GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
  Dec 21, 2014 | 3:38 am
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Fruits and Vegetables

Apples


Genetically modified apples are a long way from approval. Even field trials are few and far between. Nonetheless, genetic engineering could open the way for solutions to disease problems that are spreading throughout Europe and plaguing orchards.

Apple growers in Europe have to deal with dozens of different diseases including fire blight, apple scab, and powdery mildew.

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Apple scab is the most important disease affecting apples. The diseased is caused by a fungus that overwinters in dead leaves.

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Fire blight is a disease caused by bacteria. Affected branches look as if they were "burned". The bacteria enter the plant through openings such as wounds and cracks or, as is often the case, via the flowers. They overwinter in the bark and reproduce in the spring. The disease is spread primarily by insects, but can also be spread by wind, rain, and pruning shears.
 

Fire blight is caused by bacteria and has been spreading throughout Europe causing significant losses in recent years. Fire blight is highly contagious, affecting apples, pears, and quince. There are no known means of effectively controlling fire blight that are considered ecological and safe.

Apple scab and powdery mildew are fungal diseases that are also responsible for significant losses. Both of these diseases can be mitigated using targeted, preventative measures. Under certain circumstances fungicides may be used to manage these diseases.

Throughout the past decades, apple varieties have been bred with better resistance to these diseases. Nonetheless, even the improved varieties don't have what it takes to fight off disease when conditions are favourable for infection.

For this reason, several institutes, including institutes in Europe, are working on developing new possibilities for plant defence using genetic engineering. Certain genes have been transferred to apples that produce substances that either destroypathogens or block infection.

  • A gene isolated from a fungus allows apples to produce chitinase. This enzyme can break down the cell walls of fungi.

  • There are many other active compounds similar to this that are encoded by known genes. Several of these genes are being tested in apples.

Very few of these projects have been tested in the field. Most are still at the laboratory or greenhouse stage. If these genetic engineering approaches actually prove to be effective and the derived fruit prove to be healthy and safe, a large amount of fungicides and other spraying could potentially be avoided.

As of yet, no genetically modified apples have been approved anywhere in the world. This is not likely to change in the next few years. It is expected, however, that the amount of GM apple field tests will keep increasing. By the end of 2006, nine field trials with GM apples were registered in the EU. Numerous field trials have been underway in the US.

There are also projects developing insect resistant, transgenic apples. In the US,transgenic apples with delayed softening are being developed with longer shelf life, so that fruit can ripen on the tree.

 


An EU Research Project

What are the risks of growing GM crops?

What are the benefits?

Numerous studies have addressed the potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) plants. Yet the existing evidence on the effects of GM plants is often contradictory and the quality of scientific research varies widely.

Therefore, the GRACE project will establish new tools for assessing the quality of existing studies and will conduct comprehensive reviews to identify health, environmental and socio-economic impacts of GM plants.

More information

Fruit and Vegetables
GMO-Procucts: Not to buy yet
Tomatoes
Bananas
Papayas
Apples
Grapevine
November 27, 2006 [nach oben springen]

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