Transgenic plants are engineered for scientific research to create new colors in plants and to create different crops. In research, plants are engineered to help discover the functions of certain genes. One way to do this is to knock out the gene of interest and see what phenotype develops. Another strategy is to attach the gene to a strong promoter and see what happens when it is over expressed. A common technique used to find out where the gene is expressed is to attach it to GUS or a similar reporter gene that allows visualization of the location. Simple plants and plant cells have been genetically engineered for production of biopharmaceuticals in bioreactors as opposed to cultivating plants in open fields.
Now that food manufacturers (in this case specifically Nestle) are pledging to use natural ingredients, there appears to be a huge shortage of vanilla. The amount of natural vanilla from vanilla beans available worldwide will only supply a small fraction of the demand. See this Chemical and Engineering News article regarding all the options that are available to food producers. Most of the options (other than synthesizing from petrochemicals) are very expensive. At the heart of the matter is the question: “What constitutes natural?”. Continue reading “Vanilla Shortage?”
An application from Delhi University is being considered by the Rajasthan government to allow GM mustard to be the first GM crop to be cutivated commercially in India. Rajasthan is the country’s top producer of mustard. There is opposition to the move, however. Activists have started a petition on change.org that the government not allow the genetically modified mustard to be grown. The opposition also cites the failure of Bt cotton. Read the entire story, here on the Times of India.
In a meeting on Saturday, Banglidesh’s Agriculture minister announced that the country will make use of GMO crops in it’s efforts to feed it’s people. She explained that in the same way that they used hybrid technology after 1996, they’ll use GMOs to boost production of crops. Read the Daily Sun story.
Brazil has in the past had its ups and downs with GMO corn. In 2014, Bt corn failed to stop the insects that it was designed to repel due to mutation of the pests themselves. There is some controversy over what caused this (seed producers say instructions were not followed correctly regarding growing some non-GMO alongside the GMO variety), but the bottom line is that there is considerable resistance to Bt corn. That said, recent shortages have Brazil rethinking at least the import of Bt corn. The CTNBio, the country’s National Biosafety Technical Commission will meet on September 1 to decide whether to allow imports. The impetus for this decision is the shortage of feed for Brazil’s meat industry. Pork and poultry producers have had to resort to wheat as a substitute feed in recent months. Read the USDA GAIN report that says Brazil may run out of corn supplies in 2017 without importing GMO varieties.
Richard J. Roberts, one of two winners of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology, started a letter-writing campaign to GreenPeace to stop bashing GMOs. GreenPeace has led the charge against Golden Rice, which is higher in vitamin A and would stop much of the disease and death associated with vitamin A deficiency in poorer countries. See the article about golden rice and Greenpeace’s stand on the GM crop. The nobel laureates contend that golden rice is safe, and are pushing GreenPeace to tone down the rhetoric aimed at GMOs. GreenPeace’s argument is that there are better ways to spend the money that was used to develop crops like golden rice (vitamins, promoting a well-rounded diet, etc.). See excerpts from the letter, in its entirety on the Washington Post site.