Science 16 May 2014:
Vol. 344 no. 6185 pp. 699-700
DOI:10.1126/science.1254135
Perspective

Making Hunger Yield

C. Robertson McClung | 7 Comments

A combination of approaches to develop crops with improved yields is needed to address the demands of a growing population.

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“SMART” to success: not just combinations and permutations Yasin Jeshima, K Division of Genomic Resources ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources PUSA campus, New Delhi, India-110012

The food security bill of India has thrown light on the need for protecting the people below poverty line and hopes to be completely achieved soon. The next target should be on nutritional security. Towards this the research and farming targets are to be fixed. The declining per capita land availability due to ever increasing population in developing countries like India needs intensive agriculture with effective use of available resources and technologies. The current agricultural scenario of changing climatic conditions requires being SMART (Systematic Management of Agricultural Resources and Technology) 1 rather than just combinations of technologies. 2 Resources and technology management is successful in developed countries due to its larger landholdings and fewer farmers apart from its contribution to GDP. Agriculture is not given much importance as a new concept or technology to be developed or as a profession by passion due to its poor social status and meagre income generated. In developing nations like India, agriculture is a forced occupation for many through an inherited bread winning land as a property. Many a times agriculture is not being considered as a prestigious occupation in India as the profit earners are the middle men of the market rather than the producer. Agricultural policies and price fixation, depending on supply and demand are being manipulated by speculated market and periodical production. Innovations are no lesser but their effective utilization leading to sustainability in small landholding and availability to a resource poor farmer plays a major role.3,4 Thus I wish to conclude that, it is not just combinations and permutations of everything but a SMART agriculture only can solve the issues related to global food supply and nutritional security. References 1. Ramya, K T., Fiyaz R.A. and Yasin, J.K. “SMART” agriculture for nutritional security. Current science. 105(11): 1458 (2013). 2. Robertson, C. Making hunger yield. Science. 344, 699-700 (2014). 3. Swaminathan, M.S. Climate change and sustainable food security, NIAS, Bangalore and ICAR, New Delhi. (2013). 4. Swaminathan, M.S. Can science and technology feed the world in 2025? Field crops Res., 104, 3-9 (2007).

Submitted on Sun, 01/11/2015 - 11:16

In the Perspectives article, “Making hunger yield” (16 May, p. 699), C. Robertson McClung says the “regulatory morass surrounding genetic engineering has delayed the availability of golden rice more than a decade at a probable cost of tens of millions of lives.” To the contrary, golden rice is not available because it does not produce acceptable yields in farmers fields. Equally important, it has not been shown to reduce Vitamin A deficiencies under normal conditions in poor communities.

According to the website of the developer of golden rice, the International Rice Research Institute (“IRRI”), while research shows that beta carotene in golden rice is readily converted to vitamin A in the body, “it has not yet been determined whether daily consumption of the rice improves the vitamin A status of people who are vitamin A deficient and could therefore reduce related conditions such as night blindness (1).”

In addition, the latest tests done at IRRI indicate that golden rice did not produce sufficiently high yields to assure farmer acceptance (2).

IRRI has pledged that golden rice will be made broadly available in the Philippines only if it is approved by national regulators and shown to reduce vitamin A deficiency under community conditions, a process that may take another two years or more.

Golden rice may yet emerge as a useful tool for addressing vitamin A deficiency, but it still has important technical hurdles to overcome. Until the product is shown to work, it is irresponsible to blame regulations for the loss of any lives.

Margaret Mellon Science Policy Consultant Washington, DC Email: mardimellon@mac.com

References: International Rice Research Institute website, (http://irri.org/golden-rice/faqs/what-is-the-status-of-the-golden-rice-p...) accessed June 9, 2014.

2. Id.

Submitted on Sat, 06/21/2014 - 10:14

Increased agricultural production from the “Green Revolution” was the result of genetic improvement of crops and higher planting density as McClung argues; chiefly by making plants shorter so they could support larger heads of grain when heavily fertilized. However nitrogen-rich crops grown as dense monocultures are a nirvana for pests and plant pathogens and have helped drive massive increases in pesticide use; three fold (1) since the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962. Plant breeding has not provided durable solutions to most pest and disease problems. Even when one group, such as caterpillars, is well controlled by resistance another, such as sucking pests, fills the gap and requires spraying (2). A report on serious soil pollution by agrochemicals covered in a recent letter to Science (3) focused on China but the same damage occurs elsewhere. Seeking to boost agricultural production solely by increasing reliance on crop varieties that depend upon and drive the use of damaging and non-renewable synthetic inputs is narrow and unsustainable. There is mounting evidence that promoting ecosystem services by strategic diversification of farmland biodiversity is a powerful tool in integrated solutions for plant protection (4), productivity (5), and harmonizing agriculture with the environment (6). Engineering the ecology of agricultural systems can be effective, low-cost and immediately usable for farmers plus avoids the regulatory morass that has constrained genetic engineering.

REFERENCES 1. D Tilman et al. Nature 418, 671-677 (2002) 2. Y Lu et al. Science 328, 1151-1154 (2010) 3. R Chen et al. Science 344, 691 (2014) 4. GM Gurr et al. Biodiversity and Pest Management (Wiley Blackwell, 2012) 5. O De Schutter Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food Ref: A/HRC/16/49; (United Nations General Assembly: New York, 2010). 6. GBP Werling et al. PNAS 4, 1652-1657 (2014)

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Submitted on Fri, 06/20/2014 - 04:15

Clearly, communication of a new green revolution is a major problem due to public opposition to the development of genetically modified plants. Reviewing the commercial GM crops we may realize that we have not used our best approaches, as the techniques used are quite old fashioned compared to the current methods available including site directed mutagenesis and cisgenic approaches. We could even adopt the standard that any new GM crop should be compatible with organic farming. I have made such a proposal by engineering orgenic plants, i.e. GM plants compatible with organic farming: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/biot.201200225. Such an approach may allow a more sustainable agriculture that is more acceptable to the public.

Submitted on Fri, 05/30/2014 - 05:44

You propose a monumental complex effort that faces many constraints. A fraction of the expenditure you propose, directed to fostering birth restrictions would save many more lives.

http://dieoff.org/page35.htm How To Influence Fertility: The Experience So Far (1990)

http://dieoff.org/page75.htm "Science Summit" on World Population:
A Joint Statement by 58 of the World's Scientific Academies

http://dieoff.org/page91.htm Chronic Famine and the Immorality of Food Aid: A Bow to Garrett Hardin by Joseph Fletcher University of Virginia

http://dieoff.org/_Systems/PopulationCrash_ProspectsForFamineInTheTwenty... POPULATION CRASH: Prospects For Famine in the Twenty-First Century, by Carleton Schade and David Pimentel, Environment, Development and Sustainability, v. 12, pp. 242-262.

Larry New London NH

Submitted on Sat, 05/24/2014 - 05:48

I would suggest that this statement uses improper references: "This regulatory morass has delayed the availability of golden rice more than a decade at a probable cost of tens of millions of lives (6, 14)." These references are opinion pieces previously published in Science and do not in fact represent analyses of the potential (wasted) benefits of GMOs in food production.

Submitted on Wed, 05/21/2014 - 13:42

Well, it would be nice to mention that apart from _producing more_ food it is also an option to _waste less_ food, especially in the rich countries.

"The results of the study suggest that roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year." [http://www.fao.org/docrep/014/mb060e/mb060e00.pdf]

Submitted on Fri, 05/16/2014 - 04:17