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GMO fight in southern Oregon sharpens GMO debate in California

UC researchers are decoding the genetic clues that help public and private breeders worldwide develop wheat varieties that resist disease.
A ballot measure approved by voters in a single southern Oregon county to ban genetically modified crops is expected to have far-reaching impacts on agriculture, reported Mateusez Perkowski in Capital Press. The new law is expected to spur lawsuits against growers of conventional crops, court cases that will be closely watched by scientists trying to solve farm problems with genetic modification.

"We could do millions of things with transgenics, but we have our hands tied," a story in The Scientist quoted Jorge Dubcovsky, professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis.

Dubcovsky commented in The Scientist article about his work in using biotechnology to instill resistance to a devastating plant disease, stripe rust, in wheat.

“Wheat is a very important cereal,” says Ravi Singh of Irrigated Bread Wheat Improvement and Rust Research in Mexico. “Twenty percent of [humans'] calories and about the same [percent of] protein are coming from wheat.”

Genetic engineering is a way to breed long-lasting stem rust–resistant wheat varieties and boost wheat yields around the world. But genetically modified foods are being kept off the market by public opposition and regulatory expenses.

The Scientist article, written by Kerry Grens, said a few groups are forging ahead, including Dubcovsky and other researchers who are cloning stripe rust-resistance genes from wheat and other taxa and identify their functions. For more on Dubcovsky's work, see UC researchers improve wheat nutrition and yield.

Posted on Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 11:51 AM
Tags: biotechnology (11), GMO (17), Jorge Dubcovsky (2), wheat (5)

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