The Loom


  1. #1 Pamela Ronald
    May 31, 2008

    Thanks for bringing the world science festival into my home.

    Although I agree with Peter Pringle that we need to guard the genetic diversity of wild species, I wish he had made the point that the threat is from ALL domesticated crops (non-GE crops developed through conventional breeding). Pollen from crop plants (GE or non-GE) travel in gusts of wind, on the pollen basket of bees, as cargo of flies or in the hands of human plant breeders. If the pollen alights upon a compatible mate, there will be fertilization and seed.

    As mentioned, in mexico, there is a great diversity of valuable genetically diverse corn varieties, many grown for generations. Because domesticated non-GE modern hybrid varieties are now widely planted in these areas, “modern” genes are already present in these local varieties, often introduced by farmers who wish to generate new varieties.

    It is unlikely that a single transgene by itself would reduce the genetic diversity of native populations to a greater extent than is already occurring.

  2. #2 Cary Fowler
    June 2, 2008

    First, my congratulations to Peter for the publication of his book on Vavilov.

    Allow me to clarify a couple of statements made in the interview in regards to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Peter stated that the Seed Vault is storing corporate collections and that these contain GMO varieties. Neither is true. Currently at least, no corporations have deposited duplicates of their collections (though many governments, international institutes and one NGO have). And, as Norway prohibits importation and storage of GMO’s in facilities such as the Vault, there are also no GMOs there.

    The Seed Vault works much the same way that a safety deposit box at the bank works. Depositors own the contents and access is restricted to the depositors. However, in all cases, the deposited material is a copy – seeds of the same variety will be held in the seed bank making the deposit. Seeds of deposited varieties are therefore available directly from the depositor under terms consistent with the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources. Think of the Seed Vault as a great, effective and cheap insurance policy for all the seed banks in the world that are striving to conserve the most valuable natural resource on earth – the biological foundation of agriculture.

    Hope this clarification is helpful. For more information, see:

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