Nacikgoz

It is imperative that we improve the new genotypes for sustainable plant and livestock production given the changes in demand and the environment. Until recently mutations and classical breeding techniques were sufficient to breed new varieties. At the end of the 20th century, tissue culture, gene transfer and other molecular biologic developments have entered the picture. In the past decade, a variation on mutation, which is not a new technique, has emerged. We now see thousands of new plant varieties that have been bread using artificial mutation with X or gamma rays or colchicine application. Mutation is a spontaneous or purposeful changes in one of the genes of a living organism.

Since 2010, genomic arrangements have been carried out in molecular laboratories. These genotypes, will rapidly be registered and delivered to the producers. These genomic arrangements, (also called New Plant Breeding Techniques (NPBT)), GEN EDITING, GENOM EDITING) cover a range of new gene engineering methods. Those are “Tilling, Protoplast Fusion, Cisgenesis, Oligonucleotide Techniques, CRISPR-Cas9, Zen, Talen, Epigenetics etc. with “CRISPR-Cas9” being prominent than the rest. In these methods, there is no transfer of any gene from outside like there is in GMOs. On the contrary, new genotypes are created by silencing the target gene with the help of transient DNA-cutting enzymes. This application can increase or decrease the effect of gene. We can call this process artificial micro-mutation. Naturally, these methods can be applied to plants with mapped genes.

What interesting are these methods do not require hundreds of millions of dollars for registration as is the case with GMO, which requires a lot of expenses for environment, risk etc. analyzes. Therefore, any gen edited variety can reach the seed marked in faster than any other plant breeding technique. Additionally the cost of these techniques is only one-tenth of GMO processes resulting in easy variety development by small and medium-sized or low budget new enterprise plant breeding companies, universities and public institutions. In the USA, GENOM EDITING is regulated as a conventional plant breeding system and not as a GMO registration system. Of the 23 candidate varieties of the more recent registration applications, only three of them belonged to large, global seed companies. Twenty of them emerged from 5-6 year old, small-to-mid sized enterprises or new entrepreneurs. Improving new genotypes will not be in hands of multinational companies exclusively but small enterprises will also take part in plant breeding activities which is crucial for food security in light of climate change.

Application of these new plant breeding techniques has been banned in in Europe . It raises concern that such a ban has occurred at a time when, where global warming, heat, drought and diseases, are seriously threatening the world’s food safety and when nations are in desperate need of resistance or tolerant new cultivars to heat, drought and diseases. With the July 2018 decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), genome editing will be regulated like GMOs, and the cost of registration of any new variety will be as high as GMO’s (around 150 million US$). In this case, small and medium-sized or low budget and younger plant breeding companies or universities will not be able to enter into plant breeding business. So, according to EU law, on one hand, ‘conventional’ mutagenesis using ionizing radiation or DNA-damaging chemicals which generate thousands of mutant varieties are safe; but on the other, one laboratory change of genome is causing regulatory alarm. Upon these developments some experts have voiced their views including:
 “This decision will have a profound effect on the academic research community in the EU”;
 ”Europe is breaking away from the largest biology revolution of the last 30 years;
 ”Europe will be far behind in the next decade about innovations in food and agriculture;
 “It is expected that modern plant biotechnology laboratories will be closed in Europe;
 “These restrictions in biotechnology means “migration of scientists””;
 “With this decision, the EU will begin to decline for the latest technology and innovation”.

The scientific community’s concern is that research support will also be cut off. The fact that NPBT won’t be included in the “Horizon” type framework projects, which bring together the science bodies and the implementing firms, will be a barrier for EU firms in the tomorrow’s seed market.
However, Japan’s Ministry of Environment is approaching this issue very differently. At an experts meeting on August 20, 2018, Japan has decided: “unless the product contains nucleic acid of other species or variety, registration procedures do not fall into the category of GMOs”. And on August 29, 2018, it was accepted by the Advisory Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms as it came from the group of experts .

Let’s take a look at the economic contributions of the varieties developed by classical mutation breeding without mentioning the varieties developed with NPBT. With this method, which was introduced in the middle of the 20th century, 3275 new varieties have been presented to the world producers to date. New mutant varieties were used as parents in the development of a large number of varieties. For example, in Italy, new genotypes driven from mutant Capelli durum wheat were planted in half of the whole Italian durum wheat fields in the 1970s. China is using mutation breeding more effectively. 30% of the registered 3275 new world mutant varieties belong to China. This country also uses space for conventional mutation. A total of 230 mutant varieties have been registered via space breeding research center’s mutation projects in the last 30 years.

Here are a few examples of candidate cultivar lists developed with NPBT:
– Seedless tomatoes in Japan;
– Low fatty acid soy in the US (in market in 2019);
– Easier digestible alfalfa in the US;
– Herbicide resistant rice in Canada;
– Herbicide resistant flax in Canada;
– A dozen more gene-edited crops in the pipeline for as US Company, Calyxt, including high-fiber wheat and potatoes that stay fresh longer, better-tasting tomatoes, low-gluten wheat, apples that don’t turn brown, drought-resistant soybeans or potatoes better suited for cold storage.

Those will not only be beneficial to plant breeders and consumers, but will also be pioneers for further crop development. In fact, we should see new cultivars for many additional species for food security in the future, given global warming.

Nazimi Acikgoz
Note: This artical is a summary of a Turkish paper published in “https://nazimiacikgoz.wordpress.com/2018/09/10/dunyada-yeni-islah-teknikleri-meyvelerini-vermege-basladi-2/” and
“http://blog.milliyet.com.tr/dunyada-yeni-islah-teknikleri-meyvelerini-vermege-basladi/Blog/?BlogNo=594118”

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