Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Carbon emissions up as Trump rolls back climate change work


The Guardian
A coal plant in Wisconsin. US Geological Survey.
Last year’s 3.4% jump in emissions is the largest since 2010 recession and second largest gain in more than two decades. More here.

Could genetic modification be about to give a boost to the war on hunger?

by Larry Powell
A vegetable garden in Manitoba. A PinP photo.


American researchers believe they've found a way to genetically-engineer a dramatic increase in crop production. They've conducted field experiments with tobacco, using a new method which makes the critical process of photosynthesis much more efficient. (Tobacco was chosen because it's easy to modify and test. The same methods are now being tested on other crops including soybean, potato and tomato.) 

Photosynthesis allows plants to convert sunlight into energy and help them grow, increasing crop yield.
To do this, most plants use the world's most plentiful enzyme, Rubisco, to capture carbon dioxide from the air and expel oxygen. But in a strange twist of nature, Rubisco captures more oxygen than it should. This produces a toxic compound in the plant which requires a lot of energy to get rid of.

It could take more than a decade before this new technology can be put into widespread use. But, by fiddling with the internal pathways in the plants' cells, the researchers believe they can increase crop production by a whopping 40 percent! They liken the benefits of their discovery to food production to what the Panama Canal did for international trade many years ago!

The research team was made up of experts from the University of Illinois and the US Department of Agriculture. Their findings were published in the journal, Science.

Among those funding the research were the UK government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


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