Vintners Will Genetically Engineer Wine Grapes
Pesticide bans will require pest-resistant plants
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 23, 2011 5:54 PM CST
In this photo taken Oct. 28, 2010, young grape plants are seen in the greenhouse at the St. Charles Horticultural Center in St. Charles, Ill.   (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(Newser) – If you enjoy a nice glass of wine every now and again, take note: The species of grape that provides many of the most popular varieties of vino will probably need to be replaced or, at best, enhanced a little, the BBC reports. The EU—the source of 70% of the world's wine—is likely to ban the use of pesticides on "non-essential" crops in the next few years. That's bad news for wine grapes, which—thanks to limited cross-breeding—are "sitting ducks for pathogens," botanist Sean Myles says.

So the wine of the future must repel pests, parasites, and fungus without resorting to spray chemicals. A group of US scientists have plotted the genome of more than 1,000 grape varieties in order to start analyzing the best way to make favorite wine varieties hardier. "If you know the genetic markers associated with these traits, you can plant them out as seedlings, look at its DNA as soon as you get the first leaf tissue, and say for example, 'We'll keep these five because we know their genetic profiles are associated with the traits we're interested in'," Myles says.