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Archive for the ‘GMOs’ Category

Genetically Modified Corn Does Not Damage Non-Target Organisms

USDA Agricultural Research Service sent this bulletin at 06/06/2022 08:53 AM EDT

View as a webpageARS News ServiceARS News ServiceA field of cornA new major meta-analysis has found that Bt corn does not damage nontarget organisms. (Photo by Preston Keres)Genetically Modified Corn Does Not Damage Non-Target OrganismsFor media inquiries contact: Kim Kaplan, 301-588-5314Maricopa, Ariz, June 6, 2022—The largest, highest quality analysis of data ever conducted reveals that genetically modified Bt corn has little impact on nontarget insects and other organisms, especially compared to growing conventional corn. This study was published today in Environmental Evidence by a USDA Agricultural Research Service scientist and his Swiss colleagues.Bt corn is corn that has been genetically modified so that it produces proteins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis to control corn borers, corn rootworms and other major pests of corn. The first Bt corn was approved in 1996 and critics have been suggesting that it also can destroy beneficial insects or other non-targeted organisms.One of the issues with assessments of possible nontarget organism damage by Bt corn has been that each study was limited in scope, environment or size. The paper’s three authors have made up for these shortfalls by systematically pulling together data from studies in 12 bibliographic databases, 17 specialized webpages, and the reference sections of 78 review articles that all met the highest standards for research quality.”We gathered together hundreds of individual studies published between 1997 to 2020 that have looked at whether growing Bt corn changed the environmental abundance of non-target animals such as arthropods, earthworms and nematodes, especially as compared to growing non-genetically modified corn accompanied by the pesticide necessary to control major pests,” explained ARS entomologist Steve Naranjo, director of the Arid-Lands Agricultural Research Center in Maricopa, Arizona and one of authors of the study.Naranjo and entomologists Joerg Romeis and Michael Meissle with Agroscope, ARS’ Swiss counterpart, found that this massive aggregation of data showed Bt corn had no negative effects on most invertebrate groups including ladybeetles, flower bugs, and lacewings. Populations of Braconidae insects, which are parasitoid wasps that prey on corn borers, were reduced with Bt corn.The researchers even examined if authorship or financial support by biotechnology companies affected the outcome of individual studies.”It might be a bit surprising but according to the analysis, when any negative effects by Bt corn on nontarget organisms were found in the data, they were attributed more often in studies with private sector support than when no backing by biotech companies was declared,” Meissle added.”But after all the number crunching was done, what we found was that, overall, Bt corn just does not have negative impacts on nontarget organisms,” said Naranjo.The quality standards for which studies would be included in the meta-analysis and which would be cut were outlined and vetted by stakeholders, scientists not involved in the meta-analysis project and even members of the journal’s review board, none of whom knew if any study’s data showed a negative impact on non-target organisms or not.The result is the largest pool of high-quality data anyone has ever analyzed for this purpose consisting of 7279 individual invertebrate records from 233 experiments in 120 articles, 75 percent of which were from peer-reviewed journals. The entire data set also has been published in BMC Research Notes.In summary, this major meta-analysis largely proved out previous individual studies. Bt corn represents a highly selective pest control technology with relatively few negative consequences for non-target invertebrates, especially when compared with the use of broad-spectrum insecticides for managing Bt-targeted pests, according to the scientists.The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $17 of economic impact.Interested in reading more about ARS research? Visit our news archiveU.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Agricultural Research Service

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GMOs: The Nigerian Milestone As West Africa’s Launch Pad
AGRICULTURE
By Collins Nnabuife | Abuja On Jun 7, 2022

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The mere mention of the acronym GMO elicits some shivers in the nerves of most Africans. Although the body of knowledge on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is swelling, the naysayers are still holding a fair share of the people’s mind..

The reason is simple. Just like every bad news, to hear that GMOs are the causes of cancers and even other health conditions whose causes have been known for ages seems to have gained more popularity among the people than the problems they are solving.

It remains an absurd irony that the introduction of genetic engineering as a technological tool for solving some of the continent’s age-long problems like the persistent food crisis is being resisted by a group of people.

The anti-GMOs crusaders have used anecdotes to preach against the introduction of genetically engineered crops, saying they would result in adverse consequences on people and the environment. Incidentally, the preachers have failed to explain their deductions with scientific evidence.


Unknown to the people, the anti-GMOs may have been recruited by major producers of chemical inputs like fertilizers, herbicide and pesticides to enable them hold on to the market, despite evidence that persistent use of such has rendered most of Africa’s soils unproductive.

Countries in West Africa are losing millions in hard currencies to purchase   chemicals that are mostly substandard and can cause deaths and ageing among farmers struggling to keep insects and pests away from their crops.

The situation is worsened by low farm productivity due to increasing cases of insect and pest infestationand climate change.

The good news is that some countries like South Africa and Nigeria are turning these challenges into opportunities using biotechnology as the tool.

Scientists at Nigeria’s Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in Kaduna State, have successfully incorporated the Bacillus thuringensis (Bt) genes into the Nigerian varieties of beans.

