[permaculture] [Fwd: [SANET-MG] book review Genetic Glass Ceiling]

Lawrence F. London, Jr. lflj at bellsouth.net
Mon Nov 30 23:13:13 EST 2009

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [SANET-MG] book review  Genetic Glass Ceiling
Date: Mon, 30 Nov 2009 16:45:55 -0500
From: jcummins <jcummins at UWO.CA>

I have known Johnny  Gressel for over 50 years. We were graduate
students at the same time at the University of Wisconsin , Johnny in
plant physiology and I in Cell Biology where  we worked in labs on the
same floor and often shared coffee and gossip.  Johnny's book  is  a
long public relations effort on behalf of the biotechnology industry.
He put together a notion that transgenes are essential to improve crops
because the main crops have topped off  in their ability to increase.
The book did not really tackle the quantitative trait loci  (QTL) that
are the  native genes that govern size, disease resistance , etc.  There
was no evidence provided to show that such important traits had topped
off and cannot be improved by selection. Indeed there is growing
emphasis on QTL  to provide lasting disease resistance and  mass.
Transgenes have not contributed to improving QTL in crops and the
transgenes do not provide much hope , outside of industry boardrooms ,
for improvements in yield and long lasting disease resistance. It is
clear that the glass ceiling  has not been proven to exist. That proof
should be brought forward  in genetic analysis not in dopey public
relations efforts.

Genetic Glass Ceilings: Transgenics For Crop Biodiversity
(Hardcover - 2008/02/12)
Jonathan Gressel
Klaus Ammann
(Foreword By)
Book: Genetic Glass Ceilings: Transgenics For Crop Biodiversity
As the world's population rises to an expected ten billion in the next
few generations, the challenges of feeding humanity and maintaining an
ecological balance will dramatically increase. Today we rely on just
four crops for 80 percent of all consumed calories: wheat, rice, corn,
and soybeans. Indeed, reliance on these four crops may also mean we are
one global plant disease outbreak away from major famine.

In this revolutionary and controversial book, Jonathan Gressel argues
that alternative plant crops lack the genetic diversity necessary for
wider domestication and that even the Big Four have reached a "genetic
glass ceiling": no matter how much they are bred, there is simply not
enough genetic diversity available to significantly improve their
agricultural value. Gressel points the way through the glass ceiling by
advocating transgenics -- a technique where genes from one species are
transferred to another. He maintains that with simple safeguards the
technique is a safe solution to the genetic glass ceiling conundrum.
Analyzing alternative crops -- including palm oil, papaya, buckwheat,
tef, and sorghum -- Gressel demonstrates how gene manipulation could
enhance their potential for widespread domestication and reduce our
dependency on the Big Four. He also describes a number of ecological
benefits that could be derived with the aid of transgenics.

A compelling synthesis of ideas from agronomy, medicine, breeding,
physiology, population genetics, molecular biology, and biotechnology,
Genetic Glass Ceilings presents transgenics as an inevitable and
desperately necessary approach to securing and diversifying the world's
food supply.

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