To grow genetically modified sweet potatoes in areas affected by desertification in China, Kazakhstan, the Middle East, and Africa


This article is part of the Crop Biotech Update, a weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA)

Scientists at the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology developed a new technology that aims to prevent desertification using biotech crops. According to research leader Dr. Kwak Sang-soo, about 90 percent of desertification is due to poverty. “Overgrazing, damage to forests, and the inappropriate management of water and soil, stemming from the poverty of the local people, are core reasons for desertification. So, the cultivation of crops can be the most effective preventative measure,” he explains.

The team successfully planted biotech sweet potatoes in China‘s Kubichi Desert and Kazakhstan, two of the largest semi-arid areas in Northeast Asia. They are also decoding thegenome of sweet potatoes in collaboration with Chinese and Japanese researchers. The genome of sweet potato is harder to decode than the human genome, but they project that it will be completed in 2016.

Read the full text: ISAAA


Tech Developed to Prevent Desertification with Genetically- modified Sweet Potatoes

Researchers from the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience & Biotechnology are showing that biotechnology could be used to prevent desertification and solve environmental problems, food shortages, and poverty. The team studies crops, and plants, such as sweet potatoes and alfalfa. According to Dr. Kwak Sang-soo,“About 90 percent of desertification is caused by poverty. Overgrazing, damage to forests, and the inappropriate management of water and soil, stemming from the poverty of the local people, are core reasons for desertification. So, the cultivation of crops can be the most effective preventative measure.”The team has successfully grown genetically modified (GM) sweet potatoes in China’s Kubuchi Desert and Kazakhstan, two of the largest semi-arid areas in Northeast Asia. The team has also begun work, in conjunction with Chinese and Japanese researchers, to decode the genome of the sweet potato. “Our ultimate goal,” added Kwak,

See the full text: BioPortfolio

The threats GM crops may pose to local farmers

Photo credit: The Telegraph

Countries that oppose GM crops will be allowed to ban them – an unusual violation of the single market – if they will stop blocking the countries that don’t Photo: PA

Greater GM protection urged for small-scale farmers

Haidee Swanby, African Centre for Biosafety: “The laws are there or are being developed, but they are the wrong laws promoting the interests of the wrong group.”

Speed read

  • The influence of pro-industry lobby groups lowers safety standards
  • This ignores the threats GM crops may pose to local farmers
  • But the report is an old vendetta against a new technology, says critic

African governments must do more to control the planting of genetically modified (GM) crops that could affect smallholders, says a report by Friends of the Earth International.

The report from the environmental NGO says international agricultural companies wield too much influence over safety and trade legislation related to GM organisms (GMOs) in Africa. As a result, many governments ignore the threats these crops may pose to local farmers, it says.

Who benefits from GM crops? was released last month (23 February). It looks at the quality of GMO legislation around the world.


Ed Rybicki, a microbiologist at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, says GMOs should pose no risk to people if proper legislation is in place. He says GM crops are subjected to a regime of safety and toxicological testing that is unparalleled in agriculture.

Instead of being averse to the technology, Rybicki says, African governments should learn from countries such as Burkina Faso and South Africa about how to implement suitable legislation, including the registration of GMOs. – See more at:

Read the full article: SciDevNet


GMOs in Africa

Photo credit: Allie Wist

ARE WE ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION? GMO CROPS AND THE “9 BILLION” – Deciding if GMOs are safe or not is complicated

Kenya: GMOs Will Ruin Continent’s Hope for Food Security


In the February 26 edition of the Daily Nation in an article titled ‘GMOs will play role in feeding our world’, Patrick Charagu stated: “The debate in Kenya about safety of GMO crops has been in the most part been driven by ‘fear of the unknown’. It has been a case of little, or even lack of knowledge of what the technology is all about or what its value is in feeding an increasing world population”.

Charagu is a senior geneticist with Hendrix Genetics, a leading multinational company with great interest in promoting GMOs around the world, including in Africa (Hendrix’s website).

Having participated in GMO debates as an independent researcher, one feels obliged to respond to Charagu’s proclamations about the purported benefits of adopting GMOs as well as his disdain for the highly-qualified Kenyan scientists, international well-wishers of Africa and the small and poor farmers and consumers, who oppose his views.

A February 23 report in a highly acclaimed international electronic-journal Common Dreams, titled “US offering its ‘assistance’ to push GMOs on Africa”, states: “The US government and multinational corporations have capitalised on African nations’ voids in regulatory frameworks to push genetically modified crops, standing to gain lucrative corporate profits while decimating food sovereignty in Africa”.

But, it is not just food sovereignty that is sought to be decimated by such actors, their nefarious scheme is aimed at destroying any hope of indigenous food security in the continent unless adequate regulatory frameworks for food production are developed and rigidly implemented in all African countries, including Kenya.

