Friday, January 17, 2020

Trending News on Crop Biotech in 2019

We summarized the top 10 most trending Crop Biotech Update news shared on social media to give you a glimpse of crop biotech happenings in 2019. Read on and make sure you don't miss which news made it to the number one spot.

10. New Plant Breeding Technologies Designed to Help Attain Food Security

An international team of researchers argues that new plant breeding technologies – such as genome editing – can contribute significantly to food security and sustainable development.  Genome editing can be used to make crop plants more resistant to pests and diseases and more tolerant to drought and heat. Methods such as CRISPR-Cas9 can be used to make precise point mutations without introducing foreign genes. Due to their low costs, these methods can also be employed in previously neglected crops, such as pulses and local vegetables. Shares: 260

9. FDA Approves Texas A&M's Ultra-Low Gossypol Cotton for Human and Animal Consumption

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved ultra-low gossypol cottonseed for human food and animal feed. It is derived from a transgenic cotton variety TAM66274 developed by Texas A&M AgriLife Research. TAM66274 is a unique cotton plant with ultra-low gossypol levels in the seed, which makes the protein from the seeds safe for food use, but also maintains normal plant-protecting gossypol levels in the rest of the plant, making it ideal for the traditional cotton farmer. Shares: 270

8. Bt Cotton Approved for Planting in Kenya

The Kenyan Cabinet, chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta, has approved the commercial planting of Bt cotton after the 5-year field trials showed positive results. The biotech crop is expected to increase the cotton production of Kenyan farmers and thus boost the manufacturing pillar of the Big 4 Agenda where it is stated that Kenya aims to be at the forefront of global textile and apparel production. Shares: 278

7. Genetically Engineered Plants Occur in Large Scale Naturally

Horizontal gene transfer caused by Agrobacterium was found to occur in 39 dicot species. These findings prove that transgenic plants occur in nature on an unexpectedly large scale. Researchers at St. Petersburg State University in Russia and Institut de Biologie Mol├ęculaire des Plantes in France found that transfer DNAs were found in 23 out of 275 dicots. Data of 256 dicot species showed that 16 more are naturally transgenic species. For the monocots, similar sequences were also found in greater yam and banana. Shares: 311

People with the most extreme views opposing genetically modified (GM) foods think they know most about GM food science, but actually, they know the least, according to new research published in Nature Human Behaviour. The research was a collaboration between researchers at the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Toronto, and the University of Pennsylvania. Shares: 316
Genome editing could be an alternative approach to improve the vitamin A content of crops, according to a study by Akira Endo and colleagues at the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization and Ishikawa Prefectural University in Japan. They focused on rice's Orange gene (Osor) and tested if they could increase the beta-carotene content of rice callus using CRISPR-Cas9. The transformed calli turned orange, indicating hyper-accumulation of beta-carotene. Molecular analyses indicated that orange-colored calli are caused by an abundance of in-frame aberrant Osor transcripts, while out-of-frame mutation was not associated with orange color. Shares: 329

A team of 12 students from the Department of Biotechnology and Food Engineering at Israel's the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology has developed a bee-free honey produced by the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, which "learns" to make honey following reprogramming in a lab. For the project they named BeeFree, the team won a gold medal at the recent iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) competition held in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, where some 300 teams from different universities around the world took part. Shares: 412

The European Commission has authorized eight genetically modified organisms, all for food/feed uses. These are: maize MZHG0JG; maize MON 89034 x 1507 x NK603 x DAS-40278-9; maize MON 89034 x 1507 x MON 88017 x 59122 x DAS-40278-9; maize Bt11 x MIR162 x MIR604 x 1507 x 5307 x GA21; renewals of soybean MON 89788 and soybean A2704-12; renewal of cotton LLCotton25; and renewal of oilseed rape T45. Shares: 442
2Bacterial Blight Resistant Rice Developed thru Genome Editing

Genome editing made it possible for the world's most important food crop to become resistant to a destructive bacterial disease. Researchers at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) found that rice plants with CRISPR-Cas9-edited SWEET genes were resistant to at least 95 strains of Xanthomonas oryzae pathovar oryzae (Xoo) which causes bacterial blight. Shares: 563

The Philippines' Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) has issued a biosafety permit to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for GR2E Golden Rice for direct use as food and feed, or for processing (FFP). After rigorous biosafety assessment, DA-BPI has found Golden Rice "to be as safe as conventional rice." Shares: 2,593
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Monday, December 16, 2019

Why are there few women in science?

Why are there few women in science? UNESCO Institute for Statistics data states that in 2015, only 30% of the world's researchers were women. Based on headcount data, the highest percentage of women doing research was in Central Asia where 48.1% were women, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (45.4%). The lowest percentage was reported in South and West Asia where only 18.5% of the researchers were women. There was no region reported with more than 50% saturation of women scientists. These statistics bring us back to the question, why are there few women involved in science?

A meta-analysis by the American Association of University Women shows that the environment shapes women's achievements and interests in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). When women believe in their potential for intellectual growth, they become achievers. Based on that finding, it is implied that there is a loophole in the growth mindset of women all over the world which can be attributed to their environment.

