The Centrality of Seed: Building Agricultural Resilience Through Plant Breeding
Date Written: 2016-02-29
Publisher: Independent Science News
Year Published: 2016
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX18971
Five of the global issues most frequently debated today are the decline of biodiversity in general and of agrobiodiversity in particular, climate change, hunger and malnutrition, poverty and water. Seed is central to all five issues. The way in which seed is produced has been arguably their major cause. But it can also be the solution to all these issues.
The transition to modern plant breeding was accompanied by a change from selection for specific adaptation to selection for wide adaptation: this became the dominant breeding philosophy and was the basic breeding principle adopted by the Green Revolution.
The term Green Revolution is used to indicate an agriculture development strategy based on the use of new varieties, in conjunction with the use of fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation water and mechanization. It is now increasingly recognized that the short-term achievements of the Green Revolution had long-term penalties.
One was the reduction in food diversity with negative consequence on human health (von Hertzen et al. 2011). Another was the leaching into the ground water of fertilizers due to overuse (Good and Beatty 2011), but they also included water shortages, the emergence of pesticide resistance (Gassman et al. 2011), the increase in populations of harmful insects (Lu et al. 2013) and the bypassing of farmers in marginal areas (Baranski 2015).
GMOs, the latest addition to the industrial 'toolbox,' are a short-term and unstable solution to these problems because they change the environment surrounding the organisms they intend to control (Binimelis et al. 2009). Thus, as predicted by a fundamental biological principle, namely the Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection, their use induces resistance.