MAS technology makes GM food obsolete.


Beyond GM food

New cutting edge MAS technology makes GM food obsolete.

Dateline: Monday, July 10, 2022

by Jeremy Rifkin

For years, the life science companies Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Pioneer, etc. have argued that genetically modified (GM) food is the next great scientific and technological revolution in agriculture, and the only efficient and cheap way to feed a growing population in a shrinking world. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including my own, The Foundation on Economic Trends, have been cast as the villains in this unfolding agricultural drama, and often categorized as modern versions of the English 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, or MAS. The new technology offers a sophisticated method to greatly accelerate classical breeding. A growing number of scientists believe that MAS, which is already being introduced into the market, will eventually replace GM food. Moreover, environmental organizations, like Greenpeace, that have long opposed GM crops, are guardedly supportive of MAS technology.

Rapidly accumulating information about crop genomes is allowing scientists to identify genes associated with traits like yield and then scan crop relatives for the presence of those genes. Instead of using molecular splicing techniques to transfer a gene from an unrelated species into the genome of a food crop to increase yield, resist pests, or improve nutrition, scientists are now using Marker Assisted Selection to locate desired traits in other varieties or, wild relatives of a particular food crop, then cross breeding those plants with the existing commercial varieties to improve the crop. With MAS, the breeding of new varieties always remain within a species, thus, greatly reducing the risk of environmental harm and potential adverse health effects associated with GM crops. Using MAS, researchers can upgrade classical breeding and reduce by 50 percent or more the time needed to develop new plant varieties by pinpointing appropriate plant partners at the gamete or seedling stage. ...

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