Q: What Do Non-pollinating Organic Corn and Arctic Apples Have In Common?

image: slappytheseal | flickr | cc

A: It’s easier to change the damn crop than to change people’s thinking.

Civil Eats has a story
on a breeder who has been working for 15 years to develop a corn variety that resists cross pollination. The idea is to have an organic breed of corn that will resists out-crossing with neighboring GE corn.

I couldn’t help but think of GE critics response to Arctic Apples: “Wouldn’t it be easier for kids to get used to eating apples with a little brown be easier than making a huge and time consuming investment in breeding a non-browning apple?” Apparently not. Kids are just fussy that way. It’s easier to change the apple than the kids.

Because my reaction to hearing about Frank Kutka’s efforts was: “Wouldn’t it be easier for organic advocates to get over their purity fetish than breeding corn that doesn’t cross-pollinate?” Apparently not. Organic advocates are just fussy that way. It’s easier to change the corn than the people.

It also brings up another parallel. Notice that he’s been working on this for a decade and a half. When people point to Golden Rice and say, “If genetic engineering is so great, what’s taking so long?” The answer is that all the low hanging fruit in breeding has been picked. The challenges that breeders are trying to tackle these days are really flipping tough and breeding is time consuming, painstaking work. Whether it’s Wes Jackson’s Land Institute trying to develop viable perennial wheat, or the IRRI working on Golden Rice, it’ll be ready when it’s ready and not before.


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