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Agriculture, biotechnology, climate change, biofuel, science will not give opportunity to the food crisis
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    All economic activities related to research, development, production, trade and consumption of plants, animals and all other living things are defined as “bioeconomy”. Scientifically bioeconomy aims at producing economical gains by generating surplus values using new methods such as biotechnology with the targeted profits of improved health, increased productivity and higher quality in agricultural and industrial production and sustainable improvements in the environment. If these activities are oriented towards agriculture and forestry are understood as GREEN, if oriented to industry as WHITE, if oriented to ocean and seas as BLUE bioeconomy. Bioeconomy is a very young concept and has begun to be used since 1990. In recent years, both the EU and the US have announced their bioeconomical plans for the future. In February 2012, the EU has announced its plan for “Sustainable Bioeconomy for Europe”, whereas US confirmed his “National Bioeconomics” project two months later. In those plans, the main target was oriented to R-D and innovations in biology. While EU is focusing to WHITE bioeconomy, the US’s plan was embracing all three types of bioeconomy.

    A report of “International Food Policy Research Institute” (IFPRI), is dealing with an interesting question: of “how much agricultural production should increase towards 2050”. The report said that, the amount of today’s food should be increased by 70%. It is estimated that, the mentioned addition should be 80% for meat and 52% for grain. This means that today 260 million tons of world meat production will have to be increased to 455 million tons in 2050.

    On the other hand, while the negative contribution of agriculture to the environment is expressed, the question of animal husbandry stands out. For example, while for a kilogram of vegetables 322 liters water, for a kilogram of fruit 962 liters water consumed, for a kilogram of chicken 4325 liters, for a kilogram of sheep 8763 liters, and for kilograms of beef 8763 liters water were necessary. It is important to note that, one third of the cereal produced in the world is directed to feeding animals. It cannot be said that, besides large amounts of water consumption, animal breeding is considered to be innocent of the contamination water, mixing of pathogens, metals, drug-hormone residues to water is not new. Another fact is that 80% of the antibiotics used in the US are used in animal husbandry.

    80% of the agricultural land in the world is meadow – pasture. Apart from this, approximately 30% of the cultivated plant production is used for animal feeding. In case of greenhouse gas, animal breeding is responsible for 6-32%, according to different estimates.

    When it comes to 2013, scientists have begun to show that meat can be produced in laboratories. Not satisfied with this, however, it has moved to commercial dimensions (Maastricht University, Netherlands, Prof. Mark Post, (company: Mosa Meat)). In the USA, companies founded in this area are commercially supported by renowned investors such as Bill Gates and Richard Bronson, as well as food giants such as Memphis Meats, Cargill, Tyson Food. It is a fact that EU companies like Nestle and Unilever will not miss this opportunity. The German PHW group has already started to purchase the Israeli new entrepreneur “Supermeat”. It seems to be moving beyond chickens and beef. “FinlessFoods” aims to utilize cell culture to artificially produce meat from the endangered red tuna species on land.

    In fact, meat is mainly the composition of muscle and fat cells. They need nutrients suitable for growth and development. When we will carry out this system in the laboratory or even in larger environments, we will have healthier and safer meat, which is without antibiotics, without medicine, without drugs. These artificial products are similar to those, mentioned above because of their potential to overcome environmental negativity, cheapness, benefits to human health and protection of animal welfare. However It may take quite a while to get to the market. Although “Memphis Meats” calls “we are in the market in 2021”, it is a reality that many scientific problems are yet to be solved. At this time, another US firm “Justforall” announces that chicken meat without broiler will be on the market shelves towards the end of 2018 .

    The vegetarian menu already offered by IMPOSSIBLE Burger in about 1500 restaurant in the US is not likely to be underestimated. As a meat substitute, it is interesting that the product of which the vegetable protein tissues are active, offers an equivalent flavor to the meat. The company supplies the meat color with leghemoglobin, derived from soybean roots, not from the blood. However, the plant herbal hemoglobin is low in the soybean roots, so it will be obtained from a yeast strain (Pichia pastoris) . These yeast strains of genetically modified products and are not subject to biotechnological legislation in the United States or in the EU.

    In the 1900s, while a chick could only be marketed in 112 days, now it has been reduced to 45 days. Let’s see what the bioeconomy will deliver in future to us. Or will it do so? As far as the economic dimension of the event is concerned, the US lobbies (Cattlemen’s Association!) has already taken action to ban the plant-derived clean meat . Let’s not forget the success of the coal lobby in the US’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Treaty.
    Nazimi Açıkgöz
    Note: This article is summarized from a paper published in the daily Turkish newspaper: Milliyet


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    It is imperative that we improve the new genotypes for sustainable plant and livestock production given the changes in demand and the environment. Until recently mutations and classical breeding techniques were sufficient to breed new varieties. At the end of the 20th century, tissue culture, gene transfer and other molecular biologic developments have entered the picture. In the past decade, a variation on mutation, which is not a new technique, has emerged. We now see thousands of new plant varieties that have been bread using artificial mutation with X or gamma rays or colchicine application. Mutation is a spontaneous or purposeful changes in one of the genes of a living organism.

    Since 2010, genomic arrangements have been carried out in molecular laboratories. These genotypes, will rapidly be registered and delivered to the producers. These genomic arrangements, (also called New Plant Breeding Techniques (NPBT)), GEN EDITING, GENOM EDITING) cover a range of new gene engineering methods. Those are “Tilling, Protoplast Fusion, Cisgenesis, Oligonucleotide Techniques, CRISPR-Cas9, Zen, Talen, Epigenetics etc. with “CRISPR-Cas9” being prominent than the rest. In these methods, there is no transfer of any gene from outside like there is in GMOs. On the contrary, new genotypes are created by silencing the target gene with the help of transient DNA-cutting enzymes. This application can increase or decrease the effect of gene. We can call this process artificial micro-mutation. Naturally, these methods can be applied to plants with mapped genes.

