Archive for October, 2015


26 October 2015. Source: Genetic Literacy Project.

In sub-Saharan Africa, cassava is a staple. But the roots have a disadvantage: although rich in calories, they contain only few vitamins, especially Vitamin B6.

Vitamin B6 deficiency is prevalent in several African regions where cassava is the staple in people’s diet. Diseases of the cardiovascular and nervous systems are associated with vitamin B6 deficiency.

Plant scientists at ETH Zurich and the University of Geneva set out to find a way to increase vitamin B6 production in cassava.

In the journal Nature Biotechnology, the scientists present a new genetically modified cassava variety that produces several-fold higher levels of this important vitamin.

The basis for the new GM cassava was developed by Teresa Fitzpatrick at the University of Geneva. She discovered the biosynthesis of vitamin B6 in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. With the introduction of the corresponding genes into the cassava genome, the researchers produced several cassava lines that had increased vitamin B6.

Previously, the researchers had measured B6 content in several hundred different cassava varieties from Africa – none had a level as high as the genetically modified variety.

Vitamin B6 from the GM varieties is bioavailable, which means that humans can absorb it well and use it.

It is unclear when and how vitamin B6-enhanced cassava will find its way to farmers and consumers. The method for increasing vitamin B6 has not been patented because the gene construct and technology should be available freely to all interested parties.

“There are at least two obstacles: legislation for transgenic crops…and implementation of a cassava seed system to give all farmers access,” says Hervé Vanderschuren, who led the cassava research programme at ETH Zurich.


24 October 2015. Source: New York Times.

Call it the “Coalition of the Ignorant.” By the first week of October, 17 European countries — including Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland — had used new European Union rules to announce bans on the cultivation of genetically modified crops.

These prohibitions expose the worrying reality of how far Europe has gone in setting itself against modern science. True, the bans do not apply directly to scientific research, and a few countries — led by England — have declared themselves open to cultivation of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. But the chilling effect on biotech science in Europe will be dramatic: Why would anyone spend years developing genetically modified crops in the knowledge that they will most likely be outlawed by government fiat?

In effect, the Continent is shutting up shop for an entire field of human scientific and technological endeavor. …

This decision of a majority of European countries to apparently ignore their own experts may undermine any claim to the moral high ground at the coming Paris talks on climate change. The worldwide scientific consensus on the safety of genetic engineering is as solid as that which underpins human-caused global warming. Yet this inconvenient truth on GMOs — that they’re as safe as conventionally cultivated food — is ignored when ideological interests are threatened.

The scientific community is facing a new European reality…

Facing this hostile climate, the crop biotech sector in Europe is dying…

Meanwhile, hypocrisy rules: Europe imports over 30 million tons per year of corn and soy-based animal feeds, the vast majority of which are genetically modified, for its livestock industry. Imports are preferred to European crops partly because biotech traits make them cheaper. Yet these same traits — such as herbicide tolerance and insect resistance — are now widely barred from domestic use.

In essence, Europe has chosen chemistry over biology: It will not be able to reduce fungicide applications by adopting genetically modified blight-resistant potatoes; nor can it cut down on insecticide sprays, since it won’t allow genetically modified insect-resistant crops to be grown. The data is clear: One study found that GMO cultivation has led to a 40 percent reduction in insecticide spraying worldwide.

Shielded from the winds of change behind a $50 billion wall of subsidies thanks to the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy, farmers in Europe can, arguably, afford to lose their competitive edge…




27 October 2015. Source: Daily Mail (Australia).

Supercharged GM tomatoes packed with industrial quantities of disease-fighting plant chemicals could soon be on the menu. Just one of the genetically engineered tomatoes grown by British scientists contains as much of the grape compound resveratrol as 50 bottles of red wine.

The antioxidant chemical is said to combat heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, although these claims are controversial.

The molecule, resveratrol, belongs to a well known group of plant compounds found in red wine, fruit and vegetables and olive oil. These polyphenols are famed for their antioxidant properties…

Professor Cathie Martin, from, the John Innes Centre in Norwich, said: ‘Our study provides a general tool for producing valuable phenylpropanoid compounds on an industrial scale in plants, and potentially production of other products derived from aromatic amino acids.

“Our work will be of interest to different research areas including fundamental research on plants, plant/microbe engineering, medicinal plant natural products, as well as diet and health research.”


29 September 2015. Source: Genetic Literacy Project

Next-generation biotechnologies like CRISPR-Cas9, RNAi and cis-gene are being introduced with much fanfare as newer, better ways to more more precisely produce genetically engineered variants for crops, medicine, biofuels and other uses. But the opposition has already begun to mount.

Many anti-GMO activists are attempting to lump these technologies into the same bin as less precise prior genetic innovations, including transgenics, and they persist in in attempting to use the stigmatizing term “GMO” in describing them because of its power to demonize.

…public acceptance isn’t about just the science and new technology; it’s also about addressing fears, benefits and the mental connections people make with certain scientific advances. It is, in short, about marketing and persuasion.

Science, particularly the science of food, hasn’t historically done well in this area. They’ve tended to avoid the business of sales and persuasion, even though the modern concept of marketing probably got its start in agribusiness and food. But a look back at how scientists, companies making science-based products, and public interest groups have handled public perceptions of their new inventions could help find more effective ways to gain acceptance of this latest “magic bullet.”



29 September 2015. Source: Queensland Country Life

GRAIN Producers SA is launching a petition today to support lifting the moratorium on growing genetically modified (GM) crops in South Australia.

The petition – the first under the new advocacy structure in South Australia – will be launched by GPSA at its Grower Day at the Yorke Peninsula Field Days.

The cultivation of GM food crops is prohibited in SA under the Genetically Modified Crops Management (Designation of Areas) Regulations 2008, which were made under the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004.

According to the State government, these regulations will remain in place until at least September 1, 2019.

In a statement, GPSA chief executive officer Darren Arney said the petition highlights producers’ need for freedom of choice on variety selection.