Are PGX plants GMO’s?

Because we are able to very significantly enhance the performance of plants across a wide range of parameters, the questions that inevitably arise are:

1. “Is what you are doing Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetic Modification (GM)?”; and

2. “Are the plants you develop Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs?”

The answer to both questions is “No, not by any definition!”

If Not GM or GE, Then What Are You Doing?

We are “doing” epigenetics.

We apply our understanding of epigenetics – “the study of changes in gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence, some of which are heritable ” – to stress plants in very specific ways so as to bring about targeted responses that will enhance their performance under a range of conditions.

One of the enhancements we commonly bring about in diploid plant species (those with two genomes per cell) is polyploidy (more than two genomes per cell) which, for plants under stress, is a particularly useful – and natural – enhancement.

What the Regulators Say

With respect to polyploidy, the European conventions on GMO state:

“The following techniques are not considered to result in genetic modification, provided that they do not involve the use of hybrid DNA molecules or GMOs:

• In vitro fertilisation.

• Natural processes such as conjugation, transduction or transformation.

• Polyploidy induction.”

PolyGenomX does not use “hybrid DNA molecules or GMOs” in its processes. To do so would render what we do no more effective than all of the other failed attempts at polyploidy which exploit this or other intrusive or corruptive techniques.

By choosing the path we have, we are able to precisely modulate a whole-of-genome response to specific stressors, bring about the changes in gene expression we are seeking, retain complete genomic integrity, and enjoy heritability in the results.

The definition we apply to the word “polygenomic” is “a stable and fertile new polyploid variety induced by the application of the Lamont Process ”.

What the Experts Say

With respect to the epigenetic induction of abiotic stress tolerance and biotic stress resistance, in the words of one of the world’s leading agri-businesses, following “a rigorous process of review

of (PGX’s) underlying hypotheses” concluded, “the (PGX) technique is capable of permanently removing epigenetic suppression of genes for tolerance . . . based on the assumption that PolyGenomX technology affects epigenetic gene silencing and, therefore, is not trait specific but rather dependent on the ‘stress agent’ and its interaction with the plant (in intensity and duration) which induces native preservation mechanisms in the plant. Since this native plant reaction relies on genes present but silenced in the plant genome, we believe that PolyGenomX ability to induce resistance in a few cycles can be explained and trusted.”

What the Law Says

In Australia, one of the most GMO-sensitive jurisdictions in the world, the matter of genetically modified organisms falls under the Gene Technology Act 2000.

With respect to that Act, the short answer from one of Australia’s leading IP Lawyers specialising plant molecular biology is, “No, PGX techniques do not amount to genetic engineering nor can PGX plants be considered as genetically engineered. PGX plants are as “genetically modified” as those that have been cross-bred to obtain advantageous characteristics. Without inserting genes or extracting plant DNA, modifying it and reintroducing into the plant, what PGX is doing is conventional breeding and cross breeding, with perhaps certain steps (stresses) that may have an impact on the plant’s genome – but it is the plant itself that modifies the genome in response to external stimuli rather than there being any external genetic intervention.”

Will You Certify That Your Plants Are Not GMO?

In the words of the same IP lawyer, “It would be a retrograde step to set a precedent by providing such certification. It certainly strikes me as unnecessary.”

To put that into context in the case of polygenomic food plants, for example, if we were to in some way “formally certify” that the polyploids we induce epigentically are “not GMO’s” then should the same be required of all the producers of those other polyploid foods, the ones that have occurred spontaneously in response to epigenetic stress in either Nature or in the course of being selectively bred, including:

• Apples • bananas • cabbage • citrus • cotton • ginger • kiwifruit • leek • oats • peanuts • potatoes • strawberries • sugarcane • triticale • watermelon • wheat • corn • strawberries • seedless watermelon

What We Say

Our Purpose from our foundation has been to develop science and technology which enhances the performance of plants for the benefit of humanity and in harmony with Nature.

As our knowledge of and ability with epigenetics has grown so has our confidence that it will deliver most of the promises made by GE and GM, but with none of the risk factors.

For the record: We interpret our commitment to working “in harmony with Nature” as precluding our use of Genetic Engineering and Genetic Modification techniques – for good!

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