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Apr 28, 2012

California Fruit & Nut Crop Vulnerable - Need For More GM Tree Research on Disease-Resistance

Honeysweet GM Plums
Virus-Resistant against plum pox virus
USDA approved but not yet commercialized
Photo: USDA/ARS 
An article published in spring 2012 in California Agriculture studies the importance of the fruit and nut tree crop to the economy in California and the United States.  It concludes that these trees are vulnerable to diseases and that little gene-modified (GM) research has been done on how to develop trees that are disease-resistant. As this sector accounts for 33% of California's cash farm receipts and 70% of the total fruit and nut production in the U.S., this lack of research makes this sector of the economy vulnerable.

The reason for the lack of GM research on fruit and nut trees is that it is more complicated in woody tree crops than other crops.  After reviewing published GM research and issued field trial permits on woody tree crops from 2000 to 2011, the article concludes that:
  • citrus and grape were the most studied fruits
  • walnuts, and not almonds, were the focus among nut crops
  • most of research initiatives already undertaken focus on finding resistance against the top-identified pests and diseases. 
  • trans-grafting (grafting a GM transgenic rootstock to a conventional wild-type scion) offers the most promising GM technology in addressing disease-resistance and insect-resistance.
The article notes that California has been "relatively open to biotechnology and GM agricultural innovations." It has been referred to as the “birthplace of biotechnology."  Based on this legacy, since 2000 it has been the number one recipient of GM field test and environment test permits from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).  This is more twice that of any other U.S. state.  

For more see: 

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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