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The evolution of cultivated plant species: classical plant breeding versus genetic engineering

Hakan Ulukan
Plant Systematics and Evolution
Vol. 280, No. 3/4 (July 2009), pp. 133-142
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23664358
Page Count: 10
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Abstract

Agriculture is the most intensive form of environmental exploitation performed by mankind. It involves replacing the natural ecosystem with an artificial plant community comprising one or more crop species, and weeds can invade the cleared land. Initially, the adoption of agriculture did not necessarily imply an improvement in standard of living (there is, in fact, evidence to the contrary), but as agricultural efficiency improved, surpluses were generated on top of mere subsistence levels. It may take many years of labor in order to obtain a crop that has all of the desired traits. It is not possible to control which genes are transferred from the parents to the offspring, and the results are often uncertain. In comparison, the utilization of genetic engineering to improve crops can be a faster and more precise approach. Unlike traditional breeding, genetic engineering makes it possible to select the specific traits desired and insert the genes that code for them into the plant.

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