Genetically Modified Foods

How do we broadly define biotechnology?
Use of living organisms to provide products for humanity
What are some traditional vs. modern examples of biotechnology?
Yeast, yogurt, cheese, beer, bread, penicillin, animal/plant breeding, etc.
Can you typically grow a whole plant from a single cell? What is this called?
Yes, totipotency
How many plant species constitute the world’s major crops?
22
How many plants sustain >50% daily plant calories for humans? What are these crops?
3 (rice, corn, wheat)
Why is it useful to modify the natural tomato ripening process in order to ship them?
Longer shelf life
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What is the source of the gene in tomato that delays ripening?
Fish gene
How is golden rice different from other rice?
It contains increased levels of beta-carotene
What is a transgenic plant? How are genes moved from 1 species to another?
Gene transfer using recombinant DNA (usually outside sexual compatibility); a.k.a. GMO or GEO
What is plasmid DNA? How is it used to transfer genes?
Gene is inserted into plasmid DNA & becomes part of that DNA
Can you make glow in the dark tobacco?
Yes
List 8 crops that have been genetically engineered. What are 4 of the most common in the US? What are the most common traits?
1) Canola, corn, cotton, flax, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash, sugar beets, tomatoes
2) Soybeans, corn, cotton, canola
3) Herbicide tolerance and/or insect/pest resistance
What is Bt corn? Does the toxin itself occur naturally?
1) Proteins from this bacteria bind to the gut of insect larva & kill them
2) No
What is roundup ready corn? How does it work? Why is it useful? Are other crops roundup ready?
1) Corn w/ alternative enzyme that makes them resistant to roundup
2) Herbicide resistance
3) Roundup ready soybeans
What is golden rice? Why might it be important in developing countries? What deficiency might it help with?
1) Rice seeds genetically modified to contain higher levels of beta-carotene
2) Good way to get this nutrient to those who lack it
3) Vitamin A Deficiency
What are some other genetically engineered crops in the making?
Low lignin trees that don’t produce flowers (great for paper production), roundup ready turf grass (for the perfect lawn), nitrogen fixing crops, crops low in saturated fat, new flower colors, etc.
How can you ensure that you are not eating a genetically engineered product?
Buy organic! 🙂
What are some potential downsides to genetically engineered crops?
1) Transfer of trans-genes to other organisms
2) Toxicity to humans (food allergies)
3) Effects on non-target organisms (e.g. monarchs)
4) Corporate control
5) Unintended reduction of nutrition
6) Pest resistance
7) Ethics
What are some potential benefits to genetically engineered crops?
1) Increase production & decrease yield loss
2) Germ plasm library
3) Convergence of breeding/biotechnology
4) Precision farming (field mapping)