Landraces (traditional varieties) of domesticated species preserve useful genetic variation, yet they remain untapped due to the genetic linkage between the few useful alleles and hundreds of undesirable alleles1. We integrated two approaches to characterize the diversity of 4,471 maize landraces. First, we mapped genomic regions controlling latitudinal and altitudinal adaptation and identified 1,498 genes. Second, we used F-one association mapping (FOAM) to map the genes that control flowering time, across 22 environments, and identified 1,005 genes. In total, we found that 61.4% of the single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with altitude were also associated with flowering time. More than half of the SNPs associated with altitude were within large structural variants (inversions, centromeres and pericentromeric regions). The combined mapping results indicate that although floral regulatory network genes contribute substantially to field variation, over 90% of the contributing genes probably have indirect effects. Our dual strategy can be used to harness the landrace diversity of plants and animals.
Abstract: Several papers in a Special Issue of Sustainability have recently discussed various aspects to evaluate whether organic farming and gene manipulation are compatible. A special emphasis was given to new plant breeding techniques (NPBTs). These new approaches allow the most predictable genetic alterations of crop plants in ways that the genetically modified plant is identical to a plant generated by conventional breeding. The articles of the Special Issue present the arguments pro and contra the inclusion of the plants generated by NPBTs in organic farming. Organic movements have not yet made a final decision whether some of these techniques should be accepted or banned. In my view these novel genetically manipulated (GM) crops could be used in such a way as to respect the requirements for genetically manipulated organisms (GMOs) formulated by the International Federation of Organic Movements (IFOAM). Reviewing the potential benefits of disease-resistant potatoes and bananas, it seems possible that these crops support organic farming. To this end, I propose specific requirements that the organic movements should proactively formulate as their standards to accept specific GM crops.
Bryophytes, including mosses, liverworts and hornworts are early land plants that have evolved key adaptation mechanisms to cope with abiotic stresses and microorganisms. Microbial symbioses facilitated plant colonization of land by enhancing nutrient uptake leading to improved plant growth and fitness. In addition, early land plants acquired novel defense mechanisms to protect plant tissues from pre-existing microbial pathogens. Due to its evolutionary stage linking unicellular green algae to vascular plants, the non-vascular moss Physcomitrella patens is an interesting organism to explore the adaptation mechanisms developed in the evolution of plant defenses to microbes. Cellular and biochemical approaches, gene expression profiles, and functional analysis of genes by targeted gene disruption have revealed that several defense mechanisms against microbial pathogens are conserved between mosses and flowering plants. P. patens perceives pathogen associated molecular patterns by plasma membrane receptor(s) and transduces the signal through a MAP kinase (MAPK) cascade leading to the activation of cell wall associated defenses and expression of genes that encode proteins with different roles in plant resistance. After pathogen assault, P. patens also activates the production of ROS, induces a HR-like reaction and increases levels of some hormones. Furthermore, alternative metabolic pathways are present in P. patens leading to the production of a distinct metabolic scenario than flowering plants that could contribute to defense. P. patens has acquired genes by horizontal transfer from prokaryotes and fungi, and some of them could represent adaptive benefits for resistance to biotic stress. In this review, the current knowledge related to the evolution of plant defense responses against pathogens will be discussed, focusing on the latest advances made in the model plant P. patens.
Lignin, one of the most abundant biopolymers on Earth, derives from the plant phenolic metabolism. It appeared upon terrestrialization and is thought critical for plant colonization of land. Early diverging land plants do not form lignin, but already have elements of its biosynthetic machinery. Here we delete in a moss the P450 oxygenase that defines the entry point in angiosperm lignin metabolism, and find that its pre-lignin pathway is essential for development. This pathway does not involve biochemical regulation via shikimate coupling, but instead is coupled with ascorbate catabolism, and controls the synthesis of the moss cuticle, which prevents desiccation and organ fusion. These cuticles share common features with lignin, cutin and suberin, and may represent the extant representative of a common ancestor. Our results demonstrate a critical role for the ancestral phenolic metabolism in moss erect growth and cuticle permeability, consistent with importance in plant adaptation to terrestrial conditions.
