When is GM, GM?

The next issue of Ethical Corporation, coming off the physical and digital presses shortly, has a major report on agriculture and genetic modification.

We all know there’s a population explosion.We all know climate change won’t help. We all know technology has a role of play in agriculture. But our concern is also for the little guys, the small farmers, what of them?

All this is discussed in our next edition. Here’s an excerpt below, which I think you may find interesting, given we are all interested in food….

When is it GM?

The
definition of when a substance is GM – with all the connotations – and when it
is not can be confusing. In many respects, opinion is split exactly where the
line lies.

Modern
plant breeding – known as molecular breeding – may use techniques of molecular
biology
to select,
or in the case of genetic modification, to insert, desirable traits into plants. The distinction is
important if one accepts the broadest definition of GM crops to include any
organism with artificially altered genes.
Traditional plant breeding at its core is the deliberate
interbreeding (crossing) of closely or distantly related individuals to produce
new crop varieties, including the crossbreeding of traits (genes) from one
variety or line into a new genetic background. Thus, plant breeding has always
involved the “artificial” alteration of genes.
Most
scientists argue for a more precise GM definition distinguishing between
cross-species breeding (ie insertion) and selection of genes from the
organism’s already-existing genetic composition.
Advances
in molecular biology, have greatly improved the selection or screening process,
thus opening up a genome editing pathway into new biotech methods such
as mutagenesis – whereby targeted mutations turn on or off single pairs
of DNA. Mutations have long been an essential part of the Green Revolution,
which in the past relied upon harsh chemicals and radiation. Because these
plants don’t carry foreign genes, they may face little to no regulatory
oversight.
Biotechnology, then in its broadest terms, includes both GM techniques of
cross-breeding insertion, as well as newly developed methods that encompass a
wide-ranging selection process for identification and breeding that turns on or
off genes already present in an organism’s own genetic makeup.

Read more about all this in a few days time, on Ethicalcorp.com and in our print edition.