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Growing threat to food from decline in biodiversity

February 25th, 2019 / BBC, UK

The plants, animals, and micro-organisms that are the bedrock of food production are in decline, according to a UN study.

If these critical species are lost, the report says, it “places the future of our food system under severe threat”.

The study says that land-use changes, pollution, and climate change are all …

Gene-edited animal plan to relieve poverty in Africa

February 20th, 2019 / BBC, UK

A researcher in Edinburgh is leading efforts to develop gene-edited farm animals for poor farmers in Africa. 

Prof Appolinaire Djikeng is developing cows, pigs and chickens that are resistant to diseases and more productive.

Among them are cattle that have been gene edited to be heat-resistant.

Details of the project were given at the …

How our plants have turned into thieves to survive

February 20th, 2019 / Phys.org

Scientists have discovered that grasses are able to short cut evolution by taking genes from their neighbours. The findings suggest wild grasses are naturally genetically modifying themselves to gain a competitive advantage.

Understanding how this is happening may also help scientists reduce the risk of genes escaping from GM crops and …

Are genetically engineered crops less safe than classically-bred food?

February 20th, 2019 / Genetic Literacy Project, US

Crops and foods today are not what they used to look like.

Farmers and plant breeders have been modifying plant genes since the earliest human communities were formed and farming took hold in order to develop crops that better resist pests and foods with improved nutrition and taste.

Biotechnology proponents, particularly agro-biotechnology …

Crop diversity worldwide is growing, but wheat, maize (corn), soy, and rice cover almost 50% of farmland worldwide

February 19th, 2019 / Genetic Literacy Project, US

Global agriculture is increasingly dominated by just a handful of crops with limited genetic richness, says a group of researchers writing in PLOS One.

The research shows that despite an uptick in the diversity of crops grown across the planet over the last 60 years, the largest share of our crops worldwide is …

Evolutionary plant breeding helps farmers develop seeds for local conditions

February 15th, 2019 / Yale Climate Connections, US

A four-minute documentary video on evolutionary plant breeding, a technique that can help farmers develop plant varieties that thrive in local conditions. In the video, Italian plant geneticist Salvatore Ceccarelli explains how the technique could help farmers around the world respond to problems posed by climate change and gain autonomy. Over …

Genetically engineered crops help support conservation biological control

February 15th, 2019 / Biological Control, Netherlands

Genetically engineered (GE) crops producing insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) (mainly Cry proteins) have become a major control tactic for a number of key lepidopteran and coleopteran pests, mainly in maize, cotton, and soybean. As with any management tactic, there is concern that using GE crops might cause adverse effects on …

Seeking the new potato

February 14th, 2019 / Science, US

On a bleak, brown hill here, David Ellis examines a test plot of potato plants and shakes his head. “They’re dead, dead, dead,” he says. Pests and lack of rain have laid waste to all 17 varieties that researchers had planted.

It is a worrying sign for Ellis, the now-retired director …

Egypt poised to again lead Africa in agricultural biotechnology innovation

February 14th, 2019 / Genetic Literacy Project

When will Egypt again lead Africa in agricultural biotech innovation? That question kept running through my mind when I visited the North African country late last year to participate in the United Nation’s annual biodiversity conference.

Egypt has a rich history and has always led social and technological advancements in the …

GMO cassava can provide iron, zinc to malnourished African children

February 13th, 2019 / American Council on Science and Health

An international team of researchers, including scientists affiliated with the USDA, have genetically modified cassava to contain much higher levels of iron and zinc than the non-transgenic variety. They used two genes from thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), a pathetic looking plant that happens to be one of the most studied …