Read the full article: allAfrica

Cultivation of crops can be the most effective preventative measure

Photo credit: Business Korea

Prevention Of Desertification

Tech Developed to Prevent Desertification with Genetically- modified Sweet Potatoes

A research team led by Dr. Kwak Sang-soo at the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience & Biotechnology is receiving a lot of attention with their original research that can prevent desertification using crops.

The research team studies crops and plants like sweet potatoes and alfalfa. They explain that it is possible to prevent desertification, and solve environmental problems, food shortages, and poverty using these edible products.

Dr. Kwak remarked, “About 90 percent of desertification is caused by poverty.” He added, “Overgrazing, damage to forests, and the inappropriate management of water and soil, stemming from the poverty of the local people, are core reasons for desertification. So, the cultivation of crops can be the most effective preventative measure.”

The research team already succeeded in growing genetically modified sweet potatoes in China’s Kubuchi Desert and Kazakhstan, two of the largest semi-arid areas in Northeast Asia, thereby proving the validity and effectiveness of their study.

Read the full article: Business Korea


GM and Green Revolution practices detrimental to ecosystems in Africa (IRIN News)

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Countering Africa’s green revolution

Civil society groups are taking on the policies of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which promotes the use of genetically modified (GM) crops and Green Revolution technologies.

They argue that GM and Green Revolution practices – those aimed at increasing developing countries’ crop yields through specific innovations – will, in the long run, be detrimental to ecosystems across the continent. Earlier this month, a coalition of almost 60 civil society groups across Africa came out to protest AGRA ahead of the G8 Summit in London.

“Green Revolution technologies benefit relatively few farmers, often at the expense of the majority. These technologies produce concentration of land ownership, increasing economies of scale (production has to be at a large scale to get into and stay in markets), and a declining number of food-producing households in a context of limited other livelihood options,” they said in a letter sent to AGRA’s president, Jane Karuku.

They also believe that the intellectual property of many plant types may be transferred to large multinational corporations as part of Green Revolution practices.


GM crops will have devastating impact on African farmers and farming systems (AfricaFiles / Guardian)

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GM crops won’t help African farmers

Summary & Comment:

The UK’s environment minister says GM crops will help combat hunger in developing countries. But Owen Paterson is wrong. ’Farmers in Africa already have effective approaches to seed and agriculture.’ Last week we heard that Owen Paterson said it would be immoral to refuse GM seeds to African farmers. They would and have disagree(d). They know the devastating impact that GM crops will have on African farmers and farming systems. (In India hundreds of thousands of farmers have committed suicide from being caught up in debt brought on by GM farming and hence losing their farms) JK.


Desertification Iowa Style (Google / Planet 3.0)

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Desertification Iowa Style and the Decline of the Monarch

by Michael Tobis

What we’re seeing here in the United States is a very precipitous decline of monarchs that’s coincident with the adoption of Roundup-ready corn and soybeans. The first ones were introduced in 1997, soybeans first, then corn. By 2003, 2004, the adoption rate was approaching 50 percent, The use of Roundup ‘has effectively eliminated milkweed from almost all of the habitat monarchs used to use.’ and then we really began to see a decline in monarchs. And the reason is that the most productive habitat for monarch butterflies in the Midwest, in the Corn Belt, was the corn and soybean fields [where milkweed, which monarchs feed on, grew]. Before Roundup-ready crops, weed control was accomplished by running a tiller through those fields and chopping up the weeds and turning over the soil, but not affecting the crops. The milkweed survives that sort of tillage to some extent. So there were maybe 20, 30, 40 plants per acre out there, enough so that you could see them, you could photograph them.

The glyphosate used in agriculture has tripled since 1997, when they first introduced these Roundup-ready crops. The developers of these crops not only provided the seeds that were glyphosate-resistant, but they also provided the glyphosate — the Roundup. And, boy, that was a pretty good system. You could make money on both, right?

For the farmers it looked good too. If I was a farmer and I was holding two jobs to keep my farm and I didn’t want to have my rear end sitting on the tractor too long, I would use that product as well, because the ordinary mechanical tillage took a lot more time and cost a lot more money.


Boosting Maize Yields (Science Daily)

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Plant Scientists Demonstrate New Means of Boosting Maize Yields

Feb. 3, 2013 — A team of plant geneticists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has successfully demonstrated what it describes as a “simple hypothesis” for making significant increases in yields for the maize plant.


GMOs nd biosafety in Lebanon (Google / Green Prophet)

Read at : Google Alert – desertification

Seed Banks Contain Memory, But Not Enough Against GMOs in Lebanon

Lebanon goes green with seed bank, but can this memory keeper for nature fight GMOs?

Lebanon harbors over 2600 plant species of which 119 are counted to be endemic. The unique climatic and landscape diversity in Lebanon has shaped 22 bio-climatic zones which fosters one of the most precious ecological services:  genetic diversity. Unfortunately, the conservation of biodiversity in Lebanon is increasingly at risk due the largely uncontrolled and unidentified introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in the domestic market and the absence of national policies that specifically outline biosafety legislation.

