Univ of Florida scientists say anti-GMO public sentiment having ‘detrimental’ effect on crop research

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University of Florida researchers are making significant advances in genetic engineering — breeding strawberries, papayas and tomatoes that are disease-resistant and growing plants that produce larger yields.

But their work is not destined for commercialization, due to a lack of financial backing and interest in getting these products through all the regulations necessary to put them on the path to the local supermarket and our dinner tables.

Public opinion is having a detrimental effect on research, scientists say, because growers in Florida don’t want to invest the millions it would take to push GMOs — short for genetically modified organisms — through the federal regulatory process for fear the public won’t buy them.

There are genetic solutions that look good for combating citrus greening, a disease that has wiped out $4.5 billion in citrus plants and threatens the $9 billion state citrus industry. But it’s a good 10 years before such solutions are fully tested and regulated, and thus they become extremely expensive, UF professor Kevin Folta said.

Public perception has “shut down the release of improved plant varieties around the world using this technology,” said Dennis Gray, a professor at UF’s Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka.

“The only ones that can come out are the ones companies can spend several millions of dollars going through the regulatory process,” Gray said. “Universities have tons of stuff on the shelf that can never see the light of day.”

Read the full, original article: Genetically modified foods face hurdles

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