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In This Issue

July 30, 2014

Latest Communication Products

Biotechnology in Ornamental Plants
This new Pocket K, Biotechnology in Ornamental Plants, includes the different types of ornamental plants, the different uses of biotechnology in ornamental horticulture, and the major genetically modified ornamentals.
Brief 47: The Status of Commercialized Bt Brinjal in Bangladesh
ISAAA Brief 47 is a comprehensive report on the status of commercialized Bt brinjal in Bangladesh. Brief 47 presents a thorough review and analysis of the deregulation of Bt brinjal in Bangladesh – from the scientific and biosafety assessment and commercial release to the planting of Bt brinjal by farmers in Bangladesh.
Agricultural Biotechnology (A Lot More Than Just GM)
The booklet explains and compares tools of agri-biotech including conventional breeding, tissue culture and micropropagation, molecular breeding and marker-assisted selection, and genetic engineering
Infomercial: What Do People Say About Biotech?
This informercial features photos of students, teachers, farmers, media practitioners, and consumers who were asked to write one-liners about their perception on biotechnology. These photos were taken during the science fairs held in the Philippines in 2013.
Infographic on Biotech Crops Benefits
This infographic summarizes the important contributions of biotech crops in increasing crop productivity, conserving biodiversity, reducing agriculture's environmental footprint, mitigating the effects of climate change, and alleviation of poverty and hunger

News

Global

An international team of researchers has sequenced the complete genome of African rice Oryza glaberrima. This new development will enable scientists to develop new rice varieties that are better able to cope with increasing environmental stresses to help solve global hunger challenges.

The research effort was led by Rod Wing, director of the Genomics Institute at the University of Arizona. "Rice feeds half the world, making it the most important food crop," Wing said. He added that the African rice genome is important because many of the genes code for traits that make African rice resistant to environmental stress, such as drought, salinity, and flooding.

The genetic information will enhance understanding of the growing patterns of African rice, and will allow scientists to search for ways to cross Asian and African species to develop new varieties of rice.

The results of the sequencing project were published in an open-access paper by Nature Genetics (doi:10.1038/ng.3044). For more information, read the news release available at: http://uanews.org/story/generating-a-genome-to-feed-the-world-ua-led-team-decodes-african-rice.

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Africa

The newly published  book Biotechnology in Africa: Emergence, Initiatives and Future contains the summary of biotechnology status in Africa with stress on the importance of political will in solving food and nutritional security in Africa. The book was edited by Florence Wambugu and Daniel Kamanga of Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation.

The book offers African voices from multidisciplinary fields to be allowed to set the continent's biotechnology development agenda. According to the authors, Africa's political leaders must see both clear benefits and have elbow-room to drive the change required. This is the way that African governments can employ workable policies, suitable biosafety legislation and regulation, and respond effectively to public-private partnerships.

Get more details at http://www.springer.com/chemistry/biotechnology/book/978-3-319-04000-4.

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Americas

New research finds that the world faces a small but substantial increased risk over the next two decades of a major slowdown in the growth of global crop yields because of climate change.

Authors David Lobell of Stanford University and Claudia Tebaldi from the National Center for Atmospheric Research say that the odds of a major production slowdown of wheat and corn, even in a warming climate, are not very high, but the risk is about 20 times more significant than it would be without global warming. They added that it may need planning by organizations that are affected by international food availability and price.

Lobell and Tebaldi estimated the odds that climate change could interfere with crop producers' ability to keep up with demand. Using a number of simulation models, they focused on the less likely, but a potentially more dangerous scenario that climate change would reduce yield growth by 10 percent or more.

For more details on this research, read the news release: http://www2.ucar.edu/atmosnews/news/12006/climate-experts-estimate-risk-rapid-crop-slowdown, or read the open-access paper published in Environmental Research Letters (doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/7/074003).

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National Academy of Sciences (NAS) of the United States will be conducting a science-based study on genetically engineered crops to be carried out by an ad hoc committee who will review available information on GE crops in the context of contemporary global food and agricultural system.

The study will examine the history of the development and introduction of GE crops in the United States and internationally, including GE crops that were not commercialized, and the experiences of developers and producers of GE crops in different countries. The committee will also review the scientific foundation of current environmental and food safety assessments for GE crops and foods and their accompanying technologies, as well as evidence of the need for and potential value of additional tests. As appropriate, the study will examine how such assessments are handled for non-GE crops and foods.

