Crop Tech Corner

FDA Approves Bt Rice from China for U.S. Consumption

Emily Unglesbee
By  Emily Unglesbee , DTN Staff Reporter
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A new Bt rice variety from China has been approved for import and consumption in the U.S., to the chagrin of some American industry groups. (DTN photo illustration by Nick Scalise)

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- This bi-monthly column condenses the latest news in the field of crop technology, research and products.

FDA GIVES NOD TO BT RICE FROM CHINA

The Food and Drug Administration declared a Bt rice variety, developed by Chinese researchers, safe for consumption in the U.S. on Jan. 9. The move has raised the hackles of the industry group USA Rice. "The marketplace does not want GM rice, so neither do we," USA Rice president and CEO Betsy Ward said in a press release.

Developed by researchers from Huazhong University, Huahui No. 1 rice is engineered to express the Bt protein Cry1Ab/Cry1Ac, which targets lepidopteran pests and is familiar to U.S. Bt corn and cotton growers. The GM rice product is now in a curious position. Since it also received EPA approval regarding its pesticide residues, it has legal clearance for import and consumption in the U.S. However, the rice is not yet commercialized in its own home country of China, which currently doesn't permit any GM grain production. Lacking deregulation from the USDA, it cannot be grown in the U.S. either.

Ward urged rice importers to avoid the Huahui No. 1 rice from China, which is not a major source of imported rice in the U.S. In 2017, the U.S. only imported around 6,000 metric tons of Chinese rice -- compared to 455,000 metric tons from Thailand, the leading source of imported rice here. USA Rice noted that American consumers can purchase U.S.-grown rice if they wanted to be sure of a non-GM product. "While GMOs are perfectly safe, the fact that there is no GMO rice in commercial production in the U.S. resonates very strongly with customers, dietitians and importers around the world," said Cameron Jacobs, USA Rice manager of domestic promotion.

You can see the FDA's approval letter here: http://bit.ly/…

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You can see USA Rice's statement here: http://bit.ly/…

THE WHEAT THAT NEVER SLEEPS

How do you get wheat plants to hurry up and reproduce already? Never let them rest. Australian researchers are using a technique first devised by NASA scientists to induce "speed breeding" in wheat plants, effectively doubling the number of wheat generations breeders can grow in a year. The University of Queensland scientists exposed the wheat plants to continuous light in specially designed greenhouses. In a single year, these wakeful conditions allowed researchers to produce six generations of wheat, chickpea and barley and four generations of canola. Already, the technique has helped the Queensland researchers develop a wheat variety that better tolerates wet weather at harvest, in partnership with Dow AgroSciences.

Read the University of Queensland press release here: http://bit.ly/…

See the study here: http://go.nature.com/…

HUNTING A FUNGUS

Researchers are always poring through plant genomes, hunting for genes that resist diseases. Now a team of scientists led by the University of Illinois has turned that equation on its head, by looking for the genes in a fungus that allow it to outsmart a plant's genetic resistance.

The fungus in question causes Northern Corn Leaf Blight, a common and damaging disease for Midwestern corn growers. To date, researchers have found four corn genes that help plants resist damage from the fungus, Ht1, Ht2, Ht3 and HtN, according to a University of Illinois press release. The researchers picked two strains of NCLB fungus, one that was susceptible to Ht1 plants and one that was resistant to them. They mated the two and mapped the genes of the resulting fungal strain. They found two gene locations likely responsible for evading Ht1's effect in corn plants.

The researchers hope these findings will help farmers more precisely defend their corn crop from NCLB. "Now that we have molecular markers, we could sample the environment and find out which strains of the pathogen are out there," University of Illinois plant pathologist Santiago Mideros said in the release. "Eventually, farmers might be able to plant corn varieties that are resistant to specific pathogens present in their area."

See the Illinois press release here: http://bit.ly/…

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at emily.unglesbee@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee

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Emily Unglesbee