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Crop Biotech, Aquaculture, and Animal Agriculture: Identifying Trends, Concerns, and Best Practices

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Title: Crop Biotech, Aquaculture, and Animal Agriculture: Identifying Trends, Concerns, and Best Practices


1
Crop Biotech, Aquaculture, and Animal
AgricultureIdentifying Trends, Concerns, and
Best Practices
  • Ike Sharpless
  • Winslow Management Company
  • Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009

2
Overarching Trends
  • Labeling concerns COOL, GMs, Animal Welfare,
    Fair Trade, Certified Organic, etc, etc, etc
  • Corporate or government leadership shifting
    perspectives?
  • Inter- and intra-connectedness of agricultural
    crises
  • None of these issues can be discussed without
    understanding the role of the global food
    business and the agricultural supply chain

3
Labeling
  • Underlies a fundamental division in US-EU
    practices consumer right-to-know vs. agency
    stamp of approval
  • Labeling is often the preferred mechanism of
    control for industry groups, but it does not
    address a core problem that environmental
    concern expressed in polls and elsewhere often
    does not translate into behavior in terms of
    willingness to pay (WTP)

4
The Rise of CSR in the Food Business
  • Why does this matter?
  • 10 companies produce 40 of all the food we buy
    (and 40 companies produce 85)
  • 20-30 of product value comes from the farm the
    rest is food industry-value added
  • General trend towards corporate-environmental
    alliances
  • IKEA and Rainforest Alliance/WWF/FSC
  • Marriott and Conservation International
  • Myriad examples exist water, labor, health,
    animal welfare,

5
Agricultural BiotechnologyEvaluating the two
competing narratives
  • Fifteen years in the first transgenic crops were
    planted in 1996 (1st to be developed was
    Calgenes Flavr Savr tomato, developed in 1989)
  • Key lesson barring allergenicity and the risk of
    antibiotic resistance, GM foods are probably safe
    and healthy for human consumption the real risk
    is how their use fosters the uncritical
    acceptance of conventional agriculture generally
    and large-scale monocropping in particular

6
The Good Things (Biotech as Technofix)
  • Decreased total pesticide usage
  • Especially valuable in developing countries,
    where lax or nonexistent regulation encourages
    pesticide companies to export their products that
    are banned in the US/EU
  • Higher yields in easy to understand monocropped
    systems can (arguably) produce more food on less
    land
  • Only 10 of the worlds land surface is arable,
    and much of it is already overfarmed and on
    eroded soil
  • Has the potential to help with diseases and
    nutrition deficiencies that are systemic in much
    of the developing world
  • Phytoremediation, whereby plants detoxify
    pollutants in the soil or absorb and accumulate
    polluting substances out of the soil
  • May enable the development of more efficient
    grains for animal feed
  • Genomic mapping leads to further food safety
    opportunities

7
The Bad Things (Biotech as Frankenfood)
  • Agricultural biodiversity plummeting (hence the
    Svalbard Global Seed Vault)
  • From 40,000 rice strains in India to 250
  • Small farmers become entirely dependent upon
    corporate seeds (terminator technology)
  • Non-GMO seed producers suffer from crop
    contamination
  • Consumers lose right to choose (under US system,
    at least)
  • Works hand-in-hand with monocropping, stymieing
    polycultures
  • ecological theory predicts that as long as
    transgenic crops follow closely the pesticide
    paradigm prevalent in modern agriculture, such
    biotechnological products will do nothing but
    reinforce the pesticide treadmill in
    agroecosystems

8
The StarLink Debacle, circa 2000
  • StarLink corn approved for animal feed only (the
    largest US market for corn) due to potential
    human allergenicity, but found its way into a
    Taco Bell taco shells
  • Raised serious questions about segregation,
    traceability (required 660-foot buffer zone), and
    allergenicity
  • Subsequent FAO/WHO standards (2001) acknowledged
    the near impossibility of zero allergenicity risk
    due to the inability to prove a negative

