TRANSGENIC CANOLA FIELD TRIALS IN AUSTRALIA

 

D.J. Pearl1, S.C. Fischer1, S.J. Barnes1, D.J. Robson1, W.A. Burton1 and P.A. Salisbury1,2

 

1Agriculture Victoria, Victorian Institute for Dryland Agriculture, Private Bag 260, Horsham Victoria 3401 Australia

2Institute of Land and Food Resources, The University of Melbourne, Parkville Victoria 3052 Australia

email: darryl.pearl@nre.vic.gov.au

 

 

ABSTRACT

 

Transgenic (genetically modified) canola types being developed in Australia includes both those with modified crop production traits (herbicide tolerance, insect resistance) and those with modified product quality traits (e.g. high oleic acid). There are currently no commercial transgenic canola crops grown in Australia. The Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee (GMAC) oversees gene technology research in Australia. GMAC has set out guidelines and advice on how genetically modified organisms can be handled. GMAC is to be replaced by an Office of Gene Technology Regulation (OGTR) which is expected to have new statutory powers to give approval for commercial release. An Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) must be set up for each transgenic type. The IBC ensures that GMAC guidelines and advice are followed for that particular type. The 1998 requirements for field trials in Australia were that the trial must be 400 metres from any other Brassica crop, the trial area including the buffer and a 50 metre area surrounding the trial must be kept free of Brassica and related weeds, a 15 metre canola buffer is to be planted around the trial as a pollen trap, and canola cannot be sown on the trial area for three seasons after the trial. With Australias production approaching 2 million hectares, it is becoming very difficult to meet GMAC requirements for isolation and rotation. There is a huge potential for transgenic canola in Australia and in the long term, general release will make the testing and selection of new transgenic cultivars much easier.

 

 

KEYWORDS: genetically modified organism, Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee, Institutional Biosafety Committee

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Canola is at the forefront of the application of gene technology in agriculture worldwide. Many genetic improvements in canola in the foreseable future will result from the use of molecular genetic techniques to introduce new genes, modify existing ones or provide more efficient means of identifying specific combination of genes (Green and Salisbury, 1998). There is a huge potential for transgenic canola, in Australia. There are currently no commercial transgenic canola crops grown in Australia. This paper looks at the current regulating bodies and guidelines for trialing transgenic canola, the transgenics being tested in Australia and future issues.

 

 

REGULATORY SYSTEM

 

The Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee (GMAC) currently overseas gene technology research and development in Australia. GMAC is a non-statutory body established by the Commonwealth Government in 1987 and its membership includes academics, researchers with expertise in gene technology and representatives of the wider non-scientific community. GMAC is to be replaced by an Office of Gene Technology Regulation (OGTR), which is expected to have new statutory powers to give approval for commercial release.

 

The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) regulates the importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into Australia. The National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veternary Chemicals (NRA) regulates chemical products for agricultural use. Novel pesticides such as Bt genes fall under their regulatory control, along with the extension of herbicide labels to allow the use on new herbicide resistant crops. The Australian and New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) is involved in the safety and identification of food produced through gene technology, plus issues of labelling of GMOs.

 

Each institution working with new gene technology products must establish an Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) that overseas all such work within the institution and ensures that researchers comply with GMAC advice and guidelines. All proposals to work with genetically modified organisms (GMO) are first considered by the IBC which then forwards the proposals and recommendations to GMAC.

 

 

PLANNED RELEASE REQUIREMENTS

 

Before any GMO material is released into the field an application for planned release must be submitted to GMAC. This application addresses all key issues concerning the release, including details of:

        The species to be released, the origin of inserted DNA and the method of DNA transfer

        The location (s) of all trials

        The natural habitat and distribution of the parent organism

        Ecological effects of the release

        Environmental safety of the GMO

        Capability of the GMO to disperse from the release area

        Likelihood of the GMO remaining in the environment after release

        Monitoring the survival of the GMO

        Likelihood of the inserted trait being transferred to other organisms

 

Issues of critical importance to be addressed in canola include the likelihood of the GMO (especially herbicide tolerant GMOs) becoming more weedy in its own right, the likelihood of the herbicide tolerant trait being transferred to weedy species and the development of multiple herbicide tolerance.

 

The environmental safety of any new product must be demonstrated to GMAC before field release is approved. An overall industry strategy for the safe and effective use of herbicide tolerant canola is being developed as a pre-requisite to general release of these crops.

 

 

GUIDELINES FOR TRIALING TRANSGENIC CANOLA IN AUSTRALIA

 

The guidelines for trialing canola in Australia in 1998 were:

        400 metre isolation from any other canola

        Trial site and a 50 metre radius surrounding the trial is to be kept free of Brassica weeds

        No canola to be sown on site 2 years prior, 3 years after transgenic canola has been sown

        Removal of volunteer canola plants for 3 years after initial testing

        A 15m buffer is to be sown around trial to act as a pollen trap

 

TRANSGENIC CANOLA TYPES BEING TESTED IN AUSTRALIA

 

There are currently no commercial transgenic canola crops grown in Australia, but there are a number of transgenic types being field tested under planned release guidelines as shown in Table 1.

 

Table 1. Summary of release proposals received by GMAC for the planned release of genetically-modified canola in Australia (1999).

 

Trait

Institution

Planned release or general release proposal

Hybrid systems

AgrEvo

PR-63

Field evaluation of genetically modified canola (Brassica napus) with a new hybridization system

 

 

PR-85

Small and large scale seed increase of genetically modified canola (Brassica rapa) with a new hybridization system

Basta resistance

AgrEvo

PR-62

 

PR-90

Development of glufosinate ammonium tolerant canola cultivars

Herbicide tolerant hybrid Brassica juncea

Fungal resistance

AgrEvo

PR-79

PR-93

PR-110

PR-119

Development of fungal disease resistant canola

 

Photoperiod insensitivity

AgrEvo

PR-111

Development of photoperiod insensitive canola

Anti-nutritional facors

AgrEvo

PR-120

Development of methods to reduce anti-nutritional factors

Modifed plant architecture

AgrEvo

PR-121

Development of canola cultivars with modified plant architecture

Reduce yield loss

AgrEvo

PR-122

Development of canola cultivars with reduced yield loss

Glyphosate resistance

Monsanto

PR-77

Planned release of transgenic canola expressing tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup Ready canola)

Laurate canola

Monsanto

PR-60

Field evaluation of genetically modified canola (Brassica napus) for agronomic performance

Protoplast fusion

Pacific Seeds

PR-14

Field evaluation of canola protoplast fusion breeding lines

 

 

FUTURE ISSUES AND CONCLUSIONS

 

Transgenic (genetically modified) canola being developed in Australia includes those with modified crop production traits (herbicide tolerance, insect resistance) and those with modified product quality traits (e.g. high oleic acid). In the next ten years, Australian production will come predominantly from GMO varieties. To remain internationally competitive, Australia will need to maintain excellent breeding programs and form appropriate research and commercial linkages with owners of key technologies. There is a huge potential for transgenic canola in Australia and in the long term, general release will make the testing and selection of new transgenic cultivars much easier. The first GMO canola varieties available in Australia will be the herbicide resistant types Roundup Ready and Liberty Link. They are expected to be available to growers by 2002.

 

 

REFERENCE

 

Green, A and Salisbury, P.A. (1998). Genetically Modifed Oilseeds The impact of gene technology on the Australian oilseeds industry. Australian Oilseeds Federation Innovations and Technology Committee. 57pp.