Qhow plant breeding technologies have affected variation in major food crops?

how plant breeding technologies have affected variation in major food crops?

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By • February 16, 2018

The following is an excerpt of an article in the Washington Post about how scientists and researchers are studying the genes of the redwoods to try to help preserve them. 

As California’s climate changes to one of extremes and humans continue to harvest, the only coast redwoods on the planet are in peril. The challenge to preserving them is here, in forests like this one — and so, scientists believe, is the key to a solution.

For the first time, scientists are mapping the coast redwood’s genome, a genetic code 12 times larger than that of a human being. By the end of the year, scientists hope to have mapped the complete genome of the coast redwood and of the giant sequoia, a close cousin that also is among the tallest trees in the world, some reaching hundreds of feet high. The genetic code of a single 1,300-year-old redwood from a stand just north of here and of a same-age sequoia will serve as baselines and the first step in better understanding how to make these forests more genetically diverse as a defense against rising man-made threats.

When the three-year project is complete, scientists will have the genetic fingerprints of hundreds of redwoods, a sample large enough to determine which trees have the characteristics to best withstand increased moisture or drought, heat increases or temperature drops. The results will be available as an open online resource, a shared tool for those managing the forests.

To read the entire article, please visit the Washington Post website

By • February 13, 2018

The following is an excerpt of an article at the Genetic Literacy Project website giving an update on the latest news on Golden Rice

Golden Rice is back in the news.

The Philippines and Bangladesh are moving closer towards commercialization of the GMO food crop to combat vitamin A deficiency, a serious public health issue in Asia.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the countries’ joint food safety regulator, recently recommended Golden Rice be approved for import sale in order to limit trade disruptions with countries in Asia that adopt Golden Rice.

What is Golden Rice?

Golden Rice is conventional rice that has been genetically engineered to have high levels of beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. Beta-carotene is found in a variety of fruits and vegetables (it's what makes carrots orange), but rice, which can make up to 80 percent of the daily diet in Asia, contains few micronutrients.

The Golden Rice prototype was developed in the 1990s by European scientists Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer without any direct corporate involvement, and was greeted with much enthusiasm. Potrykus appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 2000 along with the headline "This Rice could save a million kids a year." However, the prototype didn’t contain high enough levels of beta-carotene to be an effective source of vitamin A.

Recognizing the need to improve upon their breakthrough discovery, the scientists licensed their intellectual property to Syngenta on the condition that it would be made available to farmers in the developing world for free. The company developed an improved Golden Rice variety with much higher levels of beta-carotene in 2005 and decided not to commercialize it in the developed world as there was no market for it. Syngenta continues to support the project with advice and scientific know-how, but has no commercial control over it.

The current version of Golden Rice has two transgenes, or genes from another species. One is from corn and the other comes from a commonly-ingested soil bacterium. These two genes activate rice’s metabolic carotenoid pathway, which produces beta-carotene.

Contrary to popular perception, Golden Rice is not a single rice variety. The nutritional traits that were originally inserted in rice plants using genetic engineering have been crossed with many local rice varieties via conventional breeding. This means that farmers in the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Vietnam can maintain the advantages of the cultivars they’ve been growing, improving via conventional methods and eating for years.

To read the entire article, please visit the Genetic Literacy Project website

QWhen and how did the opposition to GMOs start?

When and how did the opposition to GMOs start?

AExpert Answer

Many people have commented on this, offering a variety to reasons for the opposition to GMOs and GM crops. They offer examples such as the detection of BSE in British cattle and the UK Minister for Agriculture publicly announcing British beef was perfectly safe to eat to the detection of dioxins in chocolate, all of which occurred in the late 1990s. At this time, GM food products were entering the market and in some instances even labelled as being GM products, such as GM tomato paste in the UK. These products sold very well.

It is my view that the opposition started when the environmental non-governmental organizations (eNGOs) realized that the public knew very little about science and particularly the science of how plants are bred and how food is produced. These eNGOs successfully lobbied within the European Union to have a moratorium on GM crop production and import that lasted from 1999 to 2003. eNGOs began campaigning in 1999 against GMOs, using online marketing strategies that were designed to scare the public with misleading and false information about the technology. It was at this time that eNGO activists dressed up in all kinds of fictional costumes designed to draw media attention to themselves and their erroneous stories of harm and danger.

As environmental groups launched into these fear-based campaigns, they quickly realized the power that fear had when it came to raising donations from their members and the general public. With the public’s lack of knowledge about the biological sciences behind the innovation, it gave the eNGOs free reign to be as imaginative as they desired in their efforts to scare the public, meanwhile there was no voice coming from the agriculture biotechnology sector that could balance these stories with factual information. So successful were these campaigns of fear, deception and misinformation that the eNGO movement began to abandon their science-based origins, becoming depending on fundraising for political lobbying.


QAre there any alternatives for gmo?

Are there any alternatives for gmo?

