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Sent: 01 December 2003 16:05
Subject: 57: Experiences with MAS so far - Netherlands, plants
My name is Wytze de Lange and I am policy officer genetechnologies for a non-governmental organization (NGO) called XminY Solidarityfunds in the Netherlands.
I have followed the conference with great interest so far and think the background documents and contributions are most interesting. Following the question of the Moderator about MAS-developed cultivars, I have made a small query among Dutch plant breeding companies about their experiences with MAS so far.
MAS breeding was highlighted, promoted and hyped here years ago as a new, very useful tool which would speed up plant breeding enormously. From the people I interviewed last week, I got a slightly different picture. Results of MAS have been moderate. It is of some use for single-gene traits but not for multi-gene traits. Most plant traits are multi-gene traits. The cost of MAS is a problem, even for rich plant breeding companies. (I was told that American companies use MAS more since they are not so much interested in cost efficiency, they just want to see if it works). One interviewee remarked that for, for example, rust resistance in grass you don't really need MAS since you see very clearly at the phenotypic level whether the grass is rust resistant and you can select that immediately. MAS breeding at best seems to make the art of throwing away in plant breeding a bit easier and thereby somewhat time-saving.
Overall, this seems yet another over-hyped gene technology. I really doubt whether it is a good idea to spend so much money on this technology even when it comes from international fundings etc. All this money seems to be much better used in other projects that poor, small farmers are really needing and which would help them far more than MAS will probably ever do. Even in this (financially) rich country, we can see the negative consequences of investing in genetic technologies and research which fails to deliver the hyped promises. How much worse will this be for poor to very poor countries.
Wytze de Lange
Policy officer genetechnologies
De Wittenstraat 43-45
wdl (at) xminy.nl