Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘GMOs’ Category

GM/Biotech Crops Report – August 2022

1st August 2022

  • GM/Biotech Crops Monthly Reports (BELOW) form part of BCPC’s free three-tier Biotech Crops Info service.
  • This service also includes a weekly round-up of news from around the globe – see BCPC Newslink GM Crops section.
  • Plus – Free access database on over 300 GM/biotech products covering 23 crops in the global market visit BCPC’s GM/Biotech Crops Manual – Register here for free access.
  • Already registered? Click here

GM/Biotech Crops Monthly Report August 2022

More accurate gene editing

CRISPR-Cas9 editing can cause off target edits and cuts both strands of the DNA helix at once. Now a system related to CRISPR but cutting only one strand of the DNA promises new options and greater accuracy in the edits.
Full Story.

Boost to rice yields

Over-expression of a single gene in rice seems to shorten the time taken for the plant to mature, improve nitrogen efficiency and boost yields by up to 40%.
Full Story.

Improved efficiency in food production

Photosynthesis is not the only way to produce food. Capturing the sun’s energy via photo-voltaic cells and using this energy to power an electrolyser that converts water and CO2 into acetate which can be utilised by mushrooms, yeasts and algae can be more efficient than growing crops. It sounds like an ideal food production system for space stations but here on earth there may be more resistance to this production method.
Full Story

Pod-borer resistance in chickpea

Gram pod borers account for a yield loss of 40-50% in chickpeas grown in India but a successful gene modification is achieving significant reductions in larval feeding damage.
Full Story

Australia starts to evaluate GM sorghum

Queensland University has been granted a licence to conduct field evaluations of GM sorghum over the next 3 years but the crop will not (yet?) be used for human or animal feed.
Full Story

Photosynthesis in overdrive

The University of Wisconsin have identified one of the brakes on photosynthesis and switched it off. The modified Arabidopsis plants produce greater quantities of aromatic compounds and, in doing so, absorb greater quantities of CO2.
Full story

Optimising wheat production

A study by Rothamsted has indicated that, if the genetics of wheat crops were optimised for the regions that the crop was grown in, growers could double their yields. However, a recent ‘Countryfile’ programme on the BBC reported a similar yield benefit achieved by a Ukrainian farmer who swapped his Russian-made combine harvester for a John Deere! Perhaps more widespread access to optimised harvest machinery could also improve harvested yields.
Full Story

This is rocket-science

By engineering the genome of soil bacteria, scientists have caused them to produce polycyclopropanated fatty acids that are sufficiently energy dense to be used as biofuels for road, shipping, aviation and rocket fuel. Let’s hope they can scale up production soon.
Full Story

Cassava Mosaic disease resistance

Cassava is a root crop that can grow in dry conditions without applied fertiliser and is a staple of many in India and Africa. Mosaic disease causes significant yield losses and the natural resistance of some landraces is easily lost during propagation. Now the gene involved has been identified, progress can be made on a more durable resistance:
Full Story

Improved immunity

Many plant pathogens switch off the plant’s immune response before they attack and now a team of scientists from Germany, France and Switzerland have decoded the signals that the pathogen uses to achieve this. They have also developed chemicals that re-activate the plant’s immune system in the lab and now they need to evaluate it in the field.
Full Story

Chitin for leaf blight control in rice

Chitin can be used as an insecticide due to the physical damage that it can cause to insect cuticles but now Chinese scientists have bio-engineered chitosan-iron nanocomposites that seem to have efficacy against bacterial leaf blight in rice.
Full Story

Wheat stripe rust resistance

The Sainsbury Laboratory has identified the genes that stop wheat rust infecting barley and now that the genes involved are known, it will allow this resistance to be transferred to other varieties:
Full Story

Phosphate biosensor

Many plants rely on soil fungi to scavenge for their phosphorus and reward the fungi with carbon compounds when they deliver the phosphates. Now a team at Texas University has developed a biosensor that allows them to monitor this trade and by optimising he process, they hope to make phosphate use by plants more efficient.
Full Story

Asian soybean rust resistance

Corteva and the 2blades Foundation based at the Sainsbury Laboratory have developed a durable rust resistance for soybeans, important because the yield losses caused by the disease can range 10 – 80%.
Full Story

Reduced pre-harvest sprouting in rice

Scientists at the Nanjing Agricultural University have used CRISPR-Cas0 to knock out various versions of the CsABA8ox gene to increase seed dormancy in rice. This makes pre-harvest sprouting less likely but they do not say if it affects the germination of a seed crop.
Full Story

THE LATEST ADDITIONS TO THE  GM/BIOTECH DATABASE ARE:

The latest approvals of biotech crops to report this month:

• HB4 wheat with improved drought tolerance approved for food and feed use in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Columbia, New Zealand, Nigeria and the USA.

