Genetically modified (GM) crops: milestones and new advances in crop improvement

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Abstract or Summary

Genetically modified (GM) crops can act as powerful complement to the crops produced by laborious and time consuming conventional breeding methods to meet the worldwide demand for quality foods. GM crops can help fight malnutrition due to enhanced yield, nutritional quality and increased resistance to various biotic and abiotic stresses. However, several biosafety issues and public concerns are associated with cultivation of GM crops developed by transgenesis, i.e., introduction of genes from distantly related organism. To meet these concerns, researchers have developed alternative concepts of cisgenesis and intragenesis which involve transformation of plants with genetic material derived from the species itself or from closely related species capable of sexual hybridization, respectively. Recombinase technology aimed at site-specific integration of transgene can help to overcome limitations of traditional genetic engineering methods based on random integration of multiple copy of transgene into plant genome leading to gene silencing and unpredictable expression pattern. Besides, recently developed technology of genome editing using engineered nucleases, permit the modification or mutation of genes of interest without involving foreign DNA, and as a result, plants developed with this technology might be considered as non-transgenic genetically altered plants. This would open the doors for the development and commercialization of transgenic plants with superior phenotypes even in countries where GM crops are poorly accepted. This review is an attempt to summarize various past achievements of GM technology in crop improvement, recent progress and new advances in the field to develop improved varieties aimed for better consumer acceptance.

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