Hawaii’s Biotech Papayas Hold a Lesson for America

A new supply of fresh papayas from Hawaii will reach grocery-store shelves in Japan this year and consumers have biotechnology to thank for it.

The first “Rainbow” papayas–genetically modified to withstand the deadly ringspot virus—are now on sale. They are the first GM food Japan has approved for commercial release.

It represents an important step for a country that has resisted a technology that is now conventional in North and South America and increasingly common in Africa and Asia.

The story of how cutting-edge agriculture defeated disease and saved Hawaiian papayas shows that we have much to gain from GM crops, even as professional protestors peddle scientific ignorance to frighten the public about this essential food source. The rest of the United States may want to pay attention, as voters in California and legislators in more than a dozen states consider burdensome food-labeling laws.

In the middle of the 20th century, as Hawaiian papaya farmers started to enjoy commercial success, the ringspot virus appeared almost out of nowhere to threaten our livelihood. For a while, we were able to contain its spread by destroying infected papaya trees. Yet this was a drastic remedy. One year, I had to cut down half my orchard.

By the 1990s, however, it was almost pointless for Hawaiian farmers to raise papayas. The risk of crop failure was too high. I stopped growing the fruit and so did most of my neighbors.

Meanwhile, scientists worked on the problem. Dennis Gonsalves, then of Cornell University, learned how to take a piece of the ringspot virus and use it to “inoculate” trees, much as vaccines can improve immunity against diseases in people. In 1998, we started to sell GM papayas, which are just as healthy and delicious as the ones they replaced.

This simple innovation saved Hawaiian papayas. The ringspot virus is still out there, ready to wreak havoc–but it won’t infect any of the trees that descend from the innovation of Gonsalves.

Het volledige interview kun je hier lezen. Wie meer info wenst omtrent GGO papaja kan terecht op deze blogpagina van David E. Tribe.

Consument koopt ggo-voeding ook al beweert hij van niet

Consumenten zijn in realiteit vlugger geneigd om genetisch gemodificeerde voeding te kopen dan ze desgevraagd willen toegeven. Omtrent een ‘maatschappelijk geladen’ onderwerp als ggo’s stemmen de antwoorden van respondenten in enquêtes namelijk niet overeen met hun werkelijk gedrag. Dat besluiten onderzoekers van de universiteit van Otago (Nieuw-Zeeland) op basis van een praktijkexperiment.

In een Nieuw-Zeelandse studie, waar het directoraat-generaal Leefmilieu van de Europese Commissie de aandacht op vestigt, werd nagegaan of het gedrag van de consument overeenstemt met zijn verklaringen omtrent ggo’s. De proefopstelling waren fruitkraampjes die werden geplaatst in het thuisland van de onderzoekers en in vijf EU-lidstaten: België, Frankrijk, Duitsland, Zweden en het Verenigd Koninkrijk.

Het volledige artikel met enkele opmerkelijke bevindingen lees je op VILT.be.

De oorspronkelijke studie en nieuwsbericht van de Europese Commissie vind je hier.

Genetic improvement of grass pea (Lathyrus sativus) in Ethiopia: an unfulfilled promise


Grass pea (Lathyrus sativus L.) is an important crop in Ethiopia. Its vital importance in the Ethiopian agriculture emanates from its resistance to drought, salinity, waterlogging and low soil fertility. However, low levels of the amino acids methionine and tryptophan and the presence of the neurotoxin β-N-oxalyl-L-α,β-diaminopropanoic acid (ODAP) in the seeds are the major limitations of the crop. Genetic improvement of grass pea in Ethiopia has been started in the 1960s at Holetta Agricultural Research Center. The major objectives of the grass pea research were to develop and promote high-yielding cultivars with low ODAP content coupled with improved management production packages. However, the 50 years of on-station and on-farm research was not successful in producing outstanding varieties with the desired traits. Compared to other grain legumes, the poor success of varietal development endeavours within the context of grass pea improvement philosophy is typically related to the failure of the conventional breeding approach to fix a zero or low ODAP content because this trait is highly influenced by climatic and edaphic environment.