9
Functional (and Pharma-) Foods
  • A functional food is technically any food with
    health-promoting claims or abilities
  • (Marketing) example yogurt
  • In the GM context
  • Golden Rice (rice with higher carotenoid levels)
  • Crops enriched with Vitamin E, folate, high
    protein content in the form of Lysine
  • Hypoallergenic soy and rice exist, and wheat is
    being developed
  • Pharma foods are being developed that may help
    prevent or cure diseases such as cholera and
    diarrhea

10
What are the drawbacks
  • A potential contributor to increased pest
    resistance and the development of superbugs
  • Opposed on GM grounds
  • Viewing food solely as the sum of their
    micronutrients robs them of their whole food
    value (Pollans critique of nutritionists)
  • Evidence of nutrient uptake is unclear
  • Corn/lime Mayan nixtamalization example
  • Positive example from Dartmouth researchers re.
    higher-calcium carrots

11
Pharm Animals
  • In February 2009, the FDA ruled safe a herd of
    goats containing ATryn, an intravenous
    anti-clotting drug extracted from their milk for
    a fraction of the pharmaceuticals production
    price. These goats are the first such GM animal
    to be approved in the US.
  • ATryn is the brand name of anticoagulant
    antithrombin as manufactured by
    Massachusetts-based GTC Biotheraputics
  • Although groups like the Humane Society of the
    United States (HSUS) oppose GM animals on
    principle because of their mechanistic nature,
    there have been no animal-welfare related harms
    associated with ATryn to date

12
Hardier Crops
  • CEO of Performance Plants Incorporated said in
    2008 that drought resistant oilseed rape and
    maize will be on the market in four years
  • Snorkel rice takes the snorkel genes in
    flood-tolerant rice and introduces them to
    higher-yield rice
  • Crops able to grow with less water or in
    conditions of high salinity have been in the
    pipeline for the last decade, with little
    tangible gain (such as Water Efficient Maize for
    Africa (WEMA)
  • Hugh Grant, Monsantos CEO, acknowledged when
    talking to an HBS class of mine that it was
    probably a PR mistake on the companys part to
    focus solely on proprietary crops (Bt/RoundUp) at
    the expense of humanitarian technologies

13
Innovations in Crop Agriculture
  • New (non-soy) sources of protein synthesis
  • Algae
  • Grain crops
  • In vitro meat
  • Leaf protein extraction
  • Mycofungi
  • lupins
  • The marketability of non-transgenic but biotech
    borderline methods to GM-skeptical audiences
    (best example hybrid corn in the 1920s)
  • Seed coating
  • marker-assisted breeding
  • Genomic selection
  • Other innovations
  • Controlled release fertilizers

14
Algae
  • Like in vitro meat, Algae is hampered by the
    yuck factor
  • While distinct from algal biofuel, food algae
    could be a potential co-product of fuel algae
  • The biggest recent player in the fuel algae game
    is Exxon Mobile, who partnered with Synthetic
    Genomics Inc. in July 2009 to invest 600 million
    in Algal fuels
  • Up with cellulosic ethanol as an in process
    technology rather than an existing one seems to
    me like it needs much more attention. Algae has
    the added advantage of being able to capture
    fertilizer runoff, thus potentially preventing
    oceanic eutrophication
  • Has the added advantage of possibly creating food
    as a co-product of fuel, most likely for animal
    feed in the form of pellets

15
Seed Coating
  • LandecAgs intellicoat (above)
  • ... is an agricultural technology company that
    specializes in temperature-activated seed
    coatings.
  • PlantTechs agristrike (below)
  • PlantTech is the largest Australian field crop,
    canola and pasture Seed Company, with an
    unsurpassed product range of leading proprietary
    cereal, oilseed, pasture, pulse and forage
    varieties, plus access to a comprehensive range
    of public varieties.
  • Other developments of note Plant Health Care
    Inc.s Myconate and Harpins technology (see ppt
    in notes)
  • Lesson neither of these companies appear at all
    green, but the technology does have various
    potential green applications.
  • It can greatly reduce insect pest, protect the
    environment, save the seeds (about 1/3 seeds),
    increase the output of crops (increase by 10-40)
    and promote the development of seeds project.

