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Aug 4, 2010

Argentina - Researchers Design Cold Tolerant, Salt-Tolerant and Drought Tolerant GM Sunflower

On 4 August 2010 ArgenBio, a pro-biotech non-profit organization based in Argentina reported on the efforts of researchers at the Universidad del Litoral (UNL) and Conicet to gene-engineer a sunflower that is cold-tolerant, salt-tolerant, and drought-tolerant.

Researchers are focused on gene-modified (GM) sunflowers modified with the HaFT gene.  They are field testing these GE sunflowers for tolerance to temperatures below 0 C and for survival in extreme conditions including drought and poor soils.

The research team has been working on these developments for years.  The first gene that they isolated and patented was HaHB4.  This provided the experimental GM sunflowers with drought tolerance, salt-tolerance and insect resistance. 

The new gene HaFT confers additional drought, salt, and cold tolerance characteristics.  According to the project director, Raquel Chan, HaFT "provides a marked tolerance against freezing and reacts better to drought and salt conditions."  She added that "the basic research has been done on this gene to determine its response to freezing temperatures and how introduction of the gene to other plants enables them to also tolerate temperatures below 0 C."

Transfer of the HaFT gene was made to plants of the Arabidopsis species.  This plant species was chosen as its genetic structure is simple and therefore, makes it a great candidate for experimentation.  Experiments studied the percentage of plants that survived six to eight hours at the chilling temperature of 4 C and the freezing temperature of -8 C.

Researchers at UNL and Conciet have entered into a contract with the British company Plant Bioscience Limited (PBL) for additional funding.  Patents have been filed at the EU patent office under the Patent Cooperation Treaty.  This guarantees intellectural property protection in its 142 member countries. 

For more see: "Logran diseñar una planta "modelo" capaz de soportar heladas y sequía," ArgenBio (Argentina) Press Release, 4 August 2010.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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