News From Great Lakes Hybrids

KWS video evaluates genome editing in plant breeding

Aug 17, 2017, 08:35 AM by Clint Hawks
New breeding methods provide a unique opportunity going forward. Their robustness and simplicity will significantly speed up the development and release of new, well adapted, stable and high yielding crop varieties.

New Plant Breeding Methods

In 2050, nearly ten billion people will populate our planet – almost twice as many as in 1990. 

Feeding the growing world population poses an enormous challenge for the global farming community and the global agricultural business. More than ever before, sustainable land use is key, along with stable and reliable yield. Plant breeding makes a significant contribution to that goal. Crops like corn, wheat or potatoes have been feeding mankind for many centuries. Changing environments and lifestyles have challenged mankind again and again to use the knowledge of their time to adapt agriculture to their nutritional needs. New breeding methods provide a unique opportunity going forward. Their robustness and simplicity will significantly speed up the development and release of new, well adapted, stable and high yielding crop varieties. They will mitigate the ever increasing problems with pests, diseases, droughts and soil degradation triggered by climate change and help secure global food production in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices.

KWS im Dialog


The Next Step: Nature-identical Results

Writing the next chapter: highly precise breeding methods allow for results nature itself would produce.

New Plant Breeding Methods

A multitude of new methods create plants that are nature-identical, meaning they could have been the result of a traditional breeding method or of a coincidental natural mutation. These plants are no different from conventionally bred plants – neither in their genetic structure nor in their properties. They do not contain any foreign genes or genes that were modified outside the plant. The essential difference: what nature only brings about coincidentally, what the traditional breeder needs to work on for years can be achieved by modern methods specifically and precisely in a very short time. The results adhere to what is possible in nature and are in accordance with the crossbreeding and re combination possibilities described by Mendel. At the same time, they make it possible to plan coincidence and thus for more efficient and effective breeding. These new methods can be used in many ways. Depending on how they are applied, some of them can result in genetically modified plants. For this reason a differentiated view should be taken in assessing them. Zinc Finger, TALEN and CRISPR/Cas can be used in different ways. Those methods in which no genes are transferred are called variant 1 or 2. The following overview shows how plants are ge nerated using these new methods.

Debate in Europe About New Plant Breeding Methods

Currently there is a debate in Europe about new plant breeding techniques. At its heart stands the question about the regulatory evaluation of those new methods. To make an assessment under existing laws, it is important to differentiate among the various methods. Some can be classified as genetic engineering. Others are comparable to traditional breeding: they maintain the species barrier and result in plants that could have also occurred naturally, which makes them nature-identical as products. KWS advocates those latter methods being evaluated as conventional breeding methods. The natureidentical results lead us to the basic conviction that plants should be jugded by their characteristics and by their concrete properties when used as food for humans and as animal feed, as well as by their inter action with the environment. The proper assessment of the new methods and an appropriate classification of products using these new methods is a prerequisite to fostering development in plant breeding in Germany and Europe, with breeding being an integral part of sustainable and modern agriculture. The new methods offer a new perspective for plant breeding – especially in Europe. We are convinced that with these methods we will embark upon a path that meets the demands of current political and societal realities. 

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