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Meridian Institute

Food Security and AgBiotech News Articles

Here are some of the latest articles.

FS-AgBiotech News to End - Meridian Institute (10/2/2017)

Meridian Institute’s Food Security and AgBiotech News (FS-AgBiotech News), which has been running continuously for 17 years, will cease publication effective today. FS-AgBiotech started in 2000 with generous support from The Rockefeller Foundation and, in recent years, it enjoyed steady funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID). That funding ran out on September 30. Despite working actively to seek additional funding, we are unable to continue the news service at this time. We are saddened to shut down the service and are grateful to the thousands of subscribers who have supported FS-AgBiotech. We deeply appreciate the numerous people who reached out to us with ideas for funding, and we will continue to pursue these potential opportunities. Should we secure funding in the future, we will happily reactivate the news service. Again, if you are in a position to provide funding or can connect us with potential funder(s), please contact Todd Barker, Senior Partner at Meridian Institute, directly (tbarker@merid.org; +1-202-256-1369).

FAO Regional Meeting on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sub-Saharan Africa - FAO (September 2017) (9/28/2017)

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Regional Meeting on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa will take place at the African Union Conference Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on November 22-24, 2017. According to the meeting announcement, “The meeting will be hosted and co-organized by the Government of Ethiopia. It is the second regional meeting to be organised as a follow-up to the FAO International Symposium on The Role of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition, which took place on 15-17 February 2016 at FAO Headquarters, Rome. The target audience for the regional meeting includes representatives of governments, intergovernmental organizations and non-state actors in Sub-Saharan Africa. The term ‘non-state actors’ refers to civil society organizations; private sector entities (including philanthropic foundations); academia and research institutions; and cooperatives and producer organizations. Representatives of non-state actors in Sub-Saharan Africa wishing to participate in the regional meeting are encouraged to visit the meeting website at http://www.fao.org/africa/events/detail-events/en/c/1035227/. Information is available there on the requirements for non-state actor participation as well as a link to the call of interest application form. The deadline for expression of interest is 30 September 2017.”

Special Report: Drowning in Grain - How Big Ag Sowed Seeds of a Profit-Slashing Glut - Reuters (27 Sep 2017) (9/28/2017)

The world is awash in grain - a global glut of corn, wheat and soybeans is now in its fourth year, and the world’s ending stocks of total grains are poised to reach a record 638 million tons. “The bin-busting harvests of cheap corn, wheat and soybeans are undermining the business models of the world’s largest agriculture firms and the farmers who use their products and services,” this article states. “Some analysts say the firms have effectively innovated their way into a stubbornly oversupplied market.” Favorable weather has been one factor in the grain glut, but genetically modified crops and high-tech farm practices have also contributed. The abundant supplies have helped lower food prices around the world, but it also means depressed farm incomes, often in poorer communities. In the U.S., net farm incomes are about half of what they were in 2013. Farmers will have less to spend on seed, fertilizer and machinery, lending their pain to other firms across the agriculture sector. The pressure on seed and chemical companies has led to a wave of consolidation in the industry. Despite the glut, Monsanto Company is working on developing its fastest-maturing corn, which would allow farmers in Canada and other inhospitable climates, to grow more of the crop. Trish Jordan, a spokeswoman for Monsanto, said the company believes demand growth justifies the new product; she disputed the notion that crop science advances are backfiring on firms like Monsanto. Jonas Oxgaard, an analyst at investment management firm Bernstein, said, however, that success in the lab and the field has contributed to oversupply. "It's somewhat the seed companies' fault - they keep breeding better and better seeds every year," he said. Glut conditions are expected to ease somewhat this year, but supplies are still so large that prices will remain weak. Paul Thomas, a North Dakota farmer, started planting corn and soybeans about a decade ago; both are now his biggest crops. He uses a short-season Monsanto corn variety. “We’re very capable of producing a large amount of bushels given an economic incentive,” he said. “If we end up over-producing, then we shift to one that’s more in need. That’s just the way agriculture works.” Still, he said, the traditional dynamic may be changing in this current glut. “I don’t know any single crop that isn’t in oversupply,” he said.

Industry Calls on the Commission to 'Show Leadership' in Plant Breeding Innovation - EurActiv.com (27 Sep 2017) (9/28/2017)

The European Commission, amid criticism that it has delayed the creation of a framework for biotechnology in the European Union, is this week holding a conference on modern biotechnologies in agriculture. The aim of the conference is to open the discussion about innovation-driven solutions in the field. “Generally speaking, the Commission considers that a broad EU reflection on new breeding techniques and innovation in the seed sector and beyond is needed,” EU sources said. The biotech industry is urging the EC to “show leadership and positive commitment” to plant breeding innovation, and provide clarity on agricultural innovation in general. The agri-food industry argues that plants resulting from new breeding techniques - which do not involve inserting foreign DNA into a plant’s genes - should not be considered genetically modified. “Where progress in science and methods allow us to achieve our objectives better and faster without posing new risks, embracing such progress in plant breeding and European farming should be a logical consequence,” Garlich von Essen, the secretary-general of the European Seeds Association (ESA), said. Beat Späth, the director of green biotechnology for the European Association of Bioindustries, said the conference is a good opportunity to dispel myths and misconceptions in plant breeding innovation. “We hope that the Commission can ensure that there is a fair, inclusive and constructive discussion and, as a follow-on, help to provide the much-needed clarity so that both Europe and Europe’s innovative industry can thrive,” he said. But environmentalists do not share industry views. Ramona Duminicioiu, a peasant farmer and member of the European Coordination Via Campesina, said “Our farmers are developing new and accessible technologies every day. On the opposite side, what the biotech industry is proposing nowadays with products derived from NBTs [New Breeding Techniques] is to counter consumers’ massive rejection of GMOs, just renaming them in a different way. But for us the current legislation is clear and GMO regulation should be applied to all new GMOs.”

Heat-Tolerant Broccoli for the Future - Phys.org (27 Sep 2017) (9/28/2017)

Researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service have developed and characterized genetic sources of heat tolerance in broccoli. "We identified genetic markers associated with resistance to heat damage in these plants," said Mark Farnham, a plant geneticist. "An important finding of this work is that the resistance trait is a complex trait controlled by many genes, which makes it a bit harder to work with. However, these markers are of great interest to public and private broccoli breeders, who can use some additional tools in their work to accelerate the development of heat-tolerant broccoli cultivars." Broccoli is a popular vegetable in the U.S., but it’s fussy - unexpected temperature fluctuations and excessive heat can reduce crop yield and quality. A heat-tolerant broccoli cultivar could extend the growing season, expand production areas and increase resilience. Farnham is working with scientists at land-grant universities to see how well his heat-tolerant broccoli does in different stress environments. Once it is shown to do well under adverse conditions in different locations, it will be made available for research purposes or for use by commercial seed companies and breeders.

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