From Bio Journal - April 2017

Trend: Trials of first genome edited rice about to begin

The National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO), under the jurisdiction of MAFF, has applied for trial cultivation in isolated fields of a "sink-ability altered rice," the first GM rice to be produced by gene editing. (See BJ March 2017) According to the Cartagena law, in the case of the cultivation of crops produced using GM technology without preventative methods for the spread of genetic material to other fields or to the environment must receive prior approval from MEXT.

The "sink" of "sink-ability altered rice" refers to storage ability. This rice variety was produced by splicing the DNA to insert a CRISPR/Cas9 gene to prevent the function of a particular gene, this being expressed throughout the plant anatomy. It is said that by preventing the function of a degradative enzyme gene for a plant hormone, the plant hormone is increased, leading to more floral buds and resulting in an increased number of grains. To insert the gene, the agrobacterium method is used with an antibiotic hygromycin resistant gene as a marker gene. The trial cultivation is due to be carried out for five years from April this year at the Kannondai Facility (Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture) high-performance isolated fields.

Review of the Simplot GM potato begins

On March 15, the Food Safety Commission assessed the GM potato developed by the US J.R. Simplot Company as safe and called for public comments. This potato was developed through the use of RNA interference (RNAi) and reduces carcinogenic acrylamides produced during heating. RNAi is a technique for preventing the function of a gene using dsRNA (double-stranded RNA). In the US, artificial RNAi has caused damage to beneficial insects and animals besides the target insect pest and unforeseen risks such as suppression of genes necessary for reproduction have been pointed out, and thus the approval was delayed due to doubts about possible impacts on food safety.

Cartagena laws to be amended in runup to ratification of the Supplementary Protocol

On 28 February 2017, a bill for the amendment of the Cartagena laws receive cabinet approval and was submitted to the Diet. (See BJ February 2017) The amended law is intended to be a move toward ratification of the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol agreed upon by the Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety held in Nagoya in 2010. The Supplementary Protocol requires restoration, etc. when damage arises to biodiversity due to modified living organisms such as GMOs. For this purpose, the amendment bill contains clauses that allow the Minister for the Environment to order restoration of damage caused to biodiversity and provides with that additional punitive regulations.

MAFF announces results of a maize wild volunteer survey

On 22 March 2017, MAFF released its FY2015 gSurvey of the Actual Situation of Maize Growth, etc.h This survey was carried out for use in assessments of impacts on biodiversity due to GM maize. Seven ports and three transport routes to feed factories were surveyed. The results show that at six ports (130 locations) spillage of maize seeds was discovered, growth of the seeds being confirmed at one port. Spillage was discovered on all three of the transport routes. No analysis was carried out to test whether or not these spilled seeds were GMOs.

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