Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on

Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives





April 11, 2008


GM Crops Increase Worldwide; Potatoes Present Opportunity; 'Gene toggles' in rice


* GM crops needed in cereals sector
* Scots farmers 'need to produce GM foods'
* Drought Resistant And High Yield Crops to Come
* GM potential benefits to Australian agriculture
* Plantings And Adoption Of GM Crops Increase
* GM potatoes as a commercial opportunity
* Monitoring imports of Chinese rice
* Vote kills taro moratorium
* Panel to post toxicity information on website
* 'Gene toggles' in rice
* Key to turning corn into biofuel
* Enhanced Agrobacterium-mediated transformation
* Link in mosquito mating mechanism


GM crops must become part of cereals sector tool kit

- Farming UK, Apr. 7, 2008


The National Beef Association has called for all resistance to GM crops, at both UK and EU level, to be abandoned immediately in response to seismic shifts in world demand for food, the growing danger of global food shortages, and the prospect of declining domestic animal production.

It says the UK and EU agriculture industries cannot allow themselves to be held back by backward and protectionist attitudes to GM technology now that food is no longer either cheap, or abundant, and wants to see all available agricultural tools being used to allow production to keep pace with the soaring consumer demand.

"Full use of modern technology is essential if more farmers are to be able to grow more food crops on the increasingly limited area of agricultural land that is available," explained NBA chairman, Duff Burrell.

"Rapid food price inflation is already alarming government and consumers, and the production of both cereals and meat will reduce at the same time as shop prices reach toe curling levels unless GM aids become part of UK and EU farming's routine tool kit."

According to the NBA just one GM crop, an insect resistant maize planted on just 110,000 hectares, is authorized for use within the EU while a second crop, a blight resistant potato has still to complete its production trials.

In contrast huge exporters like the US and Argentina have between them dedicated almost 80 million hectares GM crops because they expect them to raise yields by giving protection against insects and disease - and these countries are now being followed by Brazil and Canada as well as India and China too.

"This means that as Europe becomes more reliant on food imports its consumers will buy more products that contain an increasing proportion of GM ingredient and claims made by uninformed GM opponents that they are able to protect consumers from GM products have already become a joke," said Mr Burrell."

"The European Commission must accept that opposition to GM technology lacks logic and agree that the GM import issue needs an urgent solution because a massive rise in EU and UK livestock feed prices, and a corresponding reduction in livestock population, can only be avoided by quickly clearing the backlog of GM importation approvals."

"Feed compounders are keen to have access to substitutes for record priced EU grain and this can only be done if obstacles to import approval for gluten derived from the new GM maize variety, Herculex, and new varieties of GM soya, are removed."

"And the Association has noted that the UK's former chief scientist, Professor Sir David King, has estimated that the cost of the UK's failure to embrace GM crops has already cost its cereal sector 4 billion in lost output," Mr Burrell added.


Scots farmers 'need to produce GM foods'

- Dan Buglass, The Scotsman, Apr. 11, 2008


SCOTLAND'S farmers are being hampered by the "madness" of EU regulation, and must be allowed to produce genetically modified food to help them compete with other farmers on a global scale. That is the message that Struan Stevenson MEP will deliver later today when he addresses a meeting of the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association in Inverurie.

Stevenson said yesterday: "We must relax the rules on biotechnology and ignore the 'Frankenstein Foods' headlines. The reality is that GM foods are harmless and point the way to overcoming global food shortages in the future. Food security in Europe means looking after our home production and not always handing a commercial advantage to our non-EU competitors."

The vast majority of farmers and scientists see no dangers - indeed they see positive benefits - in sanctioning the growing of GM crop s in the UK. One of the advantages, apart from higher yields, is the reduced level of chemicals required. Some GM crops are much more drought resistant than conventional varieties and that could be an important factor with climate change becoming a reality.

There are rumours that at least one major retailer intends to put some GM products on its shelves to test public opinion. A recent survey showed that consumer reaction to GM is far less negative than just a few years ago.

But it is clear that Europe is being left behind and that was made clear at the annual conference in February of the fellows of the Royal Agricultural Societies in Edinburgh.

