The technique, involving 'tweaking' existing genes rather than adding new ones, is likely to be less controversial then GM
3:24PM BST 13 Aug 2014
Genetically ''edited'' fruit and vegetables could soon be appearing on supermarket shelves as experts have discovered how to stop apples going brown and give bananas more vitamin A.
It is believed GE (genetic editing) may be more appetising to consumers than traditional GM (genetic modification) and cause less controversy.
It involves subtly ''tweaking'' existing genes to increase or reduce amounts of natural ingredients a vegetable or fruit already has.
The technique avoids the insertion of foreign genes that has sparked so much heated debate and criticism, especially in Europe.
Bananas could, for instance, be genetically edited to produce more vitamin A, and apples to avoid browning when cut.
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''The simple avoidance of introducing foreign genes makes genetically edited crops more 'natural' than transgenic crops obtained by inserting foreign genes,'' said Dr Chidananda Kanchiswamy from the Agricultural Institute of San Michele in Italy.
Dr Kanchiswamy and colleagues explore the potential of GE fruit in an article published in the journal Trends in Biotechnology.
To date, most genetically altered fruit crops have been developed using a plant bacterium to carry foreign genes into their DNA.
Of these, only GM papaya has been commercialised, partly because of strict regulations in the European Union, said the researchers.
But it was possible that GE plants whose existing genes have been deleted or altered might even be considered non-genetically modified by regulators.
Dr Kanchiswamy added: ''We would like people to understand that crop breeding through biotechnology is not restricted only to GMO (genetically modified organisms).
''Transfer of foreign genes was the first step to improve our crops, but GEOs will surge as a 'natural' strategy to use biotechnology for a sustainable agricultural future.''
Genetic editing has become more of a practical solution due to new technologies such as CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) that make it easier to ''cut and paste'' sections of DNA.
The researchers wrote: ''Combining the increased knowledge of the genomes (genetic codes) of a range of fruit crops with novel DNA-editing technologies will produce new fruit crop varieties with a range of novel traits.
''Such varieties could confer increased expression of desirable aromatics or sweetness, as well as contributing to a more sustainable mode of cultivation, such as pest and disease-resistant phenotypes.''