ecoglobe [yinyang] news (15 December 1999)

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Pesticide-resistant strawberries

From a subscriber to "Biotech Activists":

I thought this report was rather interesting, because (1) this is a commonly available fruit which will have the GE technology, so it will be more of a direct choice for consumers, compared with soy products, which are "hidden" in things like crackers, and (2) the manufacturer will be trying to get EPA to shorten the "reentry interval" for Roundup. The reentry interval is the time that workers must stay out of pesticide-sprayed fields to protect their health. The GE strawberry will therefore require that workers get more exposure to Roundup, and will raise theissue of worker protection. ---

Pesticide & Toxic Chemical News 11/11/99

Oakland company testing glyphosate-resistant strawberries - Janet Byron

An Oakland, Calif. Biotechnology company has produced strawberry plants that are resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) and hopes to market them as a methyl bromide replacement after 2003.

Strawberries are expected to be severely impacted by the loss of the soil fumigant methyl bromide by 2005. Proposed chemical alternatives to methyl bromide for strawberries have "inadequate herbicidal components," Alison Morgan of DNA Technology Corp. reported during the 6th International Research Conference on methyl Bromide Alternatives and Emissions Reductions in San Diego Nov 2.

Once methyl bromide is phased out, "the need for hand weeding and it associated costs are expected to increase substantially ... unless an alternative method of weed control is available." With "Roundup Ready" technology, plants are genetically engineered to resist the herbicide, so that it can be sprayed over the top of crops without killing them. Roundup Ready corn, cotton, canola and soybeans are in widespread production in the United States.

DNA Technology Corp. has finalized an agreement with Monsanto to use their technology in strawberries, Morgan said. "The technology is proven. We're trying to make Roundup Ready strawberry plants." The company has introduced mutant forms of the enzyme EPSPS (enolpyruvylshikimate-phosphate) into plants to induce glyphosate tolerance; 59 lines of "Selva" variety strawberries and 75 lines of "Camarosa" have been tested.

"We see a range of different responses to glyphosate, from no effect to some effect to severely affected," Morgan said. "You do get a variety of expression when you put in genes." Fourteen Selva and 30 Camarosa lines showed good tolerance, she said. In experiments "we are getting quite a lot of unaffected plants," Morgan said. "The real test will be when we take the Camarosa lines to the field in the spring and look at yields." DNA Technology Corp. expects to have commercially available, genetically engineered strawberries available not sooner than 2003 Morgan told Pesticide & Toxic Chemical News. Further refinements, residue testing and grower trials must be completed before commercialization.

When the conference participants questioned how weeds would be sprayed with Roundup through the plastic mulch that is commonly used by strawberry growers, Morgan said "if it works as effectively as we hope, we may have to go to different production methods." Likewise, she said the Roundup reentry interval would need to be as short as two days to accommodate the two-times-per-week harvesting that is common in strawberries.

Janet Byron

[Source: "Biotech Activists" biotech_activists@iatp.org Subject: Roundup Ready strawberries Date: Wed, 8 Dec 1999 21:39:01 -0600]
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ecoglobe [yinyang] news (15 December 1999)

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