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2-Plants: CSIRO (Australia) develops GE wheat using RNAi technology

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TITLE:  New wheat has healthy potential
SOURCE: SCIRO, Australia, Media Release, 2006/37,,.html
DATE:   28 Feb 2006

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New wheat has healthy potential

With the potential to provide benefits in the areas of bowel health,
diabetes and obesity, CSIRO has developed a new experimental wheat variety.

CSIRO has developed a new experimental wheat variety with the potential
to provide benefits in the areas of bowel health, diabetes and obesity.

In a paper published today in the international science journal,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers working
within the Food Futures Flagship describe how they used CSIRO-developed
RNAi gene silencing techniques to suppress the expression of two starch-
branching enzymes in an experimental wheat.
'The wheat had a significantly altered starch composition, increasing
the amount of amylose from about 25 to 70 per cent,' Theme Leader, Dr
Matthew Morell, says.

'Amylose is a form of starch that is more resistant to digestion,
providing the potential for the new wheat to be an important component
of foods with a low glycaemic index. Starch resistant to digestion is
also expected to generate favourable changes in the gastro-intestinal
tract that promote bowel health and would be expected to lead to a
reduction in colorectal cancer risk.'

An animal trial confirmed that there were positive changes in indicators
of bowel health in rats fed a diet of the high-amylose wheat, when
compared to standard wheat. Importantly, there was no change in the
growth rate of the rats.
'The use of gene technology has proved exceptionally useful in defining
the genetic changes in wheat that are required to generate this new type
of wheat,' says Dr Morell. 'The team's current task is to breed the
wheat using conventional methods, instead of gene technology. By using
molecular marker technology we are now able to identify the genetic
diversity necessary to develop high amylose wheats using conventional

Food Futures Flagship Director, Dr Bruce Lee, says the Flagship, working
with CSIRO Plant Industry, Human Nutrition and Food Science Australia -
and its French partner, Biogemma - is developing novel wheat varieties
to meet the community's emerging health needs.

'Diet-related non-infectious diseases, such as colo-rectal cancer, heart
disease and diabetes, are some of the most serious health problems in
the developed world,' Dr Lee says. 'They are major causes of premature
death and disability and pose a serious economic and social burden.

'These new wheats produce significant levels of resistant starch. They
can be incorporated as wholegrain into breads, cereals and other foods,
giving us the opportunity to improve human health.'

Biogemma's General Manager, Michel Debrand, says the outcome shows how
the development of a health benefit, which adds value to seed grain, can
result from long-term partnerships between CSIRO and companies like Biogemma.

'It's an example of how different aspects of biotechnology, including
gene discovery and genetic transformation, can be used to uncover
biodiversity in a way which delivers real benefits to the consumer,' Mr
Debrand says.

The paper: 'High-amylose wheat generated by RNA interference improves
indices of large-bowel health in rats' appears in the 27 February, 2006,
edition of  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and can be
viewed at:

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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