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Crop Biotech Update

Genome-Edited Wheat Field Trial Gets UK Government Approval

September 1, 2021

The United Kingdom Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has granted permission to Rothamsted Research to run a series of field trials of genome-edited wheat.

The wheat in the field trial has been edited to reduce the levels of naturally occurring amino acid, asparagine, which is converted to the carcinogenic processing contaminant, acrylamide, when bread is baked or toasted. Project leader Professor Nigel Halford said that asparagine levels can be reduced substantially in wheat without compromising grain quality. Doing this would benefit consumers by reducing their exposure to acrylamide from their diet, and food businesses by enabling them to comply with regulations on the presence of acrylamide in their products.

In their lab experiments, the researchers were able to "knock out" the asparagine synthetase gene, TaASN2. Asparagine concentrations in the grain of edited plants were substantially reduced compared with the un-edited plants, with one line showing a more than 90 % reduction, according to project scientist Dr. Sarah Raffan.

The Hertfordshire-based experiments will be the first field trials of CRISPR edited wheat anywhere in the UK or Europe.

For more details, read the news article in Rothamsted Research.

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