Viewpoint: Our ancestors played ‘genetic roulette’ in crop breeding while modern genetic engineering is ‘controlled and conservative’

| | March 19, 2018

[A]s much as human history is the history of agriculture, it’s also the history of genetic modification of plants, animals and microbes — which enabled humanity to overcome the myriad obstacles they faced over the millennia. It is safe to say that, without systemic genetic modification of crops and livestock, civilization would not exist.

Critics of genetic engineering portray contemporary agricultural scientists as playing God — messing with nature in dangerous ways with unknown consequences. But in reality, the level of control these new tools give us demonstrates that it was our ancestors who were playing an unpredictable game of genetic roulette. Every time farmers and ranchers of yore bred a plant or animal from among domesticated stock, or crossed them with wild varieties, they created a genome entirely new to the planet.

In contrast, today’s genetically modified organisms are incredibly modest. They involve smaller, more carefully considered, controlled and conservative changes to DNA than were ever before possible in human history.

Editor’s note: Michael Eisen is a professor of molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley

Read full, original post: How GMOs can save civilization (and probably already have)

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Click the link above to read the full, original article.

3 thoughts on “Viewpoint: Our ancestors played ‘genetic roulette’ in crop breeding while modern genetic engineering is ‘controlled and conservative’”

  1. I am glad to see Impossible Foods owning up to the GMO part. They were kind of coy with it for a while, not hiding it but not getting out in front of it.

    The best thing about this GMO though: it tastes amazing. I’ve had it several times now and it astonishes me every time.

    What was very clever, though, was to go so all these individual restaurants. There was no way the haters could go to the main grocer’s offices like they did with the salmon. In fact, if the salmon people were wise, they’d go to these same restaurants where this is succeeding and do the same thing.

    • It’s interesting how they chose to use a plant hemoglobin rather than a beef one. Perhaps that would too much like artificial meat.

      Do you know why they decided to use whole hemoglobin, rather than just heme for flavoring?

      • I don’t know personally, but I have seen drama in the vegan community that even the sequence of an animal might be disturbing to them. And I’ve seen some people claim that for Kosher rules too. The main Kosher certifiers don’t have that issue but some might.

        Interesting question, though, Could ask Mike Eisen on that post.

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