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Mutat Res. 2007 Sep 1;622(1-2):122-37. Epub 2007 Feb 17.

Genetic modification of plant metabolism for human health benefits.

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  • 1New Zealand Institute for Crop & Food Research Limited, Private Bag 11-600, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


There has been considerable research progress over the past decade on elucidating biosynthetic pathways for important human health components of crops. This has enabled the use of genetic modification (GM) techniques to develop crop varieties with increased amounts of essential vitamins and minerals, and improved profiles of 'nutraceutical' compounds. Much of the research into vitamins and minerals has focused on generating new varieties of staple crops to improve the diet of populations in developing nations. Of particular note is the development of new rice lines with increased amounts of provitamin A and iron. Research on modifying production of nutraceuticals has generally been aimed at generating new crops for markets in the developed nations, commonly to deliver distinctive cultivars with high consumer appeal. Most progress on nutraceuticals has been made with just a few types of metabolites to date, in particular in the production of novel long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in oil-seed crops and to increase amounts of flavonoids and carotenoids in tomato and potato. However, given the rapid progress on elucidating plant metabolite biosynthetic pathways, wide-ranging success with metabolic engineering for levels of human health-related compounds in plants would be expected in the near future. A key aspect for future success will be better medical information to guide metabolic engineering endeavors. Although the desired levels of many vitamins are known, detailed information is lacking for most of the nutraceuticals that have attracted much interest over the past few years.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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