowpea will fill that gap because it resists the pest that has been suppressing yields.

Processes to approve various GM cowpea varieties, also known as pod borer-resistant (PBR) and Bt cowpea, have been in the pipeline in Nigeria, Ghana and Burkina Faso for about a decade now. Administrative bottlenecks, legal actions by anti-GMO groups and cumbersome regulatory processes have slowed down the approval, as is common with dozens of other GM crop varieties under development across the African continent.

The Nigerian government approved the variety in December 2019 and farmers welcomed its introduction, quickly exhausting the available seed supply. Farmers are reporting reduced pest destruction of their fields, increased yield and higher profits. Ishiyaku urged other African governments to greenlight commercial release of the variety, saying farmers all over the continent deserve the opportunity to use the crop to enhance food and nutritional security.

“They should quickly hasten to complete this process… I have the firm belief that this material has a lot of economic potential that can benefit the other countries as well,” he told the Alliance for Science in an interview.

Nigeria has also approved GM maize and GM cotton varieties, which are climate-resilient and pest-resistant, respectively. Dr. Rose Gidado, deputy director of the state-run National Biotechnology Development Authority (NABDA), said other African countries should view Nigeria as an example they can follow in advancing GM crops.

“With the evidence they have, they should use Nigeria a model. Look at us as a model, as an example, how we made it to where we are today,” Gidado urged.

Rufus Egbeba, chief executive officer of the National Biosafety Management Authority, Nigeria’s GM regulatory agency, urged governments and scientists working on GM crops in Africa to resist the intimidation exerted by anti-GMO groups.

“In Africa, and in particular the West African subregion, there is lots of intimidation on the part of the anti-GM groups. But I think once you have the knowledge and the courage, you can take your decision, and particularly when you have scientific evidence to make your decision,” Egbeba told Alliance for Science in an interview.

“You must apply courage and knowledge based on scientific parameters before you take such decisions and do not be afraid, because the world is already being ruled by science and technology and Africa is not an exception,” he continued. “Africa must use safe technologies to ensure that the African economy is diversified, is opened up for job creation, innovations and to give economic prosperity to our people.”

Egbeba dismissed concerns that GM technology is a foreign imposition on the continent, arguing the application of technological innovation knows no boundaries. “If anybody is telling you it’s foreign, such a person is just trying to mislead you,” he said. “We have the African science as well. Science is global, it’s not something you say is foreign.”

There is already a lot of intra-regional trade that goes on within the West Africa subregion that would make it difficult for neighboring African countries to restrict the importation of GM cowpea varieties once they become common on the Nigerian market. Hundreds of trucks filled with cowpea, rice, maize and other grains leave Nigeria’s Dawanau International Grains Market on a daily basis, headed to numerous African nations. It’s the largest grains market in West Africa, attracting traders from Ghana, Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Burkina Faso, Libya and other countries.

“We are receiving the various traders from the neighboring countries, especially West African countries,” Sani Mohammed, chairman of the traders’ association  Nigeria’s Kano State, told the Alliance for Science during a visit to the market. “We have so many varieties, type of grains, which are taken from Dawanau to abroad and our neighboring countries.”

Egbeba said efforts are underway to develop a harmonized biosafety framework for the subregion so that approval of a GM crop in one country will allow for adoption of the variety in other countries.

“In the West African subregion, we are trying to have the West African biosafety common regulation,” he explained. “Those countries that may not have enough competence should be able to adopt what other countries have done, so that there is a portability concept. So that they can move on, because Africa is connected and the issues of environment, it belongs to the commons.”

Dr. Issoufou Kollo Abdourhamane, West Africa Coordinator of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, said progress is being made on getting GM cowpea approved in both Ghana and Burkina Faso.

Scientists are currently working to secure environmental release permits for the crop in Ghana before moving on to the national variety performance trials that are needed before the National Seed Variety Release Committee will release the seeds to farmers, he explained.

“So there are two steps… Our dossier has been ready. It is with the National Biosafety Authority of Ghana. So, we are waiting for the time when we will get the environmental release permits. In Burkina, before the end of this year we may apply for environmental release too,” he added.


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Scientists seize ‘once in a decade’ opportunity to advocate for genetically engineered trees

BY JOAN CONROW

NOVEMBER 30, 2021

Nearly 700 scientists from across the globe have signed a petition urging the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to allow genetically engineered trees in the forests and products that it certifies.

The action came in response to the FSC’s request for consultations, which will be accepted through Friday, Dec. 3. Though the FSC currently prohibits the use of genetically modified (GM) trees in its certified forests, it does allow field testing and some of its member companies are investing in biotechnology research. With the consultation request, it is now considering what role it should play in setting the conditions and safeguards for the commercial use of GM trees and whether it should engage in a trial project for the use of GM trees in forests that the FSC does not certify.

