Archive for March, 2015


31 March 2015. Source: ABC Rural – 

Trials of genetically modified safflower in Western Australia’s Ord irrigation scheme are indicating it has the potential to be a billion dollar industry for the region in the future.

A one hectare trial conducted at the Frank Wise Research Centre near Kununurra has delivered very promising results.

CSIRO’s Craig Wood said the plants were very happy in the tropical environment.

“It turns out the Ord is a really nice place to grow safflower, the plants themselves loved it,” Dr Wood said.

“The oils were the best we have ever seen in terms of their functional properties and the plants themselves were large and very healthy.”

The trial is a collaborative effort between the CSIRO and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

The plant was also trialled in Narrabri in New South Wales and in Canberra in the ACT, but Dr Wood said the results were most promising for the Ord.

“It’s a little bit early on to say that it’s much better in Kununurra but they were the best and healthiest plants we have grown so far.”

It wasn’t a complete surprise the crops grew so well considering safflower was grown in the region during the 1960s as one of its first crops.

Opportunities of safflower oil in industry

However, the oil content of the genetically modified crop impressed researchers.

Traditionally safflower produces the oil used in vegetable oil and Dr Wood said the genetically modified plant had been altered to make the oil it produces more stable.

“We are the leading edge for genetically modified safflower for this particular type of oil.

“This oil is not grown anywhere else in the world so it’s a unique and an Australian invention, one may say.”

The increased stability in the oil allows it to be used in industrial processes.

“Industrial processes are looking for oils, not necessarily from plants, but any type of oil that is very stable under temperature, it doesn’t go off, it doesn’t form into any fancy polymers.”

Dr Wood said there were a variety of purposes the oil could be used for, including in transformers.

“All of transformer boxes at the end of the street that convert different types of high voltage electricity into different household power supplies each one of those boxes has currently mineral oils that come from petrochemicals.

“It would be very interesting if we could replace those oils with these kind of sustainable safflowers oils,” he said.

Dr Wood said the market for such ‘green’ oils could be worth billions…



GM appeal rests on ‘duty of care’

24 March 2015. Source:

An appeal by Kojonup organic farmer Steve Marsh against a Supreme Court finding in favour of his GM-cropping neighbour, Michael Baxter, will hinge on whether appeal judges are convinced Mr Baxter had a greater duty of care to protect Mr Marsh’s organic certification.

Former Western Australian governor Malcolm McCusker, appearing for Mr Marsh and his wife Susan, asserted on Monday, the opening day of the appeal, that Mr Baxter was in breach of his duty of reasonable care when he harvested a genetically modified (GM) Roundup Ready canola crop by swathing without considering the risk of swathes blowing over the fence.

“He (Mr Baxter) had a duty to ensure (GM) canola does not go onto a neighbour’s property,” Mr McCusker said.

“Mr Baxter’s duty was to take reasonable care to ensure his farming practises and GM product did not adversely affect his neighbour’s organic certification.”

After a high-profile 11-day hearing in February last year, Justice Kenneth Martin found in part there was no common-law negligence or breach of reasonable duty of care by Mr Baxter in growing a lawful GM crop and deciding to swathe it – cut it, rake it into windrows to dry and then process it to recover the seed.



19 March 2015. Source: Thanh Nien News –

Vietnamese farmers nationwide are now able to plant three varieties of genetically-modified (GM) corn from the Swiss firm Syngenta, according to a new government’s rule announced Wednesday.

The three varieties are NK66 BT, NK66 GT and NK66 BT/GT and will be supplied to corn farms nationwide with each variety being distributed to specific regions, said the decision from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

NK66 BT in particular will be supplied to regions with European corn borers, NK66 GT for places with strong weeds and the other for farms susceptible to both the borers and weeds.

Pham Dong Quang, director of the Department of Crop Production, said the three varieties can resist pest and herbicide as well as produce higher yields.

“GM corn will be used for animal feed only and thus, it does not require special labeling,” he said.



“Jailbreaking” yeast could amp up wine’s health benefits, reduce morning-after headaches

16 March, 2015. Source: University of Illinois –

URBANA – University of Illinois scientists have engineered a “jailbreaking” yeast that could greatly increase the health benefits of wine while reducing the toxic byproducts that cause your morning-after headache.

“Fermented foods—such as beer, wine, and bread—are made with polyploid strains of yeast, which means they contain multiple copies of genes in the genome. Until now, it’s been very difficult to do genetic engineering in polyploid strains because if you altered a gene in one copy of the genome, an unaltered copy would correct the one that had been changed,” said Yong-Su Jin, a U of I associate professor of microbial genomics and principal investigator in the Energy Biosciences Institute.

Recently scientists have developed a “genome knife” that cuts across multiple copies of a target gene in the genome very precisely—until all copies are cut. Jin’s group has now used this enzyme, RNA-guided Cas9 nuclease, to do precise metabolic engineering of polyploid Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains that have been widely used in the wine, beer, and fermentation industries.

