Latest Biotech News


Anderson: plenty of fake news in agriculture

Source: FarmOnline – 25 February 2017

Fake news is an ever-present danger for Australian agriculture that hinders access to scientifically approved Genetically Modified wheat varieties, while prompting emotive debates like the current one on energy affordability. That’s the view of new Crawford Fund Chairman and former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson in calling for less emotion and great scientific focus, in such critical policy debates…Mr Anderson is also co-patron of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia and said despite GM wheat varieties being foreshadowed for commercialisation in seven to 10 years, that time-frame was closing but progress had “stalled”, despite advanced science.


Organic industry needs to re-evaluate zero tolerance of genetically modified crops: WA Farmers group

Source: WA Country Hour (ABC) – 24 February 2017

One of Western Australia’s peak industry bodies says the organic industry in Australia needs to change its zero tolerance standard to the presence of genetically modified (GM) organisms in organic crops. Flood waters have swept through parts of WA’s grain growing region, sparking concern from some certified organic growers that contamination via flood waters may occur. WA Farmers grains section president Duncan Young said the organic industry in Australia should look to GM tolerance standards in other countries. “I think the real issue is the fact that the organic industry needs to re-evaluate their zero status for GM and probably take a leaf out of the book of other countries around the world with their organic industries,” he said.


British scientists create GM chickens that can lay eggs from different breeds

Source: The Mirror (UK). 18 February 2017

British scientists have genetically modified chickens so they can lay eggs from different breeds. The aim is to preserve rare chicken breeds that may be resistant to global infections like bird flu in the future or have highly desirable features such as excellent meat quality. Edinburgh University experts revealed the breakthrough at the world’s biggest science conference in Boston. They used gene editing technology to knock out part of a gene called DDX4 in chickens which is vital for bird fertility. The surrogate chickens are the first gene-edited birds to be produced in Europe, and this is the first time in the world that chickens have been genetically modified to preserve rare breeds.


29 January 2017. Source: Knowridge Science Report

Oil from genetically modified (GM) oil seed crops could replace fish oil as a primary source of the beneficial Omega 3 fatty acid EPA – according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA). Researchers studied the effect in mice of consuming feed enriched with oil from glasshouse-grown genetically engineered Camelina sativa, developed at the agricultural science centre Rothamsted Research. The goal of the research was to discover whether mammals (using mice as a model) can absorb and accumulate EPA from this novel source of omega-3s…


30 January 2017. Source: Genetic Literacy Project
Grapes that make wines are some of the most genetically modified organisms in the world. It’s just that this modification hasn’t happened using modern gene-editing.

But now, a number of studies are underway to introduce new traits in wine grapes through GMO techniques…

  • At Rutgers University in New Jersey, researchers led by Rong Di Di’s plant genetics lab isolated three genes in grapes that appear to allow powdery mildew spores to attach and attack wine grapes, particularly chardonnay.
  • Last summer, Isak Pretorius, Vice Chancellor of Macquarie University in Australia and a specialist in plant and wine biotechnology, wrote a review of the yeast that sparks wine fermentation, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The yeast was the first organism to function with a completely synthetic chromosome.
  • A genetic engineering effort showed techniques that could increase levels of resveratrol, a compound in red wine at last tentatively linked to certain health effects, and also to reduce or even eliminate the hangover effects from drinking wine.


o1 February 2017. Source: BBC News.

The planting of a new experimental crop of genetically modified (GM) wheat will take place this spring after the UK government gave the final go ahead.
The GM wheat has been engineered to use sunlight more efficiently and has boosted greenhouse yields by up to 40%.

Researchers in Hertfordshire now want to see if they can replicate these gains in the field…
This latest effort aims to see if the spectacular gains in productivity of 20-40% in GM wheat grown in the greenhouse can be reproduced in the open air.
Last Autumn, the scientists at Rothamsted Research submitted an application to the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) seeking permission to carry out small field trials at a secure site near Harpenden between 2017 and 2019.
After an independent risk assessment and a public consultation, that permission has now been granted.


21 October 2016. Source: ABC News

Western Australia’s Genetically Modified Crops Free Areas Repeal Bill 2015 passed through State Parliament last night.

Up until now WA has been classified as a GM crops free area zone, with two exemptions, one for GM cotton in the Ord River irrigation area and the other for GM canola.

Agriculture and Food Minister Mark Lewis said the passing of the Bill gave certainty to WA farmers and investors, reduced red tape, and provided access to new opportunities and tools for grain growers to be innovative.

The minister said the passing of the Bill allowed WA growers to access new GM crops approved by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator.

Evan Reynolds farms at Binnu on the edge of WA’s northern agricultural region and he believed the passing of the Bill opened up opportunities.

