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Improving Produce Without Genetic Engineering

Improving Produce Without Genetic Engineering

Image source: flickr.com/people/karimian

A lot of focus on the food production and farming industries may seem to concentrate on genetically modified foods. However, some plant breeders are working to also bring focus to an age old way of growing premier foods, without using any genetically induced alterations.

Rapid genetic analysis, or sometimes referred to as marker-assisted breeding, uses conventional farming techniques and plant breeding with quick ways of identifying alleles and DNA markers and how they are structured. Combining the more traditional forms of farming along with these processes can produce crops with more flavor and color, as well as a more appealing presence and shape. It can also increase their nutritional value.

Most often this process does not involve any direct manipulative efforts to the plants’ DNA structure. Instead, the plants’ genomes are sequenced in order to construct information that can connect alleles to produce specific traits. The alleles are studied to find out what was already present versus what enhanced the plants’ production. Further, using this technique lets the seeds be examined too, so that their favorable genetic outlines can be selected, resulting in optimum seeds.

One example of this comes from a group of researchers from Cornell University who used the genetic mutation process to produce a desired outcome in a pepper. Their interesting investigation led to how a habanero pepper, one of the most heat intense peppers, could be made to capture the flavor but not the extreme heat. The research team was able to consistently come up with a strain of peppers that they call habanadas, or a mild version of habaneros, which still had the flavor but not the spicy intensity.

This type of genetic sequencing technology can help plant breeders efficiently and successfully produce crops that are full of beneficial properties which are preferred by consumers.

However, this technology is really nothing new. Altering a plant to make the most of its favorable qualities has been going on for many 1000’s of years, with generations using this process of selection and plant breeding to obtain desired outcomes.

Enlisting successful, time tested ways of growing with compatible modern advances in technology is something worth looking into.

For more information and an interactive illustration of 10 fruits and vegetables that have been improved without genetic engineering, read the article available at Scientific American.

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