Clarification on the article "Genetic modification: win - win for humanity"

Various repercussions have had the article "Genetic modification: win - win for humanity", published by our portal on January 24. Specifically in relation to this allusion to blueberry that is made in the last paragraph:

"...nowadays we can cultivate in our own farms or territorial regions any fruit coming from agriculture, no matter how different their conditions of origin, it is the case of the blueberry, coming from the American understory, and thanks to the genetic technology, it is currently cultivated in different varieties, in desert or austral places, with abundant water or scarcity of it, in cold, tropical, non-traditional climates.".

In the article it is not clear the relation that is made to the genetic development of the cranberry and the difference of this one with the genetically modified organisms, GMO, or transgenic, OT.

Indeed the article deals with the advances of genetic modification in food in the world, and the confusion was made when cataloging the work of genetic improvement of cranberry as "genetic technology", which is not precise, so it is good to clarify .

Certainly, when talking about genetic technology it can be associated with genetic engineering, and this leads to confusion. The intention of the paragraph is to highlight, giving a technical name, the great accumulation of research and scientific knowledge that exists in the discipline of genetic improvement.

To leave the doubts very clear, we share some opinions of experts on the subject:

Professor Herman Silva, biochemist researcher in plant biology at the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences of the University of Chile, specialist in Functional Genomics and Bioinformatics, tells us that "All transgenics belong to the category of genetically modified organisms, GMO, which has nothing to do with breeding or genetic management, are different terminologies. The improvement, in simple terms, is to take a good variety and a bad one, cross it and look for something different. That is a natural crossing. The only thing you are doing is inducing pollen to pollinate the other plant. In Chile there is no genetically modified crop planted in the field. There is no authorization. Everything else is genetic improvement, which is otherwise a practice that has been done for thousands of years", Says the specialist.

Professor Carlos Muñoz Schick, who led the first genetic improvement programs of fruit species in Chile during his tenure at the Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA), reinforces the above, saying that GMOs and GMOs are basically the same, "are two terms to refer to plants that have been produced by genetic engineering, that is, directly manipulating the DNA of plants. What is relevant is the difference between these and the plants obtained by conventional breeding. The latter are produced by crosses between plants of the same species, in which the gene mix occurs at random and it is the man who selects from the progeny produced the plant that best meets his requirements"He concludes.

The teacher Maria Loreto Prat, from the same university faculty, adds to this opinion "because in genetically modified and transgenic organisms there is an external intervention of man, to which a different piece of gene was artificially introduced" Explain what "effectively when a common and wild plant is chosen and you cross it with another plant, through the pollen of that plant, a modification is actually produced, but this is random, in a natural way".

In the context of his visit to Chile, John Beuttenmuller, Executive Director of Florida Foundation Seed Producers, FFSP, responsible for licensing blueberry varieties produced by the University of Florida, was emphatic in ensuring that the process of genetic development of new varieties of blueberries that makes your program, should not be considered within what is commonly known as GMO, since it is based on technology applied by natural means.

We hope we have clarified the confusion. It is an important issue and corresponds to be very precise in the concepts and nomenclatures used, but we must emphasize that the article only wanted to highlight the contribution of science to the cranberry industry, because the blueberry comes from the American understory and thanks to the breeding technique Genetic is currently cultivated in different varieties, in desert or austral places, with abundant water or scarcity of it, in cold, tropical, non-traditional climates.

Cristina Hoyuelos Álvarez

Agricultural Engineer M.Sc. -


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