Polyploidal Plants

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    The next stop for Courtney and Annie’s most excellent summer vacation was the fields of Kaiima in Kfar Tavor, Israel.

    My work colleagues were checking out the enhanced growth rates and robustness of plants that have been modified to have four parents instead of two.

    I find it quite remarkable that each cell can divide and replicate as usual, but with twice the DNA. The plant is also fertile and propagates with a stable genome.

    With four sets of chromosomes, errant mutations are less likely to cripple the plant. It’s as if one could express the archetype of the species. And it’s not considered a GMO.

    1. JeffSech 56 months ago | reply

      And it’s not considered a GMO.

      That seems pertinent. It looks like this process deserves some serious traction.

      And...on a related subject.

    2. PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE 56 months ago | reply

      Interesting research.

      Now in a symmetric DNAway
      Reminded me of the minimal genome research.
      How much more sets of chromosomes could they add.

      "dodecaploid (twelve sets; 12x), for example the plant Celosia argentea and the amphibian Xenopus ruwenzoriensis"

      Impressive...

      "And it’s not considered a GMO." Spooky and cool at the same time =)

    3. mikescottnz 56 months ago | reply

      More a macro gmo ? The pro-gmo lobby often mimimises the obvious tampering or genetic engineering as the public are becoming more aware of this use of biotechnology as we get more euphemistic terms such as its only hybridising or a small 'modification' itself.

      With Israeli entrepenurial science this might be worth being more cautious , sceptical or scrutinising as 'salinity' has been a rationale to genetically engineer plants for a while.This is the nation that long jailed their own scientist Mordechai Vanunu who was a whistleblower on their covert nuclear ambitions and tests.

      The ususal hype or claims for 'higher yields' would need real checking as would food safety concerns.

      Why is this 'field trial' not better contained?

    4. Tomi Tapio 56 months ago | reply

      It's not a GMO if it was created by selecting one plant out of a million crossbreedings.

    5. Eppie 56 months ago | reply

      This post raised a lot of questions in me (four sets of chromosomes - couldn't quite wrap my mind around it), which in turn led me on a mini research on polyploidy (occurrance of more than two paired sets of chromosomes).

      Interestingly, what I have read explains that polyploidy is quite common. It is found in mammalian liver, for example, and also occurs naturally in human tissue (muscle and liver). Polyploidy is found in many species, in fact - some kinds of fish, lizards and even birds.

      As for tetraploid types (having four sets of chromosomes), that too is quite common - crops such as durum, maize, cotton, potato, cabbage, leek, tobacco, etc.

      Examples of triploid crops (three sets of chromosomes) are banana, apple, ginger, watermelon, citrus...

      The only reason I mention the latter has to do with the sign that is posted in this field - tolerance to salinity. It makes me think of the evolutionary idea of return to the sea and the genetic adaptations that this required. While I understand that the idea is to maximize the possibility of food production in traditionally unfavorable conditions, it also makes me think that developing crops that have tolerance to salinity seems a step in that direction - adaptation, back to the sea??? It seems that by exploring polyploidy (triploid, tetraploid, etc) as it has already naturally occured in the evolution of species, we may get additional insight into evolutionary processes of our food resources.

      Here is a link to a visual (map?) outlining the occurance of polyploidy, if anyone is interested: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PaleopolyploidyTree.jpg

      Incidentally, there is some (extremely rare) occurance of tetraploid(idity?) in human fetuses and embryos which, as I understand it, has always led to miscarriage. Not sure what that means, but there it is. It seems that while parts of our bodies are tetraploid (another wonderful example of the remarkable systemic reality - subsystems with different functions and purposes relating to the whole - of the balance of unity and diversity in any living system) but you can't have it all... certainly not an advantage...

      I'm not sure if I have understood or interpreted this information correctly but it's a very interesting topic. The idea of archetype and all.

    6. PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE 56 months ago | reply

      Interesting questions and idea Eppie.
      I like the "back to the ocean".
      You may like this new TED talk :
      Cary Fowler: One seed at a time, protecting the future of food

    7. jurvetson 56 months ago | reply

      Eppie: very nice visual... I will include it here:

      cxJeff: mammals with multiple mamas is underway in Korea. The cloned dogs I have played with are very cute (3 moms, no dad):

      Cute Clones

    8. mikescottnz 56 months ago | reply

      I remain unconvinced there's no gmo exploitation in this context. It's a greenwash or selling point to convince us there's 'no gmo' now ?

