Alarming MIT Technology Report Concerning “Gene Drive” Technology

I want to call readers attention to this rather alarming article from MIT Technology Review (referencing a Science journal article). What’s going on here is that gene editing techniques that weren’t as worrisome a decade ago have become greatly concerning to scientists because they have made such huge advances. Gene altering procedures are becoming simple and quick. These scientists, asking for help, are admitting that the technology has outpaced the safety and want integrated risk management, which for now is missing. The scientists are pleading with regulators to make the world safe from themselves. I am offering the beginning of the article and please click on the link at the bottom to read the rest.  —Kay M.

Scientists working at the cutting-edge of genetics say one possible application of a powerful new technology called genome editing has the potential to cause ecological mayhem and needs attention from regulators.

The technique, referred to as a “gene drive,” would cause chosen genes, including man-made ones, to quickly spread through a species as its members reproduce.

While gene drives may have commercial and public health uses, 10 scientists published an editorial in the journal Science calling for more public discussion, and also more scrutiny by regulators.

news report in Science gives the background:

[A] gene drive involves stimulating biased inheritance of particular genes to alter entire populations of organisms. It was first proposed more than a decade ago, and researchers have been developing gene drive approaches to alter mosquitoes to slow the spread of malaria and dengue fever. Although progress has been quite slow, recent advances in gene editing could lead to a rapid application of gene drive approaches to other species.

[To read more, go to MIT Technology Review]

Genetically Modified Seed Use is Up in the U.S.

The United States Department of Agriculture has released a new report on the adoption of herbicide tolerant and insect resistant crops since their introduction in 1996.

According to the report, the percentage of genetically modified (GM) seed within the U.S. corn crop nearly doubled over the past 10 years, from less than half of the total planted corn acres in 2004 to 93 percent this year, up from 90 percent last year.

The report includes these three stats:

· GE soybean is 94 percent of soybean hectarage in the US in 2014 from 93 percent in 2013.
· GE corn is 93 percent of all corn planted in the US, up from 90 percent in 2013.
· GE cotton is 96 percent of all cotton grown in the US, up from 90 percent in 2013.


The following graphic is from the ISAAA which gives global adoption rates:

USDA adoption of genetically modified seeds in the U.S. report here:

Wheat Genome Project Success

IWGSC collaboration figure

In July of 2014, The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) published in the international journal Science, a draft sequence of the bread wheat genome. This provides new insight into the structure, organization, and evolution of the large, complex genome of the world’s most widely grown cereal crop.

According to the journal Science, “The researchers estimate that wheat has about 124,000 genes and that its genome is 40 times larger than rice and seven times larger than corn, both of whose genomes have been deciphered. The wheat genome also is more than five times larger than the human genome, the researchers noted.”

This genome is so complex that previously it was thought impossible to sequence.

This Year’s Iowa State Fair

Have you ever been to the Iowa State Fair? I’ve always wanted to go, but haven’t gotten there yet. Every year, it rates right up there in the best of the to-do travel lists of notable publications anywhere from the New York Time’s to the Aspen Times. For this year, it’s not too late to go!

Here are a few photo highlights from this year’s fair. All photos in this post are taken by photographer Scott Olson for Getty Images.

1. This first photo shows fair visitors looking at a statue of a farmer and his daughter depicted from Grant Wood’s American Gothic painting on the fairgrounds of the Iowa State Fair on August 6, 2014 in Des Moines, Iowa. The fair runs from August 7, 2014 until August 17, 2014.

2. Crowds of visitors walk past food vendors at the Iowa State Fair on August 7.

3. Roger Gibson pauses for the National Anthem while viewing the vintage tractor exhibit at the Iowa State Fair on August 7, 2014 in Des Moines, Iowa.

4. Artist Sarah Pratt sculpts a statue of Kevin Costner as Ray Kinsella out of butter at the Iowa State Fair on August 6, 2014 in Des Moines, Iowa. Kinsella was Costner’s character in the movie Field of Dreams which is a story about an Iowa farmer and avid baseball fan.

5. Corn is displayed for judging at the Iowa State Fair on August 6.

6. Farmers wait to compete in the dairy cow judging at the Iowa State Fair on August 7.

7. In this final photo, Theresa Fitzgerald takes her pig for a walk at the Iowa State Fair on August 7.


Don’t miss the resurrected mini-version of Sowing Agricultural Seeds Daily (added to upper right sidebar). I intend to post notable links in that spot each day going forward. Thanks for your patience – I received numerous emails asking about the site from people who said they missed it.