QI inquired about genetic engineering of fodder crops and received this answer: "Molecular approaches to improvement of guinea grass, an important tropical and subtropical forage for cattle, have included genetic sequencing and marker-assisted breeding. To

I inquired about genetic engineering of fodder crops and received this answer: "Molecular approaches to improvement of guinea grass, an important tropical and subtropical forage for cattle, have included genetic sequencing and marker-assisted breeding. To our knowledge, genetic engineering has not yet been undertaken." Please define "genetic sequencing and marker-assisted breeding". How do these techniques differ from genetic engineering? Thanks

AExpert Answer

The genes that make up the blue print for an organism are carried on its DNA, which consists of a string with information coded much like letters and words. Genes or sets of genes determine many of the physical and biochemical characteristics of the organism – for example a gene for growth rate, or a set of genes that make a plant drought tolerant. Genetic sequencing is the determination of the precise DNA sequences that make up the genes of an organism (the Human Genome Project is the most famous example of this).  Using this information, researchers can identify certain DNA elements that are associated with particular plant characteristics of interest (“molecular markers”). Breeders can then use these markers to quickly identify individual plants that have the desired characteristics without having to actually grow the plants in the field.  Breeders choose individual plants for breeding that have the markers for the characteristics they need and quickly set aside the plants that do not. This is called “marker assisted selection” or “marker assisted breeding”. This technique allows breeders to cross-breed individual plants to efficiently and reliably add desired characteristics to particular crop varieties. By contrast, genetic engineering involves directly changing the DNA sequences to alter or add to the plants’ genes and create new characteristics.

Posted on March 2, 2017
The term “GMO” typically refers to crops or animals that, through genetic engineering, have had a gene (or a few genes) from a different species inserted into their genome. So yes, by design, to improve a crop or animal with genetic engineering, the genome of the new, GE variety has been changed by the addition of new genes(s).     Your question also asks about whether inserting the new gene(s) will “…activate genes…” Some traits in... Read More
Posted on August 15, 2017
The first use of recombinant DNA technology, was created by Cohen and Boyer in 1972 with E.coli in 1972 and this article explains this advancement in biotechnology in greater detail. Here is an excerpt: “Their experiments dramatically demonstrated the potential impact of DNA recombinant engineering on medicine and pharmacology, industry and agriculture.”   Recombinant insulin was the first commercial product derived from genetic engineering techniques created in 1976 by the... Read More
Posted on May 6, 2017
A gene with a desirable trait can be moved from one organism to another organism as a means to change it. The traditional way is through selective breeding, which is slow, time consuming, inefficient, and transfers more than one gene, so other unexpected and unwanted traits can cause problems. But genes also can be moved in a laboratory, resulting in what has been called a genetically modified (“transgenic”) organism (GMO). GM technology moves only one gene, eliminating other,... Read More
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