Latest Biotech News

USA - Gene-editing cotton

Source: AgDaily, 29 August 2022

According to a news release, Texas A&M University’s novel cotton-gene editing project will focus on enhancing cotton plant resistance to insect pests — paving a way for plant protection. Using gene-editing technology, the researchers are working to remove a characteristic to make plants more resistant to pests, marking a giant leap in new methodologies designed to protect plants from insects and other threats. 

The goal is to essentially silence genes in cotton that produce monoterpenes, chemicals that produce an odor pest insects home in on. By removing odors that pests associate with a good place to feed and reproduce, scientists believe they can reduce infestations, which will in turn reduce pesticide use and improve profitability.


Source: ABC Radio National – 31 August 2022

A handful of food startups around the world are racing to develop and mass produce animal-free dairy – that is, synthetic milk identical to cow’s milk. Eden Brew CEO and co-founder Jim Fader says the company first batch of non animal dairy ice cream is a few months away, and its non animal dairy milk is about a year away from shelves. 


Source: Ecos, CSIRO – 23 August 2022

Nitrogen is key to producing the world’s crops – but it comes at a cost. New research from CSIRO is developing future crops that produce their own fertiliser. Cutting environmental impacts, without impacting global food security – this challenge is being tackled by Dr Craig Wood and his team at CSIRO using advanced synthetic biology and crop biotechnology to create new crops that that can fix their own nitrogen for growth.

“Some bacteria are able to make their own fertiliser, and this unique and natural pathway is giving us the template for engineering crops with the same capacities,” Dr Wood says. His team, including Drs Christina Gregg and Rob Allen, are using the genetic templates available in bacteria and re-engineering them to have stable expression in agricultural crops. 


Source: Crop Biotech Update (ISAAA)

The TaCOL-B5 gene in wheat plants can enhance yield by more than 10% and is an excellent candidate for getting the most out of one’s wheat crop, according to a report by the Oklahoma State University. The gene was discovered in wheat cultivar CLtr176 from Mexico. It was found to increase the number of spikelets on a wheat spike by more than three, as well as increase the number of fertile tillers per plant. The gene is also rare, as it can only be found in only about 2% of wheat species across the globe.


Source: Crop Biotech Update (ISAAA)

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) announced that it has chosen the province of Lanao del Norte to identify a farmer cooperative that will plant Golden Rice as part of the seed production in preparation for the distribution to households in the Philippines…

Dr. Ronan Zagado, Program Leader of Golden Rice-Project Management Office of the Department of Agriculture-PhilRice, announced that they are now working on the Golden Rice seeds deployment in the province of Lanao del Norte located in the northwestern part of the main island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The seeds will be given for free as part of the pilot scale deployment…


Source: Cornell Alliance for Science

Africa has a more urgent need than the rest of the world to adopt genetically modified organisms for agricultural improvement, says Prof. Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, founding director of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) at the University of Ghana.

Challenges like climate change and population rise are increasing food insecurity on the continent, heightening the urgent need for technological innovations to stem that trend, he said. Disrupted rainfall patterns, drought, extreme weather events, pest infestations, plant diseases, crop losses and hunger are negatively impacting the continent.


Source: Genetic Literacy Project

In 2019, about 8.9 percent of the world population, or 690 million people, were considered to be undernourished. This total probably increased recently because of the COVID pandemic, which led to a loss of economic activity in many developing countries. It is also likely to rise still further as the war in Ukraine has sent the prices of several food staples, such as corn, barley and wheat, surging higher as Russia and Ukraine are major producers and exporters of these crops.

A 2020 paper from two Pakistan biologists, “Transgenic Crops for Biofortification,” noted, “It is evident that biofortification holds great promise for improving the nutritive value of major crops. By the use of recombinant DNA technology, the bioavailability of several essential micronutrients and vitamins could be increased…”


Source: Alliance for Science

In our modern age of biotechnology, new tools are constantly being developed for agricultural improvement. Whether it’s DNA sequencing, plant tissue culture or gene editing, these advances are facilitating the development of better crops.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are one well-known example of agricultural biotechnology. The release of GMO products, starting in the 1990s, was followed by an onslaught of information from varied sources about the relative merits of the technology. A quick search will fill your browser with contrasting viewpoints about GMOs from sources with varying levels of credibility.

