Archive for October, 2014


Source: The Telegraph (UK), 30 October 2014

The widespread cultivation of genetically modified crops is the only way to feed the world and governments must stop blocking trials, a consortium of Europe’s most well-renowned plant scientists have claimed.

In an open letter to the European Parliament ahead of a debate on GM next week, more than 20 of the most eminent botanists and ecologists in the world warn that it is time to put fears of genetic modification aside and begin widespread field trials. They call for a ‘fundamental revision of GM regulation’ which, they claim, is based not on science, but on politics.

Signatory Professor Jonathan Jones, of the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, says British scientists are creating world-changing crops, but they are being blocked by Europe. The authors call for Europe to allow individual countries to opt out of growing crops. It would mean that countries like Britain could begin commercial production while those who oppose the idea, like France, would not be forced to follow suit.

The proposals will go before the European Parliament next week.


Source: ABC Rural, 29 October 2014.

A South Australian farming group has moved its field day over the border into Victoria, so producers can legally trial genetically modified (GM) crop varieties.

A moratorium on GM crops in South Australia has some grain producers concerned they are being left behind in tackling weeds and improving yields.

Mackillop Farm Management Group last year held its annual field day at a trial site at Frances.

This year it was moved a few kilometres east, still in the border town of Frances, where GM canola could legally be trialled.

Research and operations manager Felicity Turner says most SA farmers are focussed on weed prevention, but long-term concerns surround great opportunities opening up to GM farmers.

“It’s not just the herbicide technologies. It’s a lot of other disease resistances and pod-shattering and things like that,” she said.

“Unfortunately [seed companies’ breeding programs] are only heading in that direction with regards to [GM] Roundup Ready.

“As a state, potentially we’re going to be left behind with regards to other options not just with regard to herbicide technologies.”

National canola manager of Pacific Seeds, Justin Kudnig, told the group: “If we don’t go down this path, nature’s going to beat us”.

“The bottom line to us is dollars per acre and we can see a greater return per acre if we can get this technology.”

“You need to stay ahead of pests, you need to stay ahead of diseases, you need to stay ahead of all the negatives that are out there in the environment,” he said…



Source: WLRN Miami, South Florida. 29 October 2014

Two storage rooms at the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District’s Marathon building are being converted into a temporary laboratory to raise genetically modified mosquitoes.

If the FDA approves, the Keys could become the first in the U.S. to release the mosquitos, which are intended to reduce the population of aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry diseases including dengue fever, malaria and chikungunya.

The British company Oxitec is building the lab and would handle the raising and releasing of the mosquitos, pending approval from the FDA and the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District. The current plan is for a test release of genetically engineered male mosquitoes sometime next spring in the Key Haven neighborhood on a small peninsula about five miles from Key West. The idea is the male mosquitos would pass along a lethal gene, making offspring nonviable.

The Keys haven’t had a reported case of dengue since 2010. But Stephen Smith, chairman of the elected board that oversees mosquito control in the Keys, said the release might be necessary as a preventive measure against dengue and chikungunya, which recently appeared on the South Florida mainland.

“I’m not preaching doom and gloom. I just want us to be ready,” Smith said. “It’s been successfully tested in the Caribbean. It’s been tested in Brazil. It’s been tested in the Cayman Islands with great results. It’s a tool that we can keep in our arsenal and maybe we won’t have to use at all.”

The Keys Mosquito Control District is planning public meetings with representatives from Oxitec and the FDA in November for Key Haven residents and in December for Key West. The district is distributing a flyer with information for Key Haven residents this week.


29 September 2014. The University of Adelaide. Media release.

Changing the developmental path of grain in cereal crops to better influence yield, quality and end-use is the aim of University of Adelaide research scientist Dr Matthew Tucker.

Dr Tucker, who was recently awarded a prestigious Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship, will be taking advantage of plant cells’ ability to change identity as the plant develops, to determine how to tailor cereal grains that are healthier to eat or have other desirable attributes.

“Unlike animals, most plant cells essentially can become any cell type,” says Dr Tucker, who is based in the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine. “But how and why plant cells change identity during grain development hasn’t been determined.

“I’m trying to identify the pathways that drive cells to become different. We’ll be looking to identify natural variants in these pathways that can be used to purposely change cell types in the developing cereal grain.”

One potential outcome could be increased antioxidant levels in wholegrain or wholemeal flour. Antioxidants are important because they contribute to health benefits associated with consuming wholegrain products, such as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and obesity.

“When we look at the whole grain, we can see it contains a lot of different cell types. It’s the outer layers we’re particularly interested in – they contain more of the dietary fibre, antioxidants and minerals that make whole grains so much healthier for us than just refined flour, which is mainly starch,” says Dr Tucker.

“What we do know is that there is great variation in the outer layers between different cereal crops. We are investigating wheats from all over the world, some of which are old varieties only grown in certain regions and used for specialised breads, pastas, beers and baked goods. There are many wonderful varieties and they vary in their ability to contribute healthy antioxidants such as carotenoids, phenolic acids and flavonoids to our human diet.

“There is a lot of potential to bring this healthy compound-making ability to the cereals our farmers are growing. In this way we can develop a sustainable way of growing healthier foods.”

Dr Tucker will use advanced molecular methods to investigate which genes are expressed in the outer layers and how the signals operate that drive some cells to accumulate starch and others to make antioxidants.

“We want to find the switch to be able to turn starch-accumulating cells into antioxidant accumulating cells. This will give us key information that can be used to naturally increase antioxidant levels in our staple cereal products and target prevention of chronic diseases that are becoming more prevalent in Australian society,” he says.


1 October 2014. Source: and

A scientific review article titled “Prevalence and Impacts of Genetically Engineered Feedstuffs on Livestock Population” shows the impact of GM crops as a feed component for animals. This review study is led by Alison Van Eennaam and Amy Young, animal scientists from the University of California, Davis. The article summarises the influence of GM crops used as a feed component in the performance and health of animals consuming it from its first introduction in year 1996 up to 2013. Their study also involved examining the livestock feeding studies over 30 years and encompasses about 100 billion animals.

Their findings show that GM feeds did not affect the health and productivity of livestock animals. The products of animals fed with GM feeds showed the same nutritional component as the products of animals fed with non-GM feeds.