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scientists respond to development in GM plant research

The new research, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, described a new way to develop GM plants.

Dr Huw D Jones, Research Group Leader at Rothamsted Research, said:

“Although many scientists in this field are striving for the total removal of selection markers, this still represents a significant advance.

“Potential problems resulting from horizontal gene transfer of bacterial resistance genes have been overstated in the past, however this discovery represents a significant advance because it avoids the need for cross-kingdom gene transfer.

“This new resistance gene will allow us to transfer a beneficial plant gene to another plant with no foreign DNA hitchhiking along for the ride.

“Many people have ethical concerns about scientists moving genes across kingdoms and this discovery will allow clean, plant-to-plant, gene transfer with no foreign DNA hitchhiking along for the ride.”

Chris Leaver, Professor of plant science at Oxford University, said:

“Selectable antibiotic resistance markers (ARMs) have played an absolutely key role in the development of plant biotechnology and have been proved over time to be a safe and inexpensive technology for researchers worldwide. Nevertheless they remain of public concern, even in the absence of scientific evidence, and moreover they serve no purpose in the new plant.

“In consequence efforts to produce the next generation of transformation selection methods are looking at a number of alternatives including techniques to take out the antibiotic resistance gene once they have served their purpose.

“Thus the experimental use of a naturally occurring plant gene reported in this edition of Nature Biotechnology is timely and to be applauded as a novel idea for a selectable marker.”

Notes to Editors 1) This paper appears in Nature Biotechnology this week. For more information about the paper, contact Katherine Mansell on 0207 843 4658.

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