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April 17th, 2017 / Genetic Literacy Project, US

The majority of plants used in organic farming were conventionally bred to select for traits that increased productivity and are not suited for organic farming where pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer usage is limited. Significant inbreeding during the selection process has led to loss of several beneficial traits such as salt tolerance or pathogen resistance which were originally present in the parents. With yields for crops used in organic farming lower than for GMO crops, the authors of a review in the journal Trends in Plant Science proposed that the most effective way to strengthen crop varieties and improve yield without depending on chemicals is the reintroduction of genes from wild relatives, a process they call ‘rewilding’.

Breeding techniques such as cisgenesis (transferring genes from a relative of crop using bacteria mediated transformation) or gene editing (creating specific mutations using techniques such as CRISPR) allow us to introduce these beneficial genes in a targeted manner. Read more