Will This Be Blair's New 'Third Way'?
The Acceptable Face Of Ag-biotech
GM Debate - Moving Towards A Solution

"The truth is that wheat priced at just over 50/t or even 60/t isn't sustainable for anyone... our thinking needs to be focussed downstream at our markets, innovatively and laterally...[to] give us a worthwhile competitive advantage.... The possibilities are as endless as they are exciting and they are achievable with existing technologies.  Within the wheat plant we have a vast reservoir of genes. We also have the advanced analytical equipment necessary to pinpoint the molecular characteristics we need. And the marker-assisted systems to reliably build these characteristics into high output varieties through conventional plant breeding.... Our real challenge today is to work closely with the food  industry and interest groups...."
Jeff Cox, general manager for Monsanto Northern Europe
Farmers Weekly (UK), 30 Aug 2002

November 2002 (with updates)

Back in 1998 nlpwessex relayed through its GM news bulletin service a remarkable article in Farmers Weekly which reported on the annual meeting of the British Association For The Advancement Of Science. The title of the article was "NON-GM FUTURE IS MAPPED OUT" based on a paper presented by Professor Denis Murphy, head of the Brassicas and Oilseeds Department at the John Innes Centre, Europe's leading ag-biotech laboratory.

The article identified the enormous potential that resides in the non-gm aspects of modern biotechnology. The most promising area is generally referred to as 'marker assisted selection' (MAS), sometimes more loosely known as 'genomics'.

Since that time a series of endorsements for MAS technology - highlighting its advantages over the GM approach to plant breeding - have come from a diverse range of high profile sources. As reported in the nlpwessex bulletin of February 2000 entitled "Solution to the GM debate?", and in subsequent bulletins, these include:

As illustrated in the article below from Farmers Weekly 30 August 2002, Jeff Cox, Monsanto's general manager for Northern Europe, has now joined the growing chorus of professionals who are extolling the promise of this technology for the future of modern plant breeding (for those new to this area we recommend the Soil Association's position paper on this subject as a useful introduction - click here).

What is especially interesting about Mr Cox's article is that his enthusiasm for the technology is proferred without any reference - either actual or implied - to genetically modified plant breeding programmes. This absolute omission is not something we have encountered before in a Monsanto penned article on modern plant breeding.

We would like to believe that this represents the beginning of a recognition by the biotechnology sector (which currently is in deep finacial trouble across the globe according to the October edition of the scientific journal Nature Biotechnology) that if it wishes to prosper it has to pursue those technologies which are acceptable to society as a whole. MAS is one of those technologies. It also happens to be the most useful.

In his article for Farmers Weekly, Mr Cox describes the possiblities offered by MAS as being "as endless as they are exciting".

However, this enthusiasm is not confined to the commercial sector. As it happens the September 2002 edition of 'ARIA' ( the newsletter of the UK's Arable Reseach Institute Association ) highlights the work being done in conjunction with Syngenta on developing drought tolerance in sugar beet using MAS (this is a much more important area of plant breeding than the relatively trivial, and increasingly self-defeating, issue of herbicide resistance - the principal output to date of GM crop technology which many consider global agriculture can easily live without).

Current MAS drought resistance work at ARIA's Broom's Barn research station is "directed towards locating molecular markers that identify regions in the chromosomes that control drought resistance. With marker assisted selection, environmental conditions during the breeding process are not important. Only at the final stages of variety development does the material need to be tested in the field under drought conditions.... drought tolerance is determined by the combination of many morpho-physilogical traits, and each trait is probably determined by several genes...".

The especial significance of MAS in this area is confirmed by the head of global plant breeding at Monsanto who states in an article entitled 'Wheat Future is in Bio-Tech Not GM' published in Farmers Weekly 25 February 2000 : "It's a numbers game and ultimately [non-GM] biotech offers the greatest potential..... Aligning 20 segments of desired genetic material using conventional breeding would take a one-in-a-trillion chance. Using molecular markers we can achieve it in three cycles." By contrast he confirms that GM technology is not adept at dealing with complex genetic interactions like these.

Later reports by Monsanto indicate that MAS can be expected to increase wheat yields (for example) at more than double the rate previously forecast by the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation without the need to resort to genetically engineered strains. Other developments reported in the British farming press in relation to oilseed rape also indicate that similar advances can be expected in non-cereal crop categories.

Recognition of the shift in emphasis appears to be growing. As the editor of nlpwessex's GM news service pointed out in an interview on BBC Radio 4's Food Programme earlier this year: "I actually believe that we’re going to move on to a more sophisticated, more appropriate, more integrated form of genetics, based on applying gene mapping to conventional plant breeding, which clearly eminent voices in the biotechnology industry consider have great potential, including as it happens the head of plant breeding at Monsanto. So I regard genetically engineered technology as an interim technology, I think it’s going to become yesterday’s technology, and if we have a good debate we have a reasonable chance of finding the best solutions to creating a viable and sustainable agriculture in the future."

The immediate response from fellow studio guest and leading pro-GM advocate, Professor Vivian Moses of University College London and bio-industry funded CropGen, was at least partial agreement.

With so much available under MAS is it not time to put GM products to one side so that all participants in the current biotechnology debate can get on with doing something more constructive (like focusing on more critical issues in world agriculture such as sustainable soil and water management where the long term productivity gains to society for each dollar invested are likely to be far greater than any overall contribution from genetic engineering )?

As the latest article on this subject from Farmers Weekly seems to imply, the industry may be preparing itself to make a seismic shift away from the GM paradigm - at least in Europe. This would be particularly so if Monsanto's newly stated desire to "work closely with... interest groups" is taken at face value. If this prudent step is taken then we can expect ag-biotech share prices to significantly improve as public opposition to the sector falls away and the unfortunate and essentially unhelpful GM diversion reaches its long overdue expiry date.

Or to put it in the words of Professor Bob Goodman, former head of research and development at Calgene: "From a scientific perspective, the public argument about genetically-modified organisms, I think, will soon be a thing of the past. The science has moved on and we're now in the genomics era."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has largely abandoned 'old labour', so why not stay true to form and abandon 'old biotech' (i.e. organisms incorporating recombinant DNA)? Clinging to the fragmented approach of an inappropriate out-of-date technology is simply not progressive.

As an innovative 'third way' the growing recognition of the integrated approach of marker assisted selection as a solution to the intense debate about the future direction of biotechnology is full of promise. It ought to be attractive to the British Prime Minister. The question is - has anyone told him about it yet?


'The Possibilities Are As Endless As They Are Exciting'

[Text colouring added by nlpwessex]


Farmers Weekly 30 August 2002

Unless it finds a new direction soon, the UK wheat industry will go into terminal decline, says Jeff Cox  

  • Jeff Cox is general manager for Monsanto Northern Europe. Previously he led the company's Polish business and has also had responsibility for Monsanto's global wheat team.  