FOR INSTANT ACCESS TO GM BIOTECH MANUAL CLICK HERE (Registration required)

Read Full Post »

India’s Supreme Court mulls impact of green lighting GM crops on peasant woman farm laborers, who will no longer need to hand-weed

Krishnadas Rajagopal | Hindu | December 5, 2022

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

The [Indian] Supreme Court on [November 30] expressed concern about the plight of thousands of women agricultural labourers in rural areas, traditionally engaged in de-weeding, who will be part of the human cost if the government permits the commercial cultivation of herbicide-tolerant crops such as GM mustard in India.

“In rural areas, women are experts in removing weeds. They are a part of the labour force in agriculture in India. It brings them employment…” Justice B.V. Nagarathna observed orally while hearing challenges against the environmental clearance given to genetically modified mustard by the government.

Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, the lead judge on the Bench, agreed that women were an integral part of the Indian agricultural landscape, from paddy fields to tea estates, across the country.

“They work in knee-deep water in the fields, bending the whole day and working,” Justice Nagarathna said.

Senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, for a petitioner, said the widespread use of herbicide-tolerant crops would encourage farmers to spray chemical weed-killers.

…“The Supreme Court’s own Technical Expert Committee [TEC] had said that these GM crops were not meant for agriculture in the Indian context. They may be suitable in the western context where there are large farms, but not here,” Mr. Parikh argued.

This is an excerpt. Read the original post here

Read Full Post »

Africa’s Readiness for GMOs Amid Food Security Concerns

FacebookTwitterWhatsAppFlipboardLinkedInRedditEmailShare

International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)/Flickr

The far bowl on the right contains Golden Rice, an example of biofortification using genetic engineering. The golden color of the grains comes from the increased amounts of beta-carotene.

2 NOVEMBER 2022

The Exchange AfricaANALYSISBy James Ndwaru

With the realities of food security and a burgeoning population, there is an urgent need for a more realistic approach to the discussion on the adoption of GMOs in Africa.

  • Moving forward, Africa faces a significant food security dilemma.
  • Food production in Africa is expanding at a slower pace than population growth.
  • GMOs provide a means for Africa to obtain higher agricultural yields and shorter harvest times, ensuring greater food security.

Food security in Africa

Moving forward, Africa faces a significant food security dilemma. The United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) believes that 20 per cent of Africa’s 1.2 billion people face starvation. COVID-19 interruptions and the Russia-Ukraine crisis have exacerbated this situation.

Insecurity, violence, poverty, climate change, and population expansion represent significant factors in the continent’s food security concerns. Albeit substantial progress in the battle against malnutrition and food insecurity in Africa, the pace is too sluggish to reach the six primary nutrition objectives set by the World Health Assembly and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

READ MORE: GMOs ban lifting: the future of Kenya’s indigenous seeds

Food production and population growth

It is worth noting that food production in Africa is expanding at a slower pace than population growth. Except for Africa, per capita food production has increased in every other area of the globe during the 1970s. Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is growing at a pace of roughly 3 per cent per year, which could easily treble the number of people in a single generation.

According to the UN, Nigeria’s population will exceed that of the United States by 2050, with Africa’s population expanding by 1.3 billion. This rapid population expansion challenges the continent’s already precarious food supply networks.

More significantly, Africa’s population is mainly composed of a younger generation. Two-fifths of Africans are between the ages of 0-14 years, with one-fifth between the ages of 15-24. Adequate food and nutrition play an essential role in the overall development of such a population.

More worrying is Africa’s exponential population growth rate, exhibiting the burden on agricultural farmlands, requiring technologies such as genetic engineering and biotechnology that can provide higher agricultural yields on limited agricultural lands, coupled with significant reductions in pesticide use, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and lower exposure to climate variations.

Biotechnological studies on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) offer various options for solving the continent’s hunger, malnutrition, and food security challenges.

However, the adoption and acceptance of GMOs in Africa have been surprisingly delayed, perhaps owing to differing perspectives on their advantages and safety issues. With the realities of food insecurity and Africa’s burgeoning population, there is an urgent need for a more realistic approach to this discussion.

A case for GMOs in Africa

The GMO market (i.e., the commercial value of GM goods and services, including GM seed sales, GM commodity imports, etc.) in Africa was predicted to be worth $615.4 million in 2018, with a projected 5% increase to $871 million by 2025.

GMOs, with the correct strategy and framework, might help Africa tackle food insecurity, malnutrition, and hunger. Food spoilage and loss caused by pests and pathogenic microbes pose a significant threat to food security and safety in Africa.

Food loss decreases revenue by at least 15 per cent in developing economies. Pest infestation on crops before harvest decreases the value of the harvests and the volume and market quality of such items.

Biotechnology advancements

Biotechnological advancements produce food crops more resistant to harm from several common food crop diseases and spoiling agents, lowering the need for costly and sometimes non-environmentally friendly chemical insecticides and pesticides.

