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  • Why I’m not afraid of GMOs

    Posted on May 18th, 2019 admin No comments

    People don’t seem to realize that almost everything we eat has been genetically modified for greater yield, better flavor, etc. through centuries of selective breeding. Somebody spots a trait in a plant or animal that seems useful — say, higher milk production in dairy cattle — and that trait is given preference when the organism is reproduced. This is called artificial selection (as opposed to “natural” selection). The history of maize is a good example.

    Genetic editing is a relatively new method of doing the same thing, and it’s human nature to resist change and to fear the new and relatively unknown.

    There is always ignorance, as well, about new products or processes, such as those people who somehow think that GE involves “pumping chemicals into the plants” or that GE is somehow another form of “chemical additive”.

    Gene editing is a natural process done by bacteria as a way of protecting themselves from viruses. We’ve figured out how they do it, and are applying the technique (called Crispr) to replace one gene with another .

    I’m not talking about “frankenfoods” or “frankencritters” where DNA from one species is spliced into that of another. I’m talking about gene editing, where a modified gene from the same species is inserted in place of the original gene. One example is the gene that makes cut apples turn brown. While another few hundred generations of selective breeding might produce a non-browning apple, the GE variant is here already, created by silencing the gene that causes discoloration.

    The aim is to produce plants with higher yield, better insect/disease resistance, better nutrition and taste. It can be done in a thousand years with selective breeding, or it can be done in a generation or two with gene editing.

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