The UN's Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has explored how invasive alien species contribute to species extinction. The report's findings are stark: Invasive alien species significantly threaten our natural environment, economy, food security, and health.
Switzerland is witnessing a concerning decline in its traditional tall fruit trees. Not only is their upkeep labor-intensive, but the introduced cherry vinegar fly (Kirschessigfliege) has also wreaked havoc on their fruit.
More and more invasive pests are spreading in Switzerland. The most recent example is the Asian hornet, which poses a major threat to the native honey bee. But other invasive species also threaten agriculture and biodiversity. Control measures are many and varied. But pesticides (plant protection products and biocides) remain an important tool in the fight against the pests.
In future, the EU wants to treat genome-edited plants in the same way as conventionally bred ones. As the "NZZ am Sonntag" writes, this is like a small revolution. Until now, the commercial use of gene scissors has been impossible due to an extremely restrictive genetic engineering law.
Lab-grown meat is approved for consumption in the USA for the first time – this openness to new technologies is also needed in Eu
Lab-grown meat could revolutionise nutrition. But in Europe it is partly banned as a precaution. Yet new technologies are essential if the world's population is to be fed without destroying the environment, writes Matthias Benz in the NZZ.
In the Philippines, the cultivation of Golden Rice has been temporarily banned. NGOs have obtained a cultivation ban based on scientifically untenable arguments. The poorest people, who could be protected from nutritional deficiencies by this rice, are the ones suffering the most. Martin Qaim, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Bonn, strongly criticizes this renewed blockade and explains the background in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung."
The European Union aims to regulate plants bred using genome editing techniques in the same way as conventional breeding methods. The European Commission plans to present a corresponding proposal for regulating new breeding technologies in early July. This move represents a significant step towards a more productive and sustainable agriculture in the EU. Switzerland should also re-evaluate genetically edited plants to avoid falling behind.
"Even with little processed food, you can cook yourself an unhealthy meal - and poison yourself fabulously"
Additives in food unsettle many people. But do thickeners and emulsifiers really harm us? Food chemist Daniel Wefers dispels prejudices - because some additives are actually beneficial for the body.
The Federal Minister of Research has reiterated her demand to facilitate the application of new breeding techniques in Europe. As an example, she mentions the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas.
Over the past decades, the umbrella organisation Bio Suisse has developed into an organisation with almost one hundred employees. In order to be able to achieve the quantities demanded by the retail trade and the high, also visual quality of conventional cultivation, Bio Suisse cannot avoid spraying areas with insecticides.
At their meeting in April 2023, the delegates of Bio Suisse rejected the use of new breeding methods in organic farming. With this decision, the organic association closes itself off from the possibility of becoming more productive and sustainable through modern precision breeding, such as the incorporation of disease tolerance using the CRISPR/Cas gene scissors. As reported by the "Tages-Anzeiger," the decision of the delegates was clear, and there was no real substantive debate on the topic.
Milk from the lab is on the rise. Nestlé sells artificial milk in the USA, and a Swiss entrepreneur produces cheese in the laboratory. This is reported by the SonntagsZeitung. According to a survey by the medium, most consumers are willing to try milk alternatives produced using genetic engineering. The differences in taste compared to conventional milk are said to be minimal. However, the sustainability of the products is crucial, which includes resource efficiency and price.
The global food system is currently responsible for approximately one third of all greenhouse gas emissions. Animal products, which require a large amount of land to produce, are one of the major contributors. For this reason, a number of start-ups are working eagerly on alternative protein products that require fewer resources and no animals, and are produced using industrial processes. After all, to feed more than nine billion people, all options and technologies have to be considered.
A regulatory change in England allows the commercial use of new breeding technologies. Until now, these technologies had been regulated in accordance with the same restrictive rules as in the EU. As a result of the new law, English farmers are now allowed to grow crops that have been bred using genome editing. This gives England’s farmers a new tool in the fight against climate change and for more sustainable agriculture.
