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Chile: New varieties of transgenic table grapes developed

After thirteen years of research, the Biofrutales consortium developed the first transgenic variety of table grapes in Chile, which have the characteristic of not requiring chemicals to be resistant to the main fungi that attack vines and affect production, such as botrytis and the powdery mildew.

To achieve this grape, from the Thompson Seedless variety, the consortium paid the rights for the U.S. technology that was later perfected in the country in order to have a platform for genetic transformation. It is one of the first experiences in the world, so it will generate great impact, said Rodrigo Cruzat, manager of the consortium that is integrated by institutions such as Fundación Chile, Inia, FEDEFRUTA, Univiveros and different universities.

From a commercial point of view, Cruzat said they had to be cautious because many markets are reluctant to consume these kind of products, but noted that Chile is in an advantageous position because, compared to the United States, Europe or other markets that have been embroiled in controversy and have invested little in this technology, the county has much developed technology for transgenic research in vines.

Biofrutales plans to follow the same development in their stonefruit line (peaches and nectarines), so they are patenting a platform for genetic transformation unlike any in the world. "If someone wants to do genetic research in these fruits, they'll have to ask us for a license," says Cruzat.

The organization, which was created to develop more competitive fruit varieties, has allocated 3,000 million pesos, about 4 million dollars, both from public and private resources, between 2006 and 2011 for various vine breeding programs (61% of the budget), as well as for nectarines and cherry trees. To date, the consortium has also successfully developed two new types of grapes, via conventional breeding (crossing varieties), and is about to finish developing four more.

The grape has a greater importance in Chile than the other fruits, as it is the country's major fruit product. Since it is a widely used species, the changes that can be done to it are so subtle that it takes a lot of work to do them. Hence, they have focused on producing grapes with more flavour, size, without seeds and that perform well in postharvest so they can be sent to distant markets and that have a cluster structure that will help reduce the use of labour. Cruzat added that three projects in InnovaChile and Fondef for 5,800 million pesos - about 8 million dollars- for ten years, had just been awarded, which would allow them to continue the projects they are developing.

Source: Df

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