Genetically Altered Squash Is Due Soon High-Tech Vegetable Will Resist Certain Viruses

Article excerpt

The Department of Agriculture on Tuesday gave final permission for a new genetically altered vegetable to go on sale in U.S. supermarkets. But people who buy this disease-resistant yellow squash, expected on shelves next spring, probably won't know they're getting a product of biotechnology.

The yellow crookneck squash developed by the Upjohn Co. is unlikely to carry a special label, Upjohn says, and that has drawn protests from some environmentalist and consumer groups.

The world's first genetically engineered food, the "Flavr-Savr" tomato that went on sale in October, has been voluntarily labeled by its producer, Calgene Inc., which both developed the seeds and grows the tomatoes.

Upjohn will sell seeds to squash farmers. The seeds will be labeled, but the company said Tuesday that farmers and stores will be under no obligation to label the resulting squashes and probably won't do so.

The genetic change to the squash is meant to help it better resist viruses while it is growing. Scientists at Upjohn subsidiary Asgrow Seed Co. inserted a gene in the squash's hereditary code that helps it resist certain viruses. Farmers now fight the viruses by spraying insecticides to kill the insects that spread them.

As scientists have learned how to alter the basic genetic instructions of life, companies and many scientists have been anxious to apply these techniques to agriculture. …