Drought, heavy rainfall, and other environmental conditions substantially impact African agricultural production. Biotechnology provides a path for developing environmentally robust and climate-resistant crops that will help to safeguard Africa’s food basket.

Experts have extensively researched developing GM crops with faster maturity periods and higher quality. As a result, GMOs provide a means for Africa to obtain higher agricultural yields and shorter harvest times, ensuring greater food security.

Safety concerns are the main focus of the GMO debate and the primary reason for many African governments’ reluctance to embrace and deploy GMOs. Many African governments have stalled the adoption of biotech agriculture technologies due to perceived hazards that are sometimes unwarranted. Nonetheless, extensive evaluations and safety checks conducted under national and international biosafety frameworks ensure biotechnology safety.

There is no proof that GMO crops cause illness or death in people or animals anywhere in the world. GMOs represent the safest foods ever produced because experts thoroughly test them before making them accessible to the public. Improper food handling may result in sickness. Thus food safety requirements should always be observed.

GMOs in Africa

Globally, GMOs contribute to food security by increasing crop yield, quality and shelf-life. The commercialization and adoption of GMOs in many developed countries raised hope of improving food security and livelihood. Africa, a developing continent facing malnutrition, food crises and inadequate food production technologies, has been slow to accept GMOs.

GMOs have great potential for achieving the zero-hunger agenda. However, the hesitancy to accept GMOs in Africa emanates from unfavourable policies shaped by public opinion. Impeding factors hampering the adoption of GM technology necessitate biosecurity regulations on GMOs to monitor crop biosafety and environmental and health concerns.

With the current food security crisis in the continent, a proper debate on the place of GMOs is long overdue. Kenya has kickstarted the discussion by lifting a GMO ban for over ten years. However, inefficient communication, the lack of scientific evidence for health-related issues, and the dividends of modern biotechnology have resulted in protests and public concerns over GMOs.Close

Deliberations on GMOs

An unbiased deliberation must get underway on the adoption and roll-out of GMOs in Africa. Efforts to improve the adoption of GMOs in Africa should include the provision of adequate monitoring and surveillance system, science-based policies, political will and robust public education on and awareness of GM technology.

Farmers in Africa are anticipated to embrace biotech crops as biotechnology knowledge grows, possibly benefiting their families and the continent. Of course, adopting GMOs in Africa is about more than just information and awareness.

Time is running out for Africa to guarantee food security for its population. As the saying goes, it is not very reasonable to keep doing the same things and expect different results.

Africa needs crops that can withstand pests and disease, withstand drought, flourish without excessive pesticides and fertilizers, and produce healthy food. Africa needs crops to enable smallholder farmers to prosper. GMOs provide a powerful instrument for Africa to address these demands when other choices fail over time.

READ MORE: Kenya becomes the fifth country to allow GMOs. Will it last?

Read the original article on The Exchange.

Read Full Post »

Philippines second country to approve genetically modified eggplant

The Philippines becomes the second country after Bangladesh to approve the commercial cultivation of genetically modified eggplant. 

The Bt eggplant, first developed in India, contains a natural protein from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), making it resistant to the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB), the most devastating insect pest for this crop.

The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquitic and Natural Resources and Development, stated that the Bt protein is safe for humans and animals because it is highly specific to the shoot borer larvae. 

Although developed in India, the Bt eggplant is banned in that country.

Soruce: www.fareasternagriculture.com

Publication date: Thu 10 Nov 2022

Read Full Post »

Video: UNESCO examines the environmental and biodiversity impacts of gene-edited plants and animals

UNESCO | November 8, 2022

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Credit: UNESCO
Credit: UNESCO

Genome editing is a powerful tool. It allows us to modify genes not only to treat human diseases but also to change characteristics of animals and plants within a very short period of time at a much larger scale than any other methods that humans had ever used in the past. A technique called “gene drive” that uses genome editing to spread certain genes in the entire population of a target species could eradicate diseases caused by insects such as malaria and other vector borne diseases. Plants and animals could be more resistant to diseases and grow quicker. But is it safe? What would be the impact on the environment and biodiversity?

The third of the series of Ethics of Genome Editing “3. Impact of Genome editing on plants, animals and environment” is now available in English, French, Japanese, Spanish and other languages subtitles.

Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.

SIGN UP

See the original post here

combined disclaimer outlined@ x

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

COMMENTS: CLICK HERE TO READ OR POST

Read Full Post »

India approves first genetically-modified crops in 20 years: Herbicide-tolerant cotton and mustard

Harvir Singh | Rural Voice | October 24, 2022

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
screenshot pm

The commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops may get approval in the country after 20 years. These crops are herbicide-tolerant (HT) Bt cotton, called HTBt cotton, and GM mustard. According to highly placed sources, the road to approval of commercial cultivation of these two crops has almost been cleared.

