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! Read more
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.
Biotechnology experts have reported increased production in 2016 in a rebound from stymied production the previous year due to regulatory barriers and persistent resistance from environmentalists.
But they insisted that progress in production—both in yield per area and total farm area planted—has spared forest lands from being invaded for farm production and has sharply cut down chemical use in farms, a potential that they hope would draw sharp interest from producers and governments.
Not only was 2016 noted for a rebound in biotechnology crop production, it also marked a spike in global production of genetically modified (GM) crops in the last two decades, and got more countries to adapt it, according to Dr. Paul S. Teng, chairman of the board of trustees of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application (Isaaa).
Last year Isaaa has noted that biotech crops were planted in 185.1 million hectares in 26 countries, which involved 18 million farmers.
“This is the fastest adapted crop technology in recent times,” the group said, citing the dominance of the developing world in the number of countries planting the GM crops.
Three developing nations—Brazil, Argentina and India—landed in the top five, with the US leading the list with its 72.9 million hectares, and Canada on the fourth spot.
The potential for wider global adaption of biotechnology would largely hinge on governments confronting the increasing urgency to find food for their people as lands remain constant and population kept multiplying.
To increase production yield per acre or per hectare of area would be likely a current arena, “even if you start with the hybrid variety”, Teng said.
Philippines top biotech grower in SEA
In the Philippines, Teng said the area planted to GM corn, for instance, has increased 16 percent to 812,000 hectares “as the country remains to be the top grower of biotech or GM crops in Southeast Asia”.
The Philippines ranked 12th as global producer of the GM corn today after it was also the first country in Southeast Asia to plant the crop in 2003, he added. The Philippine government approved its commercial production a year earlier.
The increase in area planted to corn was equivalent to 110,000 hectares, the Isaaa said.
GM corn is the leading GM crop in the country that is already being produced commercially. Three other crops are in their research and development stages. These are the stem borer-resistant Bacillus thuringiensis eggplant, ringspot virus-resistant and delayed ripening papaya and the fortified beta-carotene golden rice.
The progression in commercial production of GM corn was ascribed to “favorable weather conditions and high local demand for livestock and feed stocks”.
The increase is also reflected in the adaption by more farmers “mainly because of better income compared to non-GM corn,” Teng added. The increase though, was slight, at 65 percent for some 406,000 farmers.
What was significant in this number of farmers, he said, was that they average 2 hectares, a size common among small “resource-poor” Filipino farmers.
The Isaaa 2016 report, which was launched in Beijing, China, early this month, said Filipino farmers earned $642 million in the period 2003 to 2015. For 2015 alone, the GM-corn planters earned $82 million. The increase in hectarage and production was accounted by the 13 approvals granted by local governments for the cultivation of GM corn.
Challenge for poor regions
Although the developing world accounts for the big number of countries adapting biotechnology, the challenge was to increase its planting to, and yield per area, on crops that they heavily import from the developed economies.
Asia, for instance, which appears consistently green in any color-coded food production map, imports heavily on soybean from countries with minimal agriculture area but are known for high yields per farm area.
The potential to catch up and cut down on imports, is emerging for the developing, or poor, regions of the world. As of 2016 there were 19 countries in the poor region adapting biotechnology, although many of them raise GM crops for food, feeds and processing, unlike Chile and Costa Rica in South America that were growing modified crops already for export.
While countries were also adapting hybrid varieties of their food crops, Teng said this may provide the step closer to adapting biotechnology, which he said “should not be clouded in fear over their effects on the environment and human health”.
Isaaa noted that countries using biotechnology for farm production were adapting to the demands of their other food sectors, such as livestock. Brazil, it said, currently the largest GM crop-producing country among developing economies, may still raise its GM-maize production, as it expects its pork- and livestock-industry expands to meet the consuming market.
The regulatory barriers put up against GM crops has pulled back production through years, and Isaaa said there had been successes in some countries, including the Philippines, which has formed a four-Cabinet level interagency regulatory body.
