Beth von Gunten wrote:
> Genetically modified coffee seen hard to swallow
> PHILADELPHIA, PA, May 2 (Reuters) - Researchers may eventually be able to
> genetically modify coffee plants to resist insects or produce caffeine-free
> coffee beans, but public resistance could delay such developments for at
> least 10 years, a Monsanto Co (MTC - news) specialist said on Sunday.
> James Zarndt, a commercial team leader within Monsanto's specialty crops
> group, said the company was concerned about the public's understanding of
> what genetic modification of plants really means. He said until people
> were ``comfortable'' with the idea, Monsanto would move moderately slowly
> into the area.
> He told Reuters it was not feasible to suppose there could be any approvals
> for genetically modified coffee until at least the end of the next decade
> because of current public uncertainty and the perception of the industry.
> ``Processors and growers are telling us what their challenges are. Whether
> it is in the area of producing naturally decaffeinated coffee or
> insect-control issues, the scientists need to identify the genes that are
> responsible for controlling those issues within the plant,'' Zarndt said.
> He said the process to remove caffeine from coffee hurt flavor and taste,
> so researchers would aim to produce trees which had been genetically
> modified to develop ``naturally'' decaffeinated beans.
> ``They (scientists) believe the proper genes have been identified in
> certain laboratories around the world but it has not been proven yet in the
> field or in the factory,'' Zarndt added.
> While there had been very little research into genetically modified coffee
> yet, he said Monsanto was researching possible opportunities. According to
> Zarndt, Monsanto has not conducted any coffee-related consumer research but
> he believed U.S. coffee drinkers have shown less concern over accepting
> plant modifications than Europeans.
> He cited many obstacles facing coffee growers, particularly pressures from
> disease and insect control.
> ``At the present time they are using pretty significant chemical solutions
> such as fungicides and insecticides but one has to wonder if those are
> sustainable practices. There are potential solutions in the area of insect
> control in particular that biotechnology may be able to provide,'' Zarndt
> Speaking on the sidelines of a four-day Specialty Coffee Association of
> America (SCAA) annual meeting and exhibition, Zarndt said Monsanto was
> currently looking at the opportunities which existed for coffee
> biotechnology but had not yet engaged in any genetic modification trials.
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