Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Breakthrough in the Genetic Modification of Grain Crops

A recent study has led to a breakthrough in the genetic modification of grains. Despite years of experiments, it has been extremely difficult for scientists to develop an efficient method of modifying the genetics of grain crops. When transforming most crops, the typical method is to inject tissue with Agrobacterium. Agrobacterium naturally transfers hand-picked DNA to the host genome. Experimenters then stimulate the tissue to regenerate it into whole plants. The problem with this method is that Agrobacterium infects only a limited range of grain crops. 

A study by a team of researchers at DuPont led to an alternative method of transformation. These researchers added morphogenic genes to the other genes being genetically modified. Morphogenic genes are known to promote the growth of embryonic tissue; as a result of this addition, transformation rates substantially increased for maize, sugarcane, sorghum, and rice. This work expanded the range of crops that can be used for efficient genetic modification. 

Although controversial, the use of genetic modification is undoubtedly useful. According to the World Health Programme, approximately one in nine people on Earth do not have enough food to lead healthy, active lives. With a growing population, this statistic will only get worse. Genetically modified organisms offer a solution to this problem. Scientists are continually improving methods to create stronger, healthier crops. The work in this study opens the door to experiments on grain crops. This can turn out to be a massive breakthrough in the world hunger crisis.

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