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The Development of Glyphosate Resistant Flax using Non-Transgenic Rapid Trait Development System (RTDS)

The Development of Glyphosate Resistant Flax using Non-Transgenic Rapid Trait Development System (RTDS)

  • Start date: 2010
  • Project Length: 2010-2013
  • Project Status: Complete


Flax (Linum usitatissimum) is an important oilseed crop for western Canada, and Canada is the world leader in oilseed flax production. Flaxseed oil is used for both edible and industrial purposes; however, it lags behind large acreage crops in the application of biotechnology to develop new input and output traits. This is because of two reasons. First, the current cost of new transgenic trait development and registration is extremely high and therefore has not been applied to flax to date. Second, flax growers have decided not to market transgenic flax in an effort to ensure access to all major world markets. Non-transgenic (non-genetically modified) herbicide tolerance is a trait that would add immediate value to the Canadian flax crop. Several leading Canadian flax researchers have estimated that herbicide tolerance would not only add convenience to the cropping system but also increase yield by 15-20%. With the added advantages of herbicide tolerance and higher yield, interest in growing flax as part of the normal crop rotation in western Canada would significantly increase, leading to an increase in the flax acreage. Cibus, a plant development company located in San Diego, USA, has a non-transgenic technology, RTDS™, which can be used to develop value-added traits for flax. In a focused research project that includes a strategic research and development collaboration with AAFC (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) and commercialization partnership managed by the Flax Council, new herbicide tolerant Canadian flax holds the potential to increase flax acres in Canada significantly, and solidifying a position as the second key oilseed crop for the country.

Cibus RTDS technology – “A new approach to trait development”

Cibus has identified a unique product opportunity by applying a new technology known as the Rapid Trait Development System (RTDS) for the non-transgenic production of herbicide resistant plants. These products will offer Canadian farmers a superior herbicide-resistant flax crop to address their weed control problems.

RTDS is a proprietary gene targeting technology that utilizes small oligonucleotides delivered into cells to change the targeted gene sequence in situ. This system of directed gene conversion has been successfully applied in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells of both plants and animals.

Herbicide resistant crops have had unprecedented market growth over the last five years, changing the dynamics of the crop protection business as it relates to weed control. Led by Monsanto’s Roundup Ready™ technology, herbicide tolerant crops are now grown on over 100 million acres, most of which are in the US, Argentina and Canada. Roundup Ready®, Liberty Link®, and Clearfield® crops, combined with the irrespective herbicides, have become the dominant weed control technologies in many major markets. The primary benefit for farmers is excellent weed control and the simplicity with which this technology allows the farmer to control major weed problems. The RTDS technology offers the possibility of a non-transgenic herbicide-resistant product for each of the major classes of most modern and popular herbicides. It is especially valuable when applied to plant species for which there is either no transgenic alternative or which must be kept free of transgenic materials for marketing and consumer acceptance reasons. Visit for more information.

Major Accomplishments: Flax Glyphosate Tolerance – June 27th, 2011

  • Work continues with several varieties of Flax germplasm. CDC Bethune is showing both high regeneration capability and good conversion rates and is currently the preferred cultivar for further experiments.
  • Glyphosate selection experiments have been initiated with encouraging results. Further optimization of the preferred concentrations that select for mutations, while allowing sufficient opportunity for regeneration, is underway.
  • Experiments have been conducted to test the conversion frequency using the Cibus plasmid based GFP (green fluorescence protein) system on several flax lines. Results demonstrated higher than expected conversion frequencies observed for the stop GFP gene. Additional work to improve the consistency of these results continues.
  • A bacterial complementation assay was utilized to identify the G96A mutation as the preferred single mutation to confer glyphosate tolerance in the gene 2 background. These results were confirmed upon testing the gene 1 background.

Total Funding Approved:

$50,000 annually for a total of $200,000