[gardeners] New GM plant development

Terry King (gardeners@globalgarden.com)
Sat, 4 Aug 2001 10:10:41 -0700

Yesterday I heard a very interesting interview of a Cell Biologist working
at UC Davis.  He has developed genetically modified tomatoes and canola that
will grow and thrive in saline conditions.  At first I thought Oh No, not
another one but this one makes wonderful sense.  Evidently tomatoes and some
other plants naturally have genes for a protein that allows for adaptation
to saline conditions.  For over one hundred years breeders have been trying,
unsuccessfully, to breed salt tolerant domestic crops.  What this guy did
was modify the tomatoes with the same protein that tomatoes can produce but
don't.  He took the protein from a salt tolerant mustard.  What the protein
does is tell the plants cells to store the salt in the cells vacules.
Evidently the fruit does not contain extra salt, has the same sugar and
protein content of ordinary tomatoes.  The plants will also grow in
non-saline soil/water.

What this breakthrough means, when it becomes commercially available, is
that all the thousand of acres of farm land that have become unavailable
because of salt buildup in the soils, can be put back into production.  Arid
areas that have limited freshwater can even water the crops with 40%
seawater.  The plants will also desalinize the soil after a time.

I haven't seen a down side to this genetic modification.

E. WA.