Non-GM drought-resistance and flood-resistance
2.Drought-resistant wheat aiding Kenya food security
EXTRACT: The flood-tolerant gene is introduced to existing rice varieties through normal cross-breeding techniques and not via genetic modification. (item 1)
NOTE: While GM 'miracle' stories win vast amounts of column inches, actual delivery of drought resistant crops etc. to farmers' fields remains non-existent.
When the journalist Rikki Stancich asked Monsanto and Bayer to provide documentation to support their claims to drought-resistant crop strains, they failed to provide any supporting documentation.
As Prof. Tim Flowers of the School of Life Sciences at the University of Sussex has noted,
"Biotechnologists have reasons for exaggerating their abilities to manipulate plants." And the reality of GM "tolerant" crops may, in his view and that of many other experts, "still be decades from commercial availability". http://www.field.org.uk/PDF/IDS%20biotech%20conference%20summary.pdf
Even a spokesman for Monsanto has admitted that drought-resistant seeds won't be available for developing countries any time soon - for at least eight to 10 years. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6190
Meanwhile non-GM breakthroughs in this area continue apace and are already heading into farmers' fields.
1.India to grow flood-tolerant rice
Business Daily, May 28 2008
Farmers in India and Bangladesh will likely start commercial production of flood-tolerant rice next year giving them protection against crop losses from typhoons and heavy monsoon rains.
"We now have a fairly big programme in India and Bangladesh to multiply the seed," David Mackill, programme leader for rain-fed environments at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, told Reuters yesterday. "It would survive for about two weeks under water."
Flood waters regularly engulf vast rainfed lowland areas of Asia and crop losses from prolonged submergence are estimated at around $1 billion a year, Mackill said.
Myanmar, once the world's biggest rice exporter, faces the risk of food shortages after a cyclone flooded 5,000 sq km (1,900 sq miles) of its rice bowl earlier this month.
Before Cyclone Nargis struck, Myanmar had offered to sell Bangladesh 300,000 tonnes of rice annually after the south Asian country lost 2 million tonnes of planted rice due to a cyclone and two spells of flooding last year.
With the Sub1 flood-resistant gene, farmers could produce 6 tonnes of rice per hectare under normal conditions and around 3 tonnes if the paddy was submerged for two weeks.
Normal varieties would only yield 1 tonne or less if subject to that sort of submergence.
"The variety that has this gene still performs as well as the original without submergence," said Mackill. "It's like an insurance policy."
The flood-tolerant gene is introduced to existing rice varieties through normal cross-breeding techniques and not via genetic modification.
Mackill said Indonesia was likely to be the first country in Southeast Asia to introduce the flood-tolerant rice and China had also expressed interest in working with it.
"What we would like to do is to transfer the Sub1 gene into a larger number of varieties that would mean the technology would be available to farmers in wider areas."
IRRI, which started a Green Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s with the development of high-yielding rice seeds, is also working on drought-resistant varieties of the grain to deal with a world beset by global warming.
Mackill said it could take up to 5 years before such varieties, which would have similar yield advantages as the flood-tolerant seeds, would be ready for commercial production.
"We are doing a lot of work," he said. "But genetically it’s more complicated."
2.Mutant wheat aiding Kenya food security
SciDev, 20 May 2008
A high-yielding, drought-resistant wheat variety is contributing to Kenya's food security and economic and social needs.
In collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Kenya's Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) produced their first mutant strain of wheat, Njoro-BW1, in 2001.
Researchers used 'mutation plant breeding', a process that alters the traits and characteristics of crops using radiation to induce mutations.
In addition to being drought-resistant, Njoro-BW1 is moderately resistant to wheat rust, a virulent strain of fungus that hits crops in Kenya and other African countries. It also produces high yields of grain for flour, with high baking quality.
Kenyan farmers have been able to harvest on dry lowlands, with reports of the variety also growing successfully in highlands and acidic soils.
Miriam Kinyua, KARI's former chief plant breeder and centre director, believes that mutation techniques are Kenya's best option for developing better wheat varieties.
As of January 2008, global wheat prices were 83 per cent higher than the previous year. The development of new wheat varieties is vital if Kenya is to boost agricultural production.