The Way Forward

Modern approaches such as genetic transformation of grass pea with plant-derived genes may prove to be valuable tools for boosting seed protein quality, and this needs to be explored. A reproducible regeneration protocol has been developed for grass pea. However, a reliable and efficient genetic transformation system needs to be developed. Moreover, the focus now should not be on lowering the ODAP content; rather, it should be on boosting seed contents of sulphur-containing essential amino acids like methionine and cysteine in grass pea genotypes.

Het volledige artikel vind je hier.

Shocks and disruptions : The Relationship Between Food Security and National Security

Food is one of mankind’s most basic needs, and inadequate provision is a tragedy for hundreds of millions of people living in the developing world. yet the importance of the world’s food supply extends far beyond the threat of shortages, hunger and poverty. The availability and cost of food affects many areas of domestic policy, as well as national and international security.

This wide-ranging and comprehensive report attempts to address the challenges that flow from a supply chain that is under increasing pressure. chief among them is the need to increase agricultural productivity, reduce food waste, and improve distribution networks. Such steps must be prioritised if production is to keep pace with the demands of a world population set to exceed 9 billion by 2050.

consideration is also given to the increasing cost of food. Recent spikes in commodity prices have exposed the

fragility of the world’s food production base, and the precarious balance between supply and demand. Rising prices have an effect on the health of the uK economy, as well as political stability in foreign countries. as the arab Spring has demonstrated, countries that are economically weak are acutely vulnerable to fluctuations in cost.

This report also makes an important evaluation of the domestic agricultural sector, and the security of the uK’s food supply. While the uK and europe are world leaders in production, the food chain resilience must be kept under constant review in an age of ‘just-in- time’ delivery models.

The crop Protection association is to be congratulated for commissioning a thought-provoking study, and George Grant of The Henry Jackson Society should be commended for producing a readable and timely evaluation of this topic.

Pagina 22-25 van het rapport gaan specifiek over ggo’s in Europa.

De toekomst van de landbouw ligt in een hybride aanpak

Meer en meer blijkt uit onderzoek dat er niet 1 antwoord is op de toekomstige uitdagingen om aan duurzame landbouw te doen. Geen enkele techniek of landbouwmodel zal alleen alle problemen kunnen oplossen. Meer en meer gaan dan ook stemmen op dat een hybride aanpak de enige mogelijkheid is, waarbij het beste uit de biologische landbouw gecombineerd wordt met het beste uit de conventionele landbouw. Waar plaats is voor een agro-ecologische optimalisatie, maar ook voor de allernieuwste veredelingstechnieken. Geen enkel systeem of techniek kan op zichzelf een totaaloplossing bieden voor de toekomstige uitdagingen.

Deze week werd opnieuw een artikel gepubliceerd in Nature (nieuwsbericht) door o.a. Jonathan Foley dat specifiek ingaat op het verschil in opbrengst tussen conventionele en biologische landbouw en welke problemen en/of mogelijkheden dit schept. Jonathan Foley is ook de schrijver van, “Can we feed the world and sustain the planet?”, de stappen die hij hierbij beschrijft worden hier schematisch samengevat.

Naar aanleiding van de publicatie van deze studie in Nature werden heel wat artikels aan deze materie gewijd. Andrew Revkin schreef een heel genuanceerde analyse van dit onderzoek met als titel, Study Points to Roles for Industry and Organics in Agriculture. Prof. Pamela Ronald, gekend van Tomorrow’s table, laat haar licht schijnen op deze problematiek die haar nauw aan het hart ligt. Het nieuwsbericht van McGill, waar het onderzoek, in samenwerking met The Institute on the Environment (Universiteit van Minnesota), werd uitgevoerd. Ook in de Los Angeles time verscheen een artikel met een interview met agro-ecoloog John Reganold (Universiteit van Washington). Zijn quote en uitsmijter van het artikel wil ik u zeker niet onthouden.

