Latest Biotech News


USA - SCIENCE SAVES CHESTNUTS

Source: Wall Street Journal – 19 June 2019
A blight-tolerant American chestnut tree is the latest example of what the science community has begun to call a GRO—a genetically rescued organism. In the past century approximately four billion chestnut trees have been lost in the U.S. due to blight that spread when the Cryphonectria parasitica fungus arrived with chestnut trees imported from Asia. A once-dominant hardwood species is now rare.

NZ - GENE LAWS NEED UPDATE

Source: TV News Now (NZ) – 24 June 2019
There’s growing concern New Zealand will fall behind other countries unless the Government updates genetic modification laws. The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act hasn’t been changed since 1998. Plant and Food Research chief scientist Richard Newcomb is the latest to join the call for a public information campaign and discussion on gene editing, a technology that is more precise than previous genetic modification and doesn’t require the insertion of foreign DNA.

EU - MOST EUROPEANS HARDLY CARE ABOUT GMOS

Source: GMOinfo.eu – 19 June 2019

A special Eurobarometer survey report on food safety was published this month. It shows once again that the regularly promoted narrative that “90 per cent of Europeans are against GMOs” is bogus.


AUS - ‘PLANT FACTORIES’ FOR THE FUTURE

Source: ABC News, Rural – 19 June 2019
Scientists are exploring taking crops out of the field and growing them in warehouses to develop new varieties capable of feeding 10 billion people by 2050.

This research from The University of Queensland was featured in the journal Nature Biotechnology on 17 June 2019.


USA - GM REGULATIONS TO BE REVIEWED

07 June 2019. Source: Reuters

The US is planning to revise its regulations on importing, transporting and releasing GMOs, it told the World Trade Organization in a filing published on Friday. The proposal from the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the first comprehensive revision of the regulations since they were established in 1987, aims to reduce the regulatory burden to reflect advances in genetic engineering and better understanding of plant pest risks, it said.


NIGERIA - GM CROPS CAN BOOST YIELDS BY 20%

05 June 2019. Source: The Leadership Newspaper (Nigeria)

Dr Issoufou Kollo Abdourhamane, the project manager of African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) is interviewed on the health and environmental impact of GM crops and the economic importance of Pod-Borer Resistant (PBR) cowpea. The PBR Cowpea Project is a public private partnership coordinated by AATF to promote technological interventions that will optimise cowpea productivity and utilization in Sub-Saharan Africa. 


INT - GM CROPS, SOIL HEALTH AND CLIMATE CHANGE

30 May 2019. Source: ISAAA

A healthy agricultural production system cannot exist without healthy soils. Aside from being the habitat of diverse organisms that contribute to carbon sequestration, the soil plays a vital role in food production as well as in climate change mitigation. With biotech products such as herbicide tolerant crops, conservation practices have been used not just to the farmers’ advantage, but also to preserve soil health.


AUS - GENE TECH REGULATIONS TO BE UPDATED

21 May 2019. Source: Healthcare IT

The country’s regulations on gene technology are being updated to clarify the regulatory status of new genome editing techniques and provide additional benefits to cancer patients and the medical research community. The amendments will make it quicker and easier for medical researchers to do early proof of concept work and progress to clinical trials with patients, including work to identify genes involved in diseases. The regulation amendments had been made on behalf of the Legislative and Governance Forum on Gene Technology to make the legal position of genome editing clearer.


USA - GM CHESTNUT TREES

14 May 2019. Source: YouTube via Genetic Literacy Project.

Many Americans know the sad tale of how the American chestnut tree was driven almost to extinction in the 20th century. More important, chestnuts were food. An old rule of thumb was that the nuts from a single big chestnut tree could feed a family of four for a year. …The American Chestnut Foundation has been trying to revive the species since 1983 and plant scientists at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science & Forestry, in Syracuse, have used genetic engineering to splice a blight-resistance gene into American chestnut DNA. The result – a highly resistant American chestnut with many fewer “foreign” genes than the Chinese-American hybrids. These plants are intended to be released into forests as wild trees, so of course people want them to be as “natural” as possible. But agricultural chestnuts, meant to be grown in orchards, are another matter.


AUS - DO WE NEED GM CROPS?

16 May 2019. Source: Big Ideas, ABC Radio National

Genetic changes can make food crops more resistant to drought, pests and disease but some consumers will go out of their way to avoid genetically modified produce.Despite reassurance from GM scientists, the debate about GM food goes on. Tasmania has a moratorium on GM crops which is up for review in November. A scientist, a lawyer and an environmental advocate debate the pros and cons of GM agriculture.

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bigideas/do-we-need-gmo-crops/11115566


INT - NUTRIENT-BOOSTED CASSAVA

Source: American Council on Science and Health

In poor parts of the world, people may rely on a single staple crop to meet a substantial proportion of their energy requirements. Many denizens of Africa rely on cassava. The trouble with cassava, however, is that it is nutrient-poor. Partially as a result, iron and zinc deficiencies are common in Africa. Iron deficiency results in anemia, zinc deficiency in susceptibility to death by diarrhea, and each is also associated with impaired cognitive development. Breeding better varieties of cassava that absorb and store more of these nutrients is made difficult by a lack of genetic diversity. So, scientists have turned to biotechnology.


INT - 20+ YEARS OF DATA FOR ‘POWERFUL’ TOOL

Source: Genetic Literacy Project

Genetically engineered (GE) crops producing insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) (mainly Cry proteins) have become a major control tactic for a number of key lepidopteran and coleopteran pests, mainly in maize, cotton, and soybean.…Over the past 20+ years, extensive experience and insight have been gained through laboratory and field-based studies of the non-target effects of crops producing Cry proteins. Overall, the vast majority of studies demonstrates that the insecticidal proteins deployed today cause no unintended adverse effects to natural enemies.


AUS - FAKE NEWS THWARTS GENE TECH

Source: The Land

Fake news from powerful lobbies is thwarting the urgent access producers need to gene technologies to adapt to drought, flood and the myriad of other challenges climate change is throwing forward. This was the message delivered at a workshop of global economists and researchers dealing with agricultural and food policy, held in Melbourne. Dr Alison Van Eenennaam, from the University of California, said fear mongering around gene technologies was a far larger hindrance to the take-up of critical farming innovation than slow producer adoption.


AUS - WA INQUIRY SUPPORTS STATUS QUO

Source: Farm Online

A move by the Greens in Western Australia to bring in legislation protecting farmers in the wake of contamination by GM crops, is unlikely to progress. A parliamentary inquiry in WA found the current mechanisms in place to deal with compensation claims for farmers who believe they have suffered economic loss caused by contamination by genetically modified material are adequate.



USA - GOV RELEASES GM LABELING RULES

Source: Genetic Literacy Project

New disclosure requirements finalized by USDA for biotech foods will mandate the use of the term “bioengineered” while providing a key exemption for ingredients such as vegetable oils, sugar and other foods where the genetically altered DNA of the GMO crop can’t be detected. The requirements, which will be enforced starting in 2022, also will exempt foods that contain as much as 5 percent of a bioengineered ingredient that the manufacturer can prove was sourced as non-GMO. USDA released two symbols for bioengineered foods that companies can use on labels. One symbol is for products on which disclosure is required, while the other is for companies that want to label ingredients that are otherwise exempt from the rules. The symbols can be used in full color or black-and-white display.

For more, see: USDA Press Release