What is the difference between genetic modification and conventional breeding?
Plant breeders have been using conventional breeding for centuries to develop new crop varieties with improved properties. They identify favourable traits, such as higher yield or improved nutritional value in individual crop plants, which are then crossed to create new, improved lines. Conventional breeding has its limitations as it only allows exchanges between the same or very closely related species and it can take a long time to achieve desired results.
Genetic modification allows plant breeders to introduce genes in one plant from a wide range of living sources, allowing the introduction of many more valuable traits. It has the added advantage of being more targeted (only a select number of genes carrying known functions are inserted in the recipient genome) and faster (bypassing the multiple cross generations needed by traditional breeding). In short, GM crops often offer a faster, cheaper, more precise and more effective means to obtain desirable and safe crop traits compared with traditional breeding methods.