Concepts of intrinsic value and integrity of plants in organic plant breeding and propagation

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The natural approach taken by organic agriculture obviates the use of synthetic agrochemicals and emphasizes farming in accordance with agroecological principles. Also implicit in this approach is an appreciation for the integrity of living farm organisms, with the integrity being evaluated from a biocentric perspective. The ethical value assigned to integrity of organisms has challenged us to develop criteria for evaluating both integrity and breeding techniques. For cultivated plants, integrity refers to their inherent nature, their wholeness, completeness, species-specific characteristics, and their being in balance with their (organically farmed) environment. We evaluate integrity using criteria derived from four different perspectives: integrity of life, plant-specific integrity, genotypic integrity, and phenotypic integrity. These criteria were used to assess whether existing breeding and propagation techniques violate the integrity of crop plants. In vitro techniques and techniques that engineer at the DNA level appeared to be incompatible with the integrity of crops, with the exception of use of DNA markers. On the other hand, breeding techniques that work at the level of breeding, evaluation, and selection for whole plant performance, and which do not break reproductive barriers between species, may conform to the principles of organic farming. In the selection process, the so-called breeder's eye can be developed to become a more consciously applied instrument for perceiving and assessing aspects of the wholeness or phenotypic integrity of a plant. Thus, the challenge given by the organic community to breeders implies the further development of scientific approaches, evaluation, and choice of breeding techniques, and the systematic development of the respectful and artful eye of the individual breeder.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1922-1929
JournalCrop Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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