In this study, we investigate the metabolic engineering of anthocyanins in two dark tobacco crops (Narrow Leaf Madole and KY171) and evaluate the effects on physiological features of plant photosynthesis. Arabidopsis PAP1 (production of anthocyanin pigment 1) gene (AtPAP1) encodes a R2R3-type MYB transcript factor that is a master component of regulatory complexes controlling anthocyanin biosynthesis. AtPAP1 was introduced to Narrow Leaf Madole and KY171 plants. Multiple transgenic plants developed red/purple pigmentation in different tissues. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) analysis showed that the expression levels of six pathway genes were increased two- to eight-fold in AtPAP1 transgenic plants compared with vector control plants. Dihydroflavonol reductase and anthocyanidin synthase genes that were not expressed in wild-type plants were activated. Spectrophotometric measurement showed that the amount of anthocyanins in AtPAP1 transgenic plants were 400–800 µg g−1 fresh weight (FW). High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis showed that one main anthocyanin molecule accounted for approximately 98% of the total anthocyanins. Tandem MS/MS analysis using HPLC coupled to electrospray ionization and quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry identified the main anthocyanin as cyanidin 3-O-rutinoside, an important medicinal anthocyanin. Analysis of photosynthesis rate, chlorophylls and carotenoids contents showed no differences between red/purple transgenic and control plants, indicating that this metabolic engineering did not alter photosynthetic physiological traits. This study shows that AtPAP1 is of significance for metabolic engineering of anthocyanins in crop plants for value-added traits.
Carotenoids are synthesized de novo by plants, where they play fundamental physiological roles as photosynthetic pigments and precursors for signaling molecules. They are also essential components of a healthy diet, as dietary antioxidants and vitamin A precursors.
Vitamin A deficiency is a public health problem in developing countries, which has prompted a series of efforts toward the biofortification of plant-derived foods with provitamin A carotenoids (mainly β-carotene), giving rise to ‘golden’ crops.
Since the ‘golden rice’ exploit, a number of biofortified crops have been generated, using transgenic approaches as well as conventional breeding. Bioavailability studies have demonstrated the efficacy of several ‘golden’ crops in maintaining vitamin A status.
This review presents the state of the art and the areas that need further experimentation.
Leucine-rich repeats receptor-like kinases (LRR-RLKs) play important roles in plant growth and development as well as stress responses. Here, 56 LRR-RLK genes were identified in the Antarctic moss Pohlia nutans transcriptome, which were further classified into 11 subgroups based on their extracellular domain. Of them, PnLRR-RLK27 belongs to the LRR II subgroup and its expression was significantly induced by abiotic stresses. Subcellular localization analysis showed that PnLRR-RLK27 was a plasma membrane protein. The overexpression of PnLRR-RLK27 in Physcomitrella significantly enhanced the salinity and ABA tolerance in their gametophyte growth. Similarly, PnLRR-RLK27 heterologous expression in Arabidopsis increased the salinity and ABA tolerance in their seed germination and early root growth as well as the tolerance to oxidative stress. PnLRR-RLK27 overproduction in these transgenic plants increased the expression of salt stress/ABA-related genes. Furthermore, PnLRR-RLK27 increased the activities of reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavengers and reduced the levels of malondialdehyde (MDA) and ROS. Taken together, these results suggested that PnLRR-RLK27 as a signaling regulator confer abiotic stress response associated with the regulation of the stress- and ABA-mediated signaling network.
To feed a world population projected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, the productivity of major crops must be increased by at least 50%. One potential route to boost the productivity of cereals is to equip them genetically with the ‘supercharged’ C4 type of photosynthesis; however, the necessary genetic modifications are not sufficiently understood for the corresponding genetic engineering programme. In this opinion paper, we discuss a strategy to solve this problem by developing a new paradigm for plant breeding. We propose combining the bioengineering of well-understood traits with subsequent evolutionary engineering, i.e. mutagenesis and artificial selection. An existing mathematical model of C3–C4 evolution is used to choose the most promising path towards this goal. Based on biomathematical simulations, we engineer Arabidopsis thaliana plants that express the central carbon-fixing enzyme Rubisco only in bundle sheath cells (Ru-BSC plants), the localization characteristic for C4 plants. This modification will initially be deleterious, forcing the Ru-BSC plants into a fitness valley from where previously inaccessible adaptive steps towards C4 photosynthesis become accessible through fitness-enhancing mutations. Mutagenized Ru-BSC plants are then screened for improved photosynthesis, and are expected to respond to imposed artificial selection pressures by evolving towards C4 anatomy and biochemistry.Empty description
Rothamsted Research... submitted an application... for permission to carry out GM field trials on the Rothamsted Farm between 2017 and 2019. The risk assessment was reviewed by the independent Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE), and a 48-day public consultation was carried out... ACRE is satisfied that all scientific issues raised by the public with respect to this application have been addressed... Scientists... developed wheat plants that can carry out photosynthesis more efficiently i.e. convert light energy into plant biomass more efficiently. This trait has the potential to result in higher yielding plants. The purpose of the proposed trial is to evaluate the performance of the engineered plants in the field.
