World’s first Genetically Modified (GM) sugarcane approved

Brazil approves world’s first commercial GM sugarcane

The first genetically modified sugarcane in the world was approved in Brazil for commercial release on June 8.

The new variety, called CTC 20 Bt, has resistance to the sugarcane borer (diatraea saccharalis), the main pest that threatens the sugarcane crop and is responsible for losses of R$5 billion annually (equivalent to £1.1 billion).

The GM sugarcane, developed by CTC Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira SA, was approved by the National Technical Commission of Biosafety (CTNBio). According to the regulating agency’s evaluation, the sugarcane is considered safe for the environment, as well as for human and animal health.

“The approval of the Bt cane by CTNBio is a great conquest of CTC and the national sugar/energy sector. Besides economic gains, the producer will be able to simplify logistics and improve the environmental management of its operations,” highlighted Gustavo Leite, president of CTC.

Derivatives the same as from conventional sugarcane

According to the maker’s studies and technical information submitted to CTNBio about the genetically modified sugarcane, the sugarcane and ethanol obtained from the new variety are identical to the derivative products of conventional cane. According to their evidence, the Bt gene, as well as the protein, are completely eliminated from the sugarcane derivatives during the manufacturing process. No negative effects on soil composition, biodegradability or insect populations, were found, except for on the target pests.

“The procedure of propagation is similar to the introduction of a conventional variety like the cane of the first years being used for the expansion of the planted area and the non-approval of the sugarcane and ethanol production. This procedure is aligned with the chronogram of obtaining international approvals for sugar produced in the GMO cane,” Leite explained.

“In the next few years, we plan to expand the portfolio of varieties resistant to borer, adapted to each of the producing regions in Brazil. Besides, CTC also plans to develop resistant varieties to other insects, as well as those tolerant to herbicides,” he concluded.

GM now another option for the world’s largest sugar exporter

Brazil is already the world’s largest exporter of sugar and whilst the pace of propagation and the need for further regulatory approvals (for some importing countries) means that the likelihood of seeing sugar produced from GM crops is still some years away, it’s an option that gives Brazilian sugar producers a chance to further increase productivity and ultimately profits.