    What interesting are these methods do not require hundreds of millions of dollars for registration as is the case with GMO, which requires a lot of expenses for environment, risk etc. analyzes. Therefore, any gen edited variety can reach the seed marked in faster than any other plant breeding technique. Additionally the cost of these techniques is only one-tenth of GMO processes resulting in easy variety development by small and medium-sized or low budget new enterprise plant breeding companies, universities and public institutions. In the USA, GENOM EDITING is regulated as a conventional plant breeding system and not as a GMO registration system. Of the 23 candidate varieties of the more recent registration applications, only three of them belonged to large, global seed companies. Twenty of them emerged from 5-6 year old, small-to-mid sized enterprises or new entrepreneurs. Improving new genotypes will not be in hands of multinational companies exclusively but small enterprises will also take part in plant breeding activities which is crucial for food security in light of climate change.

    Application of these new plant breeding techniques has been banned in in Europe . It raises concern that such a ban has occurred at a time when, where global warming, heat, drought and diseases, are seriously threatening the world’s food safety and when nations are in desperate need of resistance or tolerant new cultivars to heat, drought and diseases. With the July 2018 decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), genome editing will be regulated like GMOs, and the cost of registration of any new variety will be as high as GMO’s (around 150 million US$). In this case, small and medium-sized or low budget and younger plant breeding companies or universities will not be able to enter into plant breeding business. So, according to EU law, on one hand, ‘conventional’ mutagenesis using ionizing radiation or DNA-damaging chemicals which generate thousands of mutant varieties are safe; but on the other, one laboratory change of genome is causing regulatory alarm. Upon these developments some experts have voiced their views including:
     “This decision will have a profound effect on the academic research community in the EU”;
     ”Europe is breaking away from the largest biology revolution of the last 30 years;
     ”Europe will be far behind in the next decade about innovations in food and agriculture;
     “It is expected that modern plant biotechnology laboratories will be closed in Europe;
     “These restrictions in biotechnology means “migration of scientists””;
     “With this decision, the EU will begin to decline for the latest technology and innovation”.

    The scientific community’s concern is that research support will also be cut off. The fact that NPBT won’t be included in the “Horizon” type framework projects, which bring together the science bodies and the implementing firms, will be a barrier for EU firms in the tomorrow’s seed market.
    However, Japan’s Ministry of Environment is approaching this issue very differently. At an experts meeting on August 20, 2018, Japan has decided: “unless the product contains nucleic acid of other species or variety, registration procedures do not fall into the category of GMOs”. And on August 29, 2018, it was accepted by the Advisory Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms as it came from the group of experts .

    Let’s take a look at the economic contributions of the varieties developed by classical mutation breeding without mentioning the varieties developed with NPBT. With this method, which was introduced in the middle of the 20th century, 3275 new varieties have been presented to the world producers to date. New mutant varieties were used as parents in the development of a large number of varieties. For example, in Italy, new genotypes driven from mutant Capelli durum wheat were planted in half of the whole Italian durum wheat fields in the 1970s. China is using mutation breeding more effectively. 30% of the registered 3275 new world mutant varieties belong to China. This country also uses space for conventional mutation. A total of 230 mutant varieties have been registered via space breeding research center’s mutation projects in the last 30 years.

    Here are a few examples of candidate cultivar lists developed with NPBT:
    – Seedless tomatoes in Japan;
    – Low fatty acid soy in the US (in market in 2019);
    – Easier digestible alfalfa in the US;
    – Herbicide resistant rice in Canada;
    – Herbicide resistant flax in Canada;
    – A dozen more gene-edited crops in the pipeline for as US Company, Calyxt, including high-fiber wheat and potatoes that stay fresh longer, better-tasting tomatoes, low-gluten wheat, apples that don’t turn brown, drought-resistant soybeans or potatoes better suited for cold storage.

    Those will not only be beneficial to plant breeders and consumers, but will also be pioneers for further crop development. In fact, we should see new cultivars for many additional species for food security in the future, given global warming.

    Nazimi Acikgoz
    Note: This artical is a summary of a Turkish paper published in “https://nazimiacikgoz.wordpress.com/2018/09/10/dunyada-yeni-islah-teknikleri-meyvelerini-vermege-basladi-2/” and

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    China, a “developing country” in the 21th century, has been one of the superpowers of science and technology for the last 30 years. China’s scintific and technological advancement will lead to its rapid economic development. According to Scopus records, China has increased the number of publications in science, mathematics and computer science to from 200,000 to 1.650.000 between 1986 and 2016 (Chart1). The citation rate of Chinies scientists have reached 23% in all countries. If Chinese publications were included, this figure would have reached 37%.

    Starting in 1995, China’s central government carried out a series of programs aimed at spending billions of dollars to raise China’s top universities to world standards. First, a package application was launched to raise 100 universities to the level of the western universities of the 21st century. In 2015, a second program focused on designated departments within these institutions.

    In 1900, resistance against foreigners, especially Christians, began in Beijing. This movement, known as the “Boxer Rebellion” has resulted in China’s payment to the United States as compensation. Tsinghua University was founded in 1911 with these funds. Today, this university is a source of pride for China through science, technology and engineering research. According to Scopus records, this university is number one, among the most cited 15 universities in the world; also SEVEN of them are Chinese, which is an evidence of the rapid rise of the country in science and technology.