“We have a once in a decade opportunity to influence decision makers at FSC and less than a decade to develop strategies to save our forests in many parts of the world,” wrote Prof. Alexander Myburg, director of the Forest Molecular Genetics Program at the University of Pretoria, in a letter to his colleagues.

The petition urges the FSC “to allow responsible research and associated use of gene edited or genetically engineered trees by FSC certified companies.” It notes that extensive safeguards are already in place, biosafety regulations are strong in much of the world and allowing GM research on non-certified lands would support scientific research and development.

“There have been decades of research that show GE technology is safe and can provide useful traits in trees,” the petition states. “Our natural and planted forests face unprecedented decline as a result of rapid climate change, extreme weather events and pest and pathogen challenges. GE is a major technology that is being used in numerous crops and trees to produce plants that can better resist the stresses associated with these challenges. A precautionary approach demands that the responsible development of such solutions is facilitated by FSC, not impeded.”

The petition goes on to express “hope that the FSC will rise above the political and ideological noise that is so prominent in this area and put science, and this advice from public sector scientists, at the top of its considerations with respect to policies for GE trees.”

Some anti-GMO groups, including the Global Justice Ecology Project, are soliciting comments in opposition to GM tree field-testing, falsely claiming that “GM trees can never be sustainable” and trials would inevitably open the door to wider use of GM trees.

Scientists, on the other hand, contend that introducing traits like faster growth, insect resistance and defense against deadly fungi would help improve the resilience and sustainability of forests, especially as they face increased threats from climate change, fires and insect pest infestations.

Comments will be accepted on the FSC site up until midnight Central Europe Time on Dec. 3. Scientists can also add their names to the petition.

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ZAWYA

GMOs have lessened pesticide poisoning and improved yields in Africa, says report

Pesticide poisoning is a pestilent challenge dogging agricultural production in many parts of Africa  By Staff Writer, Africa Business

A report by a top caucus of experts in the United Kingdom shows that many countries have benefited from improved economies and healthier populations by farming genetically modified (GM) crops.

Most significantly, the low pesticide use associated with GM farming is linked to fewer incidences of pesticide poisoning among farmworkers—particularly for small-scale farmers, observes the Report on Genetic Technologies released in September by the UK’s Regulatory Horizons Council.

In India, for instance, the report cites a 50-70% reduction in pesticide applications on insect-resistant cotton, which has led to significant health benefits for farmers.

“It has been estimated that this GM crop helps to avoid several million cases of pesticide poisoning per year,” the report noted. “There have also been significant economic and health benefits for small farmers growing cotton in South Africa.”

Pesticide poisoning is a pestilent challenge dogging agricultural production in many parts of Africa, where industry regulations and safety training for applicators are lax. Despite glaring evidence of potential harm to human beings and the environment, preponderant commercial and political interests often encumber mitigation efforts. Shocking reports of pesticide poisoning keep emerging from the continent.

And as noted in one study on smallholder pesticide use in Sub-Saharan Africa, pesticides are a common cause of acute poisoning in the region, with many cases going unreported. GM farming has been fronted as one safe way of practicing agriculture with less dependence on pesticide use.

The adoption of insect-resistant Bt cotton, for instance, can substantially reduce the risk and the incidence of pesticide poisonings, as shown by a pioneering study conducted in China. Using data from a survey of farmers in northern China, the report provided evidence of a direct link between the adoption of GM crops and improvements in human health. Similar results have been documented for Bt maize.

The adoption of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso significantly lowered pesticide use. Farmers went from spraying their conventional cotton fields 15 times per season to control bollworm to spraying only twice with Bt cotton, which saw the crop’s popularity soar. By 2014, more than 70% of all cultivated cotton in Burkina Faso was GM. The GM crop has been discontinued, however, causing Burkinabe farmers who grow conventional cotton to return to high pesticide use.

The Regulatory Horizons Council report outlines two broad classifications of genetic technologies: First-generation genetic technologies, which are the basis of today’s widely used GM crops, and the more recent second-generation technologies that include genome editing, synthetic biology, and engineering biology.

The report provides an edifying treatise on first-generation GM crops, showing their potential benefits for agriculture, the environment, and society. It further scrutinizes the emerging opportunities, regulations, and products associated with second-generation technologies.