Professor John Hillman, formerly of the Scottish Crop Research Institute in Dundee, claimed that the UK has lost a generation of agricultural scientists while the attitude of the government to science was "absolutely disgraceful".


New Drought Resistant And High Yield Crops to Come

- Ephraim Kasozi, The Monitor (Kampala) via AllAfrica.com, Apr. 9, 2008


Although more than 75 percent of Uganda's workforce is engaged in agriculture, low yields leading to low income among farmers and malnutrition in children remain a challenge.

With the success of the ongoing research on the development of disease and drought-resistant varieties, small scale farmers will increase their harvest.

The initiative is targeted to manage the changing environment in Uganda and the world at large that has affected many farmers especially at subsistence level making them lose their would be source of income and diet.

Alliance for a Green Revolution Africa (Agra) has laid a five year strategy to answer the extended drought seasons and unpredictable rains challenges to enable farmers increase their harvest.

"Once researchers develop improved varieties which address farmers' needs, they will realise higher yields for food security, sell for income hence improved livelihoods," said Dr George Bigirwa Agra Programme Officer in charge of seed production and dissemination.

Agra is a partnership-based organization that works across Africa to help millions of small scale farmers and their families end poverty and hunger. It develops practical solutions to significantly boost farm productivity and incomes for the poor while also safeguarding the environment.

The programme estimated to cost US$150 million, supports the use of traditional means of improving crops for different situations like drought, test and pest-resistance crops.

According to Dr Bigirwa, the farmers shall be in position to pull out of abject poverty they have faced for a long time.

Dr Bigirwa said the research is a result of Agra's partnership with agricultural research institutions of higher learning and to train researchers to come up with high breed varieties.

However, he said Agra supports conventional breeding (the use of traditional means of improving crop yields against genetically modified crops).

The crops undergoing research include beans, rice, maize, sorghum and cassava. Mr Jimmy Lamo, a rice breeder at Namulonge Research Station in Wakiso District, said he has gathered materials to come up with varieties that are rain out and drought suitability.

"I am developing a type of rice that is drought tolerant with high yields and high resistance to pests. My aim is to come up with a type of rice that is adaptable in Ugandan conditions," Mr Lamo says.

He says that he is using the available varieties (seeds) to combine and come up with one that suitable for the farmers. According to Dr Stanley Nkalubo a plant breeder at National Agricultural Research Organization (Naro), development of bean variety have seen a number of varieties undergoing trial.

"We are evaluating the various types of bean seeds, screening them for growth, test and disease resistance. The suitable choice for the farmers will succeed," Dr Nkalubo also a bean breeder says.

Mr Eric Lerner Kagezi, a Phd candidate of African Centre for Crop improvement at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, is working on development of grain sorghum breeding trial.

Mr Kagezi said his research aims at improvement of diabetic activity and grain mould resistance.

"We want to cross breed lines get better varieties that mature early, stay green even after harvesting to feed animals as well as improving food security for farmers," Mr Kagezi says.

He says the new breed will be suitable for success of larger beer brewers due to the high yields for raw material and food.

Farmers who have been involved in testing of the newly researched seeds under the intervention of Agra conventional breeding, said they earned more in terms of knowledge and high yields.

"The partnership of Agra and Naro has taught us in terms of growing high yield crops and managing pests. We have gained this through testing the new breeds and applying the knowledge," Ms Jemimah Barisiyoy, a mixed farmer in Nalumuli village, Kikoko parish- Busukuma Sub County in Wakiso District, said.

Ms Barisiyoy who cultivates on a 30 acre plot says she implements the Agra initiatives with 15 other members to get increased output.

"We can now sell 200Kg of vegetables out of the improved and researched systems. They bring samples to us to test and choose and we end up benefiting, we now need capital to expand," she said.

According to Dr Bigiriwa, the research for the new breeds is taking place at national agricultural centers countrywide. They include; Kawanda Research Station in Wakiso and Serere agricultural research institute in Soroti among others.


