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Plant Breeding and Biotechnology


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  • Page extent: 452 pages
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521823890)

Plant Breeding and Biotechnology Cambridge University Press
9780521823890 - PLANT BREEDING AND BIOTECHNOLOGY - by Denis J. Murphy

Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture

This accessible survey of modern plant breeding traces its history from the earliest experiments at the dawn of the scientific revolution in the seventeenth century to the present day and the existence of high-tech agribusiness. Denis Murphy tells the story from the perspective of a scientist working in this field, offering a rational and evidence-based insight into its development. Crop improvement is examined from both a scientific and socio-economic perspective, and the ways in which these factors interact and impact on agricultural development are discussed. In conclusion, some concerns over the future of plant breeding are highlighted, as well as potential options to enable us to meet the challenges of feeding the world in the twenty-first century. This thoroughly interdisciplinary and balanced account will serve as an essential resource for everyone involved with plant breeding research, policy and funding, as well as those wishing to engage with current debates about agriculture and its future.

DENIS J. MURPHY is Professor of Biotechnology at the University of Glamorgan, UK. His career in plant biotechnology research spans three decades, including ten years on the management team of the John Innes Centre, arguably Europe’s premier research centre in plant science. He is currently highly involved with the ongoing debate on genetically modified food and crops, both locally and internationally, providing expertise and advice to numerous organisations and government agencies, as well as engaging with the general public and the media.

Plant Breeding and Biotechnology
Societal Context and the Future
of Agriculture

University of Glamorgan

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo

Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK

Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:

© D. J. Murphy 2007

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2007

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

ISBN 978-0-521-82389-0 hardback

ISBN 978-0-521-53088-0 paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or
accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to
in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such
websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

In the frozen midwinter of 1941–1942, the great metropolis of Leningrad began its epic 900-day siege by the encircling German army. Throughout the ruined city, thousands of people were dying of cold, starvation, and shellfire. In the world’s oldest seed bank, at the Institute of Plant Industry, a dedicated team of breeders and curators sought to guard and preserve their priceless samples for posterity. This collection of over 160 000 plant varieties had been set up in the 1920s by Nikolai Vavilov, the doyen of twentieth century plant breeding. Hardly any food reached the biologists as they maintained their protective vigil. One by one, they succumbed to starvation, surrounded by bags of edible seeds and tubers. The oats curator L. M. Rodina died, as did rice curator D. S. Ivanov, and peanut curator A. G. Shtchukin, and seven more of their heroic colleagues, one of whom even expired at his desk, working until the end. When the city was eventually liberated in January 1944, the entire collection was intact. It has since been used to supply new edible plant varieties to millions of people around the world.

This book is dedicated to all the many heroes of plant breeding, both past and present, including: Norman Borlaug, Robert Carsky, Charles Darwin, Thomas Fairchild, Jack Harlan, Monkombu Swaminathan, Nikolai Vavilov, those brave workers from Leningrad and from other more recently threatened seed banks in Asia and Africa; and, of course, the untold generations of anonymous farmer-breeders, most of whom were women.

It is to you that we truly owe our daily bread.


Prefacepage xv
Using this bookxviii
Nomenclature and terminologyxix
Abbreviations and glossaryxx


Part I    The science of plant breeding
1Origins of plant breeding9
Introduction – the development of agriculture9
    Non-intentional selection10
Variation and selection in breeding12
Pre-scientific empirical breeding16
Scientific breeding17
    Beginnings of practical scientific breeding17
        Quantitative genetics21


Creating new genetic variation
Hybrid crops24
    Maize and other intraspecific hybrids24
    Intergenic hybrids – triticale, a new manmade crop species28
Induced mutagenesis29
    Radiation and chemical mutagenesis29
    Somaclonal mutagenesis31
    Mutagenesis – an acceptable technology for genetic  manipulation?32
Wide crossing33
    Wide crosses in rice34
    Wide crosses in brassicas35


Modern high-tech breeding
Tissue culture technologies39
    Chromosome doubling39
    Mass propagation41
    Somatic hybridisation42
    Haploids and doubled haploids44
    Sterile plant varieties45
    Comparison with other technologies for variation enhancement47
Screening and selection49
    Selecting non-visible traits49
    DNA marker-assisted selection (MAS)51
New technologies for high-tech breeding53

Part II    The societal context of plant breeding
4Rise of the public sector and the US pioneers59
New technologies, old problems60
Agricultural research as a public good62
Emergence of public sector research in the USA63
Morrill and the land grant institutions65
The USDA and its botanisers68
Extension services71
5Public sector breeding in the UK73
The UK – a laissez-faire approach74
    John Innes Centre77
    Welsh Plant Breeding Station78
    Cambridge Plant Breeding Institute79
Order versus chaos or control versus initiative?81


Breeding goes global: the Green Revolution and beyond
US philanthropy exported84
    CIMMYT and wheat in Mexico86
    IRRI and rice in the Philippines87
National research organisations88
The Green Revolution89
    Global impact94
The emergence of CGIAR in the 1970s95

Part III    Turmoil and transition: the legacy of the 1980s
7Resurgence of the private sector101
A phoenix reborn103
Favourable regulatory environments105
    Patents and breeders’ rights105
    The problem of broad claims110
Startups and multinationals112


Emergence of a new crop improvement paradigm
Obsolescence and impoverishment118
Effects on breeding programmes121
    Genetic erosion122
    Adapting crops to commercial agronomy122
    A technology focus based on short-term profitability rather than long-term utility123
The private sector triumphant?125


Decline of the public sector
Privatisation, integration and globalisation127
The Plant Breeding Institute130
The Agricultural Development and Advisory Service133
Aftermath of the UK privatisations134


Reaping the consequences
Introduction – privatisation exported137
    The Anglosphere137
    Developing countries140
Academisation of public research140
Academisation and research assessments142
Dangerous liaisons – partnerships with the private sector146
The penny drops149

Part IV    The agbiotech paradigm
11Agbiotech: genes and dreams157
The artificial dichotomy of GM and non-GM160
    Origins of a false premise160
    Spot the difference?163
        Gene transfer within and between plant genomes164
    Genetic manipulation or manipulation of genomes?165
    We are all genetic manipulators167
Agbiotech today – the worst of all possible worlds?168
    A headless chicken?169
    Rise and fall of the ‘life-sciences’ biotech business model172
    Domination by the ‘big four’173

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