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Transgenic Plants Grow in Moscow Region
May 26, 2010 17:38

Russian biologists use the town of Pushchino, located in the Moscow region, as a field for growing genetically modified plants: wheat, flowers and fruit trees.

At the moment genetically modified plants, which are mainly maize, cotton, soybean and rapeseed, cover territories as large as 134 million tilled hectares all over the world. Russian legal regulations forbid growing transgenic plants, and Russians have mixed feelings on this matter. However, despite the prohibition, transgenic plants do grow in Russia, but only at test plots of Russian science and research institutions.

The “Biotron” facility of Pushchino science town, which belongs to a branch of the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry of Russian academy of sciences, hosts experiments with genetically modified plants, performed by Russian scientists and their foreign colleagues. Russian biologists consider genetically modified wheat, main export cereal crop of our country, to be a promising biotechnological trend for Russia. Wheat genes, responsible for some certain resistance properties, have complicated structure, and that is why making stress-resistant wheat modifications is a hard work, which not always ends successfully. Most popular technique for introducing another organism’s genetic material is called “ballistic transformation” – wheat cell culture is “bombarded” by gold particles (or particles of any other inert metal), covered with alien DNA molecules. “Shooting” is at random, however, alien DNA finds itself inside target cells.



Wheat often suffers from various fungous diseases, and, in order to make this cereal more resistant to mycoses, Russian biologists add genes of rice and oat into wheat genome. About one fifth of all cultivated territories in the world suffer from salinification, and Russian biologists experiment with introducing a barley gene, encoding resistance to high salt concentrations, into wheat.

Another interesting trend in genetic modifications is transgenic flowers. Russian biologists created genetically modified golden daisies, which were resistant to red spiders. These flowers were tested in Dutch CPRLO centre, where scientist noticed that resistance-coding gene from snapdragon made petals of golden daisies colourless.

Russian geneticists also modify fruit trees, such as apple and pear trees. Modification aim is forming resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, for which purpose genomes of pears and apples received genes of plant defensins from radish, cloned in the Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology. Defensins are proteins, which in nature protect seeds during germination period. In order to make apples and pears taste better, geneticists improved their genomes with a gene of super-sweet protein thaumatin II from a tropical plant Thaumatococcus danielli. This protein is 6000 times sweeter than sugar.

All mentioned works are still field experiments. Legal regulations and lack of funding make these innovations wait for their time to come. Foreign companies spend $100 million and about 10 years for creating a single transgenic culture. Half of money goes to studies of how safe a culture is for animals and human beings.

Source: Science & Life

Kizilova Anna

Tags: Russian Scientists     

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