What About Wild Relatives?

 photo weedyrice1_zpsa70dcad2.jpgHere’s a question. People often, naively I think, hold that we have long and comforting experience with selective breeding and do not to worry about testing new crops. It’s the novelty of transgenes that they worry about. We don’t know enough about the potential human health and environmental problems that could arise from these novel genetic combinations that we have little experience with.

And yet if a plant breeder chose to cross breed a wild relative with a plant in order to confer a desired trait of hardiness; drought, heat, flood, pest resistance – take your pick; nobody raises an eyebrow. Keep in mind that we have no experience eating the wild relative, no mandated testing of toxins (which of course would be the desired trait in breeding pest resistance) or allergens. We have no experience with large scale cultivation of the wild relative, so it’s hard to extrapolate the environmental impact.

So why doesn’t this keep you up at night?

Well it should’t, but you might ponder them next time the thought of a new genetically engineered crop has you quaking in your boots.

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About Marc Brazeau

Free lance cultural attaché. Writing at REALFOOD.ORG.

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