Researchers Developing Hardier Plants

June 30, 2006 - 07:52

Scientists at the University of Hawaii (UH) are working to genetically engineer hardier anthuriums and orchids. The university plans to conduct greenhouse trials of types of genetically modified organisms and a field trial on a third organism.

Researchers are trying to develop a bacteria- and fungus-resistant dendrobium orchid and a bacteria- and fungus-resistant anthurium. They also are working on developing a virus-resistant Mexican lime.

Harold Tanouye, president of Green Point Nurseries in Hilo, Hawaii, said the research could help reduce the costs of plant propagation methods aimed at controlling the bacteria that attacks anthuriums. “The biotechnology is a way of reducing the costs of production,” Tanouye said. “We’re doing everything to cut costs in order to remain a viable diversified crop grown in Hawaii.”

In the past, UH’s work on genetically modified crops has been seen as disrespectful to Hawaiian culture. Environmentalists and other groups have expressed concern the genetically modified crops could possible cross-pollinate with non-GMO crops in the Hawaiian Islands. The orchid and anthurium research is not expected to cause as much fuss because the crops are not indigenous to Hawaii.

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