GLG Life Tech Corp. (TSX: GLG) announces another major agricultural breakthrough. Through its non-GMO 2014 agricultural program, GLG has developed a new stevia seedling variety that is expected to decrease the cost of producing high-purity Rebaudioside A (Reb A or RA) stevia extracts by 50 percent to 60 percent. Dubbed the "Super RA" or "SRA" variety, this strain contains double the amount of Total Steviol Glycosides (TSG) and nearly triple the amount of Reb A glycosides than contained in conventional stevia leaf on the market today.
With such a huge increase in Reb A glycoside content, producing one ton of either intermediate or high-purity extract will require far less stevia leaf—the predominant cost factor—than is presently required. Other costs of production will also be reduced correspondingly. In sum, compared to the overall costs of producing Reb A extracts using today's conventional stevia seedlings, GLG expects costs for the production of Reb A extracts to be cut by more than half.
Laboratory results have confirmed GLG's initial findings regarding leaf content. The SRA leaf contains 21 percent TSG, which is double today's average leaf content of 10 percent to 11 percent TSG. It is this dramatic jump in TSG content that is the primary factor in the tripling of Reb A content. Additionally, the percentage of TSG that comprises Reb A is 76 percent, compared to an average value today of about 50 percent. On a dry weight basis, this means that Reb A is present in the SRA leaf at levels of about 16 percent (relative to total leaf weight), compared to less than 6 percent for conventional leaf. Furthermore, the SRA variety derives from GLG's Huinong line of stevia plants, which, in addition to producing high-Reb A and high-TSG, also carries traits of high leaf or biomass yield (typically 30 percent to 40 percent bigger than conventional plants) and high disease resistance.
Such leaf, so rich in Reb A, is truly the first of its kind; moreover, this announcement comes on the heels of GLG's news release last week regarding its new Reb C seedling. That seedling, also a first, contains some 600 percent more Reb C than conventional stevia seedlings. Like the SRA seedling, GLG expects this new Reb C seedling to be have a substantial impact on the stevia market. GLG expects to implement both the new SRA and Reb C seedlings in a limited capacity in 2015. GLG looks forward to full-scale commercial implementation of both beginning in 2016.
The Company is in the process of filing for patent protection for its SRA seedling. The seedling's development was overseen by the GLG agriculture team through its wholly owned Chinese subsidiary—Anhui Bengbu HN Stevia High Tech Development Co. Ltd.—an institution at the forefront of stevia agronomics. Dr. Luke Zhang, CEO and chairman of GLG, had this to say: "With these stunning developments, it is safe to say that GLG's agricultural program is having an extraordinary year. We do not plan to stop there, however, as we continue our efforts towards making similar leaps and bounds with our Reb D and Reb M seedling varieties."
In addition to having patented stevia agriculture and technology, GLG leads the way when it comes to stevia in the Food and Drug Administration's Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) program. It has already received three letters of no objection for various Reb A stevia products, including Reb A extracts with purities greater than 95 percent and 97 percent and products with TSG greater than 95 percent that have Reb A as the primary glycoside. GLG has also received a letter of no objection for its high-purity Rebaudioside M extracts. It currently awaits word from the FDA on its GRAS filings for high-purity Rebaudioside C and high-purity Rebaudioside D extracts. GLG remains committed to ensuring that all of its naturally sourced sweetener products are compliant with the GRAS program.