Press Release January 2012 Plant Biology: from the Green Revolution to GMOsWhat does a plant need to grow? What is the Green Revolution and what has beenits impact on our society? How does science try to improve agricultural species ofinterest? Where do GMOs come from? What do they promise?After a monograph detailing how dietary rules developed over the centuries, theLouis-Bonduelle Foundation is now addressing state-of-the-art practices related tothe improvement of plant varieties. If the vegetables we consider stars of ourmeals are quite different from those of our grandparents, it is because scientificknowledge about plants have helped enhance their taste, texture, nutritionalvalue, etc.This article is a summary of the monograph “Biology, Varietal Improvement and GMOs.”Complete monograph available upon request.Obligatory mention: Louis-Bonduelle FoundationPress contactMagali DelmasVivactis Public Relatio ns ― Tel.: 01 46 67 63 44 ― email: m.delm email@example.com
Agriculture EssentialsTo provide a good harv est, plants need natural or synthetic fertilisers. They alsoneed to be protected against diseases, including parasitic fungi, such as thenotorious mildews, and against pests, the most destructiv e being phytophagousinsects. To meet these needs, farmers can choose from a v ariety of powerful andeffectiv e pesticides.Howev er, the laws resulting from the Grenelle Env ironment Forum, including theobligation to halve the use of pesticides by 2018, currently require us to identifyinnovative alternative methods to combine productivity with the protection of theenvironment. This requires changes in the way we practice agriculture and anenvironmental awareness which follow the excesses of recent decades.The Green RevolutionBetween 1960 and 1990, agriculture around the world underwent such dramatictransformations that this period was called the “Green Rev olution.” W hathappened? By inv esting heavily in agricultural research, gov ernments were able todevelop new v arieties with v ery high yield as well as dev elop effectiv e pesticides.The result: the yield of wheat, for exam ple, jum ped from 750 kilos per hectare inthe1950s to 2600 kilos in 2000. However, this feat was achieved at the expense ofhuge am ounts of water, fertili sers and pesticides, pollution and deforestation.Varietal Research: Why? How?Humans hav e always crossed plants for obtaining better v arieties. Seed producersnow hav e very reliable tools allowing them to make this selection. Theimprov ement of plant v arieties may refer to different elements: − quality. This may entail, for example, selecting v arieties with the most nutritional benefits, such as antioxidant-rich oliv es or raisins with more Pycnogenol. Plants are in fact the main suppliers of certain nutrients, fibre, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. − resistance. This entails selecting the v arieties most resistant to destructiv e elements. − productivity. An increasing world population leads to growing needs for food. W e believe that plant breeding has contributed to increased crop productivity in the last century.To produce new v arieties of plants, scientists perfectly master the respective sexualreproduction and carry out extensiv e work: on average, it takes ten years ofcrosses between v arieties, each presenting interesting features, to create a newspecies. An example? Each year, a dozen new varieties of wheat arrive on themarket.These newly created v arieties are at the heart of an ethical reflection on patentingof life.
GMOs: Between Promises and ConcernsThe production of genetically modified organisms, GMOs, which began in the1980s, is the result of adv ances in genetic engineering that add one or more genesto the gene pool of an organism.One of the great promises of GMOs is the decreased use of chemical pesticidesby introducing, for example, genes resistant to insects. As for food, GMOs wouldsupposedly enable us to produce food combining two essential criteria: quantityand nutritional quality.At the same time, many uncertainties remain: will GMOs mix with wildlife? Do theyhav e a negative impact on beneficial insects? Will they cause a decrease inbiodiv ersity? Are foods made with GMOs more allergenic?Despite promises and regulations, the use of GMOs continues to meet strongopposition from the public. Founded in October 2004, the mission of the Louis-Bonduelle Foundation is to help change dietary behaviour permanently by making v egetables and their benefits the focus of its initiativ es.The Foundation works on the long term, in an international context, with the desireto go further than just talk, by giving ev eryone effective, convenient and ofteninnov ativ e ways of getting v egetables into their diet.Its programme has three main lines:- Informing and raising awareness- Supporting and fostering research- Acting in the field“At the Louis-Bonduelle Foundation, we believ e that beyond the information thatneeds to be communicated to each individual, guidance and support areessential to change dietary behav iours,” Christophe Bonduelle, president of theLouis-Bonduelle Foundation.More information, news and recipes on:www.fondation-louisbonduelle.org