BrettYoung, Cibus plan high-speed canola breeding

Winnipeg seed firm BrettYoung has signed a deal to market the results of San Diego crop genetics firm Cibus Global as it applies rapid, yet non-GMO, trait development techniques to canola.

Under their agreement, announced Wednesday, Cibus is to develop “unique” crop protection and “performance enhancement” traits for canola using its patent-protected Rapid Trait Development System (RTDS). BrettYoung is then to bring the traits to market through its seed distribution network in Canada and the U.S.

Cibus’ RTDS has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a mutagenesis technique, the company said. RTDS-bred crops are thus not considered genetically modified (GM) or transgenic from a regulatory perspective.

The process would use canola’s “natural process of gene repair” to spur a precise change in its genetic sequence, the companies said in a release Wednesday. “By mimicking natural methods in a highly targeted way, RTDS technology avoids the introduction of foreign genetic material into plants.”

“Cibus’ initial crop protection trait for canola and oilseed rape has demonstrated significant commercial potential through field trials that yielded successful and robust results,” Cibus president Keith Walker said in the companies’ release.

To be able to create specific traits more precisely and much faster than conventional plant breeding or other techniques is “a considerable development for agriculture, in North America and beyond,” BrettYoung’s co-CEO Calvin Sonntag said in the same release.

“Our collaboration will deliver enhanced canola seed products that meet the ever evolving needs and demands of our customers. We are confident the market response will be positive.”

No specific financial terms were mentioned in the two companies’ release.

Cibus Global in September signed an unrelated development deal with Israeli off-patent ag chem firm Mahkteshim-Agan (MAI), which will invest up to US$37 million over five years to develop proprietary crop traits in “five major crops with a European focus.”

The BrettYoung and MAI deals create the “commercial infrastructure for a successful launch of our first non-GMO crop traits in both North America and Europe,” said Cibus Global chairman Stephen Evans-Freke.

Cibus said it has “far-reaching plans” to develop additional traits in canola such as shatter tolerance, improved biofuel feedstock attributes and healthier oils.

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