Dr. Vivencio R. Mamaril, acting director of the Bureau of Plant Industry, said that while this interagency body may help bring into one body the diverse issues raised against biotechnology crops, “their diverse concerns, too, could be confusing and disconnected”.
He suggested that in the case of the Philippines, “government agencies, including Congress, should establish regulations now to avoid getting preempted by the entry of GM crops, especially during the Christmas season”.
“Government should be prepared this early to handle issues like entry of GM crops,” he said.
While the current production of GM crops is described as stymied due to regulatory barriers and ineffective responses to environment and health issues, the Isaaa said biotechnology adaption in the food production has already contributed a lot to biodiversity, better environment and livelihood to rural families.
It said the increase in crop yield per specific area compared to hybrid and traditional crop varieties earned for small farmers $167.8 billion between 1996 and 2015.
Teng said biotechnology has been contributing to the search by governments to find much higher yields per hectare and, by consequence, avoid the opening up of forest lands for farm cultivation.
In the period 2006 to 2016, the world saved 174 million hectares of forest lands from ploughing and cultivation because of the increased yield per acre or hectare of existing farm lands.
Teng added the GM crops were being developed to address specific diseases of commonly used crops, vegetables and fruits that have reduced the yields of these food items. These include the resistance of eggplants to stem borers, potatoes and apples to browning and papaya to ringspot virus.
In turn, he said, farmers have discarded expensive pesticides and saved a lot of farm income.
But the bigger beneficiary here is the environment, Teng said. The Isaaa report reveals a decline by 19 percent in the use of insecticides and herbicides, equivalent to 620 million kilograms of active ingredients of these chemicals.
And much more, he added, as fewer incidents of felled forest trees and applications of fossil fuels in chemical inputs helped the world prevent destructive carbon dioxide emissions estimated at 26.7 billion kilograms.
“It is equivalent to taking 11.9 million cars of the road for one year,” the Isaa added.
The more important also, Teng said, citing the Isaaa report, the better production yield and less use of chemical inputs have helped 18 million small farmers and their families.
“Its impact would cover an estimated 65 million people living in the poorest regions,” he said.
The Isaaa added that innovations still coming in would “revolutionize the development of new biotech crops and traits” and described this trend the “game changer” in the third decade of planting and commercialization of the GM crops.
-Written by Manuel Cayon in BusinessMirror. See original article link here.
Kenyan scientists have used modern biotechnology to develop two crop varieties that are expected to be released in the country soon.
Simon Gichuki of the Kenya Agricultural, Livestock Research Organization’s (KALRO) Biotechnology Research Institute (BioRI) said that the maize and cotton varieties are already awaiting the National Performance Trials before they can be released for field trials, while gypsophilla flower will follow soon.
“The products have been produced within the country by local scientists where risk assessment has been done in accordance with the law,” he said during an agricultural biotechnology sensitization workshop in Nairobi on Friday.
Gichuki noted that genetically modified drought- and pest-resistant cassava, sorghum and sweet potato are due to be complete soon.
Julia Njagi, a biosafety officer at the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), revealed that the authority has approved 24 crop varieties for laboratory and greenhouse trials, 14 for Confined Field Trials (CFT) and three for environmental trials.
She added that the two varieties are pending approval and are at the laboratory and environmental release stages.
Research on Bt cotton was completed in 2002-2012 and approved by NBA for National Performance Trials (NPT) by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS).
Insect-resistant and drought-tolerant maize variety has also been approved and is undergoing NPT by KEPHIS experts. Enditem
-Published in NewsGhana. See original article link here.
The Philippines was first country in Southeast Asia to plant biotech corn in 2003 after its approval for commercial planting in 2002. An estimated of 6.03 million hectares of land in the country was planted with biotech corn since then. Read more
The recommendation for clearance has been sent to Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave who has to approve the decision.
AFTER MONTHS of suspense, a genetically-modified variety of mustard, developed by a Delhi-based institute, has been cleared for commercial cultivation by the country’s top regulator on genetically-engineered organisms. The GEAC, or Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, a body that functions under the Environment Ministry, on Thursday gave its recommendation to approve the long-pending application of the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at Delhi University which had developed a transgenic mustard called DMH-11.
