Latest Biotech News

BRAZIL - GM wheat approved


Brazil has approved the cultivation and sale of drought-tolerant GM wheat, a major boost for the once taboo crop as global food supply fears and regional dry weather burnishes the lure of GMO. The approval, which biosecurity agency CTNbio posted, makes Brazil the second nation after Argentina to approve Bioceres’ HB4 wheat strain for cultivation. Other markets have approved it for consumption… While the green-light does not mean Brazil will necessarily grow GMO wheat for production soon, it reflects a major shift in attitudes as climate change and the war in Ukraine sharpen worries over a global food crisis.

INT - Iron Boosts Rice Immune System

01 March 2023 – ISAAA Crop Biotech Update

Researchers from the Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) have successfully shown that iron treatment helps increase the resistance against rice blast fungus and activate the plant’s immune response against the pathogen.

A study published in the Rice journal led by Blanca San Segundo, a researcher at CRAG, reveals that exposing rice plants to moderately high levels of iron increases resistance to infection by the pathogenic fungus Magnaporthe oryzae, the agent causing rice blast, the most common disease in rice responsible for large production losses worldwide.


Source: ISAAA – 08 February 2023

ISAAA Inc., in partnership with the Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Biotechnology Program and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research and Agriculture (SEARCA), released a policy brief on Modern Animal Biotechnology: Benefits, Future Directions, and Policy Recommendations which provides a summary of genetically engineered animals and research on genome-edited animals conducted in various institutions worldwide.

The brief recommends a science-based regulatory framework specifically designed for GM animals and a separate regulatory process for genome-edited animals. 


Source: University of Queensland – 02 February 2023
30 years of research at The University of Queensland and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) has culminated in gene discoveries that allow breeders to better protect cereal crops from water scarcity.

The discoveries culminated in key findings made by the Australian Research Council (ARC) funded project Cereal blueprints for a water-limited world, led by Professor Andrew Borrell in collaboration with researchers from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) and DAF.

Researchers spent decades investigating a trait known as stay-green, where some sorghum lines maintained green leaves for longer under dry conditions, leading to higher grain yield. 

“We have now uncovered genetic clues that allow a major step change in our ability to breed for drought adaptation,” Professor Borrell said.


Source: New Scientist – 30 January 2023

A US start-up will soon begin planting genetically engineered trees in Georgia and Pennsylvania that may be able to capture more carbon than regular trees. Trees genetically engineered to grow faster and bigger will be planted on private land in Georgia and Pennsylvania by US firm Living Carbon starting early February.

The company says its modified poplar and loblolly pine trees can capture more carbon than unmodified trees, but hasn’t yet demonstrated this outside a laboratory setting.


Source: Murdoch University – 03 February 2023

The collaboration between the Western Crop Genetics Alliance, University of Tasmania and Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science offers a new opportunity for developing barley varieties that can adapt to modern farming conditions.

The researchers have discovered a new semidwarf gene and developed diagnostic molecular markers to support faster breeding of varieties which carry desirable traits such as enhanced early emergence characteristics with deep seeding.


Source: Crop Biotech Update, ISAAA – 11 January 2023

The Department of Agriculture Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) has announced that more than 100 tons of fresh paddy of beta carotene-enriched Malusog Rice (Golden Rice) have been harvested in 17 pioneer production sites across the country. 

This first harvest will be milled for distribution in target households in selected provinces in the country with preschool children at-risk for vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and undernutrition, as well as pregnant and lactating mothers.


Source: Food Ingredients First – 16 January 2023

Scientists at the University of Sheffield have discovered that genetically engineered rice with fewer stomata has better salt tolerance, allowing it to be grown in places it would otherwise fail. The findings have been published in the New Phytologist.

As concluded by the researchers, rice can be adapted to survive in environments that are becoming harsher due to climate change, which will help in tackling food insecurity around the globe.


Source: Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News – 12 January 2023

Genetically engineered plants are sprouting up to restore the carbon cycle and prevent the further buildup of carbon dioxide. There is a push to use CRISPR to make agricultural technologies that pull carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the air and store it better in the soil. With the help of CRISPR technology, scientists are making gene edited plant varieties that are better at storing carbon and don’t have the traits of GMOs that are made with transgenes.

