The use of molecular genetics to improve food properties

Many of the initial studies in plant biotechnology were focused on developing new plant varieties with better yield rather than changing the properties of the plant-derived fruits. Thus, genes conferring resistance to several biotic and abiotic stresses were incorporated in cultivated plants. As a consequence, since 1995 a number of crops with improved agronomic traits have been available for farmers in some parts of the world. Biotechnology has also the ability to create new varieties focused on product quality and output traits rather than agronomic traits. Fruit commercialisation of a genetically engineered canola plant with modified oil content occurred in 1996 (Yuang and Knauf, 1997). It was a milestone in the long path followed by many research groups towards genetically modified plants with improved properties for human consumption. This has been partially the result of combating the attitudes of consumers to genetically modified foods. These aspects constitute the topics reviewed in the present section. In addition, it has recently become clear that the use of transgenic plants as living reactors constitutes an advantage for the inexpensive production of some proteins and metabolites that are economically important. This new trend in the application of plant biotechnology is also reviewed in this section.