Quarterly Update – Edition 11
- Council activity
- Key issues
- In the pipeline
- For information
FROM THE CHAIRMAN
Welcome to the latest Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) update. The celebration of 20 years of genetically modified crop use in Australia, and around the globe, has been marked by several significant developments.
As a leader in the global deployment of GM cotton varieties, Australia’s cotton growers are the first in the world to access a third generation of insect resistant GM cotton – a fantastic new tool for the cotton industry which will increase the longevity of the technology and the sustainability of the industry.
A report has been released which specifically documents the significant economic and environmental benefits achieved by Australia’s cotton and canola growers since the deployment of GM crops. This includes $1.37 billion worth of extra income and the reduction of crop inputs, reduced fuel use, and less carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
The Council is pleased with recommendations of the recent House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry report Smart farming – inquiry into agricultural innovation in May. The Committee recommended the pursuit of reform options to ensure national consistency in the regulation of gene technology and the review of the impact of moratoria invoked by state and territory governments. The Committee also sensibly recommended the National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce introduce a threshold for approved GM material consistent with comparable international standards. ABCA’s position on coexistence of different farming methods is clear – coexistence is working in Australia and different production systems can exist side-by-side. The organic marketing criteria and their place in the entire farming system in Australia must be reconsidered.
It is timely in celebrating two decades of GM crop use, that the US-based National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has once again, reiterated its earlier findings, and the findings of other significant scientific bodies globally, in releasing a study which found no evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available GM crops and conventionally bred crops, nor did it find evidence of environmental problems from GM crops.
On a more personal note, we are very proud of the accolade bestowed on ABCA Board Director Dr TJ Higgins as part of the recent Queen’s Birthday honours. Dr Higgins was deservedly recognised for his agricultural and biotechnology research and communication achievements throughout his career. The award citation reads: “For distinguished service to agricultural biotechnology as a biologist and researcher, particularly in the area of plant nutritional value and resistance to pests and disease, and to professional scientific organisations.”
Congratulations to Dr Higgins. We are pleased to have his expertise and experience helping ABCA to pursue recognition of the current and potential benefits of agricultural biotechnology by providing quality, factual, science-based information about gene technology in agriculture.
ABCA SPONSORED SCIENCE MEETS PARLIAMENT 2016
ABCA sponsored Science Meets Parliament in March. As part of the sponsorship package a copy of The Official Australian Reference Guide to Agricultural Biotechnology and GM Crops was given to every delegate. Science Meets Parliament brings working scientists to Canberra for a two-day program of professional development and networking aimed at helping them better communicate their science to the media, policymakers and parliamentarians. ABCA has been involved in sponsoring this very worthwhile event for several years now.
ABCA STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES ON THE REGULATORY OVERSIGHT OF NEW BREEDING TECHNOLOGIES
ABCA has developed a Statement of Principles on the Regulatory Oversight of New Breeding Technologies. ABCA recognises the importance of new technologies in plant and animal breeding and believes regulatory oversight should be science based, clear and consistent to encourage innovation in Australian agriculture.
This month ABCA distributed an Issue Alert titled ‘Australia celebrates 20 years of GM crop benefits’ which outlined Australia’s overwhelmingly positive experience with GM crops since they were first introduced two decades ago. Read more below.
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AUSTRALIA CELEBRATES 20 YEARS OF GM CROP BENEFITS
Australia’s overwhelmingly positive experience with GM crops since they were first introduced 20 years ago has been documented in a report titled The Adoption and Impact of Genetically Modified (GM) Crops in Australia: 20 Years’ Experience.
The significant economic gains seen by Australia’s cotton and canola growers include $1.37 billion worth of extra income and an additional 226,000 tonnes of canola that would otherwise not have been grown if conventional crops had been used.
Environmentally, the cultivation of GM crops has led to the more sustainable use of crop protection products with a reduction of 22 million kilograms of product used; a saving of nearly 27 million litres of fuel use; and, 71.5 million kilograms less carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere according to the report.
