Showing results for: Biotechnology (GMO) and research
According to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, biotechnology is: “Any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use.” Modern biotechnology generally means modification of living organisms (plants, animals and fish) through the manipulation of genes, thus the name ‘genetically modified organisms’ (GMOs). GMO in agriculture is still a highly contested issue. Promoters argue that it can help solve food insecurity and help mitigate climate change (e.g. by creating variations that have greater nitrogen use efficiency or increased potential for soil carbon storage). Others warn of the potentially high environmental and human risks involved, with possibly unforeseen effects on farming systems and ecosystems. They may also argue that current GMO research and development leads to crops that benefit wealthier farmers or wealthier consumers and is being undertaken by large companies who stand to profit greatly from these innovations. To date most genetic modification of foods have primarily focused on cash crops such as soybean, corn, canola, and cottonseed oil.
FCRN member Allison Gacad has written this article on how epigenetic modification of plants could enhance food security by enabling crops to activate or deactivate certain genes depending on environmental conditions.
This perspective piece assesses the technological readiness of a variety of food system innovations, such as artificial meat, drones and vertical farming. It also suggests eight ways in which food system innovation can be accelerated by incentives and regulation.
This report from UK group Beyond GM (directed by FCRN member Pat Thomas) presents the results of a world café held in September 2019. The world café brought together people representing a wide variety of practices, beliefs and views on the subject of genome editing in plant breeding, and the conversation covered values, worldviews, ethics, regulation, citizen engagement and more.
This report by US think tank ReThinkX examines the implications of ongoing disruptions to livestock industries. It predicts that current livestock production will be replaced to a large extent by a “Food-as-Software” model, where food can be engineered on the molecular level and produced using “precision fermentation”, e.g. using engineered microorganisms to produce proteins that mimic milk proteins.
This report from environmental NGO Friends of the Earth US outlines the health, environmental, ethical and consumer concerns associated with research into genetically engineered livestock. It notes that gene editing can lead to unintended effects, such as unintended modification of portions of DNA, enlarged tongues in rabbits, extra vertebrae in pigs, and novel proteins produced in error (which could result in allergic reactions).
This perspective piece argues that new plant breeding technologies such as CRISPR-Cas could contribute to global food security and poverty reduction by increasing agricultural yields and smallholder incomes. The authors note that careful regulation, field testing and communication will be necessary for successful implementation, along with royalty-free access for smallholders.
This report from the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine identifies emerging scientific advances that could help to make the US food system more resilient to rapid changes and extreme conditions, as well as making agriculture more efficient and sustainable.
FCRN member Pat Thomas of UK campaign group Beyond GM has helped to set up the website A Bigger Conversation, which aims to bring together experts and thinkers, including scientists, academics, farmers, breeders and grassroots leaders, from multiple disciplines and multiple sides of the debate on genetic engineering in the food system.
A traditional variety of corn grown by people from Sierra Mixe in southern Mexico can thrive in poor soils without needing much extra fertiliser. A group of researchers have shown that the plant is able to draw nitrogen from the air through mucus-laden aerial roots on its stems. It’s hoped that the trait can eventually be bred into commercial corn strains.
Startup New Age Meats has served the world’s first lab-grown pork sausages to journalists. The fat and muscle cells were allegedly grown from pork cells extracted from a live pig - in contrast to the world’s first lab-grown burger, showcased in 2013, where the initial cell samples came from slaughtered cattle.
This book, by Sheldon Krimsky, will discuss the debate surrounding genetically modified organisms, include the health, safety, environmental, and scientific concerns.
The Adam Smith Institute, a UK-based free-market think tank, has published a briefing paper in which it argues in favour of lab-grown meat (also known as cultured meat). The authors say that the potentially lower land use of lab-grown meat, compared to conventional meat, could allow some farmland to be rewilded, managed in less intensive ways, or used to build more houses.
An Israeli startup has raised $3 million to create a mechanical system for pollinating plants, as an alternative to relying on bees. Wild bee numbers are declining, while bees used by farmers can suffer from Colony Collapse Disorder. Edete Precision Technologies for Agriculture hopes to build two separate systems: one to collect and store pollen, and another to autonomously apply the pollen to plants.
Researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland are developing edible plant cell cultures. They hope that cell cultures of plants such as cloudberry, lingonberry and strawberry could provide health benefits when the conventionally-grown berries are out-of-season or expensive to import. The researchers have experimented with blending the cells into a “jam” to release the flavour, and have designed a prototype of a bioreactor that could be used in the home.