16
Genomic Selection
  • Using genomic selection for marker-assisted
    breeding, crop and animal breeders can select
    desirable alleles without actual gene splicing
  • "some of the most potent objection to transgenics
    actually has to do with the increase in market
    power that went along with some of the input
    companies. Genomic selection and marker-assisted
    breeding have exactly the same kind of economic
    power implications, if no more so, as
    transgenics. People who are upset about
    transgenics but think marker-assisted breeding is
    okay are just incredibly naive."
  • Paul Thompson (U. of Michigan), in a phone
    interview

17
Aquaculture and Fisheries
  • -Key Lesson the barriers to international
    cooperation on sustainable fisheries, and the
    high substitutability of consumer preferences for
    fish products, indicates that the most short-term
    progress can be made in improving fish farming
    practices, especially in China (with many
    caveats).

18
Global Fisheries Crisis
  • On current course, collapse of all major
    fisheries by 2050. (Science, Nov. 8)
  • Tragedy of the commons / collective action
    problem (the regulators want to support their
    fishermenthey dont get elected by cutting back)
  • The problem of bycatch
  • Growing appetites
  • Shark Finning example

19
Capture Fisheries
  • Divisible by fishing area, gear and the main
    target species
  • North Sea herring purse seine fishery
  • Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawl fishery
  • southern ocean Patagonian toothfish longline
    fishery.
  • Some gear and species are inherently more
    unsustainable than others
  • Bottom trawling
  • Very long-lived species

20
Bycatch and Bottom Trawling
  • Bycatch
  • Wild-caught shrimp catches up to 10 pounds of
    discarded sea life for every pound of shrimp
  • All major fisheries catch large amounts of
    bycatch, whether trawl, purse seine, or longline.
  • The problem is especially bad in illegal,
    unreported and unregulated (IUU) fisheries in
    developing countries
  • Bottom Trawling
  • The image to the right is of the Gulf of Mexico,
    captured by the Landsat satellite in late 1999,
    which shows the sediment trails left behind by
    individual ships (the bright spots) - a testament
    to the utter devastation the practice exerts on
    vast seafloor ecosystems.

21
A case study in collapse
  • The North Atlantic Cod fishery has collapsed
    precipitously
  • The solution (would have been) honest assessment
    maximum sustainable yield with proper
    enforcement

22
The Insidious Role of Branding
  • Thanks to clever marketing, previously
    unpalatable fishes are becoming desirable
    delicacies which are fished (often illegally)
    using ecologically devastating bottom trawling
    methods.
  • Which sounds better
  • Orange roughy, or slimefish?
  • Chilean Sea Bass, or Patagonian toothfish?

23
The Need for Intergovernmental Oversight
  • Fish tend not to care about 15-mile territorial
    waters or 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zones
    (EEZs) as established by the 1982 UN Convention
    on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This makes
    transboundary intergovernmental oversight a must
  • 64 of the worlds ocean is international waters
    of that, 3/4ths is unmanaged
  • In 1995 there were more than 1.2 million decked
    fishing vessels in the world, up from just fewer
    than 600,000 in 1970.
  • much of this growth is government subsidized,
    which results in excess capacity and thus low
    margins for industry fishermen, who then have
    incentives to fish more.

24
Marine Stewardship Council
  • Founded in 1996 as Unilever/WWF collaboration
  • Founding mission to work for sustainable
    marine fisheries by promoting responsible,
    environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial
    and economically viable fisheries practices,
    while maintaining the biodiversity, productivity,
    and ecological processes of the marine
    environment.
  • (Relative) success stories
  • Dolphin-safe tuna
  • Give Swordfish a Break Campaign pledge
  • Wild Alaskan salmon fisheries certification
  • Unlike the issue-specific and tangible cases of
    dolphins and swordfish, however, the MSC
    eco-label covers fish ranging from frozen cod in
    Britain to Alaskan Salmon to a range of other
    regulated marine capture fisheries
  • as of October 2008, there are nearly 2,000
    seafood products with the MSCs seal of approval

