Drought tolerant maize provides extra 9 months of food for farming families

Mexico City, Mexico (CIMMYT) — A new study from scientists with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) shows that drought tolerant (DT) maize varieties can provide farming families in Zimbabwe an extra 9 months of food at no additional cost. As climate change related weather events such as variable rainfall and drought continue to impact the southern African nation at an increasing rate, these varieties could provide a valuable safety net for farmers and consumers.

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PHL may soon export genetically modified corn–Monsanto exec

AFTER becoming corn-self-sufficient in 2012, the Philippines may soon become an exporter of corn.

This was emphasized by Gabriel O. Romero, Regulatory Affairs Lead of Monsanto Philippines Inc., during a forum organized by Monsanto Philippines and the Publishers Association of the Philippines Inc.

The Joint Media Forum, with the theme “Towards Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security”, aims to “enlighten” members of the media of the safety of genetically modified (GM), crops and its socioeconomic benefits.

Romero said the global adoption of GM crops is proof that farmers worldwide have benefited from improved crop varieties aided by gene-splicing technique. He said around 812,000 hectares of the estimated 1 million yellow-corn areas, or about 80 percent to 85 percent, are planted to GM corn.

“There is a rule that the corn farmers can only export if and the Philippines become 120-percent self-sufficient,” Romero said.

The spirit of the law prohibiting farmers from exporting corn is to ensure that the country will have sufficient buffer stock.

“Our level of sufficiency is playing from 96 percent to 100 percent,” Romero said. “We can export corn anytime, but there is a law that prohibits farmers.”

Romero added the erratic price of corn somehow prompted corn farmers to look at the possibility of exporting GM corn.

He cited China and Indonesia as potential markets for Filipino  corn farmers.

Legal planting

IN the Philippines, the cultivation of GM corn, such as the insect-resistant Bt-corn and roundup-ready corn varieties, is preferred over hybrid or native varieties because of its benefits, according to Romero.

Romero said that, before, it was only India and the Philippines planting GM crops in Asia. “Australia has its GM cotton; India has GM eggplant or  Bt eggplant. Now, Myanmar is planting GM cotton,” Rotmero said sans citing sources.

Romero added that China has been into GM cotton and GM papaya, while Pakistan is now also planting GM cotton.

“Not all of these are ‘legal planting’,” Romero said, adding that legal planting is only in the Philippines, Vietnam and Australia.

“In Bangladesh farmers found out that GM crops are good and decided to adopt [the cropping] even without the regulatory system in place,” he said.

Production levels

THERE are only around 10 countries growing GM crops.

But, as far as user-countries are  concerned, many all allow the importation of GM products or by-products like Japan, South Korea, Taipan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand.

“Right now, their production levels might be high enough so they are happy to import, and they don’t need to grow, but, sooner or later, they will grow GM crops,” Romero said.

He added that the next GM crops to see commercialization would include apples
and potatoes.

Nina G. Gloriani, leader of a group advocating the commercialization of GM crops in the Philippines, said the country has the most stringent regulatory policy on GM crops. According to Gloriani, the Joint Memorandum Circular on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) even enforced a more stringent regulatory policy.

She debunked the claim of environmental groups and anti-GMO advocates that GM crops are unsafe and pose great health and environment risks.

“Regulation of GM foods are assessed according to national and international standards before they are allowed for importation and commercialization,” said Gloriani, president of the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines. “There are also food standards to protect consumer health and ensure fair food practices.”

-Written by Jonathan Mayuga in BusinessMirror.  See original article link here.

NHX transporters from Jerusalem artichoke improves salinity tolerance in rice

The NHX-type cation transporters in plants have been shown to mediate cation exchange for salinity tolerance and potassium homoeostasis. Yang Zeng of Nanjing Agricultural University in China identified and characterized two NHX homologs, HtNHX1 and HtNHX2, from an infertile and salinity tolerant Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus).

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Green algae could hold clues for engineering faster-growing crops

Two new studies of green algae — the scourge of swimming pool owners and freshwater ponds — have revealed new insights into how these organisms siphon carbon dioxide from the air for use in photosynthesis, a key factor in their ability to grow so quickly. Understanding this process may someday help researchers improve the growth rate of crops such as wheat and rice.

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European court sides with Italian farmer pushing GM crops

BRUSSELS—The European Union court ruled on Wednesday in favor of an Italian activist farmer who has defied his nation’s laws by planting genetically modified (GM) corn.

In Photo: In this August 10, 2010, photo, Giorgio Fidenato holds a raw ear of genetically modified yellow corn at his office in Pordenone, northern Italy. The European Union Court of Justice has ruled on Wednesday in favor of Italian activist farmer Fidenato.

Italy has prosecuted Giorgio Fidenato for cultivating the corn on his land, citing concerns the crops could endanger human health.

But the European Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday that a member-state, such as Italy, does not have the right to ban GM crops, given that there is no scientific reason for doing so. It noted the European Commission in 1998 authorized the use of the specific maize seeds Fidenato planted, finding “no reason to believe that that product would have any adverse effects on human health or theenvironment”.

Fidenato, whose fields lie in Pordenone, northeastern Italy, became persuaded of the benefits of genetically altered crops during a visit to the United States in the 1990s, seeing that they require fewer chemicals than traditional crops and produce higher yields and profits.

