Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Food Crops News 105

FOOD CROPS Food Crops News 105 (Bản tin Cây Lương thực Quốc tế)

Cassava News : Tin mới Cây Sắn, Photo by Hoàng Long

Big Idea Fighting Hunger With Ancient Genetic Engineering Techniques

Bouis was thrilled at the potential of Golden Rice, but its success seemed to make his own project a lost cause. Limping along with his modest grant, he had scoured the world’s seed banks for high-nutrient varieties of rice, wheat, beans, cassava, corn, and sweet potatoes, but he couldn’t do much more without additional funding. “I told myself that I’d tried hard enough, and that it wasn’t going to work,” he says.
Then Golden Rice ran into a brick wall of political resistance. Environmental groups like Greenpeace attacked the project, petitioning governments because of perceived health and environmental dangers. The PR campaign worked: No developing country allowed open field trials of Golden Rice.
As golden rice faltered, Bouis’s idea arose from the dead. In 2003 he secured $3 million more from the World Bank and $25 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He branded his project HarvestPlus. “We had just been doing a study here and there to prove that the concept might work,” he says. “Now we could actually start a breeding program that had a serious chance of being successful.”

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Bouis and his colleagues across Asia and Africa began crossing hundreds of varieties of staple crops. They took pollen from a Latin American breed of cassava naturally high in vitamin A and poured it into the flower of an African variety. About three months later the plant bore fruit, and the breeders planted the seeds. They studied the new plants to see if they incorporated both sets of desirable traits, and then bred them with another variety to bolster those traits and eliminate deficiencies.
After a dozen iterations of this selective breeding process, Bouis and his team finally produced the perfect cassava plant for central African farmers. It could survive in the soil and climate of the region. It had the floury, dry taste that the farmers were used to. And most important, it packed a hidden nutritional punch of vitamin A. The same technique led to the creation of high-iron varieties of beans and pearl millet, zinc-enriched rice and wheat, and sweet potatoes fortified with vitamin A.
In 2007 HarvestPlus introduced its first nutritionally enhanced crop, the vitamin A sweet potato, to farmers in Mozambique and Uganda with little fanfare and no controversy. In a study of 24,000 households, women and young children almost doubled their daily vitamin A intake.
Late last year, Bouis released the vitamin A–enriched cassava in Nigeria. This year he is introducing iron-rich beans to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, zinc-packed wheat to Pakistan, and iron-fortified pearl millet to India. He projects that the sweet potato will reach 200,000 homes next year and 10 million in 17 African countries by 2020. Meanwhile Golden Rice and other genetically modified crop programs remain stalled.
Despite the superior track record of HarvestPlus, Bouis points out that he is not forever wedded to his old-school approach. He invests about 2 percent of his $30 million budget to fund genetics research. If the tide turns toward high-tech crops, Bouis will be ready to embrace it. But his crops are making a difference right now.

Healthful Breeding
It may not have the flair of genetic engineering, but the breeding technique perfected by Howarth Bouis and HarvestPlus has the advantage of actually supplying the developing world with several nutrient-rich crops. Below, a sampling of the improved foods that will soon help fight malnourishment.
Beans Iron deficiency is a huge problem in the central African countries of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where in some provinces up to 50 percent of children are anemic. Later this year HarvestPlus will introduce beans that have double the iron content of native bean plants.
Corn For years global aid groups have distributed vitamin A capsules to children in the southern African country of Zambia, yet more than half of them still suffer a vitamin A deficiency. In response, HarvestPlus will soon release corn enriched with the essential vitamin. Bouis will pay close attention to the response of Zambian farmers: They are accustomed to white corn, but the nutrient-rich version is orange.
Rice In Bangladesh and India, poor people receive up to 80 percent of their calories from rice. Bouis figures they might as well ingest some zinc, vital for metabolism and immunity, in the process. HarvestPlus projects that people eating its specially bred rice, to be introduced next year, will receive about 40 percent of the recommended daily zinc intake.
—Andrew Grant