The recommendation for clearance has been sent to Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave who has to approve the decision. The GEAC’s decision on Thursday puts DHM-11 mustard at a stage where Bt brinjal, a transgenic variety of brinjal, had found itself seven years ago. Bt brinjal was the first genetically modified food crop that had reached the Environment Minister’s table for clearance after obtaining all the necessary regulatory requirements. The then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, however, had refused clearance and put an indefinite moratorium the decision. That moratorium continues to this day.
GM mustard is the only other food crop which has made it to this last stage, after prolonged debate and several rounds of regulatory checks that has been going on for years. It is not clear what Dave would decide on this crop.
But organisations opposed to genetically-modified crops slammed the GEAC’s decision. “GEAC has proved yet again that it is unscientific and uncaring with regard to citizens’ health and environment. They have failed in their very mandate and purpose for which they have been created, to protect citizens from the risk of GMOs… We hope and urge minister Anil Madhav Dave to be responsible in his decision-making. This GM mustard should be rejected just as Bt brinjal was, seven years ago,” said Sarson Satyagraha which claims to be a platform for “hundreds of organisations” representing farmers and scientists opposed to introduction of GM mustard.
In terms of key economic factors, 2016 was the best year for the German biotech sector ever. According to the company survey, which Berlin-based information specialist BIOCOM AG conducts annually based on the biotech indicators of the organisation for economic cooperation and development (OECD) for more than ten years, the generated turnover of the German biotech sector for the third year exceeded €3bn. In 2016, total figures increased by 8% to €3.54bn compared to the year before.
Key figures with all-time high
Further upswing has been observed regarding spending on research and development (R&D). For the second time since 2010, the innovation budget cracked the one billion euro mark (+6.3%) and now stands at €1.1bn (2015: €1.04m). With a total of 20,280 (2015: 19,010), there were more employees than ever before working in biotech companies that are occupied wholly or predominantly with modern biotechnological methods. The total number of these companies rose to 615 (2015: 593). Thereby, the following figures and conclusions relate only to the ‘dedicated’ biotechnology companies, as defined by the OECD.
Stable financing situation
The financial situation also mirrors a sustainable positive trend over the last years: in 2016, around €505m was invested in German biotech companies, which did not reach the record levels of 2015 (€550m), but still is a high amount of money compared to previous years. The majority of the money was spent in public companies (€258m, +5%). With bioeconomy pioneer BRAIN AG, the first biotech IPO since 2007 took place at the German stock exchange in Frankfurt. Total numbers of listed German biotech companies increased to 21. Among them are five firms that are listed on a foreign stock exchange. In 2016, Berlin-based Noxxon Pharma choose that way, too, and went public on Euronext in Paris.
Interest of big pharma and the crowd
A closer look into the financings of the private firms, which secured a total of €216m in 2016, reveals that despite overall lower levels (-17%) than in 2015, a lot of double-digit rounds were raised. Foreign investors participated in eight of the 21 private financing rounds, demonstrating that German companies are able to attract high levels of interest. In addition, two crowdfunding campaigns for biotech companies took place in 2016. Some major multimillion euros licensing deals, such as BioNTech with Genentech (€278m), or Medigene with Bluebird Bio (€917m), or Proteros with MSD (€157m), further support the theory that German firms are quite attractive from an international point of view.
Record employee numbers
There is sustained interest in biotechnological processes and services from big business. This is confirmed by a consistently high number of companies in which biotechnology represents only one aspect of business. In 2016, the category of ‘other biotechnology-active companies’ comprised a total of 137 companies (2015: 133). These included both pharmaceutical and chemical companies focused on innovative biotechnological processes as well as companies from the areas of environment, waste management, energy and agriculture. In 2016, a total of 22,000 people were employed in the biotechnology-oriented areas of such companies. Compared to the previous year (2015: 20,250), this represents a growth of 8.6%. For the first time, total headcount in commercial biotechnology increased above the 40,000 mark to 42,280 (+7,7%).
