Havoc in the Garden:
Relating Food Consumption to
Microbiology, Immunology &
The creation of an installation of a genetically
modified soybean garden that contains a form of
metastatic cancer will explore the intersection
between food consumption and cancer
incidence. Viewers will observe cancer
progression directly and be led to question the
detrimental effects of genetic modification.
Ultimately the aim of this project is to encourage
people to think critically about their everyday
food consumption habits and their health.
Optical imaging techniques are currently used in the
scientific field to investigate cancer dynamics in vivo,
such as metastasis, and I would like to apply this to a
botanical project. The term “metastasis” refers to the
spreading of a disease from one site to another inside
the body, and such prognosis in breast cancer patients
is associated with the worse outcome. There is much
speculation about the health benefits of soy in our
diets, but what is known is that it produces a
compound similar in structure to estrogen, the primary
female sex hormone. Therefore this project utilizes
soybean plants in an attempt to specifically address
CONTEXT & PRECEDENTS
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death by
cancer among women and is the most common type of
cancer among women in the Western world1. New
therapeutic measures are actively researched every day in
an effort to cure breast cancer, and while genes are
obviously an important culprit in breast cancer incidence,
food consumption may also play a role in the development
of cancer2. Genetically modified food achieves this capacity
by introducing toxins that produce deleterious effects and
become mutation driving forces within the body3. It is
important that people are aware of the harm in genetic
modification of food, especially plants, like soybean, which
are utilized in many processed foods.
Day 0: Day 7:
No mets Increasing metastatic spread Severe mets
A plant cancer cell line will be created that responds to the estrogen-
like compound produced by soy plants, isoflavones. This cell line will be
injected orthotopically into random regions at the base of the soy plant,
as the primary tumor will interfere the least with the structural growth
of the plant in this area. The primary tumor will spontaneously
metastasize around day 3 and the most severe metastatic spread will be
observed on day 7. Soy plants will be arranged linearly in the garden
with the first row of plants having no form of cancer to the 7th row of
plants having the most metastatic spread.
Project Proposal (cont.)
Two radiotracers will be injected into the vasculature of the plant.
The first radiotracer will be visible as a red color and will incorporate
itself solely in the vasculature of the plant. The second of which will
incorporate itself into the cancer cells of the plant and the color will
be unique for each plant. A gamma camera will be able to detect the
radiotracers and a colorful display will be projected onto a screen
behind the soybean garden.
Project Proposal (cont.)
This installation will be placed in a heavily populated plant
area, such as the botanical gardens at UCLA, and comment
on the intersection between biotechnological advances
and our health.
Food and its relationship to cancer incidence is difficult to
perceive and qualify, however it is evident that food in a broad
sense has an important, if not essential role in our health
status. The effects of our choices will vary regardless of similar
environmental conditions or habits, but in the end each person
must take responsibility for their own consumption choices.
This is alluded to in the specific color choices of radiotracers.
The red vasculature amongst all of the plants emphasizes the
similarity amongst the plants as being independent, living,
“breathing” entities afflicted with cancer. This contrasts with
the unique color of each plant’s cancer cells which alludes to
the idea of cancer as a personal struggle. Ultimately the
purpose of this proposal is to promote critical thinking about
food modification and propose that we do have some ability to
prevent cancer by remaining aware of our food choices.
1. “Detailed Guide: Breast Cancer.” 2009. American Cancer Society. 10 Feb 2010.
2. “GM Food Can Cause Cancer.” Golden Harvest Organics. 10 Feb 2010. <
3. Hsieh CY, Santell RC, Haslam SZ, Helferich WG. Estrogenic effects of genistein on the
growth of estrogen receptor-positive human breast cancer (MCF-7) cells in vitro
and in vivo. Cancer Res 1999 Mar 15;59(6):1388.
“The Anti-Cancer Diet.” Ask Dr. Sears.com. 2006. 10 Feb. 2010. <http://www.askdrsears.com/html/4/t040300.asp>.
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Cummins, Ronnie. “Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods and Crops:
Why We Need A Global Moratorium.” 29 Aug. 1999. 11 Feb. 2010 < http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/geff4.html>.
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“GM Food can Cause Cancer.” GM Watch. 22 Oct. 2009. 11 Feb. 2010 < http://www.gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-
“GM Food Can Cause Cancer.” Health Freedom Alliance. 10 Feb. 2010. <
Harris, William. “Cancer and the Vegetarian Diet.” The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism. 21 Dec. 1999. 11 Feb. 2010 <
“Is Soy Healthy?” Healing Daily. 11 Feb. 2010. <http://www.healingdaily.com/detoxification-diet/soy.htm?>.
“Soy Alert!” The Weston A. Price Foundation. 10 Feb 2010 < http://www.westonaprice.org/Soy-Alert/>.
Whitman, Deborah. “Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful?” Proquest. April 2002. 11 Feb. 2010 <
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