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expert reaction to review of plant breeding technologies for fruits and vegetables

A new review, published in Trends in Plant Science, examines the use of different plant breeding techniques to potentially enhance colour, texture and taste of the produce, as well to inform conventional breeding programs.


Prof Huw Jones, Professor of Translational Genomics for Plant Breeding at the Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS), Aberystwyth University, said:

“‘Wow factor’ traits such as colour, texture and taste often come from naturally occurring mutations in MYB transcription factors (genes that control genes). Although plant breeders have unwittingly selected these for generations, this paper describes how new genomic knowledge combined with gene editing tools can purposefully nudge these control genes into further improving crop quality in a targeted manner. This is important because climate change will inevitably drive a resorting of global agriculture by dictating what crops can be best grown where. Rapid and predictable breeding methods (like the ones described) will ensure we can keep pace and continue to put the very best combination of genes into our future seeds.”


Prof Derek Stewart, Agri-Food Business Sector Leader at the James Hutton Institute, said:

“This review by Drs Allen and Espley nicely brigades the current thinking, progress and potential that surrounds the MYB family of transcription factors.  The development of this science and its translation into the bio economy offers up huge potential with opportunities for creating bespoke health tailored fruit and vegetables, sustainable colours for the food ingredients sector or even viewing these new, manipulated crops as discreet and sustainable miniature chemical plants producing a range of complex chemicals for food and non-food used. The future for agriculture is set to blossom.”


Dr Mark Taylor, Research Programme Leader at the James Hutton Institute, said:

“The regulatory framework for the use of gene editing in crops may enable their commercialisation in the near future in some regions. In a recent clarification, it was stated that the USDA does not plan to regulate plants that otherwise could have been developed through traditional plant breeding techniques. In the EU there are indications that crops generated by gene-editing approaches might not need to be regulated by the rules that govern genetically modified organisms following the publication of a formal opinion from an advocate general in the European Court of Justice.”


* ‘MYBs Drive Novel Consumer Traits in Fruits and Vegetables’ by Andrew C. Allan and Richard V. Espley published in Trends in Plant Science on Thursday 19 July 2018. 


Declared interests

The James Hutton Institute is currently investigating the potential of gene editing technologies in crop plants in work funded by the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Programme.


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