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-Written by Sandra Wirsching in European Biotechnology website. See original article link here.
Agriculture plays a critical role in food security, political stability, and world peace and yet it leaves a big environmental footprint. Agriculture accounts for 33 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and as much as 75 percent of nitric oxide emissions. It’s also responsible for 70 percent of world water use, 50 percent of the topsoil loss, and drives 80 percent of the planet’s deforestation.
The challenge for all of us — as scientists, policy makers, farmers and consumers — is to mitigate these environmental insults while feeding 9+ billion people.
Fortunately, scientific innovations—including agricultural biotechnology—are helping us meet these challenges. I’d like to share five inspirational stories of people who are relying on science to address common, but daunting, farming issues.
The Nitrogen Problem
Giles Oldroyd, a professor at the John Innes Centre in the UK, is leading a team that aspires to engineer cereal crops, like maize, to produce their own nitrogen fertilizer by associating with soil microbes. This addresses three challenges: lack of access to synthetic nitrogen fertilizers in areas of the developing world, like Sub-Saharan Africa, where yields are only 15-20 percent of those in similar climatic regions; eliminating the nitrogen run-off from farms and the associated release of nitric oxide; and reducing carbon emissions generated by the production of nitrogen fertilizers. If Giles and his team are successful, farmers around the world will have access to cleaner, greener, cereal crops. Learn more about Giles’ mission to address the nitrogen problem here.
The Topsoil Problem
Bram Govaerts, a native of Belgium, works at the International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) in Mexico. Bram champions the adoption of conservation agriculture practices that reduce topsoil loss and offer myriad other benefits, such as reduced tillage, leaving surface resides on the land, and diversifying cropping systems. To help small-scale farmers across the developing world achieve widespread adoption of these practices, Bram uses cell phones, social media, and other communications and educational approaches, both online and offline. These strategies inspire change at both the farmer and policy levels. Bram is committed to helping farmers access the innovations to rise above subsistence farming. As he noted upon receiving the prestigious Borlaug Field Award in 2014: “The best recognition of Dr. Norman Borlaug’s legacy is to be conscious and shout out loud that farming is the future. It is our moral duty as researchers to bring pride back to the fields by harnessing the existing innovations of farmers and other value chain actors and fostering capacity and application of science and technology.” See Bram in action here.
The Land Conservation Problem
To feed a growing population without encroaching further onto wild lands, scientists are looking to produce more food on less land. Researches are exploring such ingenious approaches as increasing the rates by which plants perform photosynthesis: the process of using light, water, and CO2 to produce biomass and food. Ultimately, this may help plants sequester CO2 more efficiently, which could boost yields without increasing cultivated acreage. Maureen Hanson, at Cornell University, is leading a collaborative team in the US and the UK to transfer the genes that code for a special compartment in microbes to flowering plants, which enables those plants to become more efficient at using CO2 to to produce biomass. Stephen Long, a scientist in Illinois working on the RIPE (Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency) project, is taking another approach to increase rates of photosynthesis. These applications of genetic engineering are innovative models for helping us to produce more with less. Read about Stephen’s work to improve photosynthesis in cassava here. And Maureen’s work here.
The Pesticide Problem
Researchers in Bangladesh helped reduce insecticide use by smallholder farmers when they developed a variety of insect-resistant eggplant — or brinjal, as it is known in South Asia — in 2014. Brinjal that incorporates resistance conferred by bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) required the will of forward-thinking political leaders, such as Bangladesh Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, to get approved and on the market. Now, farmers who used to spray their brinjal as frequently as twice a day have reduced their pesticide use by as much as 80 percent. This means a healthier farmer, a healthier environment, healthier consumers, and a huge cost savings for small-scale farmers. With the additional income generated by their crops of pesticide-free GMO eggplant, farmers can afford to better feed and educate their families, which may further help break the cycle of poverty cycle. Watch farmers discuss their success with Bt brinjal here.
