GMO citrus, tomatoes and grasses––resistant to disease––next frontier in hopes for consumer embrace of agricultural biotechnology

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Bacterial spots
A tomato infected with bacterial spot (Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden)

While the majority of traditional row crop acres are genetically engineered (GE), there are not many specialty crops that incorporate the breeding technology. However, there are a few and there are other GE specialty crops waiting in the wings that would bring important benefits to growers.

As the Florida citrus industry enters its second decade fighting the plague of greening, GMO technology could be getting closer to providing breakthroughs in fighting the disease. Jude Grosser, a Professor of plant cell genetics at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, has a breeding program dedicated to finding a citrus tree tolerant or resistant to greening.

[Manjul Dutt, a UF/IFAS Horticultural Scientist] has developed a transgenic Carrizo rootstock expressing early flowering genes (18-month-old seedlings flower and set fruit). They are testing grafting hybrids from the breeding program on the rootstock to see if it is possible to speed up the breeding process.

Sam Hutton, an Assistant Professor of tomato breeding and genetics at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, has been trialing GMO tomato varieties resistant to bacterial spot.

[T]he hurdle of consumer perception must be dealt with before bringing the technology forward to benefit the public and the environment. Hutton says it is difficult to say if growers would be willing to adopt the technology with strong the anti-GMO perception that persists today.

Read full, original post: GMO Solutions Waiting in the Wings for Specialty Agriculture

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