The federal government has pledged to reduce sugar intake in Switzerland. Going forward, a wide variety of food products are to contain less sugar, or be labeled with their sugar content. This has put sugar beet cultivation under pressure. Yet “the dose makes the poison” also applies to sugar consumption, so there may still be a meaningful future for sugar beet growing in Switzerland.
In the past few years, consumer attention has centered on organic and high-end products, with eco-friendliness serving as a key decision-making factor. Now, rising inflation is shifting that focus. Increasingly, price is taking center stage, a trend highlighted by the growth in sales of more budget-friendly brands.
In Switzerland, a growing number of pesticides are being banned by the authorities. At the same time, there are almost no new ones entering the market. The regulatory authorities are severely overstretched. Things cannot go on like this. Every product that disappears from the market increases the risk of pests developing resistance and of crops failing.
French farmers have called for a large demonstration. Between February 8 and 20, 2023, farmers will drive their tractors into the heart of Paris to protest against the gradual decline in French agricultural production. The farmers have an ever-decreasing number of pesticides at their disposal to protect their crops.
A research consortium of industry and public researchers in England has published a genome database of the most common insect pests in the United Kingdom. The open-source database has been set up to help with the development of targeted and environmentally friendly pesticides.
At the end of January 2023, the EU approved two new insect species as novel foods. For example, house crickets and lesser mealworms in specific forms may now be marketed as a food ingredient in a number of food products. Certain insects are also approved for use in food processing in Switzerland and have long been considered an environmentally friendly source of protein.
A study by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) posits that organic farming causes significantly lower environmental costs than conventional farming. However, agricultural economist Herbert Strübel disagrees, as the significantly lower yields of organic farming are not included in the calculation.
Fewer and fewer pesticides are available to Swiss farmers. Many active ingredients are disappearing from the market. At the same time, the Swiss authorities are approving very few new ones. The Swiss farmers' association warns against new measures. Otherwise, a decline in domestic food production may ensue.
Grains such as rice, wheat, and corn provide the majority of the calories consumed across the globe. Crop plants such as tef or cassava, on the other hand, have previously been rather overlooked. However, research progress has now made cultivating them a more attractive prospect. This is particularly important given climate change.
In Switzerland, a significant backlog of pesticides is pending approval from regulatory authorities, who are struggling to keep pace with the demand. This delay has serious implications for both the agricultural sector and environmental sustainability.
The world’s first Golden Rice harvest recently took place in the Philippines. The rice is enriched with a beta carotene gene, which can be converted into vitamin A in the human body. The aim is to bring an end to the widespread vitamin A deficiencies in developing countries. But there has been and still is massive resistance to growing it.
The Swiss are satisfied with the state of domestic agriculture. However, supply reliability has become more important. These are the findings of a representative survey that the Federal Office for Agriculture published with its Agricultural Report 2022.
The traditional Räbeliechtli (turnip lantern) parades are taking place again in November. However, according to the “Aargauer Zeitung”, farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to produce the turnips. As key plant protection products are being taken off the market, the turnips are less and less well protected against pests and diseases.
The British Parliament is planning to pass a law that will provide new legislation for new breeding technologies, such as genome editing. This new legislation will pave the way for Great Britain to become a leading figure in agri-food research.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to cultivate Brussels sprouts in Switzerland. The areas in which they are cultivated have been shrinking for several years. The reason for this is the steadily declining number of approved plant protection products.
The coronavirus pandemic, the Ukraine war and the energy crisis have all brought the vulnerability of supply chains into sharp relief. In an interview with the Tages-Anzeiger, the Director of the Federal Office for Agriculture, Christian Hofer, warns against becoming too dependent on food imports. Switzerland must take care of its food security.
The history of bread is closely linked to the cultivation of different varieties of wheat. Human optimization of bread-making wheat has made a huge contribution to the development of civilization as a whole. However, in order to continue the development of wheat cultivation and feed more people, new technologies are required, such as green biotechnology. But significant obstacles remain.
