No-jab vaccines engineered into your food. Yes or No?

Plants now have the potential to manufacture vaccines. As reported by the Genetic Literacy Project, Prof George Lomonosoff at the John Innes Centre has found a way to hijack tobacco and turn its leaves into factories to produce polio-vaccines and this technology has the potential to be used to make vaccines for other viruses too. But is this a good thing?


Plant-based diets a ‘revolution and game-changer’ – not the latest fad.

Are plant-based diets the latest fad? Not according to Steven Walton, general manager of research firm HealthFocus International, speaking at the International Food Technology conference in Last Vegas on June 28, 2017.

“I believe that plant-based eating is a game-changing trend,” Mr Walton said, claiming the dietary trend to be more of a “revolution than an evolution”.


Challenge for Mediterranean diet: Young people in Mediterranean region eating more fast food

A leading advocate of the Mediterranean diet will discuss challenges for the diet’s uptake amongst millennials at the University of Queensland-hosted Global Leadership Seminar.

President of the International Foundation of the Mediterranean Diet Professor Lluis Serra-Majem will speak at the event in Brisbane in November.

“Young people in the Mediterranean region have been eating more processed, Western-style foods and meat than older generations,” said Professor Serra-Majem, also of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation project aims to boost food yields

Ethiopian technicians at the Melkassa Research Station making breeding crosses between sorghum lines. Photo: Professor David Jordan.

Ethiopian technicians at the Melkassa Research Station making breeding crosses between sorghum lines. Photo: Professor David Jordan.

The University of Queensland’s expertise in plant breeding has been recognised by a $3.8M grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to evaluate and improve breeding programs in developing countries.

UQ was selected to implement the Breeding Program Analysis Tool because of the university’s international reputation for excellence in plant breeding, particularly in tropical crops, and its experience in improving sorghum breeding in Ethiopia.

UQ School of Agriculture and Food Sciences project leader Dr Chris Lambrides said the project would identify ways of improving breeding programs, leading to greater genetic gains and on-farm profitability.

“This is a very exciting project because it will contribute to making a real difference to millions of resource-poor farmers worldwide,” Dr Lambrides said.

“We will be using the Breeding Program Analysis Tool developed by the Gates Foundation across key public sector plant breeding programs in Africa and Asia for sorghum, rice, maize, wheat, cowpea, chickpea, common bean, groundnut, yam, sweet potato, cassava, and banana.”

Project co-leader and UQ Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation researcher Professor David Jordan said very few organisations possessed the range of technical and applied breeding expertise of UQ and its partner, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Professor Jordan leads Australia’s sorghum pre-breeding program funded by the Grains Research Development Corporation.

“Sorghum is a great example of the gains that can be achieved by effective plant breeding even in difficult dryland cropping environments,” Professor Jordan said.

“Productivity gains from sorghum in Australia are the highest in the world.”

The Gates Foundation’s project involves developing a website to act as an information hub and encourage organisations to conduct self-assessments using the tools available online.

The project will review breeding programs in 11 key African and Asian geographic regions – Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Bangladesh and the Indian states Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh.

“We are investigating the possibility that in the future the tool will be made available to other donors and or interested parties at a reasonable cost,” Dr Lambrides said.

“Effective plant breeding is fundamental to improving farmer profitability and reducing risk.”

Media: Margaret Puls, m.puls@uq.edu.au, 0419 578 356.