3093 Whither "Orphan" GM Specialty and Small Market Crops?

Friday, February 18, 2011: 3:30 PM
147A (Washington Convention Center )
Alan McHughen , University of California, Riverside, CA
US taxpayers have invested heavily in biotechnology to provide more sustainable, safe and efficient foods and crops.  Since the mid 1980s, USDA, university and small private labs have developed a broad range of “GM” crop varieties, from apples to watermelons, with new and useful traits such as enhanced biotic and abiotic stress tolerance to  nutritional improvements (J. Miller and K. Bradford, 2010. Nature Biotech. 28:1012). Almost a thousand different GM lines of small market and specialty crops (Miller and Bradford, ibid.) were among the almost 17,000 regulated field trials approved by USDA since 1987 (http://gophisb.biochem.vt.edu).

However, in spite of the large public investment, early technical successes and promising results in field trials, only two GM crops developed in public institutions have been released to date, a virus resistant papaya cultivated in Hawaii (D. Gonsalves. 2004. AgBioForum 7:36-40) and a now defunct bioremediation flax (A. McHughen et al. 1997. Can J Pl Sci 77:641-643). Both of these were developed in the late 1980s and released in the mid 1990s.  Certainly, and as in any breeding program, some of the candidate GM cultivars will have failed in trials or for adverse business reasons, but these are still very sparse returns considering the substantial public investment over a quarter century.  Where are the other "Orphan" GM Specialty and Small Market Crops?