Quarterly Update – Edition 18
- Council activity
- Key issues
- In the pipeline
- For information
FROM THE CHAIRMAN
Welcome to the latest update from the Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA).
There has been a flurry of activity in recent months across several State jurisdictions in relation to genetically modified (GM) foods and crops in which science and experience has prevailed over fear. Firstly, according to the findings of an independent review of South Australia’s moratorium on the cultivation of GM food crops undertaken by Emeritus Professor Kym Anderson AC, farmers in SA have been denied millions of dollars because they have been unable to access the latest crop varieties.
The review, released in February 2019, evaluated the benefits and costs of the GM moratorium to the South Australian economy and agricultural industries, and contains 19 findings which are now being considered by the State Government.
In Western Australia, a Government Committee inquiry into compensation mechanisms for farmers who suffer economic loss caused by the contamination of genetically modified material found no need to introduce a specific GM compensation scheme to deal with any case of GM crop contamination in WA, as the current systems in place were adequate.
The Tasmanian Government has also announced it is undertaking a review on its moratorium on the commercial release of GMOs into the environment and submissions close on 26 April. As an industry we can build on the momentum of recent developments in South Australia and Western Australia and push for greater choice and access for all Australian farmers.
In this Update we note research underway in GM crop field trials in Australia including drought tolerant chickpeas, wheat with altered iron uptake and herbicide tolerant canola. We also highlight promising developments in gene-editing for the sugarcane and poultry industries.
Overseas, there have been some major developments too which have debunked bad science, confirmed the benefits of GM crops and seen breakthroughs in improving the efficiency of photosynthesis. A fast-growing GM salmon will soon be available in US supermarkets, following an announcement by the US Government’s Food and Drug Administration this month that it is lifting an import alert that stopped the GM salmon from entering the country. The salmon, which has been in development since the 1990s, is already available in Canada.
In conclusion, I hope you enjoy reading about what has been a very busy and productive period in agricultural biotechnology.
Ken Matthews AO, Chair
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INDEPENDENT REVIEW ON SA MORATORIUM ON GM CROPS RELEASED
South Australian farmers have been denied millions of dollars because they have been unable to access the latest crop varieties according to the findings of an independent review of the state’s moratorium on the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) food crops undertaken by Emeritus Professor Kym Anderson AC.
The review, released in February 2019, evaluated the benefits and costs of the GM moratorium to the South Australian economy and agricultural industries, and contains 19 findings which are now being considered by the State Government.
The review considered maintaining, modifying, or removing SA’s moratorium on GM crop production and transport which is currently in place until 2025. Some of the key findings include:
- Data on canola exports from the key Australian states to the European Union do not support the view that South Australians enjoy better access in EU non-GM grain markets.
- Data on prices of grain produced in South Australia versus grain produced in neighbouring states suggest there is no premium for grain from South Australia despite it being the only mainland state with a GM crop moratorium.
- The experiences of GM canola production and marketing in other mainland states over the past decade reveal that segregation and identity preservation protocols and codes of practice can and do ensure the successful coexistence of GM and non-GM crops in Australia.
- The cumulative cost historically of the GM food crop moratorium to South Australia’s farmers is estimated to be $11-33 million over 2004-18. If the moratorium is kept until 2025, their foregone profits will be at least another $5 million.
South Australian Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone said the review stated the GM moratorium had discouraged public and private investment in research and development within South Australia.
Grain Producers SA Chair Wade Dabinett welcomed the release of the Review. “We strongly believe that growers deserve the freedom to grow the cereal, legume and oilseed varieties that best fit their farming system,” he said.
“The report makes it clear that the industry is able to manage segregation of GM and non-GM varieties, as is successfully managed in other states.”
WA GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE FINDS COMPENSATION STATUS QUO ADEQUATE FOR NON-GM FARMERS
There is no need to introduce a specific GM compensation scheme to deal with any case of GM crop contamination in WA. This is the finding of the Western Australian Legislative Council’s Environment and Public Affairs Committee’s inquiry into compensation mechanisms for farmers who suffer economic loss caused by the contamination of genetically modified material.