As the combines finish the last of the UK wheat harvest in the south and continue their work in the north, it's time we found a new direction for UK wheat.   We need to find innovative ways of creating value for everyone in the UK wheat business; new directions that make our industry sustainable and worth investing in. Otherwise it faces terminal decline.  

The truth is that wheat priced at just over 50/t or even 60/t isn't sustainable for anyone. UK grain prices could recover a little in the coming few years, particularly if we join the Euro. But with the USA increasing farm subsidies, prices are in real danger of being depressed still further.  

Amid all this uncertainty one thing is sure. Traditional grain markets are unlikely to offer more than mediocre returns for our wheat for the foreseeable future. Regardless of US policy, lower-cost eastern European and Black Sea producers will make sure of that — not to mention competition from the global maize industry which rules the feed grain market. The UK wheat industry cannot continue to serve its established domestic and export markets alone. These will not generate sufficient returns to justify investments for growers or the supply industry.  

We must accept that continued upstream improvements in increasing yields or cutting costs won't offer enough extra long-term value to prevent the continued, steady decline. Instead, our thinking needs to be focussed downstream at our markets, innovatively and laterally, to build the extra value we need into our product. The sort of value that will give us a worthwhile competitive advantage.

Where will this value come from? Improved raw materials that provide extra efficiencies and quality to processors, perhaps. Or even better, foodstuffs with unique properties that generate extra consumer value at retail level. Properties that could lift the value of wheat in a loaf of bread from under 300/t to say 2000/t.  

In the food market we have huge potential for improvement by focussing on three primary areas: taste and texture; health; and, convenience. Let's look in detail at the protein, starch and fibre that are our core products and see how we can give them increased value. Then, let's turn our attention to specialist products for a host of improved, non-food applications.

The possibilities are as endless as they are exciting and they are achievable with existing technologies.   Within the wheat plant we have a vast reservoir of genes. We also have the advanced analytical equipment necessary to pinpoint the molecular characteristics we need. And the marker-assisted systems to reliably build these characteristics into high output varieties through conventional plant breeding.

Our real challenge today is to work closely with the food  industry and interest groups to identify the most valuable areas for development from the market perspective, then focus our efforts on developing varieties and growing regimes to achieve them.

By harnessing the inherent genetic variation, modern technology and accumulated knowledge at our disposal in a co-ordinated way across the farming and food industry we can seize the many opportunities open to us. We have to do so rapidly in parallel with traditional variety and agronomic improvement programmes if we are to ensure our wheat industry has a future in the increasingly open, competitive and subsidy-free market we face.  

Farmers Weekly 30 August 2002

Updates/Additional References

"From a scientific perspective, the public argument about genetically-modified organisms, I think, will soon be a thing of the past. The science has moved on and we're now in the genomics era."
Professor Bob Goodman, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Former head of research and development at Calgene, creators of the flavr savr tomato, the world's first GM food
Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 18 February 2001

The Heart Of The Debate
'I Have Seen The Future And It Works'

"Oliver Walston (1 January) encountered a remarkable genomic analysis machine at Monsanto, reporting, 'What would have taken months - and maybe years - can now be done in days. I have seen the future and it works.' This 'Marker Assisted Selection' (MAS) process is the most significant modern molecular plant development technology. It can readily handle groups of genes. Acceptable to most stakeholders (including Greenpeace) it is even more important politically. These claims cannot be made for GM. GM in soya enables use of a particular herbicide but does not improve yield potential. However, Monsanto has released Roundup Ready 2 soya which does, achieved by applying MAS to the background genetics. This progress has not come from GM. This goes to the heart of the ag-biotech debate. MAS offers modern biotechnology's most important benefits, while avoiding the risks (real or imagined) of GM. Neither does it necessitate maintaining two food streams, GM and non-GM, with attendant costs and legal difficulties. MAS is clearly the route forward for making the fastest technical and political progress with modern plant varieties. As Walston says, 'I have seen the future and it works.'"
Letter - Acceptable Biotechnology
Farmers Weekly, 29 January 2010
Smart Breeding
Marker-Assisted Selection: A non-invasive biotechnology
alternative to genetic engineering of plant varieties

Greenpeace International Report August 2009
Click Here

"Bayer's CropScience unit plans to develop new heat- and drought-resistant wheat traits over the next decade without the use of genetic modification, a top executive said on Tuesday. The German company has announced a series of deals and partnerships to increase its access to wheat seed traits, or 'germplasm', as part of its programme to develop improved varieties of the world's biggest cereal crop by planted area.  'The thing that has not had enough attention is really thinking about how to use modern breeding techniques to really look at the germplasm pools and find ways to actually improve yields, and to improve the heat and drought tolerance of these crops,' Peterson said. By using marker-assisted breeding techniques, which enable plant breeders to screen huge numbers of seeds for desired traits such as drought-resistance, Petersen said the company will be able to develop new varieties much more quickly. 'It's basically just turbo-charging traditional, classical breeding. Before we see the full impact of all of this it's ten years, but there are milestones in 2015, 2017, 2019 of things that are actually going to have an impact, and all of those first eight to ten years do not require the use of GMO (genetically modified organisms),' she said."
INTERVIEW-Bayer CropScience targets non-GMO wheat traits
Reuters, 29 November 2011

"Africa's population is expected to double to about 2 billion people by 2050 and the continent would need to double its food output by that time with some countries having to triple food production, Monty Jones, executive director of Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), told Reuters. 'Our future growth is through conventional breeding approach and through the use of biotechnologies which come up with high yields but are not transgenic,' Jones said in an interview on the sidelines of an international food and nutrition forum. 'What we need in Africa is our own, unique 'green revolution' calling for interventions in several areas, in crops and livestock. We must learn from mistakes of India,' he said. The so-called green revolution in the 1960s and 1970s in India and other developing countries boosted farm production yields through intensive practices and new seed varieties drawing praise for helping reduce the number of hungry people and criticism for making farmers dependent on GM seeds. African countries should use the best results of conventional breeding and 'modest', or non-transgenic, biotechnologies to boost crop yields and make plants resistant to increasing heat and dryness as climate changes, Jones said. Nerica (New Rice for Africa) rice, a non-GM cross between a high-yielding Asian variety and a hardy African variety has higher yields, shorter growth cycle and more protein content than its parents. Farmers cultivating Nerica in western and eastern Africa in the past 10 years have doubled and even trippled their yields to up to 4 tonnes per hectare (ha), depending on efficiency of their farms, Jones said. Jones, who has worked in international agricultural research for the past 24 years, has stopped short of ruling out GM organisms (GMOs) as means to resolve Africa's hunger and said their use would rise slightly in the coming decades there."
Africa needs non-GM green revolution to boost food
Reuters, 1 December 2011

