4-Patents: Public-private partnership gives Mars patent rights over GE cocoa
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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------
TITLE: Resistance genes key to protecting chocolate supply
SOURCE: Agricultural Research Service - US Department of Agriculture
by Don Comis, http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/thelatest.htm
DATE: October 15, 2001
------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------
MARS incorporated - 5th Principle - Freedom
Mars is one of the world's largest food businesses, and - almost uniquely
today - is still a family-owned company. Private ownership has been a
deliberate choice and has allowed Mars to retain its freedom. [...]
Profit allows us to remain free, to invest wisely, to endure short-term
lows in return for long-term highs and to run the business in our own
distinctive manner. [...]
Resistance genes key to protecting chocolate supply
Anyone who needs a chocolate fix would do well to fear witches’ broom,
frosty pod rot and black pod.
A major supplier of chocolate lovers, Mars, Inc., wants to protect the
world’s cocoa beans from these and other fungal diseases. Agricultural
Research Service scientists, led by plant geneticist Raymond J. Schnell at
the ARS Subtropical Horticulture Research Station in Miami, Fla., have
signed a research agreement with Mars to develop more resistant cacao trees
as quickly as possible.
Large pods holding 20 to 60 cocoa beans rich with chocolate butter sprout
from cacao trees. The diseases rot mature pods. Witches’ broom gets its
name from the white, broomlike fungal structures that form on leaves, pods
and stems. It also inhibits new pod formation.
Witches’ broom has reduced Brazil from a net exporter to an importer of
cocoa beans. Frosty pod rot has closed farms in Ecuador, Colombia and Costa
Rica. Now, black pod rot threatens the West African plantations that supply
more than half of the world’s cacao. If the other two diseases were to
reach West Africa and join forces with black pod, the world could all but
kiss chocolate goodbye.
ARS scientists have found 75 cacao genes similar to resistance genes in
other plant species. These may help scientists breed more resistant
varieties. If the resistance genes are clustered together, the known genes
could lead to discovery of their neighbors.
The United States is working with Brazil, Costa Rica, Trinidad, Ecuador and
the United Kingdom. These countries have long-standing cacao breeding
programs and have supplied the range of plants needed to map the cacao
genome’s 10 chromosomes.
Mars, Inc., has waived its patent rights to any new varieties that might
result from this research.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research
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