“People think organic is not going to feed the world,” Reganold said, whose own research has found that organically grown strawberries contain more nutrients than their conventionally grown counterparts. “Well guess what? No one farming system’s going to feed the planet. It’s going to take a blend to guarantee us global food security.”

The Other Inconvenient Truth: How Agriculture is Changing the Face of Our Planet

We typically think of climate change as the biggest environmental issue we face today. But maybe it’s not? In this presentation, Jonathan Foley shows how agriculture and land use are maybe a bigger culprit in the global environment, and could grow even larger as we look to feed over 9 billion people in the future.

Jonathan Foley is ook schrijven van Solutions for a cultivated planet.

Organically Grown and Genetically Engineered: The Food of the Future

She’s the head of a plant genetics lab at UC Davis; he teaches organic farming there. They’re married (with kids), and they coauthored Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food.

In the book they wrote: “To meet the appetites of the world’s population without drastically hurting the environment requires a visionary new approach: combining genetic engineering and organic farming. Genetic engineering can be used to develop seeds with enhanced resistance to pests and pathogens; organic farming can manage the overall spectrum of pests more effectively.”

Agriculture has been a revolutionary biological science for 10,000 years, husbanding soil, tweaking the genes of the food crops. This is the next stage.

De video/podcast van het seminarie  georganiseerd door The Long Now foudation vind je op de site zelf, het artikel staat hieronder:  Continue reading

Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change

The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change has reviewed the scientific evidence to identify a pathway to achieving food security in the context of climate change. Food systems must shift to better meet human needs and, in the long term, balance with planetary resources. This will demand major interventions, at local to global scales, to transform current patterns of food production, distribution and consumption. Investment, innovation, and deliberate effort to empower the world’s most vulnerable populations will be required to construct a global food system that adapts to climate change and ensures food security while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and sustaining our natural resource base.

Het overzicht van de verschillende rapporten die uit deze commissie zijn voortgekomen omvatten onder andere een samenvatting voor policy makers en een finaal rapport van de commissie.

Samenvattende video hieronder: Continue reading

Economic Impacts of Policies Affecting Crop Biotechnology and Trade

Agricultural biotechnologies, and especially transgenic crops, have the potential to boost food security in developing countries by offering higher incomes for farmers and lower-priced and better quality food for consumers. That potential is being heavily compromised, however, because the European Union and some other countries have implemented strict regulatory systems to govern their production and consumption of genetically modified (GM) food and feed crops, and to prevent imports of foods and feedstuffs that do not meet these strict standards. This paper analyses empirically the potential economic effects of adopting transgenic crops in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. It does so using a multi-country, multi-product model of the global economy. The results suggest the economic welfare gains from crop biotechnology adoption are potentially very large, and that those benefits are diminished only very slightly by the presence of the European Union’s restriction on imports of GM foods. That is, if developing countries retain bans on GM crop production in an attempt to maintain access to EU markets for non-GM products, the loss to their food consumers as well as to farmers in those developing countries is huge relative to the slight loss that could be incurred from not retaining EU market access.

George Gollin Professor of Economics, University of Adelaide, Australia

De volledige studie vind je hier in pdf vorm.

The role of transgenic crops in sustainable development


The concept of sustainable development forms the basis for a wide variety of international and national policy making. World population continues to expand at about 80 M people per year, while the demand for natural resources continues to escalate. Important policies, treaties and goals underpin the notion of sustainable development. In this paper, we discuss and evaluate a range of scientific literature pertaining to the use of transgenic crops in meeting sustainable development goals. It is concluded that a considerable body of evidence has accrued since the first commercial growing of transgenic crops, which suggests that they can contribute in all three traditional pillars of sustainability, i.e. economically, environmentally and socially. Management of herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant transgenic crops to minimize the risk of weeds and pests developing resistance is discussed, together with the associated concern about the risk of loss of biodiversity. As the world population continues to rise, the evidence reviewed here suggests it would be unwise to ignore transgenic crops as one of the tools that can help meet aspirations for increasingly sustainable global development.

Volledige artikel vind je hier.