Biotechnology and Blueberries

Blueberries November 14, 2011 Print Friendly and PDF

In order to obtain a useful trait in a cultivated plant that may not exist in a species, or to enhance a desirable trait such as yield quality, a biotechnological approach that involves moving a gene from one organism into a crop plant is implemented. Even though this technology has the potential to benefit growers, consumers and the environment, some consumers are concerned about the safety of the genetically-engineered food and its unknown impacts on the environment. In addition, some consumers have moral concerns about crossing “natural” boundaries.

Nevertheless, the potential benefits of using biotechnology to improve the production system are great, and public interest and investment in the field are growing. As a result, large numbers of field crops in North America have genetically modified traits and are accepted by consumers. This is not the case with fruit crops and vegetables, where studies have shown consumers’ reluctance to consume genetically-engineered produce.

There are four major factors that contribute to the vision that it is not likely to have genetically-engineered blueberries on the market anytime soon. These factors include:

  • The blueberry industry is reluctant to have their product associated with biotechnology.
  • Transforming and regenerating cells from woody plants are both difficult processes.
  • There are not many single-gene traits, that if added or improved, will make a large difference to growers or consumers.
  • Concerns regarding engineered genes being moved by bees through pollen grains from cultivated fields to native populations.

It is assumed that if genetically modified blueberries become available, growers may still be reluctant to grow these berries. Despite the potential advantages that genetic engineering could bring to blueberries, it is unlikely that they will be commercially available in the near future.


Reference:

Marvin Pritts. 2006. Genetic Engineering of Blueberries. N. F. Childers and P. M. Lyrene (ed.). Blueberries for Growers, Gardeners, Promoters. E.O. Painter Printing Company, Inc. DeLeon Springs, FL. p. 48.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.