Microbial Manufacturing: Genetic Engineering Breakthrough for Urban Farming

Researchers at SMART, MIT’s research enterprise in Singapore, and National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed a technology that greatly accelerates the genetic engineering of microbes that can be used to manufacture chemicals used for urban farming. The new technology will result in a faster, cheaper, more accurate, and near-scarless plasmid construction, using standard and reusable parts, compatible with most popular DNA assembly methods.

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Pakistan: New breeding technologies successful to grow salt resistant crops

ISLAMABAD, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 15th Mar, 2018 ): Prof Mark Tester, a world renowned authority on Food security on Thursday said new technologies of breeding crops would be helpful to convert any crop become salt resistant to control scarcity of food globally. Read more

Japan to Decide GE Labeling Requirements Soon

The Consumer Affairs Agency’s expert committee is expected to conclude its review of Japan’s
labeling requirements for genetically engineered foods at the end of March 2018. As a part of the
ongoing review, informal discussions have begun on a possible stricter threshold for the use of
voluntary “non-GE” labeling. However, some participating expert members have expressed concern
that foreign grain and oilseed supplies could be disrupted by a new, stricter standard. The concept of
tighter requirements for “non-GE” labeling is expected to be the focus of the next (and likely final)
expert committee meeting. Read more

Genetic Engineering — Its global benefits now and beyond

Agriculture could be defined as the manipulation of plant and animal DNA to suit the needs of humans. We have been changing the DNA of our food for 10,000 years. For most of agricultural history, we’ve had no idea what DNA changes occurred in our food. The discovery of recombinant DNA technologies in the 1970s began to change that. For the past 20 years we have been using genetic engineering (GE) to engineer precise DNA changes in our food.

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Davao stakeholders updated on crop biotech and Philippine biosafety guidelines

Davao stakeholders updated on crop biotech and Philippine biosafety guidelines

Various key stakeholder groups: regulators, farmer leaders, students, scientists, academe, DA information officers, and members and officials of local government units of selected municipalities in Davao region in the Philippines learned about the science, food and environmental safety, and socioeconomic benefits of biotech crops, as well as the biosafetyregulatory guidelines in the country, during the Biotechnology 101 & Joint Department Circular (JDC) Public Briefing held on August 16, 2017 at The Pinnacle Hotel and Suites, Davao City.

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Are Biotech crops safe to eat?

ARE biotech crops, which are spliced with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), safe to eat?

Opponents, mostly composed of private individuals, non-governmental organizations and international activists, say they are not. Proponents—who are mostly scientists (including Nobel Prize winners), health officials and United Nations agencies—claim they are! Read more

Radyo Teknolohiya: Interview with Dr. Maribel Zaporteza, a biotech R&D official (Philippines)

Radyo Teknolohiya: Interview with Dr. Maribel Zaporteza, a biotech R&D official (Philippines)

Dr. Maribel Zaporteza, the Deputy Program Director of the Philippine Genome Center shares her perspective on genetic engineering and GMOs during the interview of Ms. Melly Tenorio, Radio Program Anchor of Radyo ng Bayan aired in DZRB Radyo ng Bayan, 738 kHZ on 28 October 2016.


Genetically engineered microbes make their own fertilizer, could feed the world’s poorest

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA—Industrial fertilizers help feed billions of people every year, but they remain beyond the reach of many of the world’s poorest farmers. Now, researchers have engineered microbes that, when added to soil, make fertilizer on demand, producing plants that grow 1.5 times larger than crops not exposed to the bugs or other synthetic fertilizers. The advance, reported here this week at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, could help farmers in the poorest parts of the world increase their crop yields and combat chronic malnutrition.

A key component of fertilizer is nitrogen, an element essential for building everything from DNA to proteins. Nitrogen is all around us, comprising 80% of the air we breathe. But that nitrogen is inert, bound up in molecules that plants and people can’t access. Some microbes have evolved proteins called nitrogenases that can split apart nitrogen molecules in the air and weld that nitrogen to hydrogen to make ammonia and other compounds that plants can absorb to get their nitrogen.

