Nutrition

News 252 views last update:7 Aug 2012

Chinese develop new high phytase corn

Chinese scientists have developed a genetically modified (GM) corn that could help improve the nutritional value of livestock feed and reduce pollution.

The research is carried out by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS). The corn has now entered pre-production field trials.

The GM corn produces seeds containing high levels of the phytase enzyme. The enzyme helps livestock to digest phosphorus which is enclosed in the indigestible form of phytate.

Animals lack phytase in their system. As a result, farmers add the enzyme to animal feed to help livestock digest phosphorus.

Fungus gene
The CAAS scientists isolated the gene that produces phytase from a species of the fungus Aspergillus, and inserted it into corn.

Preliminary test have shown that compared to regular varieties, the rate of seed germination, growth speed and yield of the GM corn were no different.

The scientists said that, under current industry criteria for feed additives, adding just a few grams of the GM corn seed per kilogram of animal feed would be enough to satisfy livestock's nutritional demand for phosphorus.

Huge saving
If the technology is commercialised, Chinese farmers could save up to $60 million per year in buying industrial phytase.

Phosphorus pollution caused by animal waste is a serious problem in China, resulting in widespread algal blooms in the Chinese lakes. Better phosphorous digestibility could add to improvement of the environment.

China has not yet approved any GM corn for commercial sale.

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