Latest Biotech News


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.


AUS - DESPITE DROUGHT COTTON INNOVATION SHINES

Cotton crop the smallest in 40 years, but tough times forge innovative new generation of growers

Source: ABC 7.30 Report – 17 June 2020

Cotton was once known as crop that required a lot of water and a lot of insecticide, but … Since the 1990s the cotton industry has strived become more efficient, and according to industry figures, cotton grown today in Australia uses using 48 per cent less water, 97 per cent less insecticide and 34 per cent less land.

The varieties of cotton grown today have been genetically modified to resist insects and allow the crop to be sprayed for weeds without killing the plant.


INT - GENE DISCOVERY TO BOOST NUTRIENT UPTAKE

Newly discovered plant gene could boost phosphorus intake
Source: University of Copenhagen – 16 June 2020
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have discovered an important gene in plants that could help agricultural crops collaborate better with underground fungi – providing them with wider root networks and helping them to absorb phosphorus.


INT - A GENE-EDITED FUTURE

Source: The Western Producer – 04 June 2020
Two and half decades after herbicide-resistant canola came onto the market, scientists have now adopted newer techniques to design crops. That’s because the new technologies are more efficient and partly because the strict regulations on GM crops have become a barrier to innovation. 

The beginning of the gene editing era and the demise of transgenic crops may have officially occurred in the middle of May [when] the United States Department of Agriculture announced its final rule to modernize biotechnology regulations for plant breeding.

In simple terms, the USDA will now treat gene editing the same as conventional plant breeding.


AUS - GM SAFFLOWER TRIALS

Source: ABC Landline

Australian scientists may have achieved a decades-long quest to find a plant-based alternative to petroleum-based engine oils, one that can be recycled, reused and breaks down in the environment.

Initial studies show safflower oil to be a superior lubricant that has lower emissions than conventional petroleum-based products, and reduces friction and wear on engine components.

The biofuel is produced from specially-bred safflower with high levels of oleic acid, the culmination of 18 years of work by CSIRO plant scientists.

The result is a variety which yields up to 93 per cent oil, the highest level of purity in any currently available plant oils.


AFRICA - MORE COUNTRIES WARMING TO GM CROPS

Source: Cornell Alliance for Science (via Genetic Literacy Project– 22 May 2020 

Though only a few African countries are now growing genetically modified (GM) crops commercially, governments across the continent are increasingly recognizing the crucial role that biotechnology can play in improving food security.

In response, African governments are moving to establish an enabling policy framework to support adoption of biotechnology, including GM crops and derived products…

Currently, only farmers in South Africa, Swaziland and Sudan are growing GM crops commercially. Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria and Kenya have approved the release of GM crops, but just the latter two countries have begun the rollout to farmers. About a dozen other African countries have GM crop research projects under way, with some of the experiments ongoing for more than a decade now.

Case studies from Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda highlighted in the paper show broader agricultural policies in these countries are encouraging support for GM crops on the continent because the policies are science focused.