10 March 2000

A University of Queensland botanist has criticised vandals who this week damaged part of a pineapple experiment aimed at boosting Australia's economy.

Dr Jose (Jimmy) Botella of the University's Botany Department said the destruction of the pineapple plants had been undertaken by people with little understanding of the project's significance.

An opposition group has claimed responsibility for damaging some plants in a crop of 600 transgenic pineapples owned by The University of Queensland.

Dr Botella said the project involved the world's first transgenic pineapples with benefits for the Australian economy and good news for consumers.

He said the home-grown project could lower production costs, and lead to cheaper pineapples picked at the time of maximum goodness and flavour.

"We're using a naturally occurring pineapple gene to improve the product for consumers and farmers," Dr Botella said.

"Our research group is leading the world in cloning the gene which controls flowering in pineapples. The new gene will allow us to synchronise flowering and
provide a better product.

"It's very safe, and there are benefits for Australia in combating the flow of cheap pineapples into the country by making our pineapples cheaper, tastier and more competitive."