Latest Biotech News


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. 


NIGERIA - GM COWPEA IN HIGH DEMAND

Source: Cornell Alliance for Science – 22 February 2022

Nigeria’s private local seed companies are expanding production of genetically modified (GM) cowpea seeds to supply farmers eager to grow the pest-resistant crop.

Farmers faced a widespread shortage of the now commercially available GM cowpea seeds last year as strong demand for the variety outstripped supply.  The crop increases yields, while slashing the need for pesticides. As a result, farmers earn higher profits while reducing the environmental and health impacts associated with pesticides.


EU - GM CROPS COULD SLASH EMISSIONS

Source: Alliance for Science – 24 February 2022

Though Europe has long rejected genetically modified crops, a new study suggests their adoption could significantly boost yields and slash climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Wider adoption of the already-existing GM crops in the European Union could result in a reduction equivalent to 7.5 percent of the total agricultural GHG emissions of Europe, researchers observe in a new paper published in Trends in Plant Science.


AUS - NITROGEN-EFFICIENT BARLEY IN PIPELINE

Source: Farm Weekly – 14 February 2022

New barley varieties with significantly improved nitrogen efficiency to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions are on the horizon, as a result of advances made by a Western Australian research collaboration…

The nitrogen content of the new barley lines was up to 50 per cent higher at half the nitrogen rate, when compared with the control varieties in glasshouse trials, while grain yields increased by up to 30pc under typical nitrogen fertiliser application rates


INT - GENE TECH RESEARCH TO CONTROL FALL ARMYWORM

Source: Cornell Alliance for Science – 02 February 2022

Genetically modified insects offer a sustainable solution for controlling fall armyworm, a devastating agricultural pest that has already developed resistance to both insecticides and Bt crops, a new study finds.

The peer-reviewed research, published in BMC Biotechnology Journal, found that Oxitec Ltd.’s Friendly technology can effectively reduce populations of fall armyworm, offering hope for long-term protection against the pest.

“Our results provide promise for a new and valuable addition to future integrated pest management programs for fall armyworm, and for other pests in which insecticide resistance has become a significant challenge for farmers,” the authors wrote. “Preservation of, and reducing over-reliance on, existing tools whilst minimizing their ecological impact will improve food security, farmers’ livelihoods, and environmental sustainability.”

The proprietary Friendly technology works by genetically modifying (GM) insects to introduce a gene that prevents offspring of the pests from surviving into adulthood. The modified male fall armyworms are released into areas of infestation where they mate with wild females, reducing the number of female offspring in the next generation and thereby dramatically reducing the population. The introduced gene is self-limiting…


CANADA - TIME TO RE-THINK GM WHEAT?

Source: AgWeb – 09 January 2022

It’s safe. It would help farmers deal with drought, support biodiversity, protect the environment and decrease a farms carbon footprint. It would help consumers cope with inflation and pay their food bills.

So why aren’t we growing genetically modified wheat?

We’re asking this question again because of the news from South America late last year that Brazil will accept the importation of genetically modified wheat flour from Argentina…

In the case of [this GM] HB4 wheat, scientists have developed a seed technology that is drought tolerant.  Field trials have shown that when this technology is partnered with regenerative soil practices like no-till, the carbon footprint for this crop decreases while yields are protected when water is limited.

Droughts are a growing threat in my region as Canada, along with much of the world, is experiencing unpredictable extreme weather events…

Genetically modified wheat would help farmers like me contend with problems such as this.


UK : GM HIGH IRON WHEAT TRIAL PENDING

Source: John Innes Centre – 15 December 2021

Researchers at the John Innes Centre have applied to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for consent to conduct a field trial of genetically modified (GM) wheat.

The small-scale field trial is planned to take place within confined GM trial facilities at our field station in Bawburgh, between March and August in each year from 2022 to 2024.

The wheat trial follows research at the John Innes Centre that identified a gene, TaVIT2 which encodes for an iron transporter in wheat. This knowledge was then used to develop a wheat line in which more iron is transported into the endosperm, the part of the grain from which white flour is milled.


INT - NEW BREEDING INNOVATIONS

Source: Seed Quest – 15 December 2021

As modern biotechnology rapidly moves forward, ISAAA continues to share the latest cutting-edge biotechnologies to its network of stakeholders and beneficiaries with its most recent publication about new breeding innovations and their impact on global challenges.

