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Trieste, Italy

Herrick J.E.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Brown J.R.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Bestelmeyer B.T.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Andrews S.S.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | And 13 more authors.
Rangeland Ecology and Management | Year: 2012

Rapidly increasing demand for food, fiber, and fuel together with new technologies and the mobility of global capital are driving revolutionary changes in land use throughout the world. Efforts to increase land productivity include conversion of millions of hectares of rangelands to crop production, including many marginal lands with low resistance and resilience to degradation. Sustaining the productivity of these lands requires careful land use planning and innovative management systems. Historically, this responsibility has been left to agronomists and others with expertise in crop production. In this article, we argue that the revolutionary land use changes necessary to support national and global food security potentially make rangeland science more relevant now than ever. Maintaining and increasing relevance will require a revolutionary change in range science from a discipline that focuses on a particular land use or land cover to one that addresses the challenge of managing all lands that, at one time, were considered to be marginal for crop production. We propose four strategies to increase the relevance of rangeland science to global land management: 1) expand our awareness and understanding of local to global economic, social, and technological trends in order to anticipate and identify drivers and patterns of conversion; 2) emphasize empirical studies and modeling that anticipate the biophysical (ecosystem services) and societal consequences of large-scale changes in land cover and use; 3) significantly increase communication and collaboration with the disciplines and sectors of society currently responsible for managing the new land uses; and 4) develop and adopt a dynamic and flexible resilience-based land classification system and data-supported conceptual models (e.g., state-and-transition models) that represent all lands, regardless of use and the consequences of land conversion to various uses instead of changes in state or condition that are focused on a single land use. Source


Nzeduru C.V.,Biosafety Unit | Ronca S.,Aberystwyth University | Wilkinson M.J.,Aberystwyth University | Wilkinson M.J.,University of Adelaide
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Transgenes encoding for insecticidal crystal (Cry) proteins from the soil-dwelling bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis have been widely introduced into Genetically Modified (GM) crops to confer protection against insect pests. Concern that these transgenes may also harm beneficial or otherwise valued insects (so-called Non Target Organisms, NTOs) represents a major element of the Environmental Risk Assessments (ERAs) used by all countries prior to commercial release. Compiling a comprehensive list of potentially susceptible NTOs is therefore a necessary part of an ERA for any Cry toxin-containing GM crop. In partly-characterised and biodiverse countries, NTO identification is slowed by the need for taxonomic expertise and time to enable morphological identifications. This limitation represents a potentially serious barrier to timely adoption of GM technology in some developing countries. We consider Bt Cry1A cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) in Nigeria as an exemplar to demonstrate how COI barcoding can provide a simple and cost-effective means of addressing this problem. Over a period of eight weeks, we collected 163 insects from cowpea flowers across the agroecological and geographic range of the crop in Nigeria. These individuals included 32 Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) spanning four Orders and that could mostly be assigned to genus or species level. They included 12 Lepidopterans and two Coleopterans (both potentially sensitive to different groups of Cry proteins). Thus, barcode-assisted diagnoses were highly harmonised across groups (typically to genus or species level) and so were insensitive to expertise or knowledge gaps. Decisively, the entire study was completed within four months at a cost of less than 10,000 US$. The broader implications of the findings for food security and the capacity for safe adoption of GM technology are briefly explored. © 2012 Nzeduru et al. Source


Racovita M.,Biosafety Unit | Racovita M.,Klagenfurt University | Obonyo D.N.,UCT | Craig W.,Biosafety Unit | Ripandelli D.,Biosafety Unit
Environmental Evidence | Year: 2015

