Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Biotechnology (GMO) and research

According to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, biotechnology is: “Any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use.” Modern biotechnology generally means modification of living organisms (plants, animals and fish) through the manipulation of genes, thus the name ‘genetically modified organisms’ (GMOs). GMO in agriculture is still a highly contested issue. Promoters argue that it can help solve food insecurity and help mitigate climate change (e.g. by creating variations that have greater nitrogen use efficiency or increased potential for soil carbon storage). Others warn of the potentially high environmental and human risks involved, with possibly unforeseen effects on farming systems and ecosystems. They may also argue that current GMO research and development leads to crops that benefit wealthier farmers or wealthier consumers and is being undertaken by large companies who stand to profit greatly from these innovations. To date most genetic modification of foods have primarily focused on cash crops such as soybean, corn, canola, and cottonseed oil.

12 April 2017

This Data Science Insights talk hosted by Thomson Reuters sees presentations from Professor Nilay Shah from Imperial College, Judith Batchelar, Director of Brand at UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, and Derek Scuffell, Head of R&D Information Systems at Syngenta, who share insights on how their supply chains are driven by data.  They discuss how advances in genetically modified foods and in agricultural technology could help prevent food shortages and price fluctuations and help the world feed itself by 2025.

Photo: Michael Knowles, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
16 September 2016

This report provides an update on the fields of synthetic biology and the latest breeding techniques involving molecular biology. It sees modern techniques of creating new cultivars as a continuation of selective breeding which was started by humans around 10,000 years ago.

Photo: Dick Culbert, Acrocomia aculeata, immature Grugu Nuts, Flickr, Creative commons licence 2.0
24 July 2016

The neotropical macaw palm (Acrocomia aculeata) is increasingly promoted for large-scale cultivation as a sustainable biomass feedstock in Latin America. This paper warns however that a crucial proportion of areas predicted to be suitable for cultivation are located in areas of high conservational value. The paper also points to climate change scenarios which predict a substantial reduction of suitable areas in coming years.

Photo: Sonla, Flickr, creative commons licence 2.0
8 July 2016

109 Nobel laureates have signed a sharply worded letter to Greenpeace urging the environmental group to rethink its longstanding opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The signatories include past winners of the Nobel Prize in medicine, chemistry, physics, and economics.

(Photo credit: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Government, Flickr creative commons licence 2.0)(Photo credit: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Government, Flickr creative commons licence 2.0)
7 July 2016

As the climate changes, and food demand increases, crop varieties suited to these conditions need to be developed. The authors of this paper warn that crops yields around the world could fall within a decade unless action is taken to speed up the introduction of new varieties. They propose three ways to improve matching of maize varieties in Africa to a warmed climate: reduce the BDA (the process of breeding, delivery and adoption), breed under elevated temperatures and act to mitigate climate change.

16 February 2016

The Cambridge News reports on a recent start-up called Entomics, who are researching and developing the use of Black Soldier Fly larvae as a means of converting food waste into compounds that can be extracted and turned into more useful products.

16 February 2016

The second SoW-AnGR by the FAO reviews the developments that have been made in the area of using, developing and safeguarding the genetic resources (i.e. the diversity of breeds) of our mammalian and avian livestock since the first SoW-AnGR report was released in 2007.

2 December 2015

This report, Food Futures, by the UK’s waste agency WRAP, looks at a broad range of food sustainability challenges for the future and at possible solutions.

19 April 2015

This paper argues that high-performance computing and genetic engineering that boost the photosynthetic efficiency of plants offers the best hope of increasing crop yields enough to feed a growing world population by 2050. It points out that we now have unprecedented computational resources that allow us to model every stage of photosynthesis and we can thus determine where the bottlenecks are. Advances in genetic engineering enable us to augment or circumvent steps that impede efficiency.

26 March 2015

A new research project at University of Birmingham aims to investigate new technologies and innovative business models that could meet the world's growing demand for air conditioning and refrigeration without increasing carbon emissions.

Read the full article from Business Green here.  You can also find more information on the University of Birmingham website here.

23 October 2014

In this article, part of National Geographic’s’ The Future of Food series, Tim Folger talks about the potential of biotechnology in the next 'green revolution', and its implications for subsistence farmers worldwide. While acknowledging the anxieties against genetically modified crops, he argues that their value in combating common plant diseases is significant for preventing large-scale agricultural losses.

23 October 2014

Crop, food, and feed composition studies are considered an essential part of the safety assessment of new crop varieties, including those developed through biotechnology. Information obtained from such studies is used to assess similarities and differences in important nutrients and anti-nutrients. This database created by International Life Sciences Institute, was generated from crop composition data obtained from studies conducted over a number of years at multiple worldwide locations.

2 October 2014

The European Commission was due to publish a Communication on Sustainable Food in 2013 to “assess how best to limit waste throughout the food supply chain, and consider ways to lower the environmental impact of food production and consumption patterns”.  This long-awaited Communication has still not been published.