Sampea 20-T, the resultant product of painstaking scientific research, released in 2021 for commercialization after nine years of high-profile vetting and trials has proven to resist the damaging insect larva-Maruca vitratacommonly called butterfly.

Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, director general of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), the body that oversees and promotes biotechnology research and appropriate utilization in Nigeria, described the burden that the introduction of the Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) Cowpea has taken off the Nigerian farmer thus: “A farmer can loose everything he has cultivated to this damaging insect larvae- Maruca. This new variety, Sampea 20-T requires two to three sprays for a planting season to control the pest instead of spraying up to eight times as in the case of the local variety. This is the working of Biotechnology.”

Hitherto, the Bt Cotton was similarly released.

Prof Mustapha said both varieties of Genetically Modified Crops were developed and released by the scientific community to meet specific needs of the people and address some of the challenges that hitherto could not be mitigated using the conventional breeding methods.

Sub-Saharan Africa has, in recent times, recorded the most rapid rate of agricultural production growth since 2000 more than any other region of the world.

However, a 2021 Africa Agriculture Status Report 2021 by the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), says three-quarters of this growth is driven by the expansion of crop land rather than yield increases.

The report cites threats such as persistent droughts, famine, locusts, fall armyworm (FAW), civil conflicts and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic as impediments to the continent’s progress in this regard.

As it stands, farmers in Africa cannot attain the yield potentials of popular legumes like cowpea when compared to other parts of the world. While farmers in the Americas, the West and Asia are getting over 10 tons per hectare of maize, farmers in Africa and particularly West Africa are still struggling to attain four tons per hectare.

According to a forecast by Statista, Africa’s total population would reach nearly 2.5 billion by 2050. This has prompted calls by stakeholders for Africa to take urgent steps to increase crop production without compromising the continent’s natural resources.

At the regional level, the Economic Commission for Africa, the African Union Commission and the Africa Union Development Agency for several months last year spearheaded several meetings across the continent aimed at ensuring that developing African countries spoke in one voice at the UN’s extraordinary global Food Systems Summit.

Sequel to this meeting, Rwanda hosted the pan-Africa summit on Biotechnology this year.

At the sub-regional level, Nigeria has taken the lead in West Africa by adopting biotechnology, resulting in the release of Bt Cotton and the Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) Cowpea.

This was made possible by the efforts of NABDA through the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa, Nigeria Chapter with support from AATF.

Nigeria made history as the first country in Africa and the world at large to develop and release a cowpea variety that is resistant to the notorious Pod Borer, which has the capacity of destroying a whole beans farm.

Chronicling the milestone that led to the release of the PBR cowpea, the NABDA DG said, “Going down the history lane of Bt. Cowpea Project in Nigeria, NABDA in carrying out her mandate of biotechnology facilitation, and as a requisite for compliance to Biosafety Regulation, in 2010/2011, in partnership with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation,  designed and constructed a level -2 containment facility, which was used for Biosafety containment studies at IAR, Zaria, where this project was developed.”

NABDA, with the support of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation also facilitated, funded and spearheaded the Biosafety Bill passage, a process that took nearly six years at the national Assembly before its eventual passage and subsequent assent by the President. This led to the creation of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) with pockets of technical supports from development partners including the AATF, USAID, USDA, PBS, AU-NEPAD/ABNE, Africa Harvest, Biotechnology International (AHBFI), Bayer International and Crop Life International.

This action provided an enabling and friendly regulatory environment as required by the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety which Nigeria signed and ratified in 2001/2002. Without this, Nigeria couldn’t have commercialized any genetically modified crop.

The Nigerian PBR cowpea success story has become a learning reference for other countries. The country is at the forefront of Biotechnology deployment and domestication in Agriculture, Health, Environment and Industry as a way of responding positively to the national aspirations on food security, job and wealth creation, affordable healthcare delivery, industrialization and sustainable environment.

NABDA, through the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), the main Secretariat of the National Varietal Release Committee (NVRC), has released several improved varieties of crops including Bt Cowpea and Bt Cotton, livestock and fisheries.

According to Prof. Mustapha, Nigeria is expecting the release of the third GM crop, Tela Maize, developed for drought tolerance and insect resistance (Stem borer and Fall army worm) in the coming years.

Meanwhile, local scientists in Ghana and Burkina Faso have gone far with the development of PBR cowpea. Unfortunately, they await independent country-specific regulatory approvals for release.

In Ghana, though the crop and others being developed by scientists have gone through various stages of evaluation and field trials, none has been commercialized.

Currently, an application submitted by the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) on the PBR cowpea awaits approval from National Biosafety Authority (NBA), Ghana’s GMO regulatory body that was set up after Ghana passed the Biosafety Act (831) in 2011.

The argument by experts is that West African borders are so merged that it would be difficult to prevent trans-border flow of the Nigerian PBR cowpea, hence the need to ride on the Nigerian process to institute a sub-regional template that could fast-track approvals across countries. Gladly, most countries within the sub-region share similarities in geography, eating culture and food preference.

Lead, Product Stewardship at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Onyekachi Francis, stated how this could be achieved in his presentation during the Nigeria-Ghana Biotechnology and Biosafety stakeholders forum held in Abuja.

