Latest Biotech News

INT - Global Farmer Perspective on New Plant Breeding Technologies

Source: Farm Journal, AgWeb

Nearly three dozen Nobel laureates have joined more than 1,000 scientists in urging members of the European Parliament to embrace science-based gene editing technology. New Genomic Techniques, they write in a petition, “hold immense promise for sustainable agriculture, enhanced food security, and innovative medical solutions.” As farmers who worry about the future of food production in an era of climate change, we join this distinguished group in asking the policymakers of the EU to open their minds to the amazing potential of this technology.

USA - FDA Hindered GM Animal Research

Source: Genetic Literacy Project

The glacial pace of the U.S. FDA’s approval process for genetically engineered food animals has inhibited innovation for decades. It wasn’t until 2021 that the first of them — the AquAdvantage Atlantic salmon tweaked using transgenic engineering (which makes it a “GMO”) to grow twice as quickly as the unaltered variety — finally went on sale in the US. The FDA review of the fish took more than 20 years. (Compare that to the five-month review of human insulin, the first biopharmaceutical, which was approved in 1982.)

INT - Fast-Growing GM Cow Cells and Cultured Meat

Source: New Scientist 

Researchers have engineered cows’ muscle cells that can multiply without the assistance of an expensive and energy-intensive growth-boosting substance. If scaled up, they are optimistic this could slash the production costs of lab-grown meat, but they stress that it is still early days. Lab-grown, or cultivated, meat can be produced from animal cells. Approved for sale in countries such as the US and the Netherlands, it has been touted as a more ethical and sustainable substitute to conventional meat, by avoiding the slaughter of animals and using fewer resources, such as water. But the current, small-scale methods of producing lab-grown meat have still proven to be extremely energy intensive and expensive.

NIGERIA - Game-Changing GM Maize Varieties Approved

Source: Science Nigeria

In a groundbreaking move, the Federal Government of Nigeria has given the green light for the commercial release of (GM) maize varieties designed to combat insect infestations and thrive in drought conditions. These transformative maize varieties, collectively known as ‘TELA’ maize, received approval on January 11, 2024.

The four approved varieties, SAMMAZ 72T, SAMMAZ 73T, SAMMAZ 74T and SAMMAZ 75T, are heralded for their drought tolerance and resistance to stem-borers and fall armyworm, offering a yield advantage of up to 10 tonnes per hectare under optimal agronomic practices.

USA - Agrigenomics and Climate Change

Genetic Literacy Project – 25 August 2023

On February 7–8 a small group of researchers met at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in an informal (and partly hybrid) meeting entitled “How Can Agrigenomics Help to Address Climate Change?” The workshop featured speakers from around the world convened to discuss how best to demonstrate proof of concept for selected applications and start to flesh out plans to reduce them to practice at scale.

Each of these concepts has the potential to remove gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere within the foreseeable future. Cutting emissions is important but reducing atmospheric carbon concentrations is essential. If we can’t figure out how to do that the fight is lost.

NZ - GM Grass Research Expanded

ISAAA, Biotech Updates – 12 July 2023

AgResearch, a scientific research center in New Zealand, is expanding research and development initiatives on genetically modified and gene-edited grasses. The center has included clover and endophytes to its research efforts, which initially focused on High Metabolizable Energy (HME) ryegrass. HME ryegrass has completed field trials in the US, but was temporarily withdrawn in Australia because of the complex requirements of the regulators.

UK - GM Sheep for Climate Change?

Genetic Literacy Project – 14 July 2023

Farmers are looking to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in a weird and wonderful way: using genetically engineered, low-methane sheep.

A project named ‘Breed for CH4nge’ has been announced in the U.K., pledging £2.9 million—$3.7 million—to breed sheep to emit as little methane as possible, helping farming get closer to net zero emissions.

INT - Animal Biotech Resource Launched

ISAAA – 29 June 2023
ISAAA, in partnership with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), released the Animal Biotechnology Resource. It serves as a public repository of information materials on animal biotechnology sourced from international workshops organized by ISAAA, USDA, Virginia Tech, and partners.

