Submitted to: Agronomy Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: June 29, 1998
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Although the art of plant breeding predates Mendel (1822-1884), the process of plant improvement has, no doubt, been accelerated by the application of techniques of cytogenetics during the last of about seven decades. Any breeding activity must involve rigorous selection, which brings about changes at the DNA level. An increase in grain yield of a crop plant, for example, must ultimately involve appropriate changes in the nucleotide sequence. Yet the products with desirable traits resulting from lengthy breeding are almost readily accepted for human consumption. The development of novel gene-transfer systems in the past decade has helped produce transgenic plants with superior nutritional value, resistance to pests and diseases, and other desirable traits. Thus, insect-resistant corn and cotton, altered-ripening tomato, herbicide-tolerant soybean, and roundup-ready canola are being marketed and are the source of millions of dollars in revenues. Austin Cargill of Cargill Inc. states: Genetically engineered crops will make the Industrial Revolution pale by comparison. However, this novel technology continues to be controversial and not well accepted in most countries. In fact, many of the experimental fields of genetically engineered plants have been destroyed by environmental activists in England, France, and Germany. Clearly, most of the socio-economic and ethical concerns surrounding transgenic plants are ill founded. The newest molecular techniques of gene transfer are in fact a refinement of the earlier ones, and transfer of a gene by those techniques does not confer risk to consumers. However, the wide acceptance of transgenics will require sustained efforts at educating the public.