GMO Wines & Vines

There is an interesting AP story making the rounds today about an effort to combat various wine grapevines…using genetic modification.

They ask the right question in the story: will the wine industry and consumers happily adopt the idea of vineyards planted with genetically modified vines, let alone the wines made from them?

The effort is taking place in Missouri at a place called "Center for Grapevine Biotechnology", where it turns out they are also part of the global cooperative project to uncover the genetic make up of the world’s grapevines via "International Grape Genome Program."

Here in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties there is a very strong movement against the use of GMOs. Mendocino County banned the use of them. In Sonoma there was a similar ballot measure that failed. But it wasn’t a landslide.

I wonder if it is already enough to ask consumers to look at the vintage, the varietal, the appellation and the pretty picture on the label without asking them to look somewhere on the product for the symbol or message indicating if the wine was made with GMOs?

Seems to me the scientific work is surely worth while. The question is will the effort ever turn from pure science to practical use.

5 Responses

  1. Rob Cole - June 15, 2006

    Things like this are tough decisions, because on one hand, you would want to do almost anything to help your vines become disease-resistant, but on the other hand, you don’t want anything that is GMO.
    Of course, isn’t grafting techically a form or genetic modification?

  2. Roger - June 15, 2006

    I think that “genetic modification” is one of those things that’s poorly understood – after all, cross pollination is a form of genetic modification. However, there is a vast difference in my mind between tinkering to make a strain that would have been possible by trial and error over time versus splicing in say fish genes or tomato genes into grapes.
    The former kind of GM is “ok” by me, the latter is not.

  3. Derrick Schneider - June 15, 2006

    Christy Campbell covered this a bit in The Botanist and the Vintner, because of research into giving European rootstock the ability to fight off phylloxera (rather than grafting).
    The problem with GMO fear is that it’s a blanket statement. Moving an anti-phylloxera gene from one species of vine to another is quite different than putting a fish gene into tomatoes, and thus introducing possible allergies and other problems.
    But no one will look past the little GMO warning.

  4. dfredman - June 15, 2006

    But Roger, just think of the practical possibilities of such an idea!
    What if they were to splice cattle and or pig genes into say, Cabernet Sauvignon vines? We’d not only give winemakers a boost toward a natural food and wine combination but growers wouldn’t have to worry about their vineyard’s sun exposition- they’d simply herd the vineyard into another region of their property to improve the exposure of their Cowbernet Sowvignon™ vines.
    As Tom mentioned, science for the sake of science isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The strides in hydroponic growing techniques alone could be considerable, as researchers develop methods with which to grow Chenin Blanc vines underwater so as to encourage the scallop genes they’ve been crossed with (or maybe they’d work out how to breed crustaceans that would be able to survive on dry land throughout their vine’s complete growing cycle).

  5. Winzerblog - June 15, 2006

    Unfortunatelly, there are winemakers in this world,which use already GMO-modified wineyeast.
    @Rob Cole
    It`s understood by the customers in Europe, they don’t want this stuff. But Industrie and Politic ignore this circumstances and just go on.

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