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.
Two federal agencies charged with oversight of genetically engineered crops and animals are being urged by environmental, food safety and other entities to substantially strengthen their proposed rules to protect farmers and the public.
The statement from the Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth U.S. in Washington D.C. came on June 19 as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded public comment periods on proposed changes to oversight of GE crops and animals.
USDA is in the process of revising its three decade-old rules governing GE plants and other GE organisms. The two environmental entities contend that while USDA has more authority to strengthen oversight, its proposed new rules would weaken it.
USDA spokesman Rick Coker said the agency would carefully consider all comments received on the issue through June 19, along with those submitted at public meetings held in Davis, CA, Kansas City MO, and Riverdale, MD. As they decide how or whether to finalize the proposed revised regulations.
“We are in the early stages of analyzing those comments, including tallying the number of comments received,” Coker said. “Until we carefully evaluate the comments, it’s unclear when we will reach a decision on how or whether to finalize the proposed revisions.”
“The haphazard and negligent regulation of agricultural biotechnology has been nothing short of a disaster for the public and the environment,” said George Kimbrell, legal director at Center for Food Safety. “While USDA should be protecting farmers and the environment, it has instead turned a blind eye to the harms that GE crops cause. Unfortunately, the proposed rules would make things worse, not better, with less oversight, not more.”
The proposed USDA rules would continue to permit large increases in the use of harmful chemicals with new herbicide-resistant GE crops, and do nothing to stop the epidemic of resistant super weeds or crop-damaging herbicide drift that plagues farmers, according to Center for Food Safety. Transgenic contamination would continue unchecked, harming conventional and organic growers, and newer GE crops like grasses and trees would create even greater novel risks, the center said.
Kimbrell said he expected USDA to complete regulation changes by year’s end.
Such changes come under guidelines allotted to administrative federal agencies, to pass and executive their own laws, which are known as administrative laws.
Along with the USDA comment period, FDA had requested comments on how to regulation GE animals and GE plants developed with new genetic engineering techniques. FDA has never issued rules for assessing genetically engineered animals. Instead, Center for Food Safety contends, GE animals are reviewed under entirely inappropriate regulations designed for new animal drugs. Last year, for example, the DFA approved genetically engineered salmon using its outdated animal drug rules, an approval Center for Food Safety is currently challenging in court.
On the other side of the proposed changes in federal rules governing GE animals and drops is the Biotechnology innovation Organization, an umbrella group, in Washington D.C. , that identifies itself as the world’s largest trade association representing biotechnology firms, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organization in the United States and more than 30 other countries.
Members include Dow Pharmaceutical Sciences Inc., Dupont Corp., and Monsanto.
On June 5, BIO issued a news release citing a study from the British firm PG Economics, contending over the past 20 years biotech crops have increased agriculture’s environmental sustainability, while providing significant economic benefits. According to the PG Economics study the use of biotech/genetically modified seeds has allowed farmers to adopt more sustainable practices like reduced tillage, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The report contends that without biotech crops, billions more kilograms of carbon dioxide would have been emitted in 2015 alone-the equivalent of adding 11.9 million cars to the road. It also states that for farmers using GM seeds from 1996 to 2015, the net global farm income benefit due to GM seed was $167.7 billion.
-Written by Margaret Bauman in The Cordova Times. See original article link here.
ARE biotech crops, which are spliced with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), safe to eat?
Opponents, mostly composed of private individuals, non-governmental organizations and international activists, say they are not. Proponents—who are mostly scientists (including Nobel Prize winners), health officials and United Nations agencies—claim they are!
Now, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (Isaaa) just released its newest report, “Global Status of Commercialized/Biotech GM Crops: 2016”. The Isaaa brief is considered one of the most-cited references in the field of modern agri-biotechnology due to its credibility and accuracy.
“Biotech crops have now had an unblemished record of safe use and consumption for over 20 years,” the report pointed out. “Future generations can benefit more from wide choices of biotech crops with improved traits for high yield and nutrition, as well as safe for food use and environment.”
Biotech crops are products of biotechnology, defined as “any technique that uses living organisms to make or modify a product, to improve plants or animals or to develop microorganisms for specific uses”.
