Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
corporations could devise a new genetic modification that is
also resistant to the rust, which is how the banana industry is
responding to the Tropical Race Four disease (but then, they
have little choice). Remember the leaf blight that hit the United
States in 1970s, mentioned earlier? The problem was solved
in only one year, after seed companies—aided by university
research—quickly integrated greater genetic diversity into
their breeding programs.
It could be argued that to protect the food supply from dev-
astating disease, the most advanced genetic science should be
employed, and that would be genetic modification performed
by large corporations. One could imagine a world where GM
crops are banned and there is greater crop diversity, but a rust
is able to infect most of those crops anyway. Seed corporations
then claim they can develop a GM wheat seed resistant to this
rust in three years. Could it be that genetic modification is the
savior? It is a possibility.
Do not be deceived about the true genetic diversity that
occurs even for the same type of GM seed. There is no one
single Roundup Ready soybean seed, but different varieties
with Roundup-resistant genes. Once Monsanto developed a
Roundup-resistant soybean, it did not sell that exact same vari-
ety to both Minnesota and Texas farmers. Instead, it crossed
that GM variety with other soybean varieties best suited to
each region, especially the length of a region's growing period.
What emerged then were various varieties of Roundup Ready
seeds suited for specific settings. Similar stories can be told
for all superior varieties, both GM and non-GM alike. When
the West Africa Rice Development Associate sought better rice
varieties, it took Asian rice for its reputation for high yields
and crossed it with African varieties, which are known for
their weed-control and drought-resistant traits. This diversity
is the norm in plant breeding, and should not be forgotten
when discussing seed diversity.
One final comment. Genetic diversity of crops cannot be mea-
sured by the market share conquered by the four largest seed
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