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Jul 9, 2010

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - GM Crops & Possible Future Solutions to Climate Change & Food Security

The United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on 9 July 2010 published a report in its IRIN newsletter summarizing some of the new biotech solutions that address climate change and food production shortages in the developing world. 

According to IRIN, "While the decades-old debate around genetic modification of food continues, many scientists believe biotechnology is part of the answer to the looming food security problem. They say it can help crops resist extreme weather and the pests and bacteria expected to come with it."
Scientists cited include:
  • Mark Howden, an expert in climate change and agriculture at the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation who spoke at a recent climate change adaptation conference on Australia’s Gold Coast.
  •  Sureshkumar Balasubramanian, a lecturer at the University of Queensland, who recently discovered ADC6, a gene "that could potentially help farmers cultivate more crops in a shorter period."  This discovery was made by comparing "the biological makeup of plants that grew at different rates in different parts of the world." The the ADC6 gene is involved in fighting pathogens and this research is part of work on studying bacteria resistance.
  • Anna Burns, from Monash University who studies how to address increasing cyanide levels that occur during droughts.  Consumers of cassava are particularly susceptible because cynaide levels increase in cassava, which is drought resistant.  As the cyanide levels increase, the consumer is vulnerable to konzo, a neuron condition that paralyses the legs. 
  • Baboucarr Manneh, a molecular biologist at the Africa Rice Centre in Benin who is working on an "Abiotic Stresses Project" that hopes to develop rice that is tolerant of extreme heat and cold. 

IRIN also reported on other biotech research concerning rice including:
  • Salt tolerant rice -- Climate change threatens to change rain patterns, raising water salinity levels. 
  • Aerobic rice  -- rice that can be grown without water, in dry upland areas.

Photo Credit:  Experimental aerobic rice field in China, courtesy of IRRI

For more see: "GLOBAL: Biotech and breeding - glimpses of the agricultural future,"IRIN (humanitarian news and analysis, a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), 9 July 2010.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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