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GM foods: is there a way forward?

Jones, Huw D.
Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2015 v.74 no.3 pp. 198-201
acrylamides, alleles, allergens, antioxidants, biotechnology, commercialization, crossing, cultivars, food processing, genetic engineering, genetic variation, genetically modified foods, genetically modified plants, genomics, germplasm, grains, insoluble fiber, plant breeders, raw materials, risk assessment, sequence analysis
There are many quality targets in cereals that could generate step-change improvements in nutritional or food-processing characteristics. For instance, levels of acrylamide, soluble and insoluble fibre, antioxidants, allergens and intolerance factors in food are, to a large extent, determined by the genetics of the raw materials used. However, improvements to these traits pose significant challenges to plant breeders. For some traits, this is because the underlying genetic and biochemical basis of the traits is not fully understood but for others, there is simply a lack of natural genetic variation in commercially useful germplasm. One strategy to overcome the latter hindrance is to use wide crosses with more exotic germplasm; however, this can bring other difficulties such as yield loss and linkage drag of deleterious alleles. As DNA sequencing becomes cheaper and faster, it drives the research fields of reverse genetics and functional genomics which in turn will enable the incorporation of desirable traits into crop varieties via molecular breeding and biotechnology. I will discuss the evolution of these techniques from conventional genetic modification to more recent developments in targeted gene editing and the potential of biotechnology to complement conventional breeding methods. I will also discuss the role of risk assessment and regulation in the commercialisation of GM crops.