    Money as a lever provides universities with the opportunity to plan for top class research intriguing academicians to sophisticated research which can yield to more powerful findings. Universities can open up new horizons for their academicians within the framework of their monetary powers. About 30 years ago in China, universities have started to give scholarships to their academicians in return for their published papers in certain global science magazines-journals. Today, these awards have reached very high amounts. A recent example is US $ 165,000 scholarship awarded for a publication in the “Nature” journal which is 20 times as the annual salary of an academic in China. These monetary awards have had a direct impact on the rise of the rate of Chinese-cited papers from 4% in 2000 to 19% in 2016.

    Generally, PhD studies are prominent in research. Tsinghua University believes in the importance of the number in academic achievement and gives the opportunity to many PhD students. In 2017, 1,385 candidate have completed their thesis at this university. In the same year, only 645 PhD students have graduated from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

    With the support of the state in recent years, Chinese universities have benefited from reverse brain drain. Universities like Tsinghua may not provide the facilities and opportunities of a western university. But the idealist scientists, who want to raise their children in their homeland, with national pride will always emerge. As yearly salaries were raised to the six-digits, China has benefited the most from this trend. For ample, Tsinghua University transferred Qian Yingyi, a scientist who has worked at universities such as Columbia, Yale, Harvard, Stanford and Berkeley, who has focused to the new horizons of innovation. Qian put into practice an American-style personnel system with no personal relations or political impositions, focusing on “a six-year research period, followed by a performance evaluation, based on publications, followed by a continuous job offer or put an end to the task”. The results were astonishing. The step up of Tsinghua University in the ranking of Chinese mathematics-computer-research league table was unexpected. In 2006-09, the university was ranked 66th and it was number one in the last year!

    In 2012, the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen has invited He Jiankui, one of their former physic students back, after his completion of a PhD in Physics at Rice University in Texas. And postdoctoral research at Stanford University focused on gene-genome sequences. His father described Jiankui’s return to his country with a short sentence: “He found the Chinese scientific research is weak and he wants to improve it!”. And he has indeed! Jianku has enabled the birth of twin babies with genome editing (not GMO)—the first gene editing result in human medicine in the world. CRISPR/Cas method has been used to regulate the genes of twin babies to be resistant to HIV , . This method is used in the plant world recent years. In the number of researches, conducted in this field, China is also the leading one (541). It is followed by USA (387), Japan (819) and Germany .

    All nations should look to China as an example when it comes to attracting talented, enthusiastic and new research teams and replacing their mediocre performers who are a drain to the system with this new blood. Such a system that is divorced from personal agendas and political impositions is the only way to move our universes up in world rankings.

    Nazimi Açıkgöz

    Note: This paper has been summarized from a Turkish blog: https://nazimiacikgoz.wordpress.com/2018/11/26/cin-universitelerinin-beklenmeyen-yukselisi/

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    The first objective in seed business is to improve new varieties. To target farmers, seed companies have to provide the most desired cultivars and they must be best quality and perform maximum yield, resist to diseases-pests, heat-cold, drought etc. This can be achieved with plant breeding. Until recent years selection, hybridization, mutation, tissue culture, foreign gene transfer (GMO) and other molecular biologic developments have been used as plant breeding methods. Mutation, used to apply purposefully, to change genes of any living organism with X ray radiation or colchicine. In recent years, this process has begun to be carried out in laboratories at the molecular level, by intra-genome arrangements. These genome arrangements (gene editing), which are also defined as new breeding techniques (NBT), include a series of new gene engineering methods, like “Tilling, Protoplast Fusion, Cogenesis, Oligonucleotide Techniques, CRISPR-Cas9 etc.” These methods do not involve any external gene transfer as in GMOs. Conversely, new genotypes are created by silencing the targeted gene with the help of transient DNA-cutting enzymes, applied in the process step, increasing or decreasing the effect, i.e. micro-mutation.

    What noteworthy is that, with these methods, development costs do not reach hundreds of millions of dollars, as it does not require a series of risk analyses like in the GMO technique! In other words, some kind of development with these methods can be realized by small and medium-sized or low-budget plant breeding startups, universities and public institutions. But in EU gen editing has been accepted as GMO and therefor cost of any gen edited new variety could be as high as GMO. Contrarily in the USA, registration formalities of NBT are different than the GMO registration systems and cost of any genome editing variety almost only 1/10 of a GMO.

    In the last variety registration application in the USA, 23 candidates were on the list, all improved with NBT. Interestingly only three of them were belonging to the big – global multinational seed companies. The other 20 were owned by new 5-6 years old small – medium enterprises or universities. This means, such development coming with NBT, seems to shake the world seed market. This is an advantage for small companies, to develop new cultivars in short time with the minimum cost. The question here is how long they can keep such a position against global multinational companies.

    As an example of the changes in the global seed market, let us have a look at the changes in the market share of the companies in upland cotton seeds application between the years 1976-2017 (Chart, OECD (2018) ). First we witness that only 10% of the farmers were sowing the seeds saved by themselves from their field by the 1990s. It means that 90% farmers were getting their seeds from seed companies. At the same time public institution’s seed share has been transferred to the private sector and public seed have almost lost the market share. Structural changes have started with mergers and acquisitions of the private sector and Delta & Pine have acquired Paymaster and Landkart. As we reached the 2000s biotechnology and GMO began to dominate the market. And now 90% of market share belongs to three cottonseed companies.

    Although world seed market is quite small compared to other sectors, food security is very important in terms of agricultural economy, environment and nutrition. Contribution of seed (variety – genotype) to increase the yield is almost 88% . It proves the importance of seed and seed business seems to be a quite attractive one. We cannot oversee the fact that the Dutch vegetable breeders did have the highest profit margin (15%) in the agricultural sector. The CEO of United Phosphorus Limited, which acquired ADVANTA (a medium-sized, global seed firm) in 2006, is striking about the sector: “The future of seed business is bright and seed business is a great sector with lots of potential. ADVANTA has grown three times since we bought it. I see the company’s growth potential ten times more”.

