GMOs on their way out, high-tech-assisted conventional breeding is in

Mother Nature’s little helpers vs. Wannabe Gods: This story weaves an interesting story around a thread we’ve seen elsewhere, that companies like Monsanto and Syngenta are shifting away from transgenic seeds (those in which genes from one species of organism are inserted into another) and into using science’s most advanced tools in the service of native breeding. Reporter Mac Margolis ascribes the growing shift to the rejection by Europe and parts of Asia and Africa of genetically modified organisms, but it may also have something to do with the fact that the most widely commercialized GMOs do only two things — resist herbicides and pests — decreasingly well, and as Elanor recently covered here, aren’t living up to the yield gains promised. “Conventional breeding still does better at building up qualities that require a complex suite of genes, such as the ability to fight off certain insects or to resist drought, which involves a host of genes that determine the way plants take up and manage water,” writes Margolis. And thanks to high-tech tools like marker-assisted breeding, “traditional farming still has a brilliant future.” (Newsweek)

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