Quote of
the week

"If we tried to feed the global population today on the average agricultural yields of the 1960s, we would need to farm over 85 percent of global land, instead of the 35 percent we use currently."

 

Professor Robert Henry

University of Queensland

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How natural is our food, and what does 'natural' mean anyway?

                                                                                     

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Sustainable food and farming policies must be rooted in science, says new policy group

                                                                                     

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comment

“Figuring out how to feed, clothe and power 11 billion people without causing mass species extinction and wrecking the climate is this century’s greatest challenge."

"Preserving diverse life while meeting humanity’s needs will mean enormous trade-offs, but the evidence is starting to point in one direction."

"Most species fare much better if habitats are left intact, which means reducing the space needed for farming. So areas that are farmed need to be as productive as we can possibly make them.”

Professor Andrew Balmford FRS

Conservation scientist

University of Cambridge

Read full article HERE

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must reads

Science for Sustainable Agriculture news

UK plant breeders support transparency on precision breeding techniques 

Nigel Moore

As members of the House of Lords prepare to debate amendments tabled in advance of the Grand Committee stage of the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill, there will be calls on Government to enforce statutory labelling of food and feed produced from precision bred organisms. But such a requirement would not only contradict the underlying rationale for the Bill that precision-bred products could equally have occurred naturally or through conventional breeding, it would also drive up costs to consumers and would, in practice, be unenforceable through testing, writes plant breeder Nigel Moore. 

 

Read more...

   

In farmed animals, gene editing could be a game-changer for disease control, animal welfare and the environment

Lord Trees

 

Veterinarian Professor the Lord Trees explains his support for the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill and its potential to deliver positive outcomes for disease control, animal welfare and environmental impact. And he points out that existing laws governing animal welfare, both in research and in agriculture, if properly enforced, should reassure those who have welfare concerns.

Read more...

Wringing your hands or getting the ball rolling? Two approaches to decarbonising agriculture

Dr Julian Little

  

Science communicator Dr Julian Little examines two contrasting approaches taken by leading food businesses to promote more sustainable agriculture and food production – the apparently “unscalable” regenerative agriculture, and sustainable intensification. Which approach is most likely to deliver the necessary increases in global food production while at the same time reducing agriculture’s footprint, delivering net zero and leaving room for nature? And are they in conflict?

Read more...

 

ELMS review is an opportunity to put scientific evidence and data at the heart of farm policy

Julian Sturdy MP

It is absolutely right that the Government should be reviewing policies which would set our farming industry on a trajectory towards lower-yielding production systems and even re-wilding of productive farmland.         

   

To deliver the best outcomes for food security, the environment and the climate, Defra Ministers must restore the strategic policy focus on sustainable intensification in UK agriculture, underpinned by science-based metrics, and with a clear focus on genetic innovation as the main driver of agricultural productivity.   

Read more...

Gene editing - three simple questions for ScotGov

Finlay Carson MSP

 

Speaking in a member’s question debate on gene editing at Holyrood earlier this week, Finlay Carson MSP, convenor of the Rural Affairs Committee, urged ScotGov to introduce simplified rules for experimental research to ensure Scottish research is not left behind. He called on Ministers to acknowledge the positive signals emerging from the EU regarding the benefits of precision breeding for more sustainable, climate resilient agriculture, and the rapid progress towards regulatory reform in Brussels. And he highlighted ScotGov’s own consumer research showing that two in three Scots would be willing to try gene edited foods as a good basis to embrace the potential of a technology with so much promise for Scotland’s world-leading scientific, farming, and food and drink sectors. 

Read more...

The unnatural nature of food (Part 3)

Matt Ridley

 

In the third part of his investigation into the concept of ‘naturalness’ in food and farming, science writer Matt Ridley discovers more about how human beings have tampered with nature in search of food for a very long time. From breeding improved strains of crops and livestock to the very act of cooking itself, he argues that the more scientific and artificial our food system becomes, the more likely it is to sustain both humankind and the natural environment.