AExpert Answer

GMO is a general term that is used to describe a genetic variation that has occurred, which not only happens in nature, but humans have been doing this through selective breeding for over thousands of years. When people refer to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), they are referring to precision plant breeding using genetic engineering. It allows plant breeders to take a desirable trait (like resistance to drought, insects, weeds, and disease) from one plant or organism and transfer it to the plant they want to improve, as well as make a change to an existing trait in a plant they are developing. You may have also heard of agricultural biotechnology or biotech seeds. These are terms that may be used to refer to the same thing – a genetically modified organism (GMO).


As for alternatives, there are plenty of options. Food and food products labeled with USDA Certified Organic are examples. The use of genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is prohibited in these products. Check out more information on this topics here. You can also seek out the “non-gmo” third-party verified labels on products as alternatives.


Genetic Engineering is just one form of a breeding technique used in food production. There are a number of methods used in food production including cross breeding, hybridization and mutagenisis. See the below infographic for details about each of these modern methods.



The nutrient composition of GM crops is equal to that of non-GM crops, as this response explains in more detail.

“Foods derived from GM Crops provide the same nutrition as those from non-GM crops which mean that they provide key nutrients, proteins, and vitamins that your body needs. Testing and FDA review has confirmed this.”


This response also explains how, GMO crops are nutritionally equivalent to their non-GMO counterparts.

QCan the genetic modification change my hair texture from wavy to straight? And if so when it will be possible?

Can the genetic modification change my hair texture from wavy to straight? And if so when it will be possible?

AExpert Answer

There are currently no breeding techniques used to create genetic variations of hair textures. If a person wishes to change their hair texture in any way, they are currently limited to the available hair care products sold for those purposes.


However, new gene editing techniques are continued to be developed for different beneficial purposes and what you are referring to is the possibility of editing genes in humans. Some of the areas to apply gene editing, particularly in humans, are gene therapies specific to cancers, genetic/inheritable disorders, or symptoms that result from genetic flaws. This article addresses some of those types of gene editing.


When people refer to Genetic Modification and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), they are referring to precision plant breeding using genetic engineering. It allows plant breeders to take a desirable trait (like resistance to drought, insects, weeds, and disease) from one plant or organism and transfer it to the plant they want to improve, as well as make a change to an existing trait in a plant they are developing. Genetic Modification and GMOs are currently only created to achieve a desired trait in a plant, such as resistance to an insect or improvement to the ripening process, in order to better meet a customer’s needs.


However, Steve Savage, Consultant, Savage & Associates, explains what the future of GMOs may be like in this response.


There are currently nine GMO crops commercially available today: sweet and field corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, potato and summer squash. Apples are approved and coming to market soon. These nine are the only GMO crops that are commercially available, but it is also important to note that many of these crops are ingredients in other types of food you may find in your local grocery store.


For a more in-depth explanation of what GMOs are and why they are created, we encourage you to read more about them here. This post answers additional tough questions surrounding GMOs and better explains the reason biotechnology is incorporated into agriculture.


In addition, the GM salmon was recently approved by the FDA and is the first GMO food animal to be approved and commercially available. The salmon was genetically modified for a few reasons including to conserve wild fish populations and provide low impact aquaculture. Read more about this first GMO animal, including why and how it was created here.


If you have any other questions about GMOs or biotechnology, please ask!

By • October 20, 2017

The following is an excerpt of  article by Sean Ellis in the Capital Press that profiles the GMO Answers program. 

A website created by major seed companies four years ago to provide consumers with accurate information about genetically modified crops is receiving more than 2 million visits a year.

“We do feel like we are making a difference,” said Michael Stebbins, director of external engagements for GMO Answers.

The website is funded by member of the Council for Biotechnology Information, which includes BASF, Bayer, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto Co. and Syngenta.

The online conversation about genetically engineered crops, commonly called GMOs, is not where CBI members want it to be yet, “but it’s certainly in a better place than it was a couple of years ago,” Stebbins said. “We do feel like we are making a difference and we’d like to move the needle a little bit every year.”

The website invites people to ask tough questions about GMO crops and encourages them to be skeptical but also open-minded. Questions are referred to independent experts who are not paid by GMO Answers, Stebbins said.

He said most of the questions have to do with the safety of GMO crops, “even though this issue has been addressed again and again. People still have their doubts.”

Robert Wager, a molecular biologist at Vancouver Island University in Canada, is one of the experts who donate time to answer questions submitted to the website.

“Very clearly, after 20 years of commercial genetically engineered crops and thousands of tests, there is no evidence that shows genetically engineered crops represent any unique risk beyond the normal uncertainties of plant breeding,” he told Capital Press.

Wager believes the conversation in the U.S. about GMO crops is starting to turn in their favor, thanks in part to efforts by groups like GMO Answers and individual farmers who are “stepping up and telling the public what they do, how they do it and why they do it.”

To read the entire article, please visit the Capital Press website (Subscription Required)


“The public is getting a much more balanced view of this technology than they did five years ago,” he said.



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