Agricultural production must continue by protecting the environment and ensuring sustainability. In this context, it is imperative to develop new genotypes continuously in plants, animals and microorganisms to increase quality and yield. 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. We now see thousands of new plant varieties that have been bread using artificial mutation through the use of X-rays or gamma irradiation and colchicine application. Mutation is a spontaneous or purposeful change in one of the genes of a living organism.

Lately a new application of the mutation emerged for genome or gene editing, (also called New Plant Breeding Techniques (NBT)). The technique is exactly as a mutation run in molecular laboratory. Gene editing cover a range of new gene engineering methods. Those are Tilling, Protoplast Fusion, Cogenesis, 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 changing 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.

In Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), i.e., transgenic organisms, a gene has been transferred from another species and they are registered after passing through many risk tests such as environment and health before they are put on the market. Therefore, the cost of a genotype to the company exceeds 100 million. For this reason, GMO method is almost synonymous with that used by global multinational companies. On the contrary, the cost of developing genotypes with NBT is at a level of almost 1/10th that can be met even by low-budget new entrepreneurial firms, universities and public institutions.

Tilapia is the fourth most consumed sea product after shrimp, salmon and canned tuna. The transgenic salmon producer AquaBounty and its main shareholder Intrexon have jointly developed a tilapia line (FLT01) using genome editing method. They have announced by a press release , as the first living being, commercialized genome editing method. This project was conducted and finalized in Argentina, because elegislation of genome editing not has been accepted as GMO regulation in that country.

According to the product developers, commercial advantage was achieved by providing 70% of significant improvement in fillet yield, 16% growth rate improvement and 14% feed conversion rate improvement. With the shortening of the feeding time, it will be possible to reduce the disease risk and decrease the input costs. This will facilitate a sustainable solution for world’s protein gap.

AquaBounty, a USA company is the first company to commercialize transgenic salmon in the world. Transgenic salmon is marketed in Canada, whilst registration process continues in the USA.

In fact, in the summer of 2018 in Brazil, an ANGUS (cattle breed) calf (Gazelle) was developed by gene editing method . The aim was to adapt ANGUS breed to tropical hot conditions. Actually ZEBU race is regions animal, but due to quality, Angus meat is imported. The developer, Recombinetics, expects that, these genotypes will contribute significantly to the Brazilian agricultural economy.
These two events in Argentina and Brazil provide the opportunity to compare GMO and gene regulation methods in genetic engineering applications that have been recently developed for plant and animal breeding. In the last list of variety registration application in USA there were 23 candidates, all improved with NBT methods. And only three of them belong to the big – global multinational seed companies. The other 20 were owned by new 5-6 years old small – medium enterprises or universities. This means, that NBT system seems to be a development that will shake the world seed market. Small and medium size companies through using NBT methods, in a short time and with the minimum cost, developed new varieties firms soon likely to overtake global multinational companies in the seed market.
With the decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on July 2018, the NBT will be considered within the scope of the EU’s GMO guidelines. It is interesting that new breeding techniques are put into operation in Europe and the ban is imposed on NBT by court decision. On the eve of a phenomenon such as global warming, the use of NBT for food security, heat, drought, diseases, etc. will be unavoidable. In a short period of time, the decision of the ECJ on NBT does not seem to have much sense in our time. In other words, the cost of developing a variety by the NBT method will cost to hundreds of millions of dollars by a series of tests. It is really hard to hear from some of the experts on subject saying:
-”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”.

Genome editing methods had been successfully implemented in China first time in order to provide children with resilience to HIV .

Nazimi Açıkgöz
Note: This article is compiled from a Turkish article “”

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