Tuesday, July 09, 2019

9th July,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Plant DNA editing breakthrough vital to future food supply

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Lucy is the editor of Verdict. You can reach her at lucy.ingham@pmgoperations.com
For the first time in history, researchers have successfully edited mitochondrial plant DNA in a move that has significant positive repercussions for future food security.
Found in mitochondria, the part of the cell responsible for converting energy into a fuel source, mitochondrial DNA is one of a number of DNA types found in animals and plants.
However, due to the industrialised nature of modern farming, the diversity of mitochondrial DNA in most crops is extremely poor.
This means that it is a significant weak point within the food supply, as a disease targeting the mitochondrial DNA has the potential to wipe out large portions of a given crop in a short period of time.
This has already happened. In 1970, for example, 15% of the American corn crop was killed in a single year due to a fungal infection targeting a gene found in the mitochondrial DNA of all corn in Texas.
By successfully editing mitochondrial plant DNA for the first time, researchers have created the possibility for crops to be engineered to have far greater genetic diversity, building increased resistance to potential disease.

Plant DNA editing a historic achievement

The feat was achieved by scientists at the University of Tokyo in Japan, and represents a dramatic breakthrough for the field.
While animal mitochondrial DNA was successfully edited in 2008, this is the first time the feat has been achieved in plants. It follows the successful editing of chloroplast DNA in 1988 and nuclear DNA in the 1980s.
The reason mitochondrial plant DNA editing has taken so much longer than for animals is that in plants this area of the cell is much more complicated. While in animals the mitochondrial genome is a small molecule that is very similar in all species, in plants it large and varied.
“The plant mitochondrial genome is huge in comparison,” explained Associate Professor Shin-ichi Arimura, from the University of Tokyo.
“The structure is much more complicated, the genes are sometimes duplicated, the gene expression mechanisms are not well-understood, and some mitochondria have no genomes at all – in our previous studies, we observed that they fuse with other mitochondria to exchange protein products and then separate again.”
The researchers adapted a gene editing technique known as mitoTALENs, which has previously been applied to animal mitochondrial DNA. This allowed them to cut the DNA at a specific gene and delete it.

Trump officials deleting mentions of ‘climate change’ from U.S. Geological Survey press releases

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Under Director James Reilly, the U.S. Geological Survey has drawn criticism for deemphasizing concerns about climate change.

