Nav: Home

$4.8 million USAID grant to strengthen biotechnology partnership, food security in South

March 29, 2016

To strengthen capacity to develop and disseminate genetically engineered eggplant in Bangladesh and the Philippines, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded Cornell a $4.8 million, three-year grant. The award supports USAID's work under Feed the Future, the U.S. government's global initiative to fight hunger and improve food security using agricultural science and technology.

In the Feed the Future South Asia Eggplant Improvement Partnership, Cornell will protect eggplant farmers from yield losses and improve their livelihoods in partnership with the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) and the University of the Philippines at Los Baños. Eggplant, or brinjal, is a staple crop that is an important source of income and nutrition for farmers and consumers in South Asia.

"Because of infestation by the fruit and shoot borer, or FSB, as much as 70 percent of the eggplant crop in South Asia never makes it to market," said Anthony Shelton, international professor of entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell, who will direct the project. "Farmers in Asia spray hazardous insecticides as often as every other day to control FSB."

Genetically engineered eggplant, or Bt brinjal, has been developed over the last 11 years and uses a gene from a naturally occurring soil bacterium to produce a protein that causes borers to stop feeding.

"Bt, or bacillus thuringiensis, is a biological pesticide that organic growers have used for decades," said Shelton. "Bt brinjal increases food security and reduces the use of insecticides that negatively affects human health and the environment."

"Bangladesh faces food shortages, increasing population, and decreasing amounts of arable land," said Dr. Md. Rafiqul Islam Mondal, director general of BARI. "Genetically engineered crops developed under the Feed the Future South Asia Eggplant Improvement Partnership will enhance the quality of life for Bangladeshis by increasing income, improving nutrition and health, and fostering a safer environment."

Over the past decade, Cornell has led the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSPII), also funded by USAID, that prompted a consortium of institutions in Asia and Africa to use the tools of modern biotechnology, particularly genetic engineering, to improve crops to address major production constraints for which conventional plant breeding tools have not been effective.

According to Shelton, ABSPII's most significant achievement was working with BARI and the Bangladesh government to achieve product authorization of eggplant varieties in that country.

"The Feed the Future South Asia Eggplant Improvement Partnership award will help realize the full impact of USAID's preceding years' investment in research and technology development, to facilitate the late-stage development, deregulation, commercialization and dissemination of Bt eggplant to farmers," said Joe Huesing, USAID senior biotechnology adviser. "The goal is to increase food security and improve environmental quality through supporting the national partners in their efforts to commercialize and adopt genetically engineered eggplant."

In October 2013, Bangladesh became the first country in South Asia to approve commercial cultivation of a genetically engineered food crop. In February 2014, Matia Chowdhury, the Bangladesh minister of agriculture, released four varieties of Bt brinjal to 20 farmers. With the establishment of the 20 Bt brinjal demonstration plots in 2014 and 104 more in 2015, BARI reported a noticeable decrease in fruit and shoot borer infestation, increased yields, decreased use of pesticide and improved income for farmers.

"The performance of Bt brinjal was better than non-Bt brinjal in all districts," said Mondal.

Five additional Bt eggplant varieties are in the pipeline for release in Bangladesh.

The Feed the Future South Asia Eggplant Improvement Partnership addresses and integrates all elements of the commercialization process -- including technology development, regulation, marketing, seed distribution, and product stewardship. It also provides strong platforms for policy development, capacity building, gender equality, outreach and communication.
-end-


Cornell University

Related Agriculture Articles:

EU agriculture not viable for the future
The current reform proposals of the EU Commission on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are unlikely to improve environmental protection, say researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the University of Göttingen in the journal Science.
Global agriculture: Impending threats to biodiversity
A new study compares the effects of expansion vs. intensification of cropland use on global agricultural markets and biodiversity, and finds that the expansion strategy poses a particularly serious threat to biodiversity in the tropics.
A new vision for genomics in animal agriculture
Iowa State University animal scientists helped to form a blueprint to guide the next decade of animal genomics research.
New pathways for sustainable agriculture
Diversity beats monotony: a colourful patchwork of small, differently used plots can bring advantages to agriculture and nature.
The future of agriculture is computerized
Researchers at the MIT Media Lab Open Agriculture Initiative have used computer algorithms to determine the optimal growing conditions to improve basil plants' taste by maximizing the concentration of flavorful molecules known as volatile compounds.
When yesterday's agriculture feeds today's water pollution
Water quality is threatened by a long history of fertilizer use on land, Canadian scientists find.
How does agriculture affect vulnerable insect-eating birds?
Aerial insectivores -- birds that hunt for insect prey on the wing -- are declining across North America as agricultural intensification leads to diminishing insect abundance and diversity in many areas.
Brazil's Forest Code can balance the needs of agriculture and the environment
If fully implemented, Brazil's Forest Code, an environmental law designed to protect the country's native vegetation and regulate land use, will not prevent growth in Brazilian agriculture, according to new IIASA-led research.
On the origins of agriculture, researchers uncover new clues
Researchers have uncovered evidence that underscores one long-debated theory: that agriculture arose out of moments of surplus, when environmental conditions were improving, and populations lived in greater densities.
Wintering warblers choose agriculture over forest
Effective conservation for long-distance migrants requires knowing what's going on with them year-round -- not just when they're in North America during the breeding season.
More Agriculture News and Agriculture Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#542 Climate Doomsday
Have you heard? Climate change. We did it. And it's bad. It's going to be worse. We are already suffering the effects of it in many ways. How should we TALK about the dangers we are facing, though? Should we get people good and scared? Or give them hope? Or both? Host Bethany Brookshire talks with David Wallace-Wells and Sheril Kirschenbaum to find out. This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News. Related links: Why Climate Disasters Might Not Boost Public Engagement on Climate Change on The New York Times by Andrew Revkin The other kind...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab