Latest Biotech News


Source:  The Medical Republic – 29 September 2016

Global agricultural giant Monsanto has signed a licensing deal with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to use CRISPR-Cas genome-editing technology to help develop new seeds and crop improvements. CRISPR is a technology used to edit DNA by snipping specific parts of the genetic code so as to modify the characteristics of an organism. For Monsanto, this means being able to integrate specific genes into a plant’s seeds as well as enhancing beneficial, or removing undesirable, plant characteristics so that plant breeders can deliver better hybrids and varieties more efficiently.



Source: Stock Journal (SA) – 29 September 2016

The state government claims its GM-free status, combined with overseas demand for non-GM foods and crops, could provide a huge economic benefit for SA. A University of Adelaide study, commissioned by the government, found there was growing demand in four export markets – particularly the United States and China – for ‘naturally healthy’ foods with non-GM ingredients.

Grain Producers SA, who want SA croppers to be given the choice on GM afforded to other mainland growers, said the report had not identified any price premiums being achieved for SA graingrowers to show the benefit of remaining GM-free. They said there were a number of agronomic benefits associated with growing GMs that SA croppers were missing out on.



Source: Farm Industry News – 20 September 2016

It’s not news that Patrick Moore is frustrated with the folks at Greenpeace…

And all of his focus now is on Golden Rice. During the Agricultural Bioscience International Conference being held in Fargo this week, Moore took on the notion of anti-GMO activists; but his core cause is Golden Rice….

In fact, he’s created a movement – Allow Golden Rice Now – in opposition to the efforts to stop the crop. “They’re linking Golden Rice with death, which scares parents into not wanting the technology developed, and they’re still doing this today,” Moore says. It was those efforts, and the fact that no one was actively campaigning in favor of the technology that led Moore to create the group supporting development of the crop.



Source: Sustainable Agriculture Innovations & Food (Canada) – 20 September 2016

Australia approved GM canola in 2003. However, by 2004 a moratorium was implemented across Australia against growing GM canola. It wasn’t until 2008 when the central canola producing states, New South Wales and Victoria, lifted the moratorium, followed by Western Australia in 2010….

The adoption delay of GM canola production has cumulatively resulted in [amongst other things] the application of an additional 6.5 million kg of chemicals…and Australian farmers lost the opportunity to increase their farm revenues by $485 million


Source: The Financial Express (India). 10 September 2016

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has cleared genetically-modified (GM) mustard as safe for human and animal consumption. While the environment ministry will take a final call on whether GM mustard should be declared safe for commercial cultivation, the clearance can pave the way for field trials of other GM crops like rice, brinjal and wheat.

In 2014, the Centre had put field trials of 15 genetically modified crops on hold even after the GEAC had recommended that they be allowed for rice, brinjal, chickpea and mustard…


Source: AquaBounty 31 August 2016

Activists have opposed improved food production from genetically modified (GM) species in spite of the substantial benefits they provide, and the lack of credible evidence that they represent a risk to health.

Nevertheless, their energetic advocacy has had some success, most recently in Nova Scotia.

Columnist Doug Saunders, in the May 21 Globe and Mail, sharply rebuked those who seek to prevent the use of any food grown using GM seeds. He gives an example in Kenya where an ill-informed but now reversed choice to ban GM seeds resulted in preventable crop losses during a drought. He concludes:

 “This week, the National Academy of Sciences released a mammoth study, by a large team of respected scientists who have no agribusiness involvement, which studied 20 years of Western cultivation and consumption of GM crops. It found absolutely zero health or nutritional differences between conventional and genetically altered crops in any form of food, or any possibility of health hazards in GM-developed hybrids.”


Source: The Weekly Times – 20 July 2016

All moratoriums on genetically modified crops should be scrapped as there in “no justification” for the bans, a new Productivity Commission report argues.

And state governments should relinquish their power to impose such moratoriums, leaving regulation solely to the national regulator.

The Federal Government’s independent economic think tank today released for public comment its draft report into regulation in Australian agriculture, including all aspects of GM technology.

It says NSW, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and the ACT should all lift their moratoriums on GMOs, arguing there are no economic or health reasons for them…


08 July 2016. Source: The Conversation

Genetically modified crops are safe for human consumption and have the potential to feed the world and improve human health, scientists have been telling us for years.

On June 30, 110 Nobel laureates from around the world signed a letter demanding that the environmental pressure group Greenpeace stop its campaign against GM crops. How many people must die before we consider this a “crime against humanity”? the letter asks…

The eminent scientists appear to have learned little about opposition to GM crops over the last 20 years. Social science research suggests they are misinformed and their approach is misguided. Opposition to GM crops is not always based exclusively on scientific risks and benefits and neither is it grounded in emotion or dogma. To characterise opposition in this way only serves to inflame the relations between proponents and opponents. It is therefore unlikely to help us realise the potential of GM crops in feeding the world.


06 July 2016. Source: The Land

…The NXT [Nick Xenophon Team]’s crop biotech policy says farmers and consumers should have the right to say no to GM while demanding government play a continued role supporting research into long-term effects on human and plant health.

However, SA farmers want the State government to move beyond political posturing and fear campaigns to support widespread scientific understanding about the safety of Genetically Modified crops like canola and end its moratorium on commercial production. They want farmers to access crop biotechnology; especially given federal regulators have long-approved products like GM canola as being safe to human health and the environment.

Federally, Labor and the Coalition both support GM crops as does the NFF while the Greens continue to apply a precautionary principle, despite leader Richard Di Natale admitting that, as a former doctor, he supports the science of genetic modification.


07 July 2016. Source: Farm Weekly (WA)

The Labor Party will “transition away” from allowing GM crops to be grown in WA if it wins the 2017 State election.

Following the passing of the 2015 Genetically Modified Crops Free Areas Repeal Bill through the lower house of Parliament last week, Shadow Agriculture Minister Mick Murray and Agricultural Region MLC Darren West clarified Labor’s position on GM crops. Mr West said the government had failed to address issues about contamination following the Marsh vs Baxter case as well as community concerns on glyphosate resistance, correct labelling of GM crops and the overall safety of GM foods.


07 July 2016. Source: Farm Weekly (WA)

The 2015 Genetically Modified (GM) Crops Free Areas Repeal Bill is one step closer to passing, with the WA Legislative Council voting on the legislation last week. The bill passed 18 votes to 9…

If the bill passes the parliament, the decision to grow GM crops in WA will revert to the national Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR), which is responsible for administering permits to grow GM crops in Australia.


Source: ABC Rural. 29 June 2016

The Labor Party in Western Australia is reconsidering its long-held policy position to transition WA out of genetically modified (GM) crops if it wins power at the state election in March.

In a major backflip, Labor’s Shadow Agriculture Minister Mick Murray said it was time for the party to be practical about the future of GM technology in WA, and look at ways for GM and non-GM crops to co-exist, rather than becoming GM-free.

“We have a policy position as anti-GM. We understand now that with GM canola already out there, you just can’t turn the switch off,” Mr Murray said.

The comments follow Tuesday’s passage of the GM Crops Free Areas Repeal Bill through the upper house of State Parliament.

The bill now has to make its way through the lower house, which should occur when Parliament resumes after the winter break.

According to both sides of government, the passage of the bill now seems a fait accompli….


21 June 2016. Source: ABC Rural.

A science communicator has blamed decisions made two decades ago for why consumers have been slow to accept genetically modified foods.

Consultant Dr Craig Cormick said GM was pitched too heavily at farmers and companies, rather than consumers when it was first marketed 20 years ago.

He said while the majority of Australians neither supported nor rejected GM foods, with the debate largely happening at polar ends of the spectrum.

“About 15 per cent are at either end, we call them the ‘polar bears’, who say they either ‘never ever eat GM food’ or ‘GM is fine, there’s nothing wrong with it’

“The rest, 60 to 70 per cent of the public we call the penguins because they move around a bit depending on the issue or the topic, tend to say ‘it’s OK if you prove it’s safe,’ or ‘OK if you prove it’s regulated’.”


15 June 2016. Source: Media release, ATSE

Numerous, credible scientific reports about the safety of new food technologies, such as genetic engineering, will not see the technology embraced because scientific evidence does not necessarily change attitudes.

This is the message of Dr Craig Cormick, a leading science communicator who will be addressing community attitudes to new food technologies at the 2016 ATSE National Technology Challenges Dialogue: Agribusiness 2030 being held on 15 and 16 June in Sydney. It will bring together Australia’s top agriculture and agribusiness leaders and innovators from research, industry and government including Professor Alan Finkel AO FAA FTSE – Australian Chief Scientist, Ms Alison Watkins – Group Managing Director of Coca-Cola Amatil and Dr John Manners – Director of CSIRO Agriculture.

“Arguing about the validity of the science behind new food technologies is about as effective in changing attitudes as taunting and name calling,” said Craig, who has faced plenty of taunting and name calling as his academic and professional careers have centred on public acceptance of contentious science and technologies such as biotechnology and nanotechnology.

“Attitudes that were not formed by logic and facts are not influenced by logic and facts.” He explained that when presented with information that is complex, people tend to make emotionally-based judgements, driven by values or worldviews, and any information that doesn’t align with their values or worldviews tends to be rejected or dismissed.

“Scientific evidence has very little impact on anyone who already holds a strong belief that a technology, such as biotechnology, is not safe,” he said.

“Social research shows that tendencies towards conspiracy theories are strong predictors for anti- GM positions.

“Studies have shown that worldviews and beliefs, rather than age, gender, or other standard demographics, are better predictors of people’s attitudes to GM foods, climate change, vaccination, fluoridation or to science and technology (S&T) in general.

“We can see this played out in the seemingly contradictory positions of some members of the community. For instance, people with strong values on the sanctity of nature demand we respect the science on climate change, but then advocate we reject the science on genetically-modified crops. Meanwhile people with strongly pro-development values tend to demand we respect the science on GM crops, but advocate that we reject the science on climate change.

“People, however, are receptive to messages that align with their values. If you can identify people’s values and then frame a message to align with those values, you have a much higher chance of not having your message rejected out of hand,” he said….



Economic report signals end for GM barriers

The Land – 06 June 2016

RESULTS of a new economic report, showing Genetically Modified crops have increased farmer incomes by $1.37 billion in Australia since 1996 while drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions, reinforces why unnecessary State-based moratoria should end, supporters say.

An independent report released today by Graham Brookes of UK-based PG Economics says in the past 20-years, Australian cotton and canola farmers have gained $1.37b worth of extra income and produced an additional 226,000 tonnes of canola that would otherwise have not been produced, if conventional technology was used.

It also said GM crop technology has enabled Australian farmers to reduce their use of insecticides and herbicides by 22 million kilograms of active ingredient, equal to a 26 per cent improvement in the environmental impact associated with pesticide use on the two crops.

“This reduced use of pesticides has also resulted in a saving of nearly 27 million litres of fuel use and 71.5 million kilograms less carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere,” it said.