Good Fruit Grower

February 15, 2017

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8 FEBRUARY 15, 2017 GOOD FRUIT GROWER A s the fi rst genetically engineered apple hits the market, it may look like the fruit indus- try is staking out sides in the GMO debate. Okanagan Specialty Fruits hopes to fi nd customers willing to pay a premium for its Arctic apples that don't brown after slicing. Meanwhile, many growers are eager to reassure consumers that their conventional apples remain naturally delicious. But that debate is likely to become more confusing as new technologies blur the lines between conventional crossbreeding and genetic engineering. Advances in genomics are happening faster than reg- ulators, consumers and farmers can keep up, bringing new opportunities to reduce pesticide use and grow better fruit along with growing confusion about what we mean when we say genetic engineering, or GE. Forget "Frankenfoods." Today's bioengineers no longer need to blast genes from fi sh into tomatoes to increase cold tolerance; they are editing plant DNA directly with the precision of a scalpel. And conventional crossbreeding today is often less conventional than you'd think, thanks to DNA sequencing and trait tests used to plan crosses. The potential application of emerging technologies for crop improvement is vast and, for this issue, I looked at two research efforts that are using genetic engineering tools unimaginable just a few years ago to enhance the disease resistance of fruit crops. It remains to be seen if growers and consumers will embrace genetically edited Chardonnay or apples bred with a GE ancestor. But both cases offer a snapshot of the benefi ts that the new era of biotechnology brings to the fruit industry, as it also muddies longstanding GMO battle lines and challenges out-of-date regulatory strategies. "We've been having these discussions for decades, predictably, because of the continuum of these tech- nologies. The current technology was unthinkable two or 10 years ago, and we can't imagine what the next technology will be," said Jim McFerson, director for the Washington State University Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center. He also serves on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Genetic Resources Advisory Council. GMO debate is getting Special Report: Disease Resistance As growers and regulators try to keep up with advances in genomics, questions arise over what is and is not genetically engineered. by Kate Prengaman ANALYSIS DISEASE RESISTANCE Page 10: New DNA-informed and genetically engineered tools allow breeders to quickly give modern cultivars blue mold resistance found in wild apples. Page 14: Researchers hope gene editing technology can make wine grapes resistant to downy mildew. ISTOCK IMAGES/GOOD FRUIT GROWER ILLUSTRATION

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