A March news release from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) touted a new study that could be useful for infrastructure planning along the California coastline.
At least that's how President Donald Trump’s administration conveyed it.
The news release hardly stood out. It focused on the methodology of the study rather than its major findings, which showed that climate change could have a withering effect on California's economy by inundating real estate over the next few decades.
An earlier draft of the news release, written by researchers, was sanitized by Trump administration officials, who removed references to the dire effects of climate change after delaying its release for several months, according to three federal officials who saw it. The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that California, the world's fifth-largest economy, would face more than $100 billion in damages related to climate change and sea-level rise by the end of the century. It found that three to seven times more people and businesses than previously believed would be exposed to severe flooding.
“We show that for California, USA, the world's fifth largest economy, over $150 billion of property equating to more than 6% of the state's GDP and 600,000 people could be impacted by dynamic flooding by 2100,” the researchers wrote in the study.
The release fits a pattern of downplaying climate research at USGS and in other agencies within the administration. While USGS does not appear to be halting the pursuit of science, it has publicly communicated an incomplete account of the peer-reviewed research or omitted it under President Trump.
“It's been made clear to us that we're not supposed to use climate change in press releases anymore. They will not be authorized,” one federal researcher said, speaking anonymously for fear of reprisal.
In the Obama administration, press releases related to climate change were typically approved within days, researchers said. Now, they can take more than six months and go through the offices of political appointees, where they are often altered, several researchers told E&E News.
In the case of the California coastline study, the press release went through the office of James Reilly, the director of USGS, a former astronaut who is attempting to minimize the consideration of climate change in agency decisions. Reilly is preparing a directive for agency scientists to use climate models that predict changes through 2040, when the effect of emissions is expected to be less severe. The New York Times first reported on the directive.
At his 2018 confirmation hearing, Reilly promised to protect the agency's scientific integrity.
“If someone were to come to me and say, ‘I want you to change this because it's the politically right thing to do,’ I would politely decline,” Reilly told lawmakers. “I'm fully committed to scientific integrity.”
A spokeswoman for USGS said the agency has no formal policy to avoid references to climate change.
“There is no policy nor directive in place that directs us to avoid mentioning climate change in our communication materials,” said Karen Armstrong, the spokeswoman.
“Scientists at USGS regularly develop new methods and tools to supply timely, relevant and useful information about our planet and its processes, and we are committed to promoting the science they develop and making it broadly available,” she added.
The agency's press release about the California coastline study was significantly altered to mask the potential impact of rising temperatures on the state's economy. Instead, it described the methodology of the study and how it relied on “state-of-the-art computer models” and various sea-level rise predictions.
“USGS scientists and collaborators used state-of-the-art computer models to determine the coastal flooding and erosion that could result from a range of peer-reviewed, published 21st-century sea level rise and storm scenarios,” the final press release said. “The authors then translated those hazards into a range of projected economic and social exposure data to show the lives and dollars that could be at risk from climate change in California during the 21st century.”
The USGS release didn't include the dollar figures outlined in the study.
An earlier draft of the press release, which was put online by the environmental group Point Blue Conservation Science, a participant in the study, compared the possible effect on Californians to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The release had stark recommendations for coastal planners and emphasized that by the end of the century, a typical winter storm could threaten $100 billion in coastal real estate annually.
“According to the study, even modest sea level rise projections of ten inches (25 centimeters) by 2040 could flood more than 150,000 residents and affect more than $30 billion in property value when combined with an extreme 100-year storm along California's coast,” the draft stated. “Societal exposure that included storms was up to seven times greater than with sea level rise alone.”
The agency has omitted climate change from other press releases.
A release in 2017 that publicized a study on how polar bears were expending more energy due to a loss of sea ice did not mention climate change. It noted that a “moving treadmill of sea ice” in the warming Arctic forced polar bears to hunt for more seals and placed pressure on their population in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, without stating that climate change is a key driver of sea ice conditions.
Another USGS release, on shifting farming regions due to climate change, mentioned "future high-temperature extremes" and "future climate conditions" but not climate change. The first sentence of the study that it was intended to promote mentions climate change. It was published in Scientific Reports.
Some of the USGS studies point to national security repercussions. One study released last year found that a military installation in the Pacific Ocean that would play a role in a possible nuclear strike by North Korea could become uninhabitable in less than two decades due to climate change. The study, which was ordered by the Department of Defense, was released by USGS without a press release.
USGS conducts important climate research and manages the Landsat satellite system that has tracked human-caused global changes for almost 50 years. Government researchers study sea-level rise and glacial melt and manage regional climate adaptation centers housed at universities from Hawaii to Massachusetts.
Allowing valuable information to fall through the cracks is a waste of taxpayer dollars and could prevent science from being included in policy decisions, said Joel Clement, a former climate staffer for the Department of the Interior, USGS’s parent agency. Clement, who is now a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said the promotion of studies is an important way to get information into the hands of planners, homeowners, and policymakers. He said Interior appears to be suppressing climate science.
“It's an insult to the science, of course, but it's also an insult to the people who need this information and whose livelihoods and in some cases their lives depend on this,” Clement said. “What's shocking about it is that this has been taken to a new level, where information that is essential to economic and health and safety—essentially American well-being—is essentially being shelved and being hidden.”
In the last year of the Obama administration, USGS distributed at least 13 press releases that focused on climate change and highlighted it in the headline, according to an E&E News review. Since then — from 2017 through the first six months of 2019 — none has mentioned climate change in the headline of the press release, according to the list of state and national releases posted on the USGS website. Some briefly mentioned climate change in the body of the release, while others did not refer to it at all.
Other studies have been quietly buried on the agency's webpages.
That subtle form of suppression fits a pattern elsewhere in the federal government.
Politico recently reported that officials at the Department of Agriculture buried dozens of studies related to climate change. In one case, agency officials tried to prevent outside groups from disseminating a climate-related study. The research looked at how rice provides less nutrition in a carbon-rich environment. That could have global consequences because hundreds of millions of people have rice-based diets around the world.
The Interior Department has been accused of deleting climate change references from previous press releases. In 2017, The Washington Post reported that the agency deleted a line mentioning climate change in a press release about a study on flood risks to coastal communities. That line was: “Global climate change drives sea-level rise, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding.”
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former energy lobbyist, is under investigation for his ties to the energy industry while serving in government. A separate investigation is exploring whether he sought to block an Interior Department study on the dangers that a pesticide posed to endangered species.
There is no evidence that Trump political appointees at the agency have blocked climate studies from taking place, but the censoring of press releases has affected the work of researchers worried about their jobs, according to another federal researcher.
Description: Portrait of Scott Waldmann“We are pretty cognizant of political pressures, and with these press releases people are definitely biting their nails over ‘how should we word this’ and if there are proposals within USGS, should we use climate change or not,” the researcher said. “It's a lot of stuff that definitely filters down, and it affects the reality of people on the ground doing the work when you're not sure of how I should present this. It's definitely a huge waste of time.”

