Stronger Plants Through Plant Engineering

Rather recently, the first transgenic plants reached the market place. These concern crops such as corn, soybean, cotton and rapeseed. They are transgenic through engineering of a bacterial gene. Their new properties, such as insect resistance, herbicide tolerance or yield increase through engineered hybrid vigor, are in the first place important for large scale, industrial agriculture.

The increased research on molecular plant physiology is now preparing the second wave of plant products. Satisfactory results have been obtained for engineering delayed ripening of tomatoes and melons by interfering with ethylene biosynthesis.10,11 Such an approach might be attempted with some tropical fruits. Many interesting types of fruit are locally collected and consumed by people living in or near the tropical forest. These fruits are often fast ripening and sensitive to bruising, so that they cannot be transported or marketed. Initiating marker-assisted breeding and engineering firmness and delayed ripening might result in a higher value fruit. It could be the beginning of propagation in the tropics of a new type of orchard derived from fruit trees identified in the tropical forest.

A completely different class of transgenic products consists in plants producing antigens or antibodies.12 At present, Medicare, as practiced in Europe, the United States or Japan, is prohibitively expensive for developing countries. Since, in the next century, 85% to 90% of the world population will be living in these areas, less expensive alternatives should be urgently pursued. Expression of antibodies has been successful. Such constructs can in principle be used for altering a biochemical reaction in the plant, for instance when the antibody is reacting with a key enzyme of the pathway. Antiviral antibodies can also be expressed, or antibodies can be produced that are needed in clinical or biochemical laboratories or even industrial productions (antibody columns). Antigens expressed in fruits or vegetables, which are eaten uncooked, can be used for oral vaccination. For the tropics, it would be important if such developments could be done with help from the developed world.

Organic Gardeners Composting

Organic Gardeners Composting

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