Genetic Modification

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

genetic modification, sometimes called genetic manipulation or genetic engineering, a modern approach to breeding which involves transfer of genes between organisms. This new technology has applications in both viticulture and oenology, and the techniques used are extremely useful for the study of other aspects of vine biology and for more wide-ranging yeast research.

A proposed benefit of genetic modification is the ability to insert foreign genes, responsible for a particular desirable characteristic, into the genetic material of traditional vine varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, without altering the genes concerned with their other characteristics. There are hopes of introducing resistance to fungal diseases and virus diseases as well as to insect pests by the use of this technique, as well as improving berry ripening and quality. Whether such genetically modified vines can retain the same variety name remains to be legally tested. Research groups around the world have produced genetically modified vines; since the late 1990s and early 2000s, field trials have been in progress in Germany, Italy, Australia, and the US with the aim of improving fruit quality and disease resistance. Many governments have introduced strict testing procedures for genetically modified organisms and consumer resistance in parts of Europe has been considerable. It is expected that the commercial availability of genetically modified vines will depend on market acceptance of wines derived from these plants.