GE crops are very limited in sophistication, being almost completely dominated by herbicide tolerance and insect resistance traits. Could the numerous tools of biotechnology deliver better outcomes? This report tries to answer that question.
Genetic engineering has an inability to deal with complex (multi-genetic) traits (often the ones most useful, such as increased yield) and, latterly, its delivery record – given the large amount of private and public sector money and political oxygen – is becoming increasingly difficult to justify.
A different application of biotechnology – marker assisted selection (MAS) – is quietly making a significant impact. MAS 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.