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Monday, August 28, 2006

Selective Breeding: No Frankenfoods Here!

Improving crop yields and pest resistance have traditionally been done by inserting genes into crops from other organisms like bacteria or other plants (genetic modification). Now, something called marker-assisted selection (MAS) allows agricultural biotech companies to identify desired gene sequences and attempt to breed them into crops. Wired explains, "For example, a wild apple variety might have a brilliant red skin. In order to bring that trait to a domesticated apple, researchers first scan the apple's genome for the gene that determines skin color. Then, looking at the wild apple, they search the chromosome containing the skin color gene for a unique and easy-to-identify segment, which becomes the marker. After crossbreeding the two apple trees, scientists look for the genetic marker rather than waiting a few years to see which of the seedlings picked up the red skin trait."

Related Link: Selective Breeding Gets Modern


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