He listed some of the prerequisites to include the creation of Shrink Wrap Contract which contains the geography of release on seed packet and labelling obligation, proper documentation on Biosafety Clearinghouse (BCH), License obligation to seed companies as well as health and safety of farm workers.

Other considerations he said could make a sub-regional framework reliable include trainings to explain risk and mitigation measures, implementation of product stewardship to ensure product integrity, quality and long-term benefit, while suggesting that there is need to build strong stakeholder and political support in West African to promote the adoption of PBR Cowpea.

YOU SHOULD NOT MISS THESE FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
https://tribuneonlineng.com/gmos-the-nigerian-milestone-as-west-africas-launch-pad/

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New research confirms that GM corn is safe for beneficial insects

Joan Conrow | Cornell Alliance for Science | June 9, 2022

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Credit: Edwin Remsberg
Credit: Edwin Remsberg

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.

Growing genetically modified (GM) corn has virtually no impact on the abundance or ecological function of beneficial insects, according to an extensive review of existing research.

And it is far less harmful to non-target organisms than growing corn through conventional methods, where insecticides are used to fight off pests that can destroy the crop, the study found. It was conducted by a researcher with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS) and his Swiss colleagues.

The meta-analysis, published in the journal Environmental Evidence, attempted to address concerns raised by critics of GM corn, including contentions that previous assessments of potential impacts were limited in scope.

screenshot pm

In response, researchers reviewed hundreds of international studies published between 1997 to 2020 that looked at whether growing genetically modified Bt corn changed the abundance of non-target animals such as arthropods, earthworms and nematodes.

“But after all the number crunching was done, what we found was that, overall, Bt corn just does not have negative impacts on nontarget organisms,” said Steve Naranjo, an ARS entomologist and director of the Arid-Lands Agricultural Research Center in Maricopa, Arizona, who co-authored the study.

Bt corn controls harmful insect pests by producing proteins from a common soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, that is also used for pest management in organic farming. It is the most widely grown GM crop in the world. While Bt corn is successful in warding off attacks by corn borers, corn rootworms and other major corn pests, it has no negative effects on ladybeetles, flower bugs, lacewings and other non-target insects, researchers found.

The analysis compiled the largest pool of high-quality data ever analyzed for the purpose of assessing GM corn’s impact on non-target organisms. The data set, comprising 7,279 individual invertebrate records from 233 experiments in 120 articles, three-quarters of which were published in peer-reviewed journals, was published in BMC Research Notes.

The researchers also investigated claims that studies showing no impact were authored by scientists working for companies that produce GM seeds and so might have conflicts of interest.

“It might be a bit surprising, but according to the analysis, when any negative effects by Bt corn on nontarget organisms were found in the data they were attributed more often in studies with private sector support than when no backing by biotech companies was declared,” said co-author Michael Meissle, a senior scientist with Agroscope, ARS’ Swiss counterpart.

In a further attempt to ensure the impartiality and thoroughness of the review, scientists who were not involved in the meta-analysis project, various stakeholders and members of the journal’s review board vetted the quality standards for which studies would be included in the meta-analysis. None of them knew whether any particular study’s data showed a negative impact on non-target organisms, helping avoid inadvertent bias.

“The effects of Bt maize on the community of non-target invertebrates inhabiting maize fields were small and mostly neutral, especially when compared with the effects of broad-spectrum pyrethroid insecticide treatments,” the authors concluded.

Joan Conrow has more than 35 years of experience as a journalist and editor. She specializes in environmental issues, biotechnology, and agriculture, and is especially interested in how these highly charged topics are playing out globally. Joan holds a BA in history and journalism and is certified in beekeeping, mediation, and facilitation. Find Joan on Twitter @joanconrow

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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‘Almost all crops today have been changed from their original form’: National Academies of Sciences says GMOs just most recent form of food genetic modification

National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine | May 3, 2022

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Credit: Mary Evans Picture Library
Credit: Mary Evans Picture Library

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.

People have been changing plants for thousands of years. Humans started farming more than 10,000 years. Agriculture began in Mesopotamia, in the region we now call the Middle East. At first, people took the seeds of wild plants and put them in places where they would grow well and be easier to harvest. Soon, people noticed that some plants performed better than others, and they kept the seeds of the best ones to plant the next year. As people did this year after year, farmed crops slowly became different from their wild relatives. This process is often called domestication.

The choices early farmers made about which seeds to plant were driven by many of the same factors that influence choices made about seeds today. Many wild plants naturally produce toxins that act as a defense against pests, and people made seed choices so that many crops today are tasty, nutritious, and easy to digest. Farmers want plants that are easier to harvest and produce more fruit, vegetables, grains, fiber, or oil. They also look for plants that can withstand disease, pests, flooding, drought and other problems.

Over thousands of years, people grew many types of crops, brought them to new areas of the world, and continued to change the plants to suit their needs.

