[internetworkers] Genetically modified foods - (was fahrenheit911, at a theater near you!)
biglee at haslups.com
Thu Jun 24 16:34:42 EDT 2004
The problem with applying common sense to the definition of GM is that
the process is rather like peeling an onion. You can always take off
the next layer and, when you are done, there is nothing left.
Farmers have been tinkering with the genomes of their species as long as
there has been agriculture. They are always on the lookout for mutants
or related species that can be used for hybridization. Whether the
mutation is accidental or created by chemicals or radiation doesn't
matter to the genome. Hybridization (especially crossing with related
species) introduces a huge number of new genes, most of which need to be
eliminated by repeated back-crossing with the standard stock. The idea
being to eliminate as many of the extraneous genes as possible while
keeping the few (often two or three) genes that give the desired
traits. In the meanwhile you create a genetic glissando of intermediate
For an example of this process, consider the orange cauliflower that was
bred from a mutant that someone found in a field in Canada. The
original mutant has tons of beta carotene but is difficult to grow,
tends to be rather small and not that tasty. After several generations
of crossing with agriculturally better plants the new orange cauliflower
will soon be available at your corner grocery store. It's difficult to
say how it will differ genetically from a typical cauliflower but it
will have at least one "defective" gene that regulates the production of
News stories chosen at random (by Google) :
Since the genetic attribute that was desired (that one gene) was known
fairly early in the process, the same result could have been achieved by
splicing it into a normal cauliflower. The resulting plant would be a
GM food. It would actually be more of a known commodity (from a genetic
point of view) since one can't know what other genes came along from the
mutant. Nonetheless, the (real) hybrid cauliflower is likely to show up
fairly soon in the "organic" foods section of the supermarket while its
(hypothetical) GM cousin would be a frankenfood. People would worry that
it might escape from the farm at any minute and start growing in the
cracks in the sidewalks and crowding out the crabgrass in the lawn.
Ian Meyer wrote:
> the genes were modified, were they not?
> sounds to me like whatever rules there are for the definition of GM
> need to be more common sense and less legalese
> On Jun 24, 2004, at 11:14 AM, Michael Best wrote:
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: Ian Meyer [mailto:ianmeyer at mac.com]
>>> yeah, a rule like, if you say is isn't GM, then it can't be GM.
>> Regarding herbicide resistance, I remember reading an article about
>> some of
>> the different cases of this. Apparently, in one case, the company used
>> radiation to randomly alter DNA in seeds and then tested the resulting
>> plants for herbicide resistance. After many tries they found what they
>> wanted. Because of the method used, this particular plant was not
>> considered genetically modified.
>> -- Michael Best
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