Building a culture that empowers women motivates them to do great things in science that will benefit their personal lives and the society. Their knowledge and experiences will lead the public to appreciate science and make informed decisions about technology applications such as biotechnology. Considering that the stories and aspirations of women could help bridge the gap between science and the public, ISAAA and its network of Biotechnology Information Centers launched Science and She in 2018. It is an online campaign aimed at empowering women in science by showcasing the experiences and viewpoints of female scientists and science communicators. The highlights of their stories are published in the 10th installment of ISAAA Biotech Communication Series titled Science and She: Empowering Women in Science. Download a copy now for free from the ISAAA website.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Craig Cormick Publishes New Book on Science of Communicating Science

Are you wishing you knew all you need to know about better communicating science, without having to read several hundred academic papers and blogs and books? Then this book is for you!

Dr. Craig Cormick, Australia's leading science communicator has published his new book, The Science of Communicating Science: The Ultimate Guide together with CABI and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The book aims to help solve a major problem that many scientists face at some point in their career: how do I communicate my work to society?

The Science of Communicating Science  is a rare book that combines academic rigor with the ease of reading a blog. It's a solid one-stop-shop where scientists can learn about the main aspects of science communication without – as the blurb says – “having to read several hundred academic papers and blogs and books.” The book also helps to solve an unusual problem surrounding science communication: the disconnect between scientists and the information available on science communication.

The book's four-part structure creates a comprehensive but digestible road map for science communications. Here are short descriptions of each part:
  • Part 1: The ground rules. This section lays facts and truths that are essential to understand before wading into setting up Facebook accounts or drafting press releases. It covers the importance of observing and understanding your audience, audience segmentation, creating SMART goals – even when the temptation might be to dive into creating an explosive, viral YouTube video.
  • Part 2: Communication tools. This is the main section of the book and includes practical advice about specific communication tools. Its introduction helpfully explains the importance of simple messaging (not dumbing down) and tools like the message box and half-life messages, and the power of metaphors. It has a nice long chapter on the media and another chapter on social media, the two tools that most scientists have hesitations or reservations about, but are the ones they are most often pulled towards. 
  • Part 3: When things get hard. This is one of the most interesting parts of the book, since it tackles exactly those times that scientists dread the most: what to do when things get hard. In a world of fake news, can you really change behaviours and opinions? How do you share data and evidence that compete with beliefs and values?
  • Part 4: Science communication issues. The final section of the book includes some thought provoking issues, including ethics – essential for those wanting to communicate science faithfully and objectively while understanding that opinions and personality are often an important element of communication.
The book also contains interesting and relevant case studies, with each chapter ending with a section entitled ‘What to do with what you now know’, which offers practical steps for taking action, as well as ‘Key summary points’ to capture the highlights of each chapter. There are also excellent endnotes for further reading. The charts, illustrations and tables enhance the book’s messages.

As the blurb states, this book would be suitable for “anyone who is interested in science communication and all scientists wishing to improve their own communication techniques.” But given its scientific basis, it would be a good read for anyone with a technical background too. Dr Cormick often mentions biologists, chemists and physicists, but engineers and software developers who find themselves needing to communicate complex ideas to general audiences – possibly even customers – would benefit from this book as well. Those already working in science communications, such as marketing and PR, can also benefit from this book.

Dr. Cormick is, of course, a science communicator himself with over 25 years of experience. He’s worked with organisations such as CSIRO, Questacon and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. He has been widely published on science communication issues in key journals and the popular media, including ABC Radio National’s The Science Show, the Conversation, and has twice appeared in Best Australian Science Writing. He is a popular speaker on science communication issues at conferences in Australia and overseas. In 2013, he was awarded the Unsung Hero of Science Communication by the Australian Science Communicators (ASC) and is currently the President of the ASC. He is also a writer of fiction – a storyteller. The chatty, humorous way in which he writes makes this an easy book to read, while he keeps his eye clearly on the science audience for which this book is intended.

In sum, for any scientist needing to communicate their work, this book will be a thoroughly helpful resource. To get a copy, visit the CABI Bookshop.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Biotech Crop Area Reaches 2.5 Billion Hectares in 23 Years

High adoption of biotech crops continued in 2018, according to the ISAAA Report, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in 2018. On the 23rd year of commercial cultivation of biotech crops, 26 countries grew 191.7 million hectares of biotech crops, bringing the accumulated biotech crop area to 2.5 billion hectares, a ~113-fold increase since 1996, the first year of commercial planting of biotech crops. This makes biotech crops the fastest crop technology adopted in recent times.

The total area of 191.7 million hectares in 2018 were grown by 26 countries, 21 developing and 5 industrial countries. Developing countries led by Brazil planted 54% of the total biotech crop area, while the industrial countries led by the USA planted the remaining 46%. An additional 44 countries imported biotech crops for food, feed, and processing, bringing the total number of countries that adopted biotech crops to 70.

Learn more about biotech crops adoption in 2018, download and read the booklet Beyond Promises: Facts about Biotech/GM Crops in 2018.