    This attractiveness, market values and many others are reasons for acquisitions and mergers in world seed companies, which cannot be observed very often in other sectors . Although mentioned merger complies with international laws, for many reasons, react not only consumers, but also civil society organizations. The main reason is that we have not yet found any answer to following important questions: a) Will seed prices increase? b) Will genetic studies be reduced? c) Is there a decrease in the number of varieties offered to the farmer?

    According to 2017 data, the world commercial seed market is around $ 62 billion. 42% of this amount is transgenic i.e. GMO. By 2022, the market is expected to reach $ 78 billion, with a cagr of 7%. According to 2015 data, the organic seed market is estimated at $ 1.6 billion, with a cagr of 12.5%. The seed coating market reached 10 billion dollars according to 2017 data. In this sub-sector, which is expected to increase yearly by 11%, lion’s share (51%) is in insecticide chemicals.

    How can be evaluated the developing countries seed business, in this context? Surely numbers of successful seed companies with export capability are exist almost in every country. NBT provide such a facility to small – medium seed firms for genetic improvement of new varieties, so they can compete almost with international firms. Arranging legal regulations like tax and providing credit, scientific consultant, expert, infrastructure and hardware support, will make them more competitive. But we should not miss the support of genitor. For this Universities should be oriented with planned projects, focused on the target.

    Nazimi Açıkgöz

    Note: This article is compiled from a Turkish article “World Seed Market” in https://nazimiacikgoz.wordpress.com.

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    Agricultural production must continue by protecting the environment and ensuring sustainability. In this context, it is imperative to develop new genotypes continuously in plants, animals and microorganisms to increase quality and yield. Until recently, mutations and classical breeding techniques were sufficient to breed new varieties. At the end of the 20th century, tissue culture, gene transfer and other molecular biologic developments have entered the picture. We now see thousands of new plant varieties that have been bread using artificial mutation through the use of X-rays or gamma irradiation and colchicine application. Mutation is a spontaneous or purposeful change in one of the genes of a living organism.

    Lately a new application of the mutation emerged for genome or gene editing, (also called New Plant Breeding Techniques (NBT)). The technique is exactly as a mutation run in molecular laboratory. Gene editing cover a range of new gene engineering methods. Those are Tilling, Protoplast Fusion, Cogenesis, Oligonucleotide Techniques, CRISPR-Cas9, Zen, Talen, Epigenetics etc. with “CRISPR-Cas9” being prominent than the rest. In these methods, there is no transfer of any gene from outside like there is in GMOs. On the contrary, new genotypes are created by changing the target gene with the help of transient DNA-cutting enzymes. This application can increase or decrease the effect of gene. We can call this process artificial micro-mutation.

    In Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), i.e., transgenic organisms, a gene has been transferred from another species and they are registered after passing through many risk tests such as environment and health before they are put on the market. Therefore, the cost of a genotype to the company exceeds 100 million. For this reason, GMO method is almost synonymous with that used by global multinational companies. On the contrary, the cost of developing genotypes with NBT is at a level of almost 1/10th that can be met even by low-budget new entrepreneurial firms, universities and public institutions.

    Tilapia is the fourth most consumed sea product after shrimp, salmon and canned tuna. The transgenic salmon producer AquaBounty and its main shareholder Intrexon have jointly developed a tilapia line (FLT01) using genome editing method. They have announced by a press release , as the first living being, commercialized genome editing method. This project was conducted and finalized in Argentina, because elegislation of genome editing not has been accepted as GMO regulation in that country.

    According to the product developers, commercial advantage was achieved by providing 70% of significant improvement in fillet yield, 16% growth rate improvement and 14% feed conversion rate improvement. With the shortening of the feeding time, it will be possible to reduce the disease risk and decrease the input costs. This will facilitate a sustainable solution for world’s protein gap.

    AquaBounty, a USA company is the first company to commercialize transgenic salmon in the world. Transgenic salmon is marketed in Canada, whilst registration process continues in the USA.

    In fact, in the summer of 2018 in Brazil, an ANGUS (cattle breed) calf (Gazelle) was developed by gene editing method . The aim was to adapt ANGUS breed to tropical hot conditions. Actually ZEBU race is regions animal, but due to quality, Angus meat is imported. The developer, Recombinetics, expects that, these genotypes will contribute significantly to the Brazilian agricultural economy.
    These two events in Argentina and Brazil provide the opportunity to compare GMO and gene regulation methods in genetic engineering applications that have been recently developed for plant and animal breeding. In the last list of variety registration application in USA there were 23 candidates, all improved with NBT methods. And only three of them belong to the big – global multinational seed companies. The other 20 were owned by new 5-6 years old small – medium enterprises or universities. This means, that NBT system seems to be a development that will shake the world seed market. Small and medium size companies through using NBT methods, in a short time and with the minimum cost, developed new varieties firms soon likely to overtake global multinational companies in the seed market.
    With the decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on July 2018, the NBT will be considered within the scope of the EU’s GMO guidelines. It is interesting that new breeding techniques are put into operation in Europe and the ban is imposed on NBT by court decision. On the eve of a phenomenon such as global warming, the use of NBT for food security, heat, drought, diseases, etc. will be unavoidable. In a short period of time, the decision of the ECJ on NBT does not seem to have much sense in our time. In other words, the cost of developing a variety by the NBT method will cost to hundreds of millions of dollars by a series of tests. It is really hard to hear from some of the experts on subject saying:
    -”Europe is breaking away from the largest biology revolution of the last 30 years”,
    -”Europe will be far behind in the next decade about innovations in food and agriculture”.