The mere formality of approval from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) remains. As per the information obtained by Rural Voice, the sub-committee appointed by GEAC has submitted its report to the latter. Positive recommendations have been made in this report for the commercial cultivation of HTBt cotton and GM mustard.

Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.

SIGN UP

One of the members of the committee says that the cultivation of HTBt cotton has already been going on illegally in the country in about 30 per cent of the area. Seeds are being supplied for the same illegally. Given this, it would be better if it is given approval so that farmers may get seeds of the right quality and seed sellers may be held accountable in case of any defect.

The other crop likely to get GEAC approval is GM mustard. Mustard plays a key role in the supply of edible oils in the country. But we have constantly failed on the front of increasing mustard productivity. Scientists argue for this that the solution lies in giving approval to the cultivation of GM mustard.

This is an excerpt. Read the original post here

Read Full Post »

  1. Home
  2.  National
  3.  HTBt cotton and GM mustard set to get GEAC approval; first for any GM crop in 20 years

HTBt cotton and GM mustard set to get GEAC approval; first for any GM crop in 20 years

The commercial cultivation of GM crops may get approval in the country after 20 years. These crops are HTBt cotton and GM mustard. According to highly placed sources, the road to approval of commercial cultivation of these two crops has almost been cleared. The mere formality of approval from the GEAC remains. As per the information obtained by Rural Voice, the sub-committee appointed by GEAC has submitted its report to the latter. Positive recommendations have been made in this report for the commercial cultivation of HTBt cotton and GM mustard.

Harvir SinghHarvir Singh

Published:Oct 17, 2022 – 08:46Updated: Oct 22, 2022 – 12:53

HTBt cotton and GM mustard set to get GEAC approval; first for any GM crop in 20 years

Mustard fields in the Sambhal district of UP

The commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops may get approval in the country after 20 years. These crops are herbicide-tolerant (HT) Bt cotton, called HTBt cotton, and GM mustard. According to highly placed sources, the road to approval of commercial cultivation of these two crops has almost been cleared. The mere formality of approval from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) remains. As per the information obtained by Rural Voice, the sub-committee appointed by GEAC has submitted its report to the latter. Positive recommendations have been made in this report for the commercial cultivation of HTBt cotton and GM mustard.

Earlier, it was in 2002 that Bt cotton, a GM variety of cotton, was approved for commercial cultivation for the first time. Since then, no GM crop has been given approval for commercial cultivation. The Bt cotton varieties had been developed by the American company Monsanto and the Indian company Mahyco, in which the technology was Monsanto’s.

According to the said source, the GEAC-appointed sub-committee had been asked to study the adverse effects of the HTBt cotton variety and give its recommendations. Since it did not receive any such evidence with regard to HTBt cotton, it has given a positive report for approval to the variety. One of the members of the committee says that the cultivation of HTBt cotton has already been going on illegally in the country in about 30 per cent of the area. Seeds are being supplied for the same illegally. Given this, it would be better if it is given approval so that farmers may get seeds of the right quality and seed sellers may be held accountable in case of any defect.

Approval likely for GM mustard also

The other crop likely to get GEAC approval is GM mustard. Mustard plays a key role in the supply of edible oils in the country. But we have constantly failed on the front of increasing mustard productivity. Scientists argue for this that the solution lies in giving approval to the cultivation of GM mustard. Dr Deepak Pental, the ex-Vice Chancellor of the University of Delhi, had developed Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11, otherwise known as DMH-11, a genetically modified hybrid variety of mustard. Its commercial release is yet to get approval. It is in favour of approval to the commercial release of this variety that the sub-committee has given its recommendations.

Dr Pental created DMH-11 through transgenic technology, primarily involving the Bar, Barnase and Barstar gene system. The Barnase gene confers male sterility, while the Barstar gene restores DMH-11’s ability to produce fertile seeds. The process also involves the insertion of a third gene called Bar. A patent had been obtained for this GM event in the US in 1991. Dr Pental has “tweaked” the process and he, too, has obtained its patent from the US. The Varuna species of mustard has been used for this GM variety.

What is interesting is that DMH-11, the GM mustard variety based on Dr Pental’s Barnase-Barstar technology, had even been given approval in the 133rd GEAC meeting. Immediately later, however, the approval was stayed in its 134th meeting.

A senior agricultural scientist says that canola varieties based on the Barnase-Barstar system are being cultivated on a large scale in Canada. Hybrid canola varieties are being cultivated on 21mn acres in Canada. The ill-effects of GM mustard on bees have been said to be at the root of the fear of its adverse effects. The said apprehension was that a reduction in the number of bees due to this will lead to a loss in the natural pollination process, which in turn will have an adverse effect on agricultural production. In Canada, however, there has been a far greater increase in the number of bee colonies in spite of the increase in the area under canola cultivation. According to a report, while the area under canola cultivation has increased from 10mn acres in 1988 to 21mn acres in 2019, the number of bee colonies has gone up from a level of about 10mn to 25mn during the same period.