According to the report, “the Committee found there is insufficient evidence to justify a departure from the common law mechanism for compensation in Western Australia. This finding arose from a lack of:
- significant evidence of GM contamination in Western Australia;
- evidence presented to the Committee of actual economic loss to farmers caused by GM contamination;
- operational data on alternative compensation mechanisms in other jurisdictions to enable an assessment of their merits over existing common law remedies;
- decertifications of organic farms or other actions taken by organic certification bodies resulting from GM contamination, other than in Marsh v Baxter; and
- claims under insurance policies providing for cover against GM contamination.”
WAFarmers Grain Council president Duncan Young said the outcome gave graingrowers confidence about the long-term future of GM crops in WA. Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA’s Gary McGill said it was a fitting end to an “unnecessary” review.
The inquiry, which commenced last year, received written submissions from key national and WA-based agricultural stakeholders including PGA of WA, Grain Industry Association of WA, WA Farmers, Grain Producers Australia, CBH Group, CropLife Australia, National Farmers’ Federation, Australian Seed Federation and Cotton Australia.
TASMANIAN GM MORATORIUM UNDER REVIEW
The Tasmanian Government has announced that it will undertake a review on its moratorium on the commercial release of GMOs into the environment before it expires in November.
The current moratorium has been in place since 2001 for trade and market access purposes, and the review terms of reference will consider:
- The potential market advantages and disadvantages of allowing or not allowing the use of gene technology in Tasmanian primary industries, including food and non-food sectors;
- Domestic and international gene technology policy relevant to primary industries;
- Research and development relevant to the use of gene technology in primary industries;
- Any other relevant matters raised during the review.
The review will not consider aspects of gene technology which are covered under commonwealth legislation, including human health, safety and environmental impacts.
To guide community consultation on the moratorium review process, two versions of an Issues Paper have been released, with the Government stating that it is particularly interested in the views of producers, suppliers, wholesalers, retailers and exporters on the benefits and costs of the moratorium. For example:
- What products do you sell into domestic or international markets as ‘GMO-free’ or utilising Tasmania’s GMO-free brand attribute?
- What market opportunities have you gained or lost as a result of Tasmania’s GMO moratorium?
- If Tasmania’s GMO moratorium was to lapse, what would be the impact on your business?
- If non-food GM crops were grown commercially in Tasmania, would this impact on your business?
- Can you provide evidence of the financial benefits or costs to your business as a result of the current moratorium?
All submissions for the Review must be received by 5pm, 26 April 2019.
The moratorium was last reviewed in 2013 and extended in 2014.
SELECT COMMITTEE ESTABLISHED ON THE MORATORIUM OF THE CULTIVATION OF GM CROPS IN SA
As noted in the previous ABCA Quarterly Update, the South Australian Government Legislative Council has established a Select Committee to inquire into and report on the moratorium of the cultivation of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in South Australia.
The Inquiry will consider the benefits and costs of South Australia being GM-free for the state, its industries and people; the effect of the moratorium on marketing South Australian products both nationally and internationally; the difference between GM and non-GM crops in relation to yield, chemical use and other agricultural and environmental factors; any long term environmental effects of growing GM crops; the potential for contamination of non-GM or organic crops by GM crops; and, any other matters that the Committee considers relevant.
This Inquiry is ongoing. Developments will be reported in the future.
GENE TECH REGULATORY REVIEWS – UPDATE
As noted in previous ABCA Quarterly Updates, the regulation of gene technology in Australia has undergone three concurrent reviews by three different areas of the Health portfolio. Many ABCA members have contributed submissions to one or more of these reviews.
