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To save enough of the crop to sell and to feed his family, Juma will have to harvest a month early. The United Nations forecasts that by 2050 the world’s population will grow by more than two billion people. Before those grim visions could come to pass, the green revolution transformed global agriculture, especially wheat and rice. Proponents like Fraley say such crops have prevented billions of dollars in losses in the U.S. The cassava plants in this petri dish have been genetically engineered to resist brown streak virus, a disease that’s spreading across sub-Saharan Africa, where cassava is a staple for 250 million people. The particular GM crops Fraley pioneered at Monsanto have been profitable for the company and many farmers, but have not helped sell the cause of high-tech agriculture to the public.
Though there’s no clear evidence that Roundup or Roundup Ready crops are unsafe, proponents of an alternative vision of agriculture see those expensive GM seeds as a costly input to a broken system. Monsanto is not the only organization that believes modern plant genetics can help feed the world. Walking along the paddies, we pass other landmark breeds, each designated with a neatly painted wooden sign.
Rice is the most important food crop in the world, providing more energy to humanity than any other food source. When the green revolution began in the 1960s, it was before the revolution in molecular genetics: IR8, the first miracle rice, was bred without knowledge of the genes that blessed it with high yields.
For many decades IRRI focused on improving traditional varieties of rice, grown in fields that are flooded at planting time. Only a few of the rice varieties at IRRI are GM crops, in the sense that they contain a gene transferred from a different species, and none of those are publicly available yet. Traditional BreedingDesired traits are identified in separate individuals of the same species, which are then bred to combine those traits in a new hybrid variety. Genetic ModificationGenes identified in one species can be transferred directly to an unrelated species, giving it an entirely new trait—resistance to a pest, say, or to a weed killer.
If a mutation happens to produce a desirable trait, the plant is selected for further breeding. Yet the institute’s entire breeding operation has been accelerated by modern genetics. In 2006, for example, plant pathologist Pamela Ronald of the University of California, Davis, isolated a gene called Sub1 from an East Indian rice variety. Researchers at IRRI cross-pollinated Sub1 rice with a high-yielding, flavorful variety called Swarna, which is popular in India and Bangladesh. The new flood-tolerant rice, called Swarna-Sub1, has been planted by nearly four million farmers in Asia, where every year floods destroy about 50 million acres of rice. The institute’s most ambitious project would transform rice fundamentally and perhaps increase yields dramatically. C4 photosynthesis, unlike the submergence tolerance of Sub1 rice, is controlled by many genes, not just one, which makes it a challenging trait to introduce.
Zeigler decided on his career after a stint as a science teacher in the Peace Corps in 1972. Taylor and other researchers are in the early stages of developing genetically modified cassava varieties that are immune to the brown streak virus. In Africa, as elsewhere, people fear GM crops, even though there’s little scientific evidence to justify the fear. A paper published last March, for instance, documented an unsettling trend: Corn rootworms are evolving resistance to the bacterial toxins in Bt corn. The Search for a Less Thirsty Tomato  To find out how tomato plants resist drought, Danforth Center researchers cut their water ration 18 days after planting, then monitor them using three kinds of imaging.
Morogoro lies about a hundred miles west of Dar es Salaam, at the base of the Uluguru Mountains. Every quarter mile or so we pass women walking alone or in small groups, balancing baskets of cassavas, papayas, or bananas on their heads. She stops at a one-room brick house with partially plastered walls and a corrugated metal roof.
Unlike the farmers in Bagamoyo, Kibwana and her neighbors raise a variety of crops: Bananas, avocados, and passion fruit are in season now. Perhaps the most life-altering result of organic farming has been the liberation from debt. When I ask Maro if genetically modified seeds might also help those farmers, she’s skeptical. The magazine thanks The Rockefeller Foundation and members of the National Geographic Society for their generous support of this series of articles.
At the very bottom (lots of scrolling required), I've included closer views of the sketches, so that you can get a feel for the detail. For the extinct human, I wasn't sure which type of extinct human to model him after (homo erectus, or perhaps earlier ones like australopithicus).
A study by The Genographic Project has found that the majority of all known ethnic Afghans share a unique genetic heritage derived from a common ancestral population that most likely emerged during the Neolithic revolution and the formation of early farming communities. The study finds these early civilizations may have differentially assimilated migrations and invasions, thereby increasing inter-population genetic differences and giving the Afghans a unique genetic diversity in Central Asia.


