Genetic engineering to improve quality, productivity and value of crops
Abhaya M. Dandekar, Department of Pomology
Neal Gutterson, DNA Plant Technology
California Agriculture 54(4):49-56. DOI: 10.3733/ca.v054n04p49.
Over the next 25 years, we believe that the most significant changes in crops will come about by applying genetic engineering tools. Crops may be bioengineered to produce modified kinds of starch, oils and high-value proteins for better nutrition, medical diagnostics and industrial uses. For example, walnuts and peanuts containing healthier oils, along with oxidative stability, could become available to consumers. Seedless vegetables and other fruits should appear in the marketplace within 10 years. Oil-producing seed crops may be modified to create specialty oils for a variety of nonfood products such as detergents, lubricants, inks and dyes. Feed seeds engineered to produce higher concentrations of sulfur-containing amino acids could improve wool growth in sheep. Plants could be modified to deliver oral vaccines that prevent diseases such as hepatitis and influenza. Strawberries are being targeted by genetic engineering to extend their shelf life, and within 25 years fields may be planted with varieties that allow farmers to control the timing of fruit production. Although currently controversial, we believe genetic engineering will prove to be invaluable to the future improvement of agricultural systems. To enhance the competitiveness of California agriculture, government, university scientists and industry must work together to ensure the application of genetic engineering tools to improve crops.