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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 974: II Genetically Modified Organisms in Horticulture Symposium

TRANSGENIC VEGETABLES FOR 21ST CENTURY HORTICULTURE

Authors:   J. Silva Dias, R. Ortiz
Keywords:   biosafety, Bt, GMO, GM-crops, IPM, market, plant breeding
Abstract:
Vegetables are grown worldwide and play an important role in human diets because they provide vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and phytochemicals. Vegetables are also associated with improvement of gastrointestinal health, good vision, and reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, chronic diseases such as diabetes, and some forms of cancer. The consumption and caloric contribution of vegetables to the diet vary widely with geographical region, nationality, local customs, and cuisine. Vegetable production suffers from many biotic stresses caused by pathogens, pests, and weeds and requires high amounts of plant protection products per hectare. US vegetables farmers are benefiting from growing transgenic squash cultivars resistant to Zucchini yellow mosaic virus, Watermelon mosaic virus, and Cucumber mosaic virus, which were deregulated and commercialized since the mid-1990s. Bt-sweet corn has also proven effective for control of some lepidopteran species and continues to be accepted in the fresh market in the United States, and Bt-fresh-market hybrids are released each year. Likewise, transgenic Bt-eggplant was bred to reduce pesticide use and hopefully will soon be grown by farmers in Asia. There are other vegetable crops in the pipeline that have been genetically modified to enhance their host plant resistance to insects and plant pathogens (including viruses), to show herbicide tolerance, and to improve features such as slow ripening that extends the shelf-life of the produce, high nutritional status, seedless fruit, and increased sweetness. Transgenic plant breeding therefore provides genetically enhanced seed embedded technology that contributes to integrated pest management in vegetable production by reducing pesticide sprays as well as improving food safety by minimizing pesticide residues. Furthermore, herbicide-tolerant transgenic crops can help reducing plough in fields, thereby saving fuel because of less tractor use, which also protects the structure of the soil by reducing its erosion. Transgenic vegetable crops could make important contributions to sustainable vegetable production in this 21st century. However, countries vary in their market standards of acceptance of transgenic crops. Biotechnology products will be successful if clear advantages and safety are demonstrated to both growers and consumers.
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