The Biosafety Bill was signed into law in 2015, putting Nigeria on the map of countries with requisite regulations for effective practice of modern agricultural biotechnology. The biosafety law allowed for the establishment of a biosafety regulatory agency, the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) which has announced the nation’s readiness for the commercialization of genetically modified (GM) products. This means that Nigeria will soon begin the commercialization of staple crops which have gone through the world standard procedure of studies and observations in the field called confined field trials (CFTs). Read more
The cultivation of genetically engineered (GMO) crops hit record levels in 2016, with 18 million farmers planting 185.1 million hectares of biotech crops globally, according to a new report.
The European Union together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged on Tuesday (12 December) more than €500 million over the next three years for research and innovation in agriculture.
The debate over the promise and problems of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) has continued to rage.
GMO has become a controversial topic as its benefits for both food producers and consumers are companied by potential biomedical risks and environmental side effects. Increasing concerns from the public about GMO, particularly in the form of genetic modified (GM) foods, are aimed at the short- and long-lasting health problems that may result from this advanced biotechnology. Complex studies are being carried out around the world independently to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of GM foods.
The debates over GM foods focus mostly on uncertainties concerning the potential adverse effects of GM foods on human health and environmental safety. The anxiety among consumers can be attributed to four sources: the difficulty of the scientific community in explaining concisely to the lay public the biological techniques involved; concerns about the improper dissemination of GM foods; and the ethical principles inherent in traditional food processing; the misgivings with regards to the adequacy of evaluation of the GM foods.
Three major health risks potentially associated with GM foods are: toxicity, allergenicity and genetic hazards. These arise from three potential sources, the inserted gene and their expressed proteins per se, secondary or pleiotropic effects of the products of gene expression, and the possible disruption of natural genes in the manipulated organism.
For one thing, the unequivocal declaration that all GM crops are safe flies in the face of the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) assertion that “it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods.” As the WHO noted, because “different GM organisms include different genes inserted in different ways” it is necessary to assess them “on a case-by-case basis.”
To domesticate and address the concerns about the safety of GMOs, the Federal Government has established the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST) and the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA).
The NBMA was established by the National Biosafety Management Agency Act 2015, to provide regulatory framework to adequately safe guard human health and the environment from potential adverse effects of modern biotechnology and genetically modified organisms, while harnessing the potentials of modern biotechnology and its derivatives, for the benefit of Nigerians.
Assistant Director/Country Coordinator, Open Forum on Agriculture Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) Nigeria Chapter, Dr. Rose Maxwell Gidado, told The Guardian unequivocally: “The WHO has given the final verdict that ‘no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of GM foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.’”
Gidado during a courtesy visit to The Guardian, in company of the Regional Director, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) Abuja, West Africa, Dr. Abdou Rhamane Issoufou Kollo, concluded: “Any quest to prove beyond doubt that GMOs are safe will run into the same roadblock, as nothing can be proven 100 per cent safe. More than 2,000 studies and 20 plus years of consumption by humans and animals have produced no evidence that GMOs represent an unusual health risk. Every major health and regulatory body in the world agrees. Critics are left holding out the argument that there is unknown threats lurking in the shadows of our future.”
AATF is a not-for-profit organisation that facilitates and promotes public/private partnerships for the access and delivery of appropriate agricultural technologies for sustainable use by smallholder farmers in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) through innovative partnerships and effective stewardship along the entire value chain.
Kollo told The Guardian: “In Africa, resistance to GMO crops is strong. Organized groups supported by Europeans’ Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) mostly cause it. These groups appear very dynamic. Excited by two recent contradictory events about GM crops in West Africa – the decision of the Government of Burkina Faso to stop growing Bt-cotton; and the decision of the Nigerian Government to authorize its cropping- the Anti-GMO proponents became hyperactive; they have been organizing concerts, radio talk shows, workshops and conferences. Their methods consist of creating confusion about GMOs and scaring the uninformed public of the supposed dangers of GM crops. Thus, mineral fertilizers, pesticides, hybrids and GMOs are often lumped together. It is appears that some of the anti-GMO proponents are organic farming crusaders who want to impose their views on the society.”