Afghanistan's strategic geographical location serves as a major hub for trade as well as a crossroads of many invasion routes.
NASA hosted a media teleconference to tackle the current advances in the agency’s solar electric propulsion development or the SEP for a deep space exploration.
The researchers found out that a group of mice flown aboard the space shuttle returned back to Earth with liver damage. Researchers say that certain gene and a healthy environment are factors in achieving long life.
The CDC has reported that the number of suicide cases has skyrocketed in the country since 1999. Australian Rhino Project plans to relocate rhinos from South Africa to Australia to save them from poachers. Amazon River has a new treasure--a huge coral reef that spans 3,600 square miles along the ocean floor, according to scientists. Although there are more positive effects of going vegetarian, one can't help but think about how it will affect the people who make a living raising livestock.
Scientists studying groups of people genetically isolated by location or culture have found gene mutations that seem to prevent the diseases that most often shorten life. By identifying genes and manipulating them, scientists hope to create new crops that will help us face the challenges of global warming and population growth. In Africa small family farms grow more than 90 percent of all crops, and cassava is a staple for more than 250 million people. Climate change and population growth will make life increasingly precarious for Juma, Kagembe, and other small farmers in the developing world—and for the people they feed. Half will be born in sub-Saharan Africa, and another 30 percent in South and Southeast Asia. Through selective breeding, Norman Borlaug, an American biologist, created a dwarf variety of wheat that put most of its energy into edible kernels rather than long, inedible stems.
Even as the continent’s population increased by 60 percent, grain prices fell, the average Asian consumed nearly a third more calories, and the poverty rate was cut in half.
Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops are genetically modified to be immune to the herbicide Roundup, which Monsanto also manufactures.
Modern agriculture, they say, already relies too heavily on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Late on a warm February afternoon Glenn Gregorio, a plant geneticist at the International Rice Research Institute, shows me the rice that started the green revolution in Asia. The institute releases dozens of new varieties every year; about a thousand have been planted around the world since the 1960s. Breeders today can zero in on genes, but they still use traditional techniques and ever more complex pedigrees. One is Golden Rice, which contains genes from corn that allow it to produce beta-carotene; its purpose is to combat the global scourge of vitamin A deficiency. For decades IRRI breeders patiently followed the ancient recipe: Select plants with the desired trait, cross-pollinate, wait for the offspring to reach maturity, select the best performers, repeat. Seldom grown now because of its low yields, the East Indian rice has one remarkable characteristic: It can survive for two weeks underwater.
Then they screened the DNA to determine which seedlings had actually inherited the Sub1 gene. One recent study found that farmers in 128 villages in the Indian state of Odisha, on the Bay of Bengal, increased their yields by more than 25 percent. Rice, wheat, and many other plants use a type of photosynthesis known as C3, for the three-carbon compound they produce when sunlight is absorbed.
White-bearded and avuncular, a self-described old lefty, Zeigler believes the public debate over genetically modified crops has become horribly muddled. Louis, plants get the phenotyping treatment, while scientists explain how the technology could benefit crops in a shifting climate.
Taylor is collaborating with Ugandan researchers on a field trial, and another is under way in Kenya.
There’s a stronger argument that high-tech plant breeds are not a panacea and maybe not even what African farmers need most.
In 2009, while still an undergraduate at the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, she helped start a nonprofit called Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT). A few days after my visit with Juma in Bagamoyo, Maro takes me into the mountains to visit three of the first certified organic farms in Tanzania. Habija Kibwana, a tall woman in a short-sleeved white blouse and wraparound skirt, invites us and two neighbors to sit on her porch. Soon they’ll be planting carrots, spinach, and other leafy vegetables, all for local consumption.
Even with government subsidies, it costs 500,000 Tanzanian shillings, more than $300, to buy enough fertilizer and pesticide to treat a single acre—a crippling expense in a country where the annual per capita income is less than $1,600.
