Submitted to: United Kingdom Product Review
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 25, 1999
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture have developed and patented a new procedure for genetically engineering major crop plants. The genes are moved into the pollen of the flowering crop plant by means of a high voltage shock, and the genetically modified pollen is then placed back on the female part of the flower to make genetically modified seeds. This procedure is rapid and bypasses many of the difficulties encountered by other techniques used to move genes into plants. In concert with BTG International, a patent marketing firm, the rights for this technology have been released to several commercial ventures.
The expression of foreign DNA in plants has recently proved to be a successful mechanism for increasing the value of seed products. Crops with new resistance traits to pests and herbicides now offer growers alternative crop-management practices which may lead to reduced dependence on chemical pesticides. Current transformation methods often rely on the regeneration of plants from cell or tissue culture, which is time consuming, expensive and, for many species, inefficient or even impossible. Extensive research at the Agricultural Research Service (USDA) has yielded a new method for transforming plants which is not dependent on regenerating plants from tissue or cell cultures. The unique plant transformation system developed by the two of us (James A. Saunders and Benjamin F. Matthews) allows the genetic engineering of plants with desirable agronomic traits such as resistance to insects, disease and herbicides, and quality traits such as enhanced nutrient value.