Florida, it turns out, grows more than citrus fruits. The state has vineyards and winemakers, and it’s nurturing a mini-boom in viticulture. The climate, of course, isn’t anything like Napa Valley, and regional plant diseases make grape cultivation difficult. So regional scientists are experimenting with a genetic improvement that may allow some species of Florida grapes to thrive as much as oranges or grapefruit.
The nannies are not pleased. While Florida wine enthusiasts told CNN how thrilled they are with the scientific approach to their passion, Jane Rissler of the Union of Concerned Scientists
couldn’t let this moment of pleasure go by without predicting doom and gloom. “Could adding the new gene add a new toxin?” she warned. “Could it be a — cause a new allergenic protein to be expressed?” Scare tactics aside, Florida wineries are looking forward to reaping the benefits of biotechnology. One vintner told CNN: “It will be a good thing for this industry. It will open up a whole world of grapes that we can grow that we can’t currently grow now.”
In a similar story, the genetic improvement of a tomato to grow in salt-heavy soils without tasting any different has the Center for Food Safety’s Andrew Kimbrell
up in arms. “Nobody knows enough about the safety of these things,” he told the Associated Press. “I don’t think anybody wants to participate in an experiment.” But the plant scientist responsible for this breakthrough insists that he’s “not doing anything different than farmers did a thousand years ago. Nothing bad is going to happen. This is a solution, not a problem.”