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Name: Sara
Status: Student
Grade:  9-12
Location: N/A
Country: United States
Date: April 2005


Question:
I was wondering how genetically modifying foods are developed?



Replies:
GM foods are produced by artificially introducing new genes (DNA) into the cells of the organism to be modified. This is often done by a process called transformation in which "naked" DNA is added to cells and the DNA is assimilated by the transformed cells and incorporated into their chromosomes.

Ron Baker, Ph.D.


First the gene in question has to be obtained. For example, Bt corn contains a gene from a bacteria for a toxin that kills larva of the European corn borer. So the gene from the bacteria had to be isolated. Then it has to be inserted into the genome of the corn plant. There is another bacteria called Agrobacterium that naturally inserts genes into plants. The genes it inserts are for growths called galls. You can see galls sometimes on tree leaves that have fallen. They look like big bumps on the leaves. Inside the galls are the bacteria-it gives them a place to live and to obtain food from the tree. Anyway-these bacteria naturally inject the genes for making these galls into the plants. Genetic engineers take out the genes for making galls, and insert the gene for the toxin from the other bacteria. Then the Agrobacterium, now with the toxin gene, inserts the gene into the cells of the corn plant.

Now the corn plant has genes for making toxin. But THEN to get more plants with toxin genes, the plants have to be bred to get seeds for plants with toxin genes. They can also do this in the lab by taking tissue cultures of corn tissue and inserting the genes, then growing the tissue cultures into corn plants. So, it is a very complicated process that costs a lot of money to develop. The processes are usually patented and the gene sequences are a trade secret.

vanhoeck



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