The disadvantages of cloning crops

Written by erik devaney
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The disadvantages of cloning crops
Farmers clone apples to maintain positive characteristics; however, the practice could leave them susceptible to disease. (apple image by Marek Kosmal from

Cloning is the process of reproducing an organism asexually, with the goal of generating a duplicate organism that is genetically identical. Humans have been cloning some plants (particular fruit-bearing ones) for centuries, through a process known as vegetative propagation, wherein a section of a plant (as opposed to a seed) is planted or grafted to another plant. And while cloning crops has advantages, there are also several disadvantages.

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Cloning some plants is actually quite simple, and---as mentioned above---we have been doing it for centuries. However, other plants require a more complicated cloning process, known as a tissue culture. According to (See Reference 1), tissue cultures require the use of specialised chemicals and laboratory equipment. More specifically, to culture a plant, you need to remove a piece of cellular material (such as a bud or root segment) and grow it in a test tube. Then you treat the material with chemicals so it produces shoots and, eventually, buds. By separating the buds and treating the shoots, you can get them to produce roots. This process is far more expensive and labour intensive compared to traditional plant-growing practices.

Genetic Uniformity

The extensive cloning of plants, or of any other organisms for that matter, will eventually lead to a decrease in genetic variation. This means, for example, that if we continue to clone a particular apple (and to clone its clones), we could end up with a single genetic identity (with no diversity in its DNA sequencing) encompassing all of the world's apples. This means that essentially al the apples would be the same apple, with the same genetic make-up. The problem with this, according to (See Reference 3), is that plants with the same genetic composition also have the same resistance to insects and diseases. If a particular fungus is able to thrive on one clone of a plant, it will be able to thrive on all of them.

Potential Reproductive Problems

According to (See Reference 4), not all cloned plants can reproduce on their own, as cloning can leave organisms sterile. Thus, if an insect or disease does infect a species of cloned plants that cannot reproduce naturally, and wipes it out entirely, there will be no way to regenerate it (as seeds will be implantable and cellular material will be infected or dead).

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