Background: Although approved for commercialisation in a number of countries since the 1990s, the potential environmental, human/animal health, and socio-economic impacts of genetically modified (GM) crops are still widely debated. One category of human health impacts (designated in this review as non-food health impacts) focuses on indirect effects of GM crop cultivation; amongst which the most prominent are health benefits via: (1) reduced use of pesticides, and (2) an increase in income. Both of these pathways have raised a lot of interest in the developing world, especially in areas experiencing high rates of pesticide poisonings and low agricultural incomes. However, evidence to support such benefits has been relatively scarce in comparison to that of GM food health impacts. Non-food health impacts of GM crop cultivation on farmers deserve more attention, not just because of an apparent knowledge gap, but also because of, potential economic and environmental implications, involving for example CO2 emissions, underground water contamination and improved sanitation. Methods/Design: The primary research question was: What are the non-food impacts of GM crop cultivation on farmers' health? To address this primary question, the study focused on two related secondary questions: (1) Does the cultivation of GM crops result in a lower number of pesticide-related poisonings as compared to the cultivation of their non-GM counterparts?, and; (2) Does the cultivation of GM crops allow for higher financial resources to be used by farmers to improve the health status of themselves and their family, as compared to the cultivation of the non-GM counterpart? The extent to which information relevant to the two secondary questions was freely-available was also evaluated. The search and assessment methodologies were adapted following experience gained during a scoping exercise, and followed the published protocol. Results: The 20 databases and 10 reviews searched returned 4,870 hits, with 19 identified as relevant for data extraction. It was apparent that the 19 articles were derived from only 9 original studies, of which 7 were relevant to the first research question, whilst the remaining 2 were relevant to the second question. The studies showed both an overall decrease in the amount of pesticides applied and an increase in household income from GM crop cultivation as compared to the cultivation of the non-GM counterpart. Conclusion: In the absence of additional confounding variables or statistical analyses to support these findings, any correlation from these studies should be considered circumstantial at best. Even though the cultivation of GM crops appears to increase household income, evidence to demonstrate that farmers invested this extra income in improving their health remained inconclusive. Further research is therefore needed to clarify the possible correlation between GM crop cultivation and (1) pesticide poisonings, and (2) overall health improvements. Future impact evaluations should include: both written records and surveys; statistical correlations between independent and dependent variables; testing the characteristics of the samples for statistical significance to indicate their representativeness of a particular population, and; increasing the importance of confounding variables in research design (by identifying specific variables and selecting sample and control groups accordingly). © 2015 Racovita et al. Source


In tackling agricultural challenges, policy-makers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have increasingly considered genetically modified (GM) crops as a potential tool to increase productivity and to improve product quality. Yet, as elsewhere in the world, the adoption of GM crops in SSA has been marked by controversy, encompassing not only the potential risks to animal and human health, and to the environment, but also other concerns such as ethical issues, public participation in decision-making, socio-economic factors and intellectual property rights. With these non-scientific factors complicating an already controversial situation, disseminating credible information to the public as well as facilitating stakeholder input into decision-making is essential. In SSA, there are various and innovative risk communication approaches and strategies being developed, yet a comprehensive analysis of such data is missing. This gap is addressed by giving an overview of current strategies, identifying similarities and differences between various country and institutional approaches and promoting a way forward, building on a recent workshop with risk communicators working in SSA. Source


Al-Hmoud N.,Biosafety Unit | Al-Husseini N.,Environment Management and Technology Postgraduate Programme | Ibrahim-Alobaide M.A.,Environment Management and Technology Postgraduate Programme | Kubler E.,School for Life science | And 3 more authors.
GM crops & food | Year: 2014

The Cauliflower Mosaic Virus 35S promoter sequence, CaMV P-35S, is one of several commonly used genetic targets to detect genetically modified maize and is found in most GMOs. In this research we report the finding of an alternative P-35S sequence and its incidence in GM maize marketed in Jordan. The primer pair normally used to amplify a 123 bp DNA fragment of the CaMV P-35S promoter in GMOs also amplified a previously undetected alternative sequence of CaMV P-35S in GM maize samples which we term V3. The amplified V3 sequence comprises 386 base pairs and was not found in the standard wild-type maize, MON810 and MON 863 GM maize. The identified GM maize samples carrying the V3 sequence were found free of CaMV when compared with CaMV infected brown mustard sample. The data of sequence alignment analysis of the V3 genetic element showed 90% similarity with the matching P-35S sequence of the cauliflower mosaic virus isolate CabbB-JI and 99% similarity with matching P-35S sequences found in several binary plant vectors, of which the binary vector locus JQ693018 is one example. The current study showed an increase of 44% in the incidence of the identified 386 bp sequence in GM maize sold in Jordan's markets during the period 2009 and 2012. Source

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