    Genome editing methods had been successfully implemented in China first time in order to provide children with resilience to HIV .

    Nazimi Açıkgöz
    Note: This article is compiled from a Turkish article “https://nazimiacikgoz.wordpress.com/2019/01/19/dunyada-yeni-islah-tekniklerinin-gen-duzenleme-ilk-ticari-urunu-tatli-su-cuprasi/”

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    At the beginning of 2019, soybean oil with improved quality did took its place on the market shelves. The mentioned soybean oil contains several times less saturated fatty acids and healthier oleic acid than ordinary soybeans. Their most striking feature is that they form less trans fatty acids in frying conditions. This new variety is the first bread commercial plant by new breeding techniques (NBT – gene editing). In fact, an article on the first agricultural product tilapia and also promising products in the pipeline bread by this method, were published in this portal .
    It is useful to give a brief description of this new gene regulation: mutation, selection, hybridization and similar classical breeding techniques have been used for breeding new genotypes. Recently, tissue culture, gene transfer and other molecular biologic technique have been introduced. But in the last decades, artificial mutation has served to plant breeders, who bread thousands of varieties developed by X, gamma and similar radioactive rays. Mutation is a spontaneous occurring or with purposeful planned changes in living genes. From 2010, genomic arrangements have started to apply in laboratories by molecular basis. In this method, genotypes can be registered in a short time and reach the producers. Gene regulation includes a number of new gene engineering methods such as CRISPR. In these methods, there is no transfer of any gene from outside like there is in GMOs. On the contrary, new genotypes are created by changing the target gene with the help of transient DNA-cutting enzymes. This application can increase or decrease the effect of gene. We can call this process artificial micro-mutation.

    GMOs are going registered after passing through many risk tests such as environment and health before they are placed on the market shelves. Therefore, the cost of a genotype to the company usually is over USD 100 million. For this reason, GMO method is almost synonymous with global multinational companies. On the contrary, the cost of developing genotypes with NBT is almost 1/10th of GMO’s. Such a level is so suitable for local companies, because it can be met even by low-budget new entrepreneurial firms, universities and public institutions.

    An entrepreneur biology company Calyxt, located in Minnesota (USA), succeeded a micro mutation application in soybean by gene editing method. They were able to bread a new soy variety, which is registered and has been commercialized within five years and has been sown in 2018 on an area of 6700 hectares. The company focuses mainly on quality of wheat, potatoes, rapeseed and alfalfa. They did not interest too much with yield increment or resistance to disease or pests. So to say they prefer to serve mainly to a group of consumers, oriented towards healthy nutrition! Company do have almost a dozen crops, improved by gene editing in the pipeline: high-fiber wheat, potatoes that stay fresh longer, better-tasting tomatoes, low-gluten wheat, apples that don’t turn brown, drought-resistant soybeans and potatoes better suited for cold storage.

    Some countries’ approach on NBT are astonishing. China is leading with 541 projects in gene editing research, followed by USA 387 and Japan with 81 projects. Some example of their gene editing products in pipeline: seedless tomatoes in Japan; low fatty acid soy in the US (in 2019 in market); easier digestible alfalfa in the US; herbicide resistant rice and herbicide resistant flax in Canada; low gluten wheat in Spain; the shelf life extended tomato in Japan etc.

    Those will be pioneers for further crop development for plant breeders, who especially want to improve new cultivars for food security under the aspect of global warming.

    Generally plant breeders aimed mostly high yield and quality and concentrated on commonly cultivated plants, such as RICE, CORN, WHEAT, SOYBEAN and POTATO. The main reason of this attitude is to reach to the maximum income. Let’s remember! Plant breeding right or royalty is working perfectly in the world. Just a question: In this case how will benefit from the advantage of these techniques EU and developing countries, because they are accepting this method like GMO and banning in their country. It is understandable; developing countries have not established their infrastructure yet. What about EU? EU accepts gene editing as genetically modified organism while it is a biotechnological process and applies the same regulation like GMO. What about a foreign gene transfer? So, import processes also will continue in the same manner for products developed with the gene editing.

    Nazimi Açıkgöz
    Note This article is compiled from a Turkish article “https://nazimiacikgoz.wordpress.com/2019/03/02/gen-duzenleme-ile-ilk-bitki-soya/”

    CRISPR-Cas9, GEN EDITING, GENOM EDITING, New Breeding Techniques, plant breeding, seed, world seed market, GMO, soybean

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    It is expected that the technological developments such as robotics and artificial intelligence, will reduce the human contribution in agriculture. Even if some farms with hundreds of animals have started to operate with only one person, the manpower in agriculture is the most important element. In farms, the owners and their families constitute the farmer’s population of the whole country.

    Recently the unforeseen developments in world geography and expected demographic realities, are causing the people to ask each other: “will we be experiencing any food crises in future?” Lately the problems related to climate changes come up to the point: S. Arabia has decided to stop to cultivate one of the main crops (wheat) due to drought. On the other hand while the amount of cultivated land is not changing significantly the number of people to be fed per one hectare will be almost tripled from the year 1960 to 2020.

    Global warming is not the only threat for tomorrow’s food crisis. The increase in population and the rising in living standards will cause changes in consumption patterns and increase the demand for food. Crops for biofuel and other products will also need additional land. It is obvious that the numbers of family farms are considerably shrinking. How will the growing demands of food, animal feed and biofuel industry be met?

