GM or Plant Breeding: What’s the Difference?

The reddest cherry, the biggest corncob, the healthiest grain—are these traits the result of genetic modification? Or are they simply the end result of many years of traditional plant breeding?

Farmers have long practiced traditional plant breeding by using seeds from specific plants to select desirable traits or exclude undesirable ones.

However, as technology has progressed, scientists have been able to manipulate genes in plants in order to achieve the desired results. This genetic modification allows plant lines to be altered much faster than using traditional plan breeding.

So what are the differences in the two different types of breeding?

Genetically modified organisms are plants or other organisms that are the result of copying a gene into a plant or organism that is not native to it from another plant or organism. This process, typically done in a lab, allows researchers to breed in solutions that may not be possible with natural plant breeding and can be done very quickly. This capability allows farmers to achieve a specific product or to meet the specific needs of their operation. For example, farmers who are in dry areas of the country might choose a drought-resistant seed. Others might use a seed that has been genetically modified to be more resistant to disease. Both options enable farmers to minimize the resources needed while still achieving a high yield.

On the other hand, traditional plant breeding occurs by choosing specific parent plants with the best chosen characteristics, and conventionally breeding them to create superior plants. For example, to develop Nexera™ seeds, the Dow AgroSciences team analyzed canola plants over several years to find the best parent lines with better oil profiles. Then these parents were crossed through traditional breeding techniques to create plants with the best characteristics of each parent line, and specifically a better oil profile.

The Omega-9 Oils category is the result of this traditional plant breeding of Nexera seeds. No new genes were introduced to the canola plant, but the plant lines were specifically screened and selected for genes that could reliably produce the Omega-9 profile in order to deliver a consistent oil product.

Today, Omega-9 Oils offers Project Verified Non-GMO hybrids that were produced through traditional l plant breeding, as well as hybrids with agronomic traits produced through genetic modification. This gives both growers and the food industry a choice which best meets their needs.