"By 2050, the world will have to feed 9 billion people, adapt to climate change, reduce agricultural pollution, and protect fresh water supplies - all at the same time. Given that formidable challenge, what are the quickest, most cost-effective ways to develop more productive, drought-, flood- and pest-resistant crops?....Some will claim that genetically engineered (GE) crops are the solution. But when compared side-by-side, classical plant breeding bests genetic engineering. Industry estimates of the cost of developing a single GE trait are in excess of $100 million. By contrast, a classical breeding program for similar traits typically costs about $1 million. Most of the cost differential is attributable to GE crops' research and development requirements, which include DNA synthesizers and sequencers and other expensive equipment, in addition to classical breeding facilities. Genetic engineering might be worth the extra cost if classical breeding were unable to impart such desirable traits as drought-, flood- and pest-resistance, and fertilizer efficiency. But in case after case, classical breeding is delivering the goods. Plant breeders have already produced drought-tolerant varieties of sorghum, corn, rice, cassava and pearl millet - all critical for poor farmers in developing countries. Genetic engineering, meanwhile, has yet to commercialize its first drought-tolerant crop varieties. U.S. biotech companies have been working for years on drought tolerance, but two of the three varieties they plan to introduce within the next two years are the result of classical breeding. Scientists using classical breeding enhanced with genomic information - a process called marker-assisted breeding - also have produced rice varieties that can tolerate flooding. These varieties, now cultivated in the Philippines, Bangladesh and India, are expected to increase food security for 70 million of the world's poorest people. Classical breeders likewise have developed papaya resistant to ringspot virus and corn that can fend off destructive rootworms - traits previously touted as requiring genetic engineering. And in Uganda, scientists have successfully bred sweet potatoes to resist virus diseases, while a multimillion-dollar, multi-year project in Kenya to genetically engineer similar virus resistance failed. Finally, classical breeding and better farm management are responsible for all the yield increases for soybeans and most of the yield increases for corn in the United States. Recent yield increases are often erroneously attributed to genetic engineering, but data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and academic scientists show that even during the past 15 years that GE crops have been commercialized, classical breeding and crop management improvements contributed the large majority of the increases, not the newly inserted genes. Public sector crop breeders have succeeded despite shoestring budgets at public universities, international institutes and the USDA. By contrast, the biotech industry's lavish budgets have produced commercial crops with only two types of GE traits. More than 60 percent of all GE crops planted worldwide are merely designed to survive being doused with herbicides. So if the conventional wisdom is wrong, and classical breeding is superior, what does that mean for public policy? Federal and state governments should dramatically increase their support for tried-and-true, cost-effective classical breeding technology - including better funding for breeding programs at public universities and nonprofit institutes where breeders can work with farmers to develop a wider range of farmer-ready crop varieties."
Margaret Mellon and Doug Gurian-Sherman - Union of Concerned Scientists
The cost-effective way to feed the world
Bellingham Herald, 20 June 2011

"Monsanto's efforts to cultivate new lines of consumer-focused produce do not involve direct manipulation of genetic code. There's an economic incentive at work here, as well. Monsanto said it generally takes around 10 years and $100 million to make a genetically modified seed. Advanced cross-breeding techniques [without GM] can shorten that process to five or eight years, Stark [a vice president at Monsanto] said. 'It's significantly cheaper and with a different regulatory requirement, and let's face it, a different public perception,' Stark said."
Monsanto's new gambit: fruits and veggies
Harvest, 8 April 2011

"The Obama administration will seek to allow the unlimited sale of a corn variety genetically engineered by Monsanto Co. to resist drought, the Department of Agriculture announced today. The corn, if approved, would be the first commercial biotech crop designed to resist stressful environmental conditions like drought, rather than pests or herbicides. Drought tolerance has been a longtime goal of the agricultural biotech companies, who hold up the trait as one way they could aid both their bottom line and farmers in drought-prone regions. But the trait, influenced by a wide variety of genes, has proved difficult to develop. The market could be vast. In North America, up to 40 percent of crop-loss insurance claims are due to heavy or moderate drought, according to some estimates. Worldwide, corn-growing regions lose about 15 percent of their annual crop to drought, and losses run much higher in severe conditions. However, Monsanto's corn is unlikely to perform well enough to tap this potential, USDA found. While the agency's draft environmental assessment of the modified corn found the crop unlikely to pose a plant pest risk, prompting USDA to seek deregulation, the agency also noted that many corn varieties on the market match Monsanto's strain in their water use. 'The reduced yield [trait] does not exceed the natural variation observed in regionally-adapted varieties of conventional corn,' the report says, adding that 'Equally comparable varieties produced through conventional breeding techniques are readily available in irrigated corn production regions.'....While Monsanto's corn, if approved, would be the United States' first bioengineered drought-tolerant variety, this spring the company's longtime rival, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, began offering drought-resistant corn in Texas, Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. Pioneer's corn, developed through traditional breeding, required no government approval."
USDA Looks to Approve Monsanto's Drought-Tolerant Corn
New York Times, 11 May 2011

"GeneWatch UK today welcomed news that new drought-tolerant corn (maize) has been developed by DuPont using conventional breeding methods. DuPont's new corn was announced today. Syngenta made a similar announcement in late December. Its corn was also developed using conventional breeding informed by new genetic information (known as 'marker assisted selection'). 'Improved scientific knowledge has helped deliver better seeds" said GeneWatch UK's Director, Dr Helen Wallace. 'Drought-tolerance is a complex trait and cannot be delivered by engineering a single gene into a plant. The false promises made for GM crops should be abandoned in favour of these welcome new conventionally bred varieties'. However, GeneWatch criticised Syngenta for stating that it will only market its new seed with two existing GM traits (herbicide tolerance and pesticide resistance) also included in the seed. US farmers are struggling to cope with herbicide tolerant 'superweeds' spreading across the US as a result of growing GM herbicide tolerant crops. Pest resistance is also developing as a result of the use of GM pest resistant crops. 'Patents on these GM traits will allow Syngenta to charge a premium for technology that does more harm than good', said Dr Wallace. 'This is a cynical attempt to lock farmers into spiralling costs for expensive seeds and chemicals instead of making the new conventional variety widely available'. Genetically modified (GM) plants with new properties including drought- and salt-tolerance and the ability to fix nitrogen were first promised in a US Office of Technology Assessment report in 1981. Agricultural research was reorganised to focus on GM and companies were allowed to patent GM seeds. However, no such products have been delivered despite 30 years' investment in GM research, due to the multiple genetic factors involved in the survival of plants in harsh environments."
New drought-tolerant corn welcomed
GeneWatch press release, 5 January 2011

"Now that wheat has had its genome sequenced, we can expect swift progress.... GM wheat may be one spin-off of the genome research, but it is far from the only one. The earliest benefits are likely to emerge from conventional breeding, assisted by DNA markers. The wheat genome map will allow breeders to link desirable traits to segments of DNA, helping them to pick plants for crossing and to identify which hybrids have inherited positive qualities. The rice and maize genomes have already driven significant improvements in marker-assisted breeding of these crops. Wheat is now next in line."
Why Monsanto is betting on GM future
London Times, 27 August 2010

"New and improved varieties of wheat that will help to feed the world have been promised by scientists after the staple food’s genetic code was read for the first time by a British team. The achievement will transform plant breeders’ ability to develop hardier and higher-yielding strains of wheat, leading to greater food security and lower prices, researchers said....Anthony Hall, of the University of Liverpool, a leader of the research team, said: 'It is predicted that within the next 40 years world food production will need to be increased by 50 per cent. Developing new, low-input, highyielding varieties of wheat will be fundamental to meeting these goals. Using this new DNA data we will identify variation in gene networks involved in important agricultural traits such as disease resistance, drought tolerance and yield.' Professor Mike Bevan, of the John Innes Centre in Norwich, another team member, said: 'This immediately allows you, so to speak, to sort the wheat from the chaff in breeding experiments. It will accelerate the speed and accuracy of plant breeding.' David Willetts, the Universities and Science Minister, welcomed the advance. 'By using gene sequencing technology developed in the UK we now have the capability to improve the crops of the future by simply accelerating the natural breeding process to select varieties that can thrive in challenging conditions.'
UK scientists crack code to feed world
London Times, 27 August 2010

"New commercial varieties of kiwifruit optimised for their flavour, colour and health attributes will become available in the next few years, thanks to the publication of a huge collection of DNA sequences from the fruit. Kiwifruit belong to the genus Actinidia. The two best known cultivars are the Haywood and the Zespri Gold kiwifruits – but given the diversity of the genus there is scope to develop many more, with tailored attributes.  Now fruit breeders will be able to more closely tailor new fruit varieties to consumer tastes and market needs, as the collection of 130,000 DNA sequences put together by New Zealand’s Hort Research and its biotech partner Genesis Research and Development Corporation over the last eight years have been made public. Details of the discovery and analysis sequences – called expressed sequence tags, or ESTs – have been published in the journal BMC Genomics. The ESTs come from active genes in the plant that govern characteristics like flavour, colour, shape, and vitamin content – as well as practical properties like ripening and storage time. They will be invaluable to breeders seeking to develop new varieties of the fruit using Marker Assisted Selection (MAS), since it will allow them to identify the genes they are looking. In its own right, MAS has significantly speeded up the fruit breeding process since it removes the need to wait for seedlings to bear fruit before their properties can be assessed and either commercialised or cross-bred. 'If breeding a new fruit with a specific trait is like finding a needle in a haystack, then MAS is like having a metal detector,' said Dr William Laing, a scientist with HortResearch. 'With MAS, we can quickly scan the seedlings and find out right away which ones are likely to have the type of fruit we want.'"
DNA data to spur new kiwifruit species
NutraIngredients, 6 August 2008

"Pioneer Hi-Bred, a Johnston-based unit of DuPont, launched Thursday what it is calling 'a new generation' of soybean varieties designed to increase soybean yields by 40 percent during the next 10 years. Pioneer president and DuPont vice president and general manager Paul Schickler said the new Y series soybeans, as Pioneer has named the 32 new seed varieties, will 'deliver unprecedented productivity gains to North American soybean growers.' ..... In more than 1,800 on-farm comparisons, the Y series demonstrated a 5 percent yield advantage over competitive soybean varieties, with some varieties yielding 6 percent to 10 percent more than their competitors, Schickler said..... John Soper, senior research director for Pioneer, said the company used molecular marker technologies to find the genes that control yield in the soybean plant. Yield in soybeans is controlled by many different genes working in combination, which made finding the right genes to target more difficult, Soper said. A genetic comparison of older soybean varieties with newer ones ended up focusing on 100 genes as potential yield enhancers, he said. By narrowing the genetic search to those 100 genes, Pioneer was able to match parent seed lines that resulted in more productive gene combinations, Soper said."
Pioneer: New soybeans produce 10% yield advantage
Des Moines Register, 11 July 2008

Rothamsted Research scientists are making progress in their efforts to reduce reliance on N fertiliser in wheat crops. The Wheat Genetic Information Network project funded by DEFRA aimed to improve N use efficiency in the crop, Malcolm Hawkesford of Rothamsted Research said. The initial research looked at how much genetic variation there was in wheat varieties' response to N, through analysis of grain N and yield. Further investigation had tried to identify varieties good at either or both taking up N from the soil, and then converting it into grain yield, he explained. ‘They are two different processes, which the breeders haven't separated out when breeding new varieties.’ The researchers were staggered at how much variation there was between varieties, he said. ‘Some varieties are good at one, but not necessarily the other. It means that there is potential for improvement.’ The next step is pinning down the genetics to understand why. Advanced genetic techniques, such as double haploid mapping, were beginning to find candidate genes for breeders to work with. ‘The aim will be to maintain yield with less N, or continue with the same inputs and achieve more yields.’ A realistic target might be to reduce N inputs by 20%, he concluded.
Cereals 2008: Progress being made towards lower N wheat varieties
Farmers Weekly Interactive, 17 June 2008

“Cereal growers concerned that breeders may be coming up against a genetic barrier to yields just when the world needs them boosting most can take heart. ‘Over 60 years yield improvement has continued on a pretty steady basis,’ said NIAB statistician Ian Mackay. The average in the mid-1940s was about 2.5t/ha - today it was about 8t/ha, he said. Presenting the interim results of a new analysis co-funded with BSPB, Dr Mackay showed how 90% of the increases in the yield of winter wheat and winter and spring barley in the past 25 years were down to breeding…. a key finding in the latest work was that there was as much genetic variance showing up in today's trials as in those of the earlier era. ‘Because there's as much variance entering the trials system today, it doesn't seem to me that the fuel that's driving improvement is running out,’ said Dr Mackay.”
No shortage of genetic 'fuel' for cereal breeders
Farmers Weekly Interactive, 15 June 2008

Monsanto 2008 'Pipeline' Brochure
The text in the green section below is taken from Monsanto's own web site as at 19 July 2008
The term 'breeding' refers to non-GM plant development

Note that, as described below, the improved plant characterisitcs that Monsanto are developing through this approach include yield, disease and insect tolerance, and tolerance to environmental stress. Monsanto acknowledge that the use of Marker Assisted Selection is "breakthrough technology [which] has reinvented plant breeding so we can more than double the rate of 'genetic gain' in seeds — the improvement in important characteristics such as yield and tolerance to environmental stress" (common environmental stresses encountered in agriculture include extremes of temperature, including drought).

In all these developments the unit of genetic transfer is the chromosome where, unlike in genetic engineering, the gene is tranfered in genomic context and where the integration of the new material is governed by the organism itself. These methods are subject to the inhert governing mechanisms of the plant itself, and they are therefore essentially a natural process.

By contrast genetic engineering methods seek to overide such governance in a fundamentally unatural way. Genetic engineering commonly transfers single or small numbers of genes out of chromosomal context using artificial particle bombardment or bacteriogical pathogen invasion methods.

Professor Christoper Lamb, Director of the John Innes Centre, confirms that with genetic engineering "the inserted gene doesn't go to the same place in the genome each time, and in fact to a degree inserts randomly... in making a new commercial line by GM is you might have 10,000 or more so called 'events', independent insertions....[only] one or two or three events will emerge that have all the desired properties of the original variety plus the new gene inserted and functioning properly and stably."

Such methods seek to bypass the innate regulatory mechanisms inherent in the organism which have evolved over thosands of years as part of the organisational composition of the organism. Commonly such methods result in chromosomal abnormalities, about which the genetic engineer may or may not be aware. As described by Professor Lamb thousands of such creations have to be rejected.

In the case of first generation Roundup Ready soya the selected genetically engineered 'event' was still accepted even though the gene insertion had disrupted the functioning of the plant resulting in reduced yields.



Delivering a Better Seed to the Farm

Monsanto breeders are constantly working to develop better seed offerings for farmers. Our breeding research spans both large-acre crops, like corn, cotton and soybeans, as well as fruits and vegetables. Today, we have more than 250 breeders conducting research at hundreds of locations around the world. Our researchers use both conventional and marker-assisted breeding technologies to unlock the yield potential of seeds.


Our research in corn develops ways to increase and enhance yield, disease and insect tolerance, stalk and root strength, and kernel qualities — such as oil and protein.

Our research in cotton strives to develop and deliver value through yield, fiber quality and  tolerance to environmental stress. Our work is aimed at supplying varieties that are competitive with the best the marketplace has to offer.

Our research in soybeans focuses on developing varieties that improve yield, yield stability, disease tolerance, and improved oil and protein composition.

Fruits and Vegetables
Our Seminis breeders are working to improve products at both planting and harvest, by combating environmental factors that limit the plant’s output, and by enhancing the product’s end-market features — including appearance and quality. Our research focuses on developing new benefits for growers and consumers.

Marker-Assisted Breeding
Today, the use of breakthrough technology has reinvented plant breeding so we can more than double the rate of “genetic gain” in seeds — the improvement in important characteristics such as yield and tolerance to environmental stress.

We are using tools like molecular markers to more efficiently and effectively mine our genetic library. Our molecular marker capabilities allow us to “tag” important genes and “remember” their location in the plant genome so that we can quickly find and combine the right genes to increase yield and fight crop stress.

By combining technologies like molecular markers with other breeding tools, we can increase the probability of finding the best germplasm from one-in-a-trillion to one-in-five.

By tapping into the breeding lessons we’ve learned from one crop, like field corn, and applying those lessons to other crops, we can vastly speed up breeding advancements across our crop portfolio.

This helps us develop new, elite seeds faster than ever before. These elite seeds will serve as the foundation to add cutting-edge biotechnology traits to protect and preserve those seeds’ yield potential against insects, weeds and environmental stress.

"Monsanto executives say that a new [non-GM] technique called marker-assisted selection could double the rate of gain made from breeding. That technique does not involve altering crops by putting in foreign genes. Rather it uses genetic tests to help choose which plants to use in conventional cross-breeding, vastly speeding up the process....the company is not talking about the United States alone. In some countries, output could be increased sharply just by introducing modern hybrid corn, whether or not that corn is genetically engineered, Mr. Grant [Monsanto CEO] said. Bill Freese, a science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, a Washington group critical of biotech crops, said some studies had shown that genetic engineering can actually reduce yields. He and other critics also say that the biotech crops developed so far have mainly been aimed at feeding livestock in wealthy countries, not improving the staple crops grown by small farmers in poor countries."
Monsanto Seeks Big Increase in Crop Yields
New York Times, 5 June 2008

"A new hybrid breeding system is being developed and used by Syngenta to produce a large number of high performing oil seed rape hybrids. The new system, called Safecross, as well as providing the usual vigorous quality of hybrids, will also allow the breeders to ‘drop’ desirable agronomic characteristics into the existing genetics more easily than the previous hybrid system used by the company – the Ogura system....The Safecross system will be aided by the development of the molecular marker system used by Syngenta. The breeders hope to double the number of marker points between now and 2011 to enable them to establish easily whether the seeds have resistance to diseases such as phoma and have desirable traits such as good oil content and standing power.... Nigel Padbury, from Syngenta Seeds NK, highlighted two benefits that the hybrids could offer to UK growers. 'There’s the generic hybrid answer, where the hybrid is more vigorous, is able to withstand stress and is able to exploit the soil more readily,' he said. This last trait would come into its own as fertiliser prices increased and growers looked towards varieties that could make the best of available nutrients."
New hybrid breeding system for OSR crops
Farmers Guardian, 23 May 2008

"A 10% increase in corn yields during drought might surprise some producers but the marketing of such a product could happen in the next few years. Employees at Monsanto in Gothenburg have a stake in the research as the local station has been involved in the research of a number of genes with the potential to enhance yields during drought-stressed periods. 'We identify the germplasm or genetics that best help corn maintain yields in times of water stress,' said Laron Peters, commercial breeder at Monsanto who has a doctoral degree in plant breeding from Texas A&M University....Monsanto evaluates thousands of hybrids across multiple environments to identify which ones perform best."
More yield with less water?
Gothenburg Times, 25 January 2008

".....yesterday Monsanto's Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans were approved, or granted deregulated status, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.... Based on the research we have done to date, Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans will deliver a 7% to 11% increase in yield over Roundup Ready..... ..... it was made possible by technology we didn't have when Roundup Ready soybeans were developed. The biotech tools we use to make crop advances continue to get better and increase the possibiliites for benefits we can deliver to farmers. Often these tools do not involve the insertion of a novel gene. Instead, they help us identify important areas on the plant genome that deliver better yields or other beneficial characteristics. Technical advances in plant biotechnology and molecular-assisted breeding have enabled Monsanto to develop Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans. The 7-11% yield increase was achieved by gene mapping. Gene mapping allowed us to indentify specific DNA regions in soybeans that have a positive impact on yield."
Roundup Ready 2 Yield
Monsanto Media Conference Call, 31 July 2007

"In the case of agbiotech, the new technologies are not necessarily superior to existing crop breeding methods, but they can extend their range and hold out new possibilities for crop production, many of which are especially relevant to developing countries. Moreover, many agbiotech methods have nothing to do with gene transfer ('genetic engineering') but are more akin to the kinds of DNA fingerprinting that are now in such common use in forensic science and medical diagnostics. Even today, by far the most effective use of agbiotech, and one with which I have been involved in Southeast Asia, is MAS, or marker-assisted selection. Here, molecular markers and other high-tech tools are used to speed up and widen the scope of crop breeding around the world but no GM methods are involved."
Denis J Murphy, Professor of Biotechnology at the University of Glamorgan, Wales
Agricultural Biotechnology: Monster, Marvel, or just Misunderstood?
Public Service Review - Devolved Government, November 2006

"Turning on a gene found in wheat could boost levels of protein, iron and zinc, scientists have discovered.  The gene occurs naturally in wheat, but has largely been silenced during the evolution of domestic varieties. Researchers found evidence that turning it back on could raise levels of the nutrients in wheat grains. Writing in the journal Science, they suggest that new varieties with a fully functioning gene can be created through cross-breeding with wild wheat....The UC Davis team is already making such varieties, not by genetic engineering but through crossing domesticated wheat plants with wild relatives. The key is a technology called Marker Assisted Selection (MAS). This allows scientists to select which plants to cross using genetic information, rather than simply choosing them by their attributes, as farmers have done throughout the history of agriculture."
Wheat's lost gene helps nutrition
BBC Online, 24 November 2006

"In a low-slung building amid farm fields, agriculture's second biotechnology revolution is, according to this story, dawning.The story describes how rows of robotic devices are deciphering the DNA in slices of thousands of corn plants sent daily from as far away as Chile and Hawaii. Scientists here search the results for subtle genetic differences that explain why a particular plant is better than others at tolerating cold, repelling insects, surviving drought or making more seed. Armed with this knowledge, crop breeders can create better corn. But not by gene-splicing, the method that has stirred resistance, especially in Europe, to crops spiked with DNA from other organisms. The new technology usesm old-fashioned selective breeding -- finding plants with desirable traits and mating them. Except that in this case, selective breeding is turbocharged. Thanks to the decoded genetic blueprints, seed producers can know with precision which plants carry a desired trait and which genes cause it. Just as important, once they've planted seeds from such a plant, they can learn quickly through gene tests whether its offspring sprouting in a test field have inherited the trait. George Kotch, research director of Syngenta AG's North American vegetable seeds business, was quoted as saying, 'The public is lukewarm on GMO products. Now we have a technology that doesn't have an image problem.' Using it, Syngenta, the big Swiss biotech company that operates the Iowa laboratory, is developing drought-resistant corn, which someday could open up more of the Great Plains to the crop. DuPont Co.'s Pioneer Hi-Bred unit is developing corn that resists a Midwestern bane called Anthracnose stalk rot. Monsanto Co. has developed soybeans whose oil stands up to repeated reheating, as in fast-food restaurants, without having to be hydrogenated, which creates artery-clogging trans fats."
Seed firms bolster crops without GM
Wall St Journal, 31 October 2006

"Scientists, faced with the major challenge of  boosting productivity of staple crops for ensuring world’s food and  nutritional security, are now looking at effectively deploying biotechnological tools to develop crops which would not be transgenics or  genetically modified (GM) ones. Transgenics or GM crops, they say, have generated much controversy across  the globe. It has to pass through rigorous regulatory process before commercial release and hence it’s time consuming. Rather the better option would be to deploy biotechnological tools like marker-aided selection.... 'Scientists are exploring the possibilities of deploying modern biotech  tools for developing high yielding crops with high nutrition content,' director-general of the International Rice Research Institute Robert S Zeigler says. 'We have effective biotechnological tools at our disposal such  as improved rice crops which would not be transgenic crops. Development of  transgenic crop is only one of the many options.”
Hiking rice yield, biotechnology to the rescue
Scientists say transgenics or genetically modified crops cumbersome, biotech tools can boost harvest of non-GM crops
Indian Express, 27 October 2006

"For years, the life-science companies - Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Pioneer etc - have argued that genetically modified food is the next great scientific revolution in agriculture, and the only efficient and cheap way to feed a growing population in a shrinking world. Non-governmental organisations - including the Foundation on Economic Trends, of which I am president - have been cast as the villains in this agricultural drama, and often categorised as modern versions of the Luddites, accused of continually blocking scientific and technological progress because of our opposition to GM food. Now, in an ironic twist, new cutting-edge technologies have made gene splicing and transgenic crops obsolete and a serious impediment to scientific progress. The new frontier is called genomics and the new agricultural technology is called marker-assisted selection (MAS). The new technology offers a sophisticated method to greatly accelerate classical breeding. A growing number of scientists believe MAS - which is already being introduced into the market - will eventually replace GM food. Moreover, environmental organisations that oppose GM crops are guardedly supportive of MAS technology.... While MAS is emerging as a promising new agricultural technology with broad application, the limits of transgenic technology are becoming increasingly apparent. Most of the transgenic crops introduced into the fields express only two traits, resistance to pests and compatibility with herbicides, and rely on the expression of a single gene - hardly the sweeping agricultural revolution touted by the life-science companies at the beginning of the GM era..... Not surprisingly, MAS technology is being looked at with increasing interest within the European Union, where public opposition to GM food has remained resolute. In a recent speech, Stavros Dimas, the EU's environment commissioner, noted that 'MAS technology is attracting considerable attention' and said that the EU 'should not ignore the use of 'upgraded' conventional varieties as an alternative to GM crops'...If properly used as part of a much larger systemic and holistic approach to sustainable agricultural development, MAS technology could be the right technology at the right time in history."
Jeremy Rifkin - This crop revolution may succeed where GM failed
Comment Is Free, Guardian, 26 October 2006

"The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has drawn up an action plan for boosting rice production, keeping in view the likely increase in global demand by 50% by the year 2050. It has also come out with a new vision statement and strategic plan for 2007-15 with a view to help fulfill the UN millenium development goals. Speaking to FE, IRRI director-general, Robert S Zeigler said, 'Application of biotechnology is of course an option, but this does not necessarily mean development of GM rice. Biotechnology has larger areas of applications like marker-assisted selections, use of tools of genomics. The development of traits may not require a transgene.' Zeigler said IRRI has already developed a submergence tolerent rice called Swarna and this variety would soon be given to national research agencies after trials. He admitted a major technological breakthrough in rice productivity would take at least 10 years. The major technological breakthrough, according to him, means increasing the photosynthesis of rice (C3 crop) to the level of of that in maize, sugarcane and sorghum (C4 crop). The increase in photosynthesis power in rice would result in increased productivity. He also admitted less possibility of an substaintial increase in area under rice. Therefore as an alternative option he suggested development of high yielding varieties suited for rainfed areas, salinty, flodd and drought resistant varieties and extension of irrigation facilities to rainfed areas. Zeigler came down upon attempts to patent research tool-kits and processes. He said that only the plant product may be patented."
‘Biotech is more than GM crop’
Financial Express (India), 10 October 2006

"A high-yielding rice plant which does not fall over in bad weather has been created by a team of researchers. Their approach could help plant breeders develop more productive cultivars of rice –the crop that provides nearly a quarter of the world's calories - without the need to use genetic modification technology. Breeding short, sturdy and high yield cereal crops – a hallmark of the 'Green Revolution' in the 1960s – has often been credited with saving the world from starvation. And in recent years, plant biologists have begun to unravel the genetics behind these salvation cultivars, with hope to improve them further - and faster. 'Generally speaking, it takes over 10 years to produce a new variety by conventional selective breeding. However, if we can use molecular markers linked with the gene controlling the trait, we can dramatically reduce time and laborious human work,' says Makoto Matsuoka at Nagoya University, Japan, one of the team. The genes uncovered to date have been those referred to as 'dwarf' genes, which are linked to growth hormone pathways. Stubbier plants are less likely to topple over in bad weather and often devote their remaining energy into grain production."
Bumper rice plant created by novel approach
New Scientist, 23 June 2005

"GM is only one easily recognised byproduct of genetic research. The quiet revolution is happening in gene mapping ['genomics'], helping us understand crops better. That is up and running and could have a far greater impact on agriculture.... There really are no downsides, particularly in terms of public perception... [By contrast in the case of GMOs] there are public perception problems and the technology itself is still not optimised, with antibiotic and herbicide resistance genes still needed and bits of bacterial DNA hanging about. Whether that poses any danger is debatable, but it is not desirable."
Professor John Snape, Head Of Crop Genetics, John Innes Centre
'Gene mapping the friendly face of GM technology'
Farmers Weekly, 1 March 2002

".... genomic science's biggest contribution is likely to be through providing markers and understanding to conventional plant breeding.... to date, very few breeders can quantify the genetic advances they have made in terms of known genes for any complex trait. The current advances in our knowledge of genomics and genetics of our crops has the potential to dramatically change this situation, and, ultimately, to change the plant breeder's 'art' into an objectively based plant breeding science... Good genetic maps, based on molecular marker technologies are now available for all major, and for many minor, species. The major use of genetic maps is to locate genes of interest so that the maps can be fully annotated with the locations of genes, be it for quality, agronomic performance, disease resistance, adaptability, or any other trait.... In this millennium, genomics research has the potential to define the total extent of the genetic variation for simple and complex characters within our crop plants. This will allow our plant breeders, using high-through-put molecular marker systems, to produce 'designer' varieties. ...As well as leading to economic prosperity, this research can also make an important contribution to world food security through development of varieties much more resistant to pest and diseases both in major crops, and in 'orphan' crops of the less developing world through comparative approaches. Clearly we have only just started to see the fruits of this genomics revolution leading, hopefully, to the evolution of a new Green Revolution."
Arable Agriculture and the Genomics Revolution
Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, Volume 163, 2002 (p12-20)

"As the controversy surrounding genetically modified foods intensifies, scientists are trying to use the rapidly growing knowledge about genes to enhance conventional breeding of crops and livestock rather than implant genes from one species into another..... a number of companies are turning to the approach because it avoids the regulatory reviews required of genetically modified foods and is not expected to stir resistance from consumers. The approach is called marker-assisted breeding because it uses genetic markers to guide the process. 'Marker-assisted selection is the first choice if we can solve the problem,' said Wally Beversdorf, head of plant science and agribusiness for Syngenta, which was formed by the merger of the agricultural businesses of Novartis and AstraZeneca. Some newly formed companies are deliberately steering clear of genetic engineering. AniGenics, a start- up in Concord, Mass., aims to identify genes associated with higher milk production, more tender meat and other desirable traits of cattle and other livestock. But that knowledge would be used to guide conventional breeding, not to create genetically altered herds. 'It may or may not be faster biologically,' said Steven M. Niemi, the president. 'It's certainly faster politically.' .... scientists say that many important traits — bigger fruit, higher yield, disease and pest resistance — can often be found within the crop species itself..... The advantage of this technique is that the markers can be used even if the breeders have not identified the gene. Genetic engineering can be done only if the gene is known and isolated. It is also possible to use markers to follow numerous traits through the breeding process. Genetic engineering is at present limited to transferring only one or a few genes. Yet many traits, like the yield of a crop, are governed by multiple genes.... One of the biggest opportunities presented by marker-assisted selection is to improve the harnessing of wild relatives of crops. Human beings domesticated plants by selecting for obvious traits, like bigger fruit. But over time, the genetic variation in commercial crops has become limited, so when breeders cross these crops, the possible outcomes are also limited. 'We've left behind in this process a huge reservoir of natural variation,' said Steven D. Tanksley, professor of plant breeding and plant biology at Cornell. All the commercially grown tomatoes in the world, from the tiniest cherry tomato to the beefiest beefsteak, have less genetic variation than the wild tomatoes in a single valley in Peru, he said.... even small, green tomatoes can contain some genes for redness and large fruit. The marker studies allow these genes to be found.... Robert Goodman, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin, said there was still a risk that marker-assisted breeding could run into the same opposition as transgenic crops because people might fail to make any distinction. But if that does not happen, he said, the breeding approach could provide a way out of the contentious debate. 'Maybe in five to eight years we'll look back on this argument over transgenics and say, 'How arcane,' ' said Dr. Goodman, who once headed research at Calgene, the company that marketed the first genetically modified crop, a tomato. 'Not because it became unpopular but simply because it got bypassed by the advances made by breeding powered by genomics.'"
Gene Research Finds New Use in Agricultural Breeding
New York Times, 6 March 2001

".... the average annual wheat yield increase from new varieties could more than double from one per cent extra a year to at least two per cent, through increased use of gene mapping and marker technology. According to breeder Monsanto PBIC, work at its Cambridge base will allow breeders to develop from the outset varieties combining high yields with improved grain quality and agronomic characteristics.    'Designer' wheats will soon be under development to meet specific needs for current and future markets.  Dr Xavier Delannay, Monsanto's international molecular breeding programme chief, says these first benefits will boost conventional breeding, with significant spin-off  benefits for growers.  Developing marker technology involves detailed molecular studies of what makes wheat plants 'tick' and how individual genes interact. By mapping them, technologists can provide tools to tailor varieties to specific needs. 'The new technology will highlight which genes to use to design a variety,' said Dr Delannay. 'The key ones are those controlling yield, grain quality and disease resistance, with those affecting other agronomic characteristics also important. 'This means designing wheats to suit specific geographic areas, growing conditions and markets. A variety could be targeted at bread making, distilling, specialist starch production, or many other industrial uses. With a full set of tools, breeders could access a broader range of genetic variation than can be tackled at present.  'They tend to stick to gene pools they know and are reluctant to look elsewhere for characteristics they need for fear of complicating programmes. The big international gene pools could be a treasure trove of genes that haven't so far been exploited in the appropriate combinations. It should be possible to make even greater use of genes from wild species.' Monsanto PBIC's Dr Peter Jack said that the company's molecular experience in other crops, including corn and rice, was being adapted to help wheat breeding.  'There may be some mechanisms common to all crops that contribute to major characteristics, such as yield, but genes that control yield are complex. In the past, the number of samples that could be analysed limited exploitation of DNA marker technology. Automation has greatly increased throughput, so projects that until recently seemed impossible are now feasible.' Using the technology involves plugging recently mapped genes into existing breeding   programmes to design crops as required."
'Designer' wheats are on their way
Farming News, 10 May 2001

"Biotechnology rather than genetic modification is the key to improving wheat varieties, says Monsanto. Although GM techniques may develop some traits, most will stem from conventional breeding backed by sophisticated biotech tools. Biotech to aid conventional wheat breeding is already attracting 10 to 20 times more effort than the [GM] genetic transformation of the crop, says US-based Tom Crosbie, Monsanto's global head of plant breeding. '[GM] Genetic transformation is just one particular wrench in the biotechnology tool box. We have lots of other [non-GM] tools to accelerate the development of new wheat varieties,' he says.... Genetic transformation can only be used to introduce one segment of novel genetic material to a variety at a time, but biotech tools can be used to enhance a host of existing traits. 'It's a numbers game and ultimately non-transformation biotech offers the greatest potential.' Monsanto now has the best wheat breeding material in the world Mr Crosbie claims.  Biotech methods such as gene mapping and molecular markers will transform conventional breeding, effectively turning the lights on where breeders previously worked in the dark, Mr Crosbie adds. 'Aligning 20 segments of desired genetic material using conventional breeding would take a one-in-a-trillion chance. Using molecular markers we can achieve it in three cycles.’"
Farmer's Weekly, 25 February 2000

"Oilseed crops can replace oil from non-renewable fossil sources — and genetically modified crops need not play any role in the revolution. New aspects of technology mean conventional breeding could be accelerated and even non-crop species domesticated to meet the needs of industry. Within the next two years a multinational team of scientists will complete the first genetic map of an entire plant, pinpointing where in its genetic code each characteristic is controlled. Significantly that first genetic map will be for Arabidopsis — an oil-bearing weed. Much of what is learned will be directly applicable to its near relatives, oilseed rape and the vegetable brassicas, says Denis Murphy of the John Innes Centre in Norwich in a paper prepared for the annual British Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Cardiff this week. 'This knowledge will allow us to identify and manipulate genes that control factors such as canopy architecture, seed weight and disease resistance, all of which contribute to improving crop yields.' explains Prof Murphy.  'It will also allow us to improve the quality of such crops, enhancing the nutritional value of brassica vegetables, which can form natural protection against many forms of cancer.' But such developments need not rely upon GM techniques. One alternative is to use genetic maps and markers to accelerate the selection of new characters in conventional breeding programmes. The other option is to domesticate entirely new species as non-GMO sources of useful oils. Modern biotechnology means this could be done in as little as 10 years, says Prof Murphy. 'This is a novel strategy that is not widely appreciated as yet. But it could provide a real alternative to the use of GMOs.' "
Farmers Weekly, Farmers Weekly, 11 September 1998

Tearing Down Biotech's 'Berlin Wall'
The Fundamental Scientific Error
of Pursuing Transgenics Before Competency in Genomics

GM Watch
Developing High Performance Crop Varieties
Using Non-GM Methods

Gene Mapping And Tackling Wheat Rust

"Scientists say they're close to producing new 'super varieties' of wheat that will resist a virulent fungus while boosting yields up to 15 percent, potentially easing a deadly threat to the world's food supply. The new strains mark a huge advance, said Marty Carson, research director at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cereal Research Laboratory at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. 'Anytime you can talk about a 15 percent boost in yields from existing varieties, I mean that's phenomenal. And to get combined resistance to all three rusts, that's also a very big deal,' said Carson, who wasn't directly involved in that research. His lab, which is heavily involved in the fight against Ug99, is hosting the conference along with the University of Minnesota....The Borlaug Global Rust Initiative was launched five years ago by the late Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug in response to the Ug99 threat. Borlaug, an alumnus of the University of Minnesota, was a leader of CIMMYT. His research sparked the 'Green Revolution' of the 1960s that transformed agriculture through high-yield, disease-resistant crops and other innovations, helping to more than double world food production by 1990. He's credited with saving perhaps 1 billion people from starvation. Ravi Singh, a wheat breeder at CIMMYT, helped lead the research on the new strains, which he'll present at the conference and publish later this year in the Annual Review of Phytopathology. He said in an interview that the new varieties were developed through conventional crossbreeding, not genetic engineering. They have been tested successfully for disease resistance in Kenya and Ethiopia, where Ug99 is endemic, as well as at the USDA lab in St. Paul."
Scientists: 'Super' Wheat to Boost Food Security
Associated Press, 10 June 2011

"Hard Winter Wheat Genetics Research Unit, Manhattan, Kansas—Identified four new resistance genes from wild relatives of wheat to combat Ug99 and developed genetic stocks for their use in wheat breeding; developed genetic markers and improved germplasm for several Ug99-effective resistance genes, including Sr22, Sr35, and Sr40; used chromosome-engineering techniques to shorten introduced chromosome segments from wild relatives of wheat and thus reduce undesirable linked characters; and use marker-assisted selection to move useful resistance genes into elite hard winter wheat varieties for Central and Southern Plains breeders."
ARS Wheat Rust Resistance Roundup
Agricultural Research, May/June 2010

"Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) today announced a two-year public-private partnership between Syngenta, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and SFSA to rapidly identify and map genetic markers for use in wheat resistance breeding against Ug99 stem rust, a fungal disease which can cause devastating crop losses. The project, funded by the Foundation, will combine Syngenta’s plant genetic profiling expertise with the strengths of CIMMYT’s extensive field research to develop a genetic map of wheat stem rust resistance. This will culminate in the development of wheat varieties that can better resist the disease. The results from this project will contribute directly to the global efforts to combat stem rust, which are coordinated by the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative. The marker data arising from the research will be published."
Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture launches Syngenta and CIMMYT wheat Ug99 stem rust resistance research partnershi
Syngenta, 26 August 2009

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