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Trait stacking for biotech crops: an essential consideration for agbiotech development projects for building trust

DOI: 10.1186/2048-7010-1-5

Keywords: stacked trait crops, trust, GM crops, biotechnology, maize, social audit

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Abstract:

Publicly addressing the concerns over stacked trait crops early on in biotech development initiatives provides great potential to generate mutually advantageous solutions for all partners and stakeholders, enhance opportunities to build trust, and increase the likelihood that the initiative will succeed. We make this proposition based on our experience with the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project, which is a public-private partnership (PPP) working to develop drought-tolerant, royalty-free African maize varieties for small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa using a combination of conventional and marker-assisted breeding and transgenic technology.The term ‘trait stacking’ for genetically modified (GM) or biotech crops refers to the incorporation of multiple genetic modifications, or traits, in a single variety of a crop [1]. Crops with stacked traits are more effective at meeting the needs of farmers and consumers than the traditional, mono-trait seed varieties because they allow for a product to be modified for multiple traits concurrently such as tolerance to herbicides, resistance to insects and improved nutritional content [2].The first stacked crop to be fully commercialized was a cotton seed that was produced using patented genes owned and developed by Monsanto, a multinational agricultural biotechnology company. These incorporated genes provide protection against certain pests and enable the use of the herbicide glyphosate [1]. The case of this cotton seed has been followed by the commercialization of other crops with stacked traits such as the Agrisure? 3000GT which protects against corn borer and corn rootworm while providing tolerance to in-season applications of certain herbicides [3]. A total of 42.2 million hectares of stacked biotech crops were planted in 2011, compared to 32.2 million hectares in 2010.The WEMA project engages a number of stakeholders from both the public and private sector, including the African Agricultural Technology Fo

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