The animal biotech resources include workshop proceedings, videos, podcasts, and presentation slides tackling the latest developments in the field as well as the regulatory approaches for consideration.

UK - GM Meat Substitutes

New Scientist – 28 June 2023
Meat substitutes could be about to get a lot more meat-like. A UK-based company called Moolec says it has created genetically modified soya plants that produce beans in which a quarter of the soluble proteins are pig proteins. It has named its plant “Piggy Sooy”.

Moolec is also creating pea plants that contain beef proteins. It claims its products will be able to provide similar taste, texture and nutritional value as meat, but without the high costs associated with cultured meat.

AUS - Cracked Gene Code Bodes Well for More, Better Barley

Grain Central – 06 July 2023

Researchers have for the first time identified several genes in barley that could eventually lead to larger yielding crops. The research was carried out at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Research Institute and involved using genetic techniques and molecular biology to examine several historical multiovary barley mutants, and determine which genes boost fertility and make the plants more receptive to cross-pollination.

AUS - GM Banana Approval Application

The Guardian 

Scientists have submitted Australia’s first genetically modified fruit – a Cavendish banana – to regulators for approval, saying it has been engineered to withstand a deadly fungus that poses a threat to banana growers worldwide. The banana, known as QCAV-4, has been genetically modified to resist a fungus known as Panama disease tropical race 4 (TR4), which is threatening the multibillion-dollar Cavendish industry globally. If approved, the banana would become Australia’s first GM fruit to be approved for cultivation and consumption, as well as the first GM banana to be approved worldwide.

See also:

Receipt of licence application from Queensland University of Technology for commercial release of genetically modified banana plants

The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator 

AUS - Breaking Down Regulatory Barriers to Feed the World

Murdoch University

Researchers from around the world will meet in Canberra later this month for a conference showcasing the latest scientific advances in gene-editing technologies and research on gene-edited crops. Organised by Murdoch University, the conference, Gene-edited crops: enabling future commercialisation and trade, will run from 26-27 April at the Shine Dome in Canberra. The conference is open to researchers, farming bodies, research and development corporations, diplomats, international organisations and more, with leading speakers from universities, the grain and horticultural industries, CSIRO, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), with presenters from north and south America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region.

AUS - New CSIRO project to crack pest species codes


The CSIRO has embarked on an ambitious new project to unravel the genetic blueprints of Australia’s top pest and invasive species to better enable their management or eradication.  The Australian Pest Genome Partnership (APGP) will generate the genomic data of hundreds of pests and weeds and make it freely available, along with digital solutions to help analyse the data. The data will assist researchers working on pest and weed species and underpin next generation species-specific solutions.

USA - GM Teff and Safflower Approvals

Ag Daily

Two more genetically engineered plants have passed a Regulatory Status Review [in the USA]…The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service recently completed the review…[the finding means] from a plant pest risk perspective, these plants may be safely grown and used in breeding in the United States. Teff is an ancient grain grown widely in northeast Africa because of its drought tolerance and climate adaptability. An iron- and protein-rich food source, productivity is limited because of its tendency to fall over, preventing proper ripening. The teff plant from the Donald Danforth Center was modified to produce shorter (semi-dwarf) plants and reduce the likelihood of lodging, or stem buckling. Moolec Science’s safflower plant was modified to produce gamma-linolenic acid, an essential omega-6 fatty acid in seeds to alter their nutritional value. Although GLA is common in plant seeds, Moolec intends to continue modifying plants to produce animal proteins using animal genes within plants. 

USA - World’s First-to-Market Cultivated Meat Receives Clearance

Biotech Updates, ISAAA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has completed its second pre-market consultation for human food made from cultured animal cells. California-based GOOD Meat, a division of Eat Just, Inc., uses animal cell culture technology to take living cells from chickens and grow the cells in a controlled environment to make cultured animal cell food…The United States joins Singapore as a global leader in creating a regulatory pathway to market for real, safe, and high-quality meat produced directly from animal cells. GOOD Meat won several regulatory approvals for its chicken in Singapore in 2020, 2021, and 2023, and is the only cultivated meat producer in the world with the ability to sell to consumers.