Jabal: Non-GMO wheat (…)

The Jabal durum wheat variety comes from the Icarda program of the International Center for Agricultural Research in Arid Zones (based in Lebanon). [1]. This International Center (with public and private funding) is itself part of the CGIAR network of international agricultural research centers. [2]A public-private partnership funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This Foundation is often known for pushing technological solutions that bypass GMOs [3]. Therefore, it is advertised in many media [4] on the development of this new variety” non-GMO was worthy of investigationInf’GMOamong other things, to verify this endorsement of character” non-GMO whether or not it is transgenic or derived from other methods. For this, we interviewed one of its designers, Icarda researcher Filippo Bassi (see below). Note that in the interview in 2019 [5]the latter declared himself ” Big supporter of GMOs and especially Crispr/Cas “and lamented the congestion of Europe:” It’s a shame because we as scientists are paralyzed by this situation. But we are not politicians, so we just have to accept the technologies and work “Legal””… Which explains why it claims to work without GMOs…

Propagation of elite cultivars through participatory research

But first, to enlarge the institutional framework of this study. This wheat variety was born under the DIIVA-PR program [6], itself developed within the CWR project (Crop wild relatives – related wild species). The CWR project was implemented from 2011 to 2021 with the support of the Norwegian government. It aimed to harness the potential of wild relatives of cultivated cultivars to develop new cultivars resistant to climate change.

Norwegian government? Yes, the same one that co-financed the world’s genetic stock of cultivated varieties (Svalbard Global Seedbank) and placed it on its land. [7]). And this is not accidental, because today all international research programs on variety improvement initially go through banks. genetic resources (physical, in the form of seeds), then genome sequence and identification of genes of interest, all then stored in computers as genetic sequence information (DSI, digital sequence information).

The general idea of ​​the DIIVA-PR program is that researchers identify interesting features of their cousins. wild » (or local varieties) of cultivated varieties and combine them into elite varieties through crossing… All this is under the attention of observant farmers who in the end choose the varieties that seem best to them. This program has been applied to three species in particular: wheat, barley and lentils. In this interview we will see the details and results obtained with durum wheat.

This program was extended from 1 year to a new three-year projecter January 2022, BOLD-DIVA-PR II (Proliferation of ICARDA Varieties Through Participatory Research – Propagation of ICARDA Varieties through Participatory Research), endowed with more than one million dollars in funds in Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Senegal, Nigeria, and Sudan [8]. Objective: evaluation of local barley and durum wheat varieties in the fields for their various interesting characteristics in these countries, their crossbreeding and evaluation of their performance and farmers’ preferences through participatory measures… all (farmers, breeders, etc.), especially all information freely available online to get in the way.

The interview therefore focused on intellectual property, and the researcher assures us that each buyer is fully governed by a material transfer agreement that they must sign before using the range (see below). However, the genetic information of this wheat is open for free online at least the possibilities of appropriating part of this inheritance, provided that a seed company claims to have slightly altered one of the genes and attributes a function to it.

So, below is an interview with Filippo Bassi, a researcher of Icarda and one of the breeders of this wheat. Inf’GMO its genesis and part of its future.

Inf’OGM: Jabal, a drought-resistant wheat, comes from the cross of durum wheat Triticum situation with wild wheat Aegilops speltoides. How was this cross made?

Filippo Bassi (FB) : Cross-breeding is done under greenhouse conditions first by using small forceps, anthers (pulled out). [9] The flower of the modern wheat line is immature, so it becomes ” woman “. Wheat is a monoecious plant, which means that the male and female organs are inside the same flower to promote self-pollination. Thus, when the male part is removed, the flower becomes female, which needs exogenous pollen, that is, from another plant. , so we have speltoids we took the pollen and sprinkled it on the female flower. hybrid ” combining the genetic information of two species: durum + speltoides. The resulting offspring was then used as ” . females ” [de nouveau] second modern durum wheat was used as pollen donor. This three-way cross produced genetically stable offspring, which were then perfected and selected for. Jabal [10].

Where do wild and cultivated types of these crosses come from?

PB : There is a switch [d’abord] It was developed in Aleppo, Syria in 2004, and later in Terbol, Lebanon for a new selection. In 2012 it came to Morocco and I tested it in many places and finally used it in the DIIVA-PR project. [11] Supported by the Crop Trust [12].

Durum type of wheat […], Triticum conditionIt is a species cultivated in more than 18 million hectares in the world.

As for Jabal, his complete genealogy is: Coryfla/AegSpeltoidesSyr/Omrabi5. This means that the first cross was made between the speltoides historically collected in Syria and the elite lineage from Jimmite. [13] Called Corifla, it was originally developed in Mexico and brought to Syria in the 70s. Although it is indeed sensitive to heat, Corifla was also considered a line with high yield potential, early flowering and good colored grain. Therefore, it was included in the development of Jabal.

A second cross was then made between their progeny and the Ikarda progeny, Om Rabi, which has been registered under various names as a drought-tolerant variety in more than 20 countries. [14]. Thus, the wild species were a fusion held in the Icarda gene bank, while the modern conditions were provided by the Icarda breeding program. This program, which has been in existence since the early 1970s, covers varieties grown using traditional methods. This resulted in the release of more than 150 varieties in 22 countries.

What were the technical stages of these transitions? Specifically, are there laboratory steps to integrate certain genes? Have specific genes associated with this drought tolerance been identified?

PB : Jabal is the result of classical cross-pollination selection, so no laboratory steps were taken. However, the genes that control this drought tolerance have been studied, including through method called A genome-wide association study » [15]. The result is a set of markers associated with a genomic region, and through selection with these markers, we have now identified with reasonable precision the genomic regions that contribute to drought tolerance, particularly in relation to root and grain size.

Are intellectual property rights (patents, breeder’s rights) registered on these genes or varieties? Or is there free and full access to this Jabal variety?

PB : The Jabal variety is not yet commercially cultivated in Morocco. Yields in trial plots are similar to those of commercial cultivars in normal years, but can be 20% higher in cold mountain regions during terminal drought.

Jabal will be distributed by seed company Benchaib Semences, which has exclusive rights for sales in Morocco. [16]. sale” good seed ” (certified seeds) are allowed in Morocco. This means that any farmer can buy seeds in Benchaib, plant them in his field and then sell the crop to his neighbors. However, only farmers who sow seeds ” officially approved “can benefit from government subsidy and only Benchaib is authorized to market” officially certified seeds “.

Icarda reserves all rights for use in selection.

Also, there are no patents on Jabal or its genes, so anyone is free to use it however they want. Icarda has already introduced it to more than 55 partners worldwide under the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA). [17], essentially protecting its form by creating intellectual property that prevents others from using it. We only allow commercial protection to companies that distribute and use it in their countries. SMTA is registered in the multilateral system of the international seed treaty (Tirpaa [18]). So it applies to anyone using this material. Thus, any company attempting to patent Jabal without Icarda’s express consent would be in violation of this SMTA. The Plant Agreement can take legal action on Ikarda’s behalf in such cases, but usually the company tends to withdraw from patenting activity as soon as it becomes aware of the infringement.

So we can say that Jabal ” completely free entry ” with some restrictions. Moreover, it has been available to French breeders for several years and was sent, for example, to Florimond-Desprez. [19].

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