• After decades of special interest groups raising unwarranted fears and misrepresenting every aspect of so-called “GMOs”, opponents of innovation in plant and animal breeding are adding a new under-the-bed-monster to the mythical menagerie.  This one is called “gene editing” aka “GE,” and it seems the topic is everywhere these days. But what, exactly, is this new beast?

  • The Ex-Director of J.R. Simplot and team leader at Monsanto, Caius Rommens, has revealed the hidden dangers of the GMO potatoes he created, in a wide ranging interview for Sustainable Pulse, on the same day that his book ‘Pandora’s Potatoes: The Worst GMOs’ was released on Amazon.

  • Following the purported plans by the Federal Government to commence commercialisation of Genetically Modified Crops (GMO), the National President of the Smallholder Women Farmers Organisation of Nigeria (Following the purported plans by the Federal Government to commence commercialisation of Genetically Modified Crops (GMO), the National President of the Smallholder Women Farmers Organisation of Nigeria (SWOFON), Mary Afan, has pushed against the crops.

  • So much is going on along the path from dirt to dinner that it’s almost impossible to keep up with all the newsworthy and significant developments on the farm. From domestic and foreign markets to changing food trends to exciting innovations food production, to policies and regulations affecting our food system, and more. So let’s take a quick look at the headlines catching our eyes recently.

    Enough Already

    More rains in key agricultural producing regions of the central United States continue to delay spring planting. As fields slowly dry out and recovery efforts continue for areas devastated by floods, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports the corn crop is behind its normal planting progress, with 23 percent planted, trailing the five-year average of 46 percent. The soybean crop is behind by even more, now at 6 percent complete and behind the average of 14 percent. Spring wheat planting stands at about 22 percent, also below last year. Generally, with low spring plantings, markets might expect higher prices come harvest. But the outlook for U.S. Agricultural trade exports expected to remain the same from 2018, as a result, no one is so far predicting a major run-up in prices that would lead to higher consumer prices.

    New Soybean Reality

    And, to add to the rainy day, China will continue to affect the global soybean market. Not just because of U.S. tariffs but also because of African Swine Fever. The Chinese pig herd has dropped by 20% in the past 20 months. The USDA is predicting a global 42 million ton decline for China’s import demand. The sliver of a silver lining is that this will help U.S. pork exports to Singapore.

    New Hope for Dairy Farmers

    The plight facing U.S. dairy farmers has been well documented. Due to a global oversupply of milk and increasing consumption of almond and soy milk, dairy farmers are in their fifth year of low milk prices. Many are operating on a negative margin. The USDA is planning on helping the farmer by rolling out the Dairy Margin Coverage program which will send out $600 million in payments to milk producers.

    Reproduction Award
    Image by Laurent Renault

    Survey Finds Glum Farm Investments

    The economic uncertainty in the agricultural sector is doing more than reducing farm income. It’s also affecting farmers’ willingness to invest. The Ag Economy Barometer produced regularly by Purdue University and the CME Group this spring found that 78 percent of farmers surveyed felt it’s a “bad time” to make major investments in farm operations. Continuing tensions over trade with China and continuing weather problems in key producing areas are concerns for investing in technologies and equipment to increase productivity and profitability for farmers.

    This also impacts food security for the people who depend upon them. The Barometer measures a monthly economic sentiment with 400 agricultural producers and a quarterly survey of 100 agriculture and agribusiness thought leaders. The latest survey showed the fourth largest one-month drop since data collection began in October 2015.

    EU Acts to Spur Food Waste Reduction

    The fight against food waste continues everywhere. The European Commission has adopted a common methodology for uniform measurement of food waste across all 28 member countries. This unified measurement system will allow improved reporting of efforts to cut food waste across the food chain. It also is expected to promote greater cooperation with food processors by food manufacturers and retailers, notably in promoting greater diversion of waste to bioenergy.

    The total amount of food waste the EU 27 is estimated at 89 Mt. , i.e 179 kg/per capita/year. Households produce the largest fraction of EU food waste at 38 Mt or 76 kg per capita.

    Some African Countries Think Again on GMOs

    Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria have recognized the benefit of GMO crops to help feed their people. Prolonged drought and widespread hunger have the Kenyan government looking more closely at food security and re-thinking its ban on genetically modified corn. With an estimated 1 million Kenyans facing hunger and malnutrition, government officials say they will make a decision in the next two months. Their decision could help open the door to wider use of the GMO seeds important to improving Kenyan food security. Uganda has moved ahead and pulled together a legal framework to approve GMO cassava, potatoes, cotton, and corn all of which are now resistant to insects requiring less insecticide and better yield. Their research has also developed a biofortified banana. Nigeria has commercialized Bt cotton and also approved the GMO pest resistant cowpea.