The Technical Review of the Gene Technology Regulations 2001 commenced in 2016 and is being undertaken by the Gene Technology Regulator. This review is ongoing and aims to provide clarity about whether organisms developed using a range of new technologies are subject to regulation as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and ensure that new technologies are regulated in a manner commensurate with the risks they pose. The Regulator is considering stakeholder comments on draft amendments to the Regulations that seek to implement the interim option that best supports the effectiveness of the legislative framework at this time.
The Third Review of the National Gene Technology Scheme, undertaken by the Department of Health, commenced in 2017 and concluded in November 2018 with the Final Report released and endorsed by Commonwealth, state and territory governments.
A review of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code commenced in February 2018 and is being undertaken by Food Standards Australia New Zealand. This review will consider the application of the Code to the food products of new breeding techniques. Specifically, the review will consider the definitions for ‘food produced using gene technology’ and ‘gene technology’. Submissions to the initial consultation paper closed in mid-April and a preliminary report summarising the views of submitters in response to the consultation paper has now been released, along with the submissions received. The review will conclude in early 2019.
ANOTHER STUDY DISPROVES SERALINI STUDY OF 2012
A new study has challenged the conclusion of a 2012 study that suggested rats fed GMO corn and glyphosate developed cancer. In the 90-day feeding trial with GM maize no adverse changes were observed in the health status of the animals.
The article was published in the journal Archives of Toxicology and was titled, Lack of adverse effects in subchronic and chronic toxicity/carcinogenicity studies on the glyphosate-resistant genetically modified maize NK603 in Wistar Han RCC rats.
TWENTY YEARS OF DATA PROVES GM COTTON IS A ‘POWERFUL’ TOOL
A study published in the journal, Biological Control, has looked at 20 years of data and concluded that genetically modified insect resistant cotton represents a powerful tool for Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The researchers state that the vast majority of studies demonstrate that the insecticidal proteins deployed today cause no unintended adverse effects to natural enemies, and when Bt crops replace synthetic chemical insecticides for target pest control, this creates an environment supportive of the conservation of natural enemies. As part of an overall integrated pest management (IPM) strategy, Bt crops can contribute to more effective biological control of both target and non-target pests.
The article is titled, Genetically engineered crops help support conservation biological control.
GM NUTRITIONALLY-ENRICHED CASSAVA IN THE PIPELINE
Many people in Africa rely on cassava as a staple food, however it is nutrient-poor. Partially as a result, iron and zinc deficiencies are common in Africa.
Breeding better varieties of cassava that absorb and store more of these nutrients is made difficult by a lack of genetic diversity. So, scientists have turned to biotechnology.
An international team of researchers, including scientists affiliated with the USDA, have genetically modified cassava to contain much higher levels of iron and zinc than the non-transgenic variety. The authors estimate that their genetically modified cassava could provide up to 50% of the dietary requirement for iron and up to 70% for zinc in children aged 1 to 6 years, as well as non-lactating, non-pregnant women.
This article titled Biofortification of field-grown cassava by engineering expression of an iron transporter and ferritin, was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
RICE PLANTS MODIFIED TO IMPROVE PHOTOSYNTHESIS EFFICIENCY
A new bioengineering approach for boosting photosynthesis in rice plants could increase grain yield by up to 27 per cent, according to a study published in the journal Molecular Plant by researchers from South China Agricultural University in Guangzhou.
According to the article, the approach called GOC bypass, “enriches plant cells with CO2 that would otherwise be lost through a metabolic process called photorespiration.” The GM plants were greener and larger and showed increased photosynthetic efficiency and productivity under field conditions, with particular advantages in bright light.
The article was titled, Rice plants engineered to be better at photosynthesis make more rice.
GM ‘SHORTCUT’ BOOSTS PLANT GROWTH BY 40%
Using gene technology researchers from the University of Illinois and the US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) have found a way to make the photosynthesis process more efficient in plants. This has boosted plant growth with genetically modified tobacco plants in the study growing up to 40 per cent larger than the control tobacco plants.
This study is part of an international research project that is modifying crops to photosynthesize more efficiently to sustainably increase worldwide food productivity.
