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New study shows that sweet potato is naturally transgenic

A new study of sweet potato genetics has demonstrated the “natural” transfer of DNA, mirroring the processes used by scientists to produce transgenic crops.

In the study, which is published in PNAS, all of the 291 accessions of cultivated sweet potato tested contained one or more transfer DNA (T-DNA) sequences, implying that an Agrobacterium infection occurred further back in the evolutionary tree. Agrobacterium are plant bacteria that can transfer genetic material into host plants’ genomes. This type of bacteria is used by plant biotechnologist to insert desirable genes into genetically modified crops.

The authors express the hope that “Our finding, that sweet potato is naturally transgenic while being a widely and traditionally consumed food crop, could affect the current consumer distrust of the safety of transgenic food crops.”


Journal Reference: Tina Kyndt, Dora Quispe, Hong Zhai, Robert Jarret, Marc Ghislain, Qingchang Liu, Godelieve Gheysen, Jan F. Kreuze. The genome of cultivated sweet potato containsAgrobacteriumT-DNAs with expressed genes: An example of a naturally transgenic food crop.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; 201419685 DOI:10.1073/pnas.1419685112

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