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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 June, 2003, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
GM grass 'stops hayfever'
Woman blowing her nose
The grass could stop the misery of hayfever, its designers claim
Scientists have designed a genetically modified grass which should not trigger hay fever.

Thousands of people suffer sneezes and sniffles every summer.

Australian researchers have genetically modified two types of ryegrasses so they do not trigger an allergic response.

Pollen

The types modified two types of ryegrass, perennial and Italian, which are used for lawns and grazing for animals.

They account for around 70% of grass seeds sold in the European Union.

If someone is allergic to ryegrass, they will also react to almost all temperate grasses
Tim O'Meara, Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney
But it will be around five years before the genetically modified seeds could be available.

Further research is needed, including studies into how far pollen from the grasses spreads and how frequently it pollinates other grasses.

Scientists will also look at whether the modified gene has any other impact on the grass, in addition to making it less likely to provoke allergies.

German Spangenberg, of the Plant Biotechnology Centre at LaTrobe University in Melbourne, who led the research, said: "The beauty of this grass is that it will benefit the wider public, not just the primary producer."

Public debate

But the GM grass will not stop people being allergic to other grasses.

Tim O'Meara, an expert in allergies from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, said: "The big problem is other grasses.

"If someone is allergic to ryegrass, they will also react to almost all temperate grasses."

And anti-GM campaigners have concerns about the wider impact on the environment.

Peter Riley, GM spokesman for Friends of the Earth, told BBC News Online this was the type of GM research which had no real benefits and which was unlikely to reach the market.

"There is currently a public debate on the issue and GM scientists are promoting GM.

"There are many applications which are way off the mark and will never reach the market because of the guidelines which protect the environment."

The research, published in New Scientist, will be presented to the forthcoming conference of the International Congress of Plant Molecular Biology in Barcelona.


SEE ALSO:
Pollen link to asthma risk
16 Sep 02  |  Health


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