Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Seed Chipping

I learned more about the evolution of genetically modified seed on our trip to the islands.  "Seed chipping" has sped up the evolution of trait reproduction, which is important to corn, soybean and other genetically modified crops.

Seed chipping allows the breeder to pulverize seed chips from the desired traits of breeding plants for quick duplication.  It is a process of plant cloning to me, but I am not a plant breeder.  This process is patented by Monsanto and lawsuits have occurred since their invention as other companies, even the Chinese have tried to duplicate the process or stolen the traits from seed breeders.

Here is a layman's explanation of seed chipping by Popular Science magazine.

"Seed Chipping
Our seed chippers, designed by Monsanto engineers, allow us to determine the genetics of a seed without destroying the seed itself. The chipper sorts and rotates a seed so a tiny tissue sample can be shaved off to be analyzed. If that seed contains the genetic traits we desire, the seed is still viable, so a breeder can plant it in a field test and use it in the breeding process to create more seeds of its kind.
Using technologies and scientific knowledge of today and applying it to the age-old practice of breeding allows us to find the best-of-the-best germplasm, or genetics, and get high-performing seeds to farmers’ fields – faster. Compared to conventional breeding, our breeding program today is doubling the rate of improvement in key genetic characteristics such as yield and important agronomic traits, which can help agriculture become more sustainable."   

I hope you enjoyed this short explanation of a very high tech process being used to bring new traits to farmers.



  1. Interesting blog and article in Popular Science. I see Monsanto no longer uses the gene gun, and probably other obsolete genetic engineering techniques that were criticized by GE protesters in books and movies such as Seeds of Deception/Destruction/Death (pick your choice.) Maybe they will have to revise some of their arguments and focus on whatever really matters to stay credible.

    I just don't understand why Monsanto did not publicize this kind of fact earlier, since everybody painted them black and Doctors Strangelove for using the unsafe gene gun. Nevermind...

  2. It can also be used for conventional breeding the chips aren't solely for traits.

  3. It has sped up the genetic selection process a lot also. Cutting of 3-5 years for breeders. Something the anti crowd doesn't want the public to know.

  4. From Email

    "This is already being done it's either GMO or SMO (synthetic modified organisms) which the later is worse.
    The switches are being screwed with already so another concern, if man does it, be careful !"

  5. Guys, Seed chipping has nothing to do with GMO, and it has nothing to do with material duplication or cloning.
    It's merely an efficient sampling-technique allowing researchers to isolate DNA and test which traits/genes/markers are in that seed without having to plant it.
    Every breeding company, whether they work with GMOs or not, sample plants/seedlings to test their DNA for presence of traits/genes/markers.

    The seed chipper is just a mechanical engineering feat. Think about it, how can you test a plant at the earliest possible stage, without killing it: you take a small chunk out of a seed.