GM crops were first introduced in the 1990s and have seen the fastest uptake by farmers of any other modern agricultural technology, from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 179.7 in 2015. They now account for crops cultivated on over 10% of the world’s arable land. Among the benefits have been better economic outcomes for producers, a reduction in pest infestation in crops, increased insect biodiversity on farms resulting from the adoption of insect-resistant crops, savings in CO2 emissions, and soil improvement and productivity gains resulting in potential land-saving outcomes.

The report also elucidates the emergent opportunities in agricultural biotechnology for the post-Brexit UK, vouching for rapid adoption of regulations that will be amenable to genetic technologies. Despite the proven potential of agricultural biotechnologies to meet societal needs that include provision of healthier diets, climate change mitigation, and contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, scientists, companies, and policymakers in the UK and the EU concede that the European regulatory system for genetic technologies inhibits useful innovation, thus disadvantaging farmers.

“Since the UK is no longer a member of the EU, the Government has an opportunity to take a leading role in demonstrating how current regulatory systems can be adapted, or new regulatory systems developed, to enable innovative, safe and beneficial products of genetic technologies to reach their intended markets, at home and abroad,” states the report.

The EU adopted a process-based approach in regulating first-generation GM products, which lumped the process of genetic modification itself alongside all its products, regardless of their properties, within a common regulatory regime. This approach contrasts with the United States’ product-based approach, which focuses on the specific product resulting from the modification and its benefits and risks. The EU regulatory framework, along with the very precautionary and politicized approach to its implementation, has resulted in minimal cultivation of GM crops in the EU, though GM crops are widely imported for livestock feed.

Copyright © 2021 AfricaBusiness.com – All materials can be used freely, indicating the origin Africabusiness.com Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).Disclaimer: The content of this article is syndicated or provided to this website from an external third

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Philippines’ Bold Step Towards GM Crops: A Blueprint for Other Developing Countries

Developing countries in Africa, Asia, and South America cannot afford to fall behind.PRINTLISTEN

By Vijay Jayaraj

In September, the Philippines unveiled its Crop Biotechnology Center (CBC), aimed to make genetically modified (GM) food crops more accessible in the country.

The nation’s continued efforts to legitimize GM crop varieties are great news for its food security and nutrition needs. They come at a time when activists have been successfully lobbying against GM crops in many parts of the world.

Has the Philippines set a great blueprint for other countries to follow amidst the noise of anti-GM crop lobbyists? The answer is yes, and here is why it is critical for other countries to embrace GM crops.

GM Crops and Food Security

The Crop Biotechnology Center (CBC), established inside the compound of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), will play a key role in the Philippines’ quest for a robust agricultural sector that can meet the food security of the nation.

It is one of the country’s three biotechnology centers. According to an official page, it is a “P277-million center funded under the US Public Law 480 Program” that “focuses on applying advanced technologies that contribute to the improvement in performance, yield, and quality of important commodities including rice, corn, coconut, and various high-value crops such as mango, garlic, onion, tomato, cotton, cacao, banana, and abaca, among others.”

It is no secret that GM crops are among the best weapons we have in our fight against hunger, malnutrition, and energy insecurity.

After presiding over the opening ceremony, Philippine Secretary of Agriculture Dr. William Dar said: “The amount of investment we have poured into this state-of-the-art facility is our first line of defense against hunger. The recently-concluded UN Food Systems Summit noted that biotechnology and other scientific innovations have a role to play in meeting Sustainable Development Goal no. 2 on Zero Hunger.”

These recent developments in the Philippines are no surprise to analysts who have been following the progress of agriculture there. The Philippines was the first country in Southeast Asia to approve GM corn, also known as Bt Corn.

Edwin Paraluman, a pioneer in planting Bt corn in the Philippines, says GM crops have revolutionized agriculture and farmers’ livelihoods in that country. Not only is Bt Corn highly disease resistant, it can also help farmers have higher income and require less land area to produce high yields.

Paraluman also notes that these GM crops are safe and approved by organizations across the globe. “I have been eating it [Bt Corn] for the past 14 years and I am still hale and hearty. So, it’s 14 years that I’ve been planting this corn and there’s not been any adverse effect on our health,” said Paraluman.

Today, 40,000 Filipino farmers benefit from Bt Corn. The country went from being an importer to an exporter of corn. Thousands more are likely to benefit from the recent approval of Golden Rice, a GM variety fortified with Vitamin A inducing beta carotene. Vitamin A deficiency currently affects 2.1 million Filipino children, and Golden Rice will play a key role in reducing that number.

Other countries like the United States are already in advanced stages of utilizing GM crops. People seldom realize that the majority of the most important crops in the U.S. are GM varieties.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in 2018, “GMO soybeans made up 94% of all soybeans planted, GMO cotton made up 94% of all cotton planted, and 92% of corn planted was GMO corn.”

