Back from the brink: how biocontrol saved St Helena’s national tree from extinction

Gumwoods of St Helena
The gumwoods of St Helena are flourishing again after facing extinction

By Wayne Coles

At first sight the humble scale insect, Orthezia insignis doesn’t seem like it could pack much of a punch in a ‘fight’ against a range of native flora – but to make such an assumption would be very dangerous indeed.

In fact Orthezia insignis is a genuine invasive menace which in Hawaii, East Africa and South and Central America has, at times, wreaked havoc on numerous ornamental plants including citrus, coffee, olive, Jacaranda and Lantana.

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Navigating the Nagoya Protocol – CABI’s commitment to Access and Benefit Sharing of genetic resources

locust metarhizium2
Locust metarhizium

CABI scientists have penned an important paper published in the journal Biocontrol Science and Technology which pulls no punches when it boldly states ‘the future of humankind and the rest of Earth’s biodiversity depend upon our research efforts generating solutions to the global challenges.’

Now this stark realisation has grabbed your attention, what does the body of work entitled ‘Biological control and the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit sharing – a case of effective due diligence’ actually mean for the future of CABI’s endeavours in agricultural science and its mission to help farmers lose less of their crops to a range of pests and diseases and develop solutions to increase yields and feed more?

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Climate change and its implication on Biological Control: Case studies from Latin America

Climate changeDr Yelitza Colmenarez, CABI Brazil Centre Director & Plantwise Regional Coordinator – Latin America and Caribbean, recently presented at the First International Congress of Biological Control in Beijing, China, on the fascinating issue of climate change and the impact on the Biological Control of agricultural pests and diseases in Latin America.

Here we present Dr Colmenarez’s expert insight (including link to her full PowerPoint presentation) into what pests and diseases need to prioritized and why Climate Smart Agriculture could be the key to fighting these risks to crops exacerbated by changing climatic conditions in countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Peru.

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A conversation on ‘Communicating Evidence for Sustainable Development’


Last month two CABI employees, Solveig Danielsen and Paul Day, attended a conference at Wageningen University on Communicating Evidence for Sustainable Development. Sol works in the Monitoring and Evaluation team (M&E) and Paul is a communicator. The conference led to a lively conversation which we captured here.

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Showcasing smart agriculture in comic exhibition

Comic Connections poster

Comics have long played a role in entertaining young people, and even adults, going right back to the Golden Age of Comic books in the 1930s. One only has to think of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel and many more.

But you would be forgiven for being surprised at knowing that comics can also have a very important role to play in educating teenagers and young adults about the value science and technology holds in helping farmers grow more and lose less.

Now, an exhibition of the comic book Shujaaz (which means ‘hero’) – presented by Karamel at Collage Arts, is revealing how animation and narrative knits together to tell the story of how smart agriculture, as well as issues including unemployment, corruption, youth, cost of living and infrastructure, can be raised with Kenyan and Tanzanian 15-24 year olds.

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Earth Day 2018 – The campaign to eliminate plastic pollution


[Image credit: Pixabay – hhach]

This blog post was written by our new Content Editor – Ellen Baker, ahead of Earth Day on Sunday 22nd April.

This year the annual environmental issues awareness event ‘Earth day’ is focussing on the topic of plastic pollution; the problems generated by our high usage of single use plastics have been a campaign point for numerous environmental groups for many years but the topic of plastic pollution has recently been brought to the forefront of public discussion by the hugely popular BBC documentary Blue Planet II. Prompted by the poignant last episode of the series which featured this topic heavily, the nationwide programme narrated by Sir David Attenborough has appeared to catalyse a change in public opinion on plastic waste, what some have subsequently dubbed this the ‘Blue planet effect’.

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How Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Enter the Food Chain in non-GMO Producing Countries

The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in livestock and crops, as well as trade and consumption of GMOs are highly controversial topics.

Proponents of genetic engineering argue that GMOs represent the only viable solution to food shortages in an ever-growing global population. They claim that the use of GMOs in agriculture and their consumption have caused no harm to livestock or humans so far. Heated debate also persists over GMO food labelling, with food manufacturers in the USA arguing that mandatory GMO labelling hinders the development of agricultural biotechnology, and may also "exacerbate the misconception” that GMOs endanger human health.


Animals: GMO or non-GMO?

However, opponents of GMOs are far from convinced, and they are concerned about the potentially negative impact of GMOs on the environment, livestock and humans. The inevitability of GMO-contamination to some level has been widely recognised in non-GMO producing countries, but many countries, including EU countries, seek to control its spread. Opponents of GMOs are also concerned about the lack of data on the long-term effects of GMO use. These concerns have been effective in limiting GMO acceptance by the public.

Our guest blogger, Dr Tatjana Brankov of University of Novi Sad, Serbia, in her opinion piece below, describes how GMOs find their way to the daily diet of livestock, and subsequently to human diet, in different geographical regions of the world, including non-GMO producing countries.

To find out what this means for customers who want to avoid GMOs in their diet, or to farmers who want to keep their farms GMO-free, read on…


How Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) enter the food chain in non-GMO producing countries

by Tatjana Brankov, Faculty of Economics, University of Novi Sad, Serbia.

Edited by M Djuric, CAB International, Wallingford, UK 

A superficial review of the legislation on transgenic foods and feeds indicates that consumers in non-GMO producing countries consume GMO-free food. However, less attention is paid to the fact that GMOs can enter the food chain through the import of transgenic foodstuff and feedstuff or by contamination.


Crops: GMO or non-GMO?

In some countries, transgenic food production is fully equal to conventional production. The concept of substantial equivalence, developed by the OECD and further elaborated by FAO/WHO “embodies the concept that if a new food or food component is found to be substantially equivalent to an existing food or food component, it can be treated in the same manner with respect to safety, i.e. the food or food component can be concluded to be as safe as the conventional food or food component” (FAO/WHO 1996). Such a situation exists in a number of countries, including the USA, where it has been estimated that up to 75% of processed foods on supermarket shelves, from soda to soup, and from crackers to condiments contain GMO ingredients (Center for Food Safety 2017).

On the other side, EU countries apply the precautionary principle as a guiding approach for trans-border movement of GMOs (Myhr and Traavik, 2002). As the EUR-Lex glossary explains, this principle “relates to an approach to risk management whereby, if there is the possibility that a given policy or action might cause harm to the public or the environment and if there is still no scientific consensus on the issue, the policy or action in question should not be pursued.”

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