GM crops: potential benefits to Australian agriculture

- Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (press release), Mar. 31, 2008


GM oilseed and wheat crops, if adopted, could provide significant benefits to Australian agriculture, according to a new ABARE report GM crops in emerging economies: impacts on Australian agriculture.

'The uptake of GM oilseeds and wheat could lead to a gain of $912 million in the Australian economy by 2018 relative to what would otherwise be the case,' Phillip Glyde, ABARE Executive Director, said on releasing the report.

The economic benefit of GM crops is estimated under the assumptions that imports of GM crops are not restricted in foreign markets and the emerging economies of Argentina, Brazil, India and China will fully adopt these GM crops by 2018.

'Australia will forgo significant economic gains by delaying the introduction of GM oilseeds and wheat if emerging economies continue to increase their uptake of GM crops,' Mr Glyde said.

Argentina, Brazil, India and China, in aggregate, account for around 39 per cent of the world's total GM crop plantings and this share is expected to increase as they continue to introduce GM crops at a faster pace than other countries.

The increase in GM crop adoption has increased on-farm productivity, farm incomes and reduced input use in these emerging economies.

Under an alternative scenario where it is assumed that the European Union bans the importation of GM crops from GM adopting countries, the estimated gain to the Australian economy of adopting GM oilseeds and wheat would reduce to $732 million in 2018, compared with what would otherwise be the case.

Read the full report (.pdf, 55 pp.): http://www.abareconomics.com/publications_html/crops/crops_08/gmcrops.pdf


Plantings And Adoption Of Genetically Modified Crops Increase In 2007

- International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (press release), Apr. 8, 2008


St. Louis, MO -- In a new online video and podcast released today, Clive James, chairman and founder of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), shares the results of his recently released 2007 report on the global status of genetically modified crops.

According to the report, genetically modified crops were planted on 282.4 million acres (114.3 million hectares) in 2007, reflecting a 12 percent increase over 2006 and the second highest area increase in the past five years.

"And what we see in the 12th year of commercialization, which is 2007, is that we witnessed a 12 percent increase in acreage on a global basis. And this has benefited 12 million farmers around the globe," says James. "That's a very significant increase. And particularly important is that of that 12 million farmers, 11 million farmers were resource poor farmers in developing countries. They represent some of the poorest people in the world."

In 2007, farmers in 23 countries planted genetically modified crops including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Columbia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Honduras, India, Mexico, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, the United States and Uruguay.

"Of the 23 countries, 12 were developing countries and 11 were industrial countries. So the growth that we are seeing is in the developing countries of the world where this technology can have its biggest impact," continues James. "And this means that you are making a very important contribution to the alleviation of poverty."

According to the report, adoption of genetically modified crops among resource-poor farmers is delivering unprecedented benefits that contribute toward the Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty by 50 percent by 2015. The potential in the second decade of genetically modified crop commercialization (2006-2015) is enormous.

This new video summarizing the key results and statistics of genetically modified crops in 2007 can be viewed, downloaded or embedded into another Web site from the Conversations about Plant Biotechnology Web site. [http://www.monsanto.com/biotech-gmo/]

The complete report on the Global Status of GM Crops in 2007 is available on the ISAAA Web site. [http://www.isaaa.org/] This report is entirely funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, a U.S.-based philanthropic organization associated with the Green Revolution; Ibercaja, one of the largest Spanish banks headquartered in the maize-growing region of Spain; and the Bussolera-Branca Foundation from Italy, which supports the open-sharing of knowledge on biotech crops to aid decision-making by global society.

The Conversations about Plant Biotechnology is designed to give a voice and a face to the farmers and families who grow GM crops and the experts who research and study the benefits of biotechnology in agriculture. The Web site contains more than 70 two- to three-minute, extremely candid, straightforward and compelling video segments with the people who know the technology best. The Web site is hosted by Monsanto Company - a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality.


