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Alexander J. Stein

Economist interested in agriculture, food, nutrition, health, technology, sustainability, economic development & poverty alleviation worldwide. This is a personal account; posts are not necessarily endorsements. More at www.AJStein.de
Apr 22 '14

China to ‘maintain self-sufficiency in food production’ - People’s Daily (2014)

See on Scoop.it - Food Policy

Despite an expected increase in the country’s food imports, China will maintain self-sufficiency in its main food crops, including wheat and rice in the coming decade, said an agricultural report released on Sunday.

The report… predicts that China’s annual output of three main crops - wheat, rice and corn - will hit 578 million metric tons in 2023, still keeping a high self-sufficiency rate… 

… strong government policy support and technological innovation… the central government’s investment increased to more than 1.2 trillion yuan ($195 billion) in 2013, an average annual increase of 14 percent since 2003, and that… support policy will continue… 

"The top priority in the future is to guarantee full self-sufficiency in wheat and rice," Vice-Minister of Agriculture Chen Xiaohua said… emphasized that agricultural technology innovation and mechanization will further increase farm output in China.

… the rapid growth of urbanpopulation and rising incomes in China could bring changes to the country’s food demandpatterns, with increasing consumption of meat, eggs and milk.

The report also foresees the change, predicting that the country’s meat imports might rise modestly, with pork imports reaching 2.5 million tons in 2023, rising 40 percent over the next 10 years… 

http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90882/8604729.html


See on english.peopledaily.com.cn

Apr 22 '14

The Need for a Closer Look at Pesticide Toxicity during GMO Assessment - Bhat & al (2014) - Wiley

See on Scoop.it - Ag Biotech News

In the matter of health issues, public policy is regularly shaken by health crises or unexpected scientific discoveries. This chapter overlooks pesticide toxicity, focusing on agricultural genetically modified organisms (GMOs) because they are essentially pesticide-plants, designed to tolerate and/or produce new pesticide residues in food and feed. It also describes links between agricultural GMOs and pesticides. The application of genetic engineering in agricultural practices was advocated as the most important recent advance in plant protection for the last decades. The industry claimed to reduce the use of pesticides by introducing genetically modified plants. The chapter also describes how formulated pesticides are mixtures which have not been investigated for their long-term toxicities. Long-term and multigenerational testing in vivo often appears essential. This can be accomplished within two years on rats with raw data being transparent to the scientific community to allow healthy debate before the next health crisis.


Alexander J. Stein's insight:

A new piece by Seralini that (is behind a pay-wall but according to the abstract) associates generic “health crises” with pesticide toxicity with GMOs with an unspecified “next health crisis”; that defines GMOs as “essentially pesticide-plants”, presumably by focusing on one type of GM crops (which incidentally uses a toxin that is also used in organic agriculture) while ignoring other types of GM crops; that then criticizes formulated pesticides (which per se have nothing to do with genetic engineering), and that finally presents two-year rat trials as gold standard when it comes to testing long-term toxicities. 


See on donotlink.com

Apr 22 '14

Delivering sustainable crop protection systems via the seed: exploiting natural constitutive and inducible defence pathways - Pickett &al (2014) - Phil Trans R Soc B

See on Scoop.it - Ag Biotech News

To reduce the need for seasonal inputs, crop protection will have to be delivered via the seed and other planting material. Plant secondary metabolism can be harnessed for this purpose by new breeding technologies, genetic modification and companion cropping, the latter already on-farm in sub-Saharan Africa.


Secondary metabolites offer the prospect of pest management as robust as that provided by current pesticides, for which many lead compounds were, or are currently deployed as, natural products.


