THE RESULTS ARE IN: GENE EDITED WHEAT FIELD TRIAL DELIVERS
Flour from new GE wheat line produces up to 45% less acrylamide
The results of Europe’s first ever field trial of a gene edited (GE) variety of wheat have shown a significant reduction of the potential carcinogen acrylamide when the flour is baked.
The new wheat strain was gene-edited to lower the formation of asparagine in the wheat grains. When cooked, this amino acid is converted to acrylamide – a potential carcinogen that food processors are keen to control.
Levels of asparagine (acrylamide’s precursor) in the GE wheat were up to 50% lower than the control variety Cadenza. Once ground into flour and cooked, the amounts of acrylamide formed were also significantly reduced by up to 45%.
The field trail was an important step in determining whether the new GE wheat would be viable. Indoor trials under glass had proved successful, but only by planting out in experimental fields could the research team be sure that the new strain could deliver for farmers.
Prof Nigel Halford, who led the research said, “The study showed that gene editing to reduce asparagine concentration in the wheat grain works just as well in the field as under glass.”
“This is important because the availability of low acrylamide wheat could enable food businesses to comply with evolving regulations on the presence of acrylamide in food without costly changes to production lines or reductions in product quality. It could also have a significant impact on dietary acrylamide intake for consumers.”
“However, GE plants will only be developed for commercial use if the right regulatory framework is in place and breeders are confident that they will get a return on their investment in GE varieties,” he added
The results of the trial are timely as the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill, which will make provision for the release and marketing of GE crops, is in the final stages of its passage through Parliament.
About Rothamsted Research
Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
For more information, visit https://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/; Twitter @Rothamsted
1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
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The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.