One of the members of the sub-committee told Rural Voice that better-quality hybrid varieties were necessary to increase mustard production. The hybrid varieties of several private companies are selling in the market. But a high level of productivity can be attained only with the approval of the GM variety. India is not able to come out of the cycle of import dependence in the case of edible oils. In such a situation, subsequent to the approval given to GM mustard, its better GM varieties can bring about a steep hike in oil production. This is what happened in the case of cotton. GM cotton put an end to import dependence and enabled India to become a large cotton exporter, too.

Prof. KC Bansal, Secretary of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) and former Director of the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), said to Rural Voice, “Barnase–Barstar is a proven GM technology for hybrid development in mustard. We must promote this technology and the resultant GM mustard hybrid for the benefit of farmers, consumers and the nation for reducing our dependence on oil imports. Further, the transgenic mustard parental lines developed using Barnase and Barstar genes will prove useful for transferring these genes into more diverse parental lines for developing more hybrids with higher yields.”

As far as the issue of GM crops is concerned, it has been a controversial one. A large section has always stood in its opposition. After the approval given to the commercial cultivation of GM Bt cotton in 2002, Bt brinjal was another GM crop to have been given GEAC approval in 2009. It had been developed by the private seed company Mahyco in collaboration with the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad; Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore; and ICAR-Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (IIVR), Varanasi. But the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC) imposed a 10-year moratorium on its commercial cultivation that continues to this day. The Agriculture Minister has conveyed to the Parliament that field trials of the Bt brinjal variety developed at the domestic level have been approved for the 2022-23 season. But the condition of obtaining a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the respective state government has been imposed for this.

The government had given approval in March to develop new varieties through the SDN-1 and -2 categories of genome-edited plants. Guidelines for this were issued in May and the SOP, too, was issued in this regard in September. These moves from the government send the signal that it is changing its stance on the subject of approval for GM crop varieties. If the commercial release of the HTBt cotton and GM mustard is shown the green flag, it will be for the first time in the country in 20 years that a GM crop gets approval for commercial cultivation.

Tags:

Read Full Post »

Alliance for Science

Disease-resistant GM cassava promises to be game-changer for Kenya

BY JOSEPH MAINA

AUGUST 15, 2022

SHARE

At the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) center in Mtwapa, Kenya, scientist Paul Kuria uproots two sets of cassava tubers exposed to the devastating cassava brown streak disease (CBSD).

One of the plants is a conventional cassava variety that has no immunity to the disease. The second has been genetically modified (GM) to resist the disease. Kuria punctiliously slices each of the tubers open, and the difference between the two is stark — like night and day.

The conventional tuber looks emaciated and is punctured with brownish, unsavory spots dotting the entire circumference of its flesh. The GM tuber, on the other hand, is the picture of good health. Its skin is flawless and firm, and its flesh has an impeccable, white lustre.

CBSD is considered one of the world’s most dangerous plant diseases due to its significant impact on food and economic security. Cassava varieties that are resistant to the disease could considerably improve the crop’s ability to feed Africa while generating income for smallholder farmers.

In severe cases, the disease can lead to 100 percent yield loss. As noted by KALRO and its partners, cassava resistant to CBSD is in high demand by farmers where the crop is grown.

Meeting that demand has been an elusive target for plant breeders. But through modern biotechnology, a collaborative effort known as the VIRCA project has developed CBSD-resistant cassava line 4046. It has the potential to prevent 90 percent of crop damage, thus improving the yield and marketability of cassava roots.

“We used genetic engineering and produced an improved cassava,” Professor Douglas Miano, the lead scientist in the project, told journalists and farmers who toured the KALRO grounds in Mtwapa in early August.

“It’s the first GM cassava in the world, and Kenya is leading in this production,” Miano said.

The VIRCA (Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa) project was conceived in 2005 with the aim of solving the viral diseases that suppress cassava yields and reduce farmer incomes in East Africa. It brings together KALRO, the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) of Uganda and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Centre (DDPSC) in the United States.

“We have two main diseases affecting cassava production — CBSD and cassava mosaic disease,” Miano explained. “Cassava mosaic disease affects the leaves of the crop. The net effect is a reduction in the amount of cassava that is produced. CBSD, on the other hand, destroys the roots and affects the tuber.”

Scientists Paul Kuria displays GM disease-resistant cassava (left) vs cassava infected with CBSD. Photo: Joseph Maina

Dr. Catherine Taracha, a Kenyan who is on the project’s leadership team, said that plant viruses create a huge challenge for farmers.

“Cassava productivity is significantly hampered by viral diseases, and so we sought to develop a cassava line that would resist the viruses and thereby improve farmers’ livelihoods by boosting productivity and earnings from the crop,” Taracha said.

