Last month many of you probably saw the article in the Capitol Press about WSU's research and breakthroughs towards celiac safe wheat. Here's a link to a summary article from celiac.com with an excerpt below.
Von Wettstein is working two distinct angles on this project. The first approach uses genetic modification, while the second does not. He acknowledges that doing it without genetic modification "would be better…But in the end, if the only way to do this is through genetic modification of wheat, it could still be a major advancement for people who suffer from that disease."
Biotech in all its forms holds a lot of hope for the future of agriculture and our ability to keep up with an ever expanding global population and ever decreasing arable land, not to mention the pressure on water supply. Increased yields, increased disease resistance, decreased dependence on broad spectrum pesticides, and crop production on marginal lands are a few of the aims of genetic modification.
Here's a great biotech article from the New York Times, Golden Rice: Lifesaver? I remember hearing about this project in college, "identified in the infancy of genetic engineering as having the potential for the biggest impact for the world’s poor, [it] was initially funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the European Union." The Golden Rice project sought to develop rice cultivars capable of producing beta carotene for consumers in many parts of the world where Vitamin A deficiency is very serious, particularly among the most needy. There's a similar project in casava. Unfortunately, as you'll read in the article, many oppose projects like this for ideological reasons, never mind the lives that could be saved. Through vandalism a few activists in the Philippines made decisions for an entire population by nearly destroying the non-profit funded project, setting it back at least a year if not more.
|TIME Magazine, July 31, 2000|
If the rice gains the Philippine government’s approval, it will cost no more than other rice for poor farmers, who will be free to save seeds and replant them, Dr. Barry said. It has no known allergens or toxins, and the new proteins produced by the rice have been shown to break down quickly in simulated gastric fluid, as required by World Health Organization guidelines. A mouse feeding study is under way in a laboratory in the United States. The potential that the Golden Rice would cross-pollinate with other varieties, sometimes called “genetic contamination,” has been studied and found to be limited, because rice is typically self-pollinated. And its production of beta carotene does not appear to provide a competitive advantage — or disadvantage — that could affect the survival of wild varieties with which it might mix.Often times activism is touted as the fight against a few who hold too much power. What happens when the activists are the few who, through bio-terrorism, make grave decisions for many?
The article and those linked within are well worth the read. Here's to science and agriculture pushing forward to continue feeding the many and seeking to improve the the lives of a global population.