The end of chocolate is nigh!

by Luigi Guarino on May 6, 2015

Readers with a longish memory may remember a somewhat hyperbolic piece about the existential threats to chocolate that we linked to late last year. There was a lot of that sort of talk going around at the time, for some reason. Perhaps a ploy by greedy multinationals to justify price increases? Anyway, there’s a fun video out now, showcasing CATIE’s role in the whole saving chocolate thing.

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Dam the genetic resources, full speed ahead

by Luigi Guarino on May 5, 2015

Global Forest Watch now has a dam dataset, covering 50 major river basins. Here’s what it looks like:

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 5.18.15 PM

You can mash it up online with various forest datasets, but you can also download it as a kml. Which of course means you can mash it up with your own dataset. That’s what I’ve done here with wild rice from Cambodia. The white arrows are dams, most of them either planned or under construction, the yellow dots samples of wild Oryza according to Genesys.

dams

You’ll notice a few dams with few or no nearby specimens. Off the top of my head, those would seem to be places where collecting might be in order, before the disruption goes too far. But what do the rice experts out there think?

LATER: Seems I might be on to something…

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All sweetpotatoes are transgenic

by Robert Hijmans on May 4, 2015

ResearchBlogging.orgTina Kyndta and collaborators1 have found that all cultivated sweetpotatoes are naturally transgenic because they contain transfer DNA (T-DNA) sequences from Agrobacterium.  Gene-transfer via Agrobacterium is a naturally occurring process, that is used to make genetically modified crops in the lab. We did not know that one of our main food crops was once naturally transformed via the same process.

Kyndta et al. did not find any T-DNA in the wild relatives of sweetpotato, suggesting that the transformation(s) provided a beneficial trait that was selected for during domestication. The introduced genes are intact and expressed in different organs of the “Huachano” variety that they studied in detail, but we’ll have to wait for future expression studies to find out about the benefit of these paleo-GMOs.

The authors also suggest that, as people have been eating these swollen roots for millennia, we might now consider all transgenic crops to be “natural”. I don’t know about that. Didn’t most of these people suffer and die young? I predict that sweetpotato consumption will plummet now that the word is out.

Footnotes:
  1. Kyndt T, Quispe D, Zhai H, Jarret R, Ghislain M, Liu Q, Gheysen G, & Kreuze JF (2015). The genome of cultivated sweet potato contains Agrobacterium T-DNAs with expressed genes: An example of a naturally transgenic food crop. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America PMID: 25902487 []

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Spreading the good genebank news

3 May 2015

As I suspected, that “genebanks as morgues” slide that was shown yesterday at the Monogram 2015 meeting at Rothamstead,1 and was tweeted at the time, was but a rhetorical gambit, a way of framing an argument to the opposite effect. That argument was that thanks to recent advances in genomics and bioinformatics, genebanks are in […]

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Good news from the Nepalese national genebank

2 May 2015

We have received news from various people working at the National Agriculture Genetic Resources Center of Nepal, the country’s national genebank, that the staff are all fine and the building suffered only minor damage. Nepal is in many ways a pioneer in the development of community seedbanks, linked to participatory plant breeding, and the back-up, […]

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Countdown finally starts to the end of Expo Milano 2015

1 May 2015

I’ve been hoping I could get away with not mentioning Expo Milano 2015, with its ugly logo and eccentric website content. But it’s about feeding the world, it says here. And everybody’s going. So here goes, I’ve succumbed. But I’m not proud of it.

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Cary Fowler receives William L. Brown Award

1 May 2015

Congratulations to Cary Fowler for receiving the 7th William L. Brown Award for Excellence in Genetic Resource Conservation. The William L. Brown Award recognizes the outstanding contributions of an individual in the field of genetic resource conservation and use. It is administered by the William L. Brown Center (WLBC) at the Missouri Botanical Garden and […]

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Genebanks are NOT morgues, and you know it

30 April 2015

Are we going to stand for this? Unless of course the point was to say that they’re not, and here’s why :) Seedbanks = morgues? Collections only useful if can be mobilised tells David Marshall @JamesHuttonInst #monogram2015 pic.twitter.com/vkPi02gHWL — Jemima Brinton (@JemimaBrinton) April 30, 2015

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Promoting the sweet potato in Africa

30 April 2015

Good to see the March edition of Hortinews magazine focusing on the sweetpotato in Africa.1 I found it a little difficult to navigate the feature online, although you can also just download the whole issue as a pdf, so let me link directly to two stories on orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes (OFSP): Shaping up the orange-fleshed sweetpotato: […]

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