    In countries such as Nepal, Nigeria, and Abyssinia, around 80% of the population is still engaged in agriculture, but in the USA and in many EU countries this rate is less than 2%. Farming populations are declining in almost every country. But on the causes of this decline there are two opposing views.
    • Developed countries are able to feed their whole people more cheaply with less than 2% of its population so developing countries have to reduce the number of farmers to decrease the cost of agricultural products,
    • In developing countries young farmers leave their villages. How can agricultural production be guaranteed with older farmers and abandoned agricultural lands?

    This issue is the subject of agricultural strategists and related academics. In practice, it appears that family farm incentives or young farmer support programs do not seem to provide a permanent solution. Unfortunately, the farming sector brings the least revenue compared to others. Under changing climatic conditions food systems should focus on solving the problems of farming systems by bringing needed structural change, such as optimum farming land and professional management.

    Now, let us try to examine the agricultural production from the perspective of the farmer: First, consider the economic side of the event. Unfortunately, in the free world market, it is not easy to balance product prices with increasing and unpredictable input costs. And so the farmer has no income guarantee. Those are the main reasons for escaping from agriculture-farm bankruptcies and even farmers’ suicides. In addition, from a social point of view, who would choose a career where he / she cannot enjoy any holiday or even a weekend vacation?

    In many countries, the rates of suicide observed in the agricultural sector are not found in any other sector. Farmers’ suicides in developed countries, as well as in developing countries like India, are quite significant, even if some of them are not appearing in the media. In one of the socio-economic analyses on farmers’ suicides in India, the situation has been analyzed deeper. The study started with the argument that the main reason of 250,000 farmer’s suicides between 1995 and 2011 in India were due to growing GMO cotton. However the transgenic cotton farming started first in 2002 (Graph) and It has also been found that cotton was not the main product in the 5 states where the most of the suicides happened. The main reasons for the suicides in the said analysis must therefore have been instabilities in production costs, droughts, excessive precipitations, etc. Additionally credit systems such as market instability, inadequate business loan, repayment issues, loan sharks and many other reasons might be listed.

    Situation in the USA: Depending on the year, it is not uncommon for farmers to have temporary troubles in all countries. The reason for the financial difficulties of some of the producers in some states in the USA today is completely political. US farmers are the leading victims of the World Trade War. With China’s 50% extra tax on soybeans as a counteroffensive the bankruptcy of the Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin farmers in 2008 has doubled according to the Wall Street Journal .Then increasing bankruptcies of soybean farmers of competing with Brazil and similar countries should not be underestimated. In the USA the suicide rates in rural areas are higher than those in metropolitan areas. The number of suicides in rural areas in 2013 was 17 per 100000, whereas those in big cities were only 11 .

    Why do European farmers commit suicide? In the year of 2015 the National Institute of Health in France published a research report according which the number of farmer’ suicide was one of every day. The European Union, the US and other countries begun to impose economic sanctions to Russia, after annexation of Crimea on March 18, 2014. This has been followed by Russia’s embargo to agricultural products of these countries. Some media had estimated that Russia was going to paralyze the European agricultural sector. Thus French farmers did a show of protest in Paris with tractors demanding changes in the agricultural policies. Meanwhile, in the French pork and apple market some problems occurred. The cost of losing the Russian agricultural market could have reached $ 80 billion. This led to some urgent measures to be taken. But there were problems in their timing. According to EUROACTIV , on 16 Oct 2018, French farmers committed suicides one every other day. These suicides were usually found among small farmers of 45-54 years old. According to the same publication the situation was almost the same as in Germany and Belgium.

    In general, the decline in the income of farmers is due to price instability, rising costs and extreme climatic events. Therefore, in the future, except for greenhouses and some other special cases, the chances of small enterprises to survive can only remain at the level of hobby enterprises. The fact that the producer is alone in agricultural activities is the main reason for the young people to go out of agriculture. The number of young farmers goes down every year. For example in Romania only 19 % farmers are under 44 years . Almost all of the Romanian qualified agricultural labor force in the last 10 years moved to Western countries to work for more money in other fields. Remedies should be sought for re-cultivation of abandoned fields. The transformation of small enterprises into “medium” and “large” ones is considered to be inevitable in order to restore the lands to be medium and large scale cultivation. A striking example on this issue is the “Yozgat (Turkey) Kabalı Village Fruit Growing Project carried out with the cooperation of public-private sectors- citizens which will be the subject of the next blog.

    Nazimi Acikgoz
    Note: This article has been summarized from a Turkish blog: http://blog.milliyet.com.tr/ne-olacak-bu-ciftcinin-hali/Blog/?BlogNo=604117

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    During conversations in some countries on agricultural production, the expression of “the people have being deserting the villages” is used. In fact, this is a signal that we will in future be experiencing some problems in food production. The decreases in the rural populations in the countries, where the smallholder farmers are predominant mean the decreases in the numbers of agricultural entrepreneurs and agricultural workers, lead to decreases in agricultural production. However, the world expects 70% more production in the 2050s. In order to sustain the agricultural production due to the increasing population and the rising quality of life , we must ensure that the non-agricultural lands be transformed into medium and large enterprises, or a series of socioeconomic models developed to keep the farmers to live in the countryside.

    If we set off from the second option, we can start by revitalizing the countryside and exploring all aspects for making it a good place to live for the present and future generations. The main reasons for escaping from the countryside, we cannot be solely economic. Increasing input prices have really intimidated the peasants owing to the changes in social life due to the disappearance of the old customs and traditions, difficulties in marriage, the shrinking land due to inheritance, the inability to possess any modern agricultural equipment and the marketing difficulties due to not being cooperative members.

    So, how can we make the countryside more attractive?

