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BIOLOGY
Asked by Richard

How does a transgenic plant differ from a hybrid plant?

They are two completely different things. Transgenic plants (or any transgenic organism, as the technology is used on animals too) would have received genes from another species through genetic technology. Such modifications normally don’t affect the genetically modified plant/animal ability to reproduce and passing the new genes to their offsprings. The transferred genes will also have specific functions: for example giving plants resistance to pests and herbicides. Hybrid plants (or animals) are the product of mating between two different but closely related species. Many of the resulting offsprings are sterile, but for plants in particular, just as many are not. Hence hybridisation is both a natural phenomenon which plays a role in evolution by leading to the apparition of new species and one that has been used by humans for millennia to get better crops or flowers with a greater variety of colours. To recap, to produce a transgenic plant, you need complex technology but control exactly which genes you transfer, while hybridisation is achieved naturally but is completely hit and miss when it comes which genes are inherited.

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Lise Magnollay
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