Three leading potato starch producers see amylopectin starch from genetically enhanced potatoes as a commercial opportunity and see no reason to withhold Amflora approval

- AVEBE, Emsland and Lyckeby (press release) via SeedQuest, April 9, 2008


* Leading European starch producers confirm their interest in pure amylopectin starch gained from genetically enhanced potatoes such as Amflora to BASF Plant Science

* Amylopectin starch has the potential to create added value for European potato farmers and the starch industry

* Starch producers confirm advantages of pure amylopectin starch in technical applications

* Plant biotechnology is an efficient way of developing pure amylopectin starch potatoes with competitive yields

AVEBE, Emsland and Lyckeby, the three leading European potato starch producers, are calling on the European Commission to ap-prove Amflora for commercial cultivation in Europe. Amflora is a genetically en-hanced starch potato developed by BASF Plant Science.

AVEBE, Emsland and Lyckeby confirmed their interest in Amflora. They agree with BASF Plant Science that Amflora is safe. Amflora passed the scientific approval process successfully and is - according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) - as safe as conventional potatoes.

According to the starch experts, pure amylopectin starch is of high value in several technical applications such as paper production and paper coating. Michael Schon-ert, Managing Director EMSLAND GROUP, confirmed: "We, the European starch producers and our farmers, need high-value amylopectin starch to stay competitive." The industry anticipates processing the genetically optimized starch potato Amflora. Amylopectin starch has the potential to provide added value estimated at approximately 100 million per year to the European starch potato industry and as-sociated farmers.

AVEBE, Emsland and Lyckeby agree with BASF Plant Science that plant biotech-nology is an excellent way of developing pure amylopectin starch varieties with competitive yields. Gerben Meursing, Commercial Director AVEBE said: "Plant bio-technology is the key to the future of the potato starch industry. That is why AVEBE has also been investing in genetically optimized potato varieties since the early 1990s."


Food firms urged to help monitor imports of Chinese rice

- Linda Rano, Foodnavigator.com, Apr. 10, 2008


The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) is calling on food firms to help ensure that Chinese rice and products made from that rice being used in the UK do not contain the unauthorised GM Bt63. Following the announcement earlier today, an agency spokesperson told FoodProductionDaily.com that all links in the food chain are responsible for ensuring food produced in the UK is safe and abides by national and EC food regulations.

Although the FSA said it is not currently aware of any specific health risks associated with consuming Bt63, it is an unauthorised genetically modified organism so should not be sold in the EU.

The FSA has issued an 'action alert' in response to an emergency measures adopted by the EC which will come into effect from 15 April 2008.

After 15 April 2008, products originating in or consigned from China with certain CN codes may only be placed on the EU market if they have an official analytical report which confirms that the product does not contain, consist of, or is not produced from Bt63.

In separate advice to the port authorities, the FSA says that in the absence of an analytical report the food business operator is required to have the products tested under the supervision of the relevant food safety authority.

Random sampling is also required by Member States on products presented for importation or already on the market.

Advice to food businesses

On 28 March the FSA issued advice to certain food operators and trade associations.

This included that from 15 April food business operators should inform local food safety authorities if GM rice has left their possession and initiate procedures to withdraw it and to recall it if the product has reached customers.

The FSA is also asking food operators to notify the Agency if they believe they have taken possession of contaminated rice and to let them know about negative test results.

This will give an indication of the extent to which Bt63 is present in rice and rice products and help inform discussions.

Advice to food safety authorities

Authorities (environmental health services and trading standards) have been told that they will have to consider appropriate measures when executing and enforcing the regulations, and they might find it helpful to seek guidance from local food business operators as to whether any of their products are likely to be implicated.

Samples of rice or rice products to be analysed will be submitted for analysis via the Public Analyst network.

National Legislation England

National legislation for England, to implement the Commission decision, will be submitted for Ministerial consideration during the week starting 14 April 2008. The legislation is titled The Specified Products from China (Restriction on First Placing on the market) (England) Regulations 2008.


House votes to kill taro moratorium

- Associated Press via KPUA Radio, Apr. 9, 2008


HONOLULU -- State lawmakers have voted to kill a bill that would have created a five-year moratorium on genetically modifying Hawaiian taro.

