Through biotechnology, it is possible to obtain new varieties of plants: perhaps the best known technique (but also the most controversial) is the production of genetically modified organisms, but today it isn't the only way...
For example, marker assisted selection can be implemented: it is based on the principle that there are individuals belonging to the same species which show different characteristics.
If we identify the genetic sequences associated with these characteristics (markers) and we repeat crossings made between the samples that possess them, genes and, therefore, the chosen features end up "nesting" in the new variety.
The benefits of marker-assisted selection (MAS) reside on the one hand in the fact that though it resorts to biotechnology there is no introduction of foreign genes into an organism, and on the other in the ability to act quickly.
Gene mapping, in fact, allows to verify the presence of markers indicating the existence of genes implicated in the desired traits, such as resistance to diseases or productivity.
These markers reveal to experimenters if there is a specific genetic region in a specimen.
This way, the selection can be actuated at the stage of seedlings, without waiting for them to grow and mature in the field.
Today the processes are automated to the point that it is possible to rapidly test hundreds of thousands of descendants and proceed to crosses with only the specimens which have the genetic combination desired, saving a great amount of time, land and money.
In Gerenzano, in the province of Varese, the Insubrias BioPark is located, a medical and scientific research center where the biotechnologies in all areas are developed.
The Biopark is run by the Research for Life Insubric Institute Foundation (FIIRV) which, collaboratingwith two companies located in the incubator (Areta e Quarta & Partners) and with Milan University, has promoted the Agrofood Project.
The purpose of the project is to identify and characterize genes involved in production processes of the agricultural sector, with a focus on those that are crucial for the assessment of the maturation stages of several products.
Among the various objectives of the project there is the development of a biological test able to detect the molecules of interest and check their involvement in production processes.