The report was prepared by Graham Brookes of the independent UK-based organisation PG Economics and commissioned by CropLife Australia.
Mr Brookes is a recognised world-leading expert in his field and PG Economics undertake the international assessment of GM crops every year, and this report detailing the Australian experience has been derived from that.
GM CROPS PERFORMING GLOBALLY
Crop biotechnology has continued to provide substantial economic and environmental benefits, allowing farmers to grow more, with fewer resources, whilst delivering important environmental benefits for all citizens according to a report released by PG Economics. In 2014, the global benefits for GM crops reached $150 billion since the crops were first planted in 1996 according to the report’s authors.
TWO DECADES ON: GM CROPS CONTINUE TO DELIVER
The latest annual statistics regarding the global use of genetically modified (GM) crops show that farmers continue to reap the economic and environmental benefits of agricultural biotechnology, particularly in developing countries, after two decades of use according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).
Genetically modified crops have now been planted across two billion hectares of arable land, burgeoning from just 1.7 million hectares in 1996, and farmers in up to 28 countries have reaped more than US$150 billion in benefits from their use.
Following 19 years of consecutive growth, the global area of GM crops fell by one per cent in 2015 to 179.7 million hectares after peaking at 181.5 million hectares in 2014. ISAAA attribute this decrease to low prices for commodity crops in 2015, and a devastating drought in South Africa.
The four key commodities, soybean, corn, cotton and canola continue to dominate the GM crop landscape with herbicide tolerance and pest resistance the dominant traits.
Australian farmers have increased their GM crop plantings by 21 per cent, to approximately 658,000 hectares in 2015. The GM herbicide tolerant canola uptake increased by about 30 per cent to around 444,000 hectares in 2015, with the fastest rate of adoption occurring in Western Australia. The nation’s cotton crop is almost 100 per cent GM, and notably, Australia was the first country to field trial the latest GM cotton variety, Bollgard III, across 30,000 hectares.
In 2015, a number of milestone events occurred in the USA related to GM crop innovations, including:
- The approval of three horticultural products – two GM potato varieties, one with lower levels of acrylamide, a potential carcinogen, and resistance to bruising and the other resistant to late-blight; and a GM non-browning apple.
- Approval of the world’s first GM animal food product – a fast-growing GM salmon.
- Planting of the first genome-edited crop to be commercialised globally, SU Canola, which is a herbicide tolerant variety.
- Increased uptake of GM drought tolerant maize – now grown across 810,000 hectares.
ISAAA has identified three opportunities for GM crop growth in the near future:
- There is significant opportunity in newer markets for the uptake of crops such as GM maize – potentially in Asia (especially China) and Africa.
- More than 85 potential new products are currently being tested through field trials.
- The use of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats) a powerful genome editing technology could intensify crop productivity on available cropping land.
GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS: EXPERIENCES AND PROSPECTS
According to an extensive study released by the US-based National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in May, new technologies in genetic engineering and conventional breeding are blurring the once clear distinctions between these two crop-improvement approaches. In addition, the study committee found no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops, nor did it find conclusive cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from the GE crops.
AGRICULTURAL INNOVATION INQUIRY REPORT TABLED
The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry tabled its report Smart farming – inquiry into agricultural innovation in May.
The report included findings in relation to the regulation of agricultural biotechnology, the regulation of low-level presence of GM material, and the public perception of gene technology.
Evidence presented to the inquiry included that the principal impediment to the more widespread adoption of gene technology in Australia was the lack of a nationally consistent regulatory approach, and in particular, that state-based moratoria discouraged private investment and inhibited research and development in the sector.
The terms of reference include improvements in the efficiency of agricultural practices due to new technology; emerging technology relevant to the agricultural sector, including plant genomics, and barriers to the adoption of emerging technology.
A number of submissions were made in relation to agricultural biotechnology research. ABCA Council members who made submissions include: AusBiotech, CropLife Australia, Grain Trade Australia, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Cotton Australia, Ag Institute Australia, Grain Growers Ltd and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.