Photosynthesis uses an enzyme called Rubisco and sunlight energy to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugars that fuel plant growth and yield. Rubisco grabs oxygen instead of carbon dioxide about 20 per cent of the time, resulting in a plant-toxic compound that must be recycled through the process of photorespiration.
“[Photorespiration] costs the plant precious energy and resources that it could have invested in photosynthesis to produce more growth and yield,” said lead author Paul South, a research molecular biologist with the ARS, who works on the Realising Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) project.
Scientists modified the plants to shorten the photorespiration process, thereby saving enough resources to boost plant growth. Field trials over two years found that the GM plants developed faster, grew taller, and produced about 40 per cent more biomass.
The team now hope to replicate these findings to soybean, cowpea, rice, potato, tomato, and eggplant.
“Rubisco has even more trouble picking out carbon dioxide from oxygen as it gets hotter, causing more photorespiration,” said co-author Amanda Cavanagh, from the University of Illinois.
“Our goal is to build better plants that can take the heat today, and in the future, to help equip farmers with the technology they need to feed the world.”
The researchers and project sponsors, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), and the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID), are committed to ensuring that smallholder farmers, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, will have royalty-free access to all of the project’s breakthroughs.
The study has been published in the journal Science.
RESEARCH FINDS “KNOWLEDGE ILLUSION” SURROUNDING GM FOODS
Marketing and psychology researchers in the USA have published a study in Nature Human Behaviour which found a relationship between those with extreme views against GM foods and their perceived understanding of the subject.
As part of the study, researchers undertook a national survey, asking respondents questions about their opinions and knowledge levels about GM foods. They then tested how much respondents actually knew with a series of questions on general science and genetics.
Results indicated that people’s perceived understanding of GM foods increased along with opposition and concern about their use, while objective knowledge of science and genetics decreased. The study identified that extreme opponents think they know the most about GM foods but actually knew the least.
This “knowledge illusion” concept is that often people think they understand everything from common household objects to complex social policies better than they do. This can be problematic for both scientific research and for science communicators trying to educate the public on scientific findings and topics, including GM foods.
Furthermore, as also outlined in the study, people with the strongest views against something may be likely to maintain this limited perspective because they are unlikely to choose to seek or open their minds to new information.
“Our findings suggest that changing peoples’ minds first requires them to appreciate what they don’t know. Without this first step, educational interventions might not work very well to bring people in line with the scientific consensus,” said Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado Boulder, PhD candidate, Nicholas Light.
The journal article is titled Extreme opponents of genetically modified foods know the least but think they know the most.
GM FOOD APPROVAL APPLICATIONS – UPDATE
The table below provides a summary of applications made to amend the Food Standards Code by approving the listed GM commodities as safe for use in Australia and New Zealand.
|A1156||Safflower||GO Resources Pty Ltd||High levels of high oleic acid in the seed.||Approved November 2018.|
OGTR LICENCE UPDATES
This table provides a summary of licence applications and approvals granted by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) in relation to agricultural biotechnology in the last quarter.
|DIR 166||Chickpea||Queensland University of Technology||Drought tolerance and other abiotic stress tolerance||Field trial licence application sought. Comments on Risk Assessment Risk Management Plan (RARMP) close on 29 April.|
|DIR 165||Wheat||University of Melbourne||Altered iron uptake, transport and bioavailability
|Field trial licence application sought. Comments on Risk Assessment Risk Management Plan (RARMP) closed on 13 March.|
|DIR 164||Canola||Monsanto Australia Limited||Herbicide tolerance||Field trial licence issued 21 November 2018.|
AUS SPEED BREEDING TECHNIQUE TO FIGHT GLOBAL HUNGER
A world-first speed breeding technique developed by scientists at the University of Queensland’s alliance for agriculture and food innovation (QAAFI), which uses light and temperature-controlled greenhouses to accelerate plant growth and deliver more tolerant crops, aims to use the technology to fast track the development of crops with drought and disease resistant traits.