The decision comes after the House Agriculture Committee passed the moratorium last week as a compromise between researchers and farmers who consider taro a sacred plant. Farmers also worry that genetically modified varieties could adulterate Hawaiian taro.

The bill would have allowed genetic research on non-Hawaiian taro to continue, which scientists say is needed to protect the crop from disease.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Clifton Tsuji says the House's decision squashing the bill was "in the best interest of all."

Taro is used to make the starchy food poi.


SC tells monitoring panel to post toxicity information on website

- Malathi Nayak, Wall St. Journal via LiveMint, Apr. 9, 2008


New Delhi: In order to improve transparency in the trials of genetically modified, or GM, crops, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Indian government's Genetic Engineering Approval Commitee, or GEAC, to post data on its website [http://www.envfor.nic.in/divisions/csurv/geac/geac_home.html] on the toxicity and allergic potential of GM plant varieties undergoing trial.

The apex court's order came after it heard a petition filed by activist Aruna Rodrigues in 2005 seeking a ban on GM crops, which the court heard simultaneously with a similar petition filed by Gene Campaign, a not-for-profit organization.

The petitioners have been urging transparency in tests and approvals for GM crop trials, in addition to concrete guidelines, after the Supreme Court lifted an eight-month ban on field trials of GM foodcrops in September last year.

GEAC, an agency of the ministry of environment and forests, approves, reviews, monitors and investigates activities involving hazardous micro-organisms and recombinants besides GM organisms and products.

Kavitha Kuruganti of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, a lobby group for organic farmers, said the information currently available in the public domain on the bio-safety of GM crops under trial is "insufficient". "The regulators have been saying they have information on their websites but these are only summaries. We welcome this order. This data should now be subjected to rigorous analysis by others."

A division bench led by Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan also asked GEAC to examine the distance between crops and the level of detection of contamination to other crops in the trials conducted, besides submitting the detailed minutes of its last meeting. The court will hear the matter again in the second week of August.


UD researchers discover novel 'gene toggles' in world's top food crop

- University of Delaware (press release) via EurekAlert, Apr. 9, 2008


University of Delaware researchers, in collaboration with U.S. and international colleagues, have found a new type of molecule--a kind of "micro-switch"--that can turn off genes in rice, which is the primary source of food for more than half the world's population. The discovery is reported in the March 25 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Composed of short lengths of ribonucleic acids (RNAs), on the order of about 20 nucleotides long, these novel molecules, called natural antisense microRNAs (nat-miRNAs), target the genes sitting directly across from them on the opposite strand of DNA in a rice cell.

In addition to uncovering a new genetic switch and gaining insight about its pathways and evolution, which are important to the health of a grain that feeds most of the world, the research also may help scientists locate this type of novel gene regulator in other organisms, including humans. MicroRNAs regulate 30 percent of human genes and thus are critical to human health and development.

The research was led by Pamela Green, the Crawford Greenewalt Chair of Plant Sciences at UD, and Blake Meyers, associate professor of plant and soil sciences, and their laboratory groups at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, including associate scientist Cheng Lu, postdoctoral researchers Dong-Hoon Jeong and Kan Nobuta, graduate students Karthik Kulkarni, Manoj Pillay, and Shawn Thatcher and research associate Rana German.

Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and at the Chinese Academy of Sciences collaborated on the project.

MicroRNAs are small RNA molecules that play a key role in regulating cellular processes, including a cell's development and its responses to stress. These micro-molecules bind to specific messenger RNA molecules, which carry instructions to the cells to make particular proteins. This binding typically causes the messenger RNAs to be degraded in plant cells.

"We were using a deep-sequencing approach to identify new microRNAs when we found these novel examples," said Green. "These tiny RNA molecules are a special type of microRNA that have an antisense configuration relative to their targets. It's an exciting finding. We believe they could be present in many organisms," she noted.

Some 240 microRNAs previously had been annotated in rice. Using a high-throughput gene-sequencing technique known as Massively Parallel Signature Sequencing (MPSS), the UD research team analyzed over 4 million small RNAs from 6 rice samples, which yielded 24 new microRNAs, including the unique new group of molecules called natural antisense microRNAs.

