Crop Biotech Update

USDA Approves Field Trials of Gene-edited, Virus Resistant Tomatoes

July 31, 2019

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted approval to NexGen Plants of Australia to conduct field trials of their gene-edited virus resistant tomato lines. The tomato lines Solanum lycopersicum NP-TV101-1, NP-TV101-2, NP-TV101-3,NP-TV201-1, NP-TV201-2, NP-TV201-3 were developed at the University of Queensland. The USDA has determined that the six tomato lines do not fall under the federal regulations for genetically engineered plants.

The gene-edited tomato plants were altered using particle bombardment of gene sequences, allowing plants to detect and destroy the tomato spotted wilt virus and cauliflower mosaic virus. Plants rely on RNA to recognize and fight invading viruses, but the pathogen evolves to circumvent this mechanism. Plants need time to develop another defense when this happens. Instead of waiting for the process to occur naturally, Nexgen assembled components of existing tomato DNA that will target the newest strains of the virus, accelerating the development of resistance, according to Philippe Herve, the company's CEO.

For more details, read the letter of inquiry from NexGen, the response from USDA, and article from Capital Press.

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