SEARCA tells Filipino plant breeders to use genomics in crop dev’t

Published November 23, 2020, 3:22 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) said plant breeders should use technology that makes use of gene transformation to fast-track development of crops like the Golden Rice, which has superior traits.

In a statement, SEARCA said that meeting the market’s needs for crops like Golden Rice should be the focus of genomics, an interdisciplinary field that revolutionized research in many fields and systems biology that started in human genome’s mapping in 1986.

Golden Rice, a genetically modified (GM) rice variety, is just awaiting the government’s go-signal to be released to the market.

It is said to be nutritious enough to avert blindness for up to 500,000 children who go blind yearly due to Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD), which also affects immunity and increased mortality among children in developing countries like the Philippines.

Such efficacy in significant nutrition supplementation holds true too for the Zinc Rice, which has reached a level of 25 to 51 PPM zinc content from zero, and Iron Rice, which already reached the target at 12 to 15 PPM iron content from zero.

“I am a plant breeder, and I’m very familiar with (molecular) marker-assisted selection. As I get older, I realize the importance of sales, of commercialization. We should have market-aided selection so that our selection for traits should be based on the market, not only markers (molecular markers). There should always be a business component in everything we do,” SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio said.

According to him, breeding costs can be reduced by 32 percent and is even faster using genomics.

Molecular markers of desired traits in genes – identifying targeted novel or superior traits in plants – have since the human genome mapping in 1990 played a huge role in fast-tracking crop development.

Such desired genes – disease resistance or high yield, for example – are inserted into the “transformed” crop.