Evidence of success and promise is given for pest management in industrial and developing agriculture. Additionally, opportunities for solving wider problems of sustainable crop protection, and also production, are discussed.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2012.0281


See on rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org

Apr 22 '14

Emotional attitudes of young people completing secondary schools towards genetic modification of organisms (GMO) and genetically modified foods (GMF) - Jurkiewicz &al (2014) - Ann Agric Env Med

See on Scoop.it - Ag Biotech News

The objective of the study was recognition of the opinions of adolescents completing secondary schools concerning genetically modified organisms and genetically modified food, especially the respondents’ emotional attitude towards scientific achievements in the area of live genetically modified organisms.


The study covered a group of 500 school adolescents completing secondary school… Knowledge concerning the possible health effects of consumption of food containing GMO… is on a relatively low level; the adolescents examined ‘know rather little’…


In respondents’ opinions the results of reliable studies pertaining to the health effects of consumption of GMO ‘rather do not exist’. The respondents are against the cultivation of GM plants and breeding of GM animals… considered that the production of genetically modified food means primarily the enrichment of biotechnological companies, higher income for food producers, and not the elimination of hunger in the world or elimination of many diseases haunting humans. 


http://aaem.pl/abstracted.php?level=5&ICID=1095368


See on aaem.pl

Apr 22 '14

Safety assessment of genetically modified plants with deliberately altered composition - Halford &al (2014) - Plant Biotechnol J

See on Scoop.it - Ag Biotech News

The development and marketing of ‘novel’ genetically modified (GM) crops in which composition has been deliberately altered poses a challenge to the European Union (EU)’s risk assessment processes, which are based on the concept of substantial equivalence with a non-GM comparator. This article gives some examples of these novel GM crops and summarizes the conclusions of a report that was commissioned by the European Food Safety Authority on how the EU’s risk assessment processes could be adapted to enable their safety to be assessed… 

New approaches will also need to be developed to assess novel GM crops containing constituents that are not normally found in that species, with GM oilseeds containing LC-PUFAs that are otherwise found only in fish oils being an obvious example. The concept of ‘history of safe use’, which is already a valuable tool in risk assessment, would be particularly useful here: if an applicant could demonstrate that the novel constituent in the GM plant had a ‘history of safe use’ in food or feed, even if it had previously come from a different source, this would give confidence in its safety… 


Any system put in place for risk assessing and licensing novel GM traits must work efficiently. This is important not only for the development of these traits (some of which have clear consumer benefits) in Europe, but also because, as the world’s most lucrative market for food commodities, Europe’s regulatory processes affect the development of crop biotechnology well beyond its borders. The system must also have the confidence of consumers, and the report recommended that public consultation be viewed as an important element of the risk assessment process…  

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/pbi.12194


See on onlinelibrary.wiley.com

Apr 21 '14

Study casts doubt on climate benefit of biofuels from corn residue - U Nebraska-Lincoln (2014)

See on Scoop.it - Food Policy

Using corn crop residue to make ethanol and other biofuels reduces soil carbon and can generate more greenhouse gases than gasoline, according to a study published today in the journal Nature Climate Change. The findings… cast doubt on whether corn residue can be used to meet federal mandates to ramp up ethanol production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 


Corn stover — the stalks, leaves and cobs in cornfields after harvest — has been considered a ready resource for cellulosic ethanol production. The U.S. Department of Energy has provided more than $1 billion in federal funds to support research to develop cellulosic biofuels, including ethanol made from corn stover…


The researchers… used a supercomputer model… to estimate the effect of residue removal on 128 million acres across 12 Corn Belt states. The team found that removing crop residue from cornfields generates an additional 50 to 70 grams of carbon dioxide per megajoule of biofuel energy produced… the rate of carbon emissions is constant whether a small amount of stover is removed or nearly all of it is stripped. 