      Climate change is now accepted even by the pro-gmo lobby it is ironically being used by often these same minds (who recently doubted it so much ) to 'save us all', once again the refrain, with genetic engineering since other rationales are exhausted.Soil salinity too can be dealt with without gmos.

      The TED conference clip of Cary Fowler is a good, plausible sounding opposite* approach to the recent industrial agriculture that the Pioneer/Dupont or Monsantos espouse.They do seem try to control seeds hence why seed banks profiles are higher now; that the first two companies have a stake in this project could be cause for a concern .The Svalbard Global Seed Vault (or Doomsday Vault) is sounds a noble or 'nice' idea in a frozen north of Norway location.

      Seed saving has occurred in indigenous communitues for millennia the Monsanto et al 'get rich' idea was the 'terminator' *seed idea or to buy up the seed banks and water companies .That is why Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser's long challenge and recent victory over Monsanto with Canola/Rapeseed was an ethical and environmental issue. It is important that the seeds/ life forms are preserved not 'owned' by these dubious interests or companies ; so it does sound a good initiative from the Norwegian government. It will need trust and integrity to work , given the damage done by these corporations in the last twenty years.

    9. Eppie 56 months ago | reply

      Thank you, PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE, for the link.

      I'm actually quite familiar with this focus on preserving diversity and the idea of seed banks. About 15 years ago I was instrumental in "launching a seed company into the marketplace" (the president's words, not mine, on my letter of recommendation) which was making available to the public certain "heirloom" seed varieties which are good for organic farming because they are drought-disease and pest resistant. No need for agrichemicals. By buying these seeds, customers were also helping to keep seed varieties from going extinct.

      What I am personally kind of proud of (much more than my participation in the launch) is that, before leaving the company, I linked the company with the native community simply to help develop awareness in native people of the importance of preserving native varieties of food and medicinal herbs. To counter not only the potential extinction of those species, but also to encourage the natives to return to their traditional healthy ways.

      One of the consequences of driving and confining native populations, like cattle, into reservations was that their ordinary food supplies which had kept them remarkably healthy, became more and more inaccessible, the more they became disconnected from the land. Their healthy diet was replaced with Kool-Aid, white bread, hotdogs and sugared food - the cheapest food available to an increasingly poor population, which is the real reason why there is such a high occurance of diebetes and also the kind of alcoholism that is perpetuated by malnutrition and a lack of essential B-vitamins (white bread instead of whole grains) which, however, are found in abundance in beer, which in turn was used to dis-empower people who already viewed their environment from the point of view of a balance between unity and diversity - a "dangerous" concept requiring erasing from the people's memories (thus the residential school experience) when trying to gain power over a population.

      Aaaanyway... Although the native seed preservation projects took off after I had already left and I have no connection with them whatsoever, just know that they exist, I felt very good about having "planted the seed". In my view, this is much more of an accomplishment than launching a company.

      I don't know what ended up happening to the company - I believe they changed their name and became inconspicuous or, more likely, were simply manouvered back out of the marketplace. I don't know - it's all "ancient history" to me by now. But maybe it had something to do with the fact that the company got some pretty nasty letters from the "big guys" who are responsible for creating and patenting varieties for the purpose of mono-culture (it's as if they have forgotten the lessons of the Irish potato famine and the great American corn blight) - claiming that any crop that is disease or insect resistant is poisonous for human consumption... as if the agrichemicals that were being promoted at the time to deal with the same problems were somehow better and not at all poisonous... good grief!

      Aaaaanyway (I do ramble on and on), the video you link to provides a new perspective (and reason) in connection to the need to preserve diversity. That of climate change and the effect of that on the human population (the earth itself can thrive and recover and sweep clean and give birth to new varieties over time). I am glad that you brought this to my attention. And to anyone else's who might check that link out. This is important for humanity to be aware of. Thank you.

      And Steve.... I hope it is/was ok to post my (oh so very long) reply to this link here. If not, I apologize in advance.

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