Volume 22. Number 1. 2017

The World Health Organization's research arm declares Glyphosate a probable carcinogen. What's the evidence?

The cancer-research arm of the World Health Organization (March 2015) last week announced that Glyphosate, the world's most widely used herbicide, is probably carcinogenic to humans. But the assessment, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, has been followed by an immediate backlash from industry groups.

On March 23, Robb Fraley, chief technology officer at the agrochemical company Monsanto in St Louis, Missouri, which sells much of the world's Glyphosate, accused the IARC of "cherry picking" data. "We are outraged with this assessment," he said in a statement. Nature explains the controversy.

Frequency Distribution in Domestic Microwave Ovens and Its Influence on Heating Pattern


In this study, snapshots of operating frequency profiles of domestic microwave ovens were collected to reveal the extent of microwave frequency variations under different operation conditions. A computer simulation model was developed based on the finite difference time domain method to analyze the influence of the shifting frequency on heating patterns of foods in a microwave oven. The results showed that the operating frequencies of empty and loaded domestic microwave ovens varied widely even among ovens of the same model purchased on the same date. Each microwave oven had its unique characteristic operating frequencies, which were also affected by the location and shape of the load. The simulated heating patterns of a gellan gel model food when heated on a rotary plate agreed well with the experimental results, which supported the reliability of the developed simulation model. Simulation indicated that the heating patterns of a stationary model food load changed with the varying operating frequency. However, the heating pattern of a rotary model food load was not sensitive to microwave frequencies due to the severe edge heating overshadowing the effects of the frequency variations.

Practical Application

The research work revealed the large frequency variations among domestic microwave ovens. The heating patterns of rotary solid model food loads were not sensitive to varying operating frequencies compared with those of stationary loads. This information should provide guidelines for product development in designing appropriate cooking instructions to ensure food safety. Get access to the full text of this article.

DNA-free Genome Editing of Bread Wheat using CRISPR/Cas9 Ribonucleoprotein Complex

Studies have been made to optimize the CRISPR/Cas9 system for crop breeding. The main reasons for these studies are the avoidance of transgene integration and reduction of off-target mutations. Zhen Liang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences aimed to develop an efficient genome editing method for bread wheat using CRISPR/Cas9 ribonucleoproteins (RNPs).

The developed protocol takes only seven to nine weeks. Four to five independent mutants were produced from 100 immature wheat embryos. Further analysis revealed much lower chance of off-target mutations in RNP-mediated genome editing than with CRISPR/Cas9 DNA. Furthermore, no off-target mutations were detected in the mutant plants. Since no foreign DNA is used in CRISPR/Cas9 RNP-mediated genome editing, the mutants obtained were completely transgene-free. This method could be widely applicable for producing genome-edited crops.

For more information, read the article in Nature Communications.
Biotech Update. 25 January 2017


Misfolded proteins called prions cause both mad cow and variant creutzfeldt-jakob disease. Once they invade the brain, they begin recruiting normal proteins and forcing them to adopt the same abnormal shape. The prions and the blighted proteins clump together forming increasingly large aggregate deposits that wreak havoc on the brain and invariably lead to death. The disease, however, has a long incubation period. "in the case of humans, the estimation goes from several years to a few decades," says Claudio Soto, a neurologist at McGovern medical school at uthealth in Houston. "so it could be that you're exposed one day and then, 40 years after, you develop the disease."

Eating beef from an animal infected with mad cow disease can lead to an untreatable condition that attacks the brain and is universally fatal, but symptoms can take decades to emerge. Thankfully, a new blood-screening technology can spot the condition, known as variant creutzfeldt-jakob disease, with 100 percent accuracy, perhaps years before it attacks.

American Health And Biology Dec 2016

Australian Researchers Find Common Grass Could Boost Food Security

Australian researchers discovered that common Panic grasses could help improve the yields of staple food crops and help feed the world with increasing temperature, and a population of nearly 10 billion people by 2050. The researchers aim to enhance the growth and yield of crops such as wheat and rice by transplanting an enzyme from Panic grasses into them.

The researchers focused on the Rubisco enzyme from Panic grasses, and identified enzymes that are best suited to crops in hotter and cooler temperatures. "We are aiming to enhance the growth and yield of crops such as wheat and rice by transplanting this more efficient enzyme into them," said lead researcher Dr. Robert Sharwood from The Australian National University.

For more details, read the news release at the Western Sydney University website. December 7, 2016 Issue of Crop Biotech Update

Snippets - contributions are welcome. Edited and produced by Dr. B Cole. - / Fax 011 660 6444 with the help of the Northern Branch Committee.