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Genetically Engineered Specialty CropsResearch in ARS John W. Radin U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service AC21 Meeting March 29, 2006
Specialty Crops Definition in PL 108-465: Fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and nursery crops (including floriculture)
Specialty Crops in U.S. Agriculture • Create high value (about half of crop product value). • Provide healthful and nutritious foods necessary for a balanced diet. • Diversify income sources for farmers and enhance the rural economy.
How Have Genetically Engineered Specialty Crops Fared Compared to Other Crops? Percent of U.S. Crop (approx.) *Tomato, potato, squash, sweet corn, flax, sugar beet, chicory, rice, tobacco.
ARS Research With Specialty Crops All Research Genetic Engineering Millions of Dollars
Not in competition with the private sector to develop GE products. Genetic engineering is slow and difficult. Conventional breeding often is cheaper and faster. Often there is no commercial outlet for the product. Genetic engineering is slow and difficult. Conventional breeding often is cheaper and faster. Naturally-occurring genetic trait variability is not yet fully characterized and utilized. Principles that Limit ARS’s Genetic Engineering Research Major Crops Specialty Crops
When Does ARS Develop Genetically Engineered Specialty Crops? Case by Case Analysis • Will the project serve a public purpose? • Are there obvious environmental or biosafety concerns? • Will it duplicate or parallel private-sector efforts? • Will conventional breeding suffice? • If the research is successful, is there a means to commercialize the product?
Current ARS Projects on Genetically Engineered Specialty Crops Percent of effort Number of Projects
Papaya • Papaya ring spot virus threatened to eliminate the papaya industry in Hawaii. • The public sector (Cornell, ARS, University of Hawaii) developed GE virus-resistant papayas and biosafety data. • Companies provided no-cost licenses for the technology. • GE varieties have been widely adopted in Hawaii.
Raspberry • Raspberry bushy dwarf virus is a serious problem, with no naturally occurring resistance. • ARS developed a GE virus-resistant strain at the request of growers. • Some biosafety data have been collected in preparation for regulatory review.
Potato • Late blight (the Irish potato famine disease) is back, and it is more resistant to the major fungicide used for control. • ARS and the University of Wisconsin developed blight-resistant germplasm using genetic engineering. • The resistant germplasm is currently being used in variety breeding.
Gladiolus • Virus diseases are the greatest problem with floral bulb crops. • ARS is developing virus-resistant GE Gladiolus lines. • The resistant materials continue to be improved and are not yet ready to submit for regulatory clearance.
Other Examples of ARS Decisions • Plum: ARS developed a plum tree resistant to plum pox virus. It is currently undergoing regulatory evaluation based on ARS biosafety data. • Rose: ARS developed procedures for genetic transformation, then transferred the technology. The field is active, but ARS is no longer involved. • Citrus: Research is underway to create trees resistant to citrus greening disease. There is no resistance in citrus to this devastating pathogen now entrenched in Florida • Turfgrass: ARS declined to participate in development of herbicide-tolerant turfgrasses.
Genetically Engineered Specialty CropsResearch in ARS • ARS manages genetic engineering of specialty crops with case-by-case decisions based on strict criteria (including probability of commercial use). • Flow through the ARS “pipeline” is a trickle, reflecting the priorities of stakeholders. • Genetic engineering could have an important role in improvement of selected specialty crops, especially when other approaches fail.