Archive for January, 2015


28 January 2015. Source:

A record 181.5 million hectares of GM crops were grown across 28 countries in 2014 according to the latest report released by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA). The 20 developing and eight industrial countries where GM crops are produced represent more than 60 per cent of the world’s population.

Since 1996, more than 10 food and fibre GM crops have been approved and commercialised around the world, ranging from major commodities such as soybean, corn and cotton, to fruits and vegetables like papaya, eggplant and, potato. The crops have been modified for traits such as drought tolerance, insect and disease resistance, herbicide tolerance and increased nutrition and food quality.

The USA once again dominates production, growing 73.1 million hectares of GM soybean, corn, cotton, canola, sugarbeet, alfalfa, papaya and squash, followed by Brazil and Argentina (soybean, corn and cotton), India (cotton) and Canada (canola, maize, soybean, sugar beet. Australia is ranked 13th in the list, growing approximately 0.5 million hectares of GM cotton and canola.

The report highlights key benefits derived from GM crops, including:

  • alleviation of poverty and hunger by boosting the income of risk-averse small, resource-poor farmers around the world;
  • increased production valued at US$133 billion;
  • in the period 1996 to 2012 pesticide use decreased significantly saving approximately 500 million kg of active ingredient;
  • in 2013 alone, crop plantings lowered carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to removing 12.4 million cars from the road for one year.


21 January 2015. Source: Stock Journal,

Two appeal hearings in the Marsh v Baxter case have been scheduled from March 23 to 25 in the Court of Appeal for the Western Australian Supreme Court.

Kojonup organic farmer Steve Marsh and wife Sue have been embroiled in a long-running legal challenge against their neighbour Mike Baxter, for alleged financial damages caused from losing their organic certification four years ago.

About 70 per cent of Mr Marsh’s organic farm was decertified when Genetically Modified (GM) canola swathes were found in his organic wheat crop in late 2010.

The Marshes attempted to sue Mr Baxter for $85,000 compensation and to win a permanent injunction that would prevent him growing GM canola – but Justice Ken Martin comprehensively rejected the claims.

A two-week trial was held in February last year in the WA Supreme Court with a judgement handed down on May 28.

Justice Martin’s 150-page judgment awarded in Mr Baxter’s favour, rejecting assertions GM canola was unsafe while dismissing both the Marshes’ causes of action in common law negligence and private nuisance…

An appeal against the main judgement in the case has been scheduled for hearing on March 23 and 24.

It’s understood the plaintiff and defendant will be allocated one day each during the two-day program to submit their arguments before a three-judge panel.

The panel is likely to engage in robust interaction with barristers representing both sides, questioning details and merits, of their appeal submissions.

Another hearing set for March 25 will appeal against the cost orders made by Justice Martin in September last year which awarded costs totalling $804,000 in Mr Baxter’s favour…


24 January 2015. Source: Ghana Web,

Researchers in Ghana say they are recording favourable outcomes in the trials of genetically modified (GM) rice in the country.

The confined field trials started in April 2013 at Nobewam in the Ashanti region, after receiving approval from the National Biosafety Committee (NBC).

The fourth successive experiment of the Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) rice is being conducted by the Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Principal Investigator, Dr. Maxwell Asante, says the project has already identified a lead event which will give at least a 15 percent yield advantage over non-GM version of the planted rice.

“If the lead event is confirmed, we will request for permission from the NBC to allow it to be grown by farmers in Ghana after testing. The genes that make the GM rice nitrogen-use efficient will then be transferred to other varieties in Ghana through conventional breeding methods,” he stated.

… The next set of experiment will involve the evaluation of the triple-stack gene rice plants to identify lead events in nitrogen-use efficiency, water-use efficiency and salt tolerant genetically modified rice – dubbed “NEWEST Rice”.

This will especially help farmers deal with the effects of climate change and expand rice cultivation to areas previously not supported.

Ghana’s GM or NEWEST Rice is projected to go commercial within the next three to five years.

Three confined field trials of rice, cowpea and cotton are currently being evaluated in Ghana in compliance with the Biosafety Act 2011, Act 831, which regulates GMOs.


14 January 2015 Source: National Geographic –

“Innate” is a weird name for a potato. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, innate means native, inborn, or natural, which most potatoes are, but which J.R. Simplot’s officially named Innate potato isn’t quite.

The Innate potato, recently approved for commercial planting by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a genetically engineered potato tweaked to resist bruising and browning. It has also been modified to contain 50 percent to 70 percent less of the amino acid asparagine, which is converted to acrylamide, a possible carcinogen, when potatoes are heated at high temperatures like frying to make French fries. The name Innate was conferred by Simplot to indicate that—despite that fact that the potato is genetically modified—its genome, unlike those of many modified crop plants, contains nothing but plain potato.

Genetically modified (GM) food plants are often transgenic—that is, they contain inserted gene sequences from wildly unrelated organisms, among them bacteria, jellyfish, rats, mice, spiders, and scorpions. The Innate potato, however, was developed using a technique called gene silencing or RNA interference, a natural process used by everybody’s cells to regulate gene expression. Biochemically, this is the equivalent of flipping a switch from ON to OFF—in the case of the Innate potato, shutting down the manufacture of a pair of enzymes: polyphenol oxidase, the causative agent of browning in potatoes, avocados, and apples, and asparagine synthetase, essential for making asparagine, the precursor of acrylamide.

Though it’s not certain that acrylamide is a problem for people, researchers have shown that rats, fed huge amounts of it, develop cancer; and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest agree that, given the choice, the less of it we eat, the better. Bruising and browning, though not a threat health-wise, have other unpleasant effects. First, we don’t like the way brownish potatoes look; and second, they put a sizeable dent in our collective pocketbooks. An estimated 400 million pounds of bruised and brown potatoes are chucked each year at a cost of $90 million to producers, most of which, inevitably, is passed along to consumers (us).

Simplot’s hope is that the Innate potato will be snapped up by the potato processing industry—the people who make French fries and potato chips—which is where about a third of the annual U.S. potato crop ends up. It’s also a good possibility for pre-cut fresh potatoes, which now can only be sold frozen, since ordinary fresh-cut potatoes turn a yucky brown in the bag…