Ensuring food security is a major challenge given the projected need to increase world food production by... 70% by 2050. Wheat is one of the major grain crops worldwide and provides approximately one-fifth of the total calories consumed globally. However, wheat yields have reached a plateau in recent years and predictions are that yield gains will not reach the level required to feed the 9 billion population... Traditional breeding and agronomic approaches have maximised light capture and allocation to the grain. A promising but as yet-unexploited route to increase wheat yields is to improve the efficiency by which energy in the form of light is converted to wheat biomass...
“The efficiency of the process of photosynthesis integrated over the season is the major determinant of crop yield. However, to date photosynthesis has not been used to select for high yielding crops in conventional breeding programmes and represents an unexploited opportunity. But there is now evidence that improving the efficiency of photosynthesis by genetic modification is one of the promising approaches to achieve higher wheat yield potential... In this project we have genetically modified wheat plants to increase the efficiency of the conversion of energy from sunlight into biomass. We have shown that these plants carry out photosynthesis more efficiently in glasshouse conditions”...
During the field trial, we will measure the photosynthetic efficiency of the plants in the field and we will determine total aboveground plant biomass and grain yield on an area basis at full maturity. We will also measure the number of wheat ears on an area basis and the grain number and weight per ear. From these data we will estimate the harvest index, which is the proportion of biomass allocated to the grain”...
“This trial will be a significant step forward as we will be able to assess in ‘real environmental conditions’ the potential of these plants to produce more using the same resources and land area as their non-GM counterparts. These field trials are the only way to assess the viability of a solution that can bring economic benefits to farmers, returns to the UK tax payer from the long-term investment in this research, benefits to the UK economy as a whole and the environment in general”...
The color of food is often associated with the flavor, safety, and nutritional value of the product. Synthetic food colorants have been used because of their high stability and low cost. However, consumer perception and demand have driven the replacement ...
Across the plant kingdom, phytochrome (PHY) photoreceptors play an important role during adaptive and developmental responses to light. In Arabidopsis thaliana, light-activated PHYs accumulate in the nucleus, where they regulate downstream signaling components, such as phytochrome interacting factors (PIFs). PIFs are transcription factors that act as repressors of photomorphogenesis; their inhibition by PHYs leads to substantial changes in gene expression. The nuclear function of PHYs, however, has so far been investigated in only a few non-seed plants. Here, we have identified putative target genes of PHY signaling in the moss Physcomitrella patens and found light-regulated genes that are putative orthologs of PIF-controlled genes in A. thaliana. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that an ancestral PIF-like gene was already present in streptophyte algae, i.e., before the water-to-land-transition of plants. The PIF homologs in the genome of P. patens resemble A. thaliana PIFs in their protein domain structure, molecular properties, and physiological effects, albeit with notable differences in the motif-dependent PHY interaction. Our results suggest that P. patens PIFs are involved in PHY signaling. The PHY-PIF signaling node that relays light signals to target genes has been largely conserved during land plant evolution, with evidence of lineage-specific diversification.
Veettil et al. never imply that GM cotton is a panacea to pesticide overuse, and they conclude both that transgenic seeds must be an element within a broader agricultural development strategy and that many Bt cotton farmers continue to overuse chemical pesticides. However, their comparisons between Bt and non-Bt cotton farmers miss important social dynamics driving farmer pesticide use: namely, the consequences of continued pesticide spraying even when Bt cotton obviates that need, and the risk that this poses to the largely young, poor, and female farm labouring population. Bt cotton is here to stay in India (and globally), and its impacts should be measured in practice, not as a comparison to the few, unrepresentative non-Bt planting holdouts. There is every reason to believe both that Bt cotton has helped reduce the quantity and overall toxicity of cotton agriculture, and that this profession, in practice, remains a precarious one.