Wild wheat (in hand) has virtues scientists hope to tap: It can tolerate temperatures that kill its domesticated kin. Outside his office a flock is descending on the green paddies; the mountains beyond glow with evening light. Published today in the journal PLoS ONE, the study was led by principal investigator Pierre Zalloua and Marc Haber, both of Genographic's Middle Eastern regional center.


The goal of our study was to determine whether the various Afghan groups arose from a common population with different social systems but with the same genetic stock or whether cultural and ethnic differences were founded on already existing genetic differences," said Zalloua. Location alongside cultural developments has shaped the unique genetic heritage of the Afghan people. Nearly 75,000 participants from over 1,000 indigenous populations around the world have joined the initiative, along with more than 440,000 members of the general public who have purchased a testing kit online, swabbed their cheeks and sent their samples to the Genographic lab for processing. Spencer Wells noted, "This study, the first detailed analysis of Afghan populations, demonstrates the unprecedented geographic breadth of Genographic's sampling. For most of the 20th century humanity managed to stay ahead in the Malthusian race between population growth and food supply. One is high-tech, with a heavy emphasis on continuing Borlaug’s work of breeding better crops, but with modern genetic techniques. That means farmers can spray the herbicide freely to eliminate weeds without damaging their GM corn, cotton, or soybeans.
Not only are they unaffordable for a small farmer like Juma; they pollute land, water, and air. It now offers drought-tolerant varieties, including one that can be planted in dry fields and subsist on rainfall, as corn and wheat do. In a magnified cross section of a corn leaf (left), photosynthesis proteins are stained fluorescent green.
This unprecedented collection of samples and data is a scientific resource that the project plans to leverage moving forward. The project is striving to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of human migratory history, and Afghanistan has always been a gaping hole in the map.
On a rainy March morning, trailed by two of his four young sons, he’s talking with a technician from the big city, 28-year-old Deogratius Mark of the Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute. Juma is typical of the farmers Mark meets—most have never heard of the viral diseases. It would be the perfect crop for 21st-century Africa—were it not for the whitefly, whose range is expanding as the climate warms. Will we be able to maintain that lead in the 21st century, or will a global catastrophe beset us?
Last March the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the world’s food supply is already jeopardized.
Similar work at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines dramatically improved the productivity of the grain that feeds nearly half the world.
Department of Agriculture found that pesticide use on corn crops has dropped 90 percent since the introduction of Bt corn, which contains genes from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that help it ward off corn borers and other pests. Their contract with Monsanto does not allow them to save seeds for planting; they must purchase its patented seeds each year. Synthetic fertilizers are manufactured using fossil fuels, and they themselves emit potent greenhouse gases when they’re applied to fields. There’s a salt-tolerant rice for countries like Bangladesh, where rising seas are poisoning rice fields. IRRI creates GM varieties only as a last resort, says director Robert Zeigler, when it can’t find the desired trait in rice itself. In 2004 an international consortium of researchers mapped the entire rice genome, which comprises some 40,000 individual genes. The researchers didn’t have to plant the seedlings, grow them, and then submerge them for two weeks to see which would survive.
It would be an unprecedented boon to food security; in theory yields could jump by 50 percent.
Tomatoes are typically grown in hot, dry climates with a lot of irrigation water—more than 13 gallons per tomato on average.
The farmers here are learning to plant strategically, setting out rows of Tithonia diversifolia, a wild sunflower that whiteflies prefer, to draw the pests away from the cassavas. How likely is it, she asks, in a country where few farmers ever see a government agricultural adviser, or are even aware of the diseases threatening their crops, that they’ll get the support they need to grow GM crops properly? We now have a much better picture of how these groups relate to each other and to the surrounding regions. The same viruses that have invaded Juma’s field have already spread throughout East Africa. Scientists, he argues, can now identify and manipulate a huge variety of plant genes, for traits like disease resistance and drought tolerance.
Since then, researchers around the world have been pinpointing genes that control valuable traits and can be selected directly. The use of compost instead of synthetic fertilizers has improved the soil so much that one of the farmers, Pius Paulini, has doubled his spinach production. We now know that major cultural evolutions and prehistoric technological advancements, followed later by migrations and conquests, have left traceable records in the Afghans' DNA, giving us an amazing insight into the origin of this population," said Haber. But in Europe and much of Africa, debates over the safety and environmental effects of GM crops have largely blocked their use.




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