3 Picks: Tree Power, Monsanto Wheat, Free Genomes

Scene from today’s garden.
(B.P.A. staff member “Nutkin” in foreground.)

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.
1) U.S. Trees in Demand for European Power: The day after BBC news came out with an article explaining that to fulfill a green policy, Europeans are importing increasing volumes of wood pellets from America to burn in their power plants for electricity, the NRDC came out with a press release saying they have a campaign against the practice.

Rising demand by these companies has resulted in the rapid expansion of wood pellet exports from the Southern US. The American South is now the largest exporter of wood pellets in the world. Recent analyses indicate there are twenty-four pellet facilities currently operating in the Southeast, and sixteen additional plants planned for construction in the near-term. Market analysts project that annual exports of wood pellets from the South will more than triple from 1.3 million tons in 2012 to nearly 6 million tons by 2015. All of the South’s largest domestic utilities, including Dominion Resources and Duke Energy, are also beginning to burn wood with plans for expansion in the future.
2) More GM Wheat is Being Tested by Monsanto: Bloomberg reported that Monsanto tested wheat engineered to survive Roundup herbicide in Hawaii last year, and they also have a permit to test it on 300 acres in North Dakota this year. Already, a Kansas wheat farmer has filed a lawsuit against Monsanto citing gross negligence that is now harming wheat growers in the U.S.
3) Decoding ‘orphan crop’ genomes: John Vidal and Mark Tran for the Guardian tell us that a hippy scientist by the name of Howard-Yana Shapiro is working with the US confectionery corporation Mars to sequence genes of yam, finger millet, tef, groundnut, cassava and sweet potato, to help promote food security for the world’s most vulnerable, particularly Africans. The plan is to make the information available for free on the web where it will be offered to breeders who want to work with it — providing it is not patented.



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