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Crop Tech Corner
Emily Unglesbee 2/16 6:19 AM

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

GET GM FUEL AND FIBER UP TO SPEED

A group of graduate students from the University of Minnesota are asking Congress to trim the regulatory process for GM crops that produce fuel or fiber. The seven students, who are doing graduate work at Minnesota's College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences, believe the regulatory hurdles to commercializing these kinds of traits are slowing down innovation.

In a letter to U.S. Representatives dated Feb. 1, the students pointed out that it costs between $20 million to $30 million to guide a GM crop through the regulatory process, a price tag that limits smaller companies. "Each of us has numerous ideas about genetic modification that could be developed into start-up crop companies and bring more competition into the marketplace dominated by a few mega-companies that can afford the regulatory process," the students wrote.

The letter called for Congress to pass a bipartisan bill that funnels GM fuel or fiber crops through either USDA or EPA rather than both, and trims regulatory costs. By leaving GM food crops out of the equation, the bill could avoid dealing with the FDA, which would simplify the process, the students added.

You can find the letter here: http://bit.ly/…

PACKAGED FOODS SPEAK UP

If your food could talk, what would it say? How about, "Don't sweat that expiration date, I'm still good!" or "Yikes, I'm going sour in a hurry!"

That's the goal of Kay Cooksey, a professor with the Food, Nutrition and Packaging Sciences department at Clemson University, and post-doctoral researcher, Claudia Ionita. The two scientists are working to develop food packaging that could actually detect and alert you to food spoilage.

When the cells in food start to break down, they send out signaling molecules called autoinducers in a process called "quorum sensing." The Clemson researchers have received a $100,000 USDA grant to identify these autoinducers and design a biosensor array that could detect them. "The idea is to take what the microorganisms do naturally, put that with being able to sense that they are starting to create a food spoilage situation and build that in to a sensor," Cooksey said in a university press release.

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

See a description of the research in the USDA grant application here: http://bit.ly/…

PIONEER MINES BACTERIA FOR INSECTICIDAL TRAITS

Farmers owe a lot to bacteria. Genes from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) created a new generation of insect-resistant crops. Now DuPont Pioneer is turning to a different bacteria species called Pseudomonas for insecticidal genes. Scientists from the company have identified a promising gene from one type of this bacteria, Pseudomonas chlororaphis. The gene, ipd072Aa, produces a protein that can kill certain beetle species when it is expressed in a corn plant.

The Pseudomonas species is familiar to the U.S. regulatory agencies, which have approved several bio-pesticides and GM crops containing it in the last 30 years. The Pioneer scientists are thus optimistic that this potential new source of GM insecticidal traits would pass regulatory scrutiny: "P. chlororaphis is ubiquitous in the environment, lacks known toxic or allergenic properties, and has a history of safe use in agriculture and in food and feed crops," they wrote.

See the study here: http://bit.ly/…

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

Follow Emily Unglesbee on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee

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