In Kenya, the approval of GM Cotton (Bt Cotton) has raised hopes of increased production by as much as 10 times in 2022. Government is looking at increased production from 20,000 bales in 2021 to 200,000 bales in 2022 thanks to Bt cotton.

But not all countries have been as fortunate.

Anti-GMO Movement Harms Farmer Freedom and Food Security

The anti-GMO movement and the organic farming philosophy threaten both the livelihood of farmers and the food security of nations.

In India, where 500 million people depend on agriculture and allied activities, farmers stage regular protests against the government’s decision not to allow GM crops.

Deepak Pental, geneticist and former vice-chancellor of the University of Delhi, finds the anti-GM stance of India’s political parties unjustifiable. “You need technology in space, military, telecom, medicines, but you don’t need technology in agriculture? … What is happening is atrociously ridiculous,” says Pental.

India has banned GM crops that have proven to be immensely beneficial in neighboring Bangladesh. Bangladeshi farmers had an “average of 19.6 per cent higher yield and 21.7 cent higher revenue” from GM brinjal/eggplant, a crop banned in India.

Today, farmers across India are defying the government ban and planting GM crops like Bt Brinjal. “These brave farmers are demonstrating their capacity to take on the risk society is imposing on them by denying them access to new technologies, including GM crops,” says a journalist from The Print.

Further, India’s ban on GM crops only impedes public health progress. India has the highest prevalence of clinical and subclinical Vitamin A deficiency in South Asia. Sixty-two percent of preschool children are deficient in vitamin A, leading to an annual 330,000 child deaths. India’s opposition to GM crops, especially Golden Rice, raises concerns surrounding lawmakers’ awareness about Vitamin A deficiency in the country.

There are numerous such examples from other countries where GM crops can be a vital tool to reduce malnutrition, increase farmer incomes, and ensure food security. Developing countries in Africa, Asia, and South America cannot afford to fall behind.

The Philippines has set a great example, and the model should be emulated in other countries. The sooner this happens, the sooner many poor countries will conquer hunger and malnutrition problems.

Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England) is a research contributor for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and resides in Bengaluru, India.

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Biotech, gene editing will be key to addressing agriculture’s future challenges

Members of the two subcommittees holding the hearing appeared to support the use of biotech, and gene editing in particular, to develop new plants and animals resistant to disease and able to help farming adapt to climate change.Written By: Sara Wyant | 5:30 am, Nov. 6, 2021

The label for bioengineered foods in the U.S. 
USDA

The label for bioengineered foods in the U.S. USDA

In the coming decades, U.S. farmers and ranchers will be challenged to produce more output with fewer inputs, feeding a growing global population while dealing with a wide variety of weather and environmental risks.

For some, those challenges seem almost unsurmountable, but others see that many of the tools are already within our reach and just need investment and regulatory clarity.

“Through opening trade, investing in research, and streamlining our regulatory system we can help facilitate the use of biotechnology to address threats like food scarcity and climate change,” Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., chairman of the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture, said during a recent hearing. That subcommittee held the hearing together with the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research.

Members of the two subcommittees holding the hearing appeared to support the use of biotech, and gene editing in particular, to develop new plants and animals resistant to disease and able to help farming adapt to climate change.

Plant breeding is not new; rather it dates back thousands of years to when people first domesticated wild plant varieties, noted Fan-Li Chou, the American Seed Trade Association’s vice president for scientific affairs and policy in her written testimony.https://6966d91f35a2d4dde45660d0a1ef325d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“Over time, plant breeders have accumulated an impressive collection of tools, such as cross breeding, selection, hybridization, induced mutagenesis, biotechnology and molecular markers to unlock the genetic potential of plant crops. Using these breeding tools, the plant breeding community, both the public and private sides, have safely and reliably introduced to the food system hundreds of thousands of new plant varieties over the past century,” she added.

New varieties developed from plant breeding allow farmers to produce more using fewer inputs. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service’s report on Agricultural Productivity in the U.S., since 1948, domestic agriculture productivity nearly tripled.

While some of the gains can be attributed to better management practices, Chou said some experts estimate that improved varieties account for more than a 50% productivity gain

To be commercially released, Chou said new plant varieties, regardless of the breeding tools used, are subjected to strict, multiyear, multi-location evaluation and assessment for quality and performance.

But sometimes, regulatory systems don’t match up well with the rapid pace of innovation.

One of the issues uniting the witnesses and many of the committee members is the current regulatory structure for making intentional genomic changes in animals. Like changes in plant breeding, the livestock industry has been making improvements in animals for decades.

