San Diego’s Cibus Inks Deal with Flax Growers Eager to Avoid GMO Flak
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likely to alarm activists who oppose genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, than the methods used by Monsanto. Cibus says its Rapid Trait Development System harnesses the natural DNA repair system in plant cells to change a single letter in the genetic code and trigger the desired trait. The process—a sort of controlled evolution—differs from Monsanto’s genetic engineering technique of inserting foreign DNA from bacteria into plants to produce its genetically modified strains of Roundup-resistant crops.
Hall says growers are eager for an herbicide-resistant strain acceptable to its European customers because many existing weed killers damage crops by delaying maturing and reducing yields. Foregoing herbicides isn’t an option because the weeds simply take over.
“We are very much in need of weed control that’s not branded as genetic modification,” Hall said at a press conference today in San Diego.
Cibus CEO Keith Walker said it would take his company three to five years to develop the new strain, and another two years to get the strain from the laboratory to farmers. “Our goal of course is to beat those numbers and get them to breeders as quickly as possible,” he said at the press conference.
The new strain would have to be registered with the Canadian government before it could be used, Hall said.
Besides this latest deal, Cibus has other projects in the works. Last September, the company formed a partnership with Israel-based chemical company Makhteshim-Agan to develop crops resistant to Makhteshim-Agan’s weed killers. Cibus and the National Grain Sorghum Producers Foundation are working with Sumitomo Chemical to develop sorghum strains resistant to Sumitomo’s herbicide SelectMax. And Cibus is developing stains of canola and oilseed rape that resist herbicides produced by another partner, chemical giant BASF.
Walker said today that herbicide-resistant strains of canola could become available in 2012.