    Danes Turn up the GMO Heat on EU

    Denmark’s Ethics Council has added to the pressure on the European Union to rethink its opposition to GMOs. Much has changed since the 1990s, the Council observed, and policymakers must now think about how genetic technologies can help advance the development of the crops needed to contend with climate change, with greater resistance to pests and disease and more efficient use of water and nutrients. Until now, the Danes have been among the most vocal critics of GMOs, so the Council’s call for a new debate can’t be easily ignored by lawmakers and regulators.

    Presidential Hopefuls Look to Change Ag policies

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) are looking to get attention by making agricultural policy a key element of their campaigns. Warren and Sanders, for example, would attack economic concentration in agriculture, looking to break up large vertically integrated operations. Klobuchar, who helped write the 2018 Farm Bill, would boost all aspects of farming from dairy to animal disease outbreaks, to conservation. She also suggested a fee for mergers that would be used to investigate anti-competitive practices. As more and more attention shifts to the difficult economic environment facing farmers and rural America, expect the list of candidates with other provocative policy ideas for our farm and food system to expand still more.


    The Bottom Line: Between new innovations in science, uncertain political environments, and simply the weather, we will continue to keep you abreast of these interesting times in food and agriculture.

  • This year farmers dedicated over 90% of soybean, corn and cotton acres to bioengineered seeds. Most were herbicide tolerant (HT), insect resistant (Bt) or a stack of both, according to USDA.

  •  Bayer said that farmers in France and Germany were digging up thousands of hectares of rapeseed fields after traces of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) banned for cultivation were found in seeds sold by the company.

  • As a child, I remember feeling hungry most of the time. Growing up in rural Tanzania, I walked to school barefoot and most of the time had one meal a day. After school, I helped my mother with various farming chores, including feeding the animals, weeding, harvesting and planting.

  • Being raised in a family where all income came from my mother’s farm is something hard to forget. My mother told me that farming is not easy, but if you have skills, tools and passion, farming will be easy and profitable.

    Even if I was quite small during that time, I do remember the efforts my mother used on our farm in order to get a pretty harvest. Potatoes, maize (corn) and beans were the main crops my mother used to cultivate.

    My school fees, school uniforms, school insurance, notebooks, pens, shoes and much more were coming from my mother’s harvest. She is the reason I am who I am today. Her dream was to see me in a position where I am helping the most vulnerable community in my village.

    I do remember being with her in her green farm while she was grabbing some weedy grasses so that our maize can grow well. It was a most beautiful time that I still am missing.

    As the days went on, my mother’s farm was no more producing the same harvest we used to get. Climate change, resistant pests and diseases have swept away all my mother’s harvest. Farming is no longer her option. What else she can do?

    Food instability, lack of money, joblessness and a struggle to pay health care Insurance are now the characteristics of my family. There are many other farm households out there also still struggling like my family. Agriculture is becoming harder than ever.

    Asking about the effects of fall armyworm, which has destroyed completely my family’s and neighbors’ maize and beans farms, is like asking someone who is bleeding if he /she has a wound. If you want to see the anger of maize and beans farmers, ask them about the history of fall armyworm in Rwanda between the years 2017-2018. My advice: don’t ask.

    Jean Claude Habimana in his mother’s corn field in Rwanda when the harvests were still good.
    My neighbor who used to cultivate banana can testify about the bad experience of banana bacteria wilt. The mountains I used to see filled with green banana are now either empty due to banana bacteria wilt or replaced with other crops.

    In my home country, Rwanda, “banana is symbol of richness.” Over 70 percent of Rwandans in the eastern part of the country consume banana foods three times per day, and over 80 percent depend on the added value of banana, selling beer, juice or fruits to generate money.

    Beyond fall armyworm and banana bacteria wilt, the cassava mosaic virus arrived in the southern part of Rwanda in about 2015 and has left hundreds of thousands in loss. In the south, cassava was and still is the main crop that generates food and money. But cankers, leaf spot and cassava bacterial blight are still demolishing hundreds of hectares of the crop.

    You and I, maybe we can’t feel the same pain a farmer feels when he/she cultivates certain acres with a loan from the bank or microfinance and unfortunately, the pests come and destroy all. Who is going to pay back the loan? Where is food going to come from? Health insurance? School fees? Money? Our farmers whom we are relying on for survival are suffering more than any other person in this world.

    In the western part of Rwanda, where farmers grow potatoes, bees have been greatly reduced and bee farmers have already closed their hives or moved them to some other part of the country. Due to the overuse of pesticides, conserving biodiversity is another big challenge.