Breaking Barriers with Breeding: A Primer on New Breeding Innovations for Food Security (ISAAA Brief 56) is ISAAA’s most recent addition to its Briefs series. It highlights the most available tools used in genome editing and their impact on global food security.

The primer explores new breeding innovations for plants and animals, the regulations related to them, their prospects in Africa and Southeast Asia, their potential contributions to food security, and how to effectively communicate the benefits of these innovations to different stakeholders.


AUS - SA’S GM CANOLA MOST VALUABLE IN COUNTRY

Source: SA Government, Media Release – 02 December 2021

South Australia’s farmers are reaping the rewards of being able to grow GM canola with local crops currently the most valuable in the country – fetching more than $900 per tonne according to a November 2021 market report.

The latest Bayer GM Canola Market Report shows South Australian GM Canola priced at $915 per tonne compared with $840 per tonne in Victoria and $830 per tonne in the traditionally strong Western Australian market.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development David Basham said the strong pricing for South Australian GM canola demonstrates the importance of giving our farmers the choice on what they want to grow.

“After a 16-year Labor moratorium on Genetically Modified food crops on mainland South Australia, our farmers are reaping the benefits in our first harvest of GM Canola and safflower,” Minister Basham said.

“More than 23,000 hectares of GM canola were planted around the state this season and the latest Bayer GM Canola Market Report indicates South Australian prices are currently the best in the country at more than $900 per tonne.

“Despite the doomsday predictions of some of our political opponents, GM canola has been a real boon for South Australian farmers with not only the highest returns in Australia but with less inputs.

“This is a credit to South Australia’s world-class grains industry but it unfortunately further highlights the economic opportunities our state has missed out on by living under an archaic moratorium…


INT - AI HELPING TO DESIGN FUTURE CROPS

Source: SyFy – 27 November 2021

A recent study carried out by Rajeev Varshney from the Center of Excellence in Genomics and Systems Biology at the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and colleagues looked at the genome of chickpeas in hopes of finding a way to build a better food crop. Their findings were published in the journal Nature.

They didn’t just look at one kind of chickpea. Instead, the work analyzed more than 3,366 varieties of the plant — 3,171 cultivated species and 195 wild species — in order to get a full picture of genetic diversity. They created a pan-genome which describes genetic diversity across cultivated species and their wild source plants.

“It was a long journey from inception in 2014,” Varshney told SYFY WIRE. “This was the first effort of its kind across any crop. It took about three years for us to generate all of the data and then three to four years for data analysis and interpretation.”

The work, though daunting, resulted in the identification of 29,870 total genes, including 1,582 which had not been reported before. This analysis identified beneficial genes as well as detrimental mutations which result in less successful plants and lower crop yields.

That data was then delivered to the University of Queensland where it was analyzed by an artificial intelligence called FastStack, which is specialized for designing new varieties of plants and crops with an eye toward optimal output.


AUS - CSIRO’S PLANS FOR FERAL CATS

Source: 6PR – 23 November 2021

Invasive species such as feral cats, fire ants, rabbits and exotic plants are causing significant damage to local wildlife.

Dr Andy Shepherd, Senior Research Scientist at CSIRO, says it’s a huge issue for Australia.

The solution that CSIRO are focusing on is a genetically modified feral cat.

“We recognise there’s a huge amount of effort, particularly in WA, going on to manage cat numbers using effective bating systems, but it’s not a long term solution,” Dr Shepherd said.

“So we’re really focusing here at CSIRO is long term solutions, and what we’re trying to come up with is a genetically modified cat, that when it mates with other cats the offspring will only be male…


AUS - UWA BREEDS FOR ACCELERATED CROP IMPROVEMENT

Source: Farm Weekly – 05 October 2021.

The University of Western Australia’s (UWA) Institute of Agriculture has collaborated with international researchers to develop a roadmap to fast-forward breeding for accelerated crop improvement and rapid delivery systems, which will lead to a food-secure world.

Two papers, recently published in Trends in Genetics and Nature Biotechnology, were the result of a Perth-based workshop organised by The UWA Institute of Agriculture and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and attended by research institutions from Australia, India, Austria, China, Mexico and the United Kingdom…