For example, in pigs, the feed conversion ratio — the amount of food needed to build bodyweight (pounds of feed/ pounds of edible protein at slaughter) — has fallen 58% since 1970, resulting in over 1.5 times a pig’s body weight in feed being saved, noted Elena Rice, chief scientific officer at animal biotech firm Genus PLC in her written testimony.

“In the dairy industry, over a 40-year period, 13% fewer cows are producing 76% more milk — another massive improvement in the sustainability of protein production. While improved genetics is not responsible for all of this staggering improvement, genetics has been the major driver. Based on industry studies and our own analysis, we estimate 50-60% of the improvement has been driven by better genetics,” Rice said.

However, many argue that the process for reviewing gene editing improvements for animals is very outdated. The Food and Drug Administration reviews such changes as if they were drugs.

“Gene editing approaches are channeled into a regulatory approval process that is not well matched for how the technology alters the genome, is transmitted to subsequent generations, or the intended purposes,” said Jon Oatley, a professor at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

He said he supported a Memorandum of Understanding between the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services released last year that proposed USDA assume authority over genetically engineered animals used for food while FDA, which falls under HHS’ purview, would continue to regulate non-food uses.

But the MOU came at the tail end of the Trump administration, and USDA is now considering comments on the appropriate regulatory structure.

“There are ways in which we have to work collaboratively with our friends at FDA to make sure our regulatory system is able to respond quickly enough and be able to keep pace with the pace of change,” Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack told the House Ag Committee in October.

His comments followed a letter from almost two-thirds of the ag committee to Vilsack and acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock that said the “existing regulatory system is not conducive to the timely adoption” of genetic improvements in animals. “In the past 25 years, only two animals intended for agricultural purposes have been approved for use domestically by FDA.”

The letter was signed by — among others — House Ag Committee Chairman David Scott, D-Georgia, Ranking Member Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pennsylvania, Del. Stacey Plaskett, D-Virgin Islands, chair of the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research, and Rep. Jim Baird, R-Ind., the top Republican on that subcommittee.

Rice, from Genus PLC, said the focus of regulation should be on the end products, not on the technology used to produce them. In other words, if a product made using biotechnology could be created using conventional breeding, it should not be regulated differently.

The hearing featured questions from committee members on how biotechnology and gene editing can address issues such as food waste, nutritional deficits and animal diseases.

Oatley said research is now underway on how to transfer genes from warthogs, which can carry African Swine Fever but show no symptoms, into domestic pigs, which die quickly from ASF.

Jack Bobo, CEO of food consulting firm Futurity, said the U.S. needs to clarify its regulatory process for animal biotech products in order to not fall behind other countries where such products have been approved.

He and Chou both mentioned Japan, which has streamlined its biotech regulations and approved a new GE tomato that helps lower blood pressure.

Witnesses and members also decried Mexico’s stated intention to not import GE corn, as well as China’s foot-dragging on the approval of new biotech traits.

Chou said the U.S. has to enforce the biotech provisions in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and said China will not be able to achieve its strategic goals without use of technology, including gene editing.

Editor’s note: Agri-Pulse Associate Editor Steve Davies contributed to this column. Wyant is president and founder of Agri-Pulse Communications Inc. For more news, go to www.Agri-Pulse.com.

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Ghanian farmers press for locally-developed pest-resistant genetically modified cowpea

Gideon Kwame Sarkodie Osei | Modern Ghana | October 29, 2021

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Credit: Undark
Credit: Undark

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation. It is posted under Fair Use guidelines.

More than 200 Ghanaian farmers have expressed their readiness to plant Bt cowpea, Ghana’s first genetically modified food crop as soon as possible.

The crop, which was developed by Ghanaian scientists, has been genetically modified (GM) to resist the destructive pod-borer insect pest. As a result, farmers will be able to significantly reduce the use of pesticides and subsequent increases in yield and income. The crop is also expected to support the nation’s economic development and food security while improving farmers’ livelihoods.

Farmers from the Atebubu-Amantin Municipality of the Bono East Region of Ghana very positive about the technology and say it is good for them. They asked the scientists at CSIR to ensure farmers get the pod borer resistant (PBR) cowpea (GM) Cowpea seeds as soon as possible.Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.SIGN UP

[Dr. Daniel Osei Ofosu from the National Coordinator Program for Biosafety Systems] predicted that farmers will be receptive to GM cowpea because it reduces pesticide use and increases yields. “Once the farmer starts to use the technology, the consumer will not feel bad about using it,” he added. “So, to me, it’s a win–win.”

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