Symbiota's News Update

5th Edition: 09/09/15

Dear Symbiota Team,

The purpose of this newsletter is to keep the team up to date on relevant articles in Ag, microbiome space, etc., as well as informed about any company related news.

Please feel free to send any articles / content you would like in the next edition! We also welcome and appreciate feedback. Send all content / feedback to:



Articles (click on the link below to be taken to the full article)


1) Bill Gates calls for more funds to help world's poorest farmers (The Guardian) - Suzanne Goldenberg reports that Bill Gates has called for more funds to help the world’s poorest farmers deal with climate change. The article notes he wants to direct efforts towards better water management, and research to develop seeds that are drought and pest-resistant.

2) The Agriculture Bubble Is Bursting: Corn, Pork & Beef Prices Will Sink With It (Forbes) Thomas Landstreet reports that we’re at the beginning of a multi year collapse in prices in the agriculture sector. The article cites a USDA report that states, “Crop receipts are expected to decrease by over 6 percent ($12.9 billion) in 2015, led by a forecast $7.1-billion decline in corn receipts, a $3.4-billion drop in soybean receipts, and a $1.6-billion drop in wheat receipts.”

3) Innovators and entrepreneurs will unlock Africa's agribusiness promise (Quatz) Calestous Juma reports The World Bank projects agriculture and agribusiness in Africa will grow to be a US $1 trillion industry by 2030. The article notes that with post-harvest activities taken into account, agriculture-related industry accounts for nearly half of all economic activity in sub-Saharan Africa.


4) Scientists Unearth a Trove of New Bacteria-Killing Viruses (Wired) – Shara Town reports that researchers have unearthed 12,500 new viruses in one go — the largest-ever addition to the viral family tree — by mining the genetic sequences of microbial hosts.


5) Syngenta Moves to Calm Disappointed Shareholders (Wall Street Journal) – John Revill reports that, in a move to appease shareholders angered by its rejection of a takeover from Monsanto, Syngenta will sell its global vegetable-seeds business and return more than $2 billion to shareholders.

6) The FDA Says That Hampton Creek Can't Call Its Product "Mayonnaise" (Bloomberg Business) – Anna Edney reports that the FDA sent Hampton Creek a warning letter stating it can’t refer to its sandwich spread as mayonnaise because it doesn’t contain eggs. The company, which calls itself “the world’s fastest growing food company,” has 15 days to respond to the letter.

7) There is literally a US government conspiracy against vegan mayo (Quartz) – Deena Shanker reports that the American Egg Board waged a campaign to counter the emergence of Hampton Creek's Just Mayo spread, and even tried to prevent its sale, according to documents provided through the Freedom of Information Act


8) California’s Crop Revenues Are Booming in Spite of the Drought (Time) – Nash Jenkins reports the drought has failed to hamper California’s agricultural sector, which drew in more than $33 billion in crop revenue in 2014: the second-highest ever recorded in the state. The study attributes the record profits to a shift toward higher value crops, as well as ‘unsustainable’ methods of groundwater pumping.

9) The Drought You Haven't Heard About Is Causing Crisis In Africa (Huffington Post)– Charlotte Alfred reports Africa’s worst drought in almost a decade has decimated agriculture in southern Africa, leaving 1 in 10 people in the region at risk of going hungry. The government expects rainfall in Zimbabwe to decline by 5 and 20 percent by 2050.


10) Monsanto’s super-broccoli shouldn’t scare you, but its plans for global vegetable domination might (Quartz) – Deena Shanker reports on Monsanto’s Beneforté broccoli, a super-broccoli that is bred to have higher levels of nutrients, and the company’s move to keep up with shifting consumer preferences for healthier foods. The article notes Monsanto is aiming for global vegetable domination, and is gaining control through intellectual property laws.

11) The Department of Agriculture is being sued for withholding information about GMOS (Business Insider) – Carey Gillam reports that the Center for Food Safety has sued the USDA, claiming it illegally withheld public information on GMOs. The article notes that the lawsuit accuses the agency of violating the Freedom of Information Act dozens of times and unlawfully withholding information for more than 13 years.

12) Can the Chinese Government Get Its People to Like G.M.O.s? (New Yorker) – Christina Larson reports the Chinese government is investing in research on GMO crops, due to crop yields being affected by climate change and other environmental stressors. The article notes, “For all of the government’s investment, genetically modified food faces zealous public opposition and is largely banned from the marketplace.”

13) Buying organic veggies at the supermarket is a waste of money (Quartz) – Deena Shanker states that buying organic produce is not worth the extra money. The article notes a recent study that found the premium markup on organic food is 29-32%, when only a 5-7% markup would be needed to break even. The article also notes that organic produce is not necessarily better for the environment, organic farms don't treat workers any better and there are few health benefits.


14) Novomer co-founders to be honored for business success

15) Investment in Watertown’s Selecta hints at growing interest from Genzyme, Sanofi

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