Archive for 2015


15 April 2015. Source: Pulp & Paper Canada

Brazil has become the first jurisdiction worldwide to permit the commercial use of FuturaGene’s genetically engineered eucalyptus. The Brazilian National Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio) approved the commercial use of the yield-enhanced eucalyptus developed by FuturaGene. According to the company, field experiments conducted since 2006 at various locations in Brazil have demonstrated an approximate 20% increase in yield compared to its equivalent conventional variety.

The company says this approval represents the most significant productivity milestone for the renewable plantation forest industry since the adoption of clonal technology in the early 1990s. This approval enables the production of more fiber using less resources.

An impact study produced last year by Pöyry Silviconsult forecasts the potential gains of applying the genetically engineered eucalyptus technology to the entire Brazilian eucalyptus plantation area by the year 2050. It concludes that this variety of eucalyptus will be ready to harvest in 5.5 years compared with the seven-year harvest of conventional eucalyptus on Brazilian forestry plantations. Consequently, it will require 13% fewer hectares to meet the same wood demand as existing crops.

FuturaGene states that its yield-enhanced eucalyptus has been under development since 2001 and has undergone extensive biosafety assessment prior to submission for commercial approval. According to Dr. Stanley Hirsch, FuturaGene CEO, the company has several additional products at different stages of development in its pipeline.


1 April 2015. Source: Ballarat Courier

THE Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia has launched the second edition of The Official Australian Reference Guide to Agricultural Biotechnology and GM Crops at last week’s 15th annual Science Meets Parliament event in Canberra.

The launch was a focus of the council’s first bi-annual meeting this year held at Parliament House in Canberra.

The updated booklet provides information about genetically modified crops based on scientific evidence. Topics covered include the science, performance, safety and regulation of GM crops as well as products in the pipeline and the commercial and market realities. The guide also gives a voice to farmers actually using GM crops and answers some common questions regarding stockfeed, the organisations involved in GM crop research, and food safety.

“Genetic modification of crops has been an unnecessarily contentious issue in Australian food and agriculture for decades,” Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia chairman Ken Matthews said.

“It is only through the consideration of hard research, market and health data, as well as the experiences of scientists, farmers and consumers around the world, that a mature and reasoned debate can be achieved in Australia. The Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia has developed the Guide to provide factual information about GM crops.”

Agricultural biotechnology is being put forward as part of the solution to some of the world’s biggest challenges including: a rapidly growing world population, climate change and growing pressure on natural resources such as water and arable land.

Over the past 19 years over 450 billion acres of biotech crops have been planted across 20 developing and eight industrialised countries representing more than 60 per cent of the world’s population. This 100-fold increase makes biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent times.

Despite the widespread adoption by farmers, the technology continues to stimulate considerable community debate.

The guide presents information on coexistence in farming and the on-farm management practices and systems currently in place that maintain the integrity of both GM and non-GM crops. The long track record of farmers using different agricultural production methods alongside each other both here and overseas reaffirm that all agricultural production methods can and should work to coexist to deliver the best of Australian agriculture.

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


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.”…


13/02/15. Source:®-apples

U.S. to deregulate Arctic® apples!

Okanagan Specialty Fruits is thrilled to share big news – the first nonbrowning Arctic® apple varieties are about to be deregulated in the United States!

This milestone is nearly two decades in the making, as Arctic® Golden and Arctic® Granny apples represent OSF’s first products since our inception in 1996. We could not have achieved this without our small-but-mighty, grower-led team and all our supporters in the agriculture and biotech industries. And, of course, all the consumers who told us they can’t wait for nonbrowning apples!

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Services (APHIS) announced its decision to deregulate the first two Arctic varieties, and it is expected their final environmental assessment (EA) and plant pest risk assessment (PPRA) will be published soon.

For our fellow growers, this means that Arctic trees can now be purchased and grown just like any other apple trees (so let us know if you’re interested in planting!). For consumers, it means that we will be working hard to get as many trees in the ground as possible so that you’ll be able to purchase Arctic apples in stores within the next few years.

Since it takes apple trees a number of years to produce significant amounts of fruit, it will likely be 2016 before any Arctic Granny or Arctic Golden apples are available for small, test-markets. Following that, we expect increasing amounts of fruit each year, including additional nonbrowning varieties like Arctic® Gala and Arctic® Fuji.

We’re very excited for everyone who touches apples to experience the benefits of nonbrowning apples, and encourage you to read about the significant value they offer to growers, packers, freshcut and traditional processors, foodservice, retailers, and most of all, consumers.

The supply-chain can feel confident knowing that Arctic apples are likely the most tested apples in existence. Rigorously reviewed by multiple regulatory bodies, all evaluations reach the same conclusion – Arctic apples present no unique risks and are just as safe and healthful as any other apple.

Thanks again for your continued support of Arctic apples, biotechnology, the apple industry and our goal of helping people to eat more apples. We hope you will be enjoying the benefits of nonbrowning apples very soon!


28 January 2015. Source:

A record 181.5 million hectares of GM crops were grown across 28 countries in 2014 according to the latest report released by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA). The 20 developing and eight industrial countries where GM crops are produced represent more than 60 per cent of the world’s population.

Since 1996, more than 10 food and fibre GM crops have been approved and commercialised around the world, ranging from major commodities such as soybean, corn and cotton, to fruits and vegetables like papaya, eggplant and, potato. The crops have been modified for traits such as drought tolerance, insect and disease resistance, herbicide tolerance and increased nutrition and food quality.

