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Monday, 27 August, 2001, 23:49 GMT 00:49 UK
GM trees fight Dutch elm disease
Professor Kevan Gartland
Professor Kevan Gartland led the research team
Genetically modified elm trees resistant to Dutch elm disease have been grown by scientists at a Scottish university.

The disease, which is carried by a bark beetle, has affected more than 20 million elm trees in the UK since 1970.

Researchers from Dundee's University of Abertay transferred anti-fungal genes into the elm genome using minute DNA-coated ball bearings.

They believe their work could lead to elm trees being reintroduced into their native habitat.

This is an example of environmentally friendly biotechnology

Professor Kevan Gartland
Professor Kevan Gartland, the university's head of molecular and life sciences, said the ground-breaking initiative could help landscapes and ecosystems damaged by fungal tree diseases.

"This is an example of environmentally friendly biotechnology," he said.

'Damaged landscapes'

"Our work in elm trees could be used to help damaged landscapes caused by diseases such as Dutch elm disease and chestnut blight, throughout the world."

There are 40 different species of elms, some of which have a lifespan of up to 300 years.

In the United States, 70% of mature elms have been destroyed since 1930.

The Scottish researchers say they hope their work will make such figures a thing of the past.

The disease prevents water and minerals reaching the branches and the leaves.

Traditional plant breeding techniques have had limited success in tackling Dutch elm disease.

The BBC's Kim Barnes
"Scientists had been trying find a solution for thirty years"
Professor Kevan Gartland, Abertay University
"Principally we worked with English Elm"
See also:

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