Methods for changing plants expanded as science and technology advanced

In the 1800s, Gregor Mendel and others made discoveries about how parents pass traits to their offspring. This new understanding helped people produce new varieties of plants with useful qualities using selective breeding. In this method, two plants with desirable traits are deliberately mated so the next generation of plants will have these characteristics. As experiments in plant breeding continued, people learned how to breed plants together to create hybrids with certain traits. For example, hybrid types of corn, wheat, and rice were bred that produce more grain per plant and that can be grown in narrow rows in a field. Farmers are then able to harvest more grain using the same amount of land.

In the 1930s, people found that applying radiation or chemicals to a seed caused plants to have traits different from their parents. This is because radiation and certain chemicals can cause changes in the genes of plants, which determine what characteristics the plant will have. The seeds with the most useful traits caused by these genetic changes were then grown and used to breed new varieties of crops. Today, hundreds of varieties of more than 100 crops that we grow and eat were developed using these means, including many types of rice, wheat, and barley.

With the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953 and other advances in understanding how genes work, scientists began to explore other ways to improve plants. By the 1980s, scientists were able to identify specific bits of DNA called genetic markers that are associated with particular traits. By knowing what genetic markers to look for, marker assisted breeding speeds up the breeding process by allowing scientists to know whether a plant will have the desired trait even before it is grown.

For most of history, improving plants depended on choosing two parent plants of similar types or varieties that are able to breed with each other. In the 1980s, scientists also invented ways to create new traits by combining the genes of different kinds of plants, as well as DNA from other organisms, including bacteria and viruses. These new plants carry “recombinant” DNA and are sometimes referred to as Genetically engineeredtransgenicgenetically modified organisms (GMOs), or bioengineered. More than a dozen food crops with traits introduced through recombinant DNA are grown in the world today.

In the 2010s, gene editing was developed, allowing scientists to directly change a plant’s genes without having to use the DNA from another plant or other organism. A few such crops are grown today, including gene-edited soybeans that produce soybean oil with a healthier balance of fats.

Almost all crops today have been changed from their original form

Since people have been farming for such a long time, nearly all crops grown today have been genetically improved, whether through domestication, selective breeding, hybridization, radiation or chemicals, or changes made directly to plant genes by humans.

Scientists and growers continue to improve methods for making crops with certain traits. For example, people are working to create crops that can better withstand droughts, which are becoming more common as the climate changes.

A version of this article was posted at National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and is used here with permission. Find the National Academies of Sciences on Twitter @theNASciences

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Insect-resistant GMO cowpea trials wow Nigerian farmers with jumping yields and lower costs — but other farmers remain hesitant

Abdulkareem MojeedEbuka Onyeji | Premium Times | May 4, 2022

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Credit: IFAD
Credit: IFAD

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.

Last August, the farmers were given cowpea seeds genetically modified (GM) to resist the destructive pod-borer insect pest and improve yield to experiment on their farms.

Mr Osondu said his farm became the centre of attraction a few weeks after he planted the cowpea. “As you can see, I planted the beans at a roadside where everybody can see it,” the farmer said. He was quick to point out the sharp contrast between the traditional cowpea the farmers are used to and the new variety.

“I used to spray insecticides at least five times on the normal cowpea yet the crop will still be eaten by insects before harvest. But this one I sprayed only once, and it did very well. I harvested about two months after planting and the yield was impressive.

“They gave me half a cup and I harvested three painter buckets. If I planted the same amount of normal beans, I would have harvested only one painter,” the farmer said.

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Poor awareness of GMO among not just lay people but even many informed Nigerians fuels scepticism, which is making it difficult for Nigerians to make informed decisions on whether to accept or reject GM cowpea in Nigeria, our findings revealed.

This is an excerpt. Read the original post here

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Viewpoint: GMO cowpea can support biodiversity

Modesta Abugu | Cornell Alliance for Science | March 31, 2022

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Cowpea varieties. Credit: CSIRO
Cowpea varieties. Credit: CSIRO

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.

Nigeria’s biodiversity is rich and unique, including semi-arid savanna, mountain forests, seasonal floodplains, rainforests, vast freshwater swamp forests and diverse coastal vegetation. The country is also endowed with a variety of plant and animal species that sustain the rural economy.

However, this biodiversity is under threat from climate change and farming practices, such as overusing chemical fertilizers and pesticides and destroying forests for agricultural use.

With over 70 percent of Nigerians relying on agriculture for their livelihood, it’s critical to find new ways to reduce diversity loss while improving agricultural productivity. Genetically modified (GM) cowpea is one potential solution.

Cowpea, commonly known as beans, is drought-resistant and highly adaptable to different soil types. It also has the potential to improve soil fertility and prevent erosion. It is an important legume grown by over 70 percent of Nigerian smallholder farmers. With its high economic viability, cowpea has a low environmental impact and contributes to the conservation of natural resources and the sustainability of production systems.

It is also a major source of protein for families who cannot afford animal products, which is why smallholders call it “nama talaka,” or “meat of the poor.” Despite being the biggest producer and consumer of cowpea in the world, Nigeria still relies on imported cowpea to feed its growing population of over 180 million people.

The low production is attributed to serious threats from a pernicious pest insect, the Maruca pod borer. Up to 80 percent of Nigeria’s cowpea crop is lost to Maruca. To control the pests, farmers often spray pesticides six to seven times per planting season. This practice contributes to human and environmental health risks.