“To expand into other crops, to modify genes in other crops, it’s not just the GM canola, it’s going to give great opportunities for a lot more crops, which will create more choices for farmers,” he said…


13 October 2016. Source: Farm Weekly (WA)

The long-awaited Genetically Modified (GM) Crops Free Areas Repeal Bill 2015 is expected to pass through State Parliament this week, which would end months of uncertainty for WA canolagrowers wanting to grow GM canola next year.

This is one of the last opportunities for the bill to pass, with only four more sittings before the end of the year.

Once passed, the decision to grow GM crops in WA will revert to the national Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR), which is responsible for administering permits to grow GM crops in Australia.


Source: Capital Press – 26 September 2016

Summerland, B.C. — A third non-browning, genetically modified apple has been approved by the USDA. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of USDA has granted deregulated status to the Arctic Fuji developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits of Summerland, B.C. The Fuji joins the Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny Smith varieties as deregulated and deemed as safe and nutritious as conventional apples by APHIS.


Source:  The Medical Republic – 29 September 2016

Global agricultural giant Monsanto has signed a licensing deal with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to use CRISPR-Cas genome-editing technology to help develop new seeds and crop improvements. CRISPR is a technology used to edit DNA by snipping specific parts of the genetic code so as to modify the characteristics of an organism. For Monsanto, this means being able to integrate specific genes into a plant’s seeds as well as enhancing beneficial, or removing undesirable, plant characteristics so that plant breeders can deliver better hybrids and varieties more efficiently.



Source: Stock Journal (SA) – 29 September 2016

The state government claims its GM-free status, combined with overseas demand for non-GM foods and crops, could provide a huge economic benefit for SA. A University of Adelaide study, commissioned by the government, found there was growing demand in four export markets – particularly the United States and China – for ‘naturally healthy’ foods with non-GM ingredients.

Grain Producers SA, who want SA croppers to be given the choice on GM afforded to other mainland growers, said the report had not identified any price premiums being achieved for SA graingrowers to show the benefit of remaining GM-free. They said there were a number of agronomic benefits associated with growing GMs that SA croppers were missing out on.



Source: Farm Industry News – 20 September 2016

It’s not news that Patrick Moore is frustrated with the folks at Greenpeace…

And all of his focus now is on Golden Rice. During the Agricultural Bioscience International Conference being held in Fargo this week, Moore took on the notion of anti-GMO activists; but his core cause is Golden Rice….

In fact, he’s created a movement – Allow Golden Rice Now – in opposition to the efforts to stop the crop. “They’re linking Golden Rice with death, which scares parents into not wanting the technology developed, and they’re still doing this today,” Moore says. It was those efforts, and the fact that no one was actively campaigning in favor of the technology that led Moore to create the group supporting development of the crop.



Source: Sustainable Agriculture Innovations & Food (Canada) – 20 September 2016

Australia approved GM canola in 2003. However, by 2004 a moratorium was implemented across Australia against growing GM canola. It wasn’t until 2008 when the central canola producing states, New South Wales and Victoria, lifted the moratorium, followed by Western Australia in 2010….

The adoption delay of GM canola production has cumulatively resulted in [amongst other things] the application of an additional 6.5 million kg of chemicals…and Australian farmers lost the opportunity to increase their farm revenues by $485 million


Source: The Financial Express (India). 10 September 2016

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has cleared genetically-modified (GM) mustard as safe for human and animal consumption. While the environment ministry will take a final call on whether GM mustard should be declared safe for commercial cultivation, the clearance can pave the way for field trials of other GM crops like rice, brinjal and wheat.

In 2014, the Centre had put field trials of 15 genetically modified crops on hold even after the GEAC had recommended that they be allowed for rice, brinjal, chickpea and mustard…


Source: AquaBounty 31 August 2016

Activists have opposed improved food production from genetically modified (GM) species in spite of the substantial benefits they provide, and the lack of credible evidence that they represent a risk to health.

Nevertheless, their energetic advocacy has had some success, most recently in Nova Scotia.

Columnist Doug Saunders, in the May 21 Globe and Mail, sharply rebuked those who seek to prevent the use of any food grown using GM seeds. He gives an example in Kenya where an ill-informed but now reversed choice to ban GM seeds resulted in preventable crop losses during a drought. He concludes:

 “This week, the National Academy of Sciences released a mammoth study, by a large team of respected scientists who have no agribusiness involvement, which studied 20 years of Western cultivation and consumption of GM crops. It found absolutely zero health or nutritional differences between conventional and genetically altered crops in any form of food, or any possibility of health hazards in GM-developed hybrids.”