Carpels are the female reproductive organs of flowering plants (angiosperms), enclose the ovules, and develop into fruits. The presence of carpels unites angiosperms, and they are suggested to be the most important autapomorphy of the angiosperms, e.g., they prevent inbreeding and allow efficient seed dispersal. Many transcriptional regulators and coregulators essential for carpel development are encoded by diverse gene families and well characterized in Arabidopsis thaliana. Among these regulators are AGAMOUS (AG), ETTIN (ETT), LEUNIG (LUG), SEUSS (SEU), SHORT INTERNODE/STYLISH (SHI/STY), and SEPALLATA1, 2, 3, 4 (SEP1, 2, 3, 4). However, the timing of the origin and their subsequent molecular evolution of these carpel developmental regulators are largely unknown. Here, we have sampled homologs of these carpel developmental regulators from the sequenced genomes of a wide taxonomic sampling of the land plants, such as Physcomitrella patens, Selaginella moellendorfii, Picea abies, and several angiosperms. Careful phylogenetic analyses were carried out that provide a phylogenetic background for the different gene families and provide minimal estimates for the ages of these developmental regulators. Our analyses and published work show that LUG-, SEU-, and SHI/STY-like genes were already present in the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) of all land plants, AG- and SEP-like genes were present in the MRCA of seed plants and their origin may coincide with the ξ Whole Genome Duplication. Our work shows that the carpel development regulatory network was, in part, recruited from preexisting network components that were present in the MRCA of angiosperms and modified to regulate gynoecium development.
Parthenocarpy in horticultural crop plants is an important trait with agricultural value for various industrial purposes as well as direct eating quality. Here, we demonstrate a breeding strategy to generate parthenocarpic tomato plants using the CRISPR/Cas9 system. We optimized the CRISPR/Cas9 system to introduce somatic mutations effectively into SlIAA9—a key gene controlling parthenocarpy—with mutation rates of up to 100% in the T0 generation. Furthermore, analysis of off-target mutations using deep sequencing indicated that our customized gRNAs induced no additional mutations in the host genome. Regenerated mutants exhibited morphological changes in leaf shape and seedless fruit—a characteristic of parthenocarpic tomato. And the segregated next generation (T1) also showed a severe phenotype associated with the homozygous mutated genome. The system developed here could be applied to produce parthenocarpic tomato in a wide variety of cultivars, as well as other major horticultural crops, using this precise and rapid breeding technique.
Despite significant advances in the fabrication of bioengineered scaffolds for tissue engineering, delivery of nutrients in complex engineered human tissues remains a challenge. By taking advantage of the similarities in the vascular structure of plant and animal tissues, we developed decellularized plant tissue as a prevascularized scaffold for tissue engineering applications. Perfusion-based decellularization was modified for different plant species, providing different geometries of scaffolding. After decellularization, plant scaffolds remained patent and able to transport microparticles. Plant scaffolds were recellularized with human endothelial cells that colonized the inner surfaces of plant vasculature. Human mesenchymal stem cells and human pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes adhered to the outer surfaces of plant scaffolds. Cardiomyocytes demonstrated contractile function and calcium handling capabilities over the course of 21 days. These data demonstrate the potential of decellularized plants as scaffolds for tissue engineering, which could ultimately provide a cost-efficient, “green” technology for regenerating large volume vascularized tissue mass.
Betaxanthins are the water-soluble pigments that bestow yellow coloration to fruits, flowers and roots of plants of the Caryophyllales order and present autofluorescence after excitation with blue light. In this work, the semi-synthesis of betaxanthins derived from macromolecules is achieved for the first time by exploiting the reactivity of amine groups belonging to proteins. The synthesis of protein-betaxanthins is demonstrated by spectrophotometry and HPLC-ESI-TOF-MS mass analysis. The derivatization with betalamic acid was in a ratio 1:1 and yielded protein-betaxanthins yellow in color that exhibited fluorescent properties with a maximum excitation wavelength of 476 nm and a maximum emission wavelength of 551 nm. Moreover, staining can be started from purified betalamic acid or directly from raw red beet root extracts. The novel bioinspired labeling reaction allowed protein detection in conventional fluorescence scanning and imaging systems and opens a new perspective for betalamic acid derived molecules as fluorescent probes with multiple biological applications.
The public debates concerning genetic engineering (GE) involve many non-scientific issues. The ensuing complexity is one reason why biotechnologists are reluctant to become involved. By sharing our personal experiences in science communication and suggesting ways to de-problematize GE, we aim to inspire our colleagues to engage with the public.