But he has faced huge opposition in Italy, where many are fearful that genetically altered foods are less natural than traditional crops and could be dangerous. He has faced both fines from the government and the wrath of anti-GM activists who have destroyed his crops.

The current case dates to 2013, when Italy asked the European Commission to adopt emergency measures prohibiting the planting of the seeds, which are produced by US company Monsanto, on the basis of Italian scientific studies.

But the commission disputed the Italian studies, citing a scientific opinion by the European Food Safety Authority that there was “no new science-based evidence” that the seeds could be dangerous.

The Italian government nonetheless went ahead with a decree prohibiting the cultivation of the corn, and prosecuted Fidenato and other farmers who planted their fields with the corn in defiance.

After the ruling Fidenato expressed satisfaction with the decision, saying he and the other farmers involved in the suit finally feel as if “justice is on our side”.

Image Credits: AP Photo/Paolo Giovannini, File

-Written by Associate Press and published in Business Mirror.  See original article link here.

CRISPR-Cas9 Genome Editing in MicroRNA of Rice

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs with roles in plant development and stress responses. Loss-of-function analysis of miRNA genes has been challenging due to the lack of suitable knockout tools. A team of scientists from various universities, led by Jian-Ping Zhou from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, aim to study miRNA genes, specifically OsMIR528, in rice using CRISPR-Cas9.

Frequencies of mutants T0 lines ranged from 48% to 89% at all target sites. Three independent guide RNAs (gRNAs) all generated biallelic mutations among mutant lines. This demonstrates that CRISPR-Cas9 is an effective tool for knocking out plant miRNAs. However, single-base pair (bp) mutations in mature miRNA regions were found to lead to the generation of functionally redundant miRNAs, while large deletions were found to abolish miRNA function. Analysis found that OsMIR528 is a positive regulator of salt stress.

This work provides guidelines on targeting miRNAs with CRISPR-Cas9 and also brings new insights into miRNA function in rice.

For more information, read the article in Frontiers in Plant Science.

BioMalaysia2017 Concludes Partnerships and Collaborations to Boost Economic Growth in the Asia Pacific Region

KUALA LUMPUR, MalaysiaSept. 13, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Malaysia’s premier biotechnology event BioMalaysia & Asia Pacific Bioeconomy 2017, ended today, after 3 days of Forums and Exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. The event was officiated by the Secretary General of Science, Technology & Innovation (MOSTI), Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Azhar bin Yahaya on 11 September 2017 on behalf of the MOSTI Minister, Datuk Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau.

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Gates grant seeds Cornell Alliance for Science $10M campaign

The Cornell Alliance for Science is launching a “$10M by 2020” campaign, seeded with a $6.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Funds raised during the campaign will support the Alliance’s global efforts to ensure broad access to agricultural innovation, especially among small-holder farmers in developing nations.

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Agricultural biotechnologies to fight poverty and improve food security in Asia-Pacific: FAO

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has said that the smallholder farmers in the world’s hungriest and most populous region need greater access to biotechnologies to improve food and nutrition security and fight poverty

FAO urges countries in the Asia-Pacific region to adopt a more holistic approach and consider the wider range of low-to-high-tech solutions present in the biotechnology toolbox to achieve the food and nutrition security in the region. Read more

Selangor sees big future in biotechnology

Invest Selangor CEO explains the importance of biotechnology to the state and what it is doing to grow the sector there.

SHAH ALAM: For Invest Selangor CEO Hasan Azhari Idris, the old saying “Good things come in small packages” holds true for the move to develop the life sciences industry, particularly biotechnology, in the state.

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Integrated approach required to tackle climate change: Expert

Continuous efforts such as genetic improvements, integrated farming approach and use of balanced natural resources were required to tackle the effects of climate change on crop, animal and fish productivity, agriculture scientist C D Mayee said today.

Continuous efforts such as genetic improvements, integrated farming approach and use of balanced natural resources were required to tackle the effects of climate change on crop, animal and fish productivity, agriculture scientist CD Mayee said today. The worst sufferer of climate change shall be crop, animal and fish productivity and one-time adaptation response was not enough to mitigate the problem, Mayee, former Chairman of Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board, said.

Delivering his address at the 38th Convocation of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) here, he said continuous efforts like genetic improvements, agronomic manipulations, integrated farming approach, use of balanced natural resources and timely intervention can be helpful.

“We may have to adopt new breeding technologies such as genetic transformation, gene editing, GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) for quicker development of new cultivars that could adapt to changing climate,” he said.

However, this might need public acceptance as the consumer was also dictating the terms of research in today’s social order, Mayee said.

The other issue that needed attention was the suppression of scientific temper by selective onslaught on the certain technology generation, he said.

Agricultural biotechnology had a considerable potential to address many of the future challenges in agriculture, including post-harvest issues and value addition, he said.

Tractors and Farm Equipment Ltd (TAFE) Chief Executive Officer Mallika Srinivasan was conferred Doctor of Science (honoris causa) for her contribution to global agriculture, machinery business and academia.

Mallika is the first woman from the country’s tractor industry to be conferred the honour, which was presented by state Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao. Degrees were presented to 988 candidates in person and 356 in absentia at the convocation, attended among others by TNAU Pro-Chancellor and state Agriculture Minister R Doraikannu.

-Published in Financial Express.  See original article link here.