Lebanon has only recently ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (October 2008) a convention that provides guidance for the rational management of the risks associated with the use of biotechnologies. Nevertheless, there is no official policy for the detection and identification of produce that contains GMO. The lack of legislations that monitor biotechnologies are likely to have unidentified effects on the future of domestic biodiversity.

Biotechnologies interfere with central aspects of life. By altering and contaminating the genetic information of crop species, GMOs risk eroding the indigenous knowledge of the native varieties of seeds and species which architect local biodiversity.

The resulting rapid and widespread extinction of crop varieties through GMO monocultures, leave farmers with fewer options to address problems caused by unpredictable climate change.


Africa’s prosperity depends on the modernization of agriculture through the application of science and technology (Google / Council on Foreign Relations)

Read at : Google Alert – desertification

Genetically Modified Crops and Africa’s Agricultural Potential

by Isobel Coleman

Today, I had the opportunity to speak with Calestous Juma, professor of the practice of international development at Harvard. Juma was born and raised in Kenya, and he’s now head of the Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project. He is one of the most innovative thinkers on how to harness new technologies for economic development, especially in Africa. A prolific author, Juma’s latest book is The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa, in which he discusses how Africa’s prosperity depends on the modernization of agriculture through the application of science and technology.

Much of our conversation focused on the potential of genetically modified (GM) crops, for which Juma is a champion. His view on this controversial subject is simple. He says that the future will place greater demands on agriculture due to population growth and climate change, and genetically modified crops are an important option for meeting future needs. As he says, “It doesn’t make sense to reduce the size of the toolbox when the challenges are expanding.” GM crops were highly controversial when introduced about 15 years ago. Critics said they would be bad for the environment, and would only benefit big agri-businesses. But today, “the evidence is stacked against those assumptions,” Juma says. In 2012, he adds, “there will be more GM crops grown in developing countries than in developed countries.”

Juma points out that 90 percent of GM crops are actually grown by “small resource-poor farmers,” and we are starting to see significant environmental benefits from their use. Thanks to herbicide-tolerant and pest-resistant crops, farmers are using far fewer chemicals than before. These herbicide-tolerant plants also allow farmers to use “no-till agriculture,” which has positive implications for climate change. Traditional agricultural practices require farmers to till the ground to get rid of weeds, releasing the carbon dioxide stored in the soil. With no-till agriculture, the carbon dioxide stays trapped. This impact is just being documented.


GMOs could help to reduce malnutrition (AfricaFiles)

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No. 26075: Nigeria: Not everyone pleased with new vitamin A-fortified cassava — Food and Land


Title: Nigeria: Not everyone pleased with new vitamin A-fortified cassava
Author: Busani Bafana
Category: Food and Land
Date: 12/30/2011
Source: Inter Press Service Africa
Source Website:

Summary & Comment: There has always been discomfort around crop manipulation. The specter of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has loomed large in Europe and North America and is now being faced in Africa. But here, modified crops, whether through artificial or natural gene selection, could help to reduce the hundreds of thousands on women and children blinded or killed due to malnutrition. CJW

Nigeria: Not everyone pleased with new vitamin A-fortified cassava

Using hybridisation and selective breeding, researchers in Nigeria have developed three new yellow varieties of cassava, a staple crop in much of Africa, which they say will help fight malnutrition caused by vitamin A deficiency in the region. But the research breakthrough has been dismissed by Friends of the Earth Nigeria (FoEN), which told the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) research team in Ibadan to stop meddling with one of Nigeria’s key food crops, arguing that they were undermining biodiversity. Activists with the environmental group also say that two carrots can easily provide the daily vitamin A requirement.


Hypocrisy and arrogance comes with the luxury of a full stomach (African Agriculture)

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African scientist accuses Europe of food hypocrisy over GM crops

A leading African scientist has called on the EU and development organisations in the West to allow farmers in developing countries to make full use of genetically modified crops to improve their livelihoods and guarantee global food security.

Dr Felix M’mboyi, a scientist with the Kenya based African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum, said: “The affluent West has the luxury of choice in the type of technology they use to grow food crops, yet their influence and sensitivities are denying many in the developing world access to such technologies which could lead to a more plentiful supply of food. This kind of hypocrisy and arrogance comes with the luxury of a full stomach”.

He said that while some genetically modified crop strains have been successfully tested in Africa, many countries on the continent were reluctant to cultivate them because they feared export bans from the European Union, and the withdrawal of development support in key areas of agriculture if they tried to make use of GM technology.

Transgenic drought tolerant maize, Bt maize and cotton, and transgenic golden rice, cassava, bananas, cowpeas and sorghum are all ready for deployment and cultivation in Africa, and would have a positive impact on farmers’ welfare and food security on the continent.


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