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BIOEXPLOIT - Exploitation of Natural Plant Biodiversity for the Pesticide-Free Production of Food


The aim of this project is to force a break-through in breeding for resistance to fungal pathogens using genomics and post-genomics tools to exploit natural host plant resistance. Two strategies will be followed to design new resistant varieties: i) marker-assisted breeding and ii) genetic engineering.

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In the shade of the discussions on GMOs, marker-assisted breeding has gone through a silent revolution and has become a realistic option for developing new varieties with multiple resistances. Selecting plants at the seedling stage using molecular markers shortens the time considerably between the first cross involving wild species and introduction on the market, for some crops even with 50%. It has been estimated that less than 0.1% of the biodiversity in resistance is being used in commercial varieties. A major goal of this project is to exploit these genetic resources for breeding resistant varieties, either made with or without genetic engineering. The relative importance of GM techniques for the SMEs to develop new varieties for the regular market in this project is difficult to predict. The fact that the GM approaches used in this IP will only use natural resistance genes, which have been used for more than 50 years in traditional plant breeding, may have a positive effect on the attitude of the European consumers. Regardless the public opinion towards GM crops, marker-assisted breeding will have a high priority in this project, because it is compatible with organic farming. Moreover, it is expected that, due to the development of high through-put technologies, in various situations marker-assisted breeding will be more efficient than GM techniques, even without considering the time consuming and costly procedures to introduce GM varieties on the European market.

<P>For more information about this project, please visit the <a href="…; target="_blank">European Commission Food Quality and Safety in Europe</a> Web site.

Bakker, Jaap
Wageningen University
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