The biology of sugarcane and sugar beet differs considerably. Sugar beet is used as an annual dicotyl crop and has a small and well-defined genome. It has been adapted for high yield performance by hybrid breeding, involving a minimum of 3 different lines with specific biological traits. The application of genomics is concentrated on various methods of marker assisted selection to biological traits and resistance of pests and diseases. Genetically modified (GM) sugar beet are transformed to achieve for the agronomic (input) traits herbicide tolerance and resistance to rhizomania, while the resistance to nematodes and fungi is under research. Creating a GM variety is a very complex process which takes more than 10 years. Sugar beet hybrid seed is principally propagated only by breeding companies. Because of specific hybrid breeding pattern companies can keep the variety under lock and key. Sugarcane is a perennial grass and has a large and variable genome. Different direct related species were crossed to commercial varieties, which are clones. These are easily propagated by stecklings. Genomics are used primarily to define precisely the genetics of varieties and their relation to wild species. GM sugarcane are transformed to achieve herbicide tolerance and resistance to various pests and diseases. Compared to sugar beet, creation of a GM variety is very easy and takes only few years. Stecklings can be propagated by breeders, research institutes and even by farmers. The improvement of biochemical output traits in both crops by transgenics has been yet described. Realisation of this in the short term is not likely because of complex biochemical relations. Contrary to sugar beet biotechnological approach with the closely related crops of maize, sorghum and even rice can be used intensively in sugarcane research. In Germany the first GM sugar beet varieties tolerant to herbicides are now being officially tested. At most care is taken to ensure disposal of trial beets as any food use in not yet allowed in Germany as well as Europe. The market release is not expected within the short term because of insufficient performance and delayed authorisation of marketing by the EU. Furthermore it is unknown, when consumer acceptance permits marketing of sugar derived from GM sugar beet.
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