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5-Animals: Sheep growth accelerated by GE lupins

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TITLE:  Sheep thriving in GMO feeding trial
SOURCE: CSIRO Media Release, Australia
DATE:   November 22, 2000

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Sheep thriving in GMO feeding trial
Ref 2000/310

Increased wool growth and live weight gain in Merino sheep are the results 
of a recent CSIRO feeding trial using genetically modified lupins. The 
trial explored nutritional benefits of lupin seeds genetically modified to 
incorporate a sunflower gene that stimulates the production of a highly 
nutritious protein. CSIRO Livestock Industries' Dr Colin White says the 
feeding trial resulted in an eight per cent increase in wool growth and a 
seven per cent increase in live weight gain in the sheep fed the modified 
lupins. All sheep in the trial maintained good health and are doing well.

"The results have the potential to be converted into an additional 160 
tonnes of wool per year. In other words farmers could produce more wool 
from the same number of sheep, or alternatively they could produce the same 
amount of meat or wool with fewer sheep and lower cost," says Dr White. The 
GMAC-approved trial was conducted over six weeks with 80 sheep that were 
divided equally into two groups and fed a cereal-hay based diet containing 
either modified or unmodified lupin seed. CSIRO Plant Industry scientist, 
Dr TJ Higgins, says this research potentially offers a valuable boost to 
Australian wool by reducing costs, increasing profits and making production 
more efficient.

The lupin is the major legume grain used on-farm as supplementary feed for 
sheep during the summer drought, with approximately 200,000 tonnes of the 
1.2 million tonnes produced annually in South-western Australia used for 
this purpose. "Wool and muscle growth has a high demand for sulphur amino 
acids, which are absorbed through the sheep's small intestine," says Dr 
Higgins, "but the sheep's first stomach, the rumen, tends to break down up 
to 40% of these essential nutrients before they reach the intestine."

"We have modified the lupin to contain a sunflower gene that produces a 
protein that is both rich in sulfur amino acids and stable in the sheep's 
rumen. This protein acts as an efficient package for delivering the extra 
sulfur amino acids where they are needed to achieve better growth. We are 
pleased with the results which are a culmination of over ten years of 
research, including a stringent environmental safety assessment process." 
With successful results from the lupin trials, the researchers are 
currently working towards similar positive results with subterranean 
clover, an important pasture plant for the wool industry.

All CSIRO gene technology research is carried out according to the strict 
guidelines of the Federal Government's Genetic Manipulation Advisory 
Committee (GMAC). The research is supported by grain-growers and the 
Federal Government through the Grains Research and Development Corporation 
(GRDC) and by the Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA).

The findings will appear in the international Journal of Science of Food 
and Agriculture.

More information from:
Dr TJ Higgins, CSIRO Plant Industry, 02-6246 5063
Dr Colin White, CSIRO Livestock Industries, 08-9333 669
Rachael Mitchell, CSIRO Plant Industry, 02-6246 5323, mobile 0417 240 261,
Jane Kahler, CSIRO Plant Industry, 02-6246 5077, mobile 0419 494 137,

Ms Jane Kahler
Communication Manager
CSIRO Plant Industry
GPO Box 1600
Canberra ACT 2601
Phone: +61 2 6246 5077
Fax: +61 2 6246 5299
Mobile: +61 0418 626 860

Mr Nick Goldie
CSIRO National Awareness
PO Box 225
Dickson ACT 2602
Phone: +61 2 6276 6478
Fax: +61 2 6276 6821
Mobile: +61 0417 299 586

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