    At the beginning of 2019, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) published a report on rural population movements. According to the report, 43% of the world’s population is in the countryside and 17% of them are below the hunger limit. This limit is 7% in the cities.

    The report says that the crisis in rural areas threatens to achieve food security and the following issues are addressed:
    • There is a crisis in the world rural areas and this crisis can be solved by the revitalization of the rural;
    • It can be found a little utopic to revitalize rural areas and make them good places for the present and future generations. However, taking appropriate steps to address all aspects of the event will be successful.
    • One of the most serious challenges facing rural areas is the lack of adequate employment opportunities;
    • Revitalizing the world’s rural areas through a rur¬banomics approach holds the key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring that every¬one can contribute to and benefit from the economic growth and development
    • Adopting rurbanomics as an approach for strengthening the rural–urban linkages to promote rural transformation. Strengthening rural–urban linkages, from farms to small towns to megacities, can benefit rural labor, production, distribution, markets, services, consumption, and envi¬ronmental sustainability.
    • Rural areas can still create options for strengthening rural economies, such as the introduction of small food systems (pickle mills, etc.), post-harvest activities (tomato drying, etc.) and new dietary products;
    • Diversifying and improving vocational training will create a potential for a productive rural workforce.

    In 1990’s a Rurban Project (KöykenteProjesi; village-township) has been started in Turkey’s Mesudiye District of Ordu. Within the context of Köykent Project, 9 villages were interconnected. Within the scope of the project, a lumber factory was established within the framework of the Build-Operate-Transfer model. Electricity, water and telephone services were brought to the villages. Health and Cultural Centers were established. Football – basketball courts, children’s playgrounds and schools were built. Many of the peasants who had left their villages to find work have returned. However in the 2004s, new governments stopped the project in the way in which the Village Institutes (KöyEnstitüleri) ended.

    Farmers in many countries as well as those in Turkey are quite aged. Despite the government’s policy of support the young farmers continue to move away from the agricultural sector. In some regions you cannot find any farmers younger than 40 years of age. The most important reason for this is the lack of social life in the villages. Today, the decline in farmers’ income is due to price instability, rising costs and extreme climatic events.

    Therefore, in the future, with the exception of greenhouse cultivation and some special cases, the chances for small holder farmers to survive can only continue at the level of hobby gardens. The fact that the producer is alone in agricultural activities is the main factor in the orientation of the young people towards other ways of life. Could any attempt be made to help to revitalize such hopeless villages? A striking example of revitalization: Yozgat Kabalı Village Project carried out with the cooperation of public-private sector-citizens .

    In 2009, an extraordinary Public Private Community Partnership (PPCP) was formed in Yozgat, Turkey.
    The partnership aimed at keeping the young farmers in production and integrating small (due to heritage) and abandoned agricultural lands.

    The project was financed by a public coalition including the Village Service Association, the Chamber of Agriculture and the Irrigation Cooperative. In phase 1 of the project, 1680 parcels that belonged to 468 farmers, have been combined into a single piece and cherries, apples, pears, and peaches have been planted in 564 Ha land.

    Since then, the project has been rented to a private company where 70 farmers are employed full-time. The number of workers during the harvest season goes up to 900; and the number of tractors in the village has decreased from 200 to 15. As of 2018, the Ministry of Agriculture has decided to expand the scope of the project to 250 additional villages.

    According to the above-mentioned IFPRI report, the EU is quite active in the revitalization of the countryside. While the annual per capita income in cities was 121% of the general average and this value remained at 72% in the countryside. Due to the fact that only 21% of the farmer population was under the age of 44, the EU allocated € 100 billion to be used in this field for the period of 2014-2020.

    Nazimi Açıkgöz

    Note: This blog has been summarized from a Turkish paper published in https://nazimiacikgoz.wordpress.com/2019/04/04/kirsali-nasil-yasanir-kilabiliriz/

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    In an unexpected period, Russia announced that it has allocated a large amount of new breeding technologies (Literature). According to information from the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), the targets of this US $ 1.7 billion investment of have been set to develop 10 new varieties of gene-edited crops and animals by 2020 and another set of 20 gene-edited varieties by 2027. The main aim of the project is to develop new varieties resistant to diseases in culture plants such as barley, sugar beet, wheat and potato.

    Mutation, selection, hybridization and similar classical breeding techniques have been used for breeding new genotypes that are adaptable to varying environmental conditions. Recently tissue culture, gene transfer and other molecular biologic developments have been also used. But in the last decades artificial mutations by using -X, gamma and similar radioactive rays- have served to plant breeders to breed thousands of new varieties. Mutation is a spontaneous or intentional change in living organism. Since 2010, this process has begun to be carried out in laboratories by molecular basis, with genomic arrangements. In this method, genotypes can be improved in a short time and reach the farmers. Gene regulation includes a number of new gene engineering methods such as CRISPR. In these methods, there is no transfer of any gene from outside like there is in GMOs. On the contrary, new genotypes are created by changing the target gene with the help of transient DNA-cutting enzymes. This application can increase or decrease the effect of gene. We can also call this process artificial micro-mutation.

    GMOs are registered after passing through many risk tests such as environment and health before they are introduced to the consumers. Therefore, the cost of a genotype to the company exceeds US$ 100 million which is the main reason GMO and global multinational corporations have become synonymous. On the other hand the cost of developing genotypes with gene editing is almost 1/10th of GMO’s, therefore they can be utilized even by low-budget new startups, universities and even public institutions (Literature).
    In 2018, the first commercial product of genome editing animal, tilapia developed with this new method was commercialized in Argentina (Literature). It is the fourth most consumed sea product after shrimp, salmon and canned tuna. At the beginning of 2019, the oil of the new soybean variety (Literature), which was developed by the same method in the USA, took its place on the market shelves. The oil of this improved variety contains several times less “saturated fatty acids” and healthier oleic acid than ordinary soybeans.
    However, the gene editing method was accepted by EU as GMO and in the year 2018 cultivation of the varieties improved with this technique have banned.

