Crop Biotech Update (October 25, 2017)
These short documents present the highlights of biotech crop adoption in the top five developing biotech countries.

To improve photosynthesis in rice and increase crop yields, scientists working on the Oxford University-led C4 Rice Project have, by introducing a single maize gene to the plant, moved towards 'supercharging' rice to the level of more efficient crops.

Rice uses the C3 photosynthetic pathway, which in hot, dry environments is much less efficient than the C4 pathway used in other plants such as maize and sorghum. Scientists thought that if rice could be 'switched' to use C4 photosynthesis, its productivity will increase by 50%.

The researchers showed how they took the first step on this journey called the 'proto-Kranz' anatomy by introducing a single maize gene known as GOLDEN2-LIKE to the rice plant. This step increased the volume of functional chloroplasts and mitochondria in the sheath cells surrounding leaf veins, mimicking the traits seen in proto-Kanz species.

Professor Jane Langdale, Professor of Plant Development in the Department of Plant Sciences at Oxford University, and Principal Investigator on this phase of the C4 Rice Project, said: "This research introduces a single gene to the rice plant to recreate the first step along the evolutionary path from C3 to C4. It's a really encouraging development, and the challenge now is to build on that and find the right genes to tweak to complete the remaining steps in the process."

For more information, read the University of Oxford News & Events.

Seventy nine (79) members of the U.S. House of Representatives addressed some issues in the regulation of GM crops through a letter submitted to the heads of Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency.

One of the concerns they brought up is the proposed changes in the regulation of gene editing techniques. "While we appreciate the thoughtful, science based direction USDA offers on products of biotechnology and gene editing that APHIS has ample experience regulating, we are concerned that these drafts offer deeply conflicting regulatory approaches. Moreover, we do not believe they provide the consistent, appropriate system needed to promote the development of these innovative tools," the lawmakers explained in their letter.

They also added that the contradictory changes proposed are sending inconsistent signals to the country's trade partners, who are currently studying the accurate approaches to these technologies. "We are concerned that if the administration does not quickly develop a uniform position on biotechnology in agriculture, including gene editing, we will see an unworkable patchwork of international regulations emerge that will effectively further suppress American innovation and the solutions that come with it," they stressed.

Congressmen Neal P. Dunn, K. Michael Conaway, and Jimmy Panetta are three of the 79 lawmakers who submitted the letter.

Read the complete letter from Dunn's official website.

Ugandan scientists are positive that GM potatoes will be commercially available in their country in 2020.

According to Dr. Alex Barekye, Director of Kachwekano Zonal Agriculture Research Institute, research on disease resistant potato is underway. So far, three trials of Victoria potato variety have been conducted and the performance of the GM crop is good. No diseases were detected and the yield is high.

"When we look at all the products in the GMO line and look at the duration of the crop, I think potatoes will be the first GMO crop to be commercialized in Uganda. We have conducted three trials and found that the disease is not there. The yield is good and there is nothing that has changed," said Dr. Barekye.

The next phase of the project is to test the GM potato variety in three different areas in Uganda to investigate if it will thrive in different environmental conditions, upon approval of the National Biosafety Committee.

Read more from The Observer.

Breeders have long dreamed of developing genetically-enhanced breeding elites with value-adding performance as quickly as possible. With the present gene editing technologies, such as the CRISPR-Cas9 system, there is a reasonable expectation towards quickly achieving breeding goals.

To evaluate the possible application of CRISPR-Cas9 on accelerating plant breeding, the team of Qing-hui Yu from Xinjiang Academy of Agricultural Science in China aimed to develop tomatoes with long shelf-life through gene replacement via homology directed repair (HDR) using CRISPR-Cas9.

The team aimed to replace the tomato ALC gene with a recessive alc gene. The average mutation frequency reached 72.73%. However, low replacement efficiency (7.69%) was achieved in T0 transgenic plants. No homozygous recessive mutations were detected in T0 plants.  The heterozygous mutants stably transmitted the mutation to the T1 generation for segregation. The desired alc homozygous mutants were achieved in T1 generations.

This was further confirmed by characterization, highlighted by excellent storage performance. These results prove that CRISPR-Cas9-induced gene replacement via HDR could be a valuable method for breeding elite lines in tomato.

For more on this study, read the article in Scientific Reports.

GM Approval Updates
Nigeria approved cowpea event AAT 709A (IR) for cultivation.
Brazil approved sugarcane event CTC91087-6 (IR) for commercialization.
Argentina approved soybean events HB4 x GTS 40-3-2 (HT + ST) and FG72 (HT) for food and cultivation.
Argentina approved maize events DAS40278 (HT), DAS40278 x NK603 (HT), MON87427 (HT), and MON87411 (HT + IR) for food and cultivation.
South Korea approved maize event MON89034 x TC1507 x NK603 x MIR162 x DAS40278 (HT + IR) for food use. 
Canada approved cotton events MON88702 (IR) and GHB811 (HT) for food use.
Visit GM Approval Database for more updates
BIO-Europe 2017
November 6 - 8 , 2017
Berlin, Germany

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