1.Scientists Boost Vitamin A levels in Corn Without GM
2.Non-GM protein rich corn developed
EXTRACTS: A variety of corn with extra protein developed by scientists in Uttarakhand may be the first of a series of designer crops that India plans to develop without genetic modification involving alien genes. (item 2)
Buckler says that his team's method for analyzing the genetic makeup of corn is 'much simpler and faster and up to 1,000-fold cheaper' than running the types of chemical tests that were previously available for identifying corn high in vitamin A precursors. He expects it to significantly accelerate the vitamin biofortification of corn crops [without GM]. (item 1)
NOTE: Given all the land races of rice in India and SE Asia this type of MAS-based identification of high vit A rice should be possible and indeed a scientist from the biotech company Syngenta has previously admitted to the BBC: 'All the genes are present in rice. One could make a non-GM vitamin-A rice simply by studying those genes in a more focused way.' (Mirage of GM's Golden Promise) http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2620
1.New Method for Producing High-Vitamin Corn Could Improve Nutrition in Developing Countries
National Science Foundation press release http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=110998&org=NSF&from=news.
[Photo Caption: Because of its genetic makeup, some corn crops contain particularly high levels of vitamin A precursors. Scientists have found a simpler and cheaper method to find these high-vitamin corn crops. Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation]
Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS)[the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency] and Cornell University have discovered how to amplify the vitamin A content of corn, providing a powerful new tool in the fight against deficiencies in dietary vitamin A.
Such deficiencies cause eye diseases, including blindness, in 40 million children annually, and increased health risks for about 250 million people, mostly in developing countries.
In the course of their research, the scientists have discovered 'a new method of analyzing the genetic makeup of corn that will enable developing countries to identify and increase cultivation of corn that has naturally high levels of vitamin A precursors,' says Ed Buckler, a co-leader of the research team from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and Cornell University, in a National Science Foundation press release.
Corn is an essential part of the diets of hundreds of millions of people around the world, many of whom live in developing countries. It is the dominant subsistence crop in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, where 17 to 30 percent of children under age five are vitamin A deficient, says Buckler.
Regular consumption of adequate quantities of corn high in vitamin A precursors, which are converted in the human body into vitamin A, would reduce vitamin A deficiencies and associated health problems.
Buckler says that his team's method for analyzing the genetic makeup of corn is 'much simpler and faster and up to 1,000-fold cheaper' than running the types of chemical tests that were previously available for identifying corn high in vitamin A precursors. He expects it to significantly accelerate the vitamin biofortification of corn crops.
This new method of increasing cultivation of high-vitamin corn is designed to tap the natural genetic diversity of corn. It was developed by a team led by Buckler and Torbert Rocheford of the University of Illinois, and was partially funded by The National Science Foundation (NSF). It will be described in the January 18, 2007 edition of Science.
'In a field of thousands of ears of corn, each ear has a slightly different genetic makeup and resulting differences in physical characteristics, including levels of vitamin A precursors -- just like every person in a crowd has a slightly different genetic makeup and associated physiological differences,' explains James Collins, assistant director for the Biological Sciences Directorate at NSF.
But only a very small percentage of corn crops are genetically programmed to have naturally high levels of vitamin A precursors, and these high-vitamin ears cannot be identified merely by visual inspection. 'Therefore, identifying crops that have high levels of vitamin A precursors has traditionally been like finding a needle in a haystack.'
However, the team led by Buckler and Rocheford has significantly simplified the task of sifting through that proverbial haystack. They did so by identifying genetic markers in corn associated with high levels of vitamin A precursors. These markers can be used by 'scientists working in very basic labs in developing countries to quickly screen for local corn strains that are high in vitamin A precursors,' says Buckler. Then, these high-vitamin strains may be bred, cultivated and consumed by local people.
The Buckler and Rocheford team is currently working with various international organizations to help train plant breeders in developing countries to use their techniques.
Buckler says that this new method of increasing cultivation of high-vitamin corn was made possible by recent breakthroughs in statistical analyses and the advent of rapid DNA sequencers -- instruments that are used to automate genetic profiling of crops. The researchers expect this new method to have broad applications beyond corn improvement.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $5.92 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to over 1,700 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 42,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 10,000 new funding awards. The NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
2.Bred: protein-rich corn as good as milk
G.S. MUDUR The Telegraph (India), Jan 22 2008 http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080122/jsp/frontpage/story_8811106.jsp
New Delhi, Jan. 21: A variety of corn with extra protein developed by scientists in Uttarakhand may be the first of a series of designer crops that India plans to develop without genetic modification involving alien genes.
Scientists at the Vivekananda Paravtiya Krishi Anusandhan Sansthan in Almora last week announced that a variety of corn they had produced through a combination of modern biology and traditional breeding had a protein quality that approached that of milk.
Standard corn, maize, is the third-largest cereal crop grown in India, but is deficient in lysine and tryptophan, two key amino acids that are the building blocks of proteins. Now, the Vivekananda scientists have created a hybrid with 30 per cent higher lysine and 40 per cent higher tryptophan than in ordinary maize.
This was achieved through marker-assisted breeding, a technique in which scientists painstakingly screen segments of the genome in genetically distinct varieties of corn to find the right combination of two corn varieties to cross.
'This technique does not involve insertion of a gene from any other organism into the crops. So, it won’t draw any concerns about environment or health,' said Pawan Agrawal, a scientist at the biotechnology division of the institute.
The high-protein corn was created by repeated breeding experiments aimed at inserting traits of a variety called QPM, discovered in the 1960s by an international maize research institute in Mexico, into an indigenous variety called Vivek 9.
The increase in the levels of these amino acids makes the protein in this corn approach the quality of milk protein, Agrawal said. The yield of this variety is about 10 per cent higher than that of its indigenous parent.
The marker-assisted breeding technique also speeded up the creation of a new variety. Traditional breeding would have taken about 10 years, while the genetic screening methodology made the feat possible in about three years, Agrawal said.
'This is significant. Although we have already commercialised a few varieties of high-protein corn, this work combines QPM with an attractive variety,' said Samar Bahadur Singh at the Directorate of Maize Research in Delhi.
The Centre’s department of biotechnology will launch a programme to create more such designer crops with beneficial agricultural traits, without genetic engineering, said biotechnology secretary M.K. Bhan. 'We’ll use the transgenic route when there is no other route, otherwise we’ll proceed with marker-assisted breeding wherever possible.'
A panel of experts has been asked to draw up a list of crops of interest, Bhan said. Among the candidate crops are rice, wheat, chickpea, oil seeds, uradbean and mungbean, said R.R. Sinha, adviser in the biotechnology department.
In genetic modification involving alien genes, crops are given new properties through the insertion of genes from other species - either bacteria or from other plants.