STUDY: Plant Breeding and Genetics

By Michael Stebbins • May 09, 2017

The following is a press release announcing a new research paper from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) on plant breeding and genetics. 

Many think it is time for another green revolution, one that utilizes technological innovation in smart, sustainable ways. Humans depend on plants for food, feed, fiber, and fuel--as well as less tangible aspects of life such as aesthetics and environmental stability. This paper is the first in a series that connects science and technology to agriculture, and it focuses on the critical importance of innovation in plant breeding to meet the challenge of providing food and nutritional security to humankind.

The ultimate goal of plant breeding is to develop improved crops through enhanced productivity, processing, marketing, and quality. The authors of this issue paper use science-based information and peer-review methods to establish the importance of plant breeding innovation, and they cover several key areas:

  • The science of plant breeding and genetics
  • The need for encouraging the next generation of scientists
  • The current role of government policy and regulations
  • The need for cooperation and collaboration at all levels, including the public-private nexus

The ultimate goal of plant breeding is to improve crop performance for traits or defined characteristics, and this paper outlines current practices and future developments--homozygous lines, phenotyping, hybridization, and many other scientific innovations. In our increasingly connected world, the process also includes computers, big data, and the transfer of technologies.

As the global nature of food security becomes more entwined, several key aspects of plant breeding take on increased importance: (1) government regulations need to be science-based, harmonious, and synchronous; (2) international trade is crucial to promote productivity and spread the benefits; (3) financial investment needs to come from all sectors; (4) common sense intellectual property protection will attract investors; (5) farmers must be actively involved in the implementation of the technology; and (6) consumers need to understand, trust, and accept their sources of food.    

According to most agriculturalists, investing in plant breeding is "growing our future." This paper provides factual information for the public and policymakers alike as the world faces an increased need for secure food. Game-changing crop technologies are an important part of the continued transformation to make agriculture a major contributor to ecosystem integrity while feeding the world. 

This CAST Issue Paper (IP57) and its companion Ag quickCAST are available online at the CAST website

Posted on January 31, 2018
Thank you for your question. There are various aspects of your question. I assume your question refers to the use of Agrobacterium rhizogenes by scientists to intentionally transfer genes from the bacterium to plants. Infection and DNA transfer from this bacterium occurs in nature all the time to cause disease. Such transformed plants are not classified as GMOs since transfer occurred naturally. If this is done by scientists then it would be classified as a GMO. Rules and... Read More
Answer:
Posted on March 1, 2018
I’m a Monsanto scientist who has more than 20 years of experience with genetic modification of plants. I will try to answer your question, even though I don’t ever do experiments on animals, certainly not on humans, of course! Can humans be genetically modified…but a much bigger question is should humans be genetically modified? There are two ways to think about genetic modification of humans (or any animal). One way is modification of somatic cells, and the other is the... Read More
Answer:
Posted on May 10, 2017
The simple answer is that 20+ years of composition assessments of GMO crops have demonstrated that crop composition is not appreciably affected by the GM process (1). In addition, data collected through that time have indicated that general factors such as the growth environment can contribute to notable variation in component levels (2). Plant agglutinins (or lectins) and amylase inhibitors are examples of anti-nutritional compounds that may be present in crops. The relevance of such a... Read More
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