Genetically engineered, bacteria-infected and sterilized mosquitoes are among the cutting-edge weapons being tested against diseases like Zika and dengue, even as some experts say old-fashioned tools like DDT may be worth discussing.
Every weekday at 7 a.m., a van drives slowly through the southeastern Brazilian city of Piracicaba carrying a precious cargo — mosquitoes. More than 100,000 of them are dumped from plastic containers out the van’s window, and they fly off to find mates. But these are not ordinary mosquitoes. They have been genetically engineered to pass a lethal gene to their offspring, which die before they can reach adulthood. In small tests, this approach has lowered mosquito populations by 80 percent or more.
One of the most persistent arguments for modern, mechanized agriculture is that it produces a lot of food per acre, leaving more land for other purposes. I’ve often wondered how solid this argument is, and when a debate broke out recently, I decided to look closer.
It started with a paper from a think tank. The Breakthrough Institute study, called Nature Unbound, argued that, by embracing technology, humanity could shrink its footprint and leave more land for “nature.” (more…)
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service hosted a conference from March 12 to 13 at North Carolina State University. The conference focused on the importance of coexistence between conventional, organic, identity preserved, and genetically engineered crops.
The conference was a place where experts could put in their two cents and help the USDA form a plan to better promote agricultural coexistence in the US. Sessions were organized to discuss the the current state of affairs, challenges, and additional steps the USDA is considering to respond to the challenges.
EMAC Director, Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, presented at the workshop. His speech focused on the economic lessons learned from non-GM markets in the United States. Other speakers included Gary Woodward, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs; Ron Moore, Secretary of the American Soybean Association; and Errol Schweizer, Executive Global Grocery Coordinator for Whole Foods Market.
A systematic overview of more than 100 studies comparing organic and conventional farming finds that the crop yields of organic agriculture are higher than previously thought. The study, conducted by UC Berkeley researchers, also found that certain practices could further shrink the productivity gap between organic crops and conventional farming.
The study, to be published online Wednesday, Dec. 10, in theProceedings of the Royal Society B, tackles the lingering perception that organic farming, while offering an environmentally sustainable alternative to chemically intensive agriculture, cannot produce enough food to satisfy the world’s appetite.