The Loh Down On Science

Something Old, Something New

An apple infected with fire-blight.

S. Stabinger / Wikimedia Commons

Do genetically modified foods freak you out?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

GM crops are a hot button issue today, with nicknames like Frankenfoods. They can contain genes from entirely different organisms. That makes some people nervous. But what if we rescued old traits instead of adding new ones?

Danish researchers are suggesting we restore genes that have been bred out of our crops. Traditional breeding techniques are full of trade-offs. You want higher yields? You may lose some flavor in the process. Corn once produced a healthy fat called oleic acid, which was inadvertently bred out. What if we could put that ability back?

It's called reverse breeding, or rewilding. It transfers genes into plants from undomesticated relatives that still have those genes. The Swiss have done it with Gala apples, to make them as resistant to a fungus as their wild cousins. The hope? To make plants more resistant to drought, bugs, disease or other conditions. But in a less freakish way.

Just think: The perfect party favor for your hipster friends – retro foods! And Sun Tea. Yum!


blog comments powered by Disqus