Genetically modified crops are expanding worldwide, with total area planted expected to reach 50 million hectares this year. The total area planted in GM crops this year is 10 percent higher than last year, according to a global survey made by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).

?Despite the ongoing debate on GM crops, particularly in countries of the European Union, millions of large and small farmers in both industrial and developing countries continue to increase their plantings of GM crops,? the ISAAA says.

Clive James, chairman of ISAAA, says global GM crop areas have increased rapidly since 1996, when genetically modified crops were first grown commercially.

He says the rapid expansion of such crops reflects ?grower satisfaction due to the significant and multiple benefits of GM crops.?

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In one of the newest ‘benefits’ of GM crops, researchers have developed a type of watercress that lights up when it?s under stress. The thale cress is a small white-flowered plant that is widely used in genetics experiments because of its small number of chromosomes and short life cycle.

Researchers in the U.K. discovered that part of the plant seemed to react to stress, such as when it was attacked by bacteria or had its leaves torn. They took DNA from the plant and bonded it with that of a firefly. They then mixed it with a type of bacteria that attacks thale cress, and dipped the plants in it.

When the thale cress flowered and produced seeds, they grew into new plants that glow faintly whenever they are stressed, such as in poor light or with too much heat. However, the glow is so faint that the researchers can only see it by taking several photographs, one in the dark and one in ordinary light, and then comparing the images.

When you?re out driving at night, check the nearby farmers? fields to see if any of them are glowing. They may be calling for help.

For the Daily Telegraph’s story, click here.

Scientists have created the ultimate GM crop: contraceptive corn that also prevents transmission of a major sexual disease.

The pregnancy prevention plants were engineered by the San Diego biotechnology company Epicyte, where researchers have discovered a rare class of human antibodies that attack sperm. By isolating the genes that regulate the manufacture of these antibodies and putting them in corn plants, the company has created tiny horticultural factories that make contraceptives.

?We have a hothouse filled with corn plants that make anti-sperm antibodies,? says Epicyte president Mitch Hein. ?We have also created corn plants that make antibodies against the herpes virus, so we should be able to make a plant-based jelly that not only prevents pregnancy but also blocks the spread of sexual disease.?

Contraceptive corn is based on research on a rare condition called immune infertility, in which a woman makes antibodies that attack sperm. ?Essentially, the antibodies are attracted to surface receptors on the sperm,? says Hein. ?They latch on and make each sperm so heavy it cannot move forward. It just shakes about as if it was doing the lambada.?

Normally, biologists use bacteria to grow human proteins. However, Epicyte decided to use corn because plants have cellular structures that are much more like those of humans, making them easier to manipulate.

The company, which says it will not grow the corn near other crops, says it plans to launch clinical trials in a few months.

If you want to get pregnant, you?d better hope that no winds are blowing the GM corn seeds towards a field near you.

For the UK Observer’s story, 6903,548964,00.html,click here.

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