Fruits for the world
International scientists appreciate the contribution that Chile is making to add quality and health to agricultural production.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Biotechnology when applied to agricultural processes is called green biotechnology. An example is the design of genetically modified plants capable of growing under unfavorable environmental conditions or plants that are pest- and disease resistant. Green biotechnology is expected to find solutions that are more environmentally friendly than the traditional methods of industrial agriculture.
This is the goal of genetic engineering in plants so they can express pesticides, thus eliminating the need for them to be applied externally, as is the case with Bt corn. The issue of whether green biotechnology products are more respectful of the environment is a matter for debate.
Based on a strong and diversified fruit and vegetable farming sector, Chile’s decision to become a food producing powerhouse is far from a pipe dream. In fact, this is one of the top 10 countries in table grape exports. Likewise, exports from the agricultural, fruit, livestock, forestry, and extractive fishing sectors experienced a 23% increase in 2008. For the same reason, there are also initiatives to improve the quality of these products with biotechnology.
In 2006 the Chileans Álvaro Olivera-Nappa, Andrés Leschot and Felipe Camposano won the first World’s Best Technologies prize in the United States after coming up with a system that naturally modifies the internal structure of apples, making them more resistant to UV rays and stimulating components that are beneficial to human health.
The biochemist Ariel Orellana has been working along the same lines, but in favor of domestic peaches and nectarines, whose shipments abroad generated profits of over US$ 100 million in 2007 and enjoy a significant market share in countries like the United States.
The public-private team from the Andrés Bello University that the specialist led managed to detect, among other variables, some 300 genes responsible for the mealy texture that fruit acquires with the cold. In 2008 the results of this research were valued by over 100 scientists who attended the Fourth International Congress on Fruit Genetics held in the Chilean resort town of Pucón.