"If less residue is removed, there is less decrease in soil carbon, but it results in a smaller biofuel energy yield," Liska said. To mitigate increased carbon dioxide emissions and reduced soil carbon, the study suggests planting cover crops to fix more carbon in the soil. Cellulosic ethanol producers also could turn to alternative feedstocks, such as perennial grasses or wood residue, or export electricity from biofuel production facilities to offset emissions from coal-fueled power plants… 


The study’s findings likely will not surprise farmers, who have long recognized the importance of retaining crop residue on their fields to protect against erosion and preserve soil quality. Until now, scientists have not been able to fully quantify how much soil carbon is lost to carbon dioxide emissions after removing crop residue… Liska’s study… used carbon dioxide measurements taken from 2001 to 2010 to validate a soil carbon model that was built using data from 36 field studies across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia…

http://newsroom.unl.edu/releases/2014/04/20/Study+casts+doubt+on+climate+benefit+of+biofuels+from+corn+residue

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2187


See on newsroom.unl.edu

Apr 20 '14

Attitudes to vaccination: A critical review - Yaqub &al (2014) - Soc Sci Med

See on Scoop.it - Global Nutrition

This paper provides a consolidated overview of public and healthcare professionals’ attitudes towards vaccination in Europe by bringing together for the first time evidence across various vaccines, countries and populations…

Our synthesis suggests that hesitant attitudes to vaccination are prevalent and may be increasing since the influenza pandemic of 2009. We define hesitancy as an expression of concern or doubt about the value or safety of vaccination. This means that hesitant attitudes are not confined only to those who refuse vaccination or those who encourage others to refuse vaccination.

For many people, vaccination attitudes are shaped not just by healthcare professionals but also by an array of other information sources, including online and social media sources. We find that healthcare professionals report increasing challenges to building a trustful relationship with patients, through which they might otherwise allay concerns and reassure hesitant patients. We also find a range of reasons for vaccination attitudes, only some of which can be characterised as being related to lack of awareness or misinformation.

Reasons that relate to issues of mistrust are cited more commonly in the literature than reasons that relate to information deficit. The importance of trust in the institutions involved with vaccination is discussed in terms of implications for researchers and policy-makers; we suggest that rebuilding this trust is a multi-stakeholder problem requiring a co-ordinated strategy.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.04.018


See on sciencedirect.com

Apr 20 '14

The role of environmental biotechnology in exploring, exploiting, monitoring, preserving, protecting and decontaminating the marine environment - Kalogerakis &al (2014) - New Biotechnol

See on Scoop.it - Ag Biotech News

In light of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the EU Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources, environmental biotechnology could make significant contributions in the exploitation of marine resources and addressing key marine environmental problems. In this paper 14 propositions are presented focusing on (i) the contamination of the marine environment, and more particularly how to optimize the use of biotechnology-related tools and strategies for predicting and monitoring contamination and developing mitigation measures; (ii) the exploitation of the marine biological and genetic resources to progress with the sustainable, eco-compatible use of the maritime space (issues are very diversified and include, for example, waste treatment and recycling, anti-biofouling agents; bio-plastics); (iii) environmental/marine biotechnology as a driver for a sustainable economic growth.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nbt.2014.03.007



See on sciencedirect.com

Apr 20 '14

Researchers rethink ‘natural’ habitat for wildlife - Stanford U (2014)

See on Scoop.it - Ag Biotech News

Protecting wildlife while feeding a world population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050 will require a holistic approach to conservation that considers human-altered landscapes such as farmland, according to Stanford researchers.

Wildlife and the natural habitat that supports it might be an increasingly scarce commodity in a world where at least three-quarters of the land surface is directly affected by humans and the rest is vulnerable to human-caused impacts such as climate change. But what if altered agricultural landscapes could play vital roles in nurturing wildlife populations while also feeding an ever-growing human population?

A new study… finds that a long-accepted theory used to estimate extinction rates, predict ecological risk and make conservation policy recommendations is overly pessimistic. The researchers point to an alternative framework that promises a more effective way of accounting for human-altered landscapes and assessing ecological risks.

Current projections forecast that about half of Earth’s plants and animals will go extinct over the next century because of human activities, mostly due to our agricultural methods. “The extinction under way threatens to weaken and even destroy key parts of Earth’s life-support systems, upon which economic prosperity and all other aspects of human well-being depend,” said co-author Gretchen Daily… But that grim future isn’t a foregone conclusion. ”Until the next asteroid slams into Earth, the future of all known life hinges on people, more than on any other force,” Daily said.


