By ELLIOTT MINOR, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 26, 7:40 PM ET
ALBANY, Ga. - A leading industry group has given scientists the go-ahead to build genetically engineered peanuts that could be safer, more nutritious and easier to grow than their conventional version.
The work could lead to peanuts that yield more oil for biofuel production, need less rainfall and grow more efficiently, with built-in herbicide and pest resistance — traits that have already been engineered into major crops such as cotton, corn, soybeans and canola.
For consumers, the work could lead to peanuts with enhanced flavor, more vitamins and nutrients, and possibly even nuts that are less likely to trigger allergic reactions, a life-threatening problem for a small percentage of the population and a major food industry concern.
A few researchers have been genetically modifying peanuts for at least a decade, but their discoveries have had little impact because the industry, fearing a consumer backlash, was reluctant to support the work.
However, with the two leading peanut-producing countries, China and India, working aggressively on transgenic peanuts, the American Peanut Council and its research arm, the Peanut Foundation, this month approved a major policy change. The council represents all segments of the industry — growers, shellers, exporters and manufacturers.
The foundation urged scientists to move ahead with "due diligence" on genetically engineered peanuts.
The work is expected to cost about $9.5 million and will require university, government and industry support.