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					                          AgBiotech Bulletin
        Volume 8, Issue 9                                                 October, 2000

                            Published by Ag-West Biotech Inc.




In This Issue:
P.E.I Farmers Caught in No-Win Situation
Tastes Great, Less Bug Spray
Tobacco That’s Good For You
Table of Contents




Saskatoon Company Adds Value to Canola Meal
Canola meal has obvious advantages as livestock feed: it boasts high levels of protein and it's
readily available across the Prairies.
Yet, canola meal also has shortcomings. It's not perfectly suited to any one of the variety of
species that can use it as feed.
"Right now, canola meal is fed to monogastric species, as well as dairy cattle and beef cattle,"
says Dr. David Maenz , one of the three founders of MCN Canola Products Inc.
 "This is a wide range of species with different nutritional requirements and digestive capacities.
It's not a perfect product for any of those species — it's a well-utilized product, but its potential is
much greater if you can think of the components of it, and how to generate specific products for
specific species of livestock."
MCN Canola is a young company working to commercialize a canola processing technology
developed through its founders' research at the University of Saskatchewan. Their fractionation
process will allow the manufacture of more effective livestock feed based on canola meal. The
technology, with one patent and two others pending, is licensed from the University of
Saskatchewan.


Business Challenges
MCN Canola is 12 to 18 months from having its first, commercially available product. Maenz
says the greatest challenges during this period will be business-related. On one hand, he ticks off
the standard list of start-up hurdles: locating strategic partners, distributors, and the inevitable
business planning issues — unfamiliar ground for Maenz and his partners.
"We're scientists at the university," he explains.



            Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 1
Indeed, Maenz and MCN Canola's other two partners have managed to bring their company into
existence while holding full time research or teaching positions at the University of
Saskatchewan. Maenz is Manager of Research and Development at the Prairie Feed Resource
Centre in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science. Dr. Henry Classen is a Professor in the
Department of Animal and Poultry Science, and Rex Newkirk, M.Sc., is a Research Associate in
the same department.
While the usual start-up hurdles will need their attention, Maenz is quick to note the technology
itself still needs some work before it's fully commercialized.
"We have another year to 18 months of solid research on animal trials and pilot scale
production."


Complementary Skill Sets
Building a company happens more easily when your partners complement, rather than mirror,
your own abilities.
"In terms of scientific development, we had complementary skill sets. I’m a biochemist and
something of an enzymologist, and Rex has turned out to be very gifted in the area of process
development. And Hank is world renowned as a poultry nutritionist," says Maenz.
As a company, MCN Canola has also looked outward to find complementary support
organizations and services. Ag-West Biotech is one organization that was able to provide
support, advice and even take on the role of investor.
"Ag-West was very helpful in terms of initial guidance, and also as an early-stage investor.
When they put their foot forward, and said we believe in this, it gave us the opportunity to go to
other investors and push it all the way," Newkirk says.
 "The fact this kind of support is available means there is a general recognition of the importance
of adding value to our agricultural commodities."




           Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 2
Table of Contents
Saskatoon Company Adds Value to Canola Meal ..................................................................... 1
Table of Contents .......................................................................................................................... 3
SASCAPCO Could Provide Funds for Second-Stage Growth ................................................. 5
The Month in Review.................................................................................................................... 6
    P.E.I Farmers Caught in No-Win Situation .................................................................................6
    High Protein Corn Wins "Nobel Prize" for Food ........................................................................6
    Take Two Servings of Broccoli and Call Me in the Morning .....................................................7
    Detoxifying the Grass Pea ...........................................................................................................7
    Tastes Great, Less Bug Spray ......................................................................................................8
    If a Cow Eats GM Corn, Is the Milk GM too? ............................................................................8
    Aussie Food Laws a Good Start, But… ......................................................................................9
    GM-free Aussie Canola Welcomed by Europe ...........................................................................9
    Marijuana Sans Munchies ...........................................................................................................9
    Save the Birds – Grow Weeds ...................................................................................................10
    A Tempest in a Taco Shell ........................................................................................................10
Innovations .................................................................................................................................. 11
    Software Integrates Molecular Biology Research with the Internet ..........................................11
    Quick – Is There Any Bt in That Food? ....................................................................................11
    Bigger, Better Bread ..................................................................................................................11
    Tobacco that’s Good for You ....................................................................................................12
Saskatchewan Agbiotech Update............................................................................................... 12
    An Introduction to MetaMorphix ..............................................................................................12
    Better Canola Uses Cream of the Crop .....................................................................................13
    And in this Experiment ... Nothing Happened ..........................................................................13
    Business Plan Competition 2000 ...............................................................................................14
Regulatory Column ..................................................................................................................... 14
“No Testing of Genetically Modified Crops?” ......................................................................... 14
SABIC Column............................................................................................................................ 16
Web Watch .................................................................................................................................. 18
Events ........................................................................................................................................... 20
Ag-West Board of Directors ....................................................................................................... 21
AgBiotech Bulletin Subscribe .................................................................................................... 21

                 Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 3
                The AgBiotech Bulletin is produced by Ag-West Biotech Inc.