MARSH ORDERED TO PAY COURT COSTS OF GM CANOLA CASE
Kojonup organic grower Stephen Marsh will have to pay the court case costs of his neighbour Michael Baxter five years after legal action began. The WA Court of Appeal lifted a stay order on costs believed to be about $900,000 incurred by Mr Baxter while defending himself against claims of negligence when swathes from his genetically-modified (GM) canola crop impacted Mr Marsh’s organic certification.
NEW GM COTTON LAUNCHED IN AUSTRALIA
In February, cotton growers in Australia became the first in the world to be able to access a third generation of insect resistant GM cotton for the upcoming planting season, following its global launch in Narrabri.
Bollgard 3 contains a third protein, known as Vip3A, in addition to the Bt proteins found in Bollgard II. Having three proteins increase the longevity of the technology as each protein has a different mode of action, and makes it increasingly difficult for the Helicoverpa pest to develop resistance to the GM variety.
MILDEW-RESISTANT WHEAT IN THE PIPELINE
A mildew resistant wheat variety developed using gene editing can be commercialised without clearing the regulatory regime in place for GM crops according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, because, while the wheat was developed with genetic elements from disease-causing bacteria, they are not present in the end crop and therefore it is not subject to the regulatory requirements.
Developed by Calyxt, the wheat has genetic sequences from bacteria and corn that remove a gene that suppresses the plant’s defenses against powdery mildew. The wheat’s DNA is repaired during natural cellular processes and no foreign genetic material remains.
While the wheat can be commercialised, the developers don’t expect the crop to be sold to farmers until 2022 as it will be subjected to field trials to measure performance and stability as well as incorporate the mildew resistance into geographically suitable wheat varieties.
Calyxt representatives will meet with regulators in export markets, and work with the domestic supply chain to educate customers and consumers about the new cultivar while the new wheat is prepared for market.
NO CHANGE TO TASMANIA’S GM CROP MORATORIUM
The moratorium on genetically modified organisms in Tasmania will continue, as implemented until 2019. This follows the latest report undertaken as part of a GMO monitoring program to continuously assess developments in gene technology and market changes on behalf of the Tasmanian Government.
GM SUGARCANE COULD BOOST BIODIESEL PRODUCTION
According to a new study published in the journal, Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining, genetically modified sugarcane is showing promise in the area of biodiesel production.
When biodiesel fuel is made from soy, it produces one barrel of oil per acre of plant, compared to the new GM sugarcane developed by University of Illinois researchers which could produce 17 barrels per acre.
The study’s authors write, “This would indicate that continued efforts to achieve lipid-producing sugarcane could make large-scale replacement of fossil-fuel-derived diesel without unrealistic demands on land area.”
ONE CROP BREEDING CYCLE FROM STARVATION
In an article published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, scientists from the University of Illinois outline how results from their research to increase crop yields under higher temperatures and carbon dioxide levels by boosting photosynthetic efficiency could play an important role in addressing climate change and food security for a rapidly growing global population. The authors stress a need for urgency in approaches to addressing food security and climate change issues because it can take 20 to 30 years of breeding and product development efforts before new crops are available to farmers.
GM LIMES DEVELOPED EXPRESSING ANTHOCYANINS
Scientists from the University of Florida have developed a genetically modified lime that contains anthocyanins, pigments that give plants their red, blue, or purple hues. Anthocyanins are not usually produced in citrus fruits grown under tropical or subtropical conditions. The development will allow the cultivation of new citrus fruits in the major subtropical citrus belt and/or the production of ornamental plants, depending on the cultivar and it also creates opportunities for novel fruit, leaf, and flower colors to be produced by regulating anthocyanin biosynthesis.
The research was published in the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science.