Read more...

Mandatory labelling of crop biotech-derived foods:  the evidence shows this is a failed regulatory policy

Graham Brookes

Proponents of mandatory labelling of foods containing or derived from genetically modified (GM) crops have long claimed that their primary objective is to facilitate informed consumer choice.  Based on a review of more than 20 years of evidence in countries or regions where mandatory GM labelling has been implemented, that policy has failed.  The main outcomes have been increased food industry costs across the supply chain, higher prices and reduced choice for consumers.  In contrast, in cases where labelling is voluntary, consumers and taxpayers have had more food choices with lower costs, writes agricultural economist Graham Brookes.

Read more...

We must consider the ethical implications of not embracing genome editing in farmed animals

Professor Helen Sang OBE FRSE FRSB

 

As the bird flu outbreak worsens in the British poultry flock, prompting further housing and biosecurity orders after the virus over-summered in the UK for the first time, it is distressing that animal welfare charities such as the RSPCA are campaigning against the use of genetic technologies, such as genome editing, which offer potential solutions.

 

And when the Covid pandemic, which has now claimed more than 6 million lives globally, is thought to have originated in animal to human transfer, it is concerning that ethical discussions about the use of genome editing in farmed animals appear to centre more on opposition to livestock agriculture than on the technologies themselves, writes animal geneticist Professor Helen Sang.

Read more...

 

ScotGov must adopt a more science-based approach on gene editing

Samantha Brooke

Responding to the recent ScotGov consultation on a future Agriculture Bill for Scotland, Samantha Brooke explains that while plant breeders applaud the document’s explicit focus on the importance of conserving plant genetic resources, Ministers must recognise the value of new breeding technologies, such as gene editing, in unlocking their potential. 

 

Read more...

 

Livestock breeding and sustainability

Professor Geoff Simm

Genetic improvement of farm livestock productivity is a key factor in ensuring the availability and affordability of highly nutritious food, increased food security, and improved resource-use efficiency. Improved scientific understanding in recent decades is supporting more sustainable breeding programmes that better balance the emphasis on productivity and animal health and welfare, that address environmental impacts, and promote sustainable use of farm animal genetic resources, writes Professor Geoff Simm, Director of the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems at the University of Edinburgh.

Read more...

 

Are anti-science campaigners trying to mislead over Precision Breeding?

Professor Tina Barsby OBE

 

MPs and Lords are preparing to debate the remaining stages of the Precision Breeding Bill at Westminster. While a handful of environmental and organic NGOs maintain their opposition to the Bill, the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence supports the safety and value of these advanced breeding techniques. Faced with urgent challenges over food security and climate change, even the European Union is now moving at pace to update its legislation to enable the use of modern breeding methods such as gene editing, writes plant scientist Professor Tina Barsby. 

Read more...

Pro-science think-tank urges Defra to put evidence and data at the heart of farm policy review

To deliver the best outcomes for food security, the environment and the climate, Science for Sustainable Agriculture is urging Defra Ministers to restore the strategic policy focus on sustainable intensification in UK agriculture, underpinned by science-based metrics, and with a clear focus on genetic innovation as the main driver of agricultural productivity.   

Read more...

The unnatural nature of food (Part 2)

Matt Ridley

 

Science writer Matt Ridley continues to explore the concept of ‘naturalness’ in food and farming, arguing that our obsession with food being natural is getting in the way of our food being plentiful, affordable, healthy and good for nature. He suggests that the more concentrated and productive we make our farming systems, the better it is for nature by using less land, less water and fewer natural resources.

Read more...

We must look to scientific innovation in agriculture to deliver Net Zero

Julian Sturdy MP

Launching an APPG inquiry into the technologies, innovations and practices which can help Britain's farmers deliver on the UK's net zero commitments, Julian Sturdy MP argues that action on climate change must look to science and innovation rather than arbitrary targets or restrictions on economic activity.   

Read more...

