Nibbles: Georgian kitchen garden, Italian citrus history, Domestication infographics, AVRDC, Zambian nutrition policy, Camel-keeping, ESA states its case, Making lunch

One Reply to “Nibbles: Georgian kitchen garden, Italian citrus history, Domestication infographics, AVRDC, Zambian nutrition policy, Camel-keeping, ESA states its case, Making lunch”

  1. The “Further Reading” infographic on plant breeding (card3)at bottom of domestication infographic page is problematic:
    1) Many desired characteristics are polygenic (like, um….flavor, nutrient profile, water and nitrogen efficiency, and durable resistance to disease)….and this visual inaccurately suggests that single gene solutions are readily available;
    2) Traditional breeding is the primary method for developing a cultivar with GE traits. RoundUp Ready Corn is primarily classical plant breeding…99%+ of the genetics are from messy and imprecise luddite cross breeding and selection (yes, with the help of MAS). And the graphic completely skips this reality.

    This graphic is alignment with the PR narrative of biotech as it tries to defend itself from antiGMO critics, which suggests that “traditional breeding” is messy and imprecise and all these unwanted genes migrate over and hey, you should be scared of that! Leaving the often foolish critiques of antiGMO movement aside, this type of spin is being perpetrated by people like Pamela Ronald who refer to traditional breeding as “primitive”.”

    Corn has some 34,000 genes. Modifying one or a few of these genes through GE manipulations does not take away from centuries of focused plant breeding efforts by farmers and scientists selecting and propagating the best plants each generation. In many breeding projects, specific genes are identified in source material and crossed into favorable genetic backgrounds using methods that are both precise and efficient. The incorporation of specific disease resistance genes into varieties of lettuce, cucumber, wheat, tomato, corn, and most of our modern crops has proceeded in this way. In fact, these successes were achieved through very carefully controlled scientific methods that describe the desired outcome (such as a disease resistant variety) at the start of the process and employ procedures designed to transfer very specific chromosome segments from a donor plant. Knowledge of trait inheritance and basic probability are used to plan crosses and calculate the number of offspring that need to be evaluated to recover a desired combination of traits, all without the aid of GE manipulation. These methods can be quite elegant and are not, as Ronald states, “primitive” by any practical measure.
    Compared to classical plant breeding, GE is a narrowly focused technology. One can manipulate simply inherited traits using GE – those controlled by one to a few genes – but cannot cope with complex, quantitative traits – those often controlled by many genes and affected by environmental conditions. Classical breeding is effective for both of these situations and the continuum in between. Plant breeders deal with complex traits and interactions between genes and the environment by using statistical methods that can estimate the genetic and environmental influences on traits and accurately compare the performance of hundreds of breeding lines.

    While the jury is still out on GE technology, the verdict on classical/traditional breeding is incontrovertible.

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