London (07.02.17) – In Hawaii, a US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld lower court rulings (1) that struck down anti-GMO measures on Kauai, Hawaii Island and Maui. Three bills, two passed by county councils and one approved by voter initiative, cost the counties hundreds of thousands of dollar in legal fees (2), The Court decision affirms that "In this action, Plaintiffs-Appellees (collectively, the GE Parties) challenge Hawaii County Ordinance 13-121, which regulates genetically engineered (GE)plants. The district court granted summary judgment in Plaintiffs’ favor, holdinghat Ordinance 13-121 is impliedly preempted under state law and expressly preempted, in part, by federal law. Defendant-Appellant County of Hawaii appealed" (3).

A Florida citrus grower has been given approval for the large-scale field testing of citrus trees that have been genetically engineered to resist citrus greening, a ruinous disease that has caused orange production to plummet to the lowest levels seen in decades (4).

Further to our recent note on sugar beets in the US (5), an article in the Denver Post comments that while GM-sugar beet is in widespread use on Colorado sugar beet farms, new obligatory federal labels could shrink share of sugar market. The paper points out that “A labelling requirement could put sugar beet growers at a disadvantage compared with farmers in the southern United States and other countries who harvest sugar cane, which is not genetically modified. Some candy producers, including Hershey Co., already have moved toward cane sugar and away from beet sugar as part of an effort to lure customers with “non-GMO” advertising”. It is perhaps strange that as many countries find their populations less frightened of GM and become willing to allow it in their agriculture, in the United States, the original home of GM and arguably the most successful producer. some of the population is successfully being frightened by the old scare stories to the extent that retailers pander to them and farmers suffer.

American chestnut tress are falling victim to a fungal blight which threaten their very existence in the North American landscape (6). Help might be on the horizon: at the State University of New York researchers have found an enzyme that reduces the virulence of the fungus on chestnut trees by blocking the developing acidity: the blight fungus secretes oxalic acid, resulting in damage to tree cells. The enzyme, oxalate oxidase, commonly found in a variety of plants, including bananas, strawberries and maize, breaks down oxalic acid into hydrogen peroxide and water. Hydrogen peroxide serves as a defence mechanism in plants. This may signal the way to creating a resistant tree. (7).

Please note that this piece was written before January 20th, the day of which certain changes seemed likely to begin in the United States. In order to know whether any of them will affect agricultural biotechnology we will have to wait and see.

Sources:

1. Hawaiian county ban on GM-crops declared invalid. CropGen (16.7.15) (http://www.cropgen.org/article_592.html)

2. Andrew Walden (18.11.16). Courts again find Hawaii anti-GMO laws illegal. Hawai’i Free Press (http://www.hawaiifreepress.com/ArticlesDailyNews/tabid/65/ID/18620/November-18-2016-News-Read.aspx)

3. Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii. Barry M. Kurren, Magistrate Judge, Presiding; Argued and Submitted June 15, 2016. Honolulu, Hawaii. United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit (http://lauhala.com/hinano/20161118-081915-Big-Island-opinion.pdf)

4. Greening-resistant GMO oranges come one step closer to market. Here’s why you should care. Via Genetic Literacy Project (16.11.16) (https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/11/16/epa-approves-field-trials-of-disease-resistant-gmo-citrus-trees/ ) from an original article at http://biotecnologiasi.tumblr.com/post/120627031482/greening-resistant-gmo-oranges-come-one-step?utm_content=buffercaf90&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer)

5. Jennifer Brown (6.11.16). GMO seeds are sustaining Colorado’s sugar beet farms, but new labels could damage already shrinking industry. Denver Post (http://www.denverpost.com/2016/11/06/gmo-seeds-boost-colorado-beet-farms-but-labels-could-damage-industry/)

6. Blight in the American chestnut: problems and solutions, CropGen (20.4.15) (http://www.cropgen.org/article_580.html)

7. Taylor Watson (17.4.16). SUNY-ESF researchers look to restore American chestnut tree population. Daily Orange (http://dailyorange.com/2016/04/suny-esf-researchers-look-to-restore-american-chestnut-tree-population/)

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  And in the United States….