The possibilities for improved nutritive value in foods are staggering, he said. “Wine, for instance, contains the healthful component resveratrol. With engineered yeast, we could increase the amount of resveratrol in a variety of wine by 10 times or more. But we could also add metabolic pathways to introduce bioactive compounds from other foods, such as ginseng, into the wine yeast. Or we could put resveratrol-producing pathways into yeast strains used for beer, kefir, cheese, kimchee, or pickles—any food that uses yeast fermentation in its production.”

Another benefit is that winemakers can clone the enzyme to enhance malolactic fermentation, a secondary fermentation process that makes wine smooth. Improper malolactic fermentation generates the toxic byproducts that may cause hangover symptoms, he said…

The research was reported in a recent issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.


23 March 2015. Source:

Two Western Australian grain farmers are back in court today for the appeal hearing for damages around the alleged loss of income due to genetically modified (GM) canola contamination.

The case attracted worldwide attention in the two week trial in February last year, refuelling the heated debate around the use of genetically modified crops and putting the small farming community of Kojonup, 260 kilometres south-east of Perth, in the spotlight.

Almost three quarters of Stephen Marsh’s organic farm, Eagles Rest, was decertified when genetically modified canola swaths were found in his wheat paddock, in late 2010.

Mr Marsh took his neighbour Michael Baxter to court for $80,000 compensation and a permanent injunction that would stop Baxter growing GM canola in the future.

WA Supreme Court judge Justice Kenneth Martin handed down the judgement in May 2014, comprehensively rejecting Mr Marsh’s claims.

The long-running court case has been hailed by supporters on both sides as a test case for the use of GM technology in farming.


2 March 2015. Source:

Most of the debate around genetically modified crops has centered around the impact to the human food chain, yet China continues to disrupt feed markets with its zero tolerance for genetically modified crops.

China began banning imports of U.S. corn in late 2013 and then dried distillers grains over loads of corn were confirmed to have a trait approved for planting in the U.S. since 2010. That trait was finally approved for import by China in late 2014. But that year of uncertainty disrupted global corn markets and led both farmers and grain traders to sue a major seed company for selling the U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved seed.

Now alfalfa growers are feeling the pinch. China has blacklisted hay imports from three U.S. exporters after finding hay containing low levels of Roundup Ready hay. China’s import policy is not to accept commodities with low results, even in the parts per million range. Overall exports of U.S. alfalfa have fallen 12 percent since China started refusing hay but other data shows exports to China are actually up by 22 percent.

While it’s certainly any country’s right to set a zero tolerance policy, it’s nearly impossible to achieve based on sampling and laboratory procedures, experts say.

“Is zero genetically engineered hay possible?” asked Dan Putnam during the 2015 Idaho Hay and Forage Conference held in Burley. Yes, but one cannot guarantee it or test for it, the University of California Davis extension forage specialist told hay growers. “To assure GE-free hay you must test every single gram of a hay stack and then there’s nothing left to the feed the animals.”

Theoretically, one or two stems of GE hay in a 200-ton hay lot is enough to exceed China’s zero tolerance should those stems end up in the tested sample.

He believes both GE and non-GE hay can co-exist in the marketplace. But to reach that place, the industry will have to adopt non-GE protocol similar to the organic certification program.

Putnam outlined his ideas for defining non-GE hay by establishing a non-detect level of 0.9 percent or below. That’s similar to the level that Europe uses for human food. Ingredients below that tolerance are allowed to be labeled as GMO-free…

Next, he suggests that the market be differentiated into GE hay, conventional hay for nonsensitive markets (dairies and feedlots) and non-GE for sensitive markets (China). Growers selling hay into the first two segments can continue business as usual, but growers who know their hay is headed for sensitive markets should start following a set protocol to assure buyers their hay meets an accepted low-level threshold…


3 March 2015 – Source:

Scientists have created the first tuberculosis-resistant cattle using genetic engineering techniques. The advance could pave the way for genetically modified farm animals that would be automatically protected against disease, reducing the need for culls of infected herds and the blanket use of antibiotic drugs.

The study is the first to show that when cattle are genetically modified to carry a protective mouse gene, they become more difficult to infect and are largely shielded from the damaging symptoms of the disease….

In the latest study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists from the Chinese agriculture ministry created 23 genetically modified calves, 13 of which survived into adulthood. The team used a gene editing tool, known as TALEN, which allows scientists to delete naturally occurring genes and insert new ones with a high degree of precision.

In laboratory tests, they showed that the Mycobacterium bovis bacterium, which causes TB, multiplied far less effectively in the presence of immune cells taken from the GM cattle, which had been given a mouse gene that was known to be protective against TB.

The scientists deliberately introduced the TB bacteria into the lungs of three of the GM cattle and three control cattle and compared the effects. One of the GM cattle showed no sign of the illness and the other two showed far fewer lesions than the control cattle in their lungs, spleen and liver, when they were dissected several weeks later.

In a second transmission test, nine GM cattle and nine control cows were housed with infected animals. Six of the GM cattle were not infected and the other three again showed minimal symptoms compared with all nine of the control animals, whose lungs showed extensive damage.

Professor Mike Coffey, a livestock expert at Scotland’s Rural College, said: “This doesn’t produce completely TB-resistant cows, but the aim is to raise the general resistance. This would slow down any spread of the disease and slowly reduce the national level in herds.”…