Scott Waldman, E&E News

Before science reporter Scott Waldman joined ClimateWire in 2016, he covered state energy policy at Politico New York and has worked for the Albany Times UnionErie Times-News and The Baltimore Sun. His work also has appeared in Scientific American.

The Trump Administration Is Accused Of Burying Climate Change Research; Here’s What We Know

LISA DUNN 07.08.19
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Super hurricanes pummeling coastal regions and wildfires burning out west. Devastated olive crops and ever-shrinking supplies of cocoa. The hottest temperatures in recorded history. Mussels cooking in their shells because it’s so hot. This is climate change, and it’s happening now, manifesting in intense weather patterns and negative changes to the food chain. And it’s happening regardless of whether or not we believe in it — and whether or not we know what to expect.
We do know what to expect, of course, thanks to a network of scientists and researchers who study climate change and its outsized impact on practically every facet of life. It’s how we know that U.S. meat and dairy producers are some of the biggest contributors to climate change. It’s how we know that the 57 percent drop in Italy’s olive production — which will have devastating consequences for Italy’s economy and the world olive oil supply — is due to climate change. It’s how we know our future might be free of chocolate and coffee, that the food supply chain could break down irreparably, leading to the malnutrition and even starvation of millions of people.
The Trump administration, meanwhile, loathes this information and wants to limit our access to it — according to a bombshell investigation by Politico. The outlet claims that the Trump administration has “a persistent pattern” of refusing to “draw attention to findings that show the potential dangers and consequences of climate change, covering dozens of separate studies.” In other words, the Trump administration is purposefully trying to bury studies from the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service which reveal just how dangerous climate change is.
Per Politico, “The Trump administration, researchers say, is not directly censoring scientific findings or black-balling research on climate change. Instead, they say, officials are essentially choosing to ignore or downplay findings that don’t line up with the administration’s agenda.”
In fact, since Trump took office in January 2017 and his Head of Agriculture, fellow climate denialist Sonny Perdue, took over the USDA in April 2017, the ARS has only put out press releases for two climate change-related studies, both of which were “favorable to the politically powerful meat industry.” One stated that “beef production makes a relatively small contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.” The other raised concerns about the potential for “widespread nutritional problems” stemming from removing animal products from one’s diet.
Perhaps a lack of press releases doesn’t sound like much, but the damage it is doing to climate research is marked. At least 45 studies — though likely more — on climate change haven’t received the public attention required to turn them into practical knowledge.
Here’s what the administration doesn’t want you to know.

Rice — a staple food for 2 billion people — is being severely damaged.

In perhaps one of the most groundbreaking studies on climate change and food supplies, scientists from the U.S., Australia, Japan, and China worked together to determine how rising carbon dioxide levels would affect rice — a staple food for upwards of 2 billion people. And what they found is devastating: while research previously showed that rising CO2 levels might hurt protein levels in cereals like rice, this May 2018 study confirmed the loss of protein and found that CO2 levels will also damage vitamins and micronutrients (such as iron, zinc, and B vitamins) found in 18 genetically diverse kinds of rice.
What this means: because “rice supplies approximately 25% of all global calories, with the percentage of rice consumed varying by socioeconomic status, particularly in Asia” the damage done to global rice crops will disproportionately affect people living in poverty—who already suffer from food insecurity. The researchers believe that climate change-induced deficiencies will directly, negatively impact “a global population of approximately 600 million” people who consume more than 50 percent of their daily calories via rice.
Some consequences of malnutrition? Lack of sufficient micronutrients, vitamins, and protein can impair “cognitive development, metabolism, and immune system” and is a leading cause of death among young children.

We’re getting a clearer picture of what will happen to the food supply chain in the U.S.