Articles and announcements are welcome. Please         Peter McCann, President
send your comments to: bulletin@agwest.sk.ca           Ag-West Biotech Inc.
or fax (306) 975-1966                                  101-111 Research Dr.
                                                       Saskatoon, SK
                                                       Canada S7N 3R2
                                                       Phone: (306) 975-1939
Funding assistance is provided by                      Fax: (306) 975-1966
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food                      Web site http://www.agwest.sk.ca




          Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 4
President’s Column
By Peter McCann, President
Ag-West Biotech Inc.

SASCAPCO Could Provide Funds for Second-Stage Growth
An important part of Ag-West’s mandate is to provide seed funds to help grow new agbiotech
companies in Saskatchewan. Over the last few years we have been reasonably successful in
meeting our target, which is to help at least two start-up ventures get up and running each year.
The question then arises: how do these companies get from the very early start up phase, with
perhaps $50-250,000 initial cash, to the next stage which typically requires $2-5 million before
the end of the second year of operation?
In Saskatchewan, a number of excellent organizations are there to help, such as Saskatchewan
Opportunities Corporation, Agri-Food Equity Fund, Saskatchewan Government Growth Fund,
etc. However, there is a need for other private sector organizations, willing to invest patient
venture capital in very early stage companies. In a recent survey of agbiotech industry concerns
conducted by Ag-West, we asked entrepreneurs what they saw as the greatest hurdles to growth.
Difficulty in finding sources of early stage capital were ranked second only to the need to secure
increased levels of public acceptance of food biotech products.
This shortage of early stage capital slows the growth of fragile young companies. Among other
things, it forces the entrepreneur to take his or her eye off the ball and spend a disproportionate
amount of time searching for money, rather than concentrating on growing and strengthening the
business.
Several of our successful young companies have turned south of the border to solve this problem.
A number of them have been courted by US states such as Wisconsin and Missouri that use
Certified Capital Companies as a means of funding investment in small business. These, and
other states with "CAPCO" legislation, such as Louisiana, New York, Florida, Illinois, are able
to offer investments, typically in the $1-5 million range, to in-state companies looking for
venture capital. They also use the offer of such funding to attract companies to relocate to the
state.
Certified Capital Companies receive funds to invest in small business, mainly from insurance
companies that have premium income that is taxable in the state. In return, the company is given
a tax credit equivalent to the amount contributed to the CAPCO. A limit is often placed on the
total tax forgiveness that the state is willing to provide. In the case of Wisconsin for example, the
cap is $50 million over 10 years. The state estimates this $50 million in foregone taxes will result

            Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 5
in $343 million in new tax revenues from companies formed as a direct result of this initiative
over the next 10 years.
CAPCO legislation has been in place in the US since the late 1980s and some states are reporting
very significant investment as a result. Louisiana reports follow-on investment of $98,991,193 in
equity plus $464,630,000 in debt financing in small business in the state since 1988, from 24
CAPCO’s that have been established. Missouri reports over $165 million equity and debt
investment by its seven Certified Capital Companies since 1997 (source: SBU Texas,
December, 1999).
A similar program, which would require new provincial legislation, would be of great value to
small business in Saskatchewan. A "SASCAPCO" could provide the necessary incentive to
stimulate significant growth of existing and new companies across a broad range of sectors, not
only in the agbiotech community. If we could emulate Wisconsin’s projected seven-fold return
from the program, all of Saskatchewan would be the winner!
Peter McCann can be reached at peter.mccann@agwest.sk.ca




The Month in Review

P.E.I Farmers Caught in No-Win Situation
Potato farmers in P.E.I. are becoming frustrated by criticism of their farming practices. Recent
fish kills off the coast of the island have prompted many environmental groups to demand that
farmers decrease or end their use of pesticides. However, the same groups are opposed to the use
of potatoes genetically modified to resist common pests such as the Colorado potato beetle. They
also oppose the development of a strain of potatoes resistant to late blight, the disease that
ravaged the Irish potato crop from 1845-1851.
Farmers argue that the fish kills were caused by extremely unusual conditions – a rainfall of two
inches within a 20-minute period flooded fields and washed pesticides, as well as silt and debris,
into rivers and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean. Under normal conditions, current farming practices
are designed to prevent pesticide runoff.
"No farmer intentionally contaminates the water around their fields," says Kelly Machellan, a
local farmer.
MacLellan argues that to offer organic potato production as the only viable alternative to
pesticide use is unrealistic. Once established, potato blight spreads easily, particularly in the
damp conditions prevalent this growing season.
(Sources: Agnet, Aug. 24 http://www.plant.uoguelph.ca/safefood/archives/agnet/ and
http://collections.ic.gc.ca/potato/history/ireland.asp)



High Protein Corn Wins "Nobel Prize" for Food
On September 7 in Des Moines, Iowa, the Millenium World Food Prize was awarded to Dr.
Evangelina Villegas of Mexico and Dr. Surinder Vasal of India for their development of a high-


             Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 6
protein variety of maize. The World Food Prize is informally regarded as the "Nobel Prize for
Food", and consists of a $250,000 award.
Villegas, a biochemist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in
Mexico, is the first woman ever to receive the prize. She and Vasal, a plant geneticist, first began
working together on Quality Protein Maize (QPM) in the early 1970s at CIMMYT. Initial
varieties of corn with the necessary opaque-2 gene had soft, chalky kernels and were more
susceptible to ear rot and insect damage. Work progressed slowly, as the desired characteristics
of high protein content, high yield, good taste and appearance were difficult to combine.
Villegas and Vasal overcame the hurdles by collecting thousands of samples of germplasm and
painstakingly crossbreeding the best varieties. By 1984, they had developed a variety with high
protein and the desired agronomic traits. Unfortunately, it was at this point that support for their
approach to the development of enhanced protein corn lost support and research funds were
withdrawn.
In the early 1990s, with support from the Nippon Foundation and Sasakawa 2000, whose co-
founders include former President Carter, CIMMYT began to promote QPM in Ghana and
several other African countries. Since then, QPM has also been grown with positive results in
China, Mexico, and parts of Central America.
Maize is used in many countries as a common weaning food for babies. However, regular maize
lacks the amino acids lysine and tryptophan, and babies who consume a diet consisting mainly of
maize tend to be underweight and suffer from malnutrition and disease. By providing the
essential amino acids that regular maize lacks, QPM has become an important component in the
global fight against malnutrition in children.
(For more information, see the World Food Prize Web site at http://www.WorldFoodPrize.org and
http://www.futureharvest.org/news/maizerelease.shtml)



Take Two Servings of Broccoli and Call Me in the Morning
Dr. Richard Mithen of the John Innes Center in Norwich, England, has developed a variety of
broccoli that may help fight cancer. The new variety contains up to 100 times more
sulphoraphane than ordinary broccoli. This chemical neutralizes carcinogenic substances in other
foods.
This "cancer fighting broccoli" was created by conventional breeding methods, crossing the
domesticated English variety with a wild Sicilian species. Trials should begin next year to see
how well it does in fighting colon cancer, which kills about 25,000 people a year in the U.K. If
all goes well, the new broccoli should be available for purchase by 2002.
(Source: Science and Technology News, Aug. 2000; also http://www.lon.ac.uk/)



Detoxifying the Grass Pea
At first glance, the grass pea (Lathyrus sativus) would appear to be an ideal crop for drought-
prone climates. It thrives in poor soil and can withstand minimal or excessive rain much more
easily than most other cultivated crops. Its stems can be used to feed livestock, and its protein-
rich seeds can be made into porridge, bread, or eaten roasted.
However, if the seeds are improperly prepared, they also contain an amino acid that can cause a
crippling neurodegenerative disease known as lathyrism. In drought conditions, when no other

             Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 7
food is available, people can become paralyzed in a matter of months on a staple diet of grass
peas.
People who grow grass seeds often try to detoxify them by soaking and boiling them. This is
often impossible during a drought, when both water and firewood are scarce. Moreover, Dr. E.
Ann Butler, a legume specialist at University College in London, has shown that the traditional
detoxification methods are not as effective as they are believed to be.
The amino acid, ODAP, seems to cause paralysis by gradually killing nerve cells through
overstimulation. Several research centres have focused their efforts on developing grass pea
strains containing less ODAP, with good results so far. If farmers in the poorest, most arid
regions of the world can be provided with these improved seeds, more marginal farmland could
be made productive without costly inputs such as irrigation and chemical treatments.
(Source: Science News, Jul. 29, v. 158 http://www.sciencenews.org)


Tastes Great, Less Bug Spray
In July, the AgBiotech Bulletin reported that Jeff Wilson’s farm was the site of a field-to-table
study comparing genetically-modified, conventional, and organic varieties of sweet corn and
potatoes. Harvesting at Birkbank Farms began on August 30, and Wilson and Doug Powell of
the University of Guelph held a press conference to discuss the effectiveness of each pest
management technique. In addition, samples of the corn varieties and French fries made from Bt
and conventional potatoes were available for tasting.
The corn that was harvested was from the first planting. Overall, the Bt sweet corn was not
treated with insecticides whereas the conventional variety was sprayed with either three doses of
carbofuran or four of Bt foliar, an organic pesticide. Information on the different sprays used and
their relative costs was put on a handout and two posters in the farm market. The corn was
separated into two bins and labelled as genetically modified Bt sweet corn or regular sweet corn.
Both varieties sold for the same price, and customers were invited to sample both types of corn
and encouraged to ask questions.
Most customers were curious about the technology but know very little about it. With those who
tasted the corn, very few tasted any difference. A couple of people refused to taste the Bt sweet
corn because they were worried about health effects of genetically engineered foods. As of
September 4, the genetically modified corn was outselling the regular corn; 38 bags of Bt sweet
corn were sold compared to 27 bags of the conventional variety.
(Source: www.plant.uoguelph.ca/safefood)



If a Cow Eats GM Corn, Is the Milk GM too?
According to Terry Daynard, vice-president of the Ontario Corn Grower’s Association, there is
little reason to worry about the regulatory status of cattle raised on genetically modified feed. In
a speech to the annual meeting of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Daynard said that the
main markets for Canadian beef do not ban imports of genetically modified foods, nor are there
any labelling requirements for animals which have consumed GM feed.
Daynard was responding to the concerns of some dairy farmers, who worry that milk from cows
fed on genetically modified feed might also be considered genetically modified by critics. He
mentioned that consumers do not seem as concerned about livestock fed on GM foods as they are
about eating GM foods themselves.

             Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 8
"There is absolutely no logic in the debate, but one area of exemption that people are pretty
confident about are livestock products," he says.
(Source: Western Producer, Aug. 17 www.producer.com)


Aussie Food Laws a Good Start, But…
On August 23, the executive director of the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) said
some portions of Australia’s proposed food laws are inconsistent and could lead to greater
consumer uncertainty about the integrity and safety of food products. Mitchell Hooke said that
while he agrees with the general direction of the Australia New Zealand Food Authority’s
(ANZFA) new regulations, the draft of the Joint Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code
fails to meet standards of consistency, consumer protection, and logic in key areas.
These areas include the labelling of such products as jam, fruit drinks, and ice cream in terms of
ingredient percentages instead of maintaining compositional standards of identity of these
products and proposing a simple warning label for milk and milk substitutes instead of providing
more helpful and thorough public education. Hooke also took issue with the labelling of baby
foods, saying that the formulations listed in the Infant Formula Standards are untested in the
market and inconsistent with international standards and current principles of nutrition.
In addition, Hooke said, "ANZFA’s new Code flies in the face of the Government’s desire to
remove unnecessary regulatory burden on business. Further, there is a real risk that the
percentage ingredient labelling standard will be regarded as a technical barrier to trade and
challenged under the World Trade organization as it goes way beyond the Codex Alimentarius
system."
(For more information, visit AFGC’s website: http://www.afgc.org.au/)



GM-free Aussie Canola Welcomed by Europe
The Australian government’s delay in approving genetically modified canola might be working
in its favour, as European markets are willing to pay premiums of five dollars a tonne for GMO-
free canola.
Although the non-GM varieties do not have the yield advantage that their genetically superior
cousins offer, Australian exports still reached 150,000 tonnes at the end of August.
Despite this, Canadian farmers aren’t particularly concerned, since the virtual Australian
monopoly of Europe leaves the Chinese and Japanese markets wide open for less-expensive
Canadian canola.
(Source: Agriweek, Aug. 21 www.agriweek.com)



Marijuana Sans Munchies
A team of London scientists recently reported in Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience that
cannabinoids, the active ingredients in cannabis, affect the spinal cord as well as the brain. As a
result, it may be possible to develop cannabinoid-based drugs to treat pain without the typical
psychoactive effects of marijuana occurring.




             Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 9
“In order to develop clinically useful drugs based on cannabis, it is important to show that the
receptors for cannabinoids are found in the spinal cord, particularly the areas concerned with
pain processing,” according to Dr. Andrew Rice of the Imperial College of Science.
Health Canada is currently considering allowing marijuana use for pain relief for people
suffering such chronic conditions as multiple sclerosis. Prairie Plant Systems of Saskatoon is a
contender as a possible supplier, with a proposal to grow the medicinal plants in its secure
underground growth chambers.
(For more information see: Science and Technology News, Aug. 2000 and Prairie Plant Systems at
www.prairieplant.com)



Save the Birds – Grow Weeds
A group of British scientists has recently suggested that use of herbicide-resistant GMOs could
reduce the amount of wild plant seeds available for birds. Dr. Andrew Watkinson of the
University of East Anglia and his colleagues have developed a mathematical model showing the
possible results if herbicide-resistant grains were planted in rotation with sugar beets.
Populations of Chenopodium album, a common weed in sugar beet fields and a major component
in the diet of skylarks, were shown to decrease by up to 90 per cent following spraying with a
broad-spectrum herbicide.
Other researchers have taken issue with these findings, claiming the model’s purely theoretical
basis cannot be considered a reliable indicator of what might actually occur with increased use of
genetically modified crops. Dr. Val Giddings, vice president for food and agriculture at the
Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) argues that herbicide-resistant crops are actually
better for the environment as they are commonly part of a reduced-tillage system that enriches
the soil and leaves plant stubble in the fields for birds to feed on. A press release from Monsanto
said that the use of herbicide-resistant crops may actually allow weeds to stay in fields longer,
since farmers can simply spray the crop immediately before harvesting, rather than earlier in the
season.
Dr. Alan McHughen of the University of Saskatchewan says the general lack of uncultivated
land is a far greater problem in Britain.
“Here in Canada, there’s a lot of open space we can afford to leave untouched, but in England,
because it’s such a small country with so many people, humans and animals have to share the
land much more.”
(Source: Science, Sept. 1, v. 289, no. 5484)


A Tempest in a Taco Shell
                     nd
On September 22 , Kraft Foods announced that they would voluntarily recall all Taco Bell
Home Originals taco shell products from grocery stores. This announcement followed reports
that an independent laboratory, Genetic ID, had discovered small amounts of a variety of Bt corn
which is not approved for human consumption in the taco shells.
The corn variety, Starlink, is produced by Aventis and has not been shown to have any negative
health effects on humans, although it is currently only approved for animal feed. Some
environmental groups, though, are concerned that the Bt toxin in Starlink corn, a protein known
as cry9c, might cause an allergic reaction in some people.


             Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 10
Dr. Steve Taylor, Head of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln, says that because cry9c is a novel protein, unrelated to any other known
allergens, there is no chance of anyone having a pre-existing allergy to the protein. In order to
develop an allergy, exposure to cry9c would have to occur on multiple occasions over a period of
weeks or months.
Consumers with questions about the products involved in the recall can find information at the
Kraft Foods Web site, www.kraftfoods.com/special_report, or call 1-800-433-9361 from 8:00
a.m. to midnight EDT.




