07 September 1998
GM brassicas within three years

SCIENTISTS at Horticultural Research International (HRI) in Warwickshire reckon genetically-modified cauliflowers and other brassicas could be in plant breeders hands in three years. The scientists believe it would then take up to five years for the vegetables to reach the market.

HRI has developed techniques to allow multiple gene transfers of disease-resistant strains. It is the disease resistance qualities that are currently being tested.

Genetic research is also expected to lead to improved quality in mushrooms – the highest value horticultural crop in the UK. They have discovered the genetic trigger which leads to the deterioration of mushrooms once picked.

Professor Chris Payne, the institutes chief executive, heralded a new change in the HRIs direction. It is proposing to make a transition from primary crop production and edible crops to non-edible plants to non-edible plants, added value within the supply chain, food safety and quality and environmental considerations.

But Professor Payne still has an uphill task convincing the public of the benefits of GM food. A survey carried out by the NOP research group shows more than six out of 10 adults in Britain are against the idea of genetically-modified crops.

The survey also showed a relatively high interest in organic food, with one than one-third of adults saying they ate or bought some organically grown produce.