Greenpeace on Friday called on the International Rice Research Institute to abandon its genetic engineering program as the environmental activist group offers marker assisted breeding as a safe alternative to bioengineering.
I would like to call upon you to abandon your campaign against genetic engineering and offer up an alternative priority your organization could focus on to the greater benefit of the world we all share: Fighting man-made global warming.
Now you could argue greenpeace already is opposed to global warming. And you’d be right. They are. I guess my offering it to them looks pretty stupid doesn’t it?
The same could be said of greenpeace offering marker assisted selection to the plant breeding community that pioneered the technique and is taking full advantage of it, and has been for years in both the private and public sectors. Case in point:
Sub1 rice is much less damaged by flooding, a risk in many rice producing areas, such as Bangladesh. The trait was first prototyped using genetic engineering, and after it had demonstrated its effectiveness, the long hard work of bringing the gene into cultivated rice lines (using marker assisted breeding) began. Now the trait has been freely released to farmers If you haven’t seen the video of the difference the sub1 trait makes in a flooded rice field, check it out.
Marker assisted breeding is very important for crop improvement. As things stand today, I’d say its contribution to feeding the world is substantially greater than genetic engineering. Make no mistake, genetic engineering has done some cool things, but marker assisted breeding is increasing yields, resistance to draught, pests, and disease every single year!
Marker assisted breeding and genetic engineering are two different tools in the toolbox of plant scientists and plant breeders. There are problems that call for a hammer, and others that call for a screwdriver. You wouldn’t tell someone to stop using a screwdriver to screw in screws and offer to let them a hammer instead. If you do, don’t expect to be taken that seriously. And if the hammer you offer to let them use is one you just took out of their own toolbox…