Latest Biotech News


USA - NEW GENE CAN BOOST WHEAT YIELDS

Source: Crop Biotech Update (ISAAA)

The TaCOL-B5 gene in wheat plants can enhance yield by more than 10% and is an excellent candidate for getting the most out of one’s wheat crop, according to a report by the Oklahoma State University. The gene was discovered in wheat cultivar CLtr176 from Mexico. It was found to increase the number of spikelets on a wheat spike by more than three, as well as increase the number of fertile tillers per plant. The gene is also rare, as it can only be found in only about 2% of wheat species across the globe.


PHILIPPINES - GOLDEN RICE ROLL-OUT

Source: Crop Biotech Update (ISAAA)

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) announced that it has chosen the province of Lanao del Norte to identify a farmer cooperative that will plant Golden Rice as part of the seed production in preparation for the distribution to households in the Philippines…

Dr. Ronan Zagado, Program Leader of Golden Rice-Project Management Office of the Department of Agriculture-PhilRice, announced that they are now working on the Golden Rice seeds deployment in the province of Lanao del Norte located in the northwestern part of the main island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The seeds will be given for free as part of the pilot scale deployment…


AFRICA: GM CROPS NEEDED

Source: Cornell Alliance for Science

Africa has a more urgent need than the rest of the world to adopt genetically modified organisms for agricultural improvement, says Prof. Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, founding director of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) at the University of Ghana.

Challenges like climate change and population rise are increasing food insecurity on the continent, heightening the urgent need for technological innovations to stem that trend, he said. Disrupted rainfall patterns, drought, extreme weather events, pest infestations, plant diseases, crop losses and hunger are negatively impacting the continent.


INT - BIOFORTIFICATION

Source: Genetic Literacy Project

In 2019, about 8.9 percent of the world population, or 690 million people, were considered to be undernourished. This total probably increased recently because of the COVID pandemic, which led to a loss of economic activity in many developing countries. It is also likely to rise still further as the war in Ukraine has sent the prices of several food staples, such as corn, barley and wheat, surging higher as Russia and Ukraine are major producers and exporters of these crops.

A 2020 paper from two Pakistan biologists, “Transgenic Crops for Biofortification,” noted, “It is evident that biofortification holds great promise for improving the nutritive value of major crops. By the use of recombinant DNA technology, the bioavailability of several essential micronutrients and vitamins could be increased…”


INT: GMOs AND GENE-EDITING - WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Source: Alliance for Science

In our modern age of biotechnology, new tools are constantly being developed for agricultural improvement. Whether it’s DNA sequencing, plant tissue culture or gene editing, these advances are facilitating the development of better crops.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are one well-known example of agricultural biotechnology. The release of GMO products, starting in the 1990s, was followed by an onslaught of information from varied sources about the relative merits of the technology. A quick search will fill your browser with contrasting viewpoints about GMOs from sources with varying levels of credibility.

Newer to the agricultural biotechnology space is gene editing, often known as CRISRPR/Cas. It’s adding yet another term and even more complexity to a field already brimming with misperceptions and misinformation.


ARGENTINA - GM WHEAT APPROVED FOR COMMERCIAL CULTIVATION

Source: Yahoo

Argentina announced the authorization on Thursday of the commercialization within the country of the HB4 GMO wheat variety developed by Bioceres , as Argentine farmers are about to start planting wheat for the 2022/23 season. The move will make Argentina the first country where farmers can plant GMO wheat, which in the case of Bioeceres’ HB4 is more tolerant to water scarcity and resistant to the herbicide glufosinate-ammonium.

In a related development, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), approved the sale of imported foods made from wheat genetically modified to withstand drought and the herbicide glufosinate. At present, neither country allows the GMO wheat, developed by Bioceres Crop Solutions, based in Argentina, to be grown by its farmers.


AUS - GM WHEAT GENE DISCOVERY

Source: Crikey

An Australian led team of international researchers has discovered a gene in wheat that helps produce higher quality crops. The scientists say the discovery could lead to increasing protein in wheat by up to 25 per cent with the potential to help improve its nutritional and economic value. The researchers from the University of Adelaide and the UK’s John Innes Centre have identified the genetic driver that improves the yield traits of wheat. Lead researcher Scott Boden from the University of Adelaide said the significant discovery follows revolutionary progress in wheat science over the past decade.


