Quality Traits

Genetically Engineered Quality Traits


The committee held a webinar on Tuesday, April 21 at 2pm – 4pm EDT to gather information from invited speakers.

Click here to view the full webinar.

What are quality traits?

Quality traits are crop characteristics valued by consumers and retailers. Quality traits can be introduced to crops through conventional plant breeding, but they can also be incorporated through genetic-engineering techniques that more precisely select and insert the genes that code for desirable characteristics. Examples include apples that are more resilient to bruising and rice that has increased levels of vitamin A.

Why did the committee hear about quality traits?

To consider the future prospects for genetically engineered crops, the committee was interested in hearing about projects underway to enhance quality traits using genetic-engineering technologies.

The following slideshow provides a brief introduction to the topic.

Watch the Quality Traits Webinar and hear what the speakers presented to the committee!

Neal Carter, President, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, (00:06:55 mark), discussed the development of the Arctic® Apple, which is engineered to not brown when sliced, bitten, or bruised. View bio

Neal Carter is president and founder of Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF), a grower-led biotechnology company specializing in the creation of novel tree fruit varieties. Outside of OSF, he and his wife Louisa grow and pack apples and cherries from their orchard in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. For over 30 years, Neal has worked with numerous crops as a bioresource engineer around the globe, ranging from maize to mango, from growing to harvesting, packing, storage, processing and packaging. It was through this firsthand experience that Neal was persuaded that biotechnology can help agriculture meet ever-expanding global food demand. Neal and Louisa founded OSF in 1996 in order to explore opportunities to utilize biotechnology to boost fruit consumption and growers’ sustainability. OSF’s flagship project is the development of nonbrowning Arctic® apples, which have been engineered to resist enzymatic browning by silencing the genes that produce polyphenol oxidase, the enzyme that drives the browning reaction. The first two Arctic® apple varieties, Arctic® Granny and Arctic® Golden, have recently received regulatory approval in both Canada and the United States, and it is expected they will be available in grocery stores within a few years. With apple consumption flat-to-declining for the past couple decades, Neal believes that Arctic® apples will provide a consumption trigger for the industry by making apples more convenient as well as providing numerous other benefits throughout the supply chain, including reducing food waste.

Mark McCaslin, Vice President-Research, Forage Genetics International, (00:35:13 mark), discussed genetically engineered traits in alfalfa that reduce lignin content and extend the harvest window. View bio

A California native, Mark McCaslin attended the University of California at Davis, where he received B.S. and M.S. degrees in agronomy. Mark earned a Ph.D. in plant breeding from Cornell University in 1981. Mark has worked in alfalfa breeding for over 30 years and has been responsible for developing over 250 alfalfa cultivars. He was a co-founder and currently serves as Vice President–Research of Forage Genetics International. Forage Genetics International (a wholly owned subsidiary of Land O’Lakes, Inc.) is a global leader in alfalfa and corn silage biotechnology, breeding, seed production, sales and marketing. Mark and his wife Jessica live in Minneapolis, MN.

Craig Richael, Director of Research and Development, Simplot Plant Sciences, (01:04:48 mark), discussed the development of the Innate™ potato, engineered to be less prone to bruising and to contain less asparagine, which reduces the potential for acrylamide to form when the potatoes are cooked at high temperatures. View bio

Craig Richael obtained a B.S. degree in plant sciences from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology from the University of California-Davis. In 2001, he joined the Simplot Plant Sciences team as a scientist working to develop genetic transformation systems for potato and other crops. His responsibilities evolved into supervising greenhouse and field testing of transgenic potato plants for trait efficacy and line selection. Since 2013, he has acted as Director of R&D, guiding the development of Innate™ GM potato products. Craig enjoys putting into practice the J. R. Simplot Company’s motto, “Bringing Earth’s Resources to Life”.

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