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Re-Wilding Crops

December 19, 2014

Can genetic engineering help “re-wild” our grains, fruits and vegetables?




The Harvesters, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1565)

Re-wilding modern crops. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

After thousands of years of plant breeding, many crops have lost desirable traits, making them less nutritious and disease resistant. And breeding these ancestral traits back into crops is difficult. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of Copenhagen plant physiologist Michael Palmgren says that genetic engineering could be the answer.

MICHAEL PALMGREN (University of Copenhagen):

This method allows you to repair those properties of wild plants that could be beneficial in our crops. You go very specifically for only those genes that you are interested in.


It’s called “re-wilding,” and unlike other genetic modification of foods, genes aren’t moved between species to create novel traits, but merely taken from ancestral plants to restore lost traits. Palmgren claims that doing so could boost yields, and reduce the use of pesticides. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.