An activist’s view on agbiotech & sustainability

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Danielle Nierenberg is President of Food Tank and an influential voice on food issues. She interviewed hundreds and hundreds of farmers, researchers, government leaders, NGOs and journalists in 50 plus countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America over the last several years. We asked her three questions for an article on sustainable innovations to be published in Italy.

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EU Citizens' Initiative for fair rules on NBT

The initiative to foster responsible¬†agricultural innovation in the EU was started by a group of young Master’s students¬†from eight EU member states, with backgrounds in food safety, food law, environmental studies, plant sciences, economics and biotechnology. They met at Wageningen University and joined forces to urge the European Commission to update the legislation on plant breeding. Please visit https://www.growscientificprogress.org/ to know more and sign up.

German Academies call for new GM rules

Picture: Sisters of Design

The following is an excerpt from the news section of the Leopoldina website. Please note that DFG stands for the German research funding organization.

The Leopoldina, the Union of German Academies and the DFG have drafted recommendations for ensuring science-based regulation of genome edited plants in the EU. These recommendations include the amendment of European genetic engineering legislation.

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Italy to edit quality foods

spaghettiThe research institute CREA is experimenting with CRISPR to improve Italian typical products. The project called BIOTECH is funded with 6 million euros from the Italian ministry of agriculture. Wheat, tomatoes, vines, fruits and more are on the menu, as reported by me in a 6-pages feature published in Le Scienze, the national edition of Scientific American. Continue reading

Climate, biotech and biases

GMO-climate-changeCRISPR gets a mention in the latest IPCC report as a potentially useful tool to cope with climate change. However, some people believe that biotech crops are safe and that climate change is not real (let’s call them libertarian capitalists, for convenience). Many ecological activists conversely think that genetically modified plants are evil and global warming threatens life on the planet. These stances could not be more different, yet they have something in common: they are both half right and half wrong. They are both examples of “selective science denial.” Continue reading

Neutralizing cryptic mutations in plant breeding

We talk of cryptic mutations when genes are changed in a way that remains hidden until they interact with other mutations. As a result, combining beneficial traits can have negative consequences hindering agricultural production (watch this video from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on unexpected negative interactions). Classic breeders have been dealing with this problem for decades, but researchers from CSHL are finally working on a solution suitable for the genomic era. Zach Lippman and colleagues have studied one infamous cryptic mutation affecting a tomato variety developed by the Campbell Soup Company in the 1960s and discuss an anti-negative-interaction strategy for the future. Please see their paper in Nature Plants and watch the video below offering a cautionary tale for crop gene editing.