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2-Plants: GE ryegrass could help to stop hayfever

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TITLE:  Grassroots GM could help to stop hayfever
SOURCE: The New Zealand Herald, by Simon Collins
DATE:   Nov 25, 2002

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Grassroots GM could help to stop hayfever

Australian scientists have developed a genetically modified grass that 
could cure hayfever for 95 per cent of summer sneezers. The new kind of 
ryegrass halves the two main allergens in ryegrass pollen which cause 
hayfever in 10 per cent of the population every year - about 400,000 New 
Zealanders. The director of Agriculture Victoria's Plant Biotechnology 
Centre, Professor German Spangenberg, told the Pacific Rim Biotechnology 
Conference in Auckland that a field trial of the low-allergen grass would 
start in the United States this month. He hopes the new grass will replace 
existing ryegrass varieties - around 80 per cent of New Zealand pastures. 
But it will be five to 10 years before the new grass becomes available 
commercially. Dr Spangenberg, who is also a professor at Melbourne's La 
Trobe University, said the breakthrough showed genetic modification could 
help solve serious health problems. It is part of the world's biggest gene 
discovery programme in ryegrass and clover, conducted with New Zealand's 
AgResearch. An expert on allergies at the Auckland medical school, Dr Peter 
Black, said hayfever affected 10 to 20 per cent of New Zealanders, though 
some were allergic to house dust mites and suffered all year round. 
Ryegrass was the predominant source of seasonal hayfever. Green Party 
health spokeswoman Sue Kedgley said the new grass should be fully tested 
before being sown by farmers.


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