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Ecology of genetically modified wheat : performance, resistance costs, mixture effects and gene flow


Zeller, S L. Ecology of genetically modified wheat : performance, resistance costs, mixture effects and gene flow. 2011, University of Zurich, Faculty of Science.

Abstract

A hungry world
It will be one of mankind’s greatest challenges to feed the 9 billion people which are projected to populate our planet by 2050 (Godfray et al. 2010). Already today, it is difficult to meet the global demand for food. Consumption of grains and oilseeds has exceeded production in 7 out of 8 years since 2000 leading to the lowest food stock levels since 1970 (USDA 2008). Spiking food commodity prices made more than 1 billion people in the developing world suffer from hunger in 2008 (FAO 2009). After a brief phase of relieve, food prices in 2011 have again surpassed levels reached in 2008 and were a major cause of popular unrest (FAO 2011).
There are multiple reasons for this worrying development. On the consumption side, the world’s population grows by 200’000 hungry mouths everyday, but more importantly, we see sharply increasing demands for protein-rich food, especially in developing countries such as China and India. Furthermore, climate change politics and fossil fuel shortages foster the production of biofuels on lands previously used to grow food (USDA 2008). On the supply side, the annual growth rate in grain and oilseed production has been slowing from 2.2% between 1970 and 1990 to 1.3% since 1990 (USDA 2008). Yields of important staple crops such as wheat have reached a plateau or are even declining in Europe (Brisson et al. 2010) and the United States (Graybosch and Peterson 2010).
Similar to all other internationally traded commodities, prices for agricultural goods increase as soon as demand surpasses supplies. Higher food prices however, will not stop rich countries from importing fodder for their livestock or biofuels. It is mainly the people in the poor countries which are often dependent on food imports that will suffer most. To prevent catastrophic scenarios such as worldwide famines and refugee streams (Cribb 2010), either the demand for food needs to be lowered or the production increased. Furthermore, the distribution and availability of food needs to be improved. As mentioned above, population growth is one of the main drivers of food demand. Attempts to slow down population growth have been made, for example the One-Child policy in China, but it involved drastic violations of human rights. It has to be seen if more social ways can be found to reduce human fertility. The best and certainly healthiest option would be to reduce the world food demand by stop wasting food (Nellemann et al. 2009; Godfray et al. 2010) and limiting meat consumption in the industrialized countries (Vogel 2010). However, there are models that show that even if the industrial countries would cut their meat consumption by half, this would only marginally ease the hunger of the worlds poorest (Stokstad 2010). Ultimately, the world has to try to increase its food production somehow – at least until the population maximum is reached. Demand for food might increase by 70–100% during the next forty years (WorldBank 2007; Royal Society of London 2009). The following paragraph will explain how yields have been improved in the past and discuss factors limiting future efforts.

Need for second green revolution
Doubling the world’s food production is very difficult; however it has been done before. The so called “green revolution” allowed increasing the world grain production from 1 to 2 billion tons between 1960 and 2000 (Khush 2001). This major effort was possible due to the introduction of new, improved crop varieties that allowed higher fertilizer and pesticide input and the expansion of cropping area (Evenson and Gollin 2003). Unfortunately, the industrialisation of agriculture led to massive environmental problems (Tilman et al. 2001). One could argue that we need a second “green revolution” but this time, it needs to be sustainable.
Most of the ways used to increase agricultural production in the past were far from being sustainable and will meet severe limitations in the future: firstly, expansion of global agricultural land inevitably means clearing tropical forests and shrubland ecosystems (Gibbs et al. 2010). This leads to increasing greenhouse gas emissions and the loss of biodiversity and important ecosystem services. It is likely, that future environmental policies such as “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation” (REDD) will slow down agricultural expansion (Ghazoul et al. 2010). Secondly, more than half of the global food production increase was due to higher fertilizer and pesticide input and therefore dependent on fossil fuels or other non renewable resources (Cordell et al. 2009; Godfray et al. 2010). Since the production maxima for several non-renewable resources is predicted to peak in the near future (Heinberg 2005; Cordell et al. 2009) further intensification of agriculture might not be feasible. Third, 40% of the world’s food is currently grown on irrigated fields. However, climate change models predict that many countries are likely to suffer from water scarcity which will negatively affect their agricultural output (Nellemann et al. 2009). Forth, genetic improvements of crop varieties have been a mayor driver of the past green revolution. Such improvements can be achieved by traditional breeding or genetic engineering. The performance and ecology of several novel wheat varieties and lines that contain such genetic improvements will be the topic of this thesis.

