Biotech Buzz: Top news in the ag sector

By Joan Conrow

February 15, 2019

Bt crops, fighting hunger, saving monarch butterflies, better bread, GM chocolate, gene-edited animals, myth-busting, the perils of agroecology and advances in Africa are among the topics covered in the best new reporting on agricultural biotechnology.

A new study confirms the safety of pest-resistant Bt crops, finding zero unintended consequences in over 20 years of growing the varieties on more than 1 billion acres worldwide.

Iowa State University researcher Walter Suza recounts his personal journey from a hungry child watching his mother’s crops fail in Tanzania to a scientist working to ensure that Africa’s smallholder farmers have access to agricultural innovative.

Kenya is likely to influence other East African nations to adopt GM crops as it progresses with its Bt cotton trials and eyes the adoption of pest-resistant and drought-tolerant TELA maize.

Nassib Mugwanya, an Alliance for Science and Breakthrough Institute fellow, thoroughly dissects the call to embrace agroecology in Africa, saying such practices offer little to help smallholder farmers dramatically raise their yields or reduce crop losses.

Though activists have long blamed herbicide-tolerant GM crops for the decline of monarch butterflies, a new study says they aren’t the prime culprit, and the decline began well before they were adopted.

Journalist Joseph Gakpo discusses his recent visit to Egypt and encouraging signs that the nation is poised to resume its use of GM crops and leadership role in African agriculture.

A deep dive into Uganda’s seed sector reveals that anti-GMO activists are sounding the alarm about practices that are already playing out in Africa’s agricultural sector, resulting in higher yields and more choices for smallholder farmers in what they want to grow.

Researchers and food companies are using newly created enzymes, novel ingredients and gene editing to develop bread with lower carb content, less gluten and more fiber.

Nigerian farmer Patience Koku affirms that yes, her country is ready for GM crops.

The University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute is conducting an online poll to determine consumer attitudes about eating animals that have been gene-edited to prevent livestock diseases.

And a farmer-funded company took advantage of Valentine’s Day to launch a line of chocolates made with GM ingredients to improve consumer receptivity to such products and prepare them for the prospect of GM cacao, the primary ingredient in chocolate.