The five: ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied fruit

The Guardian Australia - - Science / Technology - Ber­tille Duthoit


It was re­ported this week that Brazil­ian sci­en­tists are hop­ing to cre­ate spicy toma­toes us­ing Crispr gene-edit­ing tech­niques. Although toma­toes con­tain the genes for cap­sai­ci­noids (the chem­i­cals that give chill­ies their heat) they are dor­mant – Crispr could be used to make them ac­tive. This is de­sir­able be­cause, com­pared to toma­toes, chill­ies are dif­fi­cult to farm – and cap­sai­ci­noids have other use­ful ap­pli­ca­tions be­sides their flavour – in pep­per spray for ex­am­ple.


Ge­net­i­cally edited ba­nanas could be re­sis­tant to a dis­ease known as “fusar­ium wilt” that has been at­tack­ing plan­ta­tions across the globe. Re­searchers at the Nor­wich-based startup Tropic Bio­sciences are us­ing gene-edit­ing tech­niques to de­velop a new, more re­silient ver­sion of the fruit af­ter se­cur­ing £7.5m from in­vestors.


Sweeter and even peach-flavoured straw­ber­ries are be­ing worked on by US sci­en­tists us­ing Crispr tech­niques. Due to an EU court rul­ing last year, Crispred­ited foods will be sub­ject to the same reg­u­la­tion that has lim­ited the plant­ing and sale of ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied crops. A ma­jor player in the devel­op­ment of Crispr crops is the agri­cul­tural gi­ant Mon­santo.


The Arc­tic ap­ple is a fruit en­gi­neered to re­sist brown­ing af­ter be­ing cut. Cur­rently they are only avail­able in the US – in golden, fuji and gala va­ri­eties – where they have been given Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­proval. If ap­proved in Europe, they would have to be la­belled as ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied. The man­u­fac­tur­ers claim the main ben­e­fit is to help cut down on food waste.


The sci­en­tist Den­nis Gon­salves de­vel­oped the ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied Rain­bow pa­paya, which can de­fend it­self from pa­paya ring spot dis­ease by in­sert­ing a gene from the virus into the fruit’s ge­netic code. The Rain­bow pa­paya was in­tro­duced in 1992, and is cred­ited with sav­ing Hawaii’s $11m pa­paya in­dus­try.

Soon to be red-hot toma­toes. Pho­to­graph: Alamy

Pho­to­graph: Fabrizio Ben­sch/Reuters

The beloved ba­nana is in peril.

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