Nobel prize laureate Nüsslein-Volhard: “Genetic engineering offers major opportunities for environmental protection”
Genetically modified plants are not cultivated in Europe, an approach criticized by Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard as anti-scientific and ideology-driven.
The majority of agriculture ministers in the European Union see new plant breeding technologies as the key to strengthening food security. They are therefore calling for a reassessment of the rules governing the approval of new genetic engineering techniques. These new genetic engineering methods may also bring fresh impetus to attempts to combat food waste.
Organic products have to be taken off retailers’ shelves at an above-average rate. The reason for this is toxins from plants harvested together with the organic produce or from molds. They can be controlled less well in organic agriculture than in conventional agriculture.
The demand for both food and electricity is set to increase dramatically in future. Concurrently, there will be less free space available. So why don’t we use arable land to produce both food and electricity at the same time? This would be possible using solar panels that produce electricity several meters above the ground. Plants that need shady conditions could grow beneath them.
The Po Valley is one of the most important agricultural areas in Italy. But the Po currently lacks water. The fields have dried up. The region must expect regular water shortages in the future. In addition, the soil is becoming more and more salty. A glimmer of hope comes from Southeast Asia, where salt-resistant rice varieties are braving the saline soils.
This summer, large parts of Europe have received less rainfall than at almost any other time in their history. A phenomenon we are set to see occur ever more frequently in future. The trend in Switzerland is also pointing towards more drought. This poses an enormous challenge for agriculture. With a drought early warning system, farmers should, in future, have better opportunities to plan for these eventualities.
There are now more skeptics than ever before when it comes to biotechnological plant breeding methods, despite 30 years of research having produced a clear data basis. Conventional genetic engineering or the more modern CRISPR/Cas method present no increased risks compared to traditional breeding methods, such as cross-breeding.
As Sri Lanka experiences its worst economic crisis in 70 years, the population is protesting against the country’s political leaders and the disastrous situation surrounding the supply of basic necessities. One significant contributing factor to this predicament is last year’s decision by the government to ban pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, which resulted in poor harvests and soaring food prices.
Swiss farmers are less and less able to protect their crops against pests and fungal diseases. This is reported by the "Nebelspalter". The number of approved crop protection active ingredients has decreased drastically since 2005.
Around one third of the people on the African continent live without safe access to water. According to the United Nations, even in the most water-rich regions of the continent there is insufficient water security. In addition, the large groundwater reserves in Africa are virtually unused. In the most recent World Water Report, the UN therefore calls for intelligent use of groundwater.
The wet summer of 2021 caused extensive damage to Switzerland’s vineyards. Fungal diseases such as downy mildew, in particular, took their toll on the grapevines. A survey conducted by the cantonal offices for viticulture in German-speaking Switzerland shows that FRG varieties are also affected by downy mildew and require plant protection products to protect the crop.
The drought from 2018 to 2020 was the worst in the last 250 years. This is the finding of researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research. As a result of climate change, future droughts could last for as long as 20 years, which would have profound consequences for agriculture and the world’s food supply. Meanwhile, countries like Switzerland are still ill- prepared for the threat of such droughts.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to a scarcity of wheat and big price increases for the staple on agricultural commodity markets. The United Kingdom wants to strengthen its domestic supply security by relying on more resistant crops. With this aim in mind, plans call for passing a new law that would allow cultivation of gene-edited plants. Agricultural productivity is once again becoming increasingly important in European countries. Switzerland also needs to produce more.
Prof. Thomas Ellrott from the Georg-August-University in Göttingen spoke at an event of the branch organization Swisscofel about food as a pseudo-religion His thesis: Eating is no longer just the simple intake of calories. Today, food is a lifestyle product that people use to showcase themselves. It's about identity. And to be on the "right side".
South Asia is currently being hit by an exceptional heat wave. This is threatening the harvests of many farmers. India has therefore imposed an export ban on wheat. The country is the second largest producer of wheat in the world. This is likely to exacerbate the already tense situation on the agricultural markets caused by the war in Ukraine.