25
The Keys to Sustainable Wild Caught
  • As the MSC and other cases indicate, the problem
    isnt that people dont know how to work towards
    sustainable fisheries. Barring a lack of
    scientific knowledge about the sea (out of
    sight, out of mind), they do. The problem,
    rather is a lack of political will and legal
    authority combined with a collective action
    problem relating to an exhaustible public good
  • That said, these are the things that work
  • restrictions on gear like nets so that smaller,
    younger fish can escape
  • limits on the total allowable catch (although
    maximum sustainable yield can be very hard to
    determine Alaskan Pollock and NMFS ex.)
  • closing some areas to fishing
  • certifying fisheries as sustainable
  • offering shares of the total allowable catch to
    each person who fishes in a specified area.
  • Work with existing national and international
    legal jurisdictions to maximize utility

26
Growth of Aquaculture
  • Key lesson for better or for worse, aquaculture
    is the only way to prevent oceanic collapse
    barring a decline in demand for seafood (which
    doesnt look likely). The logical conclusion is
    to make sure fish farming is done as well as
    possible.

27
Why especially in China?
28
Why Tilapia?
  • Large size, rapid growth, omnivorous diet, high
    stocking density tolerance, no planktonic phase
  • GIFT Tilapia
  • GIFT, or Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia,
    grows 60 per cent faster and has a 50 per cent
    higher survival rate to adulthood than the
    original fish. Sometimes also known as the Super
    Tilapia, the fish was developed through vigorous
    selection-breeding programs -- the first time a
    tropical food fish has been improved using such
    methods. The fish used to breed GIFT was the Nile
    tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus).

29
HQ Sustainable Maritime Industries
  • Exports tilapia to US, Korea, Japan, and Mexico
    from its facilities in Hainan, China
  • Mission statement
  • To bring quality to every aspect of HQ's
    vertically integrated aquatic products business.
  • To lead China in penetrating world seafood
    markets.
  • Increase profitability through the introduction
    of zero-toxin products while respecting the
    environment and communities in which it works.
  • Best Aquaculture Practices Certified (potentially
    problematic see next slide but is currently
    the only major standards-setting organization for
    aquaculture

30
Best Aquaculture Practices
  • Implemented by the Aquaculture Certification
    Council (ACC) of the Global Aquaculture Alliance
    (GAA)
  • The ACC is a process certification currently
    certifies shrimp hatcheries, shrimp, tilapia and
    channel catfish farms and seafood processing
    plants to include shrimp, channel catfish and
    tilapia.
  • Although ostensibly independent, the GAA is
    effectively an industry consortium. According to
    Food and Water Watch, Their process combines
    annual site inspections and effluent sampling,
    but allows for certain use of antibiotics and
    chemicals. Although GAAs standards are more
    measurable than most others, they have received
    criticism from several organizations, including
    the Mangrove Action Project and Environmental
    Justice Foundation, for flawed standards that
    fail to adequately protect mangrove ecosystems.

31
Examples of conflicting preferences organic fish
and sustainable tuna
  • Whereas fish feed is usually 50 fishmeal (which
    can be made from unsold fish and fish offal, or
    small whole fish) and 50 grain, organic salmon
    must use fishmeal from sustainable fisheries
    intended for human consumption.
  • Clean Seas Tuna, Ltd. is trying to breed southern
    bluefin tuna, which is being massively overfished
    to satisfy demand for fatty tuna in sushi. They
    are also developing wheat pellets to feed their
    marine-caged tuna. This is a stopgap measure in
    the sense that it is responding to market demand
    rather than trying to reshape demand.