“We’re trying to track down the genes controlling drought tolerance or disease resistance and so this can have big flow-on effects to accelerate the development of more robust crops for farmers,” said Dr Lee Hickey, the senior research fellow who has led the program for more than a decade.
GENE-EDITING SUGARCANE FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY AND BIO-PLASTIC USE
Queensland scientists believe they are close to unlocking the genetic secrets of sugarcane and harnessing its potential as a green fuel. The University of Queensland’s Professor Robert Henry said sugarcane’s reinvention as an “energycane” crop could sustain the $2 billion industry in the face of falling global demand for sugar.
The University of Queensland is conducting the first gene-editing experiments that could tailor the sugarcane plant to better produce biofuels and bioplastics.
GENE EDITING OFFERS NEW APPROACH FOR CHICKEN BREEDERS
This article outlines how access to the gene editing tool CRISPR could revolutionise the chicken industry. Currently, billions of day-old male chicks are killed in industrial grinders. A breakthrough that would enable in-egg (in ovo) sex determination and offer a humane and efficient alternative has been developed by CSIRO researchers. The team can modify the genes of a sea anemone into the chicken genome and create a special, glowing egg. By shining a laser light on the shell, they can detect the sex of a chicken on the day it’s laid, allowing the eggs to be culled long before a live chicken results.
DAIRY FARMERS WANT ACCESS TO “GAME-CHANGER” TECHNOLOGY
South Australian dairy farmer Rick Gladigau has told Australian Dairyfarmer that access to GM pasture varieties would be a “game-changer” for the dairy industry.
“We have a large technology uptake and allowing GM crops to be grown in SA would be a pretty simple but game-changing move for dairy farmers,” he said.
“If the cost of production was lowered and cows produced more milk because of the higher dry matter content I would expect dairy farms would expand because the state does not produce enough milk.”
NEXT GENERATION OF GM CANOLA READY FOR THE MARKET
A new GM canola variety, marketed as Truflex, will be commercially available to Australian growers this year following the Chinese government’s decision to grant a safety permit to the trait. According to a news article, TruFlex is expected to eventually take over as the dominant GM canola variety, ahead of Roundup Ready canola.
TruFlex canola offers growers greater flexibility through an extended glyphosate application window up to the first flower.
CSIRO BREAKTHROUGH HOLDS PROMISE FOR WHEAT GROWERS
CSIRO researchers have identified the gene responsible for growing the seed’s coleoptile – the first shoot from the seed that becomes the plant’s first leaf.
Developing, or identifying wheat varieties with long coleoptiles will allow wheat seeds to be sown deeper, where the moisture is, giving farmers more options in drier soils.
Wheat geneticist Wolfgang Spielmeyer, who worked on the ground-breaking project, said he and his colleagues worked to deliver the farmers of the future “more crop per drop”.
“We’re doing every bit we can to help adapt future wheat cultivars to better cope with dry conditions. Any gain we make is a significant advance,” he said.
Dr Spielmeyer and his team hope to bundle the long coleoptile wheat gene with new alternative dwarfing genes to maximise coleoptile length in future wheat cultivars.
FAKE NEWS THWARTS GENE TECHNOLOGY UPTAKE
The role of public perception, fake news, and ‘alternative’ facts in shaping public policy in agricultural and food production was in the spotlight recently when a who’s who of economists and researchers in these fields addressed the issue at the 63nd Annual Conference of the Australasian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society (AARES) held in February.
The adoption of technologies needed for a sustainable future for agriculture and adequate nutrition for a rapidly expanding world population is being threatened by mis-information.
“While there have been significant advances in technology in and outside agriculture that could help farmers and policy makers deal with game-changing challenges such as climate change, malnutrition and trade issues, the inappropriate regulation of technology is a growing concern,” said workshop convenor, Dr Mal Wegener, Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences at The University of Queensland.
