Latest Biotech News


Source: North Queensland Register – 19 May 2021

Farmers in states that have had access to genetically modified canola (GM) for some years say their South Australian counterparts will find the opportunity to grow the crops a useful addition to their agronomic toolkit. Western Australian farmer and WAFarmers grains section president Mic Fels said the technology had been widely adapted in the west.

“As has been said many times before it is not a magic bullet, but it has had a super fit for many of our croppers,” Mr Fels said…


Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 23 May 2021

Mice plagues, such as the one ravaging parts of inland NSW, could become a thing of the past if scientists succeed in modifying the genes of the rodents so that populations crash before they can take off. Paul Thomas, a researcher at the University of Adelaide, is part of an international consortium including the CSIRO and the US Department of Agriculture, studying how to safely alter genes to make female mice infertile.

The techniques learned could potentially be applied to other damaging invasive mammals such as cats and foxes…


Source: American Council on Science and Health, 11 May 2021

The first customers have lined up for AquaBounty’s genetically engineered (GE) salmon, committing to purchase five metric tons of the fish that will be harvested at the end of May. After 30 years of regulatory roadblocks, lawsuits, and activist opposition, AquAdvantage salmon may finally be heading to US restaurants and grocery stores.

AquaBounty’s engineered Atlantic salmon will be the first biotech animal sold in US restaurants and grocery stores. The fish contain a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon and an on-off switch from the ocean pout. Unlike conventional salmon, AquaBounty’s fish grow year-round, greatly reducing the amount of feed they consume and enabling important environmental benefits as a result. Only sterile females are produced for consumption in the company’s tightly secured Indiana facility…


Source: ABC Rural, 13 May 2021

It’s a tiny caterpillar that’s difficult to detect, but for more than a year it’s been having a massive impact on crops in Australia, especially corn. 

Fall armyworm (FAW) has infiltrated six states and territories and is so hard to control farmers are whispering about a method that’s been off the table for almost two decades — genetically modified (GM) corn.

Maize Association of Australia chairman Stephen Wilson said questions were being raised about whether GM corn could manage the armyworm incursion.


Building Capacity for Small Exporters to Exploit New Breeding Technologies

Murdoch University, Media Release

In 2019, the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) extended its Package Assisting Small Exporters (PASE) program, which includes grants for projects that facilitate small exporters to overcome different type of trade barriers. One project approved for funding in the most recent round is on ‘Building Capacity for Small Exporters to Exploit New Breeding Technologies’. Awarded to a team of researchers at the WA State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre, Murdoch University, Western Australia, this project is focused on improving trade outcomes for exporters interested in commercialising new breeding technologies (NBTs) such as genome editing. 

Australian plant breeders develop new varieties both for domestic and international markets. Developments in biotechnology have resulted in the emergence of new methods for crop improvement. This project delivers information and actionable deliverables to promote the implementation of new breeding technologies through workshops to provide the latest scientific knowledge and information on Australian and international regulations related to gene-edited (SDN-1) crops.  The project is unique in the sense that it also fosters science diplomacy as a pathway to promote harmonisation of international policy negotiations and regulations that relate to the acceptance of products of new breeding technologies. This aspect links the potential of NBTs with food security, which is a key Sustainable Development Goal.  

The first workshop on was held on Friday 19th March at Murdoch University, Perth, attended by plant breeders, researchers, growers, grain handlers and exporters, to discuss how to promote the new breeding technology of gene-editing.

PhD Scholar and Career Diplomat M. Adeel, detailed the importance of Science Diplomacy in reaching consensus in international regulations which govern international trade in agricultural goods, and more particularly on regulations which relate to powerful new crop breeding technologies.  In effect this is where science meets regulations at an international level.

Prof Michael Jones presented the science on gene-editing of crops – a set of new technologies  which can be applied to crop improvement, and which have been de-regulated by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) – that is they are not genetically modified organisms.  This ruling by the OGTR on specific GM technologies (known as ‘SDN-1’) is democratising new breeding technologies, since they can be used by any plant breeders big or small to generate new, improved crop varieties.  It’s a real game-changer, and in countries like Argentina we can already see that gene-edited products have different profiles and faster market release rates, much faster development from bench to market and are being undertaken mainly by SMEs and public institutions. This change is resulting in more diversified traits applied to more plant species.

Dr Louisa Matthew from the OGTR (Office of the Gene technology Regulator) in Canberra discussed the drivers for regulatory changes regarding gene-edited crops, and the need for regulations which must be flexible enough to meet the arrival of new technologies, and the consultation processes that the OGTR follows.

Dr Sadia Iqbal described gene-editing research underway at Murdoch University, including the generation of potatoes with reduced glycaemic index, potatoes which do not produce brown crisps after low temperature storage, and work to increase frost tolerance in wheat.

This was followed by the launch of the PASE-NBT portal by M Adeel, which will provide information on regulations and policy which surround new breeding technologies in our trading partner countries. This portal will allow multi-stakeholder engagement as well as be a source of providing science advice to policymakers. 

This workshop is the first of a series of local, national and international workshops on gene-editing for crop improvement which will be undertaken over the next few years.  

Contact Professor Michael Jones, WA State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre, Murdoch University, for further information or participation in future workshops ([email protected]).

PASE project supporting partners are:

  • DAWE Package Assisting Small Exporters (PASE)
  • Murdoch University
  • The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development WA (DPIRD)
  • Australian Seed Federationimage003.jpg
  • Edstar genetics Pty Ltd
  • RAYI Corporation Pty Ltd
  • Green Blueprint Pty Ltd
  • CBH Group
  • CropLife Australia

Portal link:

Contact email: [email protected]


Source: NSW Department of Primary Industries, Media Release – 02 March 2021

The NSW Government will lift the ban on the use of Genetically Modified (GM) crops by allowing an 18-year moratorium to lapse, increasing agricultural competitiveness and productivity.

Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall said by lifting the ban on 1 July 2021, the Government was opening the door for the State’s primary industries sector to embrace new GM technologies in the field – potentially reaping billions of dollars in benefits across NSW.


Source: EurekAlert! – 04 March 2021

Over 2 billion people worldwide are malnourished due to zinc deficiency. An international team of researchers has discovered how plants sense zinc and use this knowledge to enhance plant zinc uptake.


Source: Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News – 04 March 2021

 Agricultural bioscience company Yield10 may have come a step closer to this great future [bioplastics]. Soon, they may be growing smartphone cases, wall plates, and plastic utensils next to rows of corn and soybeans. 

On January 19, the company announced the successful completion of field trials of multiple lines of GM Camelina sativa, an oilseed crop.

The plants were GM with undisclosed bacterial genes to produce polyhydroxyalkanoates, PHAs, a polymer produced by some bacterial and archaea species as an energy store.


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.


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. 


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.


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.]


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.


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.


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.