James and the Giant Corn Rotating Header Image

china

Panda Genome

Can you imagine how much easier it would be to get funding if you too worked on panda biology?

Can you imagine how much easier it would be to get funding if you too worked on panda biology?

Nature just released a pre-publication copy of a paper detailing the sequencing of the panda genome. The genome was sequenced and assembled using entirely 2nd generation sequencing technologies (specifically the Illumina sequencer) which produced reads that averaged only 53 basepairs long.*

The panda they chose was a three year old female, and they got such resolution (the average individual base pair was sequenced 73 times!) they were even able to identify individual changes in sequence between her two copies of each chromosome.** From this they were able to estimate a difference in the DNA sequence (called a SNP***) occur once every 740 bases which is almost twice the rate of humans. (more…)

China’s Approval of Bt Rice Confirmed

Read today’s story from Bloomberg. I’d discussed my own thoughts when it was a story based on anonymous sources last week.

From the article:

China produces 31 percent of the world’s rice and 20 percent of its corn, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. …[China] uses 7 percent of the world’s arable land to feed a quarter of its population.

China has only 7% of the world’s farmland yet feeds more than 1.3 billion people (and still growing). No wonder they’re investing so heavily in crop/plant science.

Another one I recently read (if it was you, sorry for not attributing it properly, the comparison just stuck in my head) was that India and Argentina are about the same size (India is about a quarter bigger) yet India must feed 30 times as many people!*

*Of course this isn’t quite a fair comparison since Argentina exports so much food to Western Europe, since those countries can afford to buy food abroad instead of focusing on increasing local production, and China and India must

Bt Rice in China

Reuters has a story up, based on anonymous sources, that China has just approved a government developed strain of bt rice*. Bt crops express a protein isolated from Bacillus thuringiensis a bacteria used by organic farmers to control insects. The introduction of bt crops (primarily corn and cotton) has lead to substantial reductions in the use of insecticides. China plants more than 100,000 square miles of land with rice each year, so the environmental and economic** impact of being able to reduce insecticide applications would be substantial.

China is also in a unique position when it comes to commercializing any form of genetically engineered rice, as the world’s largest producer of rice, but only a small next exporter*** China stands to benefit from any improvements to rice, and is largely immune to pressure from food importing countries such as the members of the European Union. China has also invested (and continues to invest) billions of dollars in developing their own, publicly-funded, domestic crop research and breeding which has kept their per acre crop yields trending upwards, and now means they’re prepared to make the leap to genetically engineered food crops (they’ve had bt cotton for some time) with home-grown technology, killing any narrative about this being western tech foisted off on the developing world. (more…)

Biotech Wheat

Nature Biotechnology has an article well worth checking out (if you have journal access anyway) about the story of biotech wheat. No genetically engineered wheat is commercially grown today, nor has it been in the past.  Monsanto came close to releasing an herbicide tolerant variety several years ago, but didn’t because of fear that American farmers would lose valuable markets for our wheat exports. I speculated that genetically engineered wheat runs into more consumer opposition because we eat more wheat in recognizable forms (mostly bread and pasta) than we do crops like corn, soybeans, and canola.

Anyway, two new developments seem to have prompted this article. (more…)