Sugarcane R&D in Africa

Sugar cane

Research on improvement of sugarcane by genetic engineering has been undertaken by the South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI) for the last 18 years. Modifications include tolerance to herbicides (glyphosate and glufosinate ammonium) and the lepidopteran stalk borer Eldana saccharina via cry1A(b) gene insertion as well as perturbations to enzymes involved in sucrose metabolism (e.g., up- and/or down-regulation of phosphofructokinase and neutral invertase).

Sugarcane containing these traits has been evaluated in confined field trials at SASRI. Field-grown transgenic material is subjected to agronomic characterization and molecular analysis to determine stability and heritability of the inserted characteristic over successive growing seasons/harvest cycles. Although no genetically modified (GM) sugarcane is grown commercially in South Africa, activities involving research and both trial and commercial release of GM crops in the country are regulated by the GMO Act (Act 15, 1997) which is administered by the Directorate Plant Genetic Resources of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

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