Discussing breeding and GMOs
March 30, 2018
By Jannen Belbeck
While putting his issue together, I was reminded just how intricate (and complicated) disease is. Let’s look at Fusarium head blight (FHB) and its many forms as an example.
According to the researchers, F. poae is often the most commonly detected species, followed by either F. graminearum or F. avenaceum. Other species detected in recent years include F. culmorum, F. sporotrichioides and F. equiseti. That’s a lot of variants for one disease.
Breeding crops for disease resistance takes time, money and a lot of testing to ensure safety and sustainability. Plant breeding is so multifaceted and can be challenging to understand, even for some in the agriculture industry. But the topic gets a lot of negative attention outside the agricultural sector – mostly due to fear mongering and incorrect assumptions that plant breeders inject toxins into crops, creating “frankenfoods,” and labelling genetically modified food as dangerous to human health. This is untrue, and the scientific and agricultural communities go to great strides to bust these myths. Various media continue to communicate the truth of a complicated situation. A new Canadian-made film Before the Plate, which is expected to premiere this summer, attempts to close the information gap between urban consumers and farming in Canada, including both conventional and organic farming practices.
What many anti-GMO activists fail to understand is that breeding is an amazing tool to make our crops healthier (by adding enriched vitamins), safer (by making them resistant to diseases and eliminating mycotoxins) and less likely to fail (by making them more tolerant to drought). The introduction of traits, whether through cross-breeding, transgenesis or genome editing, gives added insurance so growers can avoid the worries of pests and diseases. Humans have selected for crop traits for thousands of years, and countless studies have proven genetically-modified crops to be safe and effective. Perhaps part of the issue is that GMOs are not all the same and there’s confusion on what’s considered “GMO.” For instance, the Non-GMO Project – a non-profit organization – doesn’t consider crops bred through mutagenesis (a process that creates random mutations in a gene through the use of mutagens like radioactivity) to be genetically modified, yet denounces other biotech tools like CRISPR.
Despite the leaps and bounds made in the technology of breeding, growers still need other tools to fight off foes (at least for right now). Whether that involves trapping strategies, registration of new effective pesticides, or utilizing scouting techniques like referring to economic thresholds for spraying, Top Crop Manager will continue to share the latest research so you’re ahead of the curve – whether it’s in pest, weed, or disease management, or discussing the newest technologies in plant breeding. If there are any specific questions or topics you’d like us to address, you can always reach us at email@example.com.
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