New varieties created through genetic editing and engineering promise to beat disease, and offer enticing new flavours
It was reported this week that Brazilian scientists are hoping to create spicy tomatoes using Crispr gene-editing techniques. Although tomatoes contain the genes for capsaicinoids (the chemicals that give chillies their heat) they are dormant – Crispr could be used to make them active. This is desirable because, compared to tomatoes, chillies are difficult to farm – and capsaicinoids have other useful applications besides their flavour – in pepper spray for example.
Genetically edited bananas could be resistant to a disease known as “fusarium wilt” that has been attacking plantations across the globe. Researchers at the Norwich-based startup Tropic Biosciences are using gene-editing techniques to develop a new, more resilient version of the fruit after securing £7.5m from investors.
Sweeter and even peach-flavoured strawberries are being worked on by US scientists using Crispr techniques. Due to an EU court ruling last year, Crispr-edited foods will be subject to the same regulation that has limited the planting and sale of genetically modified crops. A major player in the development of Crispr crops is the agricultural giant Monsanto.