Genetically Modified HoneySweet Plums

HoneySweet plums genetically engineered to resist the plum pox virus are slated to become deregulated by USDA-APHIS after which growers wil be allowed to cross breed the plums with other varieties.

From the USDA Agricultural Research Service:

Are the added genes in the fruit? Will I be eating foreign genes?

The new DNA is in the fruit. But genes are broken by digestive enzymes in the stomach. We have analyzed the fruit from HoneySweet and compared it with fruit from other plum trees, and there is no significant difference in composition in terms of nutrients usually measured in plums (sugars, acids, vitamins, fiber, etc.).

Despite these assurances, safety concerns have been raised about HoneySweet plums:

  1. Antibiotic-resistance genes in the trees could make bacteria in the soil resistant to antibiotics and increase their potential to cause animal and human diseases.
  2. Any DNA exchanged between another virus and the plum pox virus gene, part of which is inserted in the HoneySweet plum’s genome, could create new viruses with unknown pathogenicity.
  3. RNA molecules in HoneySweet plums could be unsafe to ingest.

For those who are eager to taste the forbidden fruit, HoneySweet plums won’t be available for years and most likely won’t be planted in great quantities until the plum pox virus becomes endemic. In fact, they may be difficult to find. Retailers such as Whole Foods Market and Safeway have already said they do not plan to sell genetically engineered plums.

San Francisco Chronicle, September 16, 2006

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    • Deb L

      That’s kinda interesting :) I like to hear about research and development that are working towards resistance to disease, instead of resistance to pesticide.

      I’m not real crazy about splicing genes cross-kingdom ala the fish-tomato, but using genetics to speed up the normal selective breeding/hybridizing process seems like an excellent idea. Especially if it means we don’t lose food diversity.

    • Hsien Hsien Lei, PhD

      Deb L: Diverse, yes. But tasty? Don’t know. :P

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    • 66

      Yeah GM plums are good they save the fruit and aren’t harmful.

    • robert

      I will never eat this stuff. willingly. Sorry people should not be playing the role of GOD.

    • emma

      thanks you guys for an opinion for my essay!! :)