Volatility

October 7, 2017

Potato Seed at the Edge of Transformation

Filed under: Agroecology, GMO Hoaxes, GMOs Don't Increase Yield — Russ @ 5:17 am

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The Dutch seed company Solynta has developed potato varieties that are resistant to potato late blight using conventional breeding techniques. The UK’s Sarpo has had blight-resistant varieties on the market for several years now. Therefore Sarpo and Solynta have left in the dust the GMO developers who continue to struggle to produce a blight-resistant GM potato, even after pirating the necessary traits from pre-existing conventionally bred varieties. Once again have proof of one of the iron laws of GMOs, proven anew every time: Where it comes to any GMO touted for its alleged “product quality” (nutrition, taste, storability, etc.) or “agronomic trait” (disease resistance, drought resistance, etc.), there already exists a better, higher quality, safer, less expensive non-GM version. There are no exceptions. GM potatoes have a typically sordid history. (And then the GM version is more often than not a hoax anyway. “Golden rice” in particular is one of the most egregious media hoaxes in modern memory.)
 
Unless one is religiously committed to the failed path of genetic engineering, the way you breed potatoes is by crossing varieties and planting the resultant “true seed”. This term refers to the actual seeds from potato plants, as opposed to “seed potatoes” which refers to planting pieces of the tubers themselves, which results in a clone plant.
 
Solynta has bred hybrid varieties for whose seeds it plans globalized commodity distribution: “[P]otato seeds can thus be distributed quickly and easily around the whole world.” This is part of the century-long pattern of hybrid breeding. Corporate agriculture chose the path of breeding hybrids instead of open-pollinated varieties for reasons of power and profit. Both agronomically and legally, farmers are foreclosed from saving the seeds of hybrids. Hybrids are produced by crossing two pure parent lines, and the seeds of the hybrids themselves are too genetically unpredictable for commercial planting. And then these varieties are usually patented or hold plant protection certificates. Thus hybrid-based agriculture is aligned with GM-based in its corporate enclosure framework.
 
And then, globalized distribution of seed is part of the corporate monoculture onslaught which cannot work because to be most effective varieties must be adapted to regional conditions (that’s part of the reason golden rice keeps failing), and because in the long run agriculture depends upon sustaining millions of small farmers dedicated to producing food for their communities and the locally-adapted seed such a system needs. By contrast the mode of destroying all farmers and seed and replacing them with giant corporate plantations dedicated to producing not food but globalized commodities is part of the doomed paradigm which, if humanity persists in it, inevitably will bring the total collapse of agriculture and subsequent mass famine.
 
History has proven that conventional breeding of agronomic traits such as blight resistance works well and quickly, while genetic modification seldom works at all, and where it does the result is inferior and more expensive in every way. But history also proves that hybridization was never necessary for effective breeding of such traits. Agronomists know that for example the yield increases of hybrid-based agriculture also could have been attained by breeding of open-pollinated varieties, and that hybrids were chosen for capitalist reasons, not agronomic ones.
 
Our great need today includes such projects as breeding blight-resistant potatoes. But we don’t need the globalized, patent-based hybridization structure for this. This structure is undesirable, part of the corporate pathology we fight rather than part of any solution. On the contrary, potato varieties can be bred from open-pollinated true seed. The same is done with other crops. We can and must continue to build the community food sector including the breeding of regionally adapted, open-pollinated crop varieties. This breeding must be done on the basis of the participation of practicing farmers and committed amateurs, with the assistance of agronomists who are committed to agroecology and food sovereignty. This is called participatory plant breeding, and it’s part of the great agroecological transformation we need.
 
 
 
 
 
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