Innovation can support the goals of regenerative agriculture – but are technologies like gene editing in or out?

Professor Johnathan Napier

Genetic technologies can help deliver the objectives of regenerative agriculture, says UK plant scientist Professor Johnathan Napier. But will they be allowed to, he asks.

Read more...

ScotGov must do the right thing by science on gene editing 

Finlay Carson MSP

Faced with a cost-of-living crisis, forecasts of increasing global hunger, and unprecedented drought conditions impacting crop production world-wide, Finlay Carson MSP, convenor of the Rural Affairs Committee in the Scottish Parliament, highlights the enormous contribution Scotland’s world-leading agri-science base can make, and urges Scottish Ministers to follow the science on technologies such as gene editing to allow research in Scotland to realise its full potential.  

Read more...

UK agricultural policies must follow the science and evidence, says agricultural economist

 

A UK agricultural economist says the best way to provide the UK population with access to adequate supplies of food, at reasonable prices, whilst not destroying the Earth’s climate and many species of plant and animal life, is to recognise the need for a combination of high yield farming, natural habitat and lower intensity farming systems – reflecting the three-compartment approach set out in Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy document and inspired by the work of conservation scientists, Professors Andrew Balmford and Rhys Green at the University of Cambridge.   

 

Graham Brookes of PG Economics said the science points to a need for sensible combining of production methods and techniques used in both high and lower intensity (including organic) production systems, and to embrace (not reject) the adoption of new innovations and technologies like plant genetics, digital agriculture and precision farming.

Read more ...

The unnatural nature of food

Matt Ridley

What could be more natural than organically grown Golden Promise barley, used to make craft-brewed pale ale?

 

As one artisan brewer boasts: “The Golden Promise malt, showcased in this pale ale, is an early-maturing spring barley from Scotland. It has a very clean sweetness and a prominent biscuity flavour that is perfect for UK-style pale ales with their rich and malty flavour profiles.”

 

Only hang on a minute.

 

Golden Promise was produced in 1965 by irradiating barley seeds with gamma rays from Cobalt 60 isotopes provided by the Harwell Atomic Energy Research Establishment to a profit-seeking plant breeding firm, writes Matt Ridley.

Read more...

Rejecting ag technology can be costly

Stuart Smyth & Robert Paarlberg, The Western Producer, December 2022

Rejecting ag technology can be costly | The Western Producer

Will EU open door to GM crops in 2023? Opposition is waning

Resource Online - WUR, December 2022

Will EU open door to GM crops in 2023? - Resource online (resource-online.nl)

Why genetically-modified crops may be about to have their day

The Telegraph, December 2022

Why genetically-modified crops may be about to have their day (telegraph.co.uk)

 

The scientific breakthrough that promises to end egg shortages

The Telegraph, November 2022

UK egg shortage: How genetically edited chickens resistant to bird flu could crack the problem (telegraph.co.uk)

As Africa faces climate change and farming disruptions, biotechnology-driven innovation offers hope. Why is it not more widely adopted?

Uchechi Moses, Genetic Literacy Project, November 2022

Viewpoint: As Africa faces climate change and farming disruptions, biotechnology-driven innovation offers hope. Why is it not more widely adopted? - Genetic Literacy Project

 

Thinking Over Sustainability

Cesar Gonzalez, European Seed, November 2022

Thinking Over Sustainability (european-seed.com)

This Thanksgiving highlights the need for agriculture innovation

Ponsi Trivisvavet, The Hill, November 2022

This Thanksgiving highlights the need for agriculture innovation | The Hill

The world’s largest food companies have gone backwards on net zero

David Burrows, Just Food, November 2022

The world’s largest food companies have gone backwards on net zero (just-food.com)

 

How to rescue biofuels from a sustainable dead end

Peter Fairley, Nature, November 2022

How to rescue biofuels from a sustainable dead end (nature.com)

Can we trust agriculture to make itself more sustainable?

