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In This Issue

September 28, 2016

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Beyond Promises: Top 10 Facts about Biotech Crops in their First 20 Years, 1996 to 2015
A visual presentation of the 10 important highlights about biotech crops from 1996 to 2015, taken from the 20th Anniversary of the Global Commercialization of Biotech Crops (1996 to 2015) and Biotech Crop HIghlights in 2015, authored by Clive James, Founder and Emeritus Chair of ISAAA.
Biotech Crop Highlights in 2015
The updated version of ISAAA Pocket K No. 16 based on 20th Anniversary (1996 to 2015) of the Global Commercialization of Biotech Crops and Biotech Crop Highlights in 2015 authored by Dr. Clive James is now available.
20th Anniversary (1996 to 2015) of the Global Commercialization of Biotech Crops and Biotech Crop Highlights in 2015
ISAAA released its annual report detailing the adoption of biotech crops, "20th Anniversary of the Global Commercialization of Biotech Crops (1996-2015) and Biotech Crop Highlights in 2015," showcasing the global increase in biotech hectarage from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 179.7 million hectares in 2015.



Arctic Fuji apple with nonbrowing characteristic is now commercially approved in the U.S., according to Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Inc. (OSF). This new apple variety is just like other conventional Fuji apples sold in the market, but it resists browning when the flesh is cut and exposed to air. Thus, the new trait displaces the need for preservatives. This nonbrowning trait has been introduced initially in other apple varieties (Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny) which were approved for commercial use in the U.S. in 2015. 

Read the announcement from OSF and the official documents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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DuPont Pioneer researchers discovered a protein from a non-Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium source that shows insecticidal control of western corn rootworm (WCR) in North America and Europe.

The researchers said that the insecticidal protein, designated IPD072Aa, was isolated from Pseudomonas chlororaphis. Transgenic corn plants expressing IPD072Aa showed protection from WCR insect injury under field conditions. The researchers said the protein could be a critical component for managing corn rootworm in future corn seed product offerings, and suggests that bacteria other than Bt are alternative sources of insecticidal proteins for insect control trait development.

For more details, read the news at DuPont Pioneer website.

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In September 16, 2016, the United States Federal Government took an important step in ensuring public confidence in their regulatory system for products of biotechnology, and to improve the transparency, predictability, coordination, and efficiency of the system. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and U.S. Department of Agriculture released two documents to modernize the Federal regulatory system for biotechnology products.

The first document, a proposed Update to the Coordinated Framework, which was last updated in 1992, is the first time in 30 years that the Federal government has produced a comprehensive summary of the roles and responsibilities of the three principal regulatory agencies with respect to the regulation of biotechnology products. The update also offers to the public a complete picture of the robust and flexible regulatory structure providing appropriate oversight for all products of modern biotechnology.

The second document, the National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products, sets forth a vision to ensure that the Federal regulatory system can assess efficiently the risks, if any, associated with future products of biotechnology while supporting innovation, protecting health and the environment, maintaining public confidence in the regulatory process, increasing transparency and predictability, and reducing unnecessary costs and burdens. In the Strategy, the Federal agencies demonstrate their sustained commitment to ensure the safety of future products of biotechnology, increase public confidence in the regulatory system, and prevent unnecessary barriers to future innovation and competitiveness.

To view the documents, visit the White House Blog.

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Asia and the Pacific

The Australian Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) invites comments from the public to assess license application DIR 150 from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to conduct a field trial of genetically modified (GM) potato with disease resistance.

The field trial is proposed to be conducted in one site of up to 0.1 hectares in Redland City, Queensland, between February 2017 and January 2019. The trial would be subject to control measures that restrict the spread and persistence of the GM plants and their introduced genetic material. The GM potato would not be used for human food or animal feed.

The Gene Regulator is preparing a Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan for the application to be released for public comment and advice from experts, agencies, and authorities in December 2016.

For more details, read the DIR 150 documents available at the OGTR website.

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An international team of researchers has identified the genes that could help fight off powdery mildew in barley. The research, led by researchers from University of Adelaide in Australia and the Leibniz-Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Germany found the two genes, HvGsl6 and HvCslD2 to be associated with the accumulation of callose and cellulose, respectively. The two genes play an important role in blocking powdery mildew fungus from penetrating the plant cell wall.

The researchers found that by silencing the genes, there was lower accumulation of callose and cellulose in the plant cell walls, and higher susceptibility of barley plants to the fungus. However, overexpressing HvCslD2 enhanced barley's resistance to the fungus. The earliest observed defense response is the formation of cell-wall thickenings called papillae at the site of fungal infection.

"Our results show that these novel genes are interesting targets for improving cell-wall penetration resistance in barley and maybe other cereals against fungal intruders," says Dr. Patrick Schweizer, Head of the Pathogen-Stress Genomics Laboratory at IPK.

For more details, read the news release at The University of Adelaide website.

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Scientists from the University of Adelaide discovered that a protein that regulates salt balance in animals works similarly with plants. Their findings which are published in the Plant Cell and Environment journal may help scientists modify plants to respond to high salt and low water conditions.

Proteins called aquaporins are present in both plants and animals. They function as pores by transporting water across membranes and play vital roles in regulating water content of cells. According to Prof. Steve Tyerman, lead author of the study, aquaporins function in the water filtration activities in the kidney while in plants, they filter the water that goes through the plant. However, in certain conditions, some aquaporins allow sodium ions to pass through it. Scientists have been wondering which pores enable salt to enter plant roots. Since a particular type of double barreled aquaporin is found to be abundant in the surface of roots, it could be the answer.