Rich ecotype collections are used for several plant models to unravel the molecular causes of phenotypic differences and to investigate effects of environmental adaption and acclimation. For the model moss Physcomitrella patens, collections of accessions are available and have been used e.g. for phylogenetic and taxonomic studies, but few have been investigated further for phenotypic differences. Here, we focus on the Reute accession and provide expression profiling and comparative developmental data for several stages of sporophyte development, as well as information on genetic variation via genomic sequencing. We analysed cross-technology and –laboratory data to define a confident set of 15 mature sporophyte specific genes. We find that the standard laboratory strain Gransden produces fewer sporophytes than Reute or Villersexel, although gametangia develop with the same time course and do not show evident morphological differences. Reute exhibits less genetic variation relative to Gransden than Villersexel, yet we found variation between Gransden and Reute in the expression profiles of several genes, as well as variation hotspots and genes that appear to evolve under positive Darwinian selection. We analyzed expression differences between the ecotypes for selected candidate genes in the GRAS transcription factor family, the chalcone synthase family, and genes involved in cell wall modification that are potentially related to phenotypic differences. We confirm that Reute is a P. patens ecotype and suggest its use for reverse genetic studies that involve progression through the life cycle and multiple generations.
Transgenic papaya callus lines expressing the components of the S3Pvac vaccine constitute a stable platform to produce an oral vaccine against cysticercosis caused byTaenia soliumorT. crassiceps.
The development of effective delivery systems to cope with the reduced immunogenicity of new subunit vaccines is a priority in vaccinology. Herein, experimental evidence supporting a papaya-based platform to produce needle-free, recombinant, highly immunogenic vaccines is shown. Papaya (Carica papaya) callus lines were previously engineered by particle bombardment to express the three protective peptides of the S3Pvac anti-cysticercosis vaccine (KETc7, KETc12, KETc1). Calli were propagated in vitro, and a stable integration and expression of the target genes has been maintained, as confirmed by PCR, qRT-PCR, and HPLC. These results point papaya calli as a suitable platform for long-term transgenic expression of the vaccine peptides. The previously demonstrated protective immunogenic efficacy of S3Pvac-papaya orally administered to mice is herein confirmed in a wider dose-range and formulated with different delivery vehicles, adequate for oral vaccination. This protection is accompanied by an increase in anti-S3Pvac antibody titers and a delayed hypersensitivity response against the vaccine. A significant increase in CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocyte proliferation was induced in vitro by each vaccine peptide in mice immunized with the lowest dose of S3Pvac papaya (0.56 ng of the three peptides in 0.1 µg of papaya callus total protein per mouse). In pigs, the obliged intermediate host for Taenia solium, S3Pvac papaya was also immunogenic when orally administered in a two-log dose range. Vaccinated pigs significantly increased anti-vaccine antibodies and mononuclear cell proliferation. Overall, the oral immunogenicity of this stable S3Pvac-papaya vaccine in mice and pigs, not requiring additional adjuvants, supports the interest in papaya callus as a useful platform for plant-based vaccines.
Loss-of-function mutations of the appropriate Mildew resistance locus o (Mlo) gene(s) are an apparently reliable “weapon” to protect plants from infection by powdery mildew fungi, as they confer durable broad-spectrum resistance. Originally detected as a natural mutation in an Ethiopian barley landrace, this so-called mlo-based resistance has been successfully employed in European barley agriculture for more than four decades. More recently, mlo-mediated resistance was discovered to be inducible in virtually every plant species of economical or scientific relevance. By now, mlo resistance has been found (as natural mutants) or generated (by induced mutagenesis, gene silencing, and targeted or non-targeted gene knock-out) in a broad range of monocotyledonous and dicotyledonous plant species. Here, we review features of mlo resistance in barley, discuss approaches to identify the appropriate Mlo gene targets to induce mlo-based resistance, and consider the issue of pleiotropic effects often associated with mlo-mediated immunity, which can harm plant yield and quality. We portray mlo-based resistance as an apparently universal and effective “weapon” to defeat powdery mildew disease in a multitude of plant species.
