Latest Biotech News


AUS - TROVE OF SORGHUM DIVERSITY FOUND

Source: International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) – 30 November 2020

New research published in the journal Diversity and Distributions used cutting-edge technology to show that wild cousins of sorghum, the fifth-most important cereal crop globally, are most concentrated in Australia, despite having been domesticated in Africa. But with 12 of the total 23 wild relative species possibly endangered, four vulnerable, and four near threatened, these economically important wild plants are in peril, the authors warn.


INT - LATEST GM CROP GLOBAL STATS

Source: ISAAA, Media release – 30 November 2020

Africa leads the progress among the regions of the world in adopting biotech crops by doubling the number of adopting countries in 2019 according to ISAAA’s Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in 2019 (ISAAA Brief 55).

In total, 190.4 million hectares of biotech crops were grown in 29 countries in 2019, contributing significantly to food security, sustainability, climate change mitigation, and upliftment in the lives of up to 17 million biotech farmers and their families worldwide. 


AUS - WHEAT AND BARLEY GENOME RESEARCH

The University of Adelaide, media release – 25 November 2020
An international research collaboration has unlocked new genetic variation in wheat and barley – a major boost for the global effort in breeding higher-yielding wheat and barley varieties.

“Wheat and barley are staple food crops around the world but their production needs to increase dramatically to meet future food demands,” says the University of Adelaide’s Associate Professor Ken Chalmers who, together with his School of Agriculture, Food & Wine colleagues Professor Emeritus Peter Langridge and Professor Robbie Waugh, led the Adelaide research.

“It is estimated that wheat production alone must increase by more than 50% over current levels by 2050 to feed the growing global population.”

Professor Chengdao Li at Murdoch University also played a key role in the Australian component of the barley sequencing.


AUS - ACCOLADES FOR CSIRO SCIENTISTS

Source: CSIRO Media Release – 25 November 2020

Professor Toby Walsh and Dr TJ Higgins from CSIRO have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)…

Dr Higgins has spent the latter part of his career working with an international team of researchers to protect cowpeas from the damaging legume pod-borer.

Cowpeas or black-eyed peas are a major source of protein for 200 million people in West Africa, sometimes referred to as ‘poor-man’s meat’.

Through breeding the Bt gene into cowpea, Dr Higgins and his African colleagues have given the plant its own built in insect protection.

In late 2019 the first insect-resistant cowpea variety was approved in Africa.

[Dr Higgins is the Chair of ABCA’s Expert Scientific Panel.]


AUS - WHEAT GENOME BREAKTHROUGH

Source: Farm Online – 27 November 2020

Just two years after the bread wheat genome was finally mapped for the first time, a crack team of international scientists, including researchers from the University of Western Australia, have sequenced and analysed the genomes of 16 key wheat varieties from around the globe…

Two UWA researchers, Ian Small and Joanne Melonek, from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology and the UWA School of Molecular Sciences contributed to the study through their globally recognised expertise in a family of genes known as Restorer-of-fertility-like (Rfl). These genes have valuable applications in wheat hybrid breeding programs.


AUS - NO ADVANTAGE FOR GM FREE COUNCILS IN SA

Source: Stock Journal – 05 November 2020

South Australia’s Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister David Basham has rejected all proposals from 11 local council areas hoping to gain genetically-modified food crop-free status, saying the applications did not meet the legislation’s terms. 

On Monday, Mr Basham announced all farmers in SA – except those on Kangaroo Island – would have the opportunity to grow GM crops if they wanted next season.


USA - BUMPER GM APPLE HARVEST

Source: Growing Produce – 28 October 2020

Okanagan Specialty Fruits the developer and grower of ‘Arctic’ apples, the only genetically modified apple, is reporting the largest combined harvest of its varieties, which have been bioengineered to prevent browning when sliced.

The ‘Arctic Golden‘ harvest yielded approximately 8,400 bins or almost 8 million pounds, the company said. Meanwhile, the ‘Arctic Granny’ harvest yielded approximately 5,500 bins or 5 million pounds. This doubles the size of the 2019 harvest, OSF reported.


USA - GM SUGAR BEET SUCCESS STORY

Source: Idaho State Journal – 28 October 2020

It’s only been a few years since US sugar beet farmers faced a potential financial crisis due to negative public perceptions about food products derived from biotechnology. Nowadays, however, the sugar beet industry is flipping the narrative. 

“We have lots of data,” said Scott Herndon, vice president and general counsel with the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.

“We submitted something to the National Academy of Sciences where we identified 25 environmental gains achieved through biotech seeds related to water, soil and air.”


GHANA- GM COWPEA PROGRESS

Source: Genetic Literacy Project – 21 October 2020

The Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) has announced it will in November officially request approval from the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) to put GM cowpea variety into the hands of farmers outside confined experimental fields.

SARI is one of 13 institutes of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) responsible for the development of improved crop varieties for the benefit of farmers in the northern part of the country and beyond.


