Wheat School: Biotech tools are vital here, and for developing countries


When most people hear the term biotechnology they think GMOs. It’s important to know that biotechnology is much more than just GMOs because understanding this helps us to understand how scientists are helping to provide food for the seven billion people on the planet.

In this episode of the Wheat School, Dr. Harpinder Randawa, research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Lethbridge, explains the importance of the biotech tools that they use on a day-to-day basis. These can shave years off the time it takes to make new varieties of wheat available to farmers.

As scientists try to communicate the importance of their work, they run into the problem that the language they use contains technical terms and can be difficult to understand. Words like “double haploid” and “homozygous” are not used outside of the lab very often but they have a huge impact on our lives.

“We use a double haploid to really speed up the process of cultivar development,” says Randawa. “So instead of waiting … four or five years, to develop a homozygous line, we can (use the) tissue culture-based double haploid tool that can develop varieties in 12 to 14 months.”

The take-home message is that the tools that agricultural scientists use are vital to feeding the world. Restricting use of these tools because of a label is very dangerous, Randawa says. “This is biotechnology and we have been using this tool for many, many years in many crops and it is a very important tool and the fastest way to develop a new cultivar,” he says.

Please check out other Wheat School episodes above (choose by season!)

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