Newer to the agricultural biotechnology space is gene editing, often known as CRISRPR/Cas. It’s adding yet another term and even more complexity to a field already brimming with misperceptions and misinformation.


Source: Yahoo

Argentina announced the authorization on Thursday of the commercialization within the country of the HB4 GMO wheat variety developed by Bioceres , as Argentine farmers are about to start planting wheat for the 2022/23 season. The move will make Argentina the first country where farmers can plant GMO wheat, which in the case of Bioeceres’ HB4 is more tolerant to water scarcity and resistant to the herbicide glufosinate-ammonium.

In a related development, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), approved the sale of imported foods made from wheat genetically modified to withstand drought and the herbicide glufosinate. At present, neither country allows the GMO wheat, developed by Bioceres Crop Solutions, based in Argentina, to be grown by its farmers.


Source: Crikey

An Australian led team of international researchers has discovered a gene in wheat that helps produce higher quality crops. The scientists say the discovery could lead to increasing protein in wheat by up to 25 per cent with the potential to help improve its nutritional and economic value. The researchers from the University of Adelaide and the UK’s John Innes Centre have identified the genetic driver that improves the yield traits of wheat. Lead researcher Scott Boden from the University of Adelaide said the significant discovery follows revolutionary progress in wheat science over the past decade.


30 April 2022. Source: Egypt Today

The Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority, headed by Dr. Amr El-Hajj, announced that the agricultural research scientists in the authority have started harvesting the production of new strain of genetically-modified wheat at the authority’s site in Inshas city, Bilbeis, Sharqia Governorate. This strain has high-productivity with distinct characteristics such as  being resistant to cultivation in saline lands, and water shortage. 


Source: All About Feed

Field trials involving genetically modified (GM) barley that scientists believe could cut the use of synthetic fertilisers have been given the go ahead.The barley variety has been genetically modified to boost expression levels of the NSP2 gene and scientists will evaluate whether improved crop interaction with naturally occurring soil fungi can lead to more sustainable food production.


Source: Interesting Engineering

The company’s poplar could absorb over 50% more carbon than a normal tree. Is old-fashioned photosynthesis up to the task of managing the enormous amount of carbon (roughly 36 billion tons per year) that we’re pumping into the atmosphere?

A biotechnology startup in California doesn’t think so. That’s why researchers at Living Carbon have been hard at work manipulating arboreal DNA to make a new type of tree that more effectively captures atmospheric carbon and holds onto it for a very, very long time. And they’ve made a lot of progress.


Source: Stuff

Research into genetically modified (GM) technologies that could deliver environmental benefits needs to be reconsidered by regulators, the farming sector and consumers, the New Zealand Productivity Commission.

A recent report from the commission, titled Reaching for the Frontier, said research of GM technologies was an important pathway to innovation in the primary industry and offered new opportunities to respond to climate risks, biosecurity threats and could also boost farm productivity.

“Gene-editing technologies can be used to improve plant traits such as drought tolerance, disease resistance, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in grazed animals, and animal traits such as increased disease resistance,” the report said.

GM organisms and technologies are regulated by New Zealand’s Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act. The purpose of the act was to protect the environment and communities by preventing or managing the adverse effects of hazardous substances and new organisms.


Source: Genetic Literacy Project – 28 March 2022

Great Britain has already decided to take the first steps, as has Switzerland: dealing with simple genome-edited plants will be made easier. The strict genetic engineering laws should no longer be the sole benchmark.

The EU is also working on a reform. What it should look like is unclear, but it is already highly controversial – and it will take years. Many countries on all continents have long since made progress.