Volume 19. Number 6. 2014

Photosynthesis 'Switch' Increases Rice Yields by 30%

Scientists from the University of Arkansas have found out that they can harness photosynthesis to increase rice yields by up to 30 percent. Led by Andy Pereira, the research group examined a protein that acts as a "switch" to activate genes that can enhance the photosynthesis activity of rice plants.
The researchers discovered that the protein, known as higher yield rice (HYR), could enable the plants to survive stress, thrive and increase productivity. Pereira said "The regulator HYR does regulate photosynthesis, a complex process. I saw in the greenhouse that the plants using the HYR regulator were much greener than any others. It was because of more chlorophyll, hence, higher photosynthesis."
Plants under stress shut down photosynthesis to stop producing reactive oxygen, which is damaging to them. This is where the HYR regulator protein comes in by keeping the whole photosynthesis machinery active and maintaining productivity, Pereira explained. The research showed that HYR increases photosynthesis, which increases sugars, increases biomass and finally leads to more grain yield among normal rice cultivars. Crop Biotech Update (November 19, 2014)
For more information, read the news release available at:

UN chief spotlights threat of non-communicable diseases on World Diabetes Day (14 Nov. 2014)

  • As the world copes with infectious diseases such as the deadly Ebola virus, World Diabetes Day serves as a reminder that non-communicable diseases pose an even greater threat to human health, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon said on Friday.
  • He said: "Let us make World Diabetes Day meaningful by committing to practicing healthy living ourselves and making it possible for others to do the same."
  • This year's World Diabetes Day focuses on healthy eating as an important component to prevent and treat diabetes.
  • Ban called on governments as well as the private sector and civil society to "unite in producing and promoting more food products consistent with a healthy diet that are affordable, accessible and available to all."
  • There are many cost-effective and feasible ways to address diabetes and other non-communicable diseases, he said, adding that people can significantly cut their risk and manage their symptoms by monitoring blood pressure, improving diet and engaging in exercise. IFIC GLOBAL MEDIA MINUTE for November 13-17, 2014

EBOLA VIRUS DISEASE - A Message to the global food science and technology community

6 November 2014 - The International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) today released its latest Scientific Information Bulletin (SIB), which provides information on the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) for the global food science and technology community. The purpose of this IUFoST SIB is to review what is currently known about Ebola, to clarify whether it is indeed foodborne and to provide guidance to the food science and technology community concerning their possible roles in the prevention and control of this outbreak. This SIB presents the latest authoritative science on emerging and headline food science issues. It is produced by IUFoST experts for legislators, consumers, food science departments and the more than 300,000 members of IUFoST Adhering Bodies worldwide. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has flatly stated that Ebola is not foodborne. The SIB notes that this viewpoint is correct in the USA because neither bats nor non-human primates are eaten or handled in the USA food supply chain. However, from an international perspective as pointed out by WHO, food handlers and consumers of raw meat from bats or monkeys/apes are at risk of EVD and therefore, Ebola is a foodborne disease in those countries with bush meat traditions. Among other recommendations offered in this SIB: it is stressed that basic food hygiene measures need to be emphasised as historically these have been successful in helping to prevent transmission of other foodborne hazards. { Already UPDATE 1 is published at the same address on 28 Nov. 14. (Ed)}

Gut microbiome and metabolic diseases

Fukuda S1, Ohno H.
The prevalence of obesity and obesity-related disorders is increasing worldwide. In the last decade, the gut microbiota has emerged as an important factor in the development of obesity and metabolic syndrome, through its interactions with dietary, environmental, and host genetic factors. Various studies have shown that alteration of the gut microbiota, shifting it toward increased energy harvest, is associated with an obese phenotype. However, the molecular mechanisms by which the gut microbiota affects host metabolism are still obscure. In this review, we discuss the complexity of the gut microbiota and its relationship to obesity and obesity-related diseases. Furthermore, we discuss the anti-obesity potential of probiotics and prebiotics.

Australian Scientist Fine-tunes Plant Cells to Produce Superior Cereal Crops

University of Adelaide research scientist Matthew Tucker is changing the developmental path of grain in cereal crops to better influence yield and quality. Tucker will be taking advantage of plant cells' ability to change identity as the plant develops, to determine how to create cereal grains that are healthier to eat and produces more yield.
Tucker said, "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." A potential outcome of Tucker's work could be increased antioxidant levels in wholegrain or wholemeal flour. He added that there is tremendous potential to bring the healthy compound-making ability to cereals, which would also help develop a sustainable way of growing healthier foods. Crop Biotech Update October 1, 2014
For more, read the news release at

Snippets - contributions are welcome. Edited and produced by Dr. B Cole. - / Fax 011 660 6444 with the help of the Northern Branch Committee.