Plant science blooms in quagmire
Published on 20 June 2013
Genetically modified crops, first grown commercially in 1996, covered 170m hectares of the world’s farmland last year – of which less than 0.1 per cent was in Europe where GM remains stuck in a political and regulatory quagmire.
So far, the most important “traits”, introduced through genetic modification are herbicide tolerance, which enables the farmer to spay a weedkiller without affecting the crop, and insect resistance. The four main commercial GM crops are maize, cotton, soyabeans and oilseed rape.
The next big GM development is likely to be the introduction of genes that protect crops against “environmental stress” – drought, flooding and frost. The first drought tolerant maize is almost ready for launch in the US.
Scientists say that blight-resistant GM potatoes, which are undergoing research at several laboratories, could be developed quite soon for the European market, if there were a change in the regulatory environment.