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Articles from CropBitechUpdate: photosynthesis, glyphosate, potato and vitamin A&E

Crop Biotech Update, sponsored by commercial companies, has several articles on GM crops that may be of interest to members

A large, prospective cohort study conducted among agricultural workers,
farmers and their families in Iowa and North Carolina in the United States reports that there are no associations between glyphosate use and overall cancer risk or with total lymphohematopoietic cancers, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and multiple myeloma.

The long term study updated the previous evaluation of glyphosate with cancer incidence, and is part of the Agricultural Health Study (AHS), a large and important project that tracks the health of agricultural workers and their families. Led by AHS principal investigator Laura Beane Freeman, the study results state that among 54,251 applicators studied, 44,932 (82.8%) used glyphosate. "Glyphosate was not statistically significantly associated with cancer at any site," the study said.

For more details, read the free paper titled "Glyphosate Use and Cancer Incidence in the Agricultural Health Study" in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Scientists from Wageningen University and Research have found natural genetic variation for photosynthesis in plants and are unravelling it to the DNA level. Led by Mark Aarts and Jeremy Harbinson, the research team has shown that thale cress has various genes involved in adaptation to the changes in the amount of light to which plants are exposed.

A gene that has been studied in detail is the Yellow Seedling 1 gene, which is involved in the adaptation of chloroplasts to light changes. Due to a variation in this gene, some thale cress plants can handle an increase of light (the difference between a cloudy and a sunny day, for example) better than others. It is the first time that this variation has been found in thale cress, but as the genes for photosynthesis occur in nearly all plant species, the scientists expect that a similar variation can be found in many other crops too.

The discovery shows that it is possible to improve photosynthesis based on natural genetic variation, something which was doubted until now. In the long term, breeding on improved photosynthesis could make crops produce more yield with the same amount of soil, water, and nutrients. This brings the concept of ‘more' (yield) ‘with less' (soil, water and nutrients) one step closer.

For more details, read the news release from Wageningen University and Research.

Scientists from Ohio State University and Italian National Agency for New Technologies have developed a "golden" potato with improved levels of vitamins A and E. The result of their study is published in PLOS ONE journal.

Potato is one of the most widely consumed plant foods by humans, but it has low levels of essential nutrients such as beta carotene (provitamin A) and vitamin E. Thus, the researchers used genetic engineering to boost provitamin A carotenoids and xanthophylls in potato, then studied the bioaccessibility of the nutrients in boiled wild type and golden (yellow-orange) tubers in a simulated digestive system. 

Results showed that a serving of golden potato can provide as much as 42% of a child's recommended daily intake of vitamin A and 34% of a child's recommended intake of vitamin E. They also found that women of reproductive age could get 15% of their recommended vitamin A and 17% of recommended vitamin E from that same 5.3-ounce (150-gram) serving.

Read the research article in PLOS ONE.


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