“We need informed decisions based on science rather than gut decisions from opinion and perception.”
Misinformation about agriculture threatens sustainability and innovation according to Dr Alison Van Eenennaam, a genomics specialist from the University of California, Davis.
“Plant and animal breeders have been acting as glorified matchmakers for centuries, continuously employing new methods and technologies to accelerate the rate of genetic improvement. While people may have a negative gut reaction when made aware of them, these technologies have a direct and tangible impact on issues consumers do care about, that is, access to safe, nutritious food produced with a reduced environmental footprint,” she said.
“It is imperative that agricultural scientists and breeders inform and become visible participants in public conversations about the importance of innovation in agricultural breeding programs,” she said.
Dr Van Eenennaam’s advice to producers, is that they are a trusted source of information, so need to tell their stories.
“The important thing is to emphasis the trade-offs of blocking innovation in ag,” she said.
REPORT RECOMMENDS INSURANCE SCHEME FOR GMO LIABILITY
A legal report has recommended strict liability and insurance bonds be set up to address the environmental impact of cultivating genetically modified organisms (GMO) in the farms of the Northland Region in New Zealand.
According to a news report, the Northland Regional Council held a two-day hearing on whether to place precautionary GMO rules in their regional plan – with a particular emphasis on the issue of liability and compensation for illegal use and environmental harm.
GM SALMON UPDATE
GM salmon will soon be available in US supermarkets, following an announcement by the US Government’s Food and Drug Administration this month that it is lifting an import alert that stopped the GM salmon from entering the country.
AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage salmon, which has been in development since the 1990s, is already available in Canada. The salmon is modified to contain genes from Chinook salmon and an eel-like creature called an ocean pout, which allows it to grow twice as fast on less food than a conventional Atlantic salmon.
NIGERIA APPROVES GM INSECT-RESISTANT COWPEA
Cowpea is a key commodity crop in Africa, and in particular Nigeria, which accounts for 58 percent of the world’s production. As a major source of affordable protein and with its ability to adapt to different types of soil and improve soil fertility, so it is a vital economic crop in Africa.
However, the cowpea faces numerous threats from insects, fungi, bacteria and viruses. The Maruca pod-borer is a particularly devastating pest, with infestation leading to yield losses of up to 80 per cent.
In response, Nigeria’s scientists and crop breeders looked to biotechnology for solutions. Following a decade of research and field trials, they developed an insect resistant (Bt) cowpea, containing the crystal protein ‘Cry1Ab gene’ from the soil bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) which is toxic to the target insect.
The GM cowpea variety received commercial release approval from the National Biosafety Management Agency in January.
GM WHEAT SUITABLE FOR COELIACS
According to a media release, researchers at Washington State University, Clemson University, and partner institutions in Chile, China and France have developed a GM wheat that helps break down gluten within the human digestive tract, benefiting those who suffer from coeliac disease.
Since most wheat products are baked at hot temperatures, the research team is now developing heat‑stable variations of these enzymes. The new GM wheat is still at the research stage and has not been approved for sale.
FIVE BILLION DOLLAR EARTH BIOGENOME PROJECT LAUNCHED
Following the recent announcement of the mapping of the entire wheat genome, an ambitious global project has been launched to map the DNA of every animal, plant and fungus over the next decade.
The Earth BioGenome Project aims to sequence the genomes of 9,330 species, one from each plant, animal and protozoan taxonomic family as reference genomes in the first three years. Phase two will see one species from each genus sequenced in less detail (about 150,000 genera), with the remaining 1.5 million species sequenced in less detail still during the final four years of the project.
The project lists three goals; benefitting human welfare, which includes generating new approaches to feeding the world; protecting biodiversity and understanding ecosystems.
Project partner, the US Department of Agriculture, said the benefits to agriculture include new and improved pest control approaches and speeding up breeding for enhanced plant and animal traits.