Biology and Military Funding: A bad mix?
by andrew on Jan 18, 2012 • 7:02 pm

The field of synthetic biology got a big shot of adrenaline last summer when Alicia Jackson of DARPA, the Q-branch of the US military, at the SB5.0 conference held at Stanford, announced program called Living Foundries aiming to speed the development of new tools for the field.  I attended the Living Foundries Industry Day held for the program, where speakers talked about synthetic biology, how DARPA’s funding programs work, and how to navigate the application process. Dr. Jackson encouraged submitters to think big or not bother applying.  “If you crash,” she said, “leave a crater.”
Non-classified and open to academics and industry, about 120 people attended the workshop, and it turned out to be a great place to catch up with friends at the forefront of synbio.
Like computers, synthetic biology has applications in almost every field, including warfare.  It’s not surprising that DARPA is getting back into the game (they’ve funded related projects in the past).  It’s also not surprising that scientists are keen to tap into more funding.  This the field literally drips potential, but the many granting agencies and finance groups don’t yet appreciate what it can do today let alone where it’s going to go in the future.  DARPA does, and is putting a small amount of money behind it (relative to it’s $3.2 billion budget).
But as a recent post by Ericka Check Hayden on the Discover Magazine blog points out, at least one scientist, Eric Klavins, isn’t comfortable with DARPA injecting cash into synthetic biology.
We need better DNA writing tools (cheaper or faster synthesis will mean more projects done), better bio-detection devices (able to monitor the real-time spread of flu, for example), and more creative ideas being advanced.   This is all good stuff — and DARPA’s careful to vet who they give money to.  Their investment should stimulate a lot more interest in the field and accelerate R&D.
But military investment could come with a hefty price.  While many of the expected outcomes of Living Foundries could benefit the global synbio community, Dr. Jackson made it clear in her Industry Day presentation that, at the end of the day, the work submitted was expected to support the warfighter in some capacity.
Synthetic biologists have already been tapped to consider engineering microbes to make explosives and rocket fuels.  Rob Carlson and Daniel Grushkin examine the implications in a recent Slate article.

Why Organic Food May Not Be Healthier For You
NPR (blog)

Of course, people may have other reasons for buying organic food. It's a
different style of agriculture. Organic farmers often control pests by
growing a greater variety of crops. They increase the fertility of their
fields through nitrogen-fixing ...
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Crop of Props
Santa Barbara View

“require labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers
if the food is made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in
specified ways; prohibit labeling or advertising such food as 'natural;'
exempt from this requirement ...
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US and EU must change biofuel targets to avert food crisis, says Nestlé chief
The Guardian

Earlier this month, UN FAO director general José Graziano da Silva said
suspension of the [biofuel] quota would allow more of the crop to be
diverted for food production. "The worst drought for 50 years is inflicting
huge damage on the US maize crop ...
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GM-free means good sales for NZ
The Dominion Post

As a result, GM crops and food ingredients go where they are invisible to
the consumer. Today, you will find GM in animal feed, biofuels, food
products in North America (where GM foods do not yet have to be labelled)
and in food ingredients (such as ...
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Can science prevent the great global food crisis?

Globally, food is still cheap: but new data from the World Bank shows that
it may not remain that way for long. A combination of factors – not all
related to simple supply and demand – has seen basic prices for crops
including wheat, soya and maize ...
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Warning on global food price hikes
The Press Association

(UKPA) – 31 minutes ago. Consumers could face more spikes in food prices
as extreme weather caused by climate change affects major crops worldwide,
according to a new Oxfam report. The charity claims that the full impact of
climate change on future ...
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Is biotech the answer to the coming food and water shortages?

Biotechnology in agriculture is a wide area of scientific research that
brings new applications and breeding methods to farmers, enabling them to
solve issues around food production - such as yield losses caused by crop
diseases, water shortages and ...
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Grasscutters provide food, not lawn care
AG Week

In the past, we have written about crops that U.S. farmers would consider
unusual, but hold promise to help expand food sources in the developing
world. But for us, none tops what we saw on the cover of the August issue
of “World Ark,” the magazine of ...
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From Lots to Crops
My New Orleans

Recently, however, a local nonprofit advocate for urban farming has begun
an initiative aimed at turning more of those lots into resources to help
produce fresh, healthy food while spurring some economic development, too.
This summer, the New Orleans ...
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=== Web - 1 new result for [food crops] ===

Chinese Uses Space Radiation to Mutate Food Crops | Portal to the ...

Chinese Uses Space Radiation to Mutate Food Crops. (200 words excerpt,
click title or image to see full post). Exposure to radiation is one of the
well-studied ...

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