Plant breeding is what changed the face of our civilization, allowing previously nomadic tribes to settle and start growing their food where they live, instead of having to hunt it. More than 300 years ago, humans started the process of improving plants by selection, the foundations of which were set in the works of Gregor Mendel, the founder of modern genetics, who, in his pea plant experiments, demonstrated how crossbreeding could be used to improve plant traits.
Plant breeding, nowadays, relies either on mutagenesis or genetic modification. Mutagenesis uses radiation or chemicals to induce mutations which would result in the desired trait in plants. While mutations happen randomly, the process makes it possible to select plants with the most desired traits and use their seeds for further breeding. It should be differentiated from crossbreading which combines two same species to produce the desired traits in their “offspring“ and transgenic modification which uses genes outside of the plant species.
The problem is that the public has a very negative view of any attempt to change plant genes, because people believe that it is not natural and they are scared of genetic modification. This attitude could slow down plant breeding innovations, which are already being blocked in the EU where they are labeled as GMO. Agriculture, on the other side, is in dire need of plant breeding as it struggles to create plants which will be more resistant to severe weather conditions and more adaptable to the changes of climate. This is why there is the need to educate the public and make it understand how important plant breeding is.