The USA once again dominates production, growing 73.1 million hectares of GM soybean, corn, cotton, canola, sugarbeet, alfalfa, papaya and squash, followed by Brazil and Argentina (soybean, corn and cotton), India (cotton) and Canada (canola, maize, soybean, sugar beet. Australia is ranked 13th in the list, growing approximately 0.5 million hectares of GM cotton and canola.

The report highlights key benefits derived from GM crops, including:

  • alleviation of poverty and hunger by boosting the income of risk-averse small, resource-poor farmers around the world;
  • increased production valued at US$133 billion;
  • in the period 1996 to 2012 pesticide use decreased significantly saving approximately 500 million kg of active ingredient;
  • in 2013 alone, crop plantings lowered carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to removing 12.4 million cars from the road for one year.


21 January 2015. Source: Stock Journal,

Two appeal hearings in the Marsh v Baxter case have been scheduled from March 23 to 25 in the Court of Appeal for the Western Australian Supreme Court.

Kojonup organic farmer Steve Marsh and wife Sue have been embroiled in a long-running legal challenge against their neighbour Mike Baxter, for alleged financial damages caused from losing their organic certification four years ago.

About 70 per cent of Mr Marsh’s organic farm was decertified when Genetically Modified (GM) canola swathes were found in his organic wheat crop in late 2010.

The Marshes attempted to sue Mr Baxter for $85,000 compensation and to win a permanent injunction that would prevent him growing GM canola – but Justice Ken Martin comprehensively rejected the claims.

A two-week trial was held in February last year in the WA Supreme Court with a judgement handed down on May 28.

Justice Martin’s 150-page judgment awarded in Mr Baxter’s favour, rejecting assertions GM canola was unsafe while dismissing both the Marshes’ causes of action in common law negligence and private nuisance…

An appeal against the main judgement in the case has been scheduled for hearing on March 23 and 24.

It’s understood the plaintiff and defendant will be allocated one day each during the two-day program to submit their arguments before a three-judge panel.

The panel is likely to engage in robust interaction with barristers representing both sides, questioning details and merits, of their appeal submissions.

Another hearing set for March 25 will appeal against the cost orders made by Justice Martin in September last year which awarded costs totalling $804,000 in Mr Baxter’s favour…


24 January 2015. Source: Ghana Web,

Researchers in Ghana say they are recording favourable outcomes in the trials of genetically modified (GM) rice in the country.

The confined field trials started in April 2013 at Nobewam in the Ashanti region, after receiving approval from the National Biosafety Committee (NBC).

The fourth successive experiment of the Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) rice is being conducted by the Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Principal Investigator, Dr. Maxwell Asante, says the project has already identified a lead event which will give at least a 15 percent yield advantage over non-GM version of the planted rice.

“If the lead event is confirmed, we will request for permission from the NBC to allow it to be grown by farmers in Ghana after testing. The genes that make the GM rice nitrogen-use efficient will then be transferred to other varieties in Ghana through conventional breeding methods,” he stated.

… The next set of experiment will involve the evaluation of the triple-stack gene rice plants to identify lead events in nitrogen-use efficiency, water-use efficiency and salt tolerant genetically modified rice – dubbed “NEWEST Rice”.

This will especially help farmers deal with the effects of climate change and expand rice cultivation to areas previously not supported.

Ghana’s GM or NEWEST Rice is projected to go commercial within the next three to five years.

Three confined field trials of rice, cowpea and cotton are currently being evaluated in Ghana in compliance with the Biosafety Act 2011, Act 831, which regulates GMOs.


14 January 2015 Source: National Geographic –

“Innate” is a weird name for a potato. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, innate means native, inborn, or natural, which most potatoes are, but which J.R. Simplot’s officially named Innate potato isn’t quite.

The Innate potato, recently approved for commercial planting by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a genetically engineered potato tweaked to resist bruising and browning. It has also been modified to contain 50 percent to 70 percent less of the amino acid asparagine, which is converted to acrylamide, a possible carcinogen, when potatoes are heated at high temperatures like frying to make French fries. The name Innate was conferred by Simplot to indicate that—despite that fact that the potato is genetically modified—its genome, unlike those of many modified crop plants, contains nothing but plain potato.

Genetically modified (GM) food plants are often transgenic—that is, they contain inserted gene sequences from wildly unrelated organisms, among them bacteria, jellyfish, rats, mice, spiders, and scorpions. The Innate potato, however, was developed using a technique called gene silencing or RNA interference, a natural process used by everybody’s cells to regulate gene expression. Biochemically, this is the equivalent of flipping a switch from ON to OFF—in the case of the Innate potato, shutting down the manufacture of a pair of enzymes: polyphenol oxidase, the causative agent of browning in potatoes, avocados, and apples, and asparagine synthetase, essential for making asparagine, the precursor of acrylamide.

Though it’s not certain that acrylamide is a problem for people, researchers have shown that rats, fed huge amounts of it, develop cancer; and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest agree that, given the choice, the less of it we eat, the better. Bruising and browning, though not a threat health-wise, have other unpleasant effects. First, we don’t like the way brownish potatoes look; and second, they put a sizeable dent in our collective pocketbooks. An estimated 400 million pounds of bruised and brown potatoes are chucked each year at a cost of $90 million to producers, most of which, inevitably, is passed along to consumers (us).

Simplot’s hope is that the Innate potato will be snapped up by the potato processing industry—the people who make French fries and potato chips—which is where about a third of the annual U.S. potato crop ends up. It’s also a good possibility for pre-cut fresh potatoes, which now can only be sold frozen, since ordinary fresh-cut potatoes turn a yucky brown in the bag…