The industrial process for making fertilizer, invented more than a century ago by a pair of German chemists—Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch—carries out that same molecular knitting. But the Haber-Bosch process, as it’s now known, necessitates high pressures and temperatures to work. It also requires a source of molecular hydrogen (H2)—typically methane—which is the chief component of natural gas. Methane itself isn’t terribly expensive. But the need to build massive chemical plants to convert methane and nitrogen into ammonia, as well as the massive infrastructure needed to distribute it, prevents many poor countries from easy access to fertilizer.

A few years ago, researchers led by Harvard University chemist Daniel Nocera devised what they call an artificial leaf that uses a semiconductor combined with two different catalysts to capture sunlight and use that harvested energy to split water molecules (H2O) into H2 and oxygen (O2). At the time, Nocera’s group focused on using the captured hydrogen as a chemical fuel, which can either be burned directly or run through a device called a fuel cell to produce electricity. But last year, Nocera reported that his team had engineered bacteria called Ralstonia eutropha to feed on the H2 and carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and combine them to make hydrocarbon fuels. The next step, says Nocera, was to broaden the scope of their work by engineering another type of bacterium to take nitrogen out of the air to make fertilizer.

Nocera and his colleagues turned to a microbe called Xanthobacter autotrophicus, which naturally harbors a nitrogenase enzyme. But they still needed a way to provide the bugs with a source of H2 to make ammonia. So they genetically engineered Xanthobacter, giving them an enzyme called a hydrogenase, which allows them to feed on H2 to make a form of cellular energy called ATP. They then use that ATP, additional H2, and CO2 from the air to synthesize a type of bioplastic called polyhydroxybutyrate, or PHB, which they can store in their bodies.

This is where the microbes’ nitrogenase enzyme kicks in. The bacteria harvest H2 from their PHB store and use their nitrogenase to combine it with nitrogen from the air to make ammonia, the starting material for fertilizer. It doesn’t just work in the lab: Nocera reported yesterday at the meeting that when he and his colleagues put their engineered Xanthobacter in solution and used that solution to water radish crops, the vegetables grew 150% larger than controls not given either the bugs or other fertilizers.

Leif Hammarström, a chemist at Uppsala University in Sweden who also works on making fuels from solar energy, says he was impressed with the work. Making ammonia without using an industrial process “is a very challenging chemistry,” he says. “This is a good approach.” It may even be one that could help many of the world’s poor. Nocera says Harvard has licensed the intellectual property for the new technology to the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai, India, which is working to scale up the technology for commercial use around the globe.

-Written by Robert F. Service in Sciencemag.org.  See original article link here.

Research explains plant tissues’ sense of direction

Scientists at the John Innes Centre, Norwich have discovered how complex plant shapes are formed. The work, led by Dr. Alexandra Rebocho and colleagues in Professor Enrico Coen’s laboratory, could have wide implications on the understanding of shape formation, or ‘morphogenesis’, in nature. Understanding how genes influence plant shape formation would lead to better-adapted and higher yielding crop varieties.

One of the prevailing theories of how complex plant shapes develop, upon which this new research builds, is the theory of ’tissue conflict resolution’. In this theory, growth outcomes depend on tissues. In isolation, individual tissue regions grow equally in all directions or elongate in a preferred direction. In reality, tissue regions do not occur in isolation, but the adhesion and cohesion between adjoining regions cause tissues to buckle, curve, or bend to a compromise state.

The three proposed types of tissue conflict resolution are areal, surface, and directional. The new research provides evidence for the third category: directional conflict. Tissues, or collections of tissues, can have a set of directions, or ‘polarity field’, which is caused by the asymmetrical distribution of proteins within cells. An example of a response to this directionality is when plants grow faster parallel or perpendicular to the local polarity field.

For more information about this research, read the news release from the John Innes Centre.

-Published in ISAAA’s Crop Biotech Update.  See original article link here.