News: chicken feed, stress tolerant rice, shark overfishing

Chickens fed an enzyme have less phosphorus in their waste. Animals can not digest most of the phosphorus in their grain based feed because of the way it is tied up in the molecules phytate and phytic acid (which occur naturally in the grains fed to the chickens). The enzyme phytase lets the phosphorous molecules out of phytate and phytic acid, making them available for absorption into the gut. This could mean far less pollution resulting from CAFOs. The research was done on chicken farms in Delaware, where chickens produce more than 280,000 tons of waste per year. There are now 19 lbs of phosphorus per ton of poultry litter compared to 25-30 lbs/ton 5 years ago. “That reduction means that the phosphorus load to the environment has been reduced by some 2 million to 3 million pounds per year.” The enzyme could be produced very easily with transgenic E. coli, then mixed into feed. Another great example of a problem that could be solved with genetic engineering.

A grad student at U Arkansas has discovered a gene that controls stress tolerance in rice. This discovery has great potential in the transgenic arena – we need to develop extremely stress and drought resistant plants to keep up with global warming – traditional breeding may not be fast enough.
Another crisis of the seas: rising popularity of shark fin soup is causing declines of bivalves all over the world. Overfishing of sharks means an increase of rays, their natural prey. Rays eat oysters, clams, and scallops. Fishermen have reported decreases in catches of all three.

Written by Anastasia Bodnar

Anastasia Bodnar is a science communicator and science policy expert with a PhD in plant genetics and sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University. Anastasia has had various risk analysis roles in US government and military service. She serves as BFI's Director of Policy and as Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog.

2 comments

  1. Shark finning is so horrible… and it really needs to stop. I read that they are taking it off the Olympics menu, so the world doesn’t think poorly of them… if you KNOW that it’s wrong, why do you keep doing it? They will go right back to eating shark fin soup as soon as the olympics are over…

  2. Chris, we can only hope that some of these temporary changes become permanent. Maybe average Chinese people, the ones who choose to buy shark fin and rhinoceros horn and tiger bones, will start to realize that their choices affect the whole world. We can only hope.

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