The methodology seems like a work of fiction. Listen to the words of Dr. Frank A. Shotkoski, an adjunct professor at the Cornell University in the College of Life Science Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics: “Traditional methods of crop improvement require the mixing of genes by making specific crosses, observing and selecting for specific phenotypes [traits] in the offspring. This has been a very effective tool for crop improvement, and our ancestors have been quite successful in using these techniques to develop the productive, tasty and nutritious crops that we have today.”
But modern biotechnology completely changes that. “Biotechnology allows us to introduce genes into crops that could never be achieved using traditional/conventional methods, because the gene tied to a specific trait (i.e., insect resistance, disease resistance, herbicide tolerance, etc.) doesn’t exist in species,” Shotkoski explained. “Often, traits of interest can be introgressed into a crop much faster using biotechnology tools, such as marker-assisted breeding, gene transformation and/or gene editing.”
In recent years, modern biotechnology—through genetic engineering—has been used to increase plant and animal food production, to diagnose disease, improve medical treatment, produce vaccines and other useful drugs and to help dispose of industrial wastes.
“There is a lot that happens around the world we cannot control,” American Congressman Jan Schakowsky once said. “We cannot stop earthquakes, we cannot prevent droughts and we cannot prevent all conflict, but when we know where the hungry, the homeless and the sick exist, then we can help.”
Hunger is the physical sensation of desiring food. When politicians, relief workers and social scientists talk about people suffering from hunger, they usually refer to those who are unable to eat sufficient food to meet their basic nutritional needs for sustained periods of time.
But with the continuous number of people added annually to the current population, it is more likely that hunger will be a rule rather an exception. “Population growth is going crazy,” Shotkoski pointed out. “From 2 billion in 1935, it doubled to 4 billion in 1975. By 2000 the world was home to 6 billion. In 2030 there will be about 8 billion people inhabiting this planet.”
In addition, there are the issues of climate change: rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns. “Climate change is a major challenge for agriculture and food security,” said Dr. Randy Hautea, Isaaa global coordinator.
Biotechnology is seen as a probable solution. “I see biotechnology as an important component of the many technologies and choices that we have available to provide food security, human nutrition and health for an ever-expanding population,” Shotkoski said. “This is especially important for agriculture, where farmers are faced with many biotic and abiotic constraints, most of which can’t be dealt with using conventional technologies.”
In 1994 Calgene’s delayed-ripening tomato became the first GM food crop to be produced and consumed in an industrialized country. In 1995 GM cotton and GM corn were subsequently commercialized. Soon to be introduced in the country are the following: the GM eggplant and the vitamin A-rich golden rice.
A consumer advocacy group in UK reported that GM soya can be found in bread, biscuits, baby milk, baby foods, breakfast cereals, margarine, soups, pasta, pizza instant meals, meat products, flours, sweets, ice creams, crisps, chocolate, soy sauce, veggie-burgers, tofu, soya milk and pet foods.
In the Philippines, Filipinos may be eating GM foods, such as potato chips, corn cereals, or soya milk. Love it or loathe it, transgenic food is set to become a bigger part of what people eat.
But Greenpeace, an anti-biotech organization, continues to take a preventive stance. It cautioned that consumers can never be absolutely sure of the safety of biotech crops since this is only determined by decades of data and study.
Here are some concerns of those who opposed GM crops:
Allergies: Dr. Romeo Quijano, of the Department of Pharmacology of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, said GM food is hazardous commodities because they carried new proteins that may cause allergy.
The National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH) and its team have this answer: “Contrary to common perception, it is natural foods, not additives and artificial flavors, which account for majority of food allergies like nuts, shrimps, crabs and others. In fact, any food that contains proteins has the potential to cause allergic reactions depending on individual susceptibility.
“Furthermore, extensive food safety evaluation has been implemented to minimize the possibility that allergenic proteins are introduced into commercialized genetically modified crops. There is no single commercialized genetically modified plant that is known to cause any significant risks of allergenicity.”
Cancer: People eating GM food are likely to be susceptible to cancer. This was discovered in a study conducted by Dr. Arpad Pusztai of the Rowett Institute on genetically engineered potatoes on rats. In his research, he fed rats on two strains of potatoes: one with genetically engineered with lectin from snowdrop bulbs and another with ordinary potatoes.
The result of his study: immune systems and brains, livers, kidneys and other vital organs of the rats fed with lectin-spiked potatoes were damaged while those fed with ordinary potatoes showed no damage at all.
