What do you get if you cross a grapevine with a jellyfish? Seriously–this isn’t a joke! The answer? Glow-in-the-dark grapes! Dr. Dennis Gray, a botanist at the University of Florida, managed to merge the two species more than a decade ago, not so you could find your glass of wine in the dark, but as a means of marking genetically modified disease resistant grape vines.
Gray had been working for years, trying to come up with a way to make the Florida-grown grapes resistant to the native bacteria. He found that inserting silkworm DNA into the most popular and profitable grape plant, Vitus vinifera, would make it resistant to Pierce’s disease, which was caused by a nasty Floridian bacteria. He combined the luminescent jellyfish DNA with the silkworm DNA as a way to tell if the grapevine had successfully been reengineered.
I didn’t start out to blog about fluorescent wine, grapes or grapevines, but about where the wine industry stands in the move to genetically alter just about everything that we eat and drink. While grape culture has been constantly tweaked through the centuries, I think wine aficionados won’t put up with the type of genetic engineering that goes on with other parts of agriculture. Certainly, Europe hasn’t put up with it and would undoubtedly refuse to accept American wines if there was any chance of modification. Currently, some wines are produced using genetically modified yeasts, but many vineyards are resisting the trend. Unfortunately, the vineyards are not required to reveal the GM yeasts on their labels, but many are proud to tell you on their websites or labels if they are free of GMO’s.
So, for now, drink up! Your glass of wine is far healthier for you than a glass of soda!