University of Georgia students and faculty discuss GMOs

By Sadie Lackey, University of Georgia

To help spark a more substantive conversation about genetically modified crops, the Sustainable Food Systems Initiative hosted a panel discussion on Sept. 26 after the public film screening of “Food Evolution,” a 2016 documentary on the issues surrounding GMOs and their promise for building a more food-secure world. The Sustainable Food Systems Initiative is a faculty group from across the University of Georgia campus that focuses on inter-disciplinary solutions to food system problems. Faculty from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) led this initiative.

The panel included UGA agricultural communications professor Abigail Borron, Wayne Parrott of the UGA Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics, Pablo Lapegna, UGA sociology professor and author of Soybeans and Power: Genetically Modified Crops, Environmental Politics and Social Movements in Argentina and UGA CAES sustainable agriculture coordinator Julia Gaskin. Continue reading

University of Vermont study shows GMO labeling decreases opposition to GMO foods

A recent study at the University of Vermont found that labeling on genetically-modified products actually improved consumer perceptions of genetic engineering.

Labeling of genetically–modified products has been controversial since the concept was introduced. In 2016, several states introduced bills to label genetically modified food products. Many states included an initiative on the voting ballot, and despite the seeming demand for labeling based on surveys, in most states the initiatives did not receive the popular vote. Vermont, on the other hand, passed a law to label genetically-modified foods on July 1, 2016 without presenting it for a popular vote. Continue reading

EU proposes action on bees & pesticides

Today, EU Member States did not reach a qualified majority – either in favour or against – in the Appeal Committee1 which discussed a Commission proposal to restrict the use of 3 neonicotinoid insecticides.

Tonio Borg, Health and Consumer Commissioner, said: “Although a majority of Member States now supports our proposal, the necessary qualified majority was not reached. The decision now lies with the Commission. Since our proposal is based on a number of risks to bee health identified by the European Food Safety Authority, the Commission will go ahead with its text in the coming weeks.” To conclude: “I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over €22 billion annually to European agriculture, are protected.” Continue reading

EPA Reopens Public Comment Period on Application for Experimental Use Permit to Combat Mosquitoes

In response to requests from stakeholders, the Environmental Protection Agency is reopening the public comment period regarding an application from Oxitec Ltd. for an experimental use permit (EUP) for genetically engineered OX513A Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

EPA first announced the availability of Oxitec’s application for an experimental use permit on March 9, 2018, in the Federal Register. Following review of the application, data and public comments, EPA will decide whether to issue or deny the EUP request and, if issued, the conditions under which the study is to be conducted. Continue reading

Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants Program (BRAG)

The purpose of the BRAG program is to support the generation of new information that will assist Federal regulatory agencies in making science-based decisions about the effects of introducing into the environment genetically engineered organisms (GE), including plants, microorganisms — such as fungi, bacteria, and viruses — arthropods, fish, birds, mammals and other animals excluding humans. Investigations of effects on both managed and natural environments are relevant. The BRAG program accomplishes its purpose by providing federal regulatory agencies with scientific information relevant to regulatory issues. See the Request for Applications for details. Continue reading

NIFA to Invest in Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced a competitive opportunity to conduct research on the environmental effects of genetically engineered (GE) organisms, including plants, animals, insects, and microorganisms. The $3.5 million in grants is available through NIFA’s Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants (BRAG) Program.

The BRAG program supports applied and fundamental research to help federal regulators evaluate the effects of GE organisms on their environment. Proposals are solicited to support standard research projects or conference proposals that bring together stakeholders to discuss and evaluate science-based data relevant to environmental risk assessments or risk management related to biotechnology-developed organisms. Continue reading

Announcing Two Public Meetings: New Technologies in Agriculture and Scientific Society Forum on GE Crops Report

The Board of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BANR) is presenting two webinars on technology in agriculture. Below are summaries of both webinars, including links to register. Continue reading

Biotech regulations need review, says NC State scientist

by Nash Dunn, NC State University

In a new Policy Forum article in Science, NC State professor Jennifer Kuzma argues that federal authorities are missing an opportunity to revise outdated regulatory processes not fit for modern innovations in biotechnology, such as a current situation involving genetically engineered mosquitoes.

Earlier this summer, the Food and Drug Administration approved the engineered mosquitoes as a potential weapon in the fight against the Zika virus. Continue reading

Genetically-modified mosquitoes released in Caymen Islands

The first wave of genetically modified mosquitoes were released Wednesday in the Cayman Islands as part of a new effort to control the insect that spreads Zika and other viruses, officials in the British Island territory said.

Genetically altered male mosquitoes, which don’t bite but are expected to mate with females to produce offspring that die before reaching adulthood, were released in the West Bay area of Grand Cayman Island, according to a joint statement from the Cayman Islands Mosquito Research and Control Unit and British biotech firm Oxitec. Continue reading

GMOs just one in a line of demonized tech, study finds

In AgFax

Disruptive, transformative technologies are being introduced at an accelerating pace, fuelling opposition that impedes forms of innovation needed to meet profound challenges such as climate change, poverty and world hunger, says a new study from Harvard University.

Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technology, by Prof. Calestous Juma of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, chronicles the history of opposition to change — from tractors and certain uses of the printing press to coffee and margarine — and its underlying reasons. Continue reading