“There is no evidence that the technologies used to produced-genetically modified foods are inherently harmful,” BIOTECH and other institutions concluded. Referring on the study done by Dr. Pusztai, they said it was debunked by the Royal Society of London. They found the Pusztai study as “flawed in experimental design, execution and analysis.”
Antibiotic resistance: Quijano said a scientific data indicate that “the emergence of new diseases, the rapid evolution of virulence and the widespread occurrence of drug and antibiotic resistance are associated with the rise of genetic engineering.”
The BIOTECH team claims otherwise: “The possibility that antibiotic resistance genes built into genetically modified plants could be transferred to bacteria harmful to humans has been thoroughly studied. To date, no reliable and stable transfer has been reported. In fact, there are no known mechanisms for effective transfer of genes from plant to bacteria under natural conditions.
Besides, antibiotics are used only in the laboratory during development process of the biotech crops. These, they claimed, do not produce antibiotics nor do they require application of antibiotics in the field.
Now, let’s take a closer look at those organizations which fully support the transgenic crops for human consumption.
“Foods produced using genetic modification is as safe as foods produced using conventional breeding techniques,” assures the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “Genetically modified foods are as safe as other foods available on the market.”
The Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) declared that different GM foods go through the global food safety process called Codex Alimentarius Risk Analysis of Foods Derived from Modern Biotechnology under which these foods are not found to be risky to human health.
“GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health,” said the UN health agency. “No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved. Continuous use of risk assessments based on the Codex principles and, where appropriate, including post market monitoring, should form the basis for evaluating the safety of GM foods.”
Last year, the premier American Medical Association issued this statement: “Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years and during that time; no overt consequences to human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.”
The Royal Society of Medicine, an independent educational organization for doctors, dentists, scientists and others involved in medicine and health care in England, said: “Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world with no ill effects (or legal cases related to human health) despite many of the consumers coming from the most litigious of countries, the United States.”
Here’s the findings of the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union: “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology and in particular GMOs are no more risky than conventional plant-breeding technologies.”
Safer than street foods
Meanwhile, Officer-in-charge Vivencio R. Mamaril of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) claims those foods that contain GMOs are safer to eat than those being sold in the streets.
The reason: transgenic crops undergo stricter tests and environmental assessments and could be much safer and more nutritious than street food consumed daily everywhere. Unlike street food items that are not regulated, GM crops have been subjected to extensive testing under a bio safety framework regarded as one of the strictest in the world.
This made him wonder why those anti-GM campaigners have been blasting away at GM crops but keeping silent on the safety concerns for street food. It may be because, he surmised, street food items are so common that no one bothers to ask if they are safe and nutritious for hundreds of thousands of pupils and students who consume them daily in spite of threats of microbial contamination.
“We may not all be so assiduous in guarding our rights in this situation, but what about on the food we eat? Are we always concerned with the safety of the food we consume? Is food quality in terms of safety our parameter in choosing what we eat? Do we read labels or are we more concerned with the price of the product we buy? These are the many questions that most consumer behavior researchers undertake,” asked Dr. Mamaril, who is also the director of the Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Biotechnology Program.
“Take for example, why are there so many street foods being sold in front of schools and many other busy places? Is the selling of street foods regulated to guard the safety of consumers? The answer maybe is no. And why is this so? It could be because the types of food sold are those known to be commonly consumed. Examples are animals’ innards that are processed as fried, smoked or are skewered, eggs wrapped in flour, fish balls, chicken balls, squid balls, taho, and many others. The food quality concern in these kinds of foods could be microbial,” he said.
Now on the other side of the coin. As for GM products, food safety is a real concern. “Under our existing rules and regulations on GM crops, food safety is one the major concerns before such crops are given a biosafety permit. Other biosafety concerns are animal feeds and environmental safety,” Mamaril pointed out.
If you are given a choice, will you eat GM food or not? One sage puts his answer this way: “A man who has enough food has several problems. A man without food has only one problem.” Or as Horace puts it: “Only a stomach that rarely feels hungry scorns common things.”
-Written by Henrylito D. Tacio in BusinessMirror. See original article link here.
An industrial development strategy could be built on the back of Africa’s agricultural sector underpinned by the adoption of new and emerging technologies such as biotechnology to support improved yields, value addition and services that feed into the whole agro-processing value chain, a top Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) official says.
