Canadian Flax Council partners with Cibus for non-GM flax traits

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Genetically modified organism, Omega-3 fatty acid

The Flax Council of Canada has partnered with Cibus Global to develop new non-GM flax traits to increase flaxseed production while ensuring a supply that has broad global appeal.

Flaxseed has a wide range of industrial uses, and in the food industry flax is used for its oil (linseed oil), while the seeds are also used whole in bakery and snack products. And there has been growing awareness of flaxseed as a nutritional ingredient, particularly as a source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Under the deal, Cibus will provide the Flax Council with seeds that have been genetically altered to be resistant to herbicides, and they are due to come to market by 2015.

Canada produces about 800,000 tonnes of flaxseed each year and about 70 percent of that is exported to Europe, where there are restrictions on the sale and marketing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In North America too, food manufacturers and producers have seen an increasing backlash toward genetically modified ingredients.

Cibus Global uses a process called a Rapid Trait Development System (RTDS) to manipulate plants’ genes in a way that does not qualify them as GMOs because it does not use foreign genetic material.

President of the Flax Council of Canada Barry Hall said​that the Cibus partnership would help make flax easier and more profitable to grow, and could lead to development of other traits, such as improved oil quality and quantity.

President of Cibus Global Keith Walker said: “The Flax Council of Canada is the flax industry’s preeminent trade group, and they are setting a responsible, strategic precedent by opting for a non-transgenic approach to trait enhancement. In that regard, we’re delighted to receive this endorsement of Cibus’ RTDS by a major trade organization, backed by a global agricultural super power, and the recognition that RTDS is a viable alternative to transgenics.”

RTDS technology is recognized by the US Department of Agriculture as a mutagenesis technique, rather than a transgenic (or GM) technique, and is used globally in a wide range of food crops. Mutagenesis technology is not subject to the same regulatory processes as GM technology so it is possible to get new traits more quickly to market.

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