Alex Smith, The Breakthrough Institute, November 2022

Can We Trust Agriculture to Make Itself… | The Breakthrough Institute

Government decisions that needlessly extend food insecurity

Stuart Smyth, SAI Food, November 2022

Government Decisions That Needlessly Extend Food Insecurity - SAIFood

 

Farmer protests in Europe challenge misguided restrictions on biology innovation

Bill Wirtz, Genetic Literacy Project, November 2022

Viewpoint: Farmer protests in Europe challenges misguided restrictions on biology innovation - Genetic Literacy Project

Numbers don't lie: Harsh realities that forced Kenya to go GMO way

The Standard, 22 November 2022

Numbers don't lie: Harsh realities that forced Kenya to go GMO way - FarmKenya Initiative (standardmedia.co.ke)

 

Gene editing: regulate the ‘product’ not the ‘process’

Andy Doyle, Irish Farmers Journal, 21 November 2022

Gene editing: regulate the ‘product’ not the ‘process’ 21 November 2022 Free (farmersjournal.ie)

Is regenerative agriculture the future of farming or the next greenwashing fad?

Adele Peters, Fast Company, November 2022

What is regenerative agriculture and is it legitimate? (fastcompany.com)

 

Bill Gates Says Every Piece Of Bread He's Ever Eaten Is From 'Genetically-Modified Wheat': Why He's Rooting For GMOs

Benzinga, November 2022

Bill Gates Says Every Piece Of Bread He's Ever Eaten Is From 'Genetically-Modified Wheat': Why He's Rooting For GMOs - Benzinga

Intended and unintended consequences of genetically modified crops – myth, fact and/or manageable outcomes?

John R Caradus, NZ Journal of Agricultural Research, November 2022

Full article: Intended and unintended consequences of genetically modified crops – myth, fact and/or manageable outcomes? (tandfonline.com)

A thriving future: Trends in agricultural innovation

Michael Robertson, CSIRO, November 2022

A thriving future: Trends in agricultural innovation – ECOS (csiro.au)

A Biotech Revolution Could Fix Farming's Role in Climate Change

Juergen Eckhardt, Barron’s, November 2022

A Biotech Revolution Could Fix Farming's Role in Climate Change | Barron's (barrons.com)

Modern humans have evolved on a diet high in animal foods for four million years

Beef Central, November 2022

Modern humans have evolved on a diet high in animal foods for four million years - Beef Central

New Zealand targets cow burps to help reduce global warming

ABC News, November 2022

New Zealand targets cow burps to help reduce global warming - ABC News (go.com)

'Groupthink' is leading farming up a blind alley

Richard Wright, The Scottish Farmer, November 2022

'Groupthink' is leading farming up a blind alley | The Scottish Farmer

How to make corn more like cactus

Kurt Kleiner, Knowable Magazine, November 2022

How to make corn more like cactus (knowablemagazine.org)

 

Replace animal farms with micro-organism tanks, say campaigners

The Guardian, November 2022

Replace animal farms with micro-organism tanks, say campaigners | Food | The Guardian

Food: In order to protect the Mediterranean diet, the EU must embrace agricultural innovation

Robert D. Cobb, The Inscriber Magazine, November 2022

Food: In order to protect the Mediterranean diet, the EU must embrace agricultural innovation (theinscribermag.com)

The Evolution of Plant Breeding

Seed World, November 2022

The Evolution of Plant Breeding - Seed World

 

Big food companies commit to 'regenerative agriculture' but skepticism remains

NPR, November 2022

Food corporations commit to more sustainable farming before climate meeting : NPR

Mood shifts on gene-edited crops as droughts and wars bite

Financial Times, November 2022

Mood shifts on gene-edited crops as droughts and wars bite | Financial Times

Share the Big Picture to Move Ag Policy Forward

Seed World, November 2022

Share the Big Picture to Move Ag Policy Forward - Seed World

The product, not the process

Ralph Pearce, Country Guide, November 2022

The product, not the process - Country Guide (country-guide.ca)

Technology Feeds Sustainable Agriculture

Information Week, November 2022

Technology Feeds Sustainable Agriculture (informationweek.com)

 

Innovation Will Help Farmers Feed a World of 8 Billion and Counting

Gurjeet Singh Mann, November 2022

Innovation Will Help Farmers Feed a World of 8 Billion and Counting – Global Farmer Network®

 

Why Are Farmers Defying Bans to Cultivate GM Crops?