Gidado and Kollo urged the media to help in educating the public of the benefits of biotechnology to the country and Africa.
Gidado said the agency’s mandate is to ensure adequate level of protection in the field of safe transfer, handling and use of GMOs resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on conservation. She said that there is going to be direct and indirect employment and production of high quality materials for industries regarding the emergence of NBDA in the country.
Gidado said that modern biotechnology as a term adopted by international convention to refer to biotechnological techniques for the manipulation of genetic material and the fusion of cells beyond normal breeding barriers.
“Biotechnology will ensure sustainable use of biodiversity, taking into account risks to human health, animals, plants and environment.”
However, there has indeed been evidence of GMOs link to ill effects, and many studies published in peer-reviewed journals have detected ill effects to the animals that consumed a GM crop. For instance, a systematic review of the toxicological studies on GM foods that was published in 2009 concluded that the results of “most” of them indicate that the products “may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter hematological, biochemical, and immunologic parameters the significance of which remains unknown.” It also noted that further studies were clearly needed. Another review that encompassed the additional studies that had been published up until August 2010 also provided cause for caution. It concluded that there was “equilibrium” between the research groups “suggesting” that GM crops are as safe as their non-GM counterparts and “those raising still serious concerns.”
Between 2008 and 2014 there have been eight such reviews published in standard journals, and as a whole, they provide no grounds for unequivocally proclaiming safety. As Sheldon Krimsky, a professor at Tufts University, United States (U.S.), observed in a comprehensive examination that was also published in a peer-reviewed journal: “One cannot read these systematic reviews and conclude that the science on health effects of GMOs has been resolved within the scientific community.”
But Gidado said: “In the three decades since the introduction of GMO crops, there have been more than 2,000 studies evaluating health and environmental aspects of genetically engineered products. The vast majority of studies have found nothing to indicate that GM foods represent a health threat. The consensus among scientists is that gene altered crops offer no more risk than those developed through conventional breeding techniques.
“More than 275 independent science organizations from around the world have concluded that foods grown from genetically engineered seeds pose no unique health concerns.”
She said more 110 Nobel laureates issued a joint communique in June 2012, stating: “Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production.”
According to Gidado, after a two-year evaluation, in the most comprehensive evaluation of GM crops ever undertaken, the US National Academy of Sciences concluded that genetically engineered crops have not caused increases in cancer, obesity, gastrointestinal illnesses, kidney disease, autism or allergies: there are “no differences that would implicate a higher risk to human health from eating GE foods than from eating their non-GE counterparts.”
Gidado and Kollo dismissed a long-term study that yielded disturbing results. In it, a team of university researchers led by Gilles-Eric Séralini demonstrated that a GM crop approved by regulators based on a medium-term, 90-day toxicological feeding study caused significant damage to the rats’ livers and kidneys when tested over the long-term (two years).
Those results cast doubt on the entire GM food venture because no regulators require tests greater than 90 days, and several GM crops have entered the market without any toxicological testing at all.
So when the study was published in a respected journal in 2012, proponents of GM crops bitterly denounced it and demanded its retraction. But because it was a solid toxicological study, they could not attack it on that ground. So they focused on the part of the study that reported an increased rate of tumour development in the GM-fed rats, and they argued that too few animals had been used to meet the standards for a carcinogenicity study.
However, they disregarded several crucial facts:
(1) The research was not designed to meet the standards of a carcinogenicity study.
(2) It did fulfill the standards for a toxicological study.
(3) The troubling toxicological results were reliable.
(4) Tumours are supposed to be reported when detected during a toxicological study.
Nonetheless, despite the weakness of their claims, they continued to pressure the journal until, more than a year after publication — and after the addition of a former Monsanto employee to the editorial board — the study was finally retracted. But not only did the chief editor acknowledge the adequacy of the toxicological findings, the lone reason he proffered for rejecting the tumour-related findings was that they were “inconclusive,” which is not a valid reason for retraction. Furthermore, according to standard guidelines, even if there had been good grounds for retracting that part of the study, the remainder should not have been withdrawn along with it.