    It was confirmed that overuse of pesticides not only kills insects, including bees and ants, and some birds, but also destroys the life of people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Imagine the lungs of those people who are using extra pesticides day to day to save their crops. Meanwhile, they are demolishing not only themselves but also biodiversity in general.

    It has taken me almost four years to realize that science can provide a longtime solution rather than pesticides. For decades, scientists have researched improved seeds with the ability to resist climate change (drought), use less pesticides, increase yields and save the planet. They have come up with a solution — mainly, genetically modified (GM) crops — that have the capability to save the world.

    Hundreds of research projects were undertaken by professional entities on risks that may occur when human beings and animals consume GM crops, or the impacts on nature when they are planted in the environment. Among them are the World Health Organization, United Nations Environment Progam, World Food Program, University of Pretoria, University of Nigeria, Cornell University, California University at Davis and Harvard Business School, to list a few. Millions of US dollars were sent out to many countries around the world to undertake risk assessment. But ultimately, not one entity has shown any risk to humans or animals that consumed GMOs or any negative side of releasing GMOs in the environment.

    The results from the above entities have led many African countries to adopt GM crops. For example, South Africa has been growing insect-resistant Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn since 1996 and today the country also has Bt cotton and soybeans. In over 20 years, no UN agency has ever shown any risk in consuming Bt maize or soybeans in South Africa.

    Today, Bangladesh is the country that can give you testimonies on how Bt brinjal (eggplant) has lifted up thousands of Bangladeshis from poverty and food instability to the level of food security and a six-fold increase in incomes. The country adopted this technology after many farmers suffered crop losses due to climate change and pests.

    Due to the special interests of certain people, especially those in the pesticide industries, GM crops have been misrepresented, leading to bad assumptions among the public. Truthfully, the pesticide companies know the potential of GM crops and they are afraid of it. To limit the general public from adopting these agricultural technologies, “paid people” are coming up every day and they call themselves ACTIVISTS.

    Their objective and goals are to mislead people. They don’t want to hear the tears and struggles of our mothers, sisters and brothers who are suffering night and day due to food instability, pests and plant diseases. They are outside just making noise and misleading the world while getting paid, quite possibly by the pesticide companies.

    If South Africa, Sudan, America, China, India, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Australia and many other countries have used GM crops to secure their food supply and generate billions of dollars from exports, and no study has ever scientifically shown or been published that describes any risk from consuming GMOs, what are the African countries waiting for? Please hear the evidence from scientists, see the tears and agony of our farmers and then make the right decision that benefits our farmers.

    Jean Claude Habimana is a science and agriculture communicator, founder of Rwanda Environment and Agriculture Communications and a 2019 Cornell Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellow.

  • Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are plants developed through a process in which a copy of a desired gene or section of genetic material from one plant or organism is placed into another plant to achieve a desired trait. 

  •  Today, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and PG Economics, Ltd. released new studies highlighting the continued social, environmental and economic benefits of the global adoption of biotechnology in agriculture.

  • It’s an old proverb in these lands that since man has learned to shoot without missing, birds have learned to fly without perching — and the same is true with farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

  • The Food and Drug Administration lifted an import restriction that allowed AquaBounty, a biotech company with facilities in Canada and Panama, to start raising genetically engineered (GMO) salmon eggs in America, effectively clearing the way for the country’s first GMO seafood—and first commercially raised GMO animal—to come to market

  • The herbicide glyphosate will continue to be used by farmers globally for the foreseeable future unless a suitable and safe alternative is found, despite the recent rise in public concern on the safety of its use, market sources told Agricensus.

  • Farmers want to use GMO crops and recognize the benefits of doing so!

  • Europe’s candidate to run the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which guides policymakers around the world, has promised the US she will “not defend the EU position” in resisting the global spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

  • Do you know someone with diabetes? While most people may associate GMOs with food products, their use actually began in the medical field with insulin, an important part of diabetes treatment.

  • Genetic engineering is revolutionising crop farming, bringing benefits to farmers, the environment and consumer health. Its opponents, however, are not swayed by any of the science. On the contrary, it makes them believe the exact opposite of the truth.

  • When Amanda Little was on tour to promote her 2010 book Power Trip: The Story of America’s Love Affair with Energy, she discovered something unusual. Despite the book’s focus on fossil fuels, her audience was overwhelmingly interested in one specific chapter – the one about food production.

    Not just the nutrition of our food, but how it’s grown. It impacts our families and planet—and that’s serious business. Asking questions, especially when it comes to food, should always be embraced.

  • A U.K. organic certifier has issued a warning to the British Government about the introduction of genetic modification to agriculture.