Innovations

Software Integrates Molecular Biology Research with the Internet
On September 15th, Redasoft, a Toronto scientific software company, released Visual Cloning
2000, a new DNA mapping and analysis program that is heavily integrated with the Internet.
The software offers advanced graphics capabilities, simulation of molecular cloning experiments,
and a variety of tools such as restriction analysis, an open reading frames search, custom primer
design, a subsequence search, and a sequence viewer. These features can be accessed through an
intuitive user interface.
"We’ve spent a lot of time listening to what researchers want in a product. Visual Cloning 2000
incorporates their suggestions with our vision of providing a complete, powerful, and affordable
software package for the molecular biology laboratory," says Redasoft president Danny Reda in
a company release.
(A free evaluation copy of the software can be found at http://www.redasoft.com)



Quick – Is There Any Bt in That Food?
Alchemy Laboratories Ltd. of Scotland has developed a quick and highly sensitive test for Bt
toxin in GM crops and unprocessed foodstuffs to be marketed commercially. The company
reports that grocery chains looking to monitor their product lines have already shown an interest
in the test.
(Source: Germination, Sept. 2000 www.germination.ca)


Bigger, Better Bread
Scientists at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Cereal Research Centre in Winnipeg have
discovered a gene that could increase the protein content of wheat with no adverse effect on
baking quality. The new gene was discovered in a North Dakota variety of wheat, and it has
already been incorporated by conventional breeding into the registered Canada Prairie Spring
HY 639 line for field research. If the field trials go well, the gene could be incorporated into
Canadian Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheat lines.
For five years, researchers compared the protein content of CWRS lines with and without the
genetic substitution to determine how protein content increases affect the biochemical

            Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 11
distribution of protein in the kernel. They also evaluated the bread making quality characteristics
of high protein CWRS on its own and in combination with less protein-rich lines. The high-
protein wheat turned out to have the same distribution of proteins as unmodified lines, so the
quality of flour made from the wheat was unaffected. In fact, flour made from a blend of the
high-protein line and an unmodified line produced bigger loaves of bread than the loaf made
from unmodified wheat flour alone. More gluten can also be extracted from the high-protein
variety.
“Customers want to see high protein content, and we could assure them that high protein does
not have a negative effect on bread-making quality,” says Dr. Odean Lukow, head of the Cereal
Quality Protection section at the Cereal Research Centre.
“We’ve only just begun looking at other products with the high protein wheats. We will continue
to look at how these wheats perform in other baking applications, particularly how they blend
with a lower protein wheat.”
(For more information, check out the Western Grains Research Foundation Web site at
http://www.westerngrains.com)


Tobacco that’s Good for You
Genetically modified tobacco varieties are being developed which could produce human proteins
for therapeutic uses, according to Dr. Brandon Price, CEO of CropTech Corporation in
Blacksburg, Virginia at the recent Crop Production and Crop Protection conference in
Minnesota.
Although numerous plant species have been genetically modified within the last few decades,
tobacco has attracted more interest from biopharmaceutical firms because it’s the easiest plant to
genetically engineer, especially when introducing multiple genes. In addition, the genetic
modifications tend to be stable over several generations of plants, and tobacco is very prolific.
Although human proteins could also be synthesized in genetically modified animals, Price says
that more plants can be grown in less time and with fewer resources than it takes to raise
animals. Furthermore, with tobacco there is less concern about the possibility of diseases being
transmitted from plants to humans, whereas animals, even those not closely related to us, can
transmit certain illnesses. Finally, because plants, particularly tobacco, tend to have simpler
genetic structures, it’s easier to synthesize and extract the desired proteins than it is from
animals, which may be better suited to producing complex tissues.
Among the possible products these GM tobacco varieties could make are blood proteins which
are only obtained after the plant is harvested.
(For more information, see www.croptech.com or www.healthtech.com/conference/crp/crp.htm)




Saskatchewan Agbiotech Update

An Introduction to MetaMorphix
Last month, the AgBiotech Bulletin reported that a new player in Saskatchewan agbiotechnology
had acquired the research facilities and staff of Saskatoon-based BIOSTAR, as well as four
animal-health products currently in development.
            Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 12
MetaMorphix Inc. (MMI) of Baltimore, Maryland, was founded in 1994 to capitalize on work by
The Genetics Institute, a private pharmaceutical company, and the Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine. The company’s main focus is on the development of Growth and
Differentiation Factors (GDFs), a group of genes that regulate bone and muscle growth.
One of their most widely-published discoveries is the 1997 development of the "knockout
mouse", in which the gene that limits skeletal muscle growth (known as GDF 8 or myostatin) is
"knocked out" of the mouse’s genetic code. The resulting mice are much larger and more
muscular than their normal counterparts, but are otherwise healthy. Researchers at Johns
Hopkins University have since discovered analogous genes in cattle, chickens, and humans.
The discovery has a number of potential agricultural applications; "knockout" animals could
produce more meat than their normal counterparts. In fact, the Piedmontese and Belgian Blue
varieties of cattle, both of which are unusually muscular, have been shown to have mutations in
the myostatin gene. Knowledge about the gene’s action in humans could also lead to medical
applications to prevent or reverse muscular wasting diseases such as muscular dystrophy.