-Written by Chukwuma Muanya, Assistant Editor, in The Guardian. See original article link here.
So Monsanto has dodged the bullet — for now. The European Union has just voted to relicense the controversial herbicide glyphosate — marketed as Roundup — for another five years. That’s far less than the 15 years initially sought, but much better than the total immediate ban sought by some countries and legions of vocal environmental activists.
AS we are bombarded by scare tactics against plants with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) like Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn and Bt eggplant, we do not realize that almost everything we eat, many of the medicines we take, the cotton-based apparel we wear, the detergents we use in washing clothes and many of the beverages and processed canned goods we take are already genetically modified (GM).
Genetically modified food is as safe as traditionally-cultivated and organic food and has additional nutrients to supplement the needs of common Filipino families, according to scientists.
KAMPALA, Uganda — Several genetically modified crops that are more resilient to drought, flooding, saline or acid soils and temperature extremes resulting from climate change are already being researched in Uganda and are in advanced stages. The enactment of an enabling law, the Uganda National Biosafety Bill 2017, is intended to enhance the development of modern biotechnology.
In its September 15 issue, the BusinessMirror cited diocesan priest Fr. Emmanuel Alparce, a member of the Department of Agriculture Biotech Program Technical Committee on Information, Education and Communication, who said that lawmakers should be open-minded about the biotechnological developments being conducted in the country that seek to curb poverty and improve the lives of Filipinos.
The National Biosafety Authority has approved field tests for genetically modified bananas, moving the country closer to accepting growing and consumption of GMO foods.
Although many papers have been published claiming that genetically engineered (GMO) foods are harmful and that humans aren’t changing the climate, not a single one of them stands up to rigorous scientific scrutiny.
With the recent uptick in extreme weather events around the world — exemplified by catastrophic flooding in Nigeria, Houston and India, all in the same week, followed by multiple hurricanes in the Atlantic — climate change is back in the headlines, and with it a resurgence of skeptical claims denying the existence of an international scientific consensus on global warming.
- Organic farming’s low yields cannot possibly feed the world, and its costs are prohibitive for most of the planet’s consumers.
- GMOs are “Frankenfoods” that are harmful to the environment, to farms and to the people who consume them.
Socio-economic considerations, multiple agency review, labeling, and legal court challenges are the major obstacles in getting biotech crops to farmers, according to Senior Legal Consultant of the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) Atty. Gregory Jaffe, who presented in the Agriculture and Development Seminar Series (ADSS) of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) on July 24, 2017 in his talk titled “GM Crops to Farmers: Curves in the Roads.” An example cited was the court case filed against Bt eggplant in the Philippines which is more of a procedural issue than a technical one. According to Atty. Jaffe, the key is transparent and predictable biosafety regulatory procedures that anticipate and address the said issues before a product is approved for release.
[MANILA] Global acceptance of genetically modified (GM) crops sprang back in 2016 after suffering a decline in 2015, according to estimates by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).
According to ISAAA’s Global Status of Commercialised Biotech/GM Crops: 2016, released in May, 185.10 million hectares of GM crops were planted in 2016, showing an increase from 179.70 million hectares in 2015. In 2014, the global area under GM crops was 181.50 million hectares.
Kampala, Uganda | ISAAC KHISA | African countries are currently having trouble releasing their biotech crops popularly known as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) to farmers, but scientists seem to be embracing a new strategy to ensure that there exist relevant regulatory systems.
Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crops now are being cultivated on 185.1 million hectares across world including the developing and the industrial countries.
Parliament on Wednesday began scrutinizing the Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill 2012, which has been on the shelves for more than three years.
The bill was first tabled in parliament in 2013 by then minister of state in charge of Planning Matia Kasaija. Its introduction drew both praise and sharp criticism from people against the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country.
While proponents of the bill believe that once passed, the already developed varieties of food crops that are drought-resistant will be given to farmers to plant and end hunger in Uganda, those against the bill have severally complained that introduction of GMOs will wipe out Uganda’s largely organic farming industry.