Based on the findings of the study, a report will be directed to policy makers and derivative products for general audiences.

Read more about the study at http://nas-sites.org/ge-crops/.

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Asia and the Pacific

The International Rice Research Institute held a forum and exhibit on July 23, 2014 to celebrate the Philippine Nutrition Month. Philippine Senator Cynthia Villar, head of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food was the guest speaker in the forum. She acknowledged the efforts of scientists in developing healthier rice and vegetables to combat the prevalence of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies among Filipinos.

In the exhibit, ISAAA featured eggplant, the top vegetable in the Philippines in terms of production and consumption.  Bt eggplant commercialization was halted in the Philippines due to a pending court case filed by anti-biotech groups. The other exhibitors were World Food Programme, PhilRice, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Helen Keller International-Philippines, Institute of Human Nutrition and Food of U.P. Los Baños, ACF International, and Long Live Pharma, which featured different products and services geared towards improving the nutritional status of Filipinos.

Read more at http://irri.org/news/media-releases/senator-nutrition-experts-support-research-on-healthier-rice.

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Genetic transformation requires suitable antibiotics for regeneration of transformed tissues. A study conducted by Kyungpook National University led by Chang Kil Kim, examined the effects of antibiotics carbenicillin, cefotaxime, and Clavamox on in vitro plant regeneration of Chrysanthemum morifolium ‘Vivid Scarlet'.

Shoot induction and the number of shoots per explant were recorded after 5 weeks of culture. Carbenicillin and Clavamox had less inhibitory effects on number of shoots per explant than cefotaxime. Superior plant growth was observed in shoots treated with 125 mg/L Clavamox. No variation was observed in ploidy level between control plants and plants regenerated in vitro with 125 mg/L Clavamox.

These findings suggest that Clavamox can effectively replace carbenicillin or cefotaxime in Agrobacterium-mediated transformations of ‘Vivid Scarlet'.

Visit http://www.pomics.com/naing_7_4_2014_237_243.pdf for more details on this promising study.

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Europe

Former Defra Secretary, Owen Paterson, expressed his pride in promoting GM technology in his article published at The Telegraph. He mentioned his experiences in facing anti-biotech groups and said that he just kept in his mind that those were not the people he was elected to serve. He focused his tasks on improving the environment and the rural economy at the same time, but still not everyone was pleased. "Yes, I've annoyed these people, but they don't represent the real countryside of farmers and workers, of birds and butterflies," he stressed.

Read more at http://www.europabio.org/news/owen-paterson-i-m-proud-standing-green-lobby and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10978678/Owen-Paterson-Im-proud-of-standing-up-to-the-green-lobby.html.

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Research

Gray mold and powdery mildew diseases are among the most devastating problems of grapevine growers. Thus, scientist Julia Rubio of Universidad de Chile and colleagues developed fungi tolerant lines using two endochitinase (ech42 and ech33) genes and one N-acetyl-β-d-hexosaminidase (nag70) gene from biocontrol agents related to Trichoderma spp. Statistical analyses were conducted to consider the transgene, explant origin, and plant response to both fungi in the field and in detached leaf assays.

Out of the 103 GM ‘Thompson Seedless' lines (568 plants) that were established in open field in 2004 and evaluated for fungal tolerance starting in 2006, 19 lines consistently exhibited excellent fungal tolerance for two years. Plants from these lines were grafted onto the rootstock Harmony and established in the field in 2009 for further characterization.

Further analyses showed that the most tolerant candidates expressed the ech42–nag70 double gene construct and the ech33 gene from a local Hypocrea virens isolate. Gray mold growth assays in Petri dishes supplemented with berry juices extracted from the most tolerant individuals of the selected population was inhibited. Based on the findings, the expression of the three genes from biocontrol agents can confer fungal tolerance in grapevines.

Read the abstract at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11248-014-9811-2.

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The antibiotic resistance of pathogenic microorganisms is a worldwide problem. To solve this, new antibiotics are needed. Magdalena Zuk and researchers from the Wroclaw University in Poland now study the potential of genetically modified flax in producing antibiotics.

