Latest Biotech News


USA - GM PLANTS WITH GROWTH BOOSTED BY 40%

Source: BBC News

Scientists in the US have engineered tobacco plants that can grow up to 40% larger than normal in field trials. The researchers say they have found a way of overcoming natural restrictions in the process of photosynthesis that limit crop productivity. They believe the method could be used to significantly boost yields from important crops. The study has been published in the journal Science. The team is now hoping to use these findings to boost the yields of soybean, rice, potato and tomato plants. The research is being funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and the UK’s Department for International Development.


USA - GM CROPS CAN OFFSET CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS

Source: Cornell Alliance for Science

New research suggests that the type of yield gains made possible by genetic engineering (GE) will be needed to offset climate change impacts on agriculture.

The researchers said their study, published yesterday in Environmental Research Letters, has “important implications for regions lagging in the adoption of new technologies which could help offset the detrimental effects of climate change.”

Though agricultural productivity in Africa and Asia is predicted to be heavily impacted by climate change, political leaders in those regions have been slow to adopt GE technology in the face of intense opposition driven primarily by western-funded anti-GMO activists.

However, this new study suggests that nations may not have the luxury of avoiding new technology if they want to ensure food security in a warming world.


AUS - GM COTTON THRIVES IN NORTHERN AUS

Source: ABC Landline

It’s being described as a possible game changer for farmers and even the pastoral industry in northern Australia — the resurgence of cotton.

The CSIRO has predicted that if 15,000 hectares of the crop were grown in the Ord region of the Kimberley, it would be worth $80 million.

If the same was done in Queensland, beef spin-offs would grow that figure to $340 million…

The turning point was the development of a genetically modified cotton variety called Bollard III in 2016.

It’s able to withstand the insects that can plague the northern wet season and was part of cotton’s demise last time.


SPAIN - DROUGHT RESISTANT PLANTS DEVELOPED

Source: phys.org

Extreme drought is one of the effects of climate change that is already occurring. This year, the decrease in rainfall and the abnormally hot temperatures in northern and eastern Europe have caused large losses in cereals and potato crops and in other horticultural species. Experts have long warned that to ensure food security, it is becoming necessary to use plant varieties that are productive in drought conditions. Now, a team led by the researcher at the Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) Ana Caño-Delgado has obtained plants with increased drought resistance by modifying the signaling of plant steroid hormones known as brassinosteroids. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, is the first to find a strategy to increase hydric stress resistance without affecting overall plant growth.


USA - USDA APPROVES EDIBLE COTTON

Source: The Scientist

The US Department of Agriculture has announced it would deregulate a strain of cotton that university researchers had genetically engineered to carry low levels of poisonous gossypol in its seeds. The idea is that the modified cotton’s seeds could be grown for food.

Cotton is known for its white fibers that can be woven into soft fabrics. But for every pound of fluffy, white lint, the plant produces 1.6 pounds of peanut-size seeds. Those seeds contain high levels of gossypol, which protects the plant against pests and disease but makes cotton seeds inedible.

Texas A&M University’s Keerti Rathore and colleagues inserted DNA into the cotton plant to turn off the gene responsible for producing gossypol in the seeds. The genetically engineered strain still has protective levels of gossypol in its shoots and leaves, but reduced amounts in its oil- and protein-rich seeds, which could potentially be eaten by humans, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announcement.


INT - PROJECT UNDERWAY TO MAP EVERY PLANT, ANIMAL, FUNGUS GENOME

Source: The Guardian

An ambitious international project to sequence the DNA of every known animal, plant and fungus in the world over the next 10 years has been launched.

Described as “the next moonshot for biology”, the Earth BioGenome Project is expected to cost $4.7bn (£3.6bn) and involve reading the genomes of 1.5m species.

“Having the roadmap, the blueprints … will be a tremendous resource for new discoveries, understanding the rules of life, how evolution works, new approaches for the conservation of rare and endangered species, and … new resources for researchers in agricultural and medical fields,” said Prof Harris Lewin of the University of California, Davis.


AUS - SCIENCE BEHIND GM “NEEDS PROMOTION”

Social licence still a GM canola issue

Source: Farm Weekly (WA) – 16 September 2018

The WA agriculture industry must do more to promote the science behind genetically modified (GM) produce to ensure the technology realises its potential in the State’s grain industry.

That was one of the key messages taken home by Australia’s grain industry leaders who heard multiple presentations on the successes, developments and future prospects for GM technology from world-leading scientists at the 2018 AusCanola conference in Perth last week…


AUS - ACADEMY OF SCIENCE SETS AMBITIOUS FUTURE PLAN

Australia’s agriscience future
Australian Academy of Science, Communique – 13 September 2018
Leaders from Australia’s science and innovation sector met in Canberra today to discuss an ambitious vision for Australia’s rural research and innovation system over the coming decade. Participants included CropLife Australia, CSIRO and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.


AUS - SA LABOR SUPPORTS GM BAN REVIEW

Labor supports move to review GM moratorium

Source: Shadow Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Eddie Hughes MP, Media Release

EddieHughes_LaborSA_GMMoratorium_MR  – 14 September 2018

Labor supports a decision to review South Australia’s genetically modified crop moratorium – which is in place to 2025.

Shadow Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Eddie Hughes said the independent review should focus on the economic impact of lifting the moratorium.

Mr Hughes said policy should be guided by the best available evidence – both scientific and economic and the Marshall Government must reinvest in public research and development, in order to help our primary producers to thrive.


AUS - SA GOVT ANNOUNCES GM BAN REVIEW

Globally recognised agriculture policy analyst to lead independent review of GM moratorium

Minister for Primary Industries and Regions SA, Tim Whetsone MP, Media Release– 14 September 2018

Source: http://pir.sa.gov.au/alerts_news_events/news/primary_industries/globally_recognised_agriculture_policy_analyst_to_lead_independent_review_of_gm_moratorium

Experienced economist and agriculture policy analyst emeritus professor Kym Anderson AC has been appointed to undertake an independent review of the genetically modified food crops moratorium in South Australia. The state government is delivering on a pledge to commence a high-level independent review of the state’s GM moratorium within six months of forming government.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said the independent review will evaluate the benefits and costs to the South Australian economy and our agricultural industries of the GM moratorium.“The former Labor Government rushed through a six-year extension to the GM moratorium prior to the election without any consultation,” said Minister Whetstone.

“There was no attempt by Labor to assess whether the moratorium was good or bad for the economy or our grains and agricultural industries.


AUS - ANALYSIS SHOWS THERE ARE NO PRICE PREMIUMS UNDER THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN GM CROP MORATORIUM

A report titled ‘Analysis of price premiums under the South Australian GM moratorium’ released today provides clear facts and evidence that the moratorium on genetically modified (GM) crops in South Australia does not deliver price premiums to any farmer in the state and if repealed, would not cause any loss to non-GM farmers.

The report by independent expert market analysts Mecardo, commissioned by the Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) and Grain Producers South Australia, has been released to provide facts and evidence on the presumed trade and marketing premiums achieved by farmers through the South Australian ban on GM crops in what to date has been a discussion based on hearsay and anecdotes.

To download your copy of the report ‘Analysis of price premiums under the South Australian GM moratorium’ visit www.abca.com.au

See also ABCA’s media release


AUS - $1 BILLION CANOLA EXPORT MARKET SECURED

Source: CSIRO Media Release – 18 December 2017

Following the submission of a CSIRO report funded by the Australian Oilseed Federation (AOF) members and the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC), the European Commission has confirmed Australian canola meets strict new feedstock requirements for EU biodiesel.

To meet its own greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets, Europe would have shut its doors to Australian canola from 1 January 2018 unless Australian farmers demonstrated that they grow low-emission canola…

“The EU market is too valuable to lose for Australian canola growers. In 2016/17, Australian canola exports to the EU were typically worth over $1.0 billion, with nearly all those exports being used for biodiesel production,” Mr Goddard said. [Read more…]

 


AUS - OGTR PROPOSAL REGARDING GENE TECH CRITICISED

Source: Stock & Land – 16 December 2017

Groups against genetically modified (GM) food crops are protesting against a proposal from the Office of the Gene Technology (OGTR) to alter the regulatory status of a series of new plant breeding techniques…However, Matthew Cossey, chief executive of CropLife, Australia’s plant science peak body, welcomed the proposed changes…“The move to clarify the regulations by the OGTR will provide some level of certainty for researchers and industry and will enable innovative agricultural tools to be made available to Australia’s farmers in a more timely manner.” [Read more…]

 


INT - CRISPR TECHNOLOGY TO ACCELERATE CROP DEVELOPMENT

Source: Genetic Literacy Project – 08 December 2017

Gene editing technology, particularly the technique called CRISPR, is expected to accelerate the introduction of new crops. This involves making very precise changes to the DNA already present in the plant, unlike conventional GM technology which introduces new genes. As a consequence, the agricultural biotechnology industry hopes it will be subject to lighter regulation, particularly in Europe. To demonstrate the power of CRISPR in plant breeding, scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the US recently edited the tomato genome in three different ways to make three distinct changes in the way the plant grows: its fruit size, branching pattern and overall shape. [Read more…]


AUS - ABCA LAUNCHES NEW EDITION OF AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY GUIDE

The Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) launched the third edition of The Official Australian Reference Guide to Agricultural Biotechnology and GM Crops at the AusBiotech AusAg & Foodtech Summit in Adelaide.

Mr Ken Matthews AO, ABCA Chairman said that although the role of agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified (GM) crops in meeting production and sustainability challenges is widely recognised by farmers, public discussion is not always based on factual and accessible information.

“This updated Guide provides independent, factual, science-based information to contribute to a more informed national discussion about agricultural biotechnologies,” said Mr Matthews.

The third edition of the Guide was developed using the latest scientifically valid data and reviewed by ABCA’s Expert Scientific Panel, which is chaired by Dr TJ Higgins from the CSIRO. The Guide covers the science, performance, safety and regulation of commercialised GM crops as well as products in the pipeline. This updated edition of the Guide highlights the evolution of plant breeding innovations, such as genome editing using CRISPR-Cas9.

“Australia’s agriculture sector is a significant exporter, employer and driver of rural and regional communities. The uptake of innovative and emerging agricultural biotechnologies allows the sector to remain competitive and innovative in the face of global challenges like a changing climate and a reduction in arable land,” said Mr Matthews.

A record 185.1 million hectares of GM crops were grown globally in 2016, and 60 per cent of the world’s population live in the 26 countries growing GM crops. Despite the widespread adoption by farmers, the technology continues to stimulate considerable community discussion.

“Public policy and a regulatory environment that is guided by scientifically credible and factually correct information on agricultural biotechnology is crucial as Australian farmers and the world’s farming sector seek to double production of food, feed and fibre to meet the nutritional demand of a growing global population.”

In addition to providing factual information on agricultural biotechnology, the third edition of the Guide answers common questions about GM crops and clearly outlines the regulatory arrangements and food safety assessment requirements.

The Guide also presents information on ways to enable continued coexistence between GM and non-GM farming systems and features cases studies of Australian farmers growing GM crops.

The Official Australian Reference Guide to Agricultural Biotechnology and GM Crops is now available online.