Tear-free onions

Ever since the Flavr Savr debacle in which buyers roundly rejected a tomato modified to extend shelf-life, few have braved the consumer market. Perhaps the tearless onion developed by researchers in New Zealand will fare better. In collaboration with industrial partners House Foods Corporation, of Osaka, Japan, scientists at Crop & Food Research in Christchurch, New Zealand, have produced a tearless onion by silencing the gene that produces the lachrymatory factor synthase–the enzyme that makes people cry over the chopping board. The modified onions look and taste like the ordinary variety but, so far, have not induced a single case of tearing when crushed. Crop & Food Research is considering commercialization, though that is at least ten years away. “We have always thought that where there are clear benefits to the consumer, there will be better acceptance of this style of biotechnology,' says Crop and Food Research scientist Colin Eady. Public acceptance of genetically modified foods could also be boosted by using RNAi technology to eliminate food allergens. An allergy-free peanut variety has been developed by researchers at Alabama A & M University, who have used RNAi technology to lower the levels of a peanut allergen, Ara h2. “There is wide potential for this technology,” says Eady, who predicts it will be applied to other crops in the future. SA


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Aldridge, S. Tear-free onions. Nat Biotechnol 26, 365 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt0408-365a

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