Biotechnology of plants

Genetically modified foodsPeople have been breeding plants to improve quality, increase yields and reduce harmful characteristics in crops for thousands of years. In the last few decades, plant breeders have been able to introduce beneficial traits in plants more precisely using a variety of techniques commonly known today as plant biotechnology.

There are a number of processes that fall into the broader category of plant biotechnology.

Three that are commonly talked about are:

  • Genetic modification (GM) – a broad term commonly used interchangeably with genetic engineering.
  • Genetic engineering (GE) – a set of laboratory-based methods used to change the genetic makeup of cells by removing, moving or transferring genes within and between plants in order to produce the desired effect. Plant products from this process have been federally regulated since 1988.
  • Mutagenesis – a process where the genes of an organism are altered. This process occurs in nature, but plant breeders can accelerate the alteration of a plant’s genes experimentally by the use of chemicals or radiation. Mutagenesis as a science was developed in the first half of the 20th century and many of today’s varieties of crops have been derived using it.
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