Captain Canola – Yield10 Biosciences one step closer to canola feedstock superhero

August 23, 2020 |

News just in from Yield10 Bioscience, Inc., a Massachusetts-based agricultural bioscience company, that they have obtained a positive response from USDA-APHIS’s Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) for its CRISPR genome-edited trait C3007 in canola plant lines developed for increased oil content and now have plans for U.S. field tests in 2021.

In today’s Digest, how does the USDA-APHIS approval take Yield10 one step closer to becoming a leader in canola? What does this mean for agriculture, food, oilseed crops, and biofuels producers that use, or could use, canola as a feedstock? All this and an exclusive with Yield10’s CEO, Oliver Peoples.

The backstory

In June 2020, Yield10 submitted an “Am I regulated?” letter to the BRS, requesting confirmation of the regulatory status for canola plant lines containing the Company’s novel, CRISPR genome-edited C3007 trait. The positive USDA-APHIS response came in the form of a published letter indicating that the plant lines do not meet the definition of a regulated article under 7 CFR Part 340 regulations. Confirmation of the regulatory status of the plants will enable Yield10 to conduct field tests of CRISPR genome-edited canola plants in the United States in the 2021 growing season.

In 2018, Yield10 licensed C3007 from the University of Missouri (“MU”). The protein encoded by C3007, also known as BADC, is a novel, negative regulator of the enzyme acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACCase), the key enzyme for producing fatty acids for oil biosynthesis. In pilot studies conducted by MU researchers, reducing activity of the protein encoded by C3007 resulted in significantly increased oil content in seeds. Yield10 researchers have successfully used CRISPR to inactivate one or more copies of C3007 in Camelina and have seen evidence of increased oil content in some lines evaluated in laboratory studies. Yield10 researchers believe that C3007 also has the potential to boost oil content in canola. The use of CRISPR may enable an expedited timeline for development and commercialization within the U.S. market based on obtaining confirmation that USDA-APHIS does not consider the lines to be regulated pursuant to 7 CFR part 340. The lines may still be subject to regulation by EPA or FDA.

The CRISPR edited C3007 trait designed to increase oil content could deliver significant economic value for the commercialization of identity preserved, specialty oilseed crops. This is particularly true where the key economic drivers are altered oil compositions with improved nutritional profiles or oils which have been modified for aquaculture feed or industrial markets. These traits may also be used to increase production of edible oils in major oilseed crops including soybean and canola.

Yield10’s submission along with the USDA-APHIS BRS response is posted on the USDA’s website.

Reaction from the stakeholders

“Our team successfully engineered CRISPR genome-edited versions of C3007 in canola and now clarified their regulatory status through USDA-APHIS, marking major milestones in our development program to produce new varieties of canola with higher oil content,” said Kristi Snell, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer of Yield10 Bioscience. “With the deployment of the C3007 trait in canola as an oil boosting trait, we have expanded the portfolio of traits we are developing targeted towards increasing the performance of canola. We are also developing and/or testing the novel traits C3003 and C3004 to increase seed yield in canola. Each of these traits represents different strategies to boost yield in this important North American crop.”

“Yield10 is emerging as a technology leader in the development of advanced technology to increase seed yield and oil content in oilseed crops,” said Dr. Oliver Peoples, Chief Executive Officer of Yield10 Bioscience. “We believe there is considerable potential for C3007 and other trait gene technologies we are developing to enhance oil biosynthesis and sustainably increase the production of plant-based nutritional oils.”

What does this mean for biofuels?

In an exclusive with The Digest, Oliver Peoples, Ph.D., CEO of Yield10 told The Digest, “This positive response from USDA-APHIS on our C3007 trait in canola is a significant step forward towards its commercialization and will help both the agriculture and biofuels industries gain access to higher quantities of canola oil. C3007 offers the potential to increase oil content within canola crops without requiring additional resources such as land or water. Coupled with novel traits such as our C3003 and C3004 traits, which are designed to increase seed yield in canola, new varieties of this crop could result in a boost to canola oil and yield production.”

So what’s the big deal about canola? “Canola is a staple for the agriculture industry, as its oil is used for household and restaurant cooking as well as in food production operations,” said Peoples. “C3007 is one of 4 oil boosting traits yield10 is working on in both canola and Camelina where the key is to increase oil content while retaining or increasing seed yield to increase oil production per acre.”

And in terms of the biofuel industry more specifically, “Biofuel producers have found promise in canola as a natural and renewable solution for low-carbon biofuels capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Peoples told The Digest. “Earlier this year, its application and use in creating hydrogenation-derived renewable diesel (HDRD) piqued the interest of multiple groups including the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission. Canada is expected to import 292 million litres of HDRD in 2020 and 1.23 million litres of HDRD production are already in the U.S. Getting higher-quantities of increased oil-producing canola can help both industries drive production of these sustainable solutions.”

Bottom Line

Any way you look at it, Yield10 Biosciences is one step closer to becoming Captain Canola and turning this feedstock into a superhero of sorts with improved oil yields that can impact both agriculture, food, and biofuels.

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