GM CROP OPPOSITION COSTING POOREST NATIONS: REPORT
A recently released study by the US-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) estimates that current activism against genetically modified organisms has created significant obstacles for its adoption in the world’s poorest nations and will cost them $1.5 trillion by 2050. These campaigns have also created significant challenges for the development and adoption of genetically modified crops in general according to the report.
GM BANS WOULD CAUSE SIGNIFICANT ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS
A Purdue University study conducted by Professor Wally Tyner, Associate Professor Farzad Taheripour and graduate student Harry Mahaffey, has concluded that higher food prices, a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions and major loss of forest and pasture land would result if GM crops were banned across the USA.
The study has been published in the journal AgBioForum.
PRRS RESISTANT PIGS BRED IN THE USA
Researchers at the University of Missouri have used gene-editing technologies to breed pigs resistant to the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV). This virus is a global problem for the swine industry, and costs livestock producers in North America alone $600 million annually from deaths and medical treatments.
Using the CRISPR/Cas-9 tool, the scientists bred three piglets that lacked a protein on cells that acts as a doorway for the virus. The piglets were then inoculated with the virus along with seven normal piglets. The three edited piglets remained healthy despite sharing the pen with the seven sick pigs for the 35-day study period.
The study’s results were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
2BLADES ADVANCING GM DISEASE RESISTANT TRAITS IN AGRICULTURE
Treating disease is so vital to the future of agriculture that several scientists set up a non-profit called 2Blades to help advance work on plant pathogens and disease resistance. To this end three recent studies funded by 2Blades in the journal Nature Biotechnology described different transgenic crops that had been engineered to resist one of three plant diseases – Asian soybean rust, late potato blight resistance and stem rust.
GM FOOD APPROVAL APPLICATIONS – UPDATE
The table below provides a summary of applications made to amend the Food Standards Code by approving the listed GM commodities as safe for use in Australia and New Zealand.
|A1116||Corn||Syngenta Australia (MZIR098)||Herbicide tolerance and insect resistance||A draft food regulatory measure has been prepared. Public submissions closed in February.|
|A1118||Corn||Monsanto Australia (MON87419)||Herbicide tolerances||Preliminary assessment undertaken. Public submissions closed in March.|
|A1128||Potato||SPS International Inc.||Reduced acrylamide potential and reduced browning (black spot)||Preliminary assessment undertaken.|
OGTR LICENCE UPDATES
This table provides a summary of licence applications and approvals granted by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) in relation to agricultural biotechnology in the last quarter.
|DIR 138||Canola||Bayer CropScience||Dual herbicide tolerance.||Commercial release licence issued.|
|DIR 139||Canola||Pioneer Hi-Bred Australia Pty Ltd||Herbicide tolerance||Commercial release licence issued.|
|DIR 142||Wheat||Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Victoria||Enhanced nitrogen use efficiency and water use efficiency.||Field trial licence issued.|
|DIR 142||Wheat||Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Victoria||Enhanced nitrogen use efficiency and water use efficiency.||Field trial licence issued.|
|DIR 145||Cotton||Monsanto Australia Ltd||Insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.||Commercial release approved.|
AGRIBUSINESS 2030 – THE FUTURE OF FARMING AND FOOD
The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) recently held an event in Sydney focused on the future of farming and food, specifically beyond 2030. The key sessions looked at a broad range of issues from which biotechnologies offer the most potential for better breeding; how community acceptance of technology might be achieved; and, the impacts Australian agribusinesses can expect to see from climate change over the next 15 years.
Dr Craig Cormick, a leading science communicator delivered a presentation on community attitudes to new food technologies, such as biotechnology, said that 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.
“Arguing about the validity of the science behind new food technologies is about as effective in changing attitudes as taunting and name calling,” said Dr Cormick.
Dr Lee Hickey, a crop genetics researcher at the University of Queensland, addressed the topic, “How do we adapt our food crops to maintain efficient production and create products that give Australian farmers an edge in the global market? Are functional foods the answer?”
