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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Genetic Engineering and Accelerated Plant Improvement: Opportunities and Challenges

Author
item Jauhar, Prem

Submitted to: Plant Cell Tissue And Organ Culture
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: July 1, 2001
Publication Date: October 15, 2001
Citation: Jauhar, P.P. 2001. Genetic engineering and accelerated plant improvement: opportunities and challenges. Plant Cell Tissue And Organ Culture 64:87-91.

Interpretive Summary: Conventional plant breeding played a key role in the development of crop cultivars that feed humankind. High yielding varieties of wheat and rice launched the green revolution in Asia and averted mass starvation. With the advent of tools of chromosome engineering, the techniques of crop improvement became more sophisticated and facilitated the incorporation of desirable genes from wild species into crop cultivars. The development, in the last 15 years, of novel biotechnological tools of direct gene transfer has added new dimensions to plant improvement programs. The development of pest and disease resistant crops and enhancing their nutritional status are some of the major accomplishments of this transgenic technology. The development of golden rice, genetically enhanced to produce vitamin A and iron, (two vital nutrients), and production of a ring spot-resistant papaya have the potential to be some of the most important success stories of all time. However, like any new technology, acceptance of genetic engineering is encountering resistance from certain sectors of the public. Several misconceptions about genetically engineered food plants exist. Most of the fears are based on unsubstantiated information. To alleviate these fears, therefore, the public will need to be educated. This article highlights the great potential of transgenic technology as an adjunct to plant breeding and discusses the challenges that lie ahead. Hopefully, the enormous potential of genetic engineering will be harnessed to the best advantage of all human beings, rich or poor.

Technical Abstract: Conventional plant breeding practiced over the centuries produced crop cultivars that sustain humankind today. Largely because of exploitation of hybrid vigor, grain yields of maize, pearl millet and sorghum registered a phenomenal increase during 1965-1990. Improved, varieties of wheat and rice launched the green revolution in Asia. With the advent of newer tools sof cytogenetics and chromosome engineering, the techniques of plant improvement became more sophisticated and facilitated the introduction of alien genes into crop plants, especially wheat. The recent development of novel biotechnological tools of direct, asexual gene transfer has added new dimensions to plant improvement programs. The development of pest-resistant Bt crops (corn, soybean and cotton), introduction of virus coat protein-mediated resistance to viral diseases, and enhancing nutritional level of crop plants are some of the accomplishments of transgenic technology. The development of golden rice, genetically endowe to produce both vitamin A and iron, two of the most important nutritional ingredients, may become one of the most important success stories of all time. However, like any new technology, acceptance of genetic engineering is facing resistance from certain sections of the public. Floating around are several misconceptions about genetically engineered food plants, which poses a challenge for scientists. Most of the fears are largely based on unsubstantiated information and to alleviate these the public will need to be educated. This article highlights the great potential of transgenic technology as a supplement to plant breeding and discusses the challenges that lie ahead. Hopefully, the enormous potential of genetic engineering will be harnessed to the best advantage of the human race.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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