This month hot topic on New Breeding Techniques focused mainly on a controversial new study published on “Food” describing experiments which could lead to potentially “detect GMOs derived from genome-editing techniques”. 

In Germany, CDU/CSU underlined its view that “it should not be regulated as genetically modified organisms “. In Germany as well, a new experimental use of CRISPR/Cas by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology succeeded to change genetic sequence within a chromosome. CRISPR/Cas9 has also been used by a joint US-UK research effort on pigs, goats, and cattle to create sperm with genetically enhanced traits for possible offsprings.

09/07 First detection test developed for gene-edited crop

On September 7th a paper about a method that enables researchers to detect “SU Canola”, an herbicide-tolerant rapeseed, was published on the scientific journal “Food”. The researchers who published the paper argued that “it is likely that this approach can be used to develop detection methods for most, if not all, gene-edited crops”. Many consumer associations welcomed the discovery of this detection method, arguing that “food processors and retails can keep these new GMOs out of their supply chains and meet costumer’s demand for non-GMO food”, and advocating for applying the same safety and labelling requirements of existing GMOs to these new kind of GMOs (Greenpeace). However, this method only is able to recognize a GMO, and not weather the change was naturally derived or a consequence of gene editing.

09/08 German CDU/CSU reaffirms political line on GMOs methods

German policy spokesman for CDU/CSU expresses his doubts on the credibility of the test able to detect genetic changes, arguing that “so far there is no scientifically valid method that would be able to judge whether a mutation of crops was created by such new breeding methods or by conventional methods”, supporting the federal minister for agriculture’s – Julia Klöckner – line of continuing scientific research on these topics. He concluded by reaffirming CDU/CSU’s point of view on plants with genetic changes: “GMOs, which could also be the result of a conventional breeding methods or a natural process, should not be regulated as genetically modified organisms”.

09/08 Inversed chromosomes inheritance in plants can now be specifically controlled

Researches at the Karlsruhe Institute of technology have succeeded in using CRISPR/Cas to change the sequence of genes within a chromosome. In a publication article in the journal Nature Communications, researches have demonstrated for the fist time in the world how reversals in the sequence of genes can be reversed and inheritance can be controlled in a targeted manner.

This new method could be implemented in agriculture targeting those plants whose inversed chromosomes (outcome of a natural mutation process) form an obstacle to breeding, resistance to diseases, pests, and extreme climatic conditions.  

Professor Putchta, director of the Institute commented: “With this [method] we have finally established chromosome engineering as a new type of plant breeding”.  The experiment was done on the most frequent natural inversion, hk4S on chromosome 4 of thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) Reverse.

09/10 GMO’s detecting method is unsuitable

The German federal office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL, in German), took a closer look at the study published on the magazine “Food” by a research team from Iowa, arguing to have fund a method to detect GMO modification. In particular, the study concentrated on the herbicide-tolerant rapeseed lines, the so-called “Cibus rapeseed”, but “according to the information available, the BVL comes to the conclusion that the point mutation considered in the article did not result from genome editing technique. The method described in the article can specifically detect this mutation. However, it cannot identify whether or not the mutation was induced in this canola line by genome editing”.

Thorsen Tiedemann, Grain Club Chairman, echoed it commenting the article published on “Food” saying “The impression arises that the new test is suitable for the general identification of genome-edited crops. However, this would require proof of the cause of a genetic change. The process cannot do this, which is why the general identification of genome-edited crops is still not possible”.

09/14 French association for vegetal biotechnologies on the National Recovery plan

The National association for vegetal biotechnologies (abbreviated in AFBV, in French) – an association that gathers more than 200 stakeholders of the sector amongst researchers, CEOs, universities, etc.) commented on the Ministerial proposal of Recovery plan for agriculture that, despite it mentions its efforts for more research in seeds for more resilient plants, and despite the government’s declaration of making the biotechnologies sector a priority industry, the Recovery plan does not mention any role that these technologies could play in the recovery itself.

AFBV reminded that biotechnologies are fundamental in improving food sovereignty, reaching the green transition, and in adapting vegetal productions to climate changes. 

The association concludes by underlying the essential role of vegetal biotechnologies for the successful outcome of the recovery.  It is urgent for France to invest heavily in seed research and to work with the other Member States to ensure that Europe rapidly adopts regulations on biotechnology, in line with scientific progress, in order to maintain the competitiveness of our agriculture in the world.

09/17 Scientist create gene-edited animals as “surrogate-sires” to boost production

Scientist in the US and UK have created gene-edited pigs, goats, and cattle to produce sperm with traits such as disease resistance and higher meat quality by using the CRISPR/Cas9 tool. Scientists said that “these animals, created by the first time, could be used as ‘surrogate sires’, essentially sterile blank slates that could then be transplanted with stem cells that produce the desired sperm”. Concrete application of this discovery could help farmers and the environment for healthier and more productive animals, better resource management (less feed, medicine and water).