“Farmers worldwide need clear breakthroughs in plant breeding and genetics to overcome the many challenges to producing food crops. In Australia, we have soils with poor nutrients, water is scarce and there are major concerns over environmental footprints of agriculture. This is further complicated by the inevitable climatic changes we face,” said Dr Hickey.
“Recent developments in biotech tools present major opportunities but it is unlikely that application of a single technology in isolation will result in a step-change in plant varieties.”
“In reality, we need ‘all the tools in the shed’ and integration of technologies including traditional plant breeding methods, remote sensing and genetic engineering.”
“An additional constraint in Australia is that the cost of production is relatively high compared to other countries. To produce high value food products we need new technology to produce crops with introduced desirable health products – so called ‘functional foods’.
ALLERGY-FREE PEANUT DEVELOPMENT
The decoding of the peanut genetic code will lead to improved yields and the possible elimination of allergies, according to an international research team, which includes scientists from Western Australia. This development has positive implications for farmers in developing countries such as India, where crop productivity is very low and high levels of mycotoxins can be an issue. The market is likely to see drought-tolerant varieties arise from this research first. Targeting particular genes will allow crop development times to be reduced from seven or eight years to three or four.
GM INSECTS TRIALLED TO CONTROL MEDITERRANEAN FRUIT FLY
Glasshouse trials started in May in Perth, of an imported, genetically modified, biological insect pest control with potential applications for fruit and vegetable growers and WA’s livestock industry. While the first-in-Australia trial being overseen by the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) is restricted to GM Mediterranean fruit fly, commonly known as medfly, the genetic engineering technique is being tested on other insect pests overseas including olive fly, mexfly and the diamondback moth.
According to Oxitec, the GM male medflies are released to mate with female flies of their own species. They pass on a ‘self-limiting’ gene that prevents the female offspring from reaching adulthood so they cannot ‘sting’ fruit crops or reproduce. This shrinks the pest population in the release area. The GM medflies also have a fluorescent marker to distinguish them from the pests and help with the program monitoring.
AUSTRALIA’S GM CANOLA: EU MARKET GROWING
Exports of Australian genetically modified canola to Europe are expected to reach record levels this year, with 1.5 million tonnes of Australian canola sold into the European Union this financial year according to industry sources.
“There has been a $50/tonne premium for non-GM, but now the crushers and markets in Europe have said for that saving, I can find a home for the GM meal,” said Nick Goddard, Executive Director, Australian Oilseeds Federation.
LachStock Consulting’s Lachie Stevens said the price discount and GM food labelling was giving the Europeans an incentive to buy GM canola.
“Canola meal goes into the EU dairy industry and while it’s still mindful of GM inputs, the dairy industry is in a downturn and they are becoming more accepting of it,” he said.
INDIA-AUSTRALIA RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP TO FOCUS ON GM SUGARCANE, GM RICE, GRAIN LOSSES, CHICKPEAS
New grants have been announced as part of the Commonwealth Government’s Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF). There are several projects of relevance to agricultural biotechnology.