Better Canola Uses Cream of the Crop
At the Aventis research farm in Saskatchewan’s “Agbiotech Valley” just east of Saskatoon,
thousands of canola plants from as far away as Argentina and Poland stand in a field with plastic
bags wrapped around their stalks.
Aventis collects the seeds from a wide range of canola plants around the world, then brings them
to this farm to see how hardy they are, how high their yields are, how well they resist pests and
diseases, and so on. The best plants are harvested by hand, and their germplasm is used to create
new varieties of Aventis’ InVigor™ hybrid canola. During the hybridization process, the plants
are converted from bisexual to male and female versions, which allows for more precise
crossbreeding techniques. In addition, the plants are genetically modified to be resistant to
Aventis’ InVigor™ herbicide.
Although the collection of samples and subsequent field trials are time consuming, the research
has paid off. Aventis’ canola varieties are among the highest-yielding varieties – nearly 30 per
cent more than open-pollinated varieties – with greater resistance to blackleg as well. In addition,
Aventis has developed a line of canola with a shorter growing season, using a Polish strain (B.
rapa) and modifying it to generate the higher yields associated with the more popular Argentine
(B. napus) variety.
(Source: Western Producer, Aug. 17. Also, check out Aventis’ web site at
http://www2.aventis.com/homepage/homepage.htm)


And in this Experiment ... Nothing Happened
Disturbed by the panic caused by well-publicized studies which suggest harmful or abnormal
effects of genetically modified foods, a group of scientists has decided to launch a new scientific
journal dedicated to GMOs. The scientists have been meeting informally since the late 1980s to
discuss science-based regulatory policy for GMOs, and in July they decided that a forum was
needed to address the risks of GMOs in as neutral a fashion as possible.
Dr. Alan McHughen announced the creation of the Journal of Biosafety Research on July 13th,
following the 6th International Symposium on the Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms
in Saskatoon. McHughen says the journal will be unusual because it will report on negative

            Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 13
results, in which no difference is observed between GM and regular crops, as well as positive
ones.
"In a lot of the research, probably more than people realize, genetically modified crops perform
exactly the same as unmodified crops, but that doesn't make for really exciting press. This
journal will deal more with what happens most of the time, even if nothing happens."
The first issue of the journal is scheduled for early in 2001.
(Sources: Agnet, Sept. 2, http://www.plant.uoguelph.ca/safefood/archives/agnet-archives.htm; U of S News,
http://www.usask.ca/events/news/articles/20000714-2.html)



Business Plan Competition 2000
Ag-West will invest up to $100,000 in the winning agricultural biotechnology-based start-up
company in this year’s business plan competition. Contestants should prepare and submit a
business plan by November 17, 2000. The competition will be judged by an independent panel
and is open to university students and researchers, employees of federal and provincial
laboratories and the public. New or established entrepreneurs may also submit entries. A half-
day seminar will be conducted on October 16 to provide entrants with basic information on how
to start a company.
For more information, contact Peter McCann or Muriel Adams at (306) 975-1939 or
agwest@agwest.sk.ca




Regulatory Column




Brian K. Treacy, PhD

Regulatory Affairs Manager, Ag-West Biotech Inc.



“No Testing of Genetically Modified Crops?”
This was the slogan chanted as Prime Minister Jean Chretien took a pie in the face from a
protester at an event in Prince Edward Island several weeks ago. It’s a puzzling statement, when
you consider the numerous regulatory hurdles genetically modified (GM) crops must clear before
they are allowed on the market.



            Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 14
As of September 13, 2000, genetically modified (GM) versions of nine different crops, including
canola, corn and potato, were available to farmers, in addition to the scores of varieties available
through "conventional" breeding programs.
So far, GM crops offer traits mainly for herbicide and pest resistance. Farmers, ever sensitive to
the bottom line, have readily adopted GM varieties as an another tool to minimize inputs and
maximize yields.


GM, Conventional … What’s the Difference?
Let’s use an example. Argentine canola, or Brassica napus, harbours between 25,000 and 30,000
genes. In conventional plant breeding, different varieties or closely related species are crossed to
get a particular trait, such as pest or drought resistance. However, each of these crosses involves
juggling all of the tens of thousands of genes in each plant. Many generations are needed to
breed a plant with the trait you are after.
GM varieties, on the other hand, are developed using Agrobacterium tumefaciens or particle
bombardment to transfer one additional trait to the existing plant genome.
Agrobacterium, a soil microbe, is a natural genetic engineer. In nature, it transfers some of its
own genes to plant cells for its own benefit. Scientists have harnessed this ability to insert genes
for useful traits into crops.
Another genetic engineering method, particle bombardment, is more direct. Here, gold particles
(bullets) are "soaked" with DNA harboring the desired trait then "shot" into a plant leaf.
In both methods, plant cells are cultured and grown into plants, and tested at various stages for
the desired trait. Only one gene set is involved, so results are much more rapid and precise than
conventional breeding.
GM methods also allow the plant breeder to introduce a useful trait from any organism. Darwin’s
theory of evolution holds that all organisms are derived from the same DNA. A perfect example
of this can be found with the DNA sequence of the Ubiquitin gene (and many others) which is
over 85 per cent identical in a wide range of organisms, including bacteria, insects, birds and
humans! GM opens the entire "library" of the world’s genes to the plant breeder.


