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2-Plants: New GE papaya gene may revive industry Malaysia

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

TITLE:  New papaya gene may revive industry
SOURCE: News Straits Times, Malasia
DATE:   19 Apr 2005

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New papaya gene may revive industry

The papaya industry can be fully revived with the introduction of a new
resistant gene to fight the papaya ringspot virus (PRSV), a disease which
ravaged papaya-growing areas in Johor in 1991.

"The virus completely wiped out the industry in Johor but the new gene has
proven to be able to combat the disease," said Dr Vilasini Pillai
(picture), the head researcher for the PRSV-resistant eksotika papaya.

In 1991, all papaya trees in Johor, the largest papaya-growing State, had to
be destroyed and farms relocated due to the virus, severely damaging the
RM60 million papaya export industry.

Vilasini and her team of researchers from the Malaysian Agriculture Research
and Development Institute (Mardi) developed the resistant gene as the answer
to papaya growers' woes.

"Conventional methods proved a failure," she said. "From the results we have
seen from this new gene, we are seeing some patterns of resistance."

For their efforts, Vilasini and her team won a gold medal at the 33rd
International Exhibition of Inventions, New Techniques and Products in
Geneva, Switzerland, last week.

She was one of Mardi's four gold medallists.

The gene will soon be commercialised with the setting-up of a seed company
to produce and sell eksotika transgenic seeds to farmers.

Eksotika papaya is exported mainly to China and Hong Kong. The
PSRV-resistant gene, Vilasini believes, will boost sales to importing
countries while securing Malaysia's position as a top exporter.

The other gold medals went to Dr Mohammud Che Husain for his work on
creating a low-cost iron filtration system to improve the quality of
irrigated water; Dr Faridah Salam for developing a bio-sensor to quickly
detect chemical residues in poultry; and a team headed by Dr Tan Chon Seng
that created an enzyme to detect DNA and diseases at a fraction of the

Mardi also received five silver and one bronze medal, which meant it won
medals for all 10 entries submitted.

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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