13 March 1998

British Sugar backs GM beet

BRITISH sugar is backing basic research into the genetic modification of sugar beet for the UK market.

The work is to be carried out at IACR Brooms Barn with funding from levies paid by growers and British Sugar to the Sugar Beet Research and Education Fund.

The £200,000 a year project aims to perfect a faster and more efficient genetic modification process.

"Sugar beet is particularly difficult to modify," says IACR scientist Effie Mutasa-Gottgens. "This process increases the chances of successfully transferring individual desirable genes by 20 times."

In theory, any gene which would be desirable in the sugar beet plant could be transferred. Initial work is using a gene that can be manipulated to promote or prevent bolting.

"We believe we have to invest in research like this for the future of the UK industry," says British Sugars Mike Armstrong. But the work is not linked to herbicide tolerance, he stresses. The companys neutral point of view to those lines remains unchanged. &#42