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New GM flower and soybean varieties get USDA’s ‘thumbs up’


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Health Inspection Service recently completed reviews of a new genetically modified Chrysanthemum and soybean variety and gave these new varieties a “thumbs up.” The reviews completed determined whether the genetically engineered plants present an increased pest risk compared to unmodified plants. 

Zeakal Inc.’s transgenetic soybean plant has increased its oil and protein content without compromising yield. The technology, PhotoSeed, which Zeakal has partnered on with Perdue AgriBusiness, helps crops to capture more carbon and sunlight and then convert these into improved nutrition content in the new soybean variety. 

Suntory Flowers submitted for review a transgenetic variety of Chrysanthemums, an ornamental plant used for cut-flower production. The insertion of genetic materials from a disarmed soil bacteria, Agrobacterium tumefaciens modifies the flower’s color to a violet-purple-blue color.

Image courtesy of the USDA

In both cases, APHIS found these plants unlikely to pose an increased plant pest risk compared to other cultivated soybean and chrysanthemum plants. As a result, they are not subject to regulation under 7 CFR part 340, and these plants may be safely grown and used in breeding in the United States. 

The USDA’s responses are based on information from the developers and the following:

  • familiarity with plant varieties,
  • knowledge of the traits, and
  • understanding of the modifications. 

Under 7 CFR part 340, developers may submit a request to APHIS for a Regulatory Status Review (RSR) when they believe a modified plant is not subject to regulation.

APHIS reviews the modified plant and considers whether it might pose an increased plant pest risk compared to a non regulated plant. If the USDA’s review finds a plant is unlikely to pose an increased plant pest risk relative to the comparator plant, a response is issued indicating the plant is not subject to the regulations.

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