32
Marine or Freshwater Aquaculture?
  • Harder to regulate generally than freshwater
    aquaculture
  • More likely to cause disease transference to wild
    species
  • However, some species can only be farmed in
    marine systems
  • Freshwater aquaculture is generally better than
    marine aquaculture, as most of the fish raised
    are herbivorous (carp, tilapia)

33
Organic Shrimp
  • Shrimp is the most popular seafood in the US
  • Shrimp farming destroys up to 30 of the worlds
    coastal coastal mangrove forests
  • It requires 2 lbs of fishmeal and squid to yield
    one lb of shrimp
  • EcoCamaronera Bahiathe worlds first certified
    organic shrimp farmpractices mangrove-friendly
    methods in Ecuador, as does Biocentinela.
  • Like all shrimpers in Ecuador, both are at heavy
    risk for white spot disease
  • OceanBoy farms is an inland marine shrimp farm in
    Florida that has ACC organic shrimp certification
    and USDA organic seafood certification (the first
    to get it).
  • They have a very high ration of shrimp per foot,
    but they pump in extra oxygen and clean the water
    frequently. There is a higher risk for disease if
    poorly managed, but is otherwise a fruitful model

34
The Role of GM Fish AquAdvantage Salmon
  • AquAdvantage salmon, developed by Aqua Bounty
    Farms
  • Aqua Bounty is developing advanced-hybrid
    salmon, trout, and tilapia designed to grow
    faster than traditional fish. AquAdvantage
    Salmon (AAS) reach market size twice as fast as
    traditional salmon. This advancement provides a
    compelling economic benefit to farmers (reduced
    growing cycle) as well as enhancing the economic
    viability of inland operations, thereby
    diminishing the need for ocean pens. AAS are also
    reproductively sterile, which eliminates the
    threat of interbreeding amongst themselves or
    with native populations, a major recent concern
  • The company has spent more than a decade chasing
    regulatory approval from the FDA, but FDA
    officials have reportedly said it is coming
    soon, especially in light of the recent
    pharmed goats ruling.

35
Solutions (Aquaculture)
  • Greater independence for certification bodies
  • The largest certification body to date, the
    Global Aquaculture Alliances Best Aquaculture
    Practices, is probably too caught up with fishing
    interests to provide a neutral assessment of
    environmental and other impacts
  • Supporting feed inputs other than wild-caught
    fishmeal
  • Ento-protein progress by Neptune Industries
    using insects rather than fish to provide feed
    proteinthe company itself, however, may be a
    poor investment
  • Algae pellets
  • Traditional Chinese aquaculture (4,000 years old)
  • Rears herbivorous and carnivorous species in the
    same pond using plants to serve as food
    (eliminates fishmeal and is ecosystem-based
    approach integrated multi-trophic
    aquaculture).
  • This model can also use ducks/chickens in an
    integrated system where their poop makes algae
    for the fish to eat (so that you only have to
    feed the chickens and you get two crops) but
    not done on a large scale

36
Solutions (Consumer)
  • Support
  • farmed herbivorous species consumption tilapia,
    bream, carp and catfish with BAP certification or
    (better yet) Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch
    approval
  • Ex) the 2009 Northeast Seafood watch endorses US
    farmed tilapia as best choices, South American
    farmed tilapia as good alternatives, and Asian
    farmed tilapia as to avoid
  • small marine capture species consumption
    sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring, etc.
  • Reputable certified wild carnivorous fish

37
Impediments
  • Tight profit margins are not easily amenable to
    large scale modification of practices, creating
    disincentives to change towards more sustainable
    programs (or, as one of my professors said, the
    numbers tend to cut down your options
  • The sustainable fish are often not the
    much-touted Omega 3-rich fish (they are, however,
    lower down the food chain and are thus lower in
    PCB and Mercury contamination levels).
  • The nature of global fisheries oversight is a
    classic case of market failure, with overfishing
    causing some sectors to go through a Hubbert
    curve not unlike that of peak oil.
  • In many cases, the demand for seafood is
    voracious and indiscriminate, particularly in the
    Chinese delicacy market