|Genetic control and genomic selection for important traits in sugarcane, and comparison of elite Indian and Australian germplasm.||Sugar Research Australia Ltd and the Sugarcane Breeding Institute (Coimbatore)
|This project will identify genetic markers for cane yield, sugar content, drought tolerance and red rot resistance, in sugarcane varieties, using a high density SNP marker array. The results will be combined with data for the same markers recently obtained in Australia to: (i) determine ways to speed up gains in sugarcane breeding, (ii) understand the genetic control of these target traits, and (iii) facilitate mutually beneficial cooperation in sugarcane improvement.|
|Developing salt tolerant rice for food security in India and Australia||University of Tasmania and M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (Chennai)||Rice is a major staple crop but its production is severely hampered by saline soil conditions in Australia and India resulting in multibillion dollar penalties. In this project we will use a wild rice relative that is capable to grow in highly saline coastal areas to identify and clone key genes that confer its remarkable salinity stress tolerance. These genes will be then introgressed into traditional cultivated varieties to create salt-tolerant rice cultivars for farmer’s fields.|
|Deploying biotechnology based decision making tools in postharvest grain pest management to enhance food security and market access||Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (Coimbatore)
|Widespread resistance to chemical treatments in insect pests of stored grain seriously jeopardizes food security and market access in both Australia and India. This project delivers advanced molecular bio-science tools to support practical decision making in pest and resistance management to reduce postharvest losses within the grain supply chain. Researchers and key end-users from both the countries collaborate in the application of advanced biotechnology to deliver practical outcomes.|
|Improving chickpea adaptation to environmental challenges in Australia and India
|South Australian Research and Development Institute and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (Hyderabad)||Grain legumes are an important component of farming systems in Australia and critical for food security in India. This project will deliver genetic improvements in chickpea that enhance growth and yield, improving profitability and resilience against the impact of climate change and disease. This project will link basic discovery science through to breeding applications where novel germplasm and molecular tools can be used to maximize production in challenging environments.|
SEX DETERMINATION, BIOTECHNOLOGY AND THE POULTRY INDUSTRY
Scientists at CSIRO’s Animal Health Laboratory have outlined how the implementation of gene technology would remove the need for the culling of billions of male baby chicks by the global egg industry.
Currently, one-day old chickens are sorted by sex, and the female chicks are sold for use as layers in the commercial egg industry while the male chickens are disposed of. Animal welfare concerns in agriculture are increasingly in the spotlight, and in Europe in particular, the culling of unwanted male chickens is resulting in calls for new laws and practices by animal welfare campaigners.
The scientists take the fertilised chicken egg which has been incubated for two days, and they make a tiny opening in the top of the egg so that they can access the embryo within. The embryo is micro-injected with a new gene – a green fluorescent protein gene which marks the male chromosome. The resulting chicken from this egg is used as part of the breeding flock, and all of its male offspring will be easily identified by the fluorescent mark as it follows the male chromosome and not the female chromosome.
The male eggs that carry the fluorescent marker gene are detected through the shell by a laser. These eggs are then removed from the breeding program. They do not need to go on and hatch and then be discarded as day old chicks.
The discarded pre-hatched male eggs could go on and have a purposeful use in the development of vaccines. For example, human influenza vaccines are generally grown by vaccine manufacturers in fertilised chicken eggs.
The research is supported by the Poultry CRC, which has the Australian Egg Corporation Limited as one of its essential participants.
CANADA APPROVES GM SALMON FOR FOOD CHAIN
Following its approval in the USA, AquAdvantage salmon, genetically modified to grow faster, has now been approved as the first GM animal for human consumption in Canada. In a statement, Health Canada said it ran safety and nutrition tests on the fish, and “found the salmon to be as safe and nutritious as conventional salmon.”
Health Canada also said the salmon doesn’t require any special labelling because it doesn’t present any health risks, so you might not even know you’re eating genetically modified fish when it eventually hits grocery store shelves.
GM CORN: FRENCH COURT SAYS NO HEALTH OR ENVIRONMENT RISK
France’s top administrative court has overturned a 2014 ban on a GM corn variety in a symbolic victory for the biotechnology industry. The court ruled on Friday that the decree from March 2014, which outlawed Monsanto’s MON 810 maize, did not demonstrate serious health or environmental risks, as was required by European Union rules in order to withdraw a GMO crop already approved at EU level. Despite the ruling, subsequent legislation imposed means no GM crops can be grown in France.
PEST RESISTANCE BREAKTHROUGH
Harvard University and Monsanto scientists claim they have made a breakthrough in dealing with pests developing resistance to the GM crops designed to kill them.
Using Professor David Liu’s phage-assisted continuous evolution (PACE) technology, Harvard and Monsanto scientists evolved new forms of a protein known as “Bt toxin,” which can assist in controlling Bt toxin-resistance in insects.
By using PACE, the researchers were able to stay ahead of insect resistance. In just 22 days, the team were able to develop new Bt toxins that contained dozens of amino acid alterations over 500 generations.
The study has been published in the journal Nature.
