Thursday, February 21, 2013

Developing countries fared better than industrialised countries!

For the first time since GM crops were commercialised in 1996, developing countries took over industrialised countries in terms of GM crop hectarage. To date GM or biotech crops are grown on 170 million hectares of land. This is 100-fold increase where in 1996, 1.7 million hectares were used to grow GM crops.

The main question remains: Would farmers continue to adopt a technology that is not profitable, safe, and that does not have a market?

 “Biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent history,” said Clive James, veteran author of the annual report and chair and founder of ISAAA.

 “This growth is contrary to the prediction of critics, who prior to the commercialization of the technology in 1996 prematurely declared that biotech crops were only for industrial countries, and would never be accepted and adopted by developing countries,” James said further.

The benefits of GM crops are multiple: increase in yield, savings in fuel, time and machinery, reduction in pesticide use, higher quality of product and more growing cycles. And these are the factors that contribute to the increase in hectarage year after year.

Food security, sustainable development and climate change are the serious challenges and evidence points to GM crops as one of the solutions.

Africa missed the Green Revolution but is catching up with gene revolution now with Sudan joining South Africa, Burkina Faso and Egypt. Cuba was also a first timer last year, growing GM cotton.
China, India, Brazil and Argentina together grew 46 per cent of global GM crops. Brazil is becoming a leader in this with its science-based and very efficient regulatory system which could be a model for other economies to follow.

Golden Rice might finally see the light of the day in 2013/14. This crop is slated to benefit millions of people in Asia and Africa, especially young children.

For more info, please check:

By Mahaletchumy Arujanan

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Banking for the future (Part II)

On the subject of seedbanks in my previous blog on 11th December 2012, let’s look further on the types of seeds that exist and how to store them long term. The seed has an embryo and is well protected by the testa or seed coat. When the seed is in storage it is said to be at resting stage or dormant. After a long period or short period of rest the seed can be woken up! This happens in the environment, in the soil. When the conditions are suitable the seed begins to grow. Legume seeds have been found to be alive (viable) for 25 years. Even more remarkable is the fact that wheat seeds buried in the Egyptian tombs for centuries been found to be alive. There are many examples such as these that puzzle us on the seed’s ability to be alive and withstand desiccation and survive the stress. This is one strange mystery of life.

There are a few types of seeds categorised according to the seed’s ability to withstand storage conditions. Seeds that can be stored for very long periods with low moisture content are known as orthodox seeds while those that cannot be stored for long especially in seed banks are known as recalcitrant seeds. Modern methods to store these recalcitrant seeds include tissue culture technology or cryopreservation which is actually storing embryos that have been excised and kept in liquid nitrogen (-1960C).

As mentioned previously seed banks keep seeds safely for a ‘rainy day’. They carry out the basic function of getting new germplasm either through collection or exchange. Each lot of seed is given a passport, so to speak, so that there is no duplication. Conservation is then carried out making available genetic material for crop improvement and to restore it where it has been lost in a country. A gene bank carries out viability tests regularly to ensure stored seeds are always alive and of good quality.

To sum it all we can attribute a seed bank to be an agriculture insurance policy.

By Christina Stephensons