Volume 24. Number 4. 2019

New Method may Improve Disease-Resistance in Crops

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An international team of scientists has developed a technique that may transform the development of disease-resistant varieties of major crops grown as part of the global food supply. The new method rapidly scans the genome of a wild relative of a crop plant and picks out the disease-resistant genes that can then be transferred into domestic crops. Read more... IFT.NEXT Weekly Newsletter. 26 June 2019.

Sugary Beverages Feed Tumour Growth in Mice, Study Shows

Even modest consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has the potential to accelerate tumor growth, according to a mouse model study conducted by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medicine. In the study, published recently in Science, mice that consumed a modest amount of high-fructose corn syrup daily—equivalent to human consumption of about 12 ounces of a sugar-sweetened beverage (the amount in one can of soda)—promoted tumour growth in mice, independent of obesity. IFT. NEXT Weekly Newsletter. 12 June 2019.

Study Reveals Climate Change is Already Affecting Global Food Production

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An international research team led by the University of Minnesota with researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Copenhagen reports that climate change has already affected production of key energy sources and some regions and countries are faring far worse than others. The world's top 10 crops barley, cassava, maize, oil palm, rapeseed, rice, sorghum, soybean, sugarcane, and wheat supply a combined 83 percent of all calories produced on cropland. They used weather and reported crop data to evaluate the potential impact of observed climate change. The researchers found that:
  • observed climate change causes a significant yield variation in the world's top 10 crops, ranging from a decrease of 13.4 percent for oil palm to an increase of 3.5 percent for soybean, and resulting in an average reduction of approximately one percent (-3.5 X 10e13 kcal/year) of consumable food calories from these top 10 crops;
  • impacts of climate change on global food production are mostly negative in Europe, Southern Africa, and Australia, generally positive in Latin America, and mixed in Asia and Northern and Central America;
  • half of all food-insecure countries are experiencing decreases in crop production and so are some affluent industrialized countries in Western Europe;
  • contrastingly, recent climate change has increased the yields of certain crops in some areas of the upper Midwest United States. Crop Biotech Update (June 5, 2019)
For more details, read the news article in the University of Minnesota website.

Long-term Adoption of GM Maize in Spain and Portugal Proves to Benefit Farmers and the Environment

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Renowned agricultural economist Graham Brookes of PG Economics published the latest findings on the use of insect resistant maize in Spain and Portugal. The study covers 21 years, starting from when GM maize was first planted in Spain in 1998. From then on until 2018, 121,000 hectares of insect resistant maize were planted in both countries. This is equivalent to 35% of total maize area in Spain, and 6% in Portugal. The study also stated how GM maize has helped farmers grow more maize for food and feed while using fewer resources.It was also documented that planting GM maize decreased the use of insecticides and fossil fuels during crop spraying. Crop Biotech Update (June 5, 2019)

Interest in Sustainability, Plant-Based Diets Among Trends in IFIC Foundation’s 2019 Food & Health Survey

Topics like sustainability, plant-based diets and clean eating seem to permeate news about food, but it turns out they’re not just buzzwords or “flavors of the week.” IFIC Foundation’s 2019 Food and Health Survey shows genuine and growing interest in these and other trends. The 2019 edition marks the 14th consecutive year that IFIC Foundation has surveyed American consumers to understand their perceptions, beliefs and behaviors around food and food-purchasing decisions.

Iron-rich GM Wheat Set to Undergo Field Trials

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The John Innes Centre got the green light from the UK government to perform field trials of genetically modified (GM) wheat biofortified to produce high-iron white flour. The three-year field trial (from 2019 to 2022) will be carried out under confined conditions at the Centre between April and September each year. Using genetic engineering, the researchers were able to transport one gene and activate it in the endosperm section which is the central part of the wheat seed. The endosperm is responsible for the production of white flour and normally has low iron content. At present, white flour is fortified with iron powder or iron salts to regulation levels of 16.5 micrograms per gram. Should the field trials go smoothly, it is expected to produce a new variety of wheat with increased iron content of 20 micrograms per gram. According to Janneke Balk, project leader at the John Innes Centre, the team prioritised the development of white flour to encourage people to eat wholemeal products. "By producing high-iron white flour we can reach more people and make the biggest impact on public health," he added. Since it is a publicly-owned project, breeders and farmers can openly access and use the crop, subject to GM regulations. Crop Biotech Update. 22 May 2019.

For more information, read the news article from John Innes Centre.

GM Approval Updates

United States approved NF872 for food, feed, and cultivation.
Japan approved MON88702 for food and feed.
Japan approved MZIR098 for food, feed, and cultivation.
China approved corn event FG72 for food and feed use.
China approved the corn event DAS40278 for food and feed use.
China approved the soybean event SYHT0H2 for food and feed use.
Visit GM Approval Database for more updates.

Snippets - contributions are welcome. Edited and produced by Dr. B Cole. - / Fax +27 (0)86 625 2869 with the help of the Northern Branch Committee.