Maruca pod borer. Credit: Ko Ko Maung/Bugwood.org

Realizing the potential of biotechnology in agriculture,  public sector scientists in Nigeria have developed GM cowpea varieties resistant to Maruca.  GM cowpea, also known as pod borer-resistant (PBR) cowpea, provides inherent protection from the pest due to the introduction of a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally occurring soil bacteria widely used in organic agriculture.

With the recent commercialization of this crop in Nigeria, farmers have reported over 20 percent increase in yield and significant reduction in the use of pesticides. Farmers growing the GM variety now spray their fields less than two times per growing cycle and report less pest damage in their fields. Ultimately, farmers say that the technology helps to safeguard their health while increasing farm profits by 30 percent and livelihoods overall.

In addition to increased yield and farmer profit, the Bt technology conserves the environment by reducing chemical pesticide use on GM cowpea plots. Other environmental advantages include less stress on biodiversity and lower soil and groundwater contamination, compared to conventionally farmed crops.

Scientific studies have shown that when improved varieties of cowpea are grown in a community, traditional landrace varieties are never displaced. Both are able to grow side by side. So, there is no need to fear that landrace varieties of crops will be replaced by GMOs.

Supporting the use of biotechnology as a tool to help biodiversity and promote sustainable agriculture ensures that the needs of smallholder farmers are met and less damage is done to the environment. Adoption of biotech crops already has conserved biodiversity globally by saving 231 million hectares of land from being converted to farming. It has also reduced the amount of pesticides and greenhouse gas emissions released into the environment. In 2018 alone, the use of GM crops reduced CO2 emissions by 23 billion kg, equivalent to taking 15.3 million cars off the road.

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Agricultural biotechnology can help people and the planet. The post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) should consider the potential that modern biotechnology offers to help sustain the environment and conserve the planet’s rich biodiversity. Therefore, the use of modern biotechnology should be reflected in the wording of target 17 of the GBF.

As the human population grows and climate change batters our lands, the increased demand for safe and nutritious foods can lead to the destruction of forests and other wild lands for farming. With GMOs, we may be able to meet the demand for more food with far less pressure on the environment. The post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework must immediately recognize the role GMOs can play in conserving biodiversity. The world cannot wait any longer for this step to be taken to help make our planet a better place

Modesta Abugu is a North Carolina State University doctoral student of horticulture and an avid proponent of biosafety and diversity. Modesta is active in the policy sphere, particularly in Nigeria. Find Modesta on Twitter @modestannedi

A version of this article was posted at Cornell Alliance for Science and is used here with permission. You can check out Cornell Alliance for Science on Twitter @ScienceAlly

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BCPC’s GM/Biotech Crops Report – April 2022

5th April 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.
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GM/Biotech Crops Monthly Report April 2022

Lettuce in space

Astronauts that spend a long time in space can suffer from a loss of bone density due to the reduced gravity but now a team at the University of California have developed a genetically-modified lettuce that produces a drug that can offset this loss and that can be grown in space to provide the astronauts with fresh green leaves to eat. Pic: Mel Edwards. Full Story.

Antibiotics on crops

While Europe bans neonicotinoids to ensure no harmful effects to bees, America is spraying apple and pear orchards with streptomycin to control the bacterial disease fire blight. A study has shown that bees exposed to the streptomycin are less active and collect less pollen than those that are not exposed to the antibiotic.
Full Story.

An elixir of youth

Some people try blood transfusions from young people to recapture that youthful zest for life and now a study has produced some evidence supporting that hope. Young mice blood contains packets of chemicals (extracellular vesicles) budded off from dividing cells that, when injected in to old mice, restores grip strength, stamina and motor coordination. Sadly the effect wears off after a couple of months but another injection can restore it.
Full story

BT maize resistant to stem borer attack

An evaluation of BT maize in Uganda has confirmed a reduction of leaf damage and stem attack that has led to yield increases of 30 – 80%.
Full Story.

Salt-tolerant cotton

A relative of Arabidopsis has yielded a trait that can be used to confer salt tolerance to cotton which could allow the crop to be grown on more land but could also boost yields in areas where it is already grown.
Full Story

Herbicide-tolerant tomatoes

Scientists in Korea have used gene editing to alter three enzymes in tomatoes. The benefits of changes to PDS and EPSPS enzymes are unclear but the changes to the ALS enzyme can confer tolerance of ALS herbicides similar to the naturally-occurring tolerance recently introduced in sugar beet.
Full Story

Potato genome decoded

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute and the Ludwig Maximillian University have decoded the entire genome of potatoes and this knowledge is to be used to develop improved varieties for future cropping. The following link takes you to the German text which can be translated by computer.
Full Story

Gene expression imbalance boosts wheat yields

Researchers at Kansas University have found that varying the expression of various genes in wheat can affect the grain size and final yields. This knowledge can possibly be used to optimise yields of new varieties.
Full Story

