British Sugar, a leading producer of sugar for the UK food and beverage markets, has entered into a strategic collaboration with Tropic to deploy our ground-breaking GEiGS® technology in sugar beet. The program is set to develop high-performance sugar beet varieties that can sustainably withstand viral diseases, doing away with the need for environmentally damaging pesticides.
Climate change presents critical challenges and has been implicated as a driver for crop losses due to increasingly frequent outbreaks of pests and diseases. One such problem is Virus Yellows (VY) disease of sugar beet, which has caused unprecedented crop damage with growers reporting yield losses of up to 80% in recent years. VY disease is transmitted by aphids which have traditionally been controlled by neonicotinoid insecticide treatments. However, concerns about the impact of these insecticides on other insects have prompted regulatory changes severely restricting their use.
“We have a need to develop more sustainable solutions for sugar beet growers. In securing long-term sugar beet yields through disease-resistant seed, this venture will play a crucial role in reducing our reliance on pesticides, while safeguarding domestic sugar beet farming and the livelihoods of several growers and communities in the UK” says Daniel Green, Agricultural Director at British Sugar.
This synergistic alliance between two British companies will focus on accelerating delivery of improved sugar beet varieties through Tropic’s proprietary GEiGS® platform.
“The GEiGS® technology, which combines elements of precision gene editing and a naturally occurring immunity mechanism known as gene silencing, is a game changing platform allowing us to develop crops that are better able to withstand disease- and climate- pressures to enable much more sustainable cropping practices” says Ofir Meir, Chief Technology Officer at Tropic.
About British Sugar
British Sugar, the leading sugar producer in Britain, is a homegrown industry working in partnership with over 3,000 growers and customers to deliver world-class product worldwide, including over 50% of sugar consumed through the British and Irish food & beverage industry. The company boasts sole processing rights of the UK’s entire sugar beet crop, turning over around eight million tonnes of sugar beet and producing up to 1.2 million tonnes of sugar each year. Their innovative approach to manufacturing also enables opportunities to create a range of co-products from power generation and bioethanol to animal feed and much more.
Tropic is a pioneering agricultural-biotechnology company dedicated to the development of healthier, more robust, high-performing varieties of tropical crops with a vision to becoming a world leading technology-forward seed business. The company’s core crop portfolio focusses on banana, coffee and rice, which together provide a source of livelihood to over half a billion people worldwide. The booming population brings a drastic food security and supply crisis which is intensified by climate change and economic factors.
Tropic is working closely with growers to address these critical pressures and, in doing so, promotes consumer wellbeing and positive grower economics, while addressing crop stability and unmet nutritional needs. The company’s core mission is developing sustainable crop products better suited to the local growing environment but also easier to cultivate, more profitable for farmers and healthier for consumers – thereby benefitting the entire food supply chain.
GEiGS® (Gene Editing induced Gene Silencing) technology utilizes established genome editing tools (e.g., CRISPR, TALEN) to make precise and specific changes to only a few nucleotides within non-coding genes of a host organism. These changes redirect RNA interference (RNAi, also Gene Silencing) activity of non-coding genes towards desired target genes, suppressing their activity. Target genes can include the host’s own genes, or gene-families, to finely tune their expression to a new desired level. Further, GEiGS® can be used to activate defense against pathogens and pests (e.g., viruses, insects and fungi) by redirecting RNAi activity towards pathogen and pest genes. GEiGS® does not depend on the introduction of foreign genes into the host genome, and thus the approach will be considered as non-GMO in multiple regions.
For more information, please visit the GEiGS® website