Test the product, not the process
Conventional and GM breeding programs use different methods. Canada regulates the resulting
Plants with Novel Traits (PNTs) on the basis of the end product and not on the basis of the
method used to introduce or develop the trait.
Roundup-Ready™ canola, for example, is genetically engineered to resist this broad spectrum
herbicide. The end product of this variety is vegetable oil and meal from the crushed seed, and
both were approved for human consumption and livestock feed in 1994 and 1995 respectively.
These approvals were carried out under the strict scrutiny of both the Office of Food
Biotechnology (Health Canada) and the Plant Biotechnology Office of the Canadian Food
Inspection Agency (CFIA). A few of the regulatory demands were:
1. Description of the trait inserted and technology used.
2. Proof of stable integration into the plant genome.


           Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 15
3. Environmental safety assessment of the potential for the new variety to become a weed of
agriculture or be invasive of natural habitats.
4. Proof that potential gene flow to wild relatives whose offspring will not become more
invasive or have a competitive advantage.
5. Test the new variety for altered improved pest potential.
6. Test for potential impact on non-target species.
7. Potential impact on biodiversity.
8. Nutritional assessment and comparison to current commercial varieties for (crude protein,
crude fat, crude fibre, amino acid content and levels, ash and gross energy content, allergenicity).
Once the CFIA has controlled for these characteristics, Health Canada undertakes a more
rigorous analysis of dietary exposure, nutrition and safety for human consumption. Please refer
to the Decision Document posted on the CFIA site at
http://www.cfiaacia.agr.ca/english/plaveg/pbo/dd9502e.shtml. for a more detailed
description…just in case you have a pie to throw!
Brian Treacy can be reached at brian.treacy@agwest.sk.ca




SABIC Column




Krista Broten, M.Sc., Coordinator
Saskatchewan Agricultural Biotechnology Information Centre (SABIC)


The third annual Aventis Biotech Challenge (formerly the Connaught Student Biotechnology
Exhibition) is just around the corner! There is a total of $5,250 in prizes for this year's
competition. Along with a name change for the competition, there is a change in competition
structure. This year, there are two different categories for students - Open Competition (grades 7
to 12) and Junior Competition (grades 7 and 8). Students that are accepted will be given up to
$200 for research supplies and be paired with a mentor in their area of research. The deadline for
submissions is November 30, 2000.


Open Competition
This competition is open to students from Grades 7 to 12. Students can work individually or in

           Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 16
pairs. Students or student teams wishing to participate in this exhibition must submit a brief
Project Outline that describes their original research idea, its objectives and any support required
in terms of supplies or the use of equipment. The Project Outline must include the objective,
materials and methods, interpretation and relevant application of the project.


Project Guidelines for Open Competition:
• This contest will use the Canadian Institute of Biotechnology's definition of biotechnology:
"Biotechnology is the use of the knowledge of biological systems to produce goods and
services."
• A project is deemed relevant if its content relates to the various applications of biotechnology
such as health care, agriculture and forestry, food processing, mining and the environment; and it
applies the knowledge and techniques of the current courses at school and/or other scientific
studies such as biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, microbiology and biotechnology.
• The project must include scientific experiments that recognize and control all significant
variables and demonstrate excellent collection, analysis and presentation of data.
• The project should not involve the use of any dangerous chemicals or biohazardous materials,
except under the direct supervision of qualified personnel.


Junior Competition
The Junior Competition is restricted to applications from Grade 7 and 8 students. Students can
work individually or in pairs. The project title for the Junior Competition is "Create a DNA
Fingerprint of a Plant, Animal or Bacterium".
The Junior Competition Proposal must contain:
• An explanation of DNA fingerprinting.

• Selection of a species for which the student or team wishes to create the fingerprint.

• An explanation of how DNA fingerprinting is performed.
• An explanation of the importance or relevance of the experiment for their chosen species.


Awards
The winning student teams and their schools receive $5,250 in cash awards from the sponsoring
organizations. Two-thirds of the award goes to the students; the remaining one-third is provided
to their school for the purchase of scientific equipment and supplies. All students and schools
participating in the exhibition receive certificates of recognition from the sponsoring
organizations. The cash awards are as follows: Open Competition: First Prize - $2,100, Second
Prize - $1,200, Third Prize - $600; Junior Competition: First Prize - $600, Second Prize - $450,
Third Prize - $300.


Submission of Project
Students or student teams wishing to participate in this exhibition are required to submit a brief
Project Outline (for Open Competition) or Proposal (for Junior Competition). Project Outlines
           Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 17
and Proposals are due November 30, 2000 and must be clearly marked as to which competition
the project is entered into (Open or Junior Competition). Students will be notified of the project
evaluation committee's decision in January 2001. Funding of up to $200 and donations of
supplies or equipment in kind may be provided for projects deemed acceptable by evaluation
committee. A total of 10 projects will be approved in the Open and Junior Competition
categories.
1. Project Outline or Proposal must be post-marked no later than November 30, 2000 to be
considered.
2. The school principal must sign the Project Outline or Proposal.
Project Outline and Proposals must be submitted to the following address:
Project Evaluation Committee,
Aventis Biotech Challenge
c/o Krista Broten
Saskatchewan Ag-Biotech Information Centre
101 - 111 Research Drive
Saskatoon, SK S7N 3R2
For additional information, please contact the Aventis Biotech Challenge Hotline at:
1-877-363-3331 or (306) 668-2660 or e-mail: sabic@agwest.sk.ca


