Monday, July 16, 2012
Malaria parasite killed by gene-modified germs in study
By Kristen Hallam
July 16, 2012
Benign bacteria residing in mosquitoes’ guts can be recruited to destroy the parasite that causes malaria, offering a potential way to prevent infections, according to U.S. researchers.
Genetically modifying the germ enabled it to produce proteins toxic to the parasite without harming the insects, scientists from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and Duquesne University in Pittsburgh wrote today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. The proportion of mosquitoes carrying the parasite fell by as much as 84 percent, the researchers said.
Malaria kills a child in Africa every minute, and about half the world’s population is at risk of infection, according to the Geneva-based World Health Organization. New ways of stopping the disease are needed as genetic mutations in parasites make them resistant to medicines, and as mosquitoes become less vulnerable to insecticides, the researchers said.
”These findings provide the foundation for the use of genetically modified symbiotic bacteria as a powerful tool to combat malaria,” the study’s authors wrote.
Sunday, July 15, 2012
British GM crop scientists win $10M grant from Gates
July 15, 2012
A team of British plant scientists has won a $10m (£6.4m) grant from the Gates Foundation to develop GM cereal crops.
It is one of the largest single investments into GM in the UK and will be used to cultivate corn, wheat and rice that need little or no fertiliser.
It comes at a time when bio-tech researchers are trying to allay public fears over genetic modification.
The work at the John Innes Centre in Norwich is hoped to benefit African farmers who cannot afford fertiliser.
Agricultural fertiliser is important for crop production across the globe.
But the many of the poorest farmers cannot afford fertiliser - and it is responsible for large greenhouse gas emissions.
The John Innes Centre is trying to engineer cereal crops that could get nitrogen from the air - as peas and beans do - rather than needing chemical ammonia spread on fields.
If successful, it is hoped the project could revolutionise agriculture and, in particular, help struggling maize farmers in sub-Saharan Africa - something the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is keen to do.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
The fifth horseman of the apocalypse: G8 corporate power
By Glenn Ashton
South African Civil Society Information Service
June 27, 2012
A dangerous international game is being played in the name of assisting Africa to feed itself. What is portrayed as charitable largesse has more in common with reinvigorating neo-colonialism than feeding Africans. This is in fact a misanthropic, multi-pronged raid by the G8 to control African commodities, land and seeds.
Africa presently occupies an interesting niche amongst the emerging, tripartite global realpolitik. First are longstanding, yet waning, relationships between Africa and its European colonial powers – Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Italy and most particularly France and England. Second is the expanding post Second World War relationship between Africa and the global superpower of the USA. Thirdly there is the increasingly important influence of the rapidly emerging BRICS alliance, with South Africa posing as regional superpower along with Brazil, India and China. These three blocs often have conflicting, and conflicted, roles in the development and exploitation of Africa.
Nowhere else is this more apparent than in the field of agriculture. African agriculture remains in the doldrums, beset by twin curses. On the one hand lies its huge vulnerability to climatic variability, which will be exacerbated by climate change. On the other are the market-disrupting impacts of food subsidies amongst the developed world. These combine to render the precarious business of farming in Africa even more treacherous than it needs to be.
Monday, May 28, 2012
Smallholder farmers and consumers to pay the price for corporate seed merger
African Centre for Biosafety
May 28, 2012
The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) learned today that US multi-national seed company Pioneer Hi-Bred has been granted permission by the Competition Appeal Court, to acquire the nation’s last major independent seed company, Pannar seed. The ACB was an intervening party, opposing the merger in the public interest.
In granting the merger, the court has not only ensured the further consolidation of private ownership over our seed systems, but crucially, it has sanctioned the concentration of germplasm in the hands of a small number of multinational corporations. This will exacerbate the existing situation whereby farmers are becoming irreversibly disconnected from breeding processes and converted into mere consumers of what they originally collectively produced.
A key issue in the merger is Pioneer’s fervent desire to take control of locally adapted germplasm that Pannar holds - germplasm that existed and was used in Africa long before Pioneer or Pannar existed.
Monday, February 27, 2012
Bill Gates’ support of GM crops is wrong approach for Africa
By Glenn Ashton
Special to The Times
February 27, 2012
Guest columnist Glenn Ashton argues that Bill Gates’ support of genetically modified crops conflicts with scientific research funded by the World Bank and the United Nations, and with grass-roots agronomic movements, on what is best for Africa.
Bill Gates’ support of genetically modified (GM) crops as a solution for world hunger is of concern to those of us involved in promoting sustainable, equitable and effective agricultural policies in Africa.
There are two primary shortcomings to Gates’ approach.
First, his technocratic ideology runs counter to the best informed science. The World Bank and United Nations funded 900 scientists over three years in order to create an International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). Its conclusions were diametrically opposed, at both philosophical and practical levels, to those espoused by Gates and clearly state that the use of GM crops is not a meaningful solution to the complex situation of world hunger.
The IAASTD suggests that rather than pursuing industrial farming models, “agro-ecological” methods provide the most viable means to enhance global food security, especially in light of climate change. These include implementing practical scientific research based on traditional seed varieties and local farming practices adapted to the local ecology over millennia.