The Russian war on Ukraine is having a devastating impact on global agriculture. The two countries produce large quantities of wheat for the world market. Russia is also one of the most important producers of fertilizers. These are now threatening to become scarce.
Werner Baumann has led the German agrochemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer since 2016. In an interview with the "NZZ", he explains what the Ukraine war means for his company and the food supply.
The British Parliament has passed a law that facilitates the cultivation of genome-edited plants.
The war between Ukraine and Russia threatens the food supply of many countries and is expected to have a strong impact on food prices. Markus Ritter, president of the Swiss farmers' Association, therefore calls for more domestic production – not least out of solidarity with poorer countries.
In a position paper, the German FDP calls for a reorientation of European agricultural policy. Instead of an extensification of agriculture, an “ecological intensification” should take place.
Beekeeping is booming in Swiss cities. Urban residents want to make a contribution to the conservation of the honeybee. However, a study by the WSL research institute shows that the amateur beekeeping is not sustainable. It endangers biodiversity in cities, as honey bees increasingly displace wild insects.
In order to be able to provide traditional grape varieties with resistance to mildew and drought, French winemakers are calling for approval of genome editing in viticulture. Instead of breeding new varieties in lengthy processes, Gene Scissors can be used to optimize wine varieties that are popular with consumers.
In an opinion piece in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Nobel laureate Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard argues the case for using the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors in plant breeding, even in organic farming. In her view, genome editing brings numerous benefits, especially when it comes to nature conservation and species protection.
Many consumers are of the opinion that vegetarian products are unhealthier and more harmful to the environment than meat. This is shown by a study by ETH Zurich. The negative attitude is also reflected in purchases. Vegetarian products are still niche products.
When buying food, Swiss consumers pay more attention to the price than to sustainability labels. One reason for this might be that many are not aware of what the labels mean. In addition, more and more people are buying their groceries online. This is the result of a survey by the retailer organization Swiss Retail Federation.
At the start of the year, the oilseed processing industry (OVID) wishes the new German government courage and determination to achieve the goals agreed in the coalition agreement. These include the restructuring of the energy supply, further development of the Nutri-Score and the reduction of bureaucracy.
British researchers were able to use genome editing to create single-sex litters in mice. In the future, the same technique could also be used to specifically breed only female chicks. This would prevent the killing of male chicks. But to do this, genome editing would also have to be permitted in animal breeding.
Due to the exceptionally wet summer, the 2021 bread grain harvest will also be poor. Both - the quantity and quality of bread wheat - have suffered severely. To secure the bread supply, import quotas had to be applied for from the Federal Government. More imports are necessary.
The signal effect could not be greater. The label organization IP-Suisse, the fruit, vegetable and potato producers, the agricultural cooperative Fenaco, the large retailers Coop and Migros and the consumer forum have recently joined forces under the name "Varieties for tomorrow".
On the occasion of the 26th Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Matthias Berninger, Global Head of Public Affairs, Science & Sustainability at Bayer, talks about the potential of new fertilisers for climate protection.
Agriculture is one of the first victims of climate change. At the same time, it causes a significant share of global greenhouse gases. New technologies are the key to minimising the problem. But experts in particular are finding it increasingly difficult to recognise innovations as a solution to climate change.
Using bacteria, researchers in Scotland have succeeded in making vanillin out of plastic waste. This opens up the possibility of transforming plastic waste into a product that is in demand all over the world, thereby benefiting both the environment and food producers.
The summer of 2021 will probably remain in the memory of the Eastern Swiss winemakers for a long time to come. The wet cold weather with hail storms causes major crop failures.
The two agrochemical producers Bayer and Syngenta are investing in an American start-up whose technology can massively reduce the use of nitrogen fertiliser.
On 13 June, the Swiss voters voted in favor of productive agriculture and against technology bans. They want regional food at affordable prices in the future. However, Switzerland is moving in the wrong direction with the unofficial counter-proposal under discussion on the two rejected agricultural initiatives. Disproportionate new hurdles in the authorization of plant protection products are threatening farmers with failed harvests. The environment and climate are not helped.