On Wednesday, the committee on Science and Technology presented two reports of their findings on the bill, pitting the pro and anti-GMO legislators against each other.
In the main report, committee chairman, Robert Kafeero Ssekitoleko (Nakifuma), said the committee had endorsed the bill because several GMO crops are already being researched on in Uganda and are in advanced stages. Kafeero said the enactment of an enabling law will enhance the safe development of modern biotechnology.
“The biggest challenges are how to adapt the production of food in view of the climate changes, and how to develop further the role of agricultural biotechnology in combating the global challenge. Crop varieties that are more resilient to drought, flooding, saline or acid soils and temperature extremes resulting from climate change may be needed, and adaptation-related technologies, including biotechnology, may play their part,” the main report reads in part.
However, two MPs on the committee, Atkins Katusabe (Bukonzo West) and Lee Denis Oguzu (Maracha), authored a minority report, raising concerns about genetic pollution, which may arise due to cross pollination, hence wiping out the traditional breeds and development of crop varieties that risk affecting soil fertility.
The two MPs also outlined the risk of external influence, brought on by the varied interest in the introduction of GMOs in the country through foreign companies.
Katusabe said that between 2010 and 2011, financial resources for agricultural biotechnological research were largely received from philanthropic organizations and intergovernmental organizations, while government only contributed three per cent
He said amendments by the committee did not address the risk of external influence, which necessitates a comprehensive regulatory impact assessment to critically assess the adverse risks of external influence and financial sustainability of advancing biotechnology systems.
“The country’s progress in biotechnology relies on donors who advance their own agenda or interests, which may include extending risk of GMO development away from their home countries. The bill should be referred back to the sponsor,” the minority report states.
However, Kafeero said once the law is enacted, a national focal point and authority, as well as a national biosafety committee will be created to regulate the use of GMOs in the country.
President Yoweri Museveni, while touring a demonstration farm at Kawumu State Lodge in Luweero district on March 20, said the bill will help the country resolve some of the problems the agriculture sector faces, including drought.
Peter Wamboga-Mugirya, a pro-GMO activist, told The Observer that the legislation should have been introduced years ago, to help combat the growing challenges in the agricultural sector.
Citing the long spells of drought, coupled with the recent attack on crops by the fall armyworms, Mugirya said Ugandans are cold towards biotechnology because they have not been well informed about its benefits.
“When virulent viruses attack crops, what can scientists do after they have applied all conventional methods to fight these diseases? Their best shot is at genetic engineering to counter these problems. Biotechnology gives advanced solutions; so, let us help our farmers,” Mugirya said in a phone interview.
-Written by Olive Eyotaru in The Observer (Kampala) via AllAfrica.com. See original article link here.
BIOTECHNOLOGY can be the key to the country’s food security and development issues.
Gil Saguiguit, director of Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) said that this scientific technology gives farmers a fighting chance to cope with the many challenges and obstacles they face in farming.
According to the report, Nebraska corn growers planted 9.8 million acres, down 1 percent from last year. Biotechnology varieties were used on 96 percent of the area planted, up 1 percentage point from a year ago. Growers expect to harvest 9.5 million acres for grain, which is down 1 percent from last year.
Statewide, soybean planted area is estimated at 5.7 million acres, up 10 percent from last year’s total and a record high. Of the acres planted, 94 percent were planted with genetically modified, herbicide resistant seed, down 2 percentage points from a year ago. Acres expected to be harvested are 5.65 million, up 10 percent from a year earlier.
Nationwide, the USDA reported that corn planted area for all purposes in 2017 is estimated at 90.9 million acres, down 3 percent from last year. Compared with last year, planted acres are down or unchanged in 38 of the 48 estimating states. Area harvested for grain, at 83.5 million acres, is down 4 percent from last year.
Soybean planted area for 2017, nationwide, is estimated at a record high 89.5 million acres, up 7 percent from last year. Compared with last year, planted acreage intentions are up or unchanged in 24 of the 31 estimating states.
The USDA reported that winter wheat seeded in the fall of 2016 totaled 1.11 million acres, down 19 percent from last year and a record low. Harvested acreage is forecast at 1 million acres, down 24 percent from a year ago.
