The new apple varieties that will eventually result from this work will provide benefits to the consumer in terms of a more healthful product, and to the apple grower in terms of lower costs of production and high prices for their apples. As a result of our research, a private company has signed a cooperative agreement with Cornell to develop the technology for commercial use, and has provided a grant to support further research.
impact statement issue
The usefulness of biotechnology for improving plant varieties is well recognized. However, the involvement of antibiotic resistance marker genes is a drawback that concerns some consumers and growers. Our goal was to use gene transfer techniques in apple plants without using antibiotic resistance genes, so that the technology would be more acceptable to the public and therefore more attractive to growers to use.
impact statement response
We have now developed a suitable technique that allows us to transfer genes into apple plants with relatively high efficiency, without the use of any marker gene. This avoids the introduction of antibiotic resistance genes into the apple plant. Apple growers have responded positively to this development. Their research board in New York has supported our work with additional funds to implement the technique for disease resistant apple varieties. A private nursery company is also interested in using the technology to develop and introduce new apple varieties.
impact statement summary
Selectable marker genes are widely used for the efficient transformation of crop plants. In most cases, selection is based on genes for antibiotic or herbicide resistance, which are most efficient. Due mainly to consumer and grower concerns, considerable effort has been put into developing strategies to eliminate marker genes from plants after transformation. However, these methods are generally of low efficiency. For the commercialization of transgenic plants the use of a completely marker-free technology would be greatly preferable, since there would be no involvement of antibiotic resistance genes. This would eliminate the marker gene as a source of consumer and activist concern, and would simplify the regulatory process. With this goal in mind, we have now developed a technique for apple transformation without any selectable marker. Transformation of apple plants with an apple gene that increases disease resistance without a marker gene has been achieved. An excellent yield of transformed plants has been obtained with two apple varieties and two different genes. The impact of this technique is that transgenics without marker genes is so preferable to transgenics with a marker gene, that any user will demand it, and others developing transgenic varieties for commercial use will be under not to use marker genes. Although the technique is relatively simple for anyone familiar with plant transformation, the results are unprecedented for fruit crops as far as we know.