Getachew Belay, a senior biotechnology policy advisor told Zimpapers Syndication recently on the sidelines of a communication training workshop for journalists on biotechnology and biosafety, that the adoption of genetically modified cotton developed using a bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which naturally produces a chemical harmful only to a small fraction of insects such as the bollworm, could increase yields and enhance competitiveness.
He says cotton farmers in Africa suffer huge losses due to pest problems.
“The most destructive of pests is the African bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera), which can cause severe losses of up to 100 percent like we saw on some cotton fields in Salima here in Malawi,” the Comesa biotech policy advisor says.
“In unprotected fields pest damage can be very severe and when you look at Bt cotton crop on trial you can see hope that it’s possible for African farmers to increase their yields and competitiveness of their crop on the market.”
Using Bt cotton developed using bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, which naturally produces a chemical harmful only to a small fraction of insects such as the bollworm, experts say reduction in pest infestations can increase yields and improve the livelihoods of cotton growers.
The Bt toxin is inserted into cotton, causing cotton, called Bt cotton, to produce this natural insecticide in its tissues.
Biotechnology experts argue that cotton farmers in Zimbabwe, Malawi and most other African countries, can effectively reduce input costs and control damage from bollworms and other insects that frequently damage cotton by adopting Bt cotton.
For several decades, has lagged behind in terms of the industrial dynamism required to boost farmer earnings, employment, economic growth and competitiveness on the global market.
But in recent years, there is a growing realisation of the importance of industrialisation.
In 2016, the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) published a major report on industrialization in Africa where it asserts that structural transformation in Africa’s economies remains the highest priority and industrialization is the top strategy for achieving it in practice.
And, Belay says, biotechnology is one of the major tools for achieving industrialisation.
“I’m convinced that biotechnology has many opportunities to drive Africa’s industrialisation,” he says.
“We have Bt cotton, Bt maize and soya and biotechnology can enhance the competitiveness of our crops and agricultural products especially when it comes to value addition and beneficiation as it was stipulated in our African industrialisation agenda.
“Already we are seeing the benefits of adopting biotech crops in South Africa. Livestock feed sectors in Zambia and even Zimbabwe cannot compete with SA’s GM stock feed which is produced cheaply. We need to adopt this new technology to cut costs.
“Europe relies heavily on GM soya for its livestock feed industry and this has enhanced its competitiveness.”
Africa has a low uptake of biotech food crops due to lack of awareness and stiff resistance, scientists say.
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) AfriCenter director Margaret Karembu told journalists at the workshop that adoption of agricultural biotechnology has lagged behind compared to the rapid rates seen in the medical and health sectors.
“Where are we as Africans? This is the question, we need to think seriously about the good work (on agricultural biotechnology) going on in our labs,” she said. “What is our place in the global biotechnology space? We need reclaim it and improve the livelihoods of our farmers across the continent.”
Karembu said lack of awareness and a constrained regulatory environment had also slowed down the uptake of agricultural biotechnology.
“Lack of awareness of the benefits and the regulatory framework has affected the tide towards the adoption of biotechnology. The victim mentality has been largely to blame for this.
“We think of ourselves as victims of the technology. The fact is that our public institutions and universities have been doing research on biotech crops for years and this has not moved to the commercialization stage,” she says. She says Africa needs to diffuse myths and misconceptions around GMO crops.
“The media has a big role to play in clearing some of the misconceptions about biotechnology and GMOs,” the ISAAA director says.
“When media demonises the science, it becomes difficult to correct the mistakes. There is a lot of unfamiliarity with the technology and having fixed mind sets will not help our struggling farmers.
“The farmers you saw in Salima are poor and they are struggling. Why should we block them from accessing the Bt cotton varieties that can significantly boost their yields and income? Farming should not be for leisure, it’s a business and it should be there to improve the quality of livelihoods of the farmers.
“Biotechnology is one of the tools we can use to first of all improve crop yields and secondly to support Africa’s industrialisation goals for value addition and beneficiation.”
Karembu urged the media to encourage dialogue and to correct misinformation.
“The information we generate should be guided by credible scientific evidence and not unverified ‘Google’ information,” she says. “If you have a headache people just ‘Google’ and ‘Google’ has become the answer. The world is polluted by a lot of unsubstantiated facts. We need to change the narrative and challenge the myth that Africa enjoys being poor – the romanticisation of poverty.”
