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D. Crop Engineering Proceeds -- With Caution

Narrator: This is Science Today. Plant breeders are always looking for ways to create tougher, more disease-resistant crops. A breakthrough came recently when biologists cloned a family of genes that give resistance to several types of plant disease. Brian Staskawicz of the University of California, Berkeley says the discovery opens up the possibility of someday engineering disease resistant crops.

Staskawicz: Can you take a gene from a tobacco plant and put it into a soybean plant and have it confer resistance? These are things that we can test right now. We don't know the answer, and we're currently interested in pursuing that.

Narrator: Ever since genetic engineering began, scientists have debated its safety. Some talk about the disaster that would occur if, for example, a weed accidentally picked up a disease resistance gene. But Staskawicz points out that a number of genetically engineered plants are already in development.

Staskawicz: A lot of these things are being field-tested right now, so by the time that our stuff gets there, there will be a lot more information available. So it's something that we're aware of, and we'll proceed with caution on it.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Steve Tokar.