Transgenic Flax research and trials being carried out in EU

January 13, 2011

Several months ago, as colleague Viktoriya G and I were developing our Flax Breeders paper, I came across some interesting information in the Deliberate releases and placing on the EU market of Genetically Modified Organisms database.  This database is under the umbrella of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre/Institute for Health and Consumer Protection.

What information, you ask?  Well, listed therein are three summary notifications of submissions made under Directive 2001/18/EC outlining the experimental release of transgenic flax varieties in the EU.  

The first was submitted by Plant Science Sweden AB for the release of linseed lines genetically modified for altered oil composition in seed (using the variety “Flanders” – a noted CDC variety (circa 1989).  This experimental release was intended to span the years from 2005-2009. The GM event here involved the enhancement of oils in the flax.

The second submission was made by The Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology ,University of Wroclaw, Poland.  This submission, made in 2006, with a proposed period of release of 2006 – 2010 used the breeding lines Nike and Linola.  The GM event in this case involved the improvement of fibres quality and the increase of antioxidant capacity in the varieties.

Third, was a submission in 2007 made by a company in the Czech Republic, AgriTec Research, Breeding and Services Ltd, for the Evaluation of genetic modifications for use in flax breeding.  The period of release, in this case, is quite a bit longer – 2007 to 2016.  Presumably, it is still in progress.  Cultivars are not identified. The GM events listed are enhanced herbicide tolerance, fungal and insect tolerance and enhanced capacity to absorb heavy metal pollutants.

These flax-based submissions/experimental releases represent only three out of a list of almost 3000 notifications of transgenic crops (in various other varieties and for release in many other countries). So, even though there is strong opposition to GMOs, it appears that research in transgenics in the EU is prevalent.  The total amount of field trial area for the experimental transgenic flax is minuscule, comparatively speaking.  Nevertheless, if Canada should, in any way, move away from research in flax transgenics, do we would stand to lose important markets, a potentially competitive edge and key knowledge as a result?   

(see for more information and a link to the Galushko/Ryan paper on flax breeding, IPRs and FTO)