The project is led by scientists from the University of California-Davis, the Smithsonian Institute and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and its membership includes leading researchers from institutions in the USA, UK, Germany, China, Denmark and Brazil.
STUDY HIGHLIGHTS ENVIRO AND ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF INSECT RESISTANT GM CROPS
According to a study of data from 2005 to 2018 published in Portuguese titled, Economic and socioenvironmental impacts of insect resistant plant technology in Brazil: historical analysis, perspectives and future challenges, without access to insect resistance technology inserted into Bt cotton, corn and soybean seeds, Brazilian farmers could lose approximately $23 billion over the next decade.
FIELD TRIALS OF HIGH IRON WHEAT IN THE UK
Researchers at the John Innes Centre have applied to the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for consent to conduct field trials of genetically modified (GM) wheat and gene-edited Brassica.
The field trials are planned from 2019 to 2022. The GM wheat has more iron directed into the endosperm, the part of the grain from which white flour is milled. Iron deficiency or anaemia is a global health issue, but the iron content of staple crops such as wheat has been difficult to improve using conventional breeding. Increasing the nutritional quality of crops, known as biofortification, is a sustainable approach to alleviate micronutrient deficiencies.
Trials of brassica oleracea plants, modified using CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology – which allows researchers to prevent an existing gene from functioning, to confirm the function of a given gene – are also planned to determine the role of the gene, MYB28 which regulates sulphur metabolism in brassica plants.
REPORT RECOMMENDS BIOTECHNOLOGY AS A TOOL TO PROTECT FORESTS
A report released by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has identified US forests as amongst the most vulnerable in the world to predators and disease, and these threats are compounded by climate change.
The report suggests that two US agencies—the Department of Agriculture and EPA—and the nonprofit U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities Inc. consider using biotechnology tools to promote healthy forests. They would include the use of genetically engineered trees to prevent the loss of forested lands from pests.
NUTRITION-ENHANCED GM POTATO DEVELOPED IN PERU
An iron and zinc rich potato, designed to help fight anaemia, has been bred by Peruvian scientists from the National Institute of Agricultural Innovations in Lima (INIA). The GM potato, unofficially known as “Kulli Papa” (lilac potato) because of its color, contains about 23 mg of iron and 19 mg of zinc per 100 g, according to the researchers. That is about twice the amount of conventional varieties.
According to Peru Minister of Agriculture, Gustavo Mostajo, the new potato will soon be available, as the Ministry will distribute shoots, seedlings or small tubers to growers in the Andes. These should then be planted in the next season, to be available in a few months.
CANADA’S APPROACH TO LOW LEVEL PRESENCE OF GM CONTENT
Agriculture Canada has developed a low level presence (LLP) policy model that it is using to promote discussions with key trade partners on the issue.
According to the article, LLP occurs when a small amount of GM grain that has been approved by an exporting country accidentally ends up in a shipment to an importing country that has yet to approve the trait.
The Agriculture Canada policy establishes a three per cent threshold for contamination by a GM crop that has not been approved by an importer as long as it has been approved by at least one exporter in accordance with Codex guidelines and has been submitted for approval by the importer.
“Horizons in Biotechnology: Risk Analysis for a Sustainable Future” Symposium – hosted by The International Society for Biosafety Research (ISBR)
Date: 1 – 4 April 2019
Location: Tarragona, Spain
Details: Bringing together academics, technology developers, industry, regulatory authorities, non-government organisations and other stakeholders, ISBR 2019 is a unique opportunity to share and advance understanding of contemporary applications of biotechnology to today’s agriculture and food production challenges. An outstanding array of international speakers, including some from Australia, is being developed. Details of the program can be found at the Symposium website.
Further information: https://isbr2019.com
Disclaimer: The Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia Limited (ABCA) gives no warranty and makes no representation that the information contained in these sections is suitable for any purpose or is free from error. ABCA accepts no responsibility for any person acting or relying upon the information contained in these sections, and disclaims all liability.