The Thirsty Plants Problem
Researchers in eastern Africa, such as plant breeder Elizma Joubert and entomologist Regina Tende, are part of a global public-private partnership called Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA). They are working to produce GM maize that can resist insects and thrive on limited amounts of water — an ever-increasing challenge as drought has become the new norm for many farmers across Sub-Saharan Africa, where maize is an important staple crop. WEMA already is being grown commercially in South Africa, and has been successfully field-tested in Kenya and Uganda. Most recently, Tanzania conducted its first-ever GMO field trial, and the drought-tolerant WEMA showed good results. Learn more about this historic trial and the potential it holds for small-scale farmers here.
These five innovations are mitigating agriculture’s use of nitrogen, topsoil and land; helping plants be more efficient at using nitrogen and water; and reducing pesticide use. These are just some of the ways that agricultural scientists are helping improve global food security, reduce poverty, and achieve environmental sustainability. To translate this innovative research into global practices that reduce the environmental footprint of the food we eat requires political will and the public support of policy makers, farmers and all of us, as consumers.
Join us on Earth Day, April 22, as we March for Science as a global community in support of science and innovation needed to address the great environmental and agricultural challenges we face.
Sarah Evanega holds a doctorate in plant biology from Cornell University, where she is the director of the Alliance for Science and senior associate director for International Programs at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
-Written by Sarah Evanega in Alliance for Science website. See original article link here.
The government should promote the use of higher-yielding genetically modified (GM) seed varieties to boost corn output and enable farmers to export, according to an executive of Monsanto Philippines Inc. (MPI).
MPI Country Commercial Lead Rachelle Lomibao said expanding the use of modern technology will help the government achieve its goal of exporting corn in the near future.
“If you just increase the yield average per hectare then you don’t have to increase the number of hectares to be planted with corn. You just increase productivity per hectare and that’s not impossible,” Lomibao told the BusinessMirror on the sidelines of the company’s media launch of a new hybrid corn seed variety on Monday.
However, the MPI executive said the use of hybrid-corn seed varieties alone is not enough to turn the Philippines’s dream of exporting the crop into a reality.
“It’s not just about the seeds; it has to be accompanied by a lot of factors: fertilization, right agronomic practices, right management of water and right management of diseases and pests,” Lomibao said.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) earlier said the Philippines will achieve a “historic feat” this year by exporting corn due to a surplus in output.
However, Lomibao said she doesn’t see this happening this year.
“We may not be able to export this year due to the gap between the supply and demand,” she said.
Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the country’s self-sufficiency ratio on corn declined to 91.35 percent in 2015, from 93.12 percent
recorded in 2014.
On Monday MPI rolled out Dekalb 6999S, a hybrid corn seed variety, which has a potential yield of 13.6 metric tons per hectare (MT/ha), more than triple than the country’s average yield of 4 MT/ha.
“Based on our trials it has a potential yield of as much as 13.6 MT/ha. This variety can be used both for wet and dry seasons,” MPI Marketing Lead Pam Valenzuela told reporters in a news briefing on Monday.
“This variety is what we need to reduce the gap between what is currently being produced and the demand,” Valenzuela added.
Dekalb 6999S contains Genuity, a Monsanto trait technology that makes the crop resistant to pests, such as corn borer, earworm and cutworm, according to MPI. MPI also said its latest product is protected against weeds due to its Round Up Ready component.
When asked if the MPI’s latest seed variety could withstand extreme weather condition such as drought, Lomibao said, “it will thrive.”
“Dekalb has been known to have a germplasm that is really resilient against drought. Our previous variety the Dekalb 6919 survived when planted during the last time we had El Niño,” she said.
“The germplasm, which is drought-tolerant used in 6919, is the same with that of Dekalb 6999S. We are confident that with Dekalb 6999s farmers can still be accorded with an optimum yield through our hybrid [seeds],” she added.
Lomibao also disclosed that there are several hybrid corn seed varieties currently in the pipeline.
-Written by Jasper Y. Aracalas in BusinessMirror. See original article link here.
Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas is a graduate of the UST Journalism School (Batch 2016). He currently covers agribusiness for the BusinessMirror. He joined the news outfit in August 2016.
