Cabernet grapes

University of Florida scientists have developed grapes used in wine production that are more resistant to insects and fungus, in what may lead to the first commercially available genetically modified wine.

According to an article in the Palate Press, a team of scientists led by Dr. Dennis Gray of The University of Florida are working with a process called cisgenetic engineering—which essentially means that they only take genes from other grape varieties and not other plants, bacteria or animal species to create the highly pest-resistant grape.

Despite the more natural genetic modification implemented by Gray and his team, the wine industry is not supportive of adulterated grapes. Australia and California wine industry organizations have publically stated they would not support GMO wine, and activists in France recently trashed an experimental GMO vineyard.

But, modified grapes aren’t the only potential offender in wine. Also subject to genetic modification are yeast and bacteria vital to the fermentation process. A malolactic yeast, called ML01 has been on the market since 2003, and promises to reduce fermentation time, which can save winemakers time and money. It also aims to reduce allergic reactions to wine, typically resulting from the sulfites. ML01 allows vintners to add the sulfites at an earlier stage, preventing the growth of harmful bacteria that can lead to a number of health issues. But don’t look for it listed on the label or even on wine producers’ websites. Like all genetically modified ingredients in the U.S., there are no laws in effect requiring listing GMOs on labels. Only certified organic ingredients must be guaranteed GMO-free.

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Photo: cking