Phytochromes comprise one of the major photoreceptor families in plants, and they regulate many aspects of plant growth and development throughout the plant life cycle. A canonical land plant phytochrome originated in the common ancestor of streptophytes. Phytochromes have diversified in seed plants and some basal land plants due to lineage-specific gene duplications that occurred during the course of land plant evolution. Molecular genetic analyses using Arabidopsis thaliana suggested that there are two types of phytochromes in angiosperms, light-labile type I and light-stable type II, which have different signaling mechanisms and which regulate distinct responses. In basal land plants, little is known about molecular mechanisms of phytochrome signaling, although R/FR photoreversible physiological responses and the distribution of phytochrome genes are relatively well documented. Recent advances in molecular genetics using the moss Physcomitrella patens and the liverwort, Marchantia polymorpha, revealed that basal land plants show FR-induced responses and that the establishment of phytochrome-mediated transcriptional regulation dates back to at least the common ancestor of land plants. In this review we summarize our knowledge concerning functions of land plant phytochromes, especially in basal land plants, and discuss sub-/neofunctionalization of phytochrome signaling during the course of land plant evolution.
Both land plants and metazoa have the capacity to reprogram differentiated cells to stem cells. Here we show that the moss Physcomitrella patens Cold-Shock Domain Protein 1 (PpCSP1) regulates reprogramming of differentiated leaf cells to chloronema apical stem cells and shares conserved domains with the induced pluripotent stem cell factor Lin28 in mammals. PpCSP1 accumulates in the reprogramming cells and is maintained throughout the reprogramming process and in the resultant stem cells. Expression of PpCSP1 is negatively regulated by its 3′-untranslated region (3′-UTR). Removal of the 3′-UTR stabilizes PpCSP1 transcripts, results in accumulation of PpCSP1 protein and enhances reprogramming. A quadruple deletion mutant of PpCSP1 and three closely related PpCSP genes exhibits attenuated reprogramming indicating that the PpCSP genes function redundantly in cellular reprogramming. Taken together, these data demonstrate a positive role of PpCSP1 in reprogramming, which is similar to the function of mammalian Lin28. Introduction
Stem cells can self-renew and produce cells to be differentiated during development1,2,3,4. On the other hand, differentiated cells can change their cell fate to stem cells under certain conditions in both land plants and metazoa3,4. In flowering plants, differentiated cells can form undifferentiated cell masses called callus. With the addition of the appropriate phytohormones they can regenerate shoot and root meristems including stem cells, as was first shown with carrot in 1958 (ref. 5). Several genes have been shown to be involved in the formation of callus or regeneration of stem cells in Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis). Overexpression of a plant-specific AP2/ERF transcription factor ENHANCER OF SHOOT REGENERATION 1 (ESR1)/DORNROESCHEN (DRN) promotes the formation of shoot meristems from callus6. Induction of another AP2/ERF transcription factor WOUND INDUCED DEDIFFERENTIATION 1 (WIND1) enhances callus formation without exogenous hormones7. In bryophytes, differentiated cells have a remarkable ability of being reprogrammed into stem cells without callus formation. In the moss Physcomitrella patens (Physcomitrella), wounding can induce the transition from differentiated leaf cells into proliferating chloronema stem cells without any exogenous phytohormones8,9. To understand the molecular mechanisms underlying this reprogramming, transcriptome analysis was performed during the reprogramming10 and several factors were identified as playing a role in the process. For instance, Cyclin-Dependent Kinase A (CDKA) activation is essential for cell cycle re-entry during reprogramming9. WUSCHEL-related homeobox 13-like (WOX13L) genes are required for the initiation of tip growth during stem cell formation11.
Highlights • The meaning of organic agriculture is highly debated. • Regulations define organic mostly in terms of ‘natural’ vs. ‘synthetic’ inputs. • Environmental best practices are not well represented in regulations. Abstract Organic farming is one of the fastest growing sectors of world agriculture. Although it represents only 1% of world agricultural area, organic is one of the most recognized food labels and most people in developed countries consume some amount of organic food today. There is a wide range of interpretations of what organic means by different actors in the sector. Here we examine eight different organic regulations from across the world to understand how they have codified the large diversity of ideas inherent in organic agriculture. Our analysis shows that organic practices and regulations do not differ substantially between countries – across the board organic regulations define organic mainly in terms of 'natural' vs. 'artificial' substances that are allowed (or not) as inputs. This interpretation of organic as “chemical-free” farming, largely void of broader environmental principles, does not fully incorporate the original ideas of organic theoreticians who conceived it as a holistic farming system aimed primarily at improving soil health, thereby leading to improved animal, human, and societal health. This narrow focus of organic regulations can be explained by the interest of organic consumers who predominantly buy organic because they believe it is healthier and more nutritious due to the absence of harmful substances. Organic regulations need to place more emphasis on environmental best practices in order to ensure that organic agriculture can contribute to sustainability objectives.
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