Vijay Jayaraj, American Thinker, November 2022

Why Are Farmers Defying Bans to Cultivate GM Crops? - American Thinker

 

The Industry Complex (Part 2): The Hate Industry

David Zaruk, The Risk-Monger, November 2022

The Industry Complex (Part 2): The Hate Industry – The Risk-Monger

 

As Carbon Dioxide Goes Up, Plants’ Nutrient Content Declines

Dan Robitzki, The Scientist, November 2022

As Carbon Dioxide Goes Up, Plants’ Nutrient Content Declines | The Scientist Magazine® (the-scientist.com)

Not following the science

Andy Jobman, Lincoln Journal Star, November 2022

Local View: Not following the science (journalstar.com)

Regenerative Rules: Why we need to move from organic to regenerative agriculture

Anand Swaroop, Nutritional Outlook, October 2022

Regenerative Rules: Why we need to move from organic to regenerative agriculture (nutritionaloutlook.com)

Global Food Insecurity – The Danger of Misguided Food Production Policies: The Case of Sri Lanka

Paul Teng, Jose Ma. Luis P. Montesclaros, RSIS, October 2022

Global Food Insecurity – The Danger of Misguided Food Production Policies: The Case of Sri Lanka - RSIS

Kenya’s decision to open the door to GM maize is a good omen

Wandile Sihlobo, Agricultural Economics Today, October 2022

Kenya’s decision to open the door to GM maize is a good omen | Wandile Sihlobo

Philippines approves cultivation of Bt brinjal

Hindustan Times, October 2022

Philippines approves cultivation of Bt brinjal | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times

 

From Pitless Cherries to Softer Kale, This Startup Is Using CRISPR to Make Better Produce

Singularity Hub, October 2022

From Pitless Cherries to Softer Kale, This Startup Is Using CRISPR to Make Better Produce (singularityhub.com)

 

Engineered duckweed could be a more sustainable source of biofuel

New Atlas, October 2022

Engineered duckweed could be a more sustainable source of biofuel (newatlas.com)

When Green idealism fails to yield

Trevor Whittington, Australian Rural & Regional News, October 2022

When Green idealism fails to yield I Australian Rural & Regional News (arr.news)

 

Future food depends on the cutting edge

Caitlyn Byrt, The Print, October 2022

Future food depends on the cutting edge – ThePrint – PTIFeed

Is the stigma of ‘frankenfood’ lifting? Investigating attitudes to GMOs, genetic engineering and synbio in food

Food Navigator, October 2022

Attitudes to GMOs and genetic engineering in food (foodnavigator.com)

Plants’ carbon role not to be ignored

Stuart Smyth, The Western Producer, October 2022

Plants’ carbon role not to be ignored | The Western Producer

CRISPR gene editing: a key tool for counteracting climate change

Labiotech, October 2022

CRISPR: Caszyme's key weapon against climate change (labiotech.eu)

What is natural food?

Grace Galler, New Food, October 2022

What is natural food? (newfoodmagazine.com)

Science, innovation and incentives will transform global diets and food systems

Tom Adams, AgriPulse, October 2022

Opinion: Science, innovation and incentives will transform global diets and food systems | Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

 

Country takes great strides in food security

Li Guoxiang, China Daily, October 2022

Country takes great strides in food security - Chinadaily.com.cn

Ten Regulatory Steps for a Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture

David Zaruk, The Risk-Monger, October 2022

Ten Regulatory Steps for a Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture – The Risk-Monger

Is organic farming really better than conventional farming?

