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Outside the EC, hunger is a greater concern than GMO

Outside the EC, hunger is a greater concern than GMO

Countries outside the European Union are deciding for themselves whether or not they want to grow genetically modified crops.

Editor's Note: An earlier version was published with incorrect information stating the results of the GM camelina were to be announced later this year. They have been published earlier this year and can be found here

Courtesy of Seed World Daily

Last week, the U.S. Mission of the World Trade Organization held a biotech seminar at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The topic: "Impact of Biotechnology on the Developing World: Agriculture, Nutrition, and the Environment". It was clear that the world outside the European Union thinks differently about genetic engineering or genetic modification.

Outside the EC, hunger is a greater concern than GMO

Tony Lambino, communications head of the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute, was one of a number addressing the second green revolution in rice, including biotechnology, nutrition, and climate-smart technology diffusion in developing countries. He said that, for an institute such as IRRI, the choice whether to go for a genetic modified crop or a non-GM approach depended only on whether the trait was available in the crop or not.

Golden rice, vigorously opposed by anti-GMO organizations, is a genetically modified species contains beta carotene, an important source of vitamin A. Increasing vitamin A in developing nations has huge potential, according to Lambino, to save millions of children from blindness and possible death.

EYE AND LIFE-SAVER: IRRI researchers and partners are developing golden rice as a potential food-based approach to ease the risk of vitamin A deficiency which blinds up to half a million children in developing nations annually. (IRRI photo)

East African Highland bananas are a staple food for the large population in Africa. But the crop is troubled by many diseases, noted Andrew Kiggundu, head of Uganda's Biotechnology Research Center at the National Agricultural Research Organization. That's why NARO is developing GM varieties of this species. He noted that the biotech approach has great potential to improve the food-crop.

The social and environmental impact of biotech cotton on small scale agriculture in India was highlighted by C.D. Mayee, president of the Indian Society for Cotton Improvement and the South Asia Biotechnology Center. He highlighted many positive changes that had taken place since the introduction of Bt cotton in India. The country has tripled its national cotton production, and is now the largest exporter of high-quality cotton. Studies have found no adverse effects on flora and fauna. Insecticide sprays have been reduced more than half.

Matina Tsalavouta, head of public engagement at the United Kingdom's Rothamsted Research, shared  two experiments carried out at Rothamsted, one with GM wheat and one with GM camelina. The GM wheat trials had not delivered what they had hoped for, namely a more aphid-resistant wheat variety. Results of the GM camelina were successful. The researchers increased omega 3 content, previously found only in fish oil, in the oil crop, and added new value without hurting yields. Rothamsted's project leader, Johnathan Napier, said: "The omega-3 fish oil trait that we have developed is probably the most complex example of plant genetic engineering to be tested in the field. This is a globally-significant proof of the concept and a landmark moment in the effort to develop truly sustainable sources of feed for fish farms."

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