VATIS Update Biotechnology. Jul-Sep 2015

Revision as of 06:02, 3 November 2015 by Kalpana Shibu (Talk | contribs)



Turkey approves five biotech traits

On July 16, 2015, the Biosafety Board of Turkey approved five biotech traits on genetically engineered feed imports. The Board approved 3 corn (MIR604 corn, MON 863 corn, T25 corn) and 2 soybean (MON87701 soybean and MON87701xMON89788 soybean) events and their products for feed use only. The announcement also included a decision regarding an amendment on ‘The rules of packaging, carrying, conservation and transferring” for the purpose of preventing contamination.

On May 11, 2015, the Turkish Poultry Meat Producers and Breeders Association (Besd-Bir) submitted dossi-ers to the Biosafety Board to request approval for 38 traits (9 soybean, 15 corn, 4 canola, and 10 cotton) for feed use only. The Biosafety Board reviewed the applications under the simplified procedure, which was an expedited review process. While the five traits listed have been approved, the remaining traits are still un-dergoing risk and socio-economic assessments. The decision marks the first biotech trait approvals since 2011 when the Turkish Biosafety Board approved 16 corn events and 3 soybean events.

The Turkish private sector views the trait approvals as a quick but temporary and partial fix to ongoing prob-lems facing Turkish imports of genetically engineered feed items. The approvals should help facilitate the release of shipments that have been detained due to “contamination” with these unapproved events. In the short run, the decision will have a positive effect mostly on South American soybean and meal imports due to the production and shipping season but eventually all origins will benefit. However, the prob-lems with feed imports will not be fully resolved until all of the events are approved.

Scientists turn to crop gene editing

Scientists from M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, India, are working on their ambitious plans to undertake genetic modification of crops failing to take off as the debate on the suitability of GM crops remaining inconclusive in the country and looking at ‘gene editing’ to tweak the crop without attracting the ire of sceptics. Foundation’s executive director Ajay Parida said that they were paving the way for re-search on gene editing as it entailed lesser regulations unlike the transgenic crops. “Here, the genes of a plant variety is edited. This is a non-transgenic method, done without importing genes from another crop,” said Parida.

Scientists working on it said that by editing the genes of rice varieties, they could raise high-yielding disease resistant and nutritious crops. Through editing, the gene of rice plant could be tinkered to improve the biomass-grain output ratio. For instance, if a crop has a biomass of 70 per cent and grains 30 per cent, gene editing would be carried out to increase the yield to about 35-40 per cent, said Parida. While this won’t have much difference on the plant, it requires extensive tests to study variations in culinary characteristics of the va-riety.

As it does not entail introducing new, foreign traits to a plant as is the case with a transgenic plant, gene edit-ing would not have to undergo the stringent checks and regulations like the GM crops, he said. Unlike trans-genic crops, which require antibiotic marker, gene editing process does not require any such tests. Gene sequencing of 1,500 plant varieties have been completed so far, said Parida.

New genetically modified rice for higher yield

According to a research published in the journal Nature, scientists from Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, unveiled a new genetically modified (GM) rice plant that reduces emissions of meth-ane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2). But the rice is at least 10 or 20 years from being available to farmers. The new rice differs by only a single gene, borrowed from barley. The gene makes the rice produce less methane and yield 43 percent more grain per plant. “For three years of field trials it worked very well,” said Chuanxin Sun at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

It was especially effective during the summer, when it cut methane emissions to 0.3 percent, compared to 10 percent of the control rice plants’ emissions. The new rice reduced emissions less dramatically in au-tumn, because of lower temperatures, but still cut methane emissions in half. Sun’s team inserted a gene from barley into the rice to make it store more carbon – that is, starch and sugar – in its stems and grains, and less in its roots. But the scientists have yet to directly observe that changes in carbon storage are the reason for the lower methane.

With less carbon available to the microbes, they would, in theory, emit less methane. No one knows how else the new genetically modified rice would affect complex soil microbial communities. After larger-scale trials and more precise measurements of exact methane emissions and yield of the GM rice, the next step is to use traditional breeding to make a rice variety that’s “basically the same scientifi-cally” as the genetically modified rice, including the same gene.

Scientists extract anti-cancer tea capsule

Scientists from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Institute of Himalayan Research Bio-technology (CSIR IHBT), India, have developed a technology to extract ‘catechin’ from young tea leaves. Catechin is a type of disease-fighting flavonoid and antioxidant. According to the scientists working on the project, the process of experiment is over and technology is being transferred to industrial-ists so that the product could reach the markets. “Catechin belongs to phenol groups and we have extracted it in powder form. In countries such as Japan and China, catechins are used in nutraceuticals and dietary supplements.

An eco-friendly, solvent-free green process has been standardized for extraction for polyphenolic catechins from different parts of the tea plant. “As apical bud and subtending two to three lead shoots are used for making quality tea, the focus was to use the underutilized tea plant parts such as mature shoots. These chemicals in tea have substantial free radical scavenging activity and may protect cells from DNA damage caused by reactive oxygen species. Though catechins are not curative, they would act as preventive meas-ures as they curb damage caused by free oxygen radicals in our body, which also cause various types of cancer,” said Sud.

Two new molecules to launch in India this year

Dhanuka Agritech Ltd, India, has planned to launch two new molecules in India in the next few months, one of which will be an herbicide for soyabean and the other a fungicide for horticultural crops as well as paddy. Earlier this year, Dhanuka Agritech, which has a tie-up with Nissan Chemicals, Japan, launched the new molecule based product Sempra in Uttar Pradesh. The herbicide that tackles Cyperus rotundas, a weed commonly afflicting sugarcane plantations, was introduced in Maharahtra. “It will subsequently be launched in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh,” said MK Dhanuka, at Dhanuka Agritech.

Elaborating on plans for the coming months, Dhanuka said that Sakura, another new molecule from Nissan, and a herbicide for soyabean, will be brought into the Indian market in a fortnight’s time. “We have also received registration from Hokko Chemicals, Japan, for Conika, a fungicide for paddy and horticul-tural crops. This will be launched in 2016,” said Dhanuka, adding that these molecules were coming into the Indian market for the first time. Dhanuka is also going to introduce Dupont’s highest selling molecule in India under the brand name ‘Cover’.

Researchers improve rice flour to aid food poverty

According to researchers from Yamagata University, Japan, a new, high-quality rice flour could help to-wards aiding global food poverty. “This rice flour serves not only as an alternative to wheat flour for those with wheat intolerance, but could also help to overcome the global food problem in the future”, said Dr. Yayoi Onda at Yamagata University. By studying and modifying proteins in the rice flour family, the researchers were able to produce dough and bread of superior quality than that obtained from ‘normal’ rice flour.

Rice flour does not typically work as efficiently in bread making as wheat flour. In order to overcome this problem, the researchers changed the amount, structures and properties of seed storage proteins. They found that rice flour deficient in a particular protein active during seed development (called PDIL1;1) pro-duced dough with a network-like structure through the formation of disulphide bonds, which are strong bridges between proteins. “This improved the quality and efficiency of the dough and the bread”, said Onda.

The new rice flour overcomes many of the issues associated with previous rice flour. For instance, the dough is more easily stretched and less sticky, it holds bubbles inside during fermentation and baking, it keeps its shape and structure as it inflates, and the bread has a more elastic texture after baking. The researchers have already started breeding experiments so that PDIL1;1-deficient rice plants can be grown widely under different climatic conditions.


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