Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What Is "Genetically Modified"?

The most familiar GMO crops are those which have genes added to provide resistance to a herbicide, or to fight some disease or pest.  The anti-GMO people argue this is messing with mother nature, when you add a gene to corn which comes from some other organism, and that such messing is dangerous.  I don't agree, but I can understand why someone might think that way.

But now comes a report that Chinese scientists have genetically modified wheat to improve its resistance to powdery mildew. What strikes me is the method used: deleting  genes that encode proteins that repress defenses against the mildew.  To me, this undermines the anti-GMO argument--you aren't creating a Frankenstein's monster by combining parts from different organisms, you're simply streamlining an organism.

I suspect few anti-GMO types will agree with me.

[Update: this was a very early use of what is now familiar to most: CRISPR.  I give myself kudos for seeing this and noting the difference with standard genetic modification so early.  Sept. 10, 2018]

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