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Posts tagged: Biotechnology

FACT from FICTION on Pilot Project to Enhance Quality, Timeliness and Cost-Effectiveness of Environmental Analyses and Documents Related to Biotechnology

We have seen several stories and concerned comments circulating on blogs regarding USDA’s pilot project to examine ways to enhance quality, timeliness and cost effectiveness of environmental analyses and documents related to biotechnology. We want to separate fact from fiction and ensure that the public knows exactly what this pilot program will do and what it will not do.

The pilot program will test an approach where USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will work closely with petitioners and outside experts while maintaining responsibility for scope and content of its environmental analyses. The pilot program will not allow biotechnology firms to conduct their own environmental assessments (EA) or environmental impact statements (EIS). Read more »

Honduras’ Biotechnology Leadership Will Advance Both Food and Energy Security in the Region

By John Brewer, Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service

I’m here in Tegucigalpa to recognize Honduras as one of the Western Hemisphere’s leaders in incorporating biotechnology in agricultural and energy production. Biotechnology is a powerful tool that can be used to boost agricultural productivity and food security, reduce environmental impact, combat climate change, and build prosperity among the rural poor – a vision that USDA and the U.S. Government share with Honduras.

Last night and this morning I met with Honduran government officials from the agroforestry sector and the Honduran Biotechnology and Biosafety Commission; the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture; academic and think tank scholars; and local farmers. Each of these groups work together to implement the use of biotechnology in the fields and to gain acceptance by society.

While 25 countries around the world are currently planting genetically engineered (GE) crops, Honduras is the only Central American country doing so.  I chose to come to Honduras because their leadership in the implementation of bio-safety regulations can be a model for other countries in the region.

GE crops provide a multitude of tangible benefits to both producers and consumers. Pest-resistant crops reduce the need for pesticides and save on fossil fuel usage and carbon emissions. Increased productivity per acre ensures food security and keeps food prices down, while enhanced nutritional value helps to alleviate hunger.

Planting GE crops isn’t the only area where Honduras can be a leader in our hemisphere. The U.S. government is committed to working with willing partners such as Honduras to simultaneously combat climate change and provide alternate sources of energy. Under President Obama’s Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas Honduras is a priority country for collaboration with USDA’s Renewable Biomass Energy project. This program aims to improve agriculture and forestry practices, increase scientific exchanges, and enhance biomass production. Today I encouraged Honduras to ramp up production of renewable biomass energy with USDA’s assistance through this program.

President Lobo’s government has stated that each hectare of biomass harvested in Honduras could create 1.5 jobs directly and 2 jobs indirectly. The U.S. government fully supports Honduras in realizing this potential.  Since 2007, Honduras has reduced or eliminated taxes and tariffs on biofuels and implemented a mechanism to mix biofuels with fossil fuels to lower harmful emissions from cars, making this sector attractive for investments. By offering energy alternatives to fossil fuels right in our own hemisphere, Honduras is increasing energy security for the United States too.  I’ve appreciated meeting the people making these advances possible. USDA and Honduras have a win-win biotech partnership that I see strengthening in the future.

Check back tomorrow for another blog post from me about USDA’s Food for Progress programs here in Honduras. Be sure to check out FAS on Facebook and Twitter too!

On June 28 and 29, Administrator Brewer met with Honduran government officials, including Agriculture and Livestock Minister Jacobo Regalado.

On June 28 and 29, Administrator Brewer met with Honduran government officials, including Agriculture and Livestock Minister Jacobo Regalado.

Biomass and Biofuel – What’s in it for Hawaii’s Agriculture?

Hawaii and the Pacific Basin

The dwindling global supply of fossil fuels and the resulting escalation in prices has set the stage for entry of commercial biofuel produced from biomass, including co-products and bi-products.  This transition in the energy sector’s feed stocks offers Hawaii a unique opportunity to locally produce biofuel from locally produced biomass feed stocks, and ultimately support the stabilization of the state’s energy resources; increase the local circulation of energy dollars; and further under gird Hawaii’s agricultural industry.  Read more »

Iowa’s Innovative Bioenergy Industries Have Caught the Attention of the Nation and the World

This week I had the pleasure of meeting with representatives from eight German companies who are in Iowa to learn more the approach to biofuels in the US, and specifically in Iowa. Read more »

USDA, Partners, Leading the Way to a Clean Energy Economy

There is an excitement at USDA with respect to bioenergy and biofuels and much is going on – a BIOFRENZY if you will – not in a sense of chaos – but rather many challenges and much to do.  The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will be implemented July 1, 2010. The RFS2 calls for 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be used in the US transportation fuel supply by 2022 – and the majority of this total must be advanced biofuels. Read more »

Feeling Stressed? So are Poplars

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.  

By Jennifer Donovan, Michigan Technological University

People aren’t the only living things that suffer from stress. Trees must deal with stress too. It can come from a lack of water or too much water, from scarcity of a needed nutrient, from pollution or a changing climate. Helping trees and crops adapt to stress quickly and efficiently is a pressing goal of plant biologists worldwide.

A team led by Michigan Technological University  scientists and supported by USDA and DOE grants has identified the molecular mechanism that Populus—the scientific name for common poplars, cottonwoods and aspens—uses to adapt to changing soil conditions, as well as some of the genes that turn the process off or on. They hope to apply what they’ve learned to find ways to use biotechnology or selective breeding to modify the trees to make them more stress-tolerant.  And better sources of pulp and fiber.

“Our hope is that by understanding how this works, we can manipulate the system so the plants can adapt faster and better to stressful conditions,” explained Michigan Technological University’s Victor Busov, senior author on a paper about this work published in the journal The Plant Cell.  

Busov and colleagues at Michigan Tech, the University of Georgia, Oregon State University and the Beijing Forestry University in China analyzed thousands of genes in the Populus genome, the only tree genome that has been completely sequenced. They were searching for the mechanism that regulates the plant’s decision to grow tall or to spread its roots out in an extensive underground exploration system that can sample the soil near and far until it finds what the rest of the plant needs.

The key players turned out to be a family of hormones called gibberellins, referred to by the scientists as GAs.   “GAs’ role in root development is poorly understood,” said Busov, “and the role of GAs in lateral root formation is almost completely unknown.”  Lateral roots are the tangle of tiny roots that branch out from the primary root of a plant. ”They are the sponges,” Busov explained, “the ones that go looking for nutrients, for water—the ones that do most of the work.” 

The researchers hope to understand how to turn off production of GAs, which would stimulate more roots and fewer leaves and twigs — and thus help poplars cope with drought conditions, a valuable trait in a world where water scarcity is increasingly a problem. 

Poplar fruiting as part of the USDA poplar breeding program

Poplar fruiting as part of the USDA poplar breeding program.

 

Poplars. Photo credit Michigan Technological University  

Poplars. Photo credit Michigan Technological University.