Genetic engineering vs. natural breeding: What’s the difference?

Grist.com is running a new series exploring the truths and myths regarding GMOs:

Grist

If you are new to this series, I’ve been trying to break down the competing claims about genetic engineering. I’m not an expert: When I told a friend I was writing about GMOs he asked, “So are you for them, or against?” My answer: “I’m trying to figure that out.”

The next step in trying to figure that out is to really understand how genetic engineering works. Is this process simply a minor extension of plant-breeding techniques? Or is there a way in which genetic engineering represents a fundamental discontinuity with the age-old practice of farmers selecting seeds?

That’s what I asked Pamela Ronald, a scientist at U.C. Davis who uses genetic engineering to study rice. I approached Ronald because she’s not one of those scientists who is so used to looking through the microscope that she loses sight of the big ecological picture. Her husband, Raoul Adamchack, teaches organic…

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