Crop Biotech Update
January 6, 2016

The Kenya National Biosafety Authority is expected to release their decision on the application of the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and African Agricultural Technology Foundation to release biotech maize seeds. According to NBA chief executive Willy Tonui, the decision will be made this month about biotech maize, while the second ruling in February will touch on biotech cotton.

Kenya prohibited the planting and importation of biotech maize, locking out major exporters including South Africa from the local market which faces frequent grain shortage. Thus, the scientists are pressing for the release of biotech seeds to farmers to increase production of crops.

Read more from AllAfrica.

Researchers from Florida International University (FIU) are part of an international team of scientists that has discovered how arsenic builds up in the seeds of plants similar to rice.

Professor Barry P. Rosen's team at FIU discovered that Arabidopsis thaliana uses transport systems for inositol, a type of sugar, to load arsenite, the toxic form of arsenic, into seeds. This is the first identification of transporters responsible for arsenic accumulation in seeds. Rosen predicts that the same pathway could be present in rice grains and these discoveries will enable the development of new rice cultivars with less arsenic in the grain.

Arsenic, both a toxin and a carcinogen, comes from minerals and is used in some herbicides, animal growth promoters, and semiconductors. It is a pervasive environmental contaminant of food and water that threatens the health of tens of millions people worldwide.

For more details, read the FIU news release.

The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service release the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report on the agricultural biotechnology updates in China in 2015.

According to the report, China is one of the largest producers and importers of biotech crops globally. It produces biotech cotton, but has not yet approved any major biotech crop recently. The Chinese government is currently revising its biotechnology regulatory system. In May 2015, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) released a draft revision to its biotech regulations that would remove timelines for approvals and add economic and social factors to the approval process for the first time. It was also reported that the government is preparing to commercialize biotech corn.

Get a copy of the report from USDA FAS.

A team of researchers led by University of California Davis scientists have sequenced the genome of California's legendary sugar pine, called "king of conifers" by naturalist John Muir.

The sugar pine genome is the largest ever sequenced for any organism, at 10 times the size of the human genome. It is expected to provide valuable information that may help preserve the iconic but imperiled tree.

The sugar pine, one of the tallest tree species in the world, is endemic to California. Its survival is threatened by white pine blister rust, damage from bark beetles, and drought. The newly sequenced sugar pine has a genome 1.5 times larger than the loblolly pine, which itself was considered large when it was sequenced. These two new reference sequences serve as foundations for future studies and applications in pine trees.

The genome for the sugar pine has been publicly released and is available through open access at the Pine Reference Sequences website.

For more information, read the UC Davis news release.

Biofuels Supplement
GM Approval Updates
Taiwan has approved the GM sugar beet event H7-1 (HT) for food use. 
In December 2015, Taiwan granted food approvals to six GM cotton events, namely: GHB614 x LLCotton25 x MON15985 (HT + IR); GHB614 x LLCotton25 (HT); MON88913 x MON15985 (HT + IR); 281-24-236 x 3006-210-23 (IR); LLCotton25 x MON15985 (HT + IR); and MON531 x MON1445 (HT + IR). 
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