Control of Fall Army Worm

Pilot studies in Brazil have shown that release of Oxitec’s ‘Friendly’ male army worms can reduce the populations of army worms due to the males carrying a male only trait and that this reduction will help to protect the Bt maize that is grown there from resistance developing in the wild population. It is very target specific and has no effect on other species such as bees.
Full Story

USDA approved gene-edited cattle

The USDA has decided that gene-edited beef cattle that have shorter hair than unedited cattle pose no safety concerns and can be marketed without waiting for a specific approval:
Full Story

Europe approves transgenic maize with stacked traits

The EFSA finds no safety concerns in GM maize with stacked traits for insect resistance and tolerance of glyphosate and glufosinate. This permits the import of these crops but it still does not allow them to be grown in Europe.
Full Story

Stripe rust resistance in wheat

An international team has identified the specific gene that confers resistance to stripe rust in the African bread wheat variety ‘Kariega’ and now this trait can be transferred to other varieties.
Full Story

Gene-silencing for weed control

Colorado University has developed a spray that contains antisense oligonucleotides that penetrate the leaves of the weed Palmer amaranth and silence essential genes in the weed. Palmer amaranth has developed resistance to a number of herbicides but this spray is specific to this weed and has no effect on the crop or non-target organisms.
Full Story

Nutritional Impact of regenerative farming

The University of Washington has compared crops grown on land under regenerative farming management with crops grown on adjacent conventionally farmed land and has shown that the regenerative farming crops have higher levels of vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals. They don’t give any comparison of the yields achieved though and perhaps the higher levels of vitamins etc are simply due to them being distributed through lower yielding crops.
Full Story

Transgenic sugarcane

Sugarcane with overexpressed sucrose-phosphate synthase has been trialled in Indonesia has shown increased tiller number, height and yield than conventional varieties without affecting bacterial diversity or gene horizontal flow in the soil.
Full Story

Potato virus Y resistance

Researchers in Iran have used gene-silencing techniques to develop potatoes that exhibit resistance to potato Y virus.
Full Story

GM barley trials in the UK

Fertiliser prices have gone through the roof and NIAB in conjunction with Cambridge University at the Crop Science Centre are to trial gene modified and gene edited lines of barley to see if they can improve the nitrogen and phosphorus uptake of the plants and make them less reliant on applied fertilisers. If successful on barley, it could be rolled out to other crops.
Full Story

Palm oil replacement

Palm oil is widely used in many products but the proliferation of palm plantations is responsible for a lot of habitat loss throughout the world. Now a team at Nanyang technological University in Singapore have developed a technique for producing the oil from common microalgae.
Full Story

Corn borer resistant maize

Zhejiang University in China has developed a genetically modified maize that has insect resistant traits and a 5 year study has shown it can give up to 96% reduction in corn borer damage and a 6 – 10% yield increase over conventional varieties.
Full Story

THE LATEST ADDITIONS TO THE  GM/BIOTECH DATABASE ARE:

The latest approvals of biotech crops to report this month:

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Technology to address pest infestation in cowpea as Ghana progresses in GMOs

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Ghana is progressing steadily with the introduction of Genetically Modified Cowpea. Known locally as beans, scientists at the Agricultural Research Institute at Nyankpala in the Savannah Region, have completed work on a technology to address the huge pest infestation of the crop.

A dossier to that effect has been gazetted by the National Biosafety Authority. The document contains a request by the Researchers to environmentally release and market the beans. Joyce Gyekye reports that scientists at the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute, SARI of the CSIR have been conducting trials for the introduction of a gene into the black-eye beans that is mostly destroyed by a pest called Maruca.

To reduce the pest infestation, farmers spray the plant about eight times before harvesting. This comes with a cost to them as well as health and environmental issues.

Realising this, Ghana, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso agreed to an introduction of a gene that stops about 80% of the destruction of the beans. The decade journey by the researchers has been completed and the dossier gazetted by the National Biosafety Authority; a body set up to regulate the safe use, handling, and transportation of GMOs in Ghana.

Dr. Jerry Nboyine is the Principal Investigator of GM Cowpea. He expressed optimism about the project. He also said there had been subsequent laboratory works by participating countries.

He clears the misconception about seed control by multinational biotech companies spread by anti-GM groups.

The Chief Executive Officer of the NBA, Eric Okoree, says the notice of dossier is for the relevant comments from the public within 60 days.

Nigeria released its GM Cowpea on the market about two years ago.

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China enthusiastically embracing gene-edited crops

Ayushi Raina | Krishi Jagran | February 25, 2022

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Credit: Wikimedia
Credit: Wikimedia

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.

Researchers in China are ecstatic about their government’s approval of gene-edited crops, claiming that it clears the way for the plants’ usage in agriculture and would stimulate research into varieties that are tastier, pest-resistant and more adaptable to a warming world.

Researchers have been rushing to submit applications for the use of their gene-edited crops since China’s agricultural ministry released preliminary guidelines on January 24.

China’s new rules are more conservative than those in the United States, which do not regulate gene-edited crops that incorporate small changes similar to those that might occur naturally, but are more lenient than the European Union’s stance of treating all gene-edited crops as genetically modified (GM) organisms.

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Obtaining biosafety approval for a GM crop in China can now take up to six years. However, experts believe that the new guidelines, which outline the process for acquiring a biosafety certificate for gene-edited crops, might cut the approval period to one to two years.

GM crops require extensive, large-scale field trials before they are approved for use. The new guidelines stipulate that, for gene-edited crops deemed to pose no environmental or food-safety risks, developers need only provide laboratory data and conduct small-scale field trials.

This is an excerpt. Read the original post here.

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GMOs could shrink Europe’s climate footprint, study suggests

BY JOSEPH MAINA

FEBRUARY 24, 2022

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Though Europe has long rejected genetically modified (GM) crops, a new study suggests their adoption could significantly boost yields and slash climate-warming greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Wider adoption of the already-existing GM crops in the European Union could result in a reduction equivalent to 7.5 percent of the total agricultural GHG emissions of Europe, researchers observe in a new paper published in Trends in Plant Science.

The research, conducted by the University of Bonn in Germany and the Breakthrough Institute in the United States, highlights the enormous potential of genetic engineering for the climate.

“We find that growing GM crops in the EU could reduce GHG emissions by 33 million tons of CO2 equivalents per year, which is equivalent to 7.5 percent of the total agricultural GHG emissions of the EU in 2017,” states the study.

The researchers used global agricultural data and estimates of the yield effects of GM crops to model how increased technology adoption in the EU would affect production, land use and greenhouse gas emissions. Higher yields in the EU would have a global effect.

“Most of these positive climate effects are attributable to reduced land-use change,” stated lead author Dr. Emma Kovak from the Breakthrough Institute.

In addition, the authors argue that yield increases of GM crops can have additional positive effects on climate change mitigation that have not been previously considered and quantified.

“As global demand for food production continues to grow, crop yield increases can reduce the need to add new land into production, thus preventing additional CO2 emissions from land-use change. Currently, land-use change accounts for over 30 percent of agricultural GHG emissions,” they assert.

Citing past studies, the authors posit that certain GM crop applications help reduce GHG emissions and support carbon sequestration in the soil by facilitating reduced tillage farming.

In justifying their choice of the EU as the focal point of their study, the authors point to the EU’s reluctance to adopt GM crops, ascribing it to public hesitation and political hurdles. They also noted that the EU is progressively assessing its regulatory stance on GMOs, and the study thus provides a hypothetical picture of the likely effects of policy change.

“European politicians and policymakers have restricted most cultivation of genetically engineered crops for decades, yet certain types of genetically engineered crops, such as GM maize and soybean, are widely grown in other parts of the world,” study co-author Dan Rejto told the Alliance.

“If the European Union allowed and encouraged farmers to use existing genetically modified crops, such as those that provide insect resitance and herbicide tolerance, yields could increase, reducing land-use change and the associated emissions,” he said.

The review assesses two components of GHG emissions, namely the carbon opportunity costs (COCs) of land use and production emissions (PEMs).

COCs represent the opportunity that a change in production, such as increased yields, in one location reduces land-use change or stores carbon elsewhere.

PEMs are calculated based on fertilizer and energy input use in agricultural production. Shifting production toward places with PEMs below the global average, as is the case in most of the EU, lowers total global PEMs.

In this context, widespread adoption of GM crops in Europe would radiate positive changes elsewhere, particularly with reduced land use. The authors cite the instance of soybean, which the EU principally imports from Brazil, Argentina and the US. In addition to reducing some of its food imports, higher yields in the EU could help preserve the Amazon rainforest, Rejto said.

“The EU currently imports over 30 million tons of soybean and soybean meal annually. Especially in the Brazilian Amazon, the expansion of the soybean area for export contributes significantly to tropical deforestation,” states the study.

The authors submit that in their analysis they only look at already-existing GM crops, noting that new genomic breeding technologies are being used to develop a wide range of new crop applications that could lead to additional climate change mitigation and adaptation benefits in the future.

Speaking to the Alliance, Kovak opined that while the EU’s future regulations might favor emerging crop engineering techniques, the regulations may not favor genetically modified crops. This could hinder expansion of GM crops in the EU.

“The European Commission is developing new proposals for regulating products of new genomic techniques, which could enable the use of gene editing to help address challenges in agriculture, such as adapting crops to climate change,” she said. “Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the European Commission’s proposed new regulation will allow expanded cultivation of transgenic crops — those engineered to add genes from a different species — like the existing herbicide- tolerant and insect-resistant crops in our study.”

The EU’s Farm-to-Fork Strategy under the European Green Deal aims to expand organic farming, which has lower yields and would be associated with increases in global GHG emissions by causing land-use changes elsewhere, state the authors.

Image: Maize harvest in Hamburg, Germany. Photo: Shutterstock/Natascha Kaukorat

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South Africa should rethink regulations on genetically modified plants

February 15, 2022 9.12am EST

Authors

  1. James R LloydAssociate Professor, Stellenbosch University
  2. Dave BergerProfessor in Molecular Plant Pathology, University of Pretoria
  3. Priyen PillaySenior Researcher, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

Disclosure statement

James R Lloyd receives funding from the National Research Foundation, South Africa.

