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GeneticallyModifiedFoodsWeek1 - C118 Laboratory Genetically...

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1 C118 Laboratory - Genetically Modified Foods Biotechnology Explorer GMO Foods (BioRad Kit #166-2500EDU) Introduction: With the world population exploding and the farmable land disappearing, agricultural scientists are concerned with the world’s ability to produce enough food to feed the growing population. Environmentalists are concerned about the overuse of pesticides and herbicides and the long term effects of these chemicals on the environment and human health. Might there be a solution to both of these problems? The biotechnology industry thinks so. Its proponents believe genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), particularly genetically modified (GM) crop plants, can solve both problems. This proposed solution, however, has met with great opposition throughout the world. Dubbed “frankenfoods” by opponents and restricted by most European countries, GMO’s are widely produced and sold in the US. Currently in the U.S., foods that contain GMO’s do not have to be labeled. Genetic manipulation of crop plants is not new. Farmers have been genetically modifying crops for centuries by crop breeding to encourage specific traits, such as high yield. This practice is still an important part of agriculture today. However, there is now the option to place genes for selected traits directly into crop plants. These genes do not have to originate from the same plant species, in fact, they do not have to come from plants at all. One popular class of GM crops has a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) inserted into their genomes. Bt crops produce a protein called delta-toxin that is lethal to European corn borers, a common pest on corn plants. Farmers who plant Bt crops do not have to apply pesticide because the plants produce the toxic protein inside their cells. When the corn borers feed on the genetically modified plant, they die. Other GMO’s include those that are herbicide-resistant, are resistant to fungi, have increased crop yield, or bear improved fruits. Many people object to the use of GM crop plants. They argue that there is a potential to create super-weeds through cross pollination with herbicide-resistant crops or that super-bugs will evolve that are no longer resistant to the toxins in pest-resistant crops. Many are concerned with potential allergic reactions to the novel proteins or antibiotic resistance arising from the selectable markers used to develop the crops or other unforeseen effects on public health. Proponents of GM foods argue these crops are actually better for the environment. Fewer toxic chemicals are put into the environment and thus fewer toxic chemicals can harm the environment and human health. In addition, these crops can preserve arable land by reducing stress on the land, improve the nutritional value of food in developing countries, and allow crops to be grown on previously un-farmable land.
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