Conservationists have long assumed that once natural landscapes are fractured by human development or agriculture, migration corridors for wildlife are broken, blocking access to food, shelter and breeding grounds. A scholarly theory was developed to estimate the number of species in such fractured landscapes, where patches of forest surrounded by farms resemble islands of natural habitat…


The theory drives the default strategy of conserving biodiversity by designating nature reserves. This strategy sees reserves as “islands in an inhospitable sea of human-modified habitats” and doesn’t adequately account for biodiversity patterns in many human-dominated landscapes, according to the Stanford study.

"This paper shows that farmland and forest remnants can be more valuable for biodiversity than previously assumed," said Daniel Karp… "If we’re valuing coffee fields and other human-made habitats at zero, we’re doing a disservice to ourselves and wildlife"… "Conservation opportunities for tropical wildlife are tightly linked to adequate management of these human-modified habitats," said co-author Christoph Meyer…

Especially in the tropics, island biogeographic theory’s application is “distorting our understanding and conservation strategies in agriculture… ”Not only do more species persist across the ‘sea of farmland’ than expected by island biogeographic theory, novel yet native species actually thrive there,” said co-author Elizabeth Hadly… ”This indicates that human-altered landscapes can foster more biological diversity than we anticipated” … 


http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/april/bats-rethink-habitat-041714.html


Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13139


See on news.stanford.edu

Apr 19 '14

Effects of the glyphosate-resistance gene and of herbicides applied to the soybean crop on soil microbial biomass and enzymes - Nakatani &al (2014) - Field Crops Res

See on Scoop.it - Ag Biotech News

Glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide used for the non-selective control of weeds, inhibits… a key enzyme… in plants, fungi and bacteria, thus impairing the synthesis of proteins required for various life processes.

Soybean genetically engineered to be glyphosate resistant (GR or Roundup Ready, RR) represents the most cultivated transgenic crop globally, including Brazil. There are concerns about the effects of RR transgenic soybean and of glyphosate on soil microbial communities and their functioning.

Our study was designed to detect changes in soil microbial biomass-carbon… and -nitrogen… and in enzyme activities… in a large set of field trials… We evaluated the effects of the RR transgene, glyphosate and weed management… with three pairs of nearly isogenic soybean cultivars…

Soils were sampled… microbial parameters and [soil microbial variables] were not affected by the transgene, type of herbicide or weed management. Differences were, rather, related to site, cropping season and cultivar… 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fcr.2014.03.010


See on sciencedirect.com

Apr 19 '14

Reasons Analysis of Chinese Urban Consumers Opposing Genetically Modified Food—An Empirical Analysis based on a Metropolitan Representative - Ma (2014) - Stud Asian Soc Sci

See on Scoop.it - Ag Biotech News

Scientific experiments… proved that genetically modified food possesses many advantages such as insect resistance, herbicide tolerance and disease resistance. However… many Chinese consumers prefer conventional food to genetically modified food when they go to supermarket… The reasons were attributed to four aspects… risk… human health… environment hazards… profit… 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.5430/sass.v1n2p11


See on sciedu.ca

Apr 19 '14

Performance of dairy cows fed silage and grain produced from second-generation insect-protected (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn (MON 89034), compared with parental line corn or reference corn - Casti…

See on Scoop.it - Ag Biotech News

Corn grain and corn silage are major feed components in lactating dairy cow rations. Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.) is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that produces a protein that is toxic to lepidopteran insects that may damage plant tissues and reduce corn quality and yields…


Cows were offered 1 of 4 rations in which the corn grain and silage originated from different corn hybrids: a nontransgenic corn control (from hybrid DKC63-78; Monsanto Co., St. Louis, MO), a B.t. test substance corn… and 2 commercial nontransgenic reference…


Sixteen multiparous Holstein cows… were… randomly assigned… Milk yield, fat yield, and percentage of fat… milk protein yield and percentage of protein… milk urea nitrogen concentration… and 3.5% fat-corrected milk yield… were not different across treatments.