Dave Berger receives funding from the National Research Foundation, South Africa and The Maize Trust, South Africa.

Dr Priyen Pillay receives funding from the National Research Foundation, South Africa and the Department of Science & Innovation, South Africa.

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Several small potatoes, still attached to their leaves and newly pulled from the dirt
New technologies can bolster the production of important crops to feed billions of people. Shutterstock

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Food security is a global priority – and it is becoming more urgent in the face of climate change, which is already affecting crop productivity. One way to improve food security is to increase crop yields.

But this is not easy. Research has shown that in the past two decades plant breeders have been unable to increase yields of staple crops at the rate at which the world’s population is growing.

New technologies are needed to achieve this rate. Over the past decade several novel technologies have been developed. These are known as New Breeding Techniques and have the potential to hugely help in growing efforts.

Genome editing is one such technique. It allows the precise editing of genomes – that is, the genetic information an organism contains. Scientists worldwide have embraced the technology. And countries that adopted New Breeding Techniques early have seen a significant increase in the development of locally relevant products. Current crops under development include ones resistant to specific diseases and insect pests, that are healthier to eat or which are tolerant of drought or heat stress.

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Both small, micro and medium enterprises and the public sector in these countries have been involved in developing and using genome edited crops. This should translate to improved economic growth and employment opportunities.


Read more: What is CRISPR, the gene editing technology that won the Chemistry Nobel prize?


Whatever approach a country chooses, it must be underpinned by regulation. This ensures a framework for the introduction of new products that benefit consumers and stimulate the bio-economy in a sustainable manner.

South Africa’s authorities have taken what we think is an unfortunate approach to regulating genome-edited plants. In October 2021 the government classified genome-edited plants as genetically modified crops. This is based on its interpretation of the definition of a genetically modified organism in a 25-year-old piece of legislation rather than on recent science-based risk analysis considerations.

As experts in plant biotechnology we fear that this regulatory approach will greatly inhibit the development of improved crops for South African farmers. It will place an unnecessary regulatory burden on bio-innovators. This will discourage local investment for in-house research and development, as well as projects in the public sector. Local entrepreneurs who aim to enhance local crops’ climate resilience or to develop speciality products for niche markets through genome editing will be thwarted by the need to raise disproportionate funding to fulfil current regulations.

A technological timeline

Crop plants are improved by generating genetic variation that leads to beneficial traits. Plant breeders traditionally achieved this by crossing different varieties of the same plant species. These approaches alter many genes; the result is that traditionally-bred plants contain both advantageous and deleterious traits. Removing disadvantageous traits before the crop can be commercialised is a costly, time-consuming process.

In the 1980s, transgenic genetic modification technologies were developed. These rely on pieces of DNA from one species being integrated into the genome of a crop. Such genetically modified (GM) plants are highly regulated internationally. In South Africa the legislation governing these plants came into force in 1999. The use of GM technology in South Africa – and other countries – has been highly successful.

For example, it has led to South Africa doubling maize productivity, making it a net exporter of this commodity. This contributes to food security and also generates foreign income, which reduces the country’s trade deficit.

But the regulations governing GM plants are onerous: only large agricultural biotechnology companies have the resources to commercialise them. This is done to the eliminate risk that GM plants containing new DNA are harmful for health or to the environment.

Because of this, all GM plants licensed for commercial use in South Africa come from a small number of international companies. Not a single locally developed product has been commercialised during the past three decades, despite South Africa being an early adopter of the technology. This hampers the development of novel crops and the improvement of traditional crops, especially for emerging and subsistence farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

That’s why newer tools like genome editing are so exciting. They can be used to introduce genetic variation for crop improvement in a fraction of the time it would take using conventional methods. Some forms of genome editing are transgenic in nature, while others aren’t because they don’t involve the insertion of foreign DNA into a plant.

This approach mimics the effect of traditional plant breeding, but in a highly targeted manner so that only advantageous traits are introduced. For example, genome editing is being used to produce peanuts, soybean and wheat that do not produce allergens.

It’s working well. Despite the technology only being available for a decade, some crops produced using genome editing are already on the market in some countries, including soybean and tomatoes which are healthier for human consumption.

A proposed regulatory approach

Regulatory authorities around the world have taken either a process- or a product-based approach to regulating GM crop safety. A process-based approach examines how the crop was produced; a product-based approach examines the risks and benefits of the GM crop on a case-by-case basis.

We believe that a product-based approach makes most sense. This is because a process-based approach could lead to the strange situation where two identical plants are governed by very different regulations, just because they were produced by different methods. The added regulatory burden imposed by this approach will also hamper innovation in developing new crops.

Our approach would mean that any plant with extra DNA inserted into the genome would be governed as a GM plant. Plants with no extra DNA added and that are indistinguishable from conventionally bred organisms should be regulated like a conventionally produced crop.

This is the most rational way to regulate these different types of organisms, as it adheres to the principles of science-based risk analysis and good governance.

Many countries, among them ArgentinaChinaJapanthe USAustraliaBrazil and Nigeria, have taken this approach.

Science-based risk analysis should return to the heart of regulation: concrete risk thresholds should define regulatory triggers.

T

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