Skip to main content

Barcelona, 18th March 2015 – Since the advent of agriculture 10,000 years ago, we’ve transformed some species of plants and animals to such an extent that they would now be unable to survive in nature. “We feed ourselves with species invented by human beings, which are the fruit of genetic modifications, like corn,” explains Josep Casacuberta, scientific leader of this B·Debate and coordinator of the plant and animal genomics program at the Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG).

Top global experts in agrigenomics analyze these days in Barcelona the evolution of plants, brought together by B·Debate, International Center for Scientific Debate, an initiative of Biocat and “la Caixa” Foundation. This edition is focused on understanding the evolutional mechanisms of plants in order to select the traits from their genomes that can impact all sorts of improvements, from sensory traits like touch, smell and taste, to nutritional quality and preservation of these food products.

From intuition to genetic modification

Years ago, these changes to plant varietals were carried out intuitively. Now, thanks to scientific research, there are many more precise improvement techniques, like marker-assisted selection and genetic modification, which is the latest to be applied to plant breeding. For example, x-rays have been used since the 1950s to modify plant genomes with radiation. “Without these advances, we wouldn’t be able to meet the food needs of the future and improve the species we eat,” adds Casacuberta.

Ongoing modifications to plants since the Neolithic era have allowed humanity to boost food production and quality throughout history. However over the coming 50 years we will have to produce more food than we’ve farmed in all of the history of humanity: food production will have to increase 70% by 2050 to feed the world population, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Over the past half century, the world population has doubled and grain yield has tripled. Improvements to production have been achieved, in part, by increasing farmland, water and fertilizers used. “This isn't possible anymore, which means we have to use all of the tools available, like improvements in the basic knowledge of plant genetics,” says Casacuberta.

Species of the future: how to get more with less

One of the challenges for the future of agrigenomics is to create more efficient plant varietals in order to boost production without investing additional resources like space, water and fertilizer in a context of climate change that makes farming increasingly difficult.

In 2000, the first plant genome was published; today we have the full genome of more than 80 species, as well as the genome of different varieties of the same species: databases used continually by plant breeders. For example, we already know the genome of 100 varieties of melon. We have even published the genome of 3,000 varieties of rice from 89 different countries. “We need to democratize this knowledge and apply it to local varieties,” highlights Casacuberta.

The detailed program for the B·Debate “Evolution of plant phenotypes. From genomes to traits” is available through this link.



Nuria Peláez                                                                        Irene Roch

Press officer                                                                    Departament of Communication

Biocat                                                                              “la Caixa” Foundation

T. +34 696 79 25 37                                                        T. 93 404 60 27 / 669 457 094                                               

Need more information?

Contact our team

Contact us
silvia labe 2
Silvia LabéDirector of Marketing, Communications and Competitive Intelligence
Laura Diéguez
Laura DiéguezHead of Media Relations and Content(+34) 606 81 63
Sign up for our newsletters

Stay up-to-date on the latest news, events and trends in the BioRegion.