The results from this study show that lactating dairy cows that consume B.t. corn (MON 89034) do not differ from lactating dairy cows that consume nontransgenic corn in milk yield, 3.5% fat-corrected milk per unit of dry matter intake, or milk components.


http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2014-7894



See on sciencedirect.com

Apr 19 '14

Application of the Theory of Planned Behavior to genetically modified foods: Moderating effects of food technology neophobia - Kim &al (2014) - Food Res Int

See on Scoop.it - Ag Biotech News

The purpose of this study is… to identify the structural relationships among ecological concerns and the Theory of Planned Behavior’s… constructs (attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioral control, and behavioral intention)… to examine the moderating effects of food technology neophobia… neophobia had a statistically significant effect… 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2014.03.057



See on sciencedirect.com

Apr 18 '14

Food shortages could be most critical world issue by mid-century - AgriLife (2014)

See on Scoop.it - Food Policy

The world is less than 40 years away from a food shortage that will have serious implications for people and governments, according to a top scientist at the U.S. Agency for International Development. “For the first time in human history, food production will be limited on a global scale by the availability of land, water and energy… Food issues could become as politically destabilizing by 2050 as energy issues are today.” 


Davies… said the world population will increase 30 percent to 9 billion people by mid-century. That would call for a 70 percent increase in food to meet demand. “But resource limitations will constrain global food systems… The increases currently projected for crop production from biotechnology, genetics, agronomics and horticulture will not be sufficient to meet food demand.”

Davies said the ability to discover ways to keep pace with food demand have been curtailed by cutbacks in spending on research. “The U.S. agricultural productivity has averaged less than 1.2 percent per year between 1990 and 2007… More efficient technologies and crops will need to be developed — and equally important, better ways for applying these technologies locally for farmers — to address this challenge.” 

Davies said when new technologies are developed, they often do not reach the small-scale farmer worldwide. “A greater emphasis is needed in high-value horticultural crops,” he said. “Those create jobs and economic opportunities for rural communities and enable more profitable, intense farming.” Horticultural crops, Davies noted, are 50 percent of the farm-gate value of all crops produced in the U.S.

He also made the connection between the consumption of fruits and vegetables and chronic disease prevention and pointed to research centers in the U.S. that are making links between farmers, biologists and chemists, grocers, health care practitioners and consumers. That connection, he suggested, also will be vital in the push to grow enough food to feed people in coming years. 

“Agricultural productivity, food security, food safety, the environment, health, nutrition and obesity — they are all interconnected” … One in eight people worldwide… already suffers from chronic undernourishment… 

http://today.agrilife.org/2014/04/18/food-shortages-could-be-most-critical-world-issue-by-mid-century/


See on today.agrilife.org

1 note

Apr 18 '14

Combating Mineral Malnutrition through Iron and Zinc Biofortification of Cereals - Shahzad &al (2014) - Comp Rev Food Sci Safety

See on Scoop.it - Global Nutrition

Iron and zinc are 2 important nutrients in the human diet. Their deficiencies in humans lead to a variety of health-related problems. Iron and zinc biofortification of cereals is considered a cost-effective solution to overcome the malnutrition of these minerals. Biofortification aims at either increasing accumulation of these minerals in edible parts, endosperm, or to increase their bioavailability.


Iron and zinc fertilization management positively influence their accumulation in cereal grains. Regarding genetic strategies, quantitative genetic studies show the existence of ample variation for iron and zinc accumulation as well as inhibitors or promoters of their bioavailability in cereal grains…. This review focuses on the common challenges and their possible solutions related to agronomic as well as genetic iron and zinc biofortification of cereals.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1541-4337.12063


See on onlinelibrary.wiley.com