When a gene is ready to produce a protein, its two strands of DNA unravel. The first strand, called the "sense" transcript, produces messenger RNA, which carries the recipe for making a specific protein. However, the other strand of DNA may produce a complementary antisense RNA molecule, which sometimes can block production of the protein, thus turning off, or "silencing," the gene.

In the newly discovered case, the sense messenger RNA and antisense RNA operate differently, and different pieces are spliced out of each. These splicing differences limit the pairing ability between the sense and the antisense to a small region that includes the microRNA. In addition, splicing of the precursor of natural antisense microRNAs allows a hairpin to form, and hairpins are a requirement for any microRNA to be made.

Green noted that such microRNAs are not present in the common research plant Arabidopsis, which is a dicotyledon, a plant group that has two seed leaves (cotyledons) when it first sprouts. However, the UD team has identified the novel microRNAs in monocotyledons--plants that have solitary seed leaves--such as rice, corn and other grains.

"The novel microRNAs, target sites, and sense-antisense transcript arrangement that we discovered are conserved among monocots, indicating that this pathway is at least 50 million years old," Meyers noted.

The next step in the research, Green said, will be to try to understand how microRNAs help rice plants respond to adverse environmental conditions, such as drought or limited nutrient availability.

In addition, the UD group currently is analyzing small RNAs in a diverse set of plant species to determine if this new class of microRNA may be present in a broader set of monocots or other plants.

"Comparative genomics is an important method for understanding microRNA evolution and diversity and has the potential to tell us when this type of natural antisense-microRNA might have first evolved," Meyers said.


Cow stomach holds key to turning corn into biofuel

- Michigan State University (press release) via EurekAlert, Apr. 8, 2008


Enzyme from a microbe that lives in a cow's stomach key to turning corn plants to fuel

An enzyme from a microbe that lives inside a cow's stomach is the key to turning corn plants into fuel, according to Michigan State University scientists.

The enzyme that allows a cow to digest grasses and other plant fibers can be used to turn other plant fibers into simple sugars. These simple sugars can be used to produce ethanol to power cars and trucks.

MSU scientists have discovered a way to grow corn plants that contain this enzyme. They have inserted a gene from a bacterium that lives in a cow's stomach into a corn plant. Now, the sugars locked up in the plant's leaves and stalk can be converted into usable sugar without expensive synthetic chemicals.

"The fact that we can take a gene that makes an enzyme in the stomach of a cow and put it into a plant cell means that we can convert what was junk before into biofuel," said Mariam Sticklen, MSU professor of crop and soil science. She is presenting at the 235th national American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans today. The work also is presented in the "Plant Genetic Engineering for Biofuel Production: Towards Affordable Cellulosic Ethanol" in the June edition of Nature Review Genetics.

Cows, with help from bacteria, convert plant fibers, called cellulose, into energy, but this is a big step for biofuel production. Traditionally in the commercial biofuel industry, only the kernels of corn plants could be used to make ethanol, but this new discovery will allow the entire corn plant to be used - so more fuel can be produced with less cost.

Turning plant fibers into sugar requires three enzymes. The new variety of corn created for biofuel production, called Spartan Corn III, builds on Sticklen's earlier corn versions by containing all three necessary enzymes.

The first version, released in 2007, cuts the cellulose into large pieces with an enzyme that came from a microbe that lives in hot spring water.

Spartan Corn II, with a gene from a naturally occurring fungus, takes the large cellulose pieces created by the first enzyme and breaks them into sugar pairs.

Spartan Corn III, with the gene from a microbe in a cow, produces an enzyme that separates pairs of sugar molecules into simple sugars. These single sugars are readily fermentable into ethanol, meaning that when the cellulose is in simple sugars, it can be fermented to make ethanol.

"It will save money in ethanol production," Sticklen said. "Without it they can't convert the waste into ethanol without buying enzymes - which is expensive."

The Spartan Corn line was created by inserting an animal stomach microbe gene into a plant cell. The DNA assembly of the animal stomach microbe required heavy modification in the lab to make it work well in the corn cells. Sticklen compared the process to adding a single Christmas tree light to a tree covered in lights.