Read more from the University of Adelaide.

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After three months of field trials which started in April 2016, Bt maize (MIR162) was harvested in Dak Lak and Ba Ria-Vung Tau Provinces in Vietnam. After the harvest, the seeds were destructed following the regulations implemented by the government. Representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and other local agencies ensured that all biosafety guidelines in planting and harvesting GM crops under testing were followed. The trials were conducted by Syngenta Vietnam.

On the other hand, Pioneer Hi-Bred Vietnam Company Ltd. and Agricultural Genetics Institute harvested Bt maize (MON810) from confined field trials at Van Giang Experimental Station, Lien Nghia commune, Van Giang district, Hung Yen province. Representatives from government agencies and local organizations supervised the harvest including the Department of Biodiversity Conservation, Department of Science, Technology and Environment, Biosafety Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Hung Yen Province, and the Division of Natural Resources and Environment.


Read more details about the MIR162 and MON810 field trials.

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Wax, cutin, and sporopollenin are vital in the formation of the anther cuticle and the pollen exine. Their precursors are produced by secretory tapetal cells and transported to the anther and microspore surface. Zhenyi Chang of the Shenzhen Institute of Molecular Crop Design, together with researchers from various institutions in China characterized a rice male sterile mutant osabcg26, to study the mechanisms involved in the formation of anther cuticle and pollen exine in rice.

Analysis of the mutant revealed a point mutation in the gene encoding an ATP binding cassette transporter G26 (OsABCG26), which was expressed in the anther and pistil. Further analysis revealed defects in tapetal cells, pollen exine, and anther cuticle in the osabcg26 mutant.

Expression of some key genes involved in lipid metabolism and transport were also significantly altered in the mutant's anther. Furthermore, cross-pollination with wildtype pollen revealed a growth defect in osabcg26 pistils, leading to low seed set. These results indicate that the OsABCG26 gene plays an important role in anther cuticle and pollen exine formation and pollen-pistil interactions in rice.

For more information, read the full article in Plant Science.

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Palmitic acid (C16:0) makes up approximately 25% of the total fatty acids in the conventional cotton seed oil. However, further improvement in palmitic acid content could provide increased oxidative stability to cotton seed oil, used for making margarine and confectionary products. Qing Liu and a team of researchers from CSIRO Agriculture & Food in Australia aim to increase palmitic oil content by seed-specific RNAi-mediated downregulation of β-ketoacyl-ACP synthase II (GhKASII) in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum).

The team succeeded in increasing the C16 fatty acid content of cotton seed oil, reaching up to 65% of total fatty acids. The elevated C16 levels were comprised of predominantly palmitic acid (51%), palmitoleic acid (C16:1, 11%) and hexadecadienoic acid (C16:2- 3%). Seed germination of the transgenics remained unaffected, despite the alteration of fatty acid composition.

Crossing the high-palmitic lines with previously created high-oleic and high-stearic genotypes demonstrated that these traits could be pyramided. However, elevation of stearic acid is hindered by high levels of palmitic acid.

For more information on this study, read the article in Plant Biotechnology Journal.

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Beyond Crop Biotech

Researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VirginiaTech) have found a gene that can reduce the population of female mosquitoes over many generations. Female mosquitoes bite to get blood for egg production, and are carriers of pathogens causing malaria, Zika, and dengue fever.

Zhijian Tu and colleagues found that placing a particular Y chromosome gene on the autosomes of Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes (mosquito species that transmit malaria) killed off 100 percent of all female embryos that inherited this gene. The extra copy of this gene, called Guy1, is passed on to both sexes but only males survive.

The extra copy of Guy1 is passed down to half of the progeny, leaving some females that did not inherit the gene. To produce all male offspring, all progeny needs to inherit the extra copy of Guy1, and the group said that this is their future objective, which can achieved through genome editing.

For more details, read the news release at VirginiaTech News.

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The flowering time regulator GIGANTEA (GI) links networks related to developmental stage transitions and environmental stress responses in Arabidopsis. However, its role in growth, development and responses to environmental challenges in poplar is relatively unknown. Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology's Qingbo Ke and a team of researchers identified and characterized three GI-like genes (PagGIa, PagGIb and PagGIc) from poplar (Populus alba Populus glandulosa).

PagGIs were found to be rhythmically expressed, peaking at around zeitgeber time 12 under long-day conditions. Overexpressing PagGIs in wild-type (WT) Arabidopsis induced early flowering and decreased salt tolerance. On the other hand, overexpressing PagGIs in a mutant without gi-2 rescued its delayed flowering and salt tolerance. Downregulation of PagGIs led to vigorous growth, higher biomass and enhanced salt stress tolerance in transgenic poplar plants.

These results indicate that GI-like genes in poplar can be the foundation in developing salt-tolerant poplar trees.

For more information, read the full article in Plant Biotechnology Journal.

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Document Reminders

The Feed the Future South Asia Eggplant Improvement Partnership published facts about the Bt eggplant and pesticide use in Bangladesh and in the Philippines. Some FAQs about the topics are also posted to provide vital information to the public about the biotech crop, which is commercially available in Bangladesh. Get the facts from the Feed the Future website.

Updated versions of the following Pocket Ks are now available for download:

Pocket Ks are Pockets of Knowledge, packaged information on crop biotechnology products and related issues produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology. These publications are written in easy to understand style and downloadable as PDF for easy sharing and distribution. Other topics are also available at the ISAAA website.

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