    Russia, in 2016, had prohibited the cultivation of GMO crops, except research activities. And it has not been prepare yet any legal regulations on agricultural biotechnology.
    Alexey Kochetov, director of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk, lauded this new effort stressing that the country has been “chronically underfinanced” for decades. The research program also suggests that gene-edited products will be exempted from a law passed in 2016 that bans planting of genetically modified crops in Russia, except for research use.
    Molecular geneticist Konstantin Severinov, who helped to develop the research program, is emphasizing the importance of CRISPR technology in making Russia less dependent on imported crops and is claiming: “Despite considering itself a bread basket, Russia is highly dependent on imports when it comes to elite crop varieties, so [the government decided] something needs to be done. Luckily, a few RAS members managed to make the case that CRISPRCas9 is a good thing”.
    But whether Russian scientists can meet the program’s ambitious goals is unclear. Despite helping to develop the program, Severinov — who once famously described working in Russia as like “swimming in a pool without water” — says that it does not address the “inhumanely bad” conditions for doing life-sciences research in Russia, including red tape and poor access to supplies.
    According to 2017 data, Russia devotes only 1.1% of GNP to scientific research, and it lags behind both China (2.1%) and the USA (2.8%).

    This breakthrough of Russia is a striking example for seed industries of many countries. Let us first accept that gene editing technologies are inevitable for plant breeding. These techniques will cover greatly to plant breeder’s need for new gen material. Let’s take a look at how Germany has solved the issue of developing new genes – genotypes – varieties, material, which is the most important bottleneck for seed sector of almost every nation. Federal Ministry of Education and Research is responsible such issues. Ministry, within the framework of the GABI – Plant Genome Research Program -, support a macro project “PLANT 2030”, oriented to Germany’s plant research, on demands of private sector. GABI is a public-private joint project, with financial support coming mainly from the Ministry of Education and Research. WPG (Business Platform Promoting GABI Plant Genome Research e.V.) represents the private sector in Plant 2030.

    This proves that improving gen material in molecular laboratories needs number of processes like communications with public and private plant breeders, making the necessary legal arrangements and preparing the research infrastructure. Actually it does not seem to be solved in a short time. In that case, is Konstantin Severinov right about his concerns mentioned above?
    Nazimi Acikgoz
    This article has been summarized from the blog:
    Russia’s Great Investment in Genetics and Breeding

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    India is preparing for the announcement of two chickpea varieties developed in record time in four years by genome-supported plant breeding. In this first study of its kind, the genotypes in question are both drought tolerant and disease resistant. The varieties were developed in collaboration with the Agricultural Research Institute of India (IARI) and Raichur (Karnataka) University of Agricultural Sciences. Molecular methods and genomic innovations applied in breeding of these varieties seem to be an example for the development of environment and disease-resistant varieties with high yield and quality in legumes such as chickpeas and other self-pollinated plants.
    The striking aspect of the study is that it is important to obtain drought tolerant varieties, which are very important for today, beyond cultivation development in a short time. In the reality of global warming that threatens the world, it is a very useful development that drought-resistant genotypes can be developed in such a short time. In fact, both classical and molecular breeding techniques are carried out in terms of drought resistance in plants. However, in the genetic mapping studies of chickpea, no gene has been identified. This time, researchers have turned to gene maps of other characters associated with drought resistance. First, gene maps of drought-related characters such as root depth and root volume were obtained in all chickpea genetic material available. ICC 4958 genes related to drought resistance determined by these studies were transferred to Pusa 372 local and most cultivated cultivars under molecular conditions and Pusa 10216 drought resistant varieties were developed. In many location and year trials, this new variety has yielded 12% more yield than the original.
    Annigeri-1 variety, which is highly preferred in Karnataka province, was very sensitive to fusarium spp. disease. Gene transfer from a disease-resistant line (WR315) with above mentioned method has been obtained “Super Annigeri-1” which provides 7% higher yield than the original.
    Traditionally, self-fertilized plants such as chickpeas can take 10-11 years to improve new varieties. In the face of the world’s population growth, increasing demand for food and the effects of global warming, the development of new varieties suitable for the purpose in a short time is a great success for world science. The importance of national and international cooperation of scientists in this success cannot be denied. Especially in our century, the global temperature is expected to increase by 2.5 – 4.3 ° C!
    Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.), grown on low input marginal land, is an important legume planted on an area of 13.2 million hectares in the world and produces 11.62 million tons annually. Global chickpea demand is estimated to be 17 million tons in 2020.
    Among the various abiotic (salinity, heat) stresses that affect chickpea production, drought stress, especially observed during blooming and grain filling period, is a major limiting factor for chickpea production and yield stability in arid and semi-arid regions of the world. Drought causes significant yield losses of up to 50% per year in chickpeas. There is therefore a great need to develop drought tolerant-resistant high yielding chickpea varieties.
    Chickpea, which is one of the indispensable foodstuffs for developing world consumer, is waiting just a scientific touch. By making use of the abovementioned molecular breeding, can be made major contributions to the nation’s economy with the new varieties to be obtained. The world consumer under the threat of global climate change expects it and deserves it.
    Nazimi Açıkgöz
    Note: This article has been summarized and translated from a Turkish link: https://nazimiacikgoz.wordpress.com/2019/10/23/bitki-islahinda-bir-rekor-dorduncu-yilda-yeni-cesit/”