Top 10 Studies You Should Have Read in 2016
As 2017 kicks off, we want to equip you with the best and latest information about the role of plant science in sustainable agriculture. So we have come up with some of the most influential studies published over the last 12 months. Take a look to make sure you didn’t miss any!
Biotech Crops as Safe as Conventional Crops
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) stated in a report that biotech crops are safe for human and animal consumption and have not increased the risk for any medical condition, including cancer, obesity, gastrointestinal illnesses or allergies. Moreover, it said that there is no difference between traditional and biotech crops in terms of risks to human health, nor any negative effects on the environment from biotech crops. More than 50 experts reviewed over 900 studies on biotech crops from the past 20 years during this two-year study.
IARC is “Outmoded”
In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a report identifying the herbicide glyphosate as a carcinogen along with red meat based on its composition, not exposure or risk. This report was widely criticized by the international scientific community, including authors of an article in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology which noted: “Hazard-identification based classification schemes are inadequate to guide appropriate risk management decisions and have become outmoded.” That’s because the classification is based on a chemical having some degree of carcinogenic potential in humans or rodents without indicating the degree of risk following real exposure. This approach can place chemicals with widely differing potencies and very different modes of action into the same category, such as processed meat and sulfur mustard gas. It creates unnecessary health scares, economic costs and research, the article concluded.
Nobel Laureates Laud Biotechnology, Deplore Greenpeace
More than 120 Nobel laureates signed a letter urging Greenpeace to end its opposition to biotech crops as a “crime against humanity.” The activist group has been blocking Golden Rice, which could reduce vitamin A deficiencies causing blindness and death in children in the developing world, along with biotech crops and foods at large. Richard Roberts and Phillip Sharp, winners of the 1993 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their discoveries of split genes, organized the letter campaign.
Multitude of Factors Influence Bee Health
The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found that there are multifactorial reasons for the reported decline in pollinator health, including “land-use change, intensive agricultural management and pesticide use, environmental pollution, invasive alien species, pathogens and climate change.” The group also reported that neonicotinoids and other insecticides have a “broad range of lethal and sub-lethal effects on pollinators” in controlled experimental conditions, but “most of these studies used pesticide exposures above field-realistic levels.”
Biotech Crops Prove Successful for Past Two Decades
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) recognized the late biotech pioneer Norman Borlaug and 20 years of successful plant biotechnology in its 2015 annual report. It noted an unprecedented cumulative hectarage of 2 billion hectares of biotech crops were successfully cultivated globally from 1996 to 2015, and estimated farmer benefits during this timeframe at over US$150 billion. “The rapid adoption of biotech crops … reflects the substantial, multiple benefits realized by both large and small farmers in industrial and developing countries,” ISAAA said. “Biotech crops have delivered substantial agronomic, environmental, economic, health and social benefits to farmers and, increasingly, to society at large.”
EU Cut-Off Regulation Could Cut Trade by $69 Billion USD
The European Union proposed in 2016 hazard-based criteria for regulating endocrine-disrupting chemicals without accounting for potency, exposure and other key aspects of risk assessment. In response, the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) issued the report, “Potential Trade Effects on Selected Agricultural Exporters to EU Under Regulation 1107/2009 (‘Hazard-Based Cut-Offs’),” to warn against potential trade disruptions resulting from unnecessary EU bans on crop protection products. Considering all potentially affected commodities imported by the EU, the regulation could impact trade up to $69 billion USD. The ECPA also issued a report called “Low Yield” noting significant declines (10-92 percent) in crop production would be likely if 75 crop protection products are banned due to hazard-based cut-offs.
International Efforts Target Counterfeit Pesticides
The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute discussed in a report the risks and impacts of fake crop protection products on human health, livestock and food supplies, the environment and international agricultural trade. Entitled “Illicit Pesticides, Organized Crime and Supply Chain Integrity,” the report also presented data on criminals, logistics, security vulnerabilities, defense measures against organized crime groups and networks, and key regulatory issues. It concluded that the way forward to minimize illegal crop protection products involves facilitating research, raising stakeholder awareness, delivering training and technical assistance programs, supporting capacity-building, and reinforcing national and international cooperation.
Developing Countries Progress in Biotech Research
The Chinese Academy of Sciences-The World Academy of Sciences Centre of Excellence for Biotechnology analyzed the status and productivity of biotech research in 141 developing countries from 2005-2014 in the report “Biotechnology in Developing Countries: Growth and Development.” It showed that research output in these countries increased 117 percent during this timeframe and biotech patents went up over 7 percent. China and India led this progress as they have invested considerably in biotech research.
Crop Protection Products Cost $286 Million
Every crop protection product that reaches the market costs $286 million and takes 11 years of research and development to ensure the highest safety and efficacy standards, according to “The Cost of New Agrochemical Product Discovery, Development and Registration” report by Phillips McDougall. CropLife International, CropLife America and the European Crop Protection Association commissioned the report to highlight the enormous investment that goes into researching and developing a new crop protection product.
Down with Biotech Crops, Up with Food Prices and GHG Emissions
A global ban on biotech crops would raise food prices and add the equivalent of nearly 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, noted a study from Purdue University. Using a model to assess the economic and environmental value of biotech crops, agricultural economists found that by replacing biotech corn, soybeans and cotton with conventional varieties worldwide would cause a 0.27 to 2.2 percent increase in food costs, depending on the region, with a large increase in greenhouse gas emissions.