Many research projects have sprung up… For example, carbon sequestration research is being conducted at the Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI), an organization founded by Nobel laureate Jennifer A. Doudna, PhD. In June 2022, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative gave $11 million to the IGI to help scientists find ways to protect or heal the ecosystem from harm caused by humans.


Source: Food Ingredients First – 14 December 2022

For the first time in history, scientists have genetically engineered a hen that lays eggs from which only female chicks hatch. The “Golda hen” was bred from a special technology that transfers a biological trait through sex chromosomes, which prevents the development of male embryos.

In addition to reducing the many resources needed for hatching chicks, the costs of sorting and culling the day-old male chicks – which are considered an “unnecessary by-product” in the edible egg industry – will be reduced by almost half, the researchers behind the technology note.

The new advancement for farmed poultry has drawn support from UK animal welfare group, Compassion in World Farming.

The innovation is a result of the collaboration between the Huminn Company (formerly NRS) and the Volcanic Institute, an Israeli agri-food research hub.

“The scale of the egg-laying market in the world is estimated at about 7 billion laying hens, and for each hen a male chick is destroyed,” Dr. Yuval Cinnamon, founder and chief scientific officer at the Huminn Company.


Source: Genetic Literacy Project – 09 September 2022

This paper updates previous estimates for the global value of using genetically modified (GM) crop technology in agriculture at the farm level. … Over the period 1996 to 2020, the economic benefits have been significant with farm incomes for those using the technology having increased by $261.3 billion US dollars. This equates to an average farm income gain across all GM crops grown in this period of about $112/hectare.

Over the last 25 years, GM crop seed technology has helped many farmers to grow more food, feed, and fiber using fewer resources by reducing the damage caused by pests and better controlling weeds. The highest yield increases have occurred in developing countries and this has contributed to a more reliable and secure food supply base in these countries.


Source: Food Ingredients 1st – 09 September 2022

A British spin-off science company has been given the green light from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its GM purple tomato after a long-running varietal project. And, now this could pave the way for GM to continue research into increasing the health benefits of whole foods. Its goal is to find ways of commercializing its research into foods with enhanced healthy compounds for consumers.

The USDA approved the sale of Norfolk Plant Sciences (NPS) nutrition-dense purple tomato seeds for spring 2023.


Source: QUT News – 02 September 2022

Professor Dale and the Banana Biotechnology Program from the QUT Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy received the KCA Award for Best Industry Collaboration for work between Australia and Africa that will impact future health, food security and biosecurity.

The multi-million-dollar Golden Banana project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is now close to farmer release of a pro-vitamin A fortified banana that will deliver life-saving health benefits to millions of people in Africa.

The Tropical Race 4 (TR4) Program has developed a genetically modified Cavendish banana resistant to the devastating TR4 disease. Likely to be available for commercial production in 2024, the QCav-4 promises to protect the global Cavendish industry, worth up to US$25 billion annually.

GHANA - GM Cowpea Rollout

Source: Alliance for Science – 02 September 2022

The approval of genetically modified cowpea in Ghana is paving the way for agricultural advances and economic opportunities, researchers say. Ghana adopted its first biotech crop, the pod borer-resistant (PBR) cowpea, in June this year, making it the second country in the world to approve genetically modified cowpea for commercialization. It took researchers about nine years to achieve this feat.

Farmers, who are at the receiving end of the technology, have expressed excitement at the development and hope to have the PBR cowpea seeds in their hands soon. Fifty-six year old Emmanuel Attakorah, who farms a 10-acre cowpea field, expressed his joy at this development and asked that more education be given to sensitize them on best cultural practices to adopt in cultivating the product.

INT - CRISPR for Cassava Mosaic Virus

Source: Alliance for Science – 01 September 2022

Work has begun to possibly develop CRISPR cassava varieties that are resistant to the deadly cassava mosaic virus (CMD), after an international team of research scientists managed to identify a gene responsible for the resistance. The team, led by Wilhelm Gruissem, a professor of Plant Biotechnology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETH Zurich), finally pinned down the gene responsible for what is known as the cassava mosaic disease 2 (CMD2) resistance in some cassava cultivars.