Scientists discover how plants breathe

Botanists have known since the 19th century that leaves have pores – called stomata – and contain an intricate internal network of air channels. But until now it wasn’t understood how those channels form in the right places in order to provide a steady flow of CO2 to every plant cell.
A new study, led by scientists at the University of Sheffield collaborating with colleagues at Lancaster University and the University of Nottingham, used genetic manipulation techniques to reveal that the more stomata a leaf has, the more airspace it forms. The air channels act like bronchioles – the tiny passages that carry air to the exchange surfaces of human and animal lungs.
The study, published in Nature Communications, showed that the movement of CO2 through the pores most likely determines the shape and scale of the air channel network.
Dr Marjorie Lundgren, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Lancaster University said: “Scientists have suspected for a long time that the development of stomata and the development of air spaces within a leaf are coordinated. However, we weren’t really sure which drove the other. So this started as a ‘what came first, the chicken or the egg?’ question.
“Using a clever set of experiments involving X-ray CT image analyses, our collaborative team answered these questions using species with very different leaf structures. While we show that the development of stomata initiates the expansion of air spaces, we took it one step further to show that the stomata actually need to be exchanging gases in order for the air spaces to expand. This paints a much more interesting story, linked to physiology.”
The discovery marks a major step forward in our understanding of the internal structure of a leaf, and how the function of tissues can influence how they develop – which could have ramifications beyond plant biology.
Professor Andrew Fleming, who led the study from the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield, said: “Until now, the way plants form their intricate patterns of air channels has remained surprisingly mysterious to plant scientists.
“This major discovery shows that the movement of air through leaves shapes their internal workings – which has implications for the way we think about evolution in plants.”
The study also shows that wheat plants have been bred by generations of people to have fewer pores on their leaves and fewer air channels, which makes their leaves more dense and allows them to be grown with less water.
This new insight highlights the potential for scientists to make staple crops like wheat even more water-efficient by altering the internal structure of their leaves.
“The fact that humans have already inadvertently influenced the way plants breathe by breeding wheat that uses less water suggests we could target these air channel networks to develop crops that can survive the more extreme droughts we expect to see with climate breakdown,” said Andrew.
This approach is being pioneered by other scientists at the Institute for Sustainable Food, who have developed climate-ready rice and wheat which can survive extreme drought conditions.
The X-ray imaging work was undertaken at the Hounsfield Facility at the University of Nottingham. The Director of the Facility, Professor Sacha Mooney, said: “Until recently the application of X-ray CT, or CAT scanning, in plant sciences has mainly been focused on visualising the hidden half of the plant – the roots – as they grow in soil.
“Working with our partners in Sheffield we have now developed the technique to visualise the cellular structure of a plant leaf in 3D – allowing us to see how the complex network of air spaces inside the leaf controls its behaviour. It’s very exciting.”

Nograles refiles measure seeking to end hunger among the poor
Published July 9, 2019 2:14pm 
PBA party-list Representative Jericho Nograles has refiled a measure seeking to alleviate hunger and address malnutrition in the country though social transfer programs, public nutrition supplement, and regular feeding programs in schools.
House Bill 1532, also known as the Zero Hunger Bill, aims to harmonize all laws related to the Filipinos’ right to sufficient food as well as to “clarify the scope and content of the right, establish standards for compliance, lay down principles to shape the process of realization, and prohibit violations of the right to adequate food.”
It also seeks to complement government actions to help farmers manage the effects of lifting the quantitative restriction on rice imports and improve the country’s capacity to produce food.
“This bill will not only help us fight hunger but it would also provide the much needed lifeline for our farmers who are now reeling from the effects of the liberalized importation of rice. We want to harmonize all programs related to our desire to defeat hunger and increase our food production,” Nograles said in a statement.
“In essence, the measure seeks to institutionalize programs to make food a sustained priority and a legal right and not an object of charity,” he added.
Under the measure, the government is mandated to create programs that would ensure the reduction of hunger by 25% in two and a half years after it is signed into law and implemented.
Hunger is also envisioned to be reduced by another 25% after five years, and another 25% after seven and a half years.
After 10 years of implementation, the measure aims to achieve zero hunger among the poorest Filipinos.
At the same time, the bill requires the government to ensure that the lands devoted to food production will be increased to 50 percent of all prime agricultural land in every region within 10 years of its implementation.
Within the same period, the state should also ensure the steady increase of the following indicators:
  • Percentage of development of ancestral lands
  • Percentage of rural population with access to productive resources
  • Share of budget spent on programs aimed at creating access to productive resources
  • Percentage of budget spent on agri-research, agri-extension, irrigation, training, technology, credits and rural development
  • Percentage of rural female-headed households, or rural women, with legal title to agriculture lands
  • Percentage of public budget allocation for social transfer programs to those unable to feed themselves
  • Coverage of marginalized and disadvantaged population taking part in social transfer programs
  • Percentage of marginalized and disadvantaged population covered by a public nutrition supplement program
  • Percentage of population aware of available food and nutrition programs
  • Coverage of school feeding programs
Nograles noted that periodic reviews would be made to ensure the set targets are being met.
“In measuring the incidence of hunger, the key primary data sources will include national nutrition surveys, household surveys of the Philippine Statistics Authority, namely the Family Income and Expenditure Survey and the Annual Poverty Indicators Survey, and global hunger indices as benchmarks,” according the bill.
During the 17th Congress, Nograles and his brother, now Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, filed a similar measure but it made it through the House of Representatives. —Erwin Colcol/VDS, GMA News

EU rice imports from Cambodia drop sharply after tariffs

Country’s losses in Europe offset by Chinese market

This article is powered by Agra Europe
·       08 Jul 2019
Renewed EU tariffs on rice from Cambodia have led to a strong decline in imports of the commodity in the first half of this year, new official data show.