Because the line is yet to be approved for commercial release, the work is being carried out in regulated confined field trial conditions. If and when Kenya’s National Biosafety Authority approves line 4046 for the market, the new CBSD-resistant varieties would undergo normal government variety assessment and registration by regulators before being distributed to farmers.

The scientists further assure that CBSD-resistant cassava varieties are no different than their conventional equivalents — aside from their ability to resist CBSD.

“Due to the ability to resist CBSD, these varieties will be more productive with better quantity and quality of root yields,” Miano said.. “This will translate to greater demand and more profits for farmers.”

In addition, CBSD-resistant cassava line 4046 will produce disease-free planting material and thereby contribute to long-term sustainability of the cassava crop.

There will be no technology fee associated with line 4046, scientists say, implying that cassava stakes and cuttings will cost about the same as other highly valued cassava varieties.

Cuttings from CBSD-resistant cassava can be replanted in the same way farmers replant conventional cassava. They can also be grown with other crops because cultivation practices are the same as for conventional varieties.

The developers have further assured that CBSD-resistant cassava line is safe for the environment and biodiversity.

“We have developed the GM cassava up to the point where we have conducted all the safety studies and demonstrated that it is safe as food, feed and to the environment,” Miano said.

The general public and key stakeholders have been involved in the project, and it is anticipated that farmers and communities will be involved in selecting the best CBSD-resistant cassava varieties for their needs.

Cassava roots and leaves are the nutritionally valuable parts of the plant. The tuber is rich in gluten-free carbohydrates while the leaves provide vitamins A and C, minerals and protein. In addition to its nourishing properties, stakeholders have also identified cassava’s potential to spur Kenya’s industrial growth.

“Cassava is an important food crop, but we can also use it to industrialize in Kenya,” Miano asserted. “However, we have not yet been able to achieve this as a country.”

Miano identified starch as a potential cassava product that the country can leverage to advance its industrial growth. It is also projected that the improved cassava can protect farmers from devastating losses of this important food crop and contribute to the creation of thousands of jobs along the value chain due to the crop’s use as animal feed.

The scientists note that modern biotechnology is by far the best option to incorporate CBSD resistance in cassava cultivars carrying farmer-preferred characteristics. Similar approaches have been used to confer resistance to plant viruses and have been authorized by regulatory bodies around the world, including virus-resistant pawpaw, squash and beans.

Image: Scientist Paul Kuria displays cassava infected with cassava brown streak disease (left) and a GM variety that resists the devastating disease. Photo: Joseph Maina


Categories

Read Full Post »

Kenyan farming experts urge permanent lift of GM ban to address animal feed shortage

Peter Theurl | Standard (Kenya) | August 17, 2022

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Kenyan farmers are far too familiar with the devastation that resource shortfalls cause to their livestock. Credit: Jaspreet Kindra via IRIN
Kenyan farmers are far too familiar with the devastation that resource shortfalls cause to their livestock. Credit: Jaspreet Kindra via IRIN

Punitive local tax regimes, technical restrictions, challenges in access to foreign currency and logistics disruptions — most of these exacerbated by the pandemic — have been dragging Kenya’s bid for seamless [grain] importation back. A problem with accessing yellow maize due to a tough stance by the government on importation of non-genetically modified maize worsened the feed problem in the past few months.

Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.

SIGN UP

“This situation, where people can no longer profit off their livestock, is dangerous and is a threat to security as livestock farming is a socio-economic activity,” says [Secretary General of the Association of Kenya Feeds Manufacturers Martin] Kinoti.

Stephen Mugo, the director of the Centre for Resilient Agriculture for Africa (CRA-Africa), says Kenya experiences a shortage of nearly 11 million 90-kilo bags of maize a year. This year, which has experienced delayed rainfall amid increasing demand for maize, could be worse, with Dr Mugo saying that “2022 is particularly a food-insecure year”.

In the short term, Dr Mugo says the government could focus on targeted food imports, and should lift the ban on GM foods. It could also offer famine relief food for people living in Northern Kenya, where the drought hits hardest.

This is an excerpt. Read the original post here

Read Full Post »

A New Green Revolution Is in the Offing

Thanks to some amazing recent crop biotech breakthroughs

RONALD BAILEY | 8.10.2022 5:00 PM

Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on RedditShare by emailPrint friendly versionCopy page URL

man stands in wheat field facing away from camera with outstretched arms

(Noam Armonn | Dreamstime.com)

A recent spate of crop biotech breakthroughs presage a New Green Revolution that will boost crop production, shrink agriculture’s environmental footprint, help us weather future climate change, and provide better nutrition for the world’s growing population.