Giovanni Cagnano, European Seed, October 2022

Is Organic Farming Really Better Than Conventional Farming? (european-seed.com)

 

King Charles’ resistance to crop biotechnology has been a royal pain. Can the former ‘Dunce of Wales’ shuck organic propaganda and embrace sustainable agriculture?

Henry Miller, Genetic Literacy Project, October 2022

Viewpoint: King Charles' resistance to crop biotechnology has been a royal pain. Can the former 'Dunce of Wales’ shuck organic propaganda and embrace sustainable agriculture? - Genetic Literacy Project

 

The Need for a European Pro-Science Lobby

David Zaruk, European Seed, October 2022

The Need for a European Pro-Science Lobby7 (european-seed.com)

 

Fact check: Associated Press debunks social media claims that GMO corn can cause cancer

Genetic Literacy Project, October 2022

Fact check: Associated Press debunks social media claims that GMO corn can cause cancer - Genetic Literacy Project

 

If a company pledges to source from a ‘regenerative’ farm, what does that really mean?

Amanda Zaluckyj, AgDaily, October 2022

What does it mean for a company to source from a 'regenerative' farm? (agdaily.com)

 

Why I am keen to get my hands on genetically modified purple tomatoes

Claire Wilson, New Scientist, October 2022

Why I am keen to get my hands on genetically modified purple tomatoes | New Scientist

Commission stands by gene editing survey slammed by NGOs

Natasha Foote, Euractiv, October 2022

Commission stands by gene editing survey slammed by NGOs – EURACTIV.com

Africa needs more, not less, fertilizer

Saloni Shah, Foreign Policy, October 2022

To Achieve Food Security, Africa Must Increase Fertilizer Production (foreignpolicy.com)

Like it or not, gene-edited crops are coming to the EU

Politico, October 2022

Like it or not, gene-edited crops are coming to the EU – POLITICO

Chemical exposure - benefit vs. risk

Michael Dourson, Mansfield News Journal, October 2022

Use of chemicals should be determined by benefit vs. risk (mansfieldnewsjournal.com)

 

Greens/EFA Report goes after plant researchers and EU organizations. It fails

Emil Panzaru, European Scientist, October 2022

Greens/EFA Report goes after plant researchers and EU organizations. It fails (europeanscientist.com)

State Of The Union Address Highlights Flawed EU Approach To Food Crisis

London Globe, September 2022

State of the Union address highlights flawed EU approach to food crisis - London Globe (london-globe.com)

Purple tomatoes herald a new era for GM food

Sunday Times, September 2022

Purple tomatoes herald a new era for GM food | Business | The Sunday Times (thetimes.co.uk)

Liz Truss must ditch the anti-farming lobby

Sir James Dyson, The Telegraph, September 2022

Liz Truss must ditch the anti-farming lobby (telegraph.co.uk)

A debate beyond conventional versus organic

Richard Smoley, Produce Blue Book, September 2022

A debate beyond conventional versus organic – Produce Blue Book

Regenerative Agriculture Doesn't Have to Be Contentious

Shane Thomas, Upstream Ag Insights, September 2022

Regenerative Agriculture Doesn't Have to Be Contentious (substack.com)

Agricultural Research and Development: How to Grow Enough Food for Everyone With the Least Carbon Emissions

The Breakthrough Institute, September 2022

Agricultural Research and Development: How to Grow Enough Food for… (thebreakthrough.org)

Time to reopen the GE in agriculture debate

Dr Jacqueline Rowarth, The Country, 20 September 2022

Dr Jacqueline Rowarth: Time to reopen the GE in agriculture debate - NZ Herald

Who’s Afraid of Gene-Edited Crops?

Emma Kovak, Foreign Policy, September 2022

The World Needs More Gene-Edited Crops (foreignpolicy.com)

Eating insects can be good for the planet – Europeans should eat more of them

Peter Alexander, The Conversation, September 2022

Eating insects can be good for the planet – Europeans should eat more of them (theconversation.com)