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The US Justice Department has granted antitrust approval to a $62.5 billion acquisition of Monsanto, the world's biggest seed company, by German pharmaceutical and pesticide firm Bayer, sources say. Bayer reportedly has committed to divesting seed and treatment assets and to make concessions regarding digital agriculture.

 

Source: Reuters, April 9, 2018.

US Secretary of Agriculture  recently stated that the "USDA does not regulate or have any plans to regulate plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding techniques as long as they are not plant pests or developed using plant pests."

 

Source: USDA Press Release, 28 March 2018.

Monsanto and gene-editing startup Pairwise will develop strawberries or another type of fruit with a longer shelf life that would be among the first produce made via CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology to be introduced into the market.

 

Source: Business Insider, 27 March 2018.

A partnership between technology and venture company TechAccel and the University of California at Davis aims to develop wheat with an improved yield and higher heat tolerance. Researchers will use synthetic biology and computational protein design for the project. The next step would be 'to employ gene editing to produce a non-GMO wheat with signifiantly improved yield'.

 

Source: BakeryAndSnacks (France), 20 March 2018.

Sheila Jasanoff and J. Benjamin Hurlbut call for an international network of scholars and organizations to support a new kind of conversation.
 

The European Competition commissioner granted approval to Bayer for its planned purchase of Monsanto. "Our decision ensures that there will be effective competition and innovation in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture markets also after this merger," said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

 

Source: Reuters, 21 March 2018.

KeyGene researchers generated 76 gigabases of DNA sequence of a lettuce (Lactuca sativa) genome with a single Oxford Nanopore Technologies PromethION flow cell. This is a new record in the plant genome sequencing area for long reads. KeyGene expects that PromethION’s long reads and low costs per base will disrupt the current sequencing field, accelerating crop innovation.

 

Source: Keygene, February 23, 2018

Antitrust regulators in the US may not be satisfied with Bayer's proposed asset sales as part of its deal with Monsanto and may require additional divestments, sources say. Separately, Bayer said negotiations with Russian regulators are advancing.
 
In October 2017 Bayer already signed an agreement with BASF to acquire significant parts of Bayer’s seed and non-selective herbicide (glufosinate) businesses and in February Bayer announced plans to sell its global vegetable seeds business Nunhems and allow BASF exclusive access to its digital farming data.
 
Brazil approved Monsanto's biotech soy seed Intacta2 Xtend, which is resistant to weed killers dicamba and glyphosate and can protect the crop from certain species of Spodoptera caterpillars. Monsanto intends to sell the product in Brazil in 2020.
 
 

An lab-modified enzyme known as xCas9 could allow researchers to tinker with more sites in the genome with fewer unwanted effects than conventional CRISPR techniques. The revamped Cas9 protein can cut DNA at four times as many sites as the unmodified Cas9 enzyme currently used most in laboratories.

 

Source: Nature, 28 February 2018.

Researchers from Kansas State University are using CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology to improve genes that control yield component traits in wheat varieties, according to a study published in CRISPR Journal. "We systematically go gene by gene, modifying them using the CRISPR-Cas9 system, and then we test to find out which changes in the wheat genome result in increased yield," said researcher Eduard Akhunov.

 

Source: KTIC-AM/FM (West Point, Neb.), 27 February 2018.

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