Animal feed: Domestic rapeseed instead of imported soy
The origin of animal feed in agriculture has come into political focus: BioSuisse wants to reduce the proportion of foreign concentrated feed, and the Drinking Water Initiative even wants to allow only farm-produced feed. The protein-rich press residues of rapeseed would be ideally suited as feed for livestock with the help of "genome editing". Instead of imported soy, domestic rapeseed could be fed to animals. This makes ecological sense and strengthens regional production.
Thursday, May 14, 2020
- With the help of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene scissors, rapeseed press residues could be used as animal feed in the future.
- This would mean that less animal feed, such as soy, would have to be imported from abroad.
- From an ecological perspective, this makes sense.
Rapeseed is the most important plant in Europe for the production of oil. Oil production produces press residues that have a high protein content and a favorable composition of amino acids. These are good prerequisites for use as animal feed. However, the plants also contain large amounts of phytic acid. The antinutritional properties of this substance limit the use of the press residues as feed for animals. By means of genome editing, the content of phytic acid in rapeseed grains could be significantly reduced and the feed quality of rapeseed meal and rapeseed cake improved. Researchers at Kiel University were able to use the CRISPR/Cas9 gene scissors to induce targeted changes in those genes involved in the synthesis of phytic acid. As a result, the phytic acid content of certain plants could be reduced by a third (27-35 percent).
Fewer imports, more regional products
The development of alternative protein sources such as rapeseed strengthens regional production and also makes ecological sense. Growing rapeseed with lower levels of phytic acid gives local farmers the opportunity to produce additional good quality animal feed without changing the characteristics of the crop for oil production. Thus, a significantly higher output can be achieved on the same area of land. Such sustainable intensification results in more land for biodiversity conservation. Indigenous animal feed also reduces dependence on CO2-intensive feed imports such as Brazilian soy.
Less food loss thanks to firmer grains
New genetic engineering techniques such as genome editing can improve the properties of crops. One example in rapeseed is increasing pod firmness. When threshing, it is common for ripe rapeseed pods to burst open. With firmer pods, bursting can be prevented and less rapeseed is lost in the field. This is reported by "Schweizer Bauer" in its print edition of March 31, 2021.
At the end of October, swiss-food.ch hosted a film screening and panel discussion in Zurich on the subject of genome editing entitled “Between Protest and Potential”. The well-attended event dealt with the emotional debates in recent decades surrounding genetic engineering. The event showed that the situation has changed fundamentally.
To denigrate green genetic engineering, narratives that do not stand up to scrutiny keep popping up in the public debate. The aim in each case is political. Recently, the false claims are intended to prevent the regulation of new breeding methods such as Crispr Cas from being technology-friendly.
The science magazine "Einstein" of Swiss Television has addressed the new breeding methods. The report clearly shows that there is no way around these new methods if Switzerland wants to continue cultivating popular apple varieties such as Gala, Braeburn, and Golden Delicious.
In future, the EU wants to treat genome-edited plants in the same way as conventionally bred ones. As the "NZZ am Sonntag" writes, this is like a small revolution. Until now, the commercial use of gene scissors has been impossible due to an extremely restrictive genetic engineering law.