Transgenic flax plants produce compounds with potential antimicrobial activity. An alkali hydrolyzed seedcake extract from flax seeds was used against several pathogenic bacteria. Results showed the antibacterial activity of the extract which may be due to bacterial topoisomerase II inhibition and genomic DNA disintegration.

The results strongly suggest that seedcake extract is a candidate for antimicrobial action against a broad spectrum of pathogens. It will be an excellent answer to drug resistance in pathogenic bacteria.

For more information regarding this study, please vist: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6750/14/70/abstract

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Beyond Crop Biotech

In articles published in Science and eLife, scientists and policy experts propose fighting malaria using genetic engineering. A new technology for editing DNA known as Crispr may allow scientists to render the insects resistant to the malaria parasite or it might be possible to engineer infertility into mosquito DNA, thus decreasing their population significantly. This new technology could potentially be used against a wide range of other species that are deemed a threat, like invasive predators, herbicide-resistant weeds, and bat-killing fungi.

Although research on this procedure is in its infancy, the authors of the new papers say it could be discussed as early as possible. "Rather than just running off and immediately let this thing loose, we should start having conversations about this," said George Church, a Harvard geneticist and a co-author of the new papers.

Read the following articles for more information: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2014/07/16/science.1254287, http://elifesciences.org/content/early/2014/07/17/eLife.03401, and http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/17/science/a-call-to-fight-malaria-one-mosquito-at-a-time-by-altering-dna.html?_r=0.

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Researchers have developed a new technique in reprogramming cells. The new method is based on exposure to environmental stimuli, including mechanical stress or a low pH.

Previous studies have shown that certain environmental conditions can reprogram plant cells, but animal cells have been more inflexible. Haruko Obokata at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan and colleagues tested various conditions to see if any could change the differentiation state of mouse lymphocytes taken from the spleens of week-old animals. In one of their tests, dropping the pH of the cell culture from a little above 7 to 5.7 for 25 minutes led to increased expression of the pluripotency gene in a portion of the cells, implying reverting to a stem-cell state.

"They were stripped of their differentiation memory and reverted to a state of pluripotency that in many ways resembled what is seen in (embryonic stem) cells," said Obokata.

Read more information at http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/39025/title/New-Method-for-Reprogramming-Cells/.

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BRAT1 (BRCA1-associated ATM activator 1) is involved with DNA damage responses in humans. However, based on previous studies, BRAT1 may also be involved in cell growth and apoptosis, implying its other functions. Toru Ouchi and Eui Young So from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York now search for unknown functions of BRAT1.

Different human cancer cells that do not express BRAT1 gene, or BRAT1 knockdown cells, were generated. These were then evaluated for cell growth properties and tumor growth potential compared to normal cancer cells. Loss of BRAT1 in the knockdown cells significantly decreased cell proliferation and tumor growth. It also induced mitochondrial malfunctions which led to growth retardation in BRAT1 knockdown cells. These results show the roles of BRAT1 in cell proliferation and mitochondrial functions of cancer cells and its importance in the search for cancer cure.

For more on the BRAT1 study, please visit: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2407/14/548/abstract

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Announcements

What: 6th World Congress on Biotechnology

When: November 30-December 2, 2015

Where: HICC-Hyderabad, India

For more details, visit http://www.biotechnologycongress.com/.

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Document Reminders

ISAAA releases a new Pocket K, Biotechnology in Ornamental Plants. It includes the different types of ornamental plants, the different uses of biotechnology in ornamental horticulture, and the major genetically modified ornamentals.

Pocket Ks are Pockets of Knowledge, packaged information on crop biotechnology products and related issues available at your fingertips. They are produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology (http://www.isaaa.org/kc). The new format of the Pocket K is optimized for reading on PC or mobile devices.

Download a copy for free at http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/pocketk/47/default.asp.


University of Nebraska-Lincoln and U.S. Department of Agriculture developed a video project titled Journey of a Gene which is featured in the Plant and Soil Sciences eLibrary. The videos were developed to provide consumers with a detailed learning resource on genetic engineering. The Journey of a Gene project breaks down the process of genetic engineering into four sections that mirror the four main steps in engineering soybeans resistant to sudden death syndrome: designing the gene, transformation, breeding and testing. In the videos, scientists explain the techniques involved in genetic engineering.

Watch the videos at http://passel.unl.edu/ge/.

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