Paramutation research is a good example of a sensibly worldchanging approach to understanding plant genetics. Subtle comprehension, however, isn't always sexy. Sometimes folks want that sci-fi lab of the future. They want action. Intervention and tweaking and hacking. Others want a complete abandonment of the technology. And while splicing genes between species isn't a good approach to GE, neither do agricultural biotechs need to be totally hands-off to be responsible.
One approach that retains some of GE's glamour is micropropagation. A few cells are taken from a plant -- one that is, say, particularly disease-resistant, or thrives in a certain climate -- and grown in a dish. Samples can be taken from the new plant, grown in their own dishes, and so on, eventually producing a population identical to the original and ready to be moved from lab to field.
Micropropagation is widely used in much of the developing world, especially Asia: it's produced low-disease, high-yield potatoes in Vietnam and India and Kenya. It's also being used to conserve rare plant species.
Micropropagation is not problem-free. It's important to have a deep, detailed undertanding of each original plant. Otherwise, the result is an identically flawed population. Identical plants are vulnerable to the same things, making monocultures prone to catastrophically widespread failures -- so it's essential to cultivate a variety of plants. But farmers actually do the micropropagation work themselves, breeding their own favorite strains. This increases genetic diversity, promotes the development of locale-specific crops, and doesn't make farmers rely on agbiotech giants. Both economically and scientifically, micropropagation beats GE.
So, it sounds like "Micropropagation" is cloning. Why the fancy new name? ...Is it because it doesn't require any of the fancy cell-insemination stuff that animal cloning requires, because you can just take a cutting & grow from there? Or is there some other difference?
A clone by any other name is still . . . yep, that's another word for micropropagation. I don't know the anthrolinguistic history of the word, but I'd guess it's used instead of "cloning" because the latter term has such strong associations with ultra-high-tech labs and animals. Personally, I like 'micropropagation' better when talking plants . . . proopagation is derived from 'propagationem,' meaning 'extension' or 'to extend' or something like that, which just feels right in this context. And of course 'micro' has such a good green feel to it.