Krista Broten can be reached at krista.broten@agwest.sk.ca




Web Watch

http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotech/OECD/usregs.htm
A comprehensive rundown of all the agencies involved in regulating biotechnology in the U.S.
and links to the current regulations online. The site has a straightforward, well-structured layout,
but you’ll need a dictionary for wading through the legalese in the regulations.

http://ificinfo.health.org/
This is the homepage for the International Food Information Council, a non-profit organization
dedicated to providing science-based information on food safety and nutrition. They mostly
focus on U.S. issues, but it’s still got loads of useful and interesting information.

http://nrcan.gc.ca/cfs/biotech
The Canadian Forest Service web site is designed to inform readers of the most recent Canadian
biotechnology research and development done by the CFS.

http://www.nuffield.org/bioethics/publication/pub0010805.html
This report examines the ethical and social issues associated with the development and
cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops from a variety of perspectives, giving a much-
needed sense of balance to the debate. You can read it online or order a hard copy from the
Nuffield Council on Bioethics.


           Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 18
http://www.epbn.org/
The European Plant Biotechnology Network web site has the potential to be a decent site, but the
text is hard on the eyes (dark blue on light blue) and the graphics don’t load properly sometimes,
which is annoying when you’re trying to find the graphic links on the homepage.




           Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 19
Events




                Pacific Rim Biotechnology Conference and BioExpo 2000
November 12-16, 2000
Vancouver, British Columbia
BIOTECanada and the British Columbia Biotechnology Alliance have joined forces to
present a program to address the challenges and opportunities facing the industry.
Over 1,000 business executives and leading scientists are expected to attend, from Canada,
USA, Japan, Korea, Australia, China, Hong Kong and others.
The program is set up in tracks to accommodate varied interests. Delegates can choose
among Finance, Communications, Human Resources, Intellectual Property/Regulatory,
Aquaculture, Agriculture, Pharma, and Environment. A social program is also offered.
For more information or to register, see the conference Web site at
www.biotech.bc.ca/biotechconference, or call the registration line at (604-514-3270).


Oct 26             Ag-West Biotech Annual Meeting, Sheraton Hotel, Saskatoon
                   http://www.agwest.sk.ca/ or e-mail: gina.styranko@agwest.sk.ca
Oct 29-30          Neutraceutical and Functional Foods Update, Radisson Hotel,
                   Saskatoon http://www.nutranet.org/
Oct. 29- Nov. 3    Eastern Analytical Symposium and Exposition, Atlantic City, NJ
                   http://www.eas.org/
Oct. 30-31         CalBioSummit 2000, San Diego, California www.calbiosummit.org
Nov. 5-9           American Society of Agronomy; Crop Science Society of America;
                   Soil Science Society of America 91st Annual Meeting, Minneapolis,
                   MN e-mail Jay Poster: jposter@agronomy.org
Nov. 13-15         BIO-Europe 2000, Berlin, Germany e-mail Carola Schropp at
                   cschropp@ebdgroup.com
Nov. 27            Regulatory Affairs and International Trade Conference, Saskatoon
                   e-mail Brian Treacy: brian.treacy@agwest.sk.ca
Dec. 4-6           7th Annual Ottawa Life Sciences National Conference and Exhibition
                   http://www.olsc.ca/



             Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 20
Dec. 6-8           ASTA Corn, Soybean and Sorghum Conference and Seed Expo,
                   Chicago, IL contact Angela Dansby at (202) 638-3128
Apr. 18-20, 2001 Global Agriculture 2020: Which Way Forward? Norwich, U.K.
                 http://www.jic.bbsrc.ac.uk/events/agric2020



Ag-West Board of Directors
Chair:               Dr. Pete Desai, Director, Biotechnology Strategic Research, Dow
                     AgroSciences Canada Inc.
Vice-Chair:          Mr. Brent Kennedy, Business Director, Oilseeds, North America, Aventis
                     CropScience Canada Co.
Secretary-Treasurer: Ms. Shelley Brown, Office Managing Partner, Ernst & Young

Dr. Ernie Barber, Dean, College of Agriculture, University of Saskatchewan
Mr. John Buchan, Director, Sustainable Production Branch, Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Mr. Harold Fast, Producer, Saskatchewan
Dr. Kutty Kartha, Director General, NRC-Plant Biotechnology Institute
Dr. Louise Nelson, AFIF Chair in Agbiotech, College of Agriculture
Dr. Ashley O’Sullivan, Director, AAFC Saskatoon Research Centre
Dr. John Patience, President, Prairie Swine Centre Inc.
Dr. Carolyn Weeks-Levy, Vice-President, Research and Development, BIOSTAR Inc.




AgBiotech Bulletin Subscribe
To receive a free electronic subscription:

Please E-mail: subscriptions@agwest.sk.ca and specify if you prefer to receive the Bulletin in:
       – Adobe pdf format
       – Text-only format

Other Ag-West publications are also available at no cost:
Please e-mail the above address or fax your selections to (306) 975-1966.

   AgBiotech Infosource - an information newsletter for schools.
    Available electronically in:
       – Adobe pdf format
       – Text-only format

   Food Biotech Resource News - a quarterly newsletter oriented to the food industry

     Current Research and Development - a booklet outlining current R&D in Saskatchewan




            Ag-West Biotech Inc. - AgBiotech Bulletin - October, 2000 - Page 21

				
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