b'INTERNATIONAL NEWSGLOBAL SEED WATCHAFRICAN LEADERS CALLED ON TO SUPPORT THE ADOPTION OF GM CROPS AND SOME AREAS IN CANADA EXPERIENCED THE WORST DROUGHT SINCE 2002.STATUS AFRICA development, Statistics Canada says in the post.Statistics Canada will release estimates on the production A panel of experts at the AATF June webinar have called onof principal field crops on August 30. The report will provide a African governments to take lead and support the adoption andmore comprehensive overview of the impact of the drought on commercialisation of genetically modified (GM) crops on theCanadian crops in 2021.continent by putting in place formidable and technically sound regulatory frameworks.The experts who spoke at the Webinar held on June 14STATUS CHINAunder the theme Biotechnology as a Tenable Solution to Address Hunger in Africa, noted that the continent is making progressResearchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and partners based on recent developments in various countries includingcracked the genetic secrets of Welwitschia, a two-leafed plant Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana. that thrives in the desert for over 1,000 years. The results of their Dr. Emmanuel Okogbenin, the Director of Programmefindings are reported in Nature Communications.Development and Commercialisation at AATF, said at the"Most plants develop a leaf, and that\'s it," said Andrew Leitch, webinar that Africa is lagging in the application of innovativea plant geneticist at the Queen Mary University of London. "This agricultural technologies despite it having revolutionized theplant can live thousands of years, and it never stops growing. agricultural sector globally leading to improved agriculturalWhen it does stop growing, it\'s dead."productions. The genomic studies revealed that the Welwitschia genome He noted that factors that constrain access to innovationshas been shaped by a lineage-specific ancient, whole-genome resulting in low agricultural productivity in the region includeduplication that happened 86 million years ago. Then, about low adoption of technologies such as biotechnologies, which have1-2 million years ago, extreme drought stress could have been identified as critical for increasing agricultural productivitycaused bursts of junk DNA activity. As a counterreaction, the and reducing hunger and poverty in Africa. Welwitschia genome went through massive epigenetic changes The benefits of biotechnologies, particularly the GM prod- that silenced the junk DNA sequences through DNA methylation. ucts, have been substantiated by evidence in countries whereThese occurrences, together with other factors, led to a very the technology has been deployed to farmers, he said, addingefficient, low-cost genome of Welwitschia.that access to the technology at the farm level has been con- These findings on the Welwitschia genome could provide strained by several factors relating to capacity for Research &insights on how to breed better crop varieties that can withstand Development, policy and regulatory frameworks, institutionalextreme abiotic stress.arrangements, and socio-economic conditions.STATUS CANADA STATUS UNITED STATESIn a letter to the Chair of the Humboldt County Board of The drought conditions in southern Alberta are equivalent to orSupervisors, the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) lower than the 2002, Statistics Canada says in a post on July 29. urged the board not to support Measure M, an ordinance that Crop reports from across Western Canada have describedprohibits the planting of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) the effects of record-high temperatures and lack of rainfall thatin the California county, citing it as anti-science and harmful to have stressed crops. These reports have noted some crops haveAmerican agriculture.matured faster than normal, or stagnated in their development. Measure M states that "it shall be unlawful for any person, The longer these conditions persist, the greater the neg- firm, or corporation to propagate, cultivate, raise, or grow genet-ative impact will be on crop and hay yields, grain quality andically modified organisms in Humboldt County." The penalties ultimately, farm cash receipts, Statistics Canada says. include the confiscation and destruction of planted GMOs, and In mid-July, the Alberta government reported 36.6 per centmonetary penalty and/or imprisonment of anyone found to be of the crops were in good to excellent condition compared withviolating the ordinance.the five-year average of 74.1 per cent. In their letter, the ASPB stated that jailing of farmers or Despite the heat and lack of rain in parts of the country,researchers for the use of safe innovative technologies is unjust, the situation could still improve if cooler temperatures andanti-science, and damaging to the US agriculture industry. They rain come in time to mitigate the decline in yields and quality,collectively reiterated that GM foods are safe to eat according to Statistics Canada says. years of scientific literature and that the advancement of modern Statistics Canada monitors crop conditions on a weeklybiotechnology has led to the reduction of pesticide usage and basis using coarse resolution satellite imagery as part of thefewer diseases. Moreover, genetic engineering can produce Crop Condition Assessment Program funding by Agriculturehealthier and safer foods compared to traditional plant breeding and Agri-Food Canada. It uses Normalized Difference Vegetationtechnologies. The group also emphasized to the County Board Index (NDVI) to monitor changing crop and pasture conditions. that "biotechnology and genetic engineering of crops hold great The concern expressed by many farm operators is that thepromise for agriculture in developing countries." current drought conditions have hit at the worst time of crop 54IEUROPEAN SEEDIEUROPEAN-SEED.COM'