The first Green Revolution was generated through the crop breeding successes pioneered by agronomist Norman Borlaug back in the 1960s. The high-yielding dwarf wheat varieties bred by Borlaug and his team more than doubled grain yields. The Green Revolution averted the global famines confidently predicted for the 1970s by population doomsters like Stanford entomologist Paul Ehrlich. Other crop breeders using Borlaug’s insights boosted yields for other staple grains. Since 1961, global cereal production has increased 400 percent while the world population grew by 260 percent. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his accomplishments. Of course, the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are currently roiling grain and fertilizer supplies.

Borlaug needed 20 years of painstaking crossbreeding to develop his high-yield and disease-resistant wheat varieties. Today, crop breeders are taking advantage of the tools of modern biotechnology that can dramatically increase the rate at which yields increase and drought- and disease-resistance can be imbued in crops.

The Green Revolution’s crops required increased fertilizer applications to achieve their higher yields. However, fertilizers have some ecologically deleterious side effects. For example, the surface runoff of nitrogen and other fertilizers not absorbed by crops spurs the growth of harmful alga in rivers, lakes, and coastal areas. In addition, excess nitrogen fertilizer gets broken down by soil bacteria such that there are rising atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, which, pound for pound, has 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

The good news is that in the last month, two teams of modern plant breeders have made breakthroughs that will dramatically cut the amount of nitrogen fertilizers crops need for grain production. In July, Chinese researchers reported the development of “supercharged” rice and wheat crops, which they achieved by doubling the expression of a regulatory gene that increases nitrogen uptake by four- to fivefold and enhances photosynthesis. In field trials, the yields of the modified rice were 40 to 70 percent higher than those of the conventional varieties. One upshot is that farmers can grow more food on less land using fewer costly inputs.

Some crops like soybeans and alfalfa get most of the nitrogen fertilizer they need through their symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria. Soybeans supply the bacteria living on their roots with sugars, and the bacteria in turn take nitrogen from the air and turn it into nitrate and ammonia fertilizers for the plants. However, nitrogen-fixing bacteria do not colonize the roots of cereal crops.

A team of researchers associated with the University of California Davis reported in July their success in gene editing rice varieties to make their roots hospitable to nitrogen-fixing bacteria. As a result, when grown under conditions of limited soil nitrogen, the yields of the gene-edited varieties were 20 to 35 percent higher than those of the conventional varieties. The researchers believe their gene-editing techniques can be applied to other cereal crops.

This new biotech-enabled Green Revolution promises a future in which more food from higher yields grown using less fertilizer means more farmland restored to nature, less water pollution, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Sponsored Videos

Read Full Post »

Preventing late blight with GMO potatoes could ease food insecurity

Photos courtesy of MSUGMO late blight resistant potato plants

BLIGHT RESISTANCE: Researchers have developed GMO late blight-resistant plants, pictured here alongside conventional plants.

Commentary: Stop GMO critics from making choices for farmers in Africa or Asia.

Dave Douches | Aug 10, 2022

fps-generic.jpg

For many decades, my research has focused on genetically improving potatoes. Many think of potatoes as a less-than-ideal nutrition choice. The potato itself is a nutritional powerhouse, but it’s how we choose to prepare and eat them that often overshadows their nutritive benefits.

Nutritionally, potatoes produce a large amount of energy-rich carbohydrates and are high in vitamin C and potassium. Through crossbreeding, I have also developed a deep, purple-fleshed potato that is high in antioxidants typically found in fruits.

As the third-most important human food in the world, potatoes can play a critical role in global food security. Over the past few decades, world potato production growth has primarily been in developing countries. As the highest-yielding staple crop per acre, potatoes provide countless savings in land use across the globe.

Despite increased potato production and high-yield potential, yields in developing countries have not reached their full potential. Smallholder farmers often lack access to quality seed and knowledge of effective disease management practices.

One of the most important potato diseases because of its effect on crop yield is late blight (the disease that caused the Irish potato famine in 19th century). Late blight disease is recognized as one of the most destructive diseases of potatoes and is a major constraint of profitable potato production worldwide. Late blight management costs and losses from yield reductions are estimated at more than $6 billion per year globally.

The best way to overcome the problem of late blight is to produce a potato with durable resistance to the disease. An innovative solution to the grand challenge does exist, but the solution does not enjoy a consensus of support around the globe.

Late blight disease resistance can be achieved in potatoes through the introduction of three strong disease resistance genes from a wild species of potato into varieties preferred by consumers and farmers. These resistant varieties cannot be obtained by conventional crossbreeding. 

Genetically modified organisms

The late blight resistant potato I refer to was developed using genetic engineering, a scientific process that can insert and express genes (DNA) to improve an organism. This technology has been celebrated or villainized, depending on whom you trust.

As a plant breeder, I believe GE expands the toolbox that a breeder can use to solve challenges, especially in vegetative crops such as potatoes, where specific varieties are preferred in the market.