Stringent and expensive regulatory process in Africa has slowed down uptake of biotechnology crops.
Biotech experts say the regulatory process is burdensome and makes everything unpredictable while in some African countries there is fear of change and challenging of the status quo when it comes to biotechnology.
According to ISAAA, the production of biotech crops increased 110-fold from 1996 with countries now growing the crops on 2,1 billion hectares worldwide.
The global value of the biotech seed market alone was US$15,8 billion in 2016. A total of 26 countries, 19 developing and 7 industrial grew biotech crops.
By 2016, at least four countries in Africa had in the past placed a GM crop on the market. These included Egypt, South Africa, Burkina Faso and Sudan.
But due to some temporary setback in Burkina Faso and Egypt, only South Africa and Sudan planted biotech crops on 2,8 million hectares
South Africa is one of the top 10 countries planting more than one million hectares in 2016 and continued to lead the adoption of biotech crops on the African continent.
Kenya, Malawi and Nigeria have transitioned from research to granting environmental release approvals while six others – Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Swaziland and Uganda made significant progress towards completion of multi-location trials in readiness for considering commercial approval, ISAAA reported.
But the road to the adoption of Bt cotton technologies in Africa still faces stiff resistance.
Supporters of GM crops have to grapple with vocal anti-GMO activists, limited capacity to deal with the processing of GM research applications, bureaucratic delays in approving field trials, mistrust and resistance from key decision makers in Government and limited public awareness of the issues surrounding research and development of GM crops.
In addition, they have to contend with issues related to disease resistance, bottlenecks encountered when co-ordinating with other line ministries, trade-related restrictions, biosafety regulation and the overwhelming influence of multinational companies, Governments and their sidekicks – NGOs. And, despite the threats, biotechnology experts say benefits from the biotech agro-linked industrial development outweigh the threats.
SADC drew up its Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap which seeks to speed up industrialisation by strengthening the comparative and competitive advantages of the economies of the region.
The strategy which covers the period 2015 – 2063 is anchored on three pillars – industrialisation, competitiveness and regional industrialisation.
The whole industrialisation agenda aims to help SADC member states to achieve high levels of economic growth, competitiveness, incomes and employment.
To access the funds, SADC countries have set up committees made up of government and private sector players to identify priority areas for funding.
At regional level, three areas have been prioritised, namely – agro processing, mining and downstream processing.
“For all this, biotechnology could be a useful tool to drive the region’s industrialisation agenda,” Belay says.
“It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s one of the many tools we can use to drive the continent’s industrialisation strategy. Agriculture is fundamental to Comesa member states in terms of improving food and nutrition security, increasing rural income, employment and contributions to GDP and expert earnings.
“We need to explore ways of enhancing the use of biotechnology to drive industrialisation and improved livelihoods for farmers in Africa.”
Analysts say Africa badly needs increased investment in infrastructure of all kinds – reliable clean energy and water systems, medical clinics, technical colleges, railways, roads, bridges, fiber optic networks, and factories of many kinds.
“Industrialisation can benefit the expansion of intra-African trade by supporting a more diversified export economy,” wrote an economic analyst.
“In particular, the development of rural and food processing industries could help to lift significant numbers from poverty. But, to facilitate trade in goods and services, it is essential to reduce distribution costs by improving and expanding road, rail and other communication infrastructure.” -Zimpapers Syndication
The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) reiterated the increasing importance of safe, and evidence- and science-based agricultural technologies in promoting agricultural productivity, as well as food and nutrition security amidst challenges like climate change, dwindling production resources, rapid population increase and extreme poverty.
Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr., SEARCA director, said that these technologies included traditional (e.g., selective breeding, fermentation techniques) and modern (i.e., genetic engineering) techniques, which the Center looked at as an important tool in addressing these 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,” Saguiguit said.
Saguiguit issued the 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 have been 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.
Saguiguit said that through SEARCA’s Tenth Five-Year Plan focused on Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development (ISARD), the Center believed that due attention must be given to resource poor farmers by providing them access to information, best practices, and new technologies that would 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,” he said.
Through biotechnology and many other innovations, SEARCA hopes to offer these farmers 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 Saguiguit.
With the continuing opposition to biotechnology, the official said that it was all the more important for the public, particularly decision and policymakers, to understand the technology in the context of scientific and empirical evidence.
-Written by James Konstantin Galvez in Manila Times. See original article link 1717.