In 1996, the first genetically modified crop (GMc) was a commercialization of the "Flavr Savr" tomato, that had longer shelf life. During the last 20 years, an accumulated 2 billion hectares of Gmcs have been grown commercially in 30 countries by 18 million farmers. The four major GMcs are: soybean, maize, cotton, and canola, harboring herbicide tolerance, insect resistance and virus resistance.
In 2015, Vietnam commercialized its first biotech crop, maize, for field trials and in 2016 farmers adopted the technology in 35,000 hectares.During the class we reviewed the main GMcs, their biological basis, modes of action and the “pros and cons" of this approach.BT in maize and cotton- insect resistance that was achieved by expressing a bacterial gene encoding a toxin.
‘Round Up’ in soybean- herbicide tolerance that was achieved by inserting a herbicide resistance gene from bacteria. Ring Spot Virus resistance in papaya- example of a GMc that has resistance to a virus and the economic power of it in Hawaii. Golden rice- a variety of rice that produces the precursor for Vitamin A. This rice was meant to produce a fortified food to be grown and consumed in areas with a shortage of dietary Vitamin A.
The class ended with discussion about all the known benefit and risks of GMcs. During this part especially, the students showed interest and mentioned that they heard about debate over GMcs at their university.
We ended the class with a mention of new and exciting developments in GMcs and the message that GMcs are the most controversial and studied fields in agriculture and it gives the students the opportunity to make their one mind about it.
Later that day, we took a Tour at Michal Segoli’s lab at the Albert Katz International School for Desert Studies
The trip started at the desert ecology department with a review of the main research at this department. Later on, we entered Segoli’s lab and examined the equipment, ongoing research and preliminary results of two studies on beneficial insects in agriculture:
- Weed control in wheat, tomato and grapes: The research examines the influence of weed control on beneficial insects in the field. With the student, we used the microscope to look at the insect populations and identified the pests and the beneficial insects.
- Symbiosis between weevil beetle and desert plants: this research examines the relationship between weevils that build their homes on the roots of desert plants. At that time we looked at the molecular biology tools we use to extract the larval DNA and examine it to determine which weevil is it.
After talking a lot about science we walked to the Tomb of David and Paula Ben-Gurion to enjoy the view of the Tzin valley and took many pictures. The students all know now who Ben-Gurion was, and his special love for the Negev
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