March 13, 2012

Modified Blood Oranges Can Be More Easily Grown

The distinctive color of Blood Oranges comes from pigments known as anthocyanins which provide a variety of health benefits such as lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke, along with its distinctive coloring properties, reports Nick Collins, Science Correspondent for the Telegraph.

The pigmentation, however, only develops in certain climates where the fruit is exposed to a brief period of cold weather, meaning the oranges can only be commercially grown in a particular part of Italy and are consequently sold at a premium.

Researchers have identified the gene responsible for the pigmentation and engineered it so that it does not need cold in order to develop. The gene has been implanted into seeds of the more common Valencian variety of orange.

Researchers hope to have their first fruit from the genetically modified plants by the end of the year.

Prof. Cathie Martin of the John Innes Center, who led the research, said, “we can transform this gene into a blonde orange variety and create a cold-independent blood orange, but we have to use genetic engineering to do that.”

“Hopefully in the near future we will have blood orange varieties which can be grown in the major orange growing areas like Florida and Brazil, so blood oranges will hopefully become more available worldwide and the healthy properties will be enjoyed by many more people.”


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