Listen to the interview of Radyo Teknolohiya with Mr. Charles Anthony Vega, Local Government Operations Officer III of the Bureau of Local Government Supervision-Department of Interior Local Government (DILG), Philippines as he talks about the local government initiatives and his views on the Joint Department Circular, a new biotech policy in the country that supersedes the Administrative Order No. 8.
Prof. Benjamin Ubi, the President, (BSN), says the adoption of biotechnology will facilitate sustainable agricultural production in the country.
Ubi made the declaration in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Thursday
He said that the adoption of biotechnology applications was the panacea to the current food challenges facing the country.
“Biotechnology, including genetic engineering and production of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), provides powerful tools for the sustainable development of agriculture, fishery and forestry, as well as meeting the food needs of the population.
“GMOs currently account for about 16 per cent of the world’s crops, particularly crops like soybean, maize, cotton and canola, and there are indications that the growing trend will continue.
“So, we must eat what we grow and grow what we eat. This means we ought to produce more and agricultural biotechnology is a tool for achieving this,’’ he said.
Ubi also pledged the support of the BSN for the efforts of National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) to harness the potential of modern biotechnology.
“BSN, as a stakeholder in biosafety, will continue to support NBMA; we should all be rest assured that no biotechnology product will be imposed on anyone.
“Hunger and peace work hand-in-hand, so lack of hunger consequently promotes peace; therefore, biotechnology and its derivatives should be adopted for the benefit of Nigerians, while maintaining regulatory standards.
“Biotechnology and biosafety stakeholders must, therefore, work in tandem with global bodies because Nigeria is not a pariah nation; we are a responsible and respected member of the global community,’’ he said.
Ubi urged anti-GMO campaigners not to play politics with issues that could engender food security and alleviate poverty, saying that tangible efforts should be made to enhance the availability and affordability of high-quality foods via biotechnology applications.
“I assure all that modern biotechnology had been found to be safe by global certification bodies.
“All the same, informed criticism is good for checks and balances but it should not be allowed to be a clog the wheel of progress,’’ he added.
-Published in PM News Nigeria. See original article link here.
Transgenic bananas appear to successfully resist a bacterial wilting disease and pest species that are devastating the critical food crop in tropical regions across the planet, according to a newly published scientific paper.
The research has tremendous implications for Africa, which produces about a third of the 145 million tons of banana grown globally each year and 72 percent of the plantains. Banana production is an important source of income and food security for small-holder farmers, who have experienced significant crop losses due to disease, especially in East Africa.
Researchers turned to genetic engineering for a solution because “development of nematodes or banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW)-resistant cultivars by traditional crosspollination techniques is hampered by the sterility of the polyploid genomes of cultivated banana and plantains,” stated the paper, which was published March 29 in “Food and Energy Security.”
Transgenic banana grown in both glasshouses and confined field trials demonstrated 100 percent resistance to BXW. Disease resistance was achieved by transferring two resistance genes from sweet pepper into banana, both singly and as stacked traits. These genes have provided disease resistance in other plants, including tobacco, tomato, orchids, calla lily, and rice. Researchers also have identified several other potential transgenes that could confer resistance to BXW.
Several transgenic defenses against nematodes are in different stages of development, according to the paper. Confined field trials using cystatin and peptide defenses show strong potential for nematode resistance — research that also could have positive implications for other crops affected by the destructive pest worms.
Currently, nematodes are controlled in commercial plantations by “environmentally damaging pesticides that are not normally available to or suitable for small-holders in Africa,” the paper stated. Small-holder farmers do not have sufficient land to rotate their crops.
The paper also reported that there is “no risk of gene flow from transgenic banana plants to either wild or cultivated plants” because most edible cultivars are sterile and therefore cannot cross-pollinate because they produce no seeds or pollen.
Leena Tripathi, a plant biotechnologist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nairobi, wrote the paper with assistance from Howard Atkinson, Hugh Roderick, Jerome Kubiriba and Jaindra N. Tripathi.
The research was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Department for International Development (DFID) and the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB).
-Written by Joan Conrow and published in Cornell University Alliance for Science Global Network website. See original article link here.