Along with declining wheat acres, Nebraska wheat farmers are also having to deal with a wheat virus outbreak that has reached epidemic levels and has been damaging fields and yields in the southern Nebraska Panhandle, according to the Associated Press. The Nebraska Wheat Association earlier this month reported that as many as 85 percent of southern Panhandle fields have been affected by the virus.
Nationwide, all wheat planted area for 2017 is estimated at 45.7 million acres, down 9 percent from 2016. This represents the lowest all wheat planted area on record since records began in 1919. The 2017 winter wheat planted area, at 32.8 million acres, is down 9 percent from last year. Of this total, about 23.8 million acres are hard red winter.
For other Nebraska crops, the USDA reported that:
— Alfalfa hay acreage to be cut for dry hay is at 770 thousand acres, up 3 percent from 2016. Other hay acreage to be cut for dry hay is 1.70 million acres, unchanged from last year.
— Sorghum acreage planted and to be planted, at 140 thousand acres, is down 30 percent from a year ago. The area to be harvested for grain, at 110 thousand acres, is down 37 percent from last year.
— Oats planted area is estimated at 115 thousand acres, down 15 percent from the previous year. Area to be harvested for grain, at 25 thousand acres, is unchanged from a year ago.
— Dry edible bean planted acreage is estimated at 150 thousand acres, up 9 percent from last year. Harvested acres are estimated at 139 thousand acres, up 14 percent from the previous year.
— Proso millet plantings of 130 thousand acres are up 37 percent from a year ago.
— Sugarbeet planted acres, at 49.7 thousand, are up 4 percent from last year.
— Oil sunflower acres planted are estimated at 55 thousand, up 90 percent from last year. Non-oil sunflower planted acreage is estimated at 6 thousand acres, down 52 percent from a year ago and a record low.
— Dry edible pea estimated planted acres are 45 thousand acres, down 18 percent from last year. Harvested acres are estimated at 42 thousand, down 19 percent from the previous year.
-Written by Robert Pore in The Grand Island Independent. See original article link here.
SEARCA Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr. reiterated the increasing importance of safe, and evidence- and science-based agricultural technologies in promoting agricultural productivity and food and nutrition security amidst challenges like climate change, dwindling production resources, rapid population increase, and extreme poverty.
Among these technologies is biotechnology, including both traditional (e.g., selective breeding, fermentation techniques) and modern (i.e., genetic engineering) techniques, which the Center looks at as an important tool in addressing the abovementioned challenges. SEARCA particularly pushes for “coexistence,” which, according to a report of the US Department of Agriculture Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, “is the concurrent cultivation of conventional, organic, identity preserved (IP) and genetically engineered crops consistent with underlying consumer preferences and farmer choices.”
Dr. Saguiguit made this statement following the Philippine launch of the annual report of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) on the global status of commercialized biotech crops. According to the ISAAA report, global planting of biotech crops reached 185.1 million hectares in 2016, which increased from 179.7 million hectares in 2015. A total of 26 countries grew biotech crops, including the Philippines, which planted around 812,000 hectares of biotech yellow corn last year. Biotech corn varieties, which are grown in the country since 2003, are pest resistant and herbicide tolerant, thus providing various documented benefits to Filipino farmers including significant increase in yield and reduction in production costs.
Dr. Saguiguit said that through SEARCA’s Tenth Five-Year Plan focused on Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development (ISARD), the Center believes that due attention must be given to resource poor farmers by providing them access to information, best practices, and new technologies that will increase their farm productivity.
“Our goal is to give our farmers a fighting chance to cope with the many challenges and obstacles they face in farming. Through biotechnology and many other innovations, we hope to offer them better opportunities so that they can provide not only for their families but also contribute to the nation’s food security and overall development. Along these lines, SEARCA qualifies that it only promotes agricultural technologies and practices that are known to be safe and do not compromise human and environmental health,” said Dr. Saguiguit.
With the continuing opposition to biotechnology, Dr. Saguiguit said that it is all the more important for the public, particularly decision and policymakers, to understand the said technology in the context of scientific and empirical evidence.