38
Animal Agriculture
  • Types of Concerns
  • Environmental
  • Labor Practices
  • Human Health
  • Animal Welfare

39
A Ridiculously Short History of Conventional
Agriculture
  • The Haber-Bosch Nitrogen fixing process
    quintuples the available ammonia supply for crops
    in 1909
  • Dramatically changes the global Nitrogen cycle,
    which is only beginning to be properly understood
  • To make a long story short leftover munitions
    and biological agents (i.e., nitrogen and
    phosphorous) after WWII become fertilizer and
    pest/herbicides, which along with govt. crop
    subsidies make CAFOs economically viable
  • Earl Butz appointed Secretary of Agriculture by
    Nixon get big or get out
  • Vertical integration, economies of scale, and
    globally provisioned supply chains (following
    market liberalization)

40
The Livestock Revolution
  • A structural change, termed the livestock
    revolution, is taking place around the world but
    with particular intensity in East Asia
  • Multinational supermarket and fast food chain
    expansion creates demand for streamlined
    intensive meat production
  • The availability of cheap course grain on
    international markets has increased the global
    CAFO focus on monogastric animals like chicken
    and hogs
  • At current rates, Global meat/milk demand to
    double within 50 years
  • 80 of current growth in industrial systems
  • Developing countries overtook developed countries
    in meat production in 1996

41
Niman Ranch a case study in the problematic
economics of happy meat
  • The original provider of humane meat to Chipotle
    Market Grill
  • Bill Niman was forced to sell his share in
    Natural Food Holdings LLC, and he now boycotts
    Niman Ranch for their transport to slaughter and
    microbial use policies
  • The net effect until a consumer market exists
    that is willing to capture the various extra
    costs of humane meat, it wont be profitable in
    the US

42
Solutions
  • As with crop biotech, the solutions fall into
    two categories those that address Berrys
    original concern (fundamental solutions), and
    those that work within the confines of
    conventional agriculture (stopgap solutions).
    Both should be applauded, especially if
    fundamental change appears unlikely, but in the
    long term technofixes are unlikely to solve many
    of the food industrys systemic environmental
    problems.
  • Solutions can be further subdivided into
    governmental (and intergovernmental) solutions,
    producer solutions, and consumer solutions

43
Stopgap solutions
  • Animal ag solution
  • Define CAFOs as point sources under the CWA (in
    process see law blog link)
  • Carbon solution
  • Changing animals feed or developing transgenic
    animals that fart/burp less or better
  • ex adding 2 fish oil to cows feed may reduce
    methane emissions by 20
  • Aquaculture solution
  • Breeding tuna
  • Eutrophication solution
  • Controlled-release fertilizers
  • Biotech solution
  • Drought-resistant GM crops

44
Fundamental Solutions
  • Changing our diets
  • Understanding how the second law of
    thermodynamics should impact our food choices
  • Changing farm policy at national levels
  • In the US, ending commodity support for corn and
    soy and prioritizing sustainable fruit and
    vegetable growth
  • Internationally, greater collaboration and focus
    on population, understanding the oceans, and IP
    reform (this list could go on and on)

45
Recap of Key Lessons
  • Biotech
  • GM foods are probably here to stay, but global
    agriculture still requires a paradigm shift to
    become truly sustainable
  • Fisheries/Aquaculture
  • Aquaculture needs an independent ecolabeling and
    certification organization like that of the MSC
    to supplement the industry-influenced GAA
  • A much greater emphasis on restaurant dining is
    required, given the high proportion of seafood
    eaten in restaurants
  • Animal Ag
  • Beyond all of the environmental and human health
    concerns, much higher levels of consumer
    information are required to prevent market
    failure

46
Companies and Practices to Watch
  • Companies
  • GTC Biotherapeutics
  • Performance Plants Incorporated
  • New Harvest
  • Plant Health Care Inc.
  • In Vitro Meat Consortium
  • HQ Sustainable Maritime Industries
  • OceanBoy Farms
  • Biocentinela
  • Clean Seas Tuna, Ltd.
  • Neptune Industries (Aqua Biologics)
  • Aqua Bounty Farms
  • Niman Ranch / CMG
  • Practices
  • Crop Agriculture
  • Controlled Release Fertilizer
  • Drought-resistant crops
  • Feed
  • In vitro meat
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