GM Paranoia Hinders China’s Ability to Feed Itself
One of China’s major genetically modified food projects is now to all intents and purposes dead and buried. The expiry on August 17 of the biosafety certificates issued to strains of GM rice developed in the labs of Huazhong Agricultural Univ. signals a major blow to the fight to establish GM food in China.
The contrast with the rest of the world could hardly be starker. In the UK, for instance, the country’s first genetically modified crops are almost ready for harvesting following a landmark trial. The production of a unique crop of “false flax” camelina – one spliced with genes capable of producing omega-3 fatty acids normally found only in fish – has been hailed as a milestone in the country’s journey towards the creation of GM food.
Genomic prediction, a new field of quantitative genetics, is a statistical approach to predicting the value of an economically important trait in a plant, such as yield or disease resistance. The method works if the trait is heritable, as many traits tend to be, and can be performed early in the life cycle of the plant, helping reduce costs.
Now, a research team led by plant geneticists at UC Riverside and Huazhong Agricultural Univ. has used the method to predict the performance of hybrid rice — the yield, growth-rate and disease resistance. The new technology could potentially revolutionize hybrid breeding in agriculture.
Kellogg announced today that it will step up efforts to reduce planet-warming emissions in its supply chain as part of a broader initiative designed to be more environmentally friendly.
Under the plan, the Battle Creek-based food products manufacturer will require key suppliers such as farms and mills to measure and publicly disclose their greenhouse gas outputs and targets for reducing them. The company said it will report annually on those emissions and include climate and deforestation policies in the company’s code of conduct for suppliers.
The federal government expects Indiana and the nation to grow bumper crops of corn and soybeans for the second consecutive year, adding to already adequate supplies but further holding down prices farmers will get for their productivity.
Both total production and average yields per acre nationally for corn and soybeans could set records, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reports.
Some big food makers are getting serious about making sure farmers grow crops in ways that minimize damage to water, soil and the environment, according to a report released this week that calls for more companies to demand sustainable supplies.
Companies including Walmart, Coca-Cola, General Mills and Unilever have taken steps to work with suppliers on environmental improvements, the report says, but adds that measurable goals and firm deadlines are necessary to make real improvements.
The next time you visit the bathroom, consider the valuable resources you’re flushing away.
“Urine contains all the essential components for plant growth, such as phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium,” says the Univ. of Technology, Sydney’s Dena Fam. “Yet our sewers carry these nutrients essential for agricultural production away from our urban centers and discharge them into waterways where they have the potential to negatively impact aquatic ecosystems.”
The U.S. government is stepping up efforts to help Central American farmers fight a devastating coffee disease — and hold down the price of your morning cup.
At issue is a fungus called coffee rust that has caused more than $1 billion in damage across Latin American region. The fungus is especially deadly to Arabica coffee, the bean that makes up most high-end, specialty coffees. Already, it is affecting the price of some of those coffees in the U.S.
At the elevated levels of atmospheric CO2 anticipated by around 2050, crops that provide a large share of the global population with most of their dietary zinc and iron will have significantly reduced concentrations of those nutrients, according to a new study led by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). Given that an estimated two billion people suffer from zinc and iron deficiencies, resulting in a loss of 63 million life years annually from malnutrition, the reduction in these nutrients represents the most significant health threat ever shown to be associated with climate change.
“This study is the first to resolve the question of whether rising CO2 concentrations — which have been increasing steadily since the Industrial Revolution —threaten human nutrition,” says Samuel Myers, research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health at HSPH and the study’s lead author.
The soil on Mars may be suitable for cultivating food crops – this is the prognosis of a study by plant ecologist Wieger Wamelink of Wageningen Univ. & Research Centre. This would prove highly practical if we ever decide to send people on a one-way trip to the red planet. After all, if we are going to live anywhere in outer space in the future Mars stands a good chance of being the place.
In a unique pilot experiment Wamelink tested the growth of 14 plant varieties on artificial Mars soil over 50 days. NASA composed the soil based on the volcanic soil of Hawaii. To his surprise, the plants grew well; some even blossomed.
New York’s alcoholic beverage industry was on display at a summit this week organized by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to focus on bolstering the business. Cuomo said that New York is home to more than 600 wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries and ranks third in the nation in wine and grape production.
New York’s alcoholic beverage industry employed 85,000 people and the combination of manufacturing, agriculture, distribution and retail had an economic impact of $27 billion in 2012, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association and New York Wine and Grape Foundation.
A recent discovery could lead to easier genetic modification of plant varieties considered recalcitrant to standard methods, including varieties of economically important crops.
A Purdue Univ. research team identified a gene that influences susceptibility to infection by Agrobacterium tumefaciens, a bacterium that is used as a tool to insert genes into plants to produce traits such as resistance to pests, diseases or harsh environmental conditions or to improve the nutrition or shelf life of a crop.
Univ. of Adelaide researchers have developed a new web-based tool to help unlock the complex genetics and biological processes behind grapevine development.
Published in the journal BMC Genomics, the researchers describe their online database that can be used to examine how almost 30,000 genes work together in groups and networks to produce the vine and its grapes.