Will Gene Editing and Other New Breeding Techniques Provide a ‘Second Chance’ for Worldwide Embrace of Genetically Engineered Crops?

Responding to attacks from the anti-GMO movement,” an exasperated geneticist once said to me, “is like trying to stuff a squiggly octopus into a small box; whenever you think you’ve got it contained, you realize there is a tentacle dangling out somewhere.”

That was certainly the case in 2012. For the first time in years, the public debate over genetically engineered (GE) crops had begun to shift in the favor of science and an embrace of the safety of “GMOs” (a term coined by the anti-biotechnology movement to demonize genetic innovation; after all, who would want to eat a ‘modified organism’?!).

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CRISPR-Edited Rice Plants Produce Major Boost in Grain Yield

A team of scientists from Purdue University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences has used CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology to develop a variety of rice that produces 25-31 percent more grain and would have been virtually impossible to create through traditional breeding methods.

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Rebooting Food: Finding New Ways to Feed the Future

Banana trees that fit in a test tube. Burgers made without a cow in sight. Fish farmed in the desert. Robots picking fruit.

Welcome to the brave new world of food, where scientists are battling a global time-bomb of climate change, water scarcity, population growth and soaring obesity rates to find new ways to feed the future.

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Can ‘Vaccines’ for Crops Help Cut Pesticide Use and Boost Yields?

When European researchers recently announced a new technique that could potentially replace chemical pesticides with a natural “vaccine” for crops, it sounded too good to be true. Too good partly because agriculture is complicated, and novel technologies that sound brilliant in the laboratory often fail to deliver in the field. And too good because agriculture’s “Green Revolution” faith in fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, and other agribusiness inputs has proved largely unshakable up to now, regardless of the effects on public health or the environment.

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A Remarkable New Technology That Will Diminish A Global Cancer Threat

We in the rich societies of the world don’t hear a lot about aflatoxin. It is probably one of the single largest causes of cancer in the developing world – particularly in Africa. Around a half a billion people are at risk from this toxin in their diet. At high doses it can cause acute poisoning and death. It also causes cognitive stunting in children exposed to it. Aflatoxin is a natural chemical that is made by a fungus called Aspergillus that can infect crops like corn, peanuts and tree nuts particularly when there is damage by insects and/or stress from drought. People like Americans are well protected from this threat by farmers who exercise control measures for the insects and disease, by an advanced food system that monitors for the issue in the harvested crops, uses proper storage conditions, and excludes it from what is sold to us. For instance the EU standard for maize is that it must have less than five parts per billion of aflatoxin.  Unfortunately only 20% of the normal maize supply in Kenya meets that standard.

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High adoption of biotech crops recorded in 2016

In 2016, the global area of biotech crops reached 185.1 million hectares, according to a research paper authored by Drs. Rhodora Aldemita and Randy Hautea of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). The results of their study are published on February 2, 2018 in GM Crops and Food. Read more

GMO crops could help stem famine and future global conflicts

When most of us think about the threats posed by climate change, events like floods, droughts, intense storms and hotter temperatures come to mind.  These are all, according to the vast majority of scientists, exactly what we can expect to see more and more of.  However, what is often overlooked are the sociopolitical consequences of these climatic changes.  In other words, we tend to view these natural disasters in a vacuum without recognizing the myriad ways in which climate change is both directly and indirectly shaping economies, cultures and governments. Read more

Professor Calestous Juma: Advocate for innovation

Professor Calestous Juma: June 9, 1953 – Dec. 15, 2017

To outsiders, Calestous Juma’s rise from humble origins in a remote Kenyan village to an internationally recognized Harvard scholar, science writer and public intellectual, might have seemed improbable. But as Juma himself liked to tell the story, he learned innovation from his parents, whose poverty meant that they constantly had to change to survive.

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