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Reply to Mark Griffiths from Prakash
Dear Mark: I agree. Hybridization is a technique that we have been using
for more than a hundred years and will be the staple of crop improvement
for ever. Transgenics can only help additionally, in
small but precise ways, to get it further but only when needed. However,
do recognize that this broccoli was bred by crossing with wild Sicilian
broccoli, and in the process many hundred genes from the wild would have
been introduced into this new variety. We would not know what those
genes are and whether they code for any allergenic or toxic compounds as
many plant traits required for its survival in the wild are not
necessarily good for agriculture or human health. One can also ask what
the long term health or environmental impacts of this broccoli will be?
Yet, this new broccoli will never be subjected to extensive regulation,
never be put to hundreds of food safety and environmental impact tests
that biotech crops are subjected to and would never raise an eyebrow with
the Natural Law Party or Greenpeace. If the same broccoli would have
been developed by biotechnology, your response would have been very
different. That was the message of Tony Trewavas in our debate. As you
can see, much of the opposition to biotech-enhanced crops stems largely
from the incomplete awareness of crop breeding.
Subj: "Breeding development with plant genomics and Reply" (AgBioView)
Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2000 10:19:14 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Mark Griffiths
Dear Professor Prakash,
This is very topical to our current discussion.
Super-broccoli plants bred to prevent cancer
By Patricia Reaney 24th May 2000, (Reuters)
Super-broccoli loaded with natural compounds to help prevent cancer could
be on dinner tables within a few years, British researchers said
Wednesday. Plant biologists at the John Innes Center, a government-funded
plant research center, produced the super-broccoli by cross breeding the
normal plant with a wild Sicilian species in the same family. The new
plant, which is not genetically modified, contains up to 100 times more
sulphoraphane, a compound that helps to lower the risk of cancer, than
normal broccoli. "It's much more potent than normal broccoli," Richard
Mithen, the head of the research team that produced the plant, told
Reuters. "Our best lines have 100 times more sulphoraphane than a normal
broccoli," he added. The activity of the compounds is well known and has
for years been the focus of research, particularly in the United States.
But Mithen said the super-broccoli is one of the first plants on which
intensified their effects. "No gene has been inserted through genetic
modification. This is classical breeding. But we speeded that breeding
program up by using DNA fingerprinting technology."
Normally the breeding program would have taken about 10-15 years but
thanks to DNA technology Mithen has done it in four. The institute owns
the patent on the breeding method.
The super-broccoli looks and tastes like normal broccoli but it is packed
with sulphoraphane that induces natural protective enzymes to rid the
body of carcinogens before they can do harm. "It switches on the
defenses of our body. We have these natural defenses but in some people
they work better than in others. If we eat broccoli it switches them on
and makes them more effective," Mithen added. Breeding work on the
super-broccoli is nearly finished and the researchers hope to begin
testing it on humans next year.
It could be available within a few of years. Mithen said plant biologists
had come full circle with the breeding of super-broccoli because in
medieval times broccoli and cabbage were grown as medicinal