EGYPT - GM WHEAT DEVELOPMENT

30 April 2022. Source: Egypt Today

The Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority, headed by Dr. Amr El-Hajj, announced that the agricultural research scientists in the authority have started harvesting the production of new strain of genetically-modified wheat at the authority’s site in Inshas city, Bilbeis, Sharqia Governorate. This strain has high-productivity with distinct characteristics such as  being resistant to cultivation in saline lands, and water shortage. 


UK - GM BARLEY TRIALS APPROVED

Source: All About Feed

Field trials involving genetically modified (GM) barley that scientists believe could cut the use of synthetic fertilisers have been given the go ahead.The barley variety has been genetically modified to boost expression levels of the NSP2 gene and scientists will evaluate whether improved crop interaction with naturally occurring soil fungi can lead to more sustainable food production.


USA - FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE WITH GM TREES

Source: Interesting Engineering

The company’s poplar could absorb over 50% more carbon than a normal tree. Is old-fashioned photosynthesis up to the task of managing the enormous amount of carbon (roughly 36 billion tons per year) that we’re pumping into the atmosphere?

A biotechnology startup in California doesn’t think so. That’s why researchers at Living Carbon have been hard at work manipulating arboreal DNA to make a new type of tree that more effectively captures atmospheric carbon and holds onto it for a very, very long time. And they’ve made a lot of progress.


NZ - CAN GM SAVE THE PLANT?

Source: Stuff

Research into genetically modified (GM) technologies that could deliver environmental benefits needs to be reconsidered by regulators, the farming sector and consumers, the New Zealand Productivity Commission.

A recent report from the commission, titled Reaching for the Frontier, said research of GM technologies was an important pathway to innovation in the primary industry and offered new opportunities to respond to climate risks, biosecurity threats and could also boost farm productivity.

“Gene-editing technologies can be used to improve plant traits such as drought tolerance, disease resistance, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in grazed animals, and animal traits such as increased disease resistance,” the report said.

GM organisms and technologies are regulated by New Zealand’s Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act. The purpose of the act was to protect the environment and communities by preventing or managing the adverse effects of hazardous substances and new organisms.


EU - COUNTRIES MOVE ON GENE EDITING DESPITE EU’S RESTRICTIVE POLICIES

Source: Genetic Literacy Project – 28 March 2022

Great Britain has already decided to take the first steps, as has Switzerland: dealing with simple genome-edited plants will be made easier. The strict genetic engineering laws should no longer be the sole benchmark.

The EU is also working on a reform. What it should look like is unclear, but it is already highly controversial – and it will take years. Many countries on all continents have long since made progress.


USA - GENE-EDITED COW APPROVAL

Source: Alliance for Science – 29 March 2022

Though the technology behind genetic modification has been around since the 1980s, the lineup of genetically modified (GM) food animals has been limited to just one fast-growing fish and a hypoallergenic pig.

This month, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the first GM bovines — two slick-coated, heat-tolerant cows — a nod. The news met little fanfare, though the regulatory process that Recombinetics pursued for the gene-edited animals was streamlined compared to what the pioneering salmon and pig went through.

…What allowed them to stampede their way through review, while the salmon treaded water? The answer is simple and logical. The gene required to give cows a slick coat came entirely from other cows and could have been introduced via breeding — albeit much, much, much more slowly.


AUS - GM SAFFLOWER DEMAND GROWING

Source: ABC Rural – 23 March 2022

Global demand for palm and crude oil alternatives combined with concern about Ukraine’s oilseed crop production this season has significantly increased demand for Australian grown high oleic safflower oil…

Melbourne-based bio lubricant developer GO Resources has been developing an Australian safflower crop, with varieties bred using genetic modification to have ‘super high’ levels of oleic acid, ranging between 92 to 95 per cent. 


AUS - SPEED BREEDING FOR MANGO AND MACADAMIA CROPS

Source: Food and Beverage Industry News – 18 March 2022

Dr Stephanie Kerr from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has been awarded funding for two research projects on speed breeding new mango and macadamia crop varieties that protect from pests, disease and climate change. 

Kerr received $22,000 from Hort Innovation to investigate genetic techniques to speed up flowering of mango and macadamia trees. She also received the $22,000 Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia’s Award to test findings by speed breeding macadamia trees. …

Through her research, Kerr will test novel transformation technologies that influence the gene expression for flowering to help speed up development of elite mango and macadamia tree crop cultivars.