April 22, 2010 (WINNIPEG) The Flax Council of Canada has announced an alliance with Cibus Global to develop non-transgenic traits that will help expand and enhance the Canadian flax industry. Using Cibus’ Rapid Trait Development System (RTDS™), the collaboration will develop non-transgenic crop traits that will improve yields for flax farmers and promise healthier flax-based oils for consumers without jeopardizing access to Europe, the world's biggest flax market, which currently restricts transgenic-based flax products. The partnership is supported by the Government of Canada.
"New and improved flax varieties will give Canadian farmers increased flax yield and more opportunities to succeed in international markets," said Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. "The Government of Canada knows that agriculture is a cornerstone of our economy and that’s why we’re pleased to partner with the Flax Council of Canada to help keep farmers on the cutting edge with investments in research and innovation." In February, the Government of Canada announced that the Flax Council will receive up to CAN $4 million (US $3.99 million) toward the project with the end goal of maintaining Canada’s position as the world’s top flax producer.
An incredibly versatile crop, flax’s Omega-3 fatty acids and other nutritional benefits have made flax seeds and oils (linseed oil) popular food ingredients for people of all ages. It’s also ideal for animal consumption, fibers such as linen and industrial output, including linoleum and other building materials. While Canadian flax is exported globally, 70 percent of Canada’s flax is exported to Europe, underscoring the importance of 100 percent non-transgenic flax crops—such as those that will be developed with RTDS.
In the European Union, crops developed using mutagenesis techniques are exempted by the 2001 E.U. Directive on GMOs under Article 3, Annex 1B exemption. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has determined that Cibus’ RTDS crops are non-transgenic, mutagenesis-derived products; an independent team of Belgian scientists published a report with the same conclusion in Environmental Biosafety Research (2009). Pathways for regulatory approval in Canada for mutagenesis-derived products are straightforward, with no Canadian regulatory time delays expected. The RTDS-developed oilseed flax, which will allow North American growers to utilize a more effective and efficient weed control system, is expected to come to market in 2015.
“The Canadian flax industry has set ambitious goals for acreage expansion and product improvement in the coming years while remaining fully committed to responding to European consumers’ concerns around transgenic crops and crop contamination,” said Barry Hall, President, Flax Council of Canada. “Cibus will make these goals a reality thanks to its non-transgenic RTDS system that will deliver us the high-value traits we need to make flax easier and more profitable to grow while maintaining the level of quality that our customers demand. We hope it is just the first of many traits we develop together, including oil quality and quantity improvements.”
“The Flax Council of Canada is the flax industry’s preeminent trade group, and they are setting a responsible, strategic precedent by opting for a non-transgenic approach to trait enhancement,” said Keith Walker, President, Cibus Global. “In that regard, we’re delighted to receive this endorsement of Cibus’ RTDS by a major trade organization, backed by a global agricultural super power, and the recognition that RTDS is a viable alternative to transgenics.”
Mutagenesis-derived flax is already produced and readily accepted globally. RTDS is a more precise version of mutagenesis that will use flax’s natural process of gene repair to yield desired traits. By mimicking natural methods in a highly targeted way, RTDS technology avoids the introduction of foreign genetic material into plants, as well as the regulation associated with transgenic (GM) crops.
For more information, contact:
Flax Council of Canada
Tel. (204) 982-2115
Cibus / The Rosen Group
New York, USA