Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/25/2010
Publication Date: 6/1/2010
Citation: Scorza, R. 2010. Virus resistant plums through genetic engineering - from lab to market. Meeting Abstract. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Genetic engineering (GE) has the potential to revolutionize the genetic improvement of fruit trees and other specialty crops, to provide greater flexibility and speed in responding to changes in climate, production systems and market demands, and to maintain the competitiveness of American agriculture. It is an approach that can precisely target genetic improvements and allow for the development of novel, useful traits. The benefits of this technology have been demonstrated in field crops. In spite of the potential utility of GE for the genetic improvement of fruit trees and other specialty crops, the technology has not, to date, been widely exploited in these species, and few GE specialty crops have been commercialized. Plum pox virus (PPV) is a major pathogen of stone fruits that entered the U.S. in 1999 and is the subject of quarantine and eradication programs. We have developed a GE plum 'HoneySweet' that is highly resistant to PPV through the mechanism of RNA silencing. 'HoneySweet' is an example of GE that can be of significant benefit to growers and consumers, one that also provides a unique genetic resource for use in conventional breeding. A number of other specialty crops with improved traits have undergone successful field testing, yet few have gone beyond the field test stage. Why has progress been so slow? Do scientists have the training, desire and support of their institutions and granting agencies to undertake market-oriented work that involves managing regulatory and intellectual property issues, industry and public outreach? Should they be involved in this work at all? When should industry be engaged? Are new models and support structures needed to develop the pipeline from lab to product? The development and progress in the public release of 'HoneySweet' plum will be used, along with other examples, as a backdrop for discussing the issues related to the development of GE specialty crops for commercial release with an emphasis on the public sector.