Gene-edited wheat reduces acrylamide levels3 Mar 2023
Europe’s first ever field trial of a gene-edited wheat variety, which results in a 45% reduction of acrylamide when the flour is baked, is an important step in commercialising the ingredient and allowing brands to comply with acrylamide limits in food.
The trial was an important step in its commercial viability, as the team planted the wheat in outdoor experimental fields, producing a crop that confirms the new gene-edited (GE) strain’s ability to deliver for farmers.
“The study showed that gene editing to reduce asparagine concentration in the wheat grain works just as well in the field as under glass,” said Professor Nigel Halford, research leader and crop scientist at Rothamsted Research.
“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.
Research used CRISPR gene-editing technology
Researchers from the UK’s Rothamsted Research used the CRISPR gene-editing technology to “knock out” a gene in the wheat which plays a role in the formation of asparagine.
When cooked, this amino acid is converted to acrylamide – a potential carcinogen that food processors are keen to control.
Findings from the trial coincide with the likely introduction of the UK’s Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill, which will provide legislation on the release and marketing of GE crops. Currently in the final stages of its passage through Parliament, the Bill’s passing spells good news for those scientists convinced that CRISPR represents an exciting development for the food industry.
Pictured: Abstract genetics disease © iStock/koto_feja
The argument is that the genetic editing technique will be crucial in keep up with the changing environment, where current regulation has limited its use in agriculture.
British public want GE food and ingredients to be labelled
“That these important decisions will be debated in parliament is to be welcomed,“ said Dr Adrian Ely, reader in technology and sustainability at the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex.
“The issues go beyond technical risks and benefits, and any decisions will help to shape the future of the UK’s agri-food system.
“Numerous studies show that most of the British public want GE food and ingredients to be labelled. How to deliver on these demands remains a key challenge for the Bill.”
Prof Andrew Thompson, head of Cranfield University’s Soil and Agri Food Institute, said, “More precise gene editing technologies, alongside a simpler regulatory regime proposed in the Genetic Technology Bill, will certainly help such advances to be fully exploited for the benefit of farmers, consumers, and the environment.
“At Cranfield we are also helping commercial breeders to take up gene editing technology so they can more rapidly breed soft fruit varieties that have tastier, more nutritious and longer lasting fruit.”
Cost and time affecting GE business case
In last week’s National Farmers Union (NFU) Conference, the implications of GE on homegrown beet crop was the subject of a breakout session in which Stefan Meldau, R&D Lead in Biotic Stress at KWS took part.
Outlining the commercial realities of GE for seed breeders in the UK and EU, Dr Meldau said KWS, a European company that focuses on plant breeding, had “immediate capacity” to implement GE methods once a legislative framework was in place.
However, his optimism was mixed with pragmatism and EU legislation was a factor.
“The necessary food and feed derogation to allow exports of goods using UK sugar produced using GE as an ingredient could take six years and cost €10-15 million, he said, which had implications for the business case.
Also at the conference was British Sugar’s Daniel Green, who joined a panel discussion that offered reassurances on the safety of GE and urged delegates to become advocates for the technology to help foster a positive public outlook.
How the EU is strengthening agrifood system resilience
7 Apr 2023
The EU faces significant challenges in ensuring food affordability and security in the face of multiple shocks. Developing domestically produced fertilisers and prioritising sustainability are key in building future resilience.Read more
Sustainability a growing focus for global pet food brands
6 Apr 2023
Pet food brands around the world are responding to consumer demands for sustainable pet food in many ways, from upcycled ingredients to carbon footprint claims and reduced-plastic packaging.Read more
SAFE raises concerns over EU directive to avoid false green claims
5 Apr 2023
Following the release of the European Commission’s proposal to avoid false and misleading green claims, Safe Food Advocacy Europe (SAFE) is calling for updates to prevent consumer confusion and exploitation.Read more
Almost half of all EU honey imports are adulterated
4 Apr 2023
Honey fraud is rife in the EU, with almost half of all imports likely to be adulterated with added syrups and cheaper sugar, according to new EU analysis.Read more
Kraft Heinz takes on Latin America with e-commerce platform
3 Apr 2023
The Kraft Heinz Company is teaming up with BEES, an e-commerce platform owned by AB InBev, to leverage its distribution network in untapped regions, such as Latin America.Read more
Does low/no alcohol labelling lack clear information?
31 Mar 2023
It’s a booming beverage sector but without definitive rules on labelling, low- and no- alcohol drinks need to avoid misleading consumers to maintain confidence, say experts.Read more
Confectionery firm fined €10k for misleading Nutri-Score use
30 Mar 2023
Italy’s Competition and Market Authority (AGCM) has fined Vivil A. Muller (Vivil) €10,000 due to its misleading use of the Nutri-Score system to indicate the healthiness of its confectionary.Read more
Calls grow for a ban on climate-neutral food claims
29 Mar 2023
Food and drink claims on climate neutrality are scientifically impossible, misleading, and must be banned, says the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).Read more
Canada approves use of GM-modified high oleic algae oils for food use
28 Mar 2023
The government of Canada has approved the use of high oleic algae oils designed to replace certain dietary fats and oils in conventional foods.Read more
Nestlé drops three plant-based brands in UK and Ireland
27 Mar 2023
Nestlé is to axe three plant-based brands, Wunda, Garden Gourmet, and Mezeast, in the UK and Ireland following disappointing sales that meant the brands were “not viable” in current market conditions.Read more