• Preparation of a DNA sample in the laboratory
    Genetic Engineering

Genetic Engineering


In a nutshell

Green genetic engineering is a highly targeted method to provide plants with new genetic properties. It involves transferring genes or other sections of the genetic material (DNA), for instance from bacteria, to the genetic material of plants.


Genetic engineering methods enable a very targeted approach: Only the gene for the desired new characteristic is transferred directly to the crop.


Critics view the transfer of genes from other species as a safety risk.


This led to the development of genetic engineering, as researchers found enzymes in bacteria that cleave DNA in a precisely predetermined sequence. The first test application in viral genetic material around 1970.

Application at KWS

For example, to create genetically modified herbicide-resistant sugarbeets.

In modern crop science and breeding, biotechnological methods are a matter of course everywhere in the world. In recent years, humans have increasingly learned to better understand the properties of plants through the genes involved. Functional genetic research has vastly increased our knowledge about complex molecular biological processes in plants.

Meanwhile, breeding can be applied on this level to develop plants with particular properties, far more effectively and expediently than before.

Once the gene involved in the manifestation of a certain characteristic has been identified, the second step is to develop plant varieties that possess exactly this characteristic. Breeders can currently do this using a wide range of different methods, including genetic engineering.

Using genetic engineering methods, individual genes or DNA sequences previously found in other organisms can be inserted in the genetic material of crops. This allows for the targeted transfer of the desired characteristics. It is also possible to "turn off" certain genes.

Genetic engineering is not an end in itself, but a method that is always given preference when it is more suitable than others for achieving the respective breeding goal. This is the case, for instance, if the gene for a desired trait is not present in the gene pool of a certain variety and can therefore not be hybridised in cultivated varieties. Whereas traditional breeding methods use only genes that are found in the gene pool of a variety, genetic engineers can also transfer genes that originate from other organisms, such as bacteria.

One advantage of genetic engineering methods is also that interesting genes from wild varieties can be inserted directly into powerful cultivated varieties. Traditional breeding combines the genomes of both parent lines with each other. This means desirable and undesirable characteristics are mixed. Progress in the field of breeding can therefore be significantly accelerated compared to traditional hybridisation.

Only plants with genes inserted through genetic engineering methods are considered “genetically modified” by law. A specific legislation applies to such GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

KWS is an international plant breeding firm competing in many markets worldwide. It relies on the use of all internationally established methods for its own research and development. This also includes green genetic engineering.

The principles of KWS when dealing with green genetic engineering

  • We carry out an individual analysis, which must show that the potential benefits of a genetically modified plant are higher than currently available varieties. If this is not the case, we consider alternatives.

  • We only perform field trials if all preliminary laboratory and greenhouse tests have shown that - according to the current state of knowledge - any damage can be ruled out.

  • The entire process is fully transparent as we make this information publicly available in a timely and appropriate manner.

  • We are in discussions with various stakeholders by taking part in discussion rounds or conferences or organising our own forums.

  • As a family-friendly company, KWS stands for a careful approach to green genetic engineering to promote sustainable agriculture and maintain an enterprising balance between economy, ecology and social responsibility.

  • A decade of EU-funded GMO research

    pdf | 4 MB

An overview of our breeding methods

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Stephan Krings
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