Ottoline Leyser discusses the ability to target and/or select specific genetic changes in plant genomes, and the impact of this on the governance of our food system.
Plants and photosynthetic microbes have the extraordinary ability to convert light energy to chemical energy and as a consequence, they are the foundation of virtually all ecosystems and all agricultural systems on the planet.
The characteristics that make plants successful in natural ecosystems are often antithetical to agriculture and over 1000s of years we have domesticated plants to make better crops. The molecular genetics revolution of the 20th century has simultaneously provided a means to understand the relationship between plant genes and plant characteristics, and the ability to target and/or select specific genetic changes in plant genomes.
This combination of knowledge and technology opens the possibility for designer crops, and raises interesting questions about the governance of our food system