USDA gives green light to gene-edited, virus-resistant tomatoes

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USDA gives green light to gene-edited, virus-resistant tomatoes

Gene-edited tomatoes that are resistant to common viruses can be introduced into the U.S. without coming under federal regulations for genetically engineered plants, reports Capital Press.

The USDA has determined that six tomato lines developed by Nexgen Plants of Australia aren’t potential plant pests and thus don’t fall under the agency’s jurisdiction for regulating biotech crops.

Nexgen altered the tomatoes with “particle bombardment” of gene sequences that allows the plants to detect and destroy the tomato spotted wilt virus and cauliflower mosaic virus.

“We only use the native DNA of the plant, we don’t insert any foreign DNA,” Philippe Herve, the company’s CEO, was quoted as saying.

Tomatoes and other plants naturally rely on molecules of ribonucleic acid, or RNA, to recognize and chop up invading sequences of virus DNA, but the pathogen evolves to circumvent this mechanism.

“The plants need time to develop another defense if the virus mutates,” Herve said. “It’s kind of an endless battle between the virus and the plant.”

Instead of waiting for the process to occur naturally, Nexgen assembles components of existing tomato DNA to target the newest strains of the virus, accelerating the development of resistance, he said.

Particles of gold coated with this reconfigured tomato DNA were repeatedly blasted into the plant’s cells. The six virus-resistant lines were created when tomato plants naturally integrated Nexgen’s template into their genes to fight off the viruses.

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