PerspectiveGenetics

Wheat—the cereal abandoned by GM

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Science  03 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6401, pp. 451-452
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat5119

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Summary

The sudden appearance of crop diseases can cause an irreparable economic shock, particularly to smallholder farmers in developing countries. Wheat blast, for example, is a devastating fungal disease from South America, which emerged in Bangladesh in 2016 (1). It is currently controlled by quarantine but could easily spread to other wheat-growing areas, which could threaten food security. Furthermore, widespread crop failure from stem rust has occurred in Kenya and Ethiopia. Recent advances could provide a solution to this problem through the rapid discovery and isolation of disease-resistance genes from wild relatives of wheat, followed by their introduction by transformation into the elite crop varieties. There is, however, a barrier to such progress: Wheat, a worldwide staple food, has become an orphan among genetically modified (GM) crops.