Can A GM Banana Solve Uganda’s Hunger Crisis?

Trials for a GM banana variety, which is resistant to wilt and contains vitamin A, have been ongoing since 2004 in an effort to improve production. The law will mean this crop can be released to the public.

“Now that the law has been passed, we’re able to go for open-field trials [of the technologies] before releasing them to the public,” says Priver Namanya Bwesigye, a plant biotechnologist at the National Agricultural Research Organisation. She adds that GM bananas could be released for public use in 2021.

Other GM trials include developing cassava resistant to brown streak, drought-resistant maize, and bollworm-resistant cotton.

Critics say GM crops will make farmers beholden to big agribusiness by having to buy seeds every season. Farmers in Uganda produce between 80% and 85% of their own seeds (pdf), saving some of their harvest as seed for the next planting season.

Scientists say the GM banana will fight vitamin A deficiency. In Uganda, on average, 30% of people do not get enough of this vitamin, Bwesigye says: the World Health Organization classifies the situation as grave if 15% of the population is deficient.

“[Malnutrition] is rampant in communities feeding a lot on staple [crops],” she says. “We are addressing communities feeding on these bananas every day.” She says the culture in Uganda is still for people to feed on staples and little else, rather than having a more varied diet that includes vegetables.

Read more at The Guardian

Want More Brain Energy? Try this Diet!

What doesn’t kill brain cells might make them stronger. The brain cells of mice who regularly fast may grow more than usual once they get food again, according to research presented at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in November and first reported by New Scientist.

One particular protein may be behind the growth: brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). In humans, BDNF may be involved in learning and memory. Levels of this protein tend to decline as a person gets older, especially if someone is diagnosed with a disease that can affect cognitive functions like Alzheimer’s. However, levels of this protein increase in mice that have been fasting by up to 50 percent.

In theory, Mattson said, BDNF might be stimulating cells to produce more mitochondria. Mitochondria are often described as the powerhouse of the cell—they’re what are responsible for transforming chemicals into an energy form that a cell can use to function. Having more of these mitochondria may allow brain cells to make more connections to other brain cells, too.

However, that’s still speculation. For now, so is the idea that fasting might make your brain work better. What Mattson can say, though, is that it might—“if you’re a mouse or a rat.”

News Week

How Cargill is addressing GMO concerns, and looking to Asia for growth

American agribusiness Cargill has its sights set on moving up the food chain and focusing on the aquaculture and meat segments, with Asia expected to be a key market.

Since the company spent $1.5 billion acquiring Norwegian salmon-feed manufacturer EWOS in 2015, it has realigned its portfolio to focus on its core food production business, Cargill Chairman and CEO David MacLennan told CNBC’s “Managing Asia.”

“(T)he rate of growth of fish consumption in the world greatly exceeds pork consumption in the world. We see that trend and we’re getting on it,” MacLennan said.

MacLennan expressed interest in the prospects Asia offers, adding that Cargill has made recent investments in the region. Among them are a chocolate facility in Indonesia, feed mills in Vietnam and South Korea, and joint ventures in the chicken business in the Philippines and Indonesia, he said.

As for the controversy surrounding genetically-modified food, Cargill is attempting to satisfy both ends of the spectrum by acknowledging the growing group of people against genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

The company reportedly drew the ire of farmers after it was linked to the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit anti-GMO group. Cargill responded by reaching out to farmer groups to discuss how the company could better acknowledge how it remains in favor or GMOs.

“We don’t believe in attacking GMOs as a technology. It’s a valid and legitimate technology … At the same time, there are some consumers that don’t want it,” MacLennan said.

CNBC