Smart breeding: The next generation

Publication - December 1, 2014
While genetic engineering is in the public spotlight but has progressed little, a silent transformation in conventional plant breeding has taken place through the use of marker assisted selection (MAS).

Biotechnology is often equated with genetic engineering, and the support or opposition to genetically engineered (GE) crops is often distilled down to being for or against “science”. Yet biotechnology is about much more than genetic engineering, and science and innovation in biotechnology for plant breeding is about much more than cutting and pasting genes between organisms, as genetic engineering does.

An example of this is marker assisted selection, which uses a conventional breeding approach – it is not genetic engineering. Instead, MAS uses advanced genetic marker technology to assist the breeding of genes conferring the desired trait into new crop varieties, often with traits introduced from wild relatives or traditional varieties to boost genetic resilience. Consequently MAS has fewer safety concerns compared to GE crops, respects species barriers, is more acceptable to consumers, is faster to market and better tackles complex traits like drought resistance.

Smart breeding - The next generation