Wheat breeders find lost gene, as reported in news@nature 23 November 2006, ABC (Australia) News in Science, and BBC News 24 November 2006. A team of researchers led by Jorge Dubcovsky of University of California, Davis, have found that cultivated wheat contains a mutant gene that slows down the transfer of the nutrients during the ripening process. The researchers have found the normal version of the gene in wild varieties of wheat and have restored it to a cultivated version of wheat by cross breeding.
The newly bred variety has higher levels of protein, iron and zinc than traditional cultivated varieties with the mutated gene. Dubcovsky’s team hope to release the newly bred variety onto the US market soon, but suggest that local varieties of cultivated wheat will need to be crossed with wild wheat in other parts of the world to produce plants suited to the local growing conditions. This should work as no genetic modification is needed. Dubcovsky explained: “The normal wheat crosses perfectly well with wild wheat. So we just crossed it after normal breeding.”
Wheat is an important food source and the development of new more nutritious strains could help treat malnutrition. However, as Dubcovsky points out, “The problem of malnutrition is more a problem of distribution, but if someone wants to do it (develop more nutritious varieties) all the information is available.”
Editorial Comment: Note that no-one is claiming a more nutritious gene evolved from the less nutritious gene, i.e. they recognise that mutations cause degeneration. Notice also that it takes plan and purpose and information, not chance random processes, to produce more nutritious wheat. It took informed, intelligent biologists to find and recognise the genetic information that is needed to put nutrients into wheat, and it took creative forward planning to carry out the cross breeding experiments to get the information into cultivated varieties. (Ref, diet, agriculture, genetics)
Evidence News 21 May 2008