Biotech Updates

Brazil Approves GM Sugarcane for Commercial Use

June 14, 2017

On June 8, 2017, Brazil's Comissão Técnica Nacional de Biossegurança (CTNBio, or National Biosafety Technical Commission) has approved the commercial use of the first genetically modified (GM) Bt sugarcane (Bt Sugarcane), CTC 20 BT, developed by the Brazilian company Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira (CTC).

Bt Sugarcane, the first GM sugarcane approved for cultivation in the world, is resistant to damages caused by sugarcane borer (Diatraea saccharalis), the main pest of sugarcane in Brazil. According to agricultural experts in Brazil, damage caused by the sugarcane borer results in approximately R$5 billion per year. The Bt gene (Bacillus thuringiensis) in CTC 20 BT, has been used widely for over 20 years in biotechnology-derived crops such as soybean, maize, cotton, and brinjal/eggplant.

The scientific dossier which evaluated Bt Sugarcane was submitted to CTNBio in 2015 for health and environmental safety assessments using internationally-accepted standards. Processing studies proved that sugar and ethanol from the new variety are the same as those derived from conventional sugarcane. The studies also showed that both the Bt gene and protein in CTC 20 BT Sugarcane are completely eliminated from sugarcane derivatives during the manufacturing process. Environmental studies did not find any negative effects on soil composition, sugarcane biodegradability, or insect populations, with the exception of the target pests (mainly the borer). CTC will now work closely with producers, starting with the distribution of 20 Bt Sugarcane seedlings, followed by closely-monitored field planting.

For more details, read the article from the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA).