New Plant Breeding Technologies For Food Security & Development
An international team of Researchers from the University of Göttingen has recently found fresh plant breeding technologies that can contribute significantly to food security and sustainable development. Genome editing techniques in particular, like CRISPR/Cas, could help make agriculture more productive and environmentally friendly. The researchers urge the responsible use and support of these new technologies.
As per Matin Qaim an agricultural economist at the University of Göttingen and author of this article published in Science that – Plant breeding and other agricultural technologies have contributed substantially to hunger reduction during the past few decades. However, the consequent high intensity in the use of agrochemicals has also caused serious ecological issues. Predictions suggest that small farms in Africa and Asia will suffer particularly from the consequences of climate change.
On the other hand, Shahid Mansoor from the National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering in Pakistan stated that- Genome editing enables us to develop crop plants that are more resistant to pests and diseases and more tolerant to heat and drought this technique can help to reduce crop losses and chemical pesticide sprays. In genome editing, certain DNA sequences are changed or switchedoff in a very precise way without foreign genes being introduced.
Mr. Mansoor also stated that- The new methods are already being used in a variety of cereals and to improve failed food crops such as legumes or local vegetables.
Mr. Qaim stated that- they will take care not to repeat the mistakes that were made with GMOs. The limited public acceptance and the high regulatory hurdles for transgenic GMOs have led to a concentration of biotech developments in only a few significant crops and in the hands of just a few multinationals. Genome-edited crops do not contain foreign genes as the breeding techniques are more precise these crops are as safe as conventionally bred crops. Genome-edited crops shouldn’t be regulated as if they were transgenic GMOs.
Regulations for genome-edited crops are still being debated in Europe. In July 2018, the EU Court of Justice ruled that these crops would fall under the present GMO law, which is disappointing according to the authors of the position paper. Qaim stated that- This will hold up future applications. The researchers fear that the regulation of new breeding technologies in Europe also has a major effect on developing nations carrying the risk that the enormous potential of genome editing for food security may not be fully harnessed.