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2-Plants: Miraculous GE world (1): Rat genes in lattuce feed the world



----------------------------- GENET-news -----------------------------

TITLE:  Gardening - Veggies
SOURCE: The Associated Press, by George Bria
        edited and sent by Agnet, Canada
DATE:   February 21, 2000

-------------------- archive: http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------


Gardening - Veggies

POUND RIDGE, N.Y. -- According to this story, broccolini, a cross 
between broccoli and a Chinese kale, is having a good run in the 
supermarket and a few years ago, a maroon carrot made its debut in 
Texas. And a just-announced lettuce with greatly enhanced Vitamin C, 
thanks to a rat's gene, derived through biotechnology, may be in the 
future. The story says that at least a few of these unusual 
vegetables will someday see our home gardens, but how many make it 
depends on climate adaptability, seed availability and other factors.

The story adds that the Vitamin C lettuce, for example, needs much 
regulatory screening before it can even be tasted. But with gene 
experimentation, controversial as it may be, the promise is out there 
for startling creations that would revolutionize farms and gardens. 
Genetically engineered, the Vitamin C lettuce is the creation of two 
Texas A&M scientists, Craig Nessler and Ashok Jaim. Their work is 
reported in the February 2000 issue of the journal Molecular Breeding.

Broccolini, which means baby broccoli, was, the story says, developed 
by Sakata Seed America Inc., a California breeder, which took eight 
years to finalize the cross. A company spokesman was cited as saying 
seeds will not be available for home gardens before 2001 at the 
earliest because they're in short supply. Meanwhile, they go to a 
couple of commercial growers who market the vegetable nationwide.

Nessler was cited as saying in a phone interview that the gene was 
cloned from a rat because rats easily synthesize Vitamin C and that 
the trials were done successfully with both lettuce and tobacco, the 
new plants containing up to seven times the amount of the vitamin 
than plants that did not receive the gene.

Nessler said the new lettuce retains color and stays fresh longer and 
could eventually help overcome vitamin deficiencies of diets in the 
underdeveloped world. He indicated similar experiments would likely 
be successful with other plants, like rice and tomatoes. But he 
himself has yet to taste the lettuce, he said, because of regulatory 
restrictions. 

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