USA RETHINKING BIOTECHNOLOGY REGULATIONS
In April, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine held its first meeting of a committee charged with predicting what advances will be made in biotechnology products over the next 5 -10 years.
The committee, which is sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and two other agencies, will help the USDA to reassess its process for evaluating GM crops.
GM CROPS OFFER CLIMATE CHANGE HOPE
According to a news article by AFKInsider, more and more African countries are changing their stance against GM crops to help improve on farm yields and feed a growing population in the face of unpredictable harsh weather conditions made worse by climate change.
“Only African scientists or those working in Africa know the desires of African farmers and consumers and we should not hesitate to use new equipment and technologies to ‘genetically sequence, assemble and annotate the genomes’ of thousands of indigenous African crops,” said Dr Getachew Belay, a senior biotechnology policy advisor at Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
AFRICAN SWINE FEVER BREAKTHROUGH
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have used gene editing to create pigs which they hope will be able to resist African Swine Fever, a highly contagious disease of pigs that kills up to two-thirds of infected animals.
Warthogs and bush pigs are more resistant to African Swine Fever than farmed pigs, and scientists believe this is because they contain a different version of a gene called RELA, the gene which causes the immune system to overreact.
Using gene editing the pigs’ genetic code, the RELA gene, was successfully modified into the variant seen in warthogs and wild pigs. Now, the pigs will be tested to determine if the change improves their resilience to the disease.
GM MOSQUITO TRIAL NOT ENVIRONMENTAL THREAT: USFDA
The field trial of GM mosquitoes in Florida has cleared a significant regulatory milestone with the US Food and Drug Administration announcing that they pose no significant environmental risk. The GM mosquitoes have been developed by Oxitec, a British based company, to fight diseases such as the Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses which are transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Oxitec has genetically modified the male mosquitoes to produce offspring with a defective gene that kills them. The offspring also bear a florescent marker gene so larvae can be identified when inspectors conduct mosquito counts and gauge the progress of the program. The GM mosquitoes have already been released in South America.
AUSBIOTECH’S AG AND FOODTECH SYMPOSIUM
Location: Stamford Plaza, Brisbane
Date: 2-3 August 2016
Details: This year’s Ag & Foodtech Symposium will celebrate innovation in the agriculture and food industries, exploring innovation in Australian agriculture; market access; investment; and issues specific to the adoption of biotechnology in Northern and Southern Australia. Bringing together industry, researchers and investors the Ag & Foodtech Symposium will highlight areas that industry needs to address in order to accelerate technology translation and the adoption of advanced agricultural and food biotechnology innovations.
AGRICULTURAL BIOSCIENCE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE 2016
Location: Fargo, North Dakota, USA
Date: 18-21 September 2016
Details: Themed “Better Food, Better World” ABIC 2016 will focus on how public and private research collaborates by using science to solve issues related to the increasing demand for food. Members will hear from university researchers, private sector scientists, independent researchers and others who are applying the practical use of science to impact health and nutrition and make a difference in feeding the world.
INTERNATIONAL BIOFEST 2016
Location: Melbourne Convention Centre
Date: 24-27 October 2016
Details: International Biofest 2016 will be made up of three events – the 17th International Biotechnology Symposium (IBS) and Exhibition; AusBiotech 2016; and, Australia Biotech Invest 2016. IBS is organised under the auspices of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) since 1960 and is the most representative biotechnology event at the global level, at which more than 1,000 participants congregate from academia and industry, to explore the advances and frontiers of science and applied biotechnologies. Topics will include agri-business; industrial and environmental biotechnology; pharmaceutical, medical and molecular; bioenergy and bio-refinery; the bio-economy, policy and investment; and biosensors and nanotechnology.
Disclaimer: The Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia Limited (ABCA) gives no warranty and makes no representation that the information contained in these sections is suitable for any purpose or is free from error. ABCA accepts no responsibility for any person acting or relying upon the information contained in these sections, and disclaims all liability.