Abstract

A hungry world
It will be one of mankind’s greatest challenges to feed the 9 billion people which are projected to populate our planet by 2050 (Godfray et al. 2010). Already today, it is difficult to meet the global demand for food. Consumption of grains and oilseeds has exceeded production in 7 out of 8 years since 2000 leading to the lowest food stock levels since 1970 (USDA 2008). Spiking food commodity prices made more than 1 billion people in the developing world suffer from hunger in 2008 (FAO 2009). After a brief phase of relieve, food prices in 2011 have again surpassed levels reached in 2008 and were a major cause of popular unrest (FAO 2011).
There are multiple reasons for this worrying development. On the consumption side, the world’s population grows by 200’000 hungry mouths everyday, but more importantly, we see sharply increasing demands for protein-rich food, especially in developing countries such as China and India. Furthermore, climate change politics and fossil fuel shortages foster the production of biofuels on lands previously used to grow food (USDA 2008). On the supply side, the annual growth rate in grain and oilseed production has been slowing from 2.2% between 1970 and 1990 to 1.3% since 1990 (USDA 2008). Yields of important staple crops such as wheat have reached a plateau or are even declining in Europe (Brisson et al. 2010) and the United States (Graybosch and Peterson 2010).
Similar to all other internationally traded commodities, prices for agricultural goods increase as soon as demand surpasses supplies. Higher food prices however, will not stop rich countries from importing fodder for their livestock or biofuels. It is mainly the people in the poor countries which are often dependent on food imports that will suffer most. To prevent catastrophic scenarios such as worldwide famines and refugee streams (Cribb 2010), either the demand for food needs to be lowered or the production increased. Furthermore, the distribution and availability of food needs to be improved. As mentioned above, population growth is one of the main drivers of food demand. Attempts to slow down population growth have been made, for example the One-Child policy in China, but it involved drastic violations of human rights. It has to be seen if more social ways can be found to reduce human fertility. The best and certainly healthiest option would be to reduce the world food demand by stop wasting food (Nellemann et al. 2009; Godfray et al. 2010) and limiting meat consumption in the industrialized countries (Vogel 2010). However, there are models that show that even if the industrial countries would cut their meat consumption by half, this would only marginally ease the hunger of the worlds poorest (Stokstad 2010). Ultimately, the world has to try to increase its food production somehow – at least until the population maximum is reached. Demand for food might increase by 70–100% during the next forty years (WorldBank 2007; Royal Society of London 2009). The following paragraph will explain how yields have been improved in the past and discuss factors limiting future efforts.

Need for second green revolution
Doubling the world’s food production is very difficult; however it has been done before. The so called “green revolution” allowed increasing the world grain production from 1 to 2 billion tons between 1960 and 2000 (Khush 2001). This major effort was possible due to the introduction of new, improved crop varieties that allowed higher fertilizer and pesticide input and the expansion of cropping area (Evenson and Gollin 2003). Unfortunately, the industrialisation of agriculture led to massive environmental problems (Tilman et al. 2001). One could argue that we need a second “green revolution” but this time, it needs to be sustainable.
Most of the ways used to increase agricultural production in the past were far from being sustainable and will meet severe limitations in the future: firstly, expansion of global agricultural land inevitably means clearing tropical forests and shrubland ecosystems (Gibbs et al. 2010). This leads to increasing greenhouse gas emissions and the loss of biodiversity and important ecosystem services. It is likely, that future environmental policies such as “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation” (REDD) will slow down agricultural expansion (Ghazoul et al. 2010). Secondly, more than half of the global food production increase was due to higher fertilizer and pesticide input and therefore dependent on fossil fuels or other non renewable resources (Cordell et al. 2009; Godfray et al. 2010). Since the production maxima for several non-renewable resources is predicted to peak in the near future (Heinberg 2005; Cordell et al. 2009) further intensification of agriculture might not be feasible. Third, 40% of the world’s food is currently grown on irrigated fields. However, climate change models predict that many countries are likely to suffer from water scarcity which will negatively affect their agricultural output (Nellemann et al. 2009). Forth, genetic improvements of crop varieties have been a mayor driver of the past green revolution. Such improvements can be achieved by traditional breeding or genetic engineering. The performance and ecology of several novel wheat varieties and lines that contain such genetic improvements will be the topic of this thesis.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Dissertation
Referees:Schmid B, Hector A
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2011
Deposited On:20 Mar 2012 08:36
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:44
Related URLs:http://opac.nebis.ch/F/?local_base=NEBIS&CON_LNG=GER&func=find-b&find_code=SYS&request=006958891

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