In medicine, one of the most recognizable examples is in the production of human insulin, which is manufactured using recombinant DNA technology. It has been licensed for human use since 1982 and widely prescribed to treat diabetes. GE has been widely accepted by the public in medical applications.

potatoes growing in field

YIELD ROBBER: Late blight disease is recognized as one of the most destructive diseases of potatoes and is a major constraint of profitable potato production worldwide. Researchers say the best way to overcome the problem of late blight is to produce a potato with durable resistance to the disease. Pictured is the difference in yield between LBR potato plants and conventional potatoes.

In agriculture, despite over 25 years of successful commercial production of many staple crops, GE crops still endure stiff criticism. The anti-GMO movement is well-funded and well-organized. Three claims of anti-GMO advocates are that GE is harmful to human and environmental health; that GMOs are unnatural; and were developed by large multinational corporations looking to control the seed sector and farmers.

These beliefs persist even after overwhelming scientific evidence continues to prove that current GMOs are safe to eat, and that disease- and insect-resistant GMOs can be good for the environment and health of farmers, and in many cases reduce input costs.

Risk or benefit?

A recent review offers a risk-benefit analysis of GMOs. The authors note that scientific evidence shows the technology is not only safe, but can also provide economic, environmental and health benefits. In addition, legal frameworks that regulate GMO crops exist to ensure safe products for people, animals and the environment.

As director of the Feed the Future Global Biotech Potato Partnership supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), I have seen firsthand the benefits of the GE technology. The partnership is working to develop late blight resistant potato varieties in developing countries. Our late blight disease-resistant potatoes have demonstrated complete protection against the disease.

We have held field trials in Indonesia, where late blight disease is so prevalent, it can strike soon after plant emergence and destroy an entire potato field within weeks. On average, Indonesian farmers spray up to 17 times during a 90-day cropping cycle. That equates to two to three times a week where farmers are exposed to fungicides sprays, and oftentimes they apply without proper protective clothing.  

Science and regulatory agencies around the globe have consistently found crops and food developed by GE to be safe. In fact, 159 Nobel laureates to date have signed an open letter to the leaders of Greenpeace (an outspoken opponent of the technology), the United Nations and governments around the world in support of biotechnology, noting, “There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity.”

The opportunity of choice

Wherever you may land in the GMO trust conversation, the technology is growing and expanding. In 2019, 190.4 million hectares of biotech crops were grown in 29 countries. The U.S. leads the world with 71.5 million hectares, with an average 95% crop adoption rate for GE soybeans, maize and canola. According to the USDA, more than 90% of U.S. corn, upland cotton and soybeans are GE varieties.  

In the U.S., which many consider a privileged society, people have many options and choices when it comes to making their food decisions. We are fortunate to have the opportunity of choice. Many developing countries struggle to achieve food security and cannot produce enough nutritious food to feed their people.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 report by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization notes that 149.2 million, or 22%, of children younger than age 5 were affected by stunting, and 45.4 million children were affected by wasting (low weight for height).

More than nine out of 10 of all children affected by stunting or wasting are in Africa and Asia. The study also reports undernourished people in Africa (418 million) and Asia (282 million) rose by 103 million people from 2019 to 2020.

We cannot just ask farmers to grow more of what they’ve been growing to solve global food security. Farmers need to have a choice to grow more strategic crops and varieties that achieve higher and more stable yields resilient to climate shocks and threats.

This choice is even more critical in developing countries such as Bangladesh where we are working to bring the late blight disease resistant potato to smallholder farmers. Genetic engineering can offer disease- and pest-resistant and climate-tolerant crop plants for the farmers. GE crops can also lead to improved and enhanced nutritional traits in food products for the consumers.

In industrialized countries such as the U.S. and Europe, agricultural productivity can be easily increased through new technologies and innovations at every point within the food-value chain. We are afforded the luxury of opportunity.

However, for the smallholders in a country like Bangladesh, farming can be an entirely manual process, from plowing to planting and weeding, to harvest by hand. Technology and innovation are often out of reach for these farmers.

Bangladesh potato farmers at harvest

HARVEST: Bangladesh potato farmers work at harvest.

Many of those from the developed world can choose to select which organic, GE or conventionally bred food products to buy at a nearby store full of options. Billions of others are not afforded this choice. However, many GMO critics are making the choice for a farmer in Africa or Asia on which crops to grow and feed their communities by fighting against their use.

These opinions of distrust of the technology are often loud, misleading of the science, and influence leaders of developing countries to ban their farmers access to the technology. I believe every country and every farmer should have the right to make safe choices on their food security without the influence of disinformation and dissatisfaction of others.

We need to trust data, science and facts to solve global grand challenges. Sharpening our media literacy and critical-thinking skills will enable us to avoid disinformation, eliminate participation in misinformation sharing, and become advocates of truth.

Douches is a professor and director of the Potato Breeding and Genetics Program, and director of the Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology Graduate Program in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University. He is also the project director of the Feed the Future Global Biotech Potato Partnership.

TAGS: CROPS

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »