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Crop Biotech Update

A Potato for the Day's Vitamin C Fix

April 13, 2012

Scientists from New Zealand's Plant and Food Research are looking into how plants make ascorbate or vitamin C and have identified the gene that controls its levels in fruits and vegetables. The team added a plant gene controlling GDP-galactose phosphorylase, a vital enzyme to vitamin C production, to strawberry, potato, and tomato. Results showed that ascorbate levels in the mentioned crops could be increased up to 500 percent.

Humans get most of their vitamin C needs from plant sources, many of which have low ascorbate levels. "They add to their vitamin C intake using synthetic supplements," said Dr. William Laing, the study's lead scientist. He added that breeding new plant varieties with naturally occurring vitamin C will reduce deficiencies in populations with less access to fruits and vegetables by giving them the recommended levels through staple foods such as potatoes.

Results of this study is in the May 2012 issue of the Plant Biotechnology Journal. Other details, including the abstract, are available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2011.00668.x/abstract.