ARGENTINA - GM WHEAT APPROVED

Source: The Western Producer – 22 October 2020

Argentina has become the first country in the world to approve GM wheat for cultivation and consumption…Researchers say the variety, in which a sunflower gene was inserted, is 20 percent more productive during drought years…Drought-tolerant wheat caught the attention of crop developers and agencies in Saskatchewan, appropriate in a year that has seen little rain since late summer and extremely dry soil conditions in many parts of the province.

“The actual performance of the wheat, we’d be very interested in that and understanding how the mechanism for conferring more drought tolerance works,” said Harvey Brooks, of the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission.

Brooks emphasizes that the success of HB4 wheat hinges on market acceptance. While it has been approved in Argentina, that country exports 85 percent of its crop to neighbouring Brazil, which has yet to sign off.


AUS - ABCA GUIDE LAUNCH RECORDING NOW AVAILABLE

The Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) launched the fourth edition of its Official Australian Reference Guide to Agricultural Biotechnology and GM Crops at the National Press Club in Canberra on 29 September 2020.

The event was live-streamed, and the recording is now available for viewing here:

The Guide provides balanced, science-based information on agricultural biotechnology. It allows for informed decisions about the application, uses, and future of agricultural biotechnology in Australia, and a better understanding of its benefits and safety.

You can download the Guide here.


AUS - PROMOTING SCIENCE AND EVIDENCE IN THE GENE TECHNOLOGY DEBATE

The Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) has launched the fourth edition of its Official Australian Reference Guide to Agricultural Biotechnology and GM Crops (the Guide) at the National Press Club in Canberra.

Chairman of ABCA, Ken Matthews AO, said, “In an increasingly alarming world of fake news, alternative facts, disinformation, disdain for experts, suspicion of science, opinions trumping evidence, and blindly partisan position-taking, we need more reliable, accessible, and factual inputs to public debate on matters of science.”

The Guide was developed in conjunction with an expert national scientific panel and world leading specialists in the field. It provides credible, balanced, science-based information on agricultural biotechnology to allow for informed decisions about the application, uses and future of agricultural biotechnology in Australia, and a better understanding of its benefits and safety.

Mr Matthews continued, “The world’s population is growing quickly and is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. Food production will need to double to feed the world. Finding double the area of land for global crop production is simply not realistic, doubling inputs is not feasible and finding double the amount of water is impossible.

“Global agriculture needs to innovate, not simply duplicate and agricultural biotechnology is increasingly recognised as a critical part of the solution.”

The Guide, now in its fourth edition, has evolved to include the latest technology developments in agricultural biotechnology with a focus on the role gene-editing will play in agriculture and beyond. The guide also follows the evolution of consumer attitudes, in Australia and globally, and gives voices to farmers who are the experts at growing what feeds our nation.

“When considering the growth and sustainability of Australia’s agriculture industry, especially while facing unprecedented environmental challenges, Australian farmers must remain committed to integrating science and technology in farming practices,” said Mr Matthews.

“Too often, agriculture is viewed as yesterday’s industry, or worse – a legacy industry imposing environmental costs on a fragile Australian landscape. That’s not the agriculture I know and care about. More and more Australian farms are capital intensive, R&D driven, environmentally conscious, nimble, technologically advanced, and entrepreneurial.

“This is the agriculture industry that exists and must be promoted. Just as people concerned about climate change urge us to listen to the science, so too should the science and evidence be front and centre in the gene technology debate.”

Download the Guide here.


INT - GM RICE RESEARCH FOR HYPERTENSION

Source: Science Focus – 24 June 2020

Researchers have lowered rats’ blood pressure by feeding them rice harvested from a plant genetically edited to produce medicine known to reduce hypertension… the research, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry noted that ACE Inhibitors derived from natural sources like milk, eggs and vegetables tend to have fewer side effects.

With that in mind they engineered a breed of rice plant to produce a range of these compounds along with a few chemicals known to relax blood vessels.


AUS - FROST-TOLERANT WHEAT RESEARCH IN WA

Source: ABC, WA Country Hour – 25 June 2020
Researchers using gene-editing technology to create frost-tolerant wheat say their work could save Australian farmers millions of dollars in lost productivity. 

Plant biotechnologists at Murdoch University are working on a two-year project using gene-editing technology to encourage frost tolerant proteins already present in wheat to become active during the coldest months of Australian winter.


AUS - GM COLOURED COTTONS IN THE PIPELINE

Source: ABC Landline – 27 June 2020
A few dozen petri dishes in a high-tech greenhouse in Canberra hold the potential to transform the global textiles industry. They contain plant tissue, which within days will grow into cotton plants: not standard, everyday white cotton, but ones with a dazzling array of colours. They are the product of CSIRO plant breeders … Colleen MacMillan leads the team of scientists who have cracked cotton’s molecular colour code, adding genes to make the plants produce a colour.