"You have a lot of wiring, switches and even zoning," Sticklen said. "There are a lot of changes. We have to increase production levels and even put it in the right place in the cell."

If the cell produced the enzyme in the wrong place, then the plant cell would not be able to function, and, instead, it would digest itself. That is why Sticklen found a specific place to insert the enzyme.

One of the targets for the enzyme produced in Spartan Corn III is a special part of the plant cell, called the vacuole. The vacuole is a safe place to store the enzyme until the plant is harvested. The enzyme will collect in the vacuole with other cellular waste products

Because it is only in the vacuole of the green tissues of plant cells, the enzyme is only produced in the leaves and stalks of the plant, not in the seeds, roots or the pollen. It is only active when it is being used for biofuels because of being stored in the vacuole

"Spartan Corn III is one step ahead for science, technology, and it is even a step politically," Sticklen said. "It is one step closer to producing fuel in our own country."


1-Aminocyclopropane-1-Carboxylate Deaminase Enhances Agrobacterium tumefaciens-Mediated Gene Transfer into Plant Cells

- Satoko Nonaka et. al., Applied and Environmental Microbiology (Vol. 74, No. 8), Apr. 2008


Agrobacterium-mediated gene transfer is widely used for plant molecular genetics, and efficient techniques are required. Recent studies show that ethylene inhibits the gene transfer. To suppress ethylene evolution, we introduced 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate (ACC) deaminase into Agrobacterium tumefaciens. The ACC deaminase enhanced A. tumefaciens-mediated gene transfer into plants.


Discovery of link in mosquito mating mechanism could lead to new attack on dengue and yellow fever

- Krishna Ramanujan, Cornell Chronicle, April 9, 2008


Cornell researchers have identified a mating mechanism that possibly could be adapted to prevent female mosquitoes from spreading the viruses that cause dengue fever, second only to malaria as the most virulent mosquito-borne disease in the tropical world.

Specifically, they have discovered 63 proteins that male mosquitoes transfer to Aedes aegypti females during mating and are thought briefly to change the females' physiology and behavior, in particular suppressing the female's appetite for mammalian blood.

In a study published in the journal Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Cornell researchers report that the proteins in the seminal fluid of the males also trigger a loss of sexual appetite in the females, stimulate egg production and influence clotting of the blood she has ingested.

The findings could lead to novel strategies to prevent the spread of dengue as well as mosquito-borne yellow fever viruses. "This is a new angle in our fight against vector-borne disease," said Laura Harrington, Cornell associate professor of entomology and the paper's senior author.

Dengue affects 50 million people annually, and two-thirds of the world's population is at risk. In the past year, it has reached epidemic levels in Asia, South and Central America and Mexico, where the number of dengue cases has increased by more than 300 percent from a year earlier. No dengue vaccine is available, and no treatment exists beyond supportive care.

Laura Sirot, a postdoctoral researcher in molecular biology and genetics, is the paper's lead author, and Mariana Wolfner, Cornell professor of molecular biology and genetics, also is a co-author. The work builds on Wolfner's work on the reproductive biology of fruit flies.

The next step, said Harrington, is to isolate, identify and verify the targets of the mosquito proteins that regulate such key post-mating behaviors as reduced sexual drive or lack of appetite for blood; and also, to manipulate such physiological responses as increased egg production. Eventually, the researchers hope that this knowledge will lead to new ways to control mosquitoes that spread disease. This could involve the identification of highly specific chemicals that affect these newly discovered reproductive proteins, or potentially could inform experiments on the use of genetically modified mosquitoes with knocked out (or turned off) genes or modified reproductive behaviors.

The study was funded primarily through U.S. Department of Agriculture Hatch Funds awarded to Harrington and Wolfner. It complements and enhances Harrington's work as a member of a global team of scientists that received a $19.7 million grant from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health to cure dengue fever and control the mosquitoes that transmit the viruses that causes it.

*by Andrew Apel, guest editor, andrewapel*at*wildblue.net