Genetically Engineered Food: Is There Any Other Kind?


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A description of Genetically Modified Food with vicious attacks on Greenpeace.

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  • Great slides! One comment on slide 27 though: while plants themselves evolved all sorts of defenses to avoid herbivory, their fruits evolved as dispersal mechanisms for their seeds. The natural, unpalatable state of unengineered fruits is likely a result of metabolic trade-off - they're edible enough so animals seek them out as food (and end up providing a nice dollop of fertilizer for the seed to grow in after digestive removal of germination prohibitors) but not so large, vibrant, and sugary as to be too costly to the plant. Balancing selection and all that. It's a little extraneous to the point you're making but still worthwhile as an example with your illustration of selection - plants' lack of secondary sex characteristics leads to natural selection alone largely determining their 'natural' reproductive strategy. With humans in charge, we can bypass the balancing selection and force the plants to devote much more energy on producing cartoonishly large (or delicious, etc, just the tip of the iceberg) fruits for us to enjoy. It's a good thing regardless of whether it takes 15,000 years or a few months in a lab.
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  • Figure 22.9 Artificial selection
  • Many humanitarian organization such as Unicef distribute vitamin A drops in developing countries.
  • Aka. Beta Carotene
  • Switzerland and Germany VA expressed exclusively in the endosperm (Seed) The enzyme product of these genes lead to the formation of lycopene which is converted to pro-vitamin A beta carotenes Rice golden color from increased beta carotene……Carrot story
  • This brings us to some of the ethical & cultural issues surrounding some uses of DNA technology. Why you may not have heard of it.
  • Many humanitarian oranization oppose Golden Rice……It is not ready for large scale production. What could some of the environmental impacts be? What do you think about these arguments? If this can save millions of children does it matter what the environmental consequences are? Ray Badbrary ’s story about the time traveler Multi gene control of almost anything……….How will this impact humans? Environment if this gene spreads into other species?
  • Genetically Engineered Food: Is There Any Other Kind?

    1. 1. Genetically Modified Food Is there any other kind? Dan Graur John & Rebecca Moores Professor Department of Biology & Biochemistry University of Houston 1
    2. 2. 2 Summary •All food is genetically modified. •Opponents of genetically modified food are scientifically clueless & societally malicious. (My wife doesn’t allow me to use “morons”)
    3. 3. 3 Google Images: “organic food” or “natural food”
    4. 4. 4 Google Images: “genetically modified food”
    5. 5. Alexis Rockman. 2000. The Farm. Oil and acrylic on wood panel 5
    6. 6. Are these natural foods? 6
    7. 7. 7
    8. 8. • What is a genetically modified organism? • Are genetic modifications unnatural? • What constitutes genetically unmodified “natural” food. • What scientific and logical errors are committed by the opponents of genetically modified organisms that justify their classification as “clueless.” 8
    9. 9. The entire genetic material (DNA) carried by an organism is called the genome.
    10. 10. 10 Genome Transcribed Untranscribed Functional RNA Translated Functiona l Functional DNA Junk Untranslated Functional protein
    11. 11. 11 How does one genetically modify an organisms? Protein-coding geneControl element Protein
    12. 12. 12 How does one genetically modify an organisms? Dead geneControl element Method 1: Kill the gene.
    13. 13. 13 How does one genetically modify an organisms? Protein-coding genes Control element Protein Method 2: Duplicate the gene.
    14. 14. 14 How does one genetically modify an organisms? Protein-coding geneControl element Protein Method 3: Modify control.
    15. 15. 15 How does one genetically modify an organisms? Protein-coding genes Control element Protein Method 4: Add a gene.
    16. 16. How does one genetically modify an organisms? Methods 5-∞ 16
    17. 17. 17 How does one genetically modify an organisms? Control element Protein Of particular interest is the creation of transgenics. A gene from a different species
    18. 18. Eduardo Kac. 2000. GFP bunny. Rabbit, jellyfish GFP, UV lamp with fluorescein filters. This transgenic rabbit (called Alba) was purportedly made by inserting a jellyfish gene that produces a green fluorescent protein into the rabbit genome. Whether this story is true or not, one has to ask artist Eduardo Kac. The rabbit was never seen in vivo. 18
    19. 19. Art and Engineering are artificial. There is nothing artificial about genetic engineering. All the procedures we can do in the lab, have been done in nature for millions of years. Art and Engineering are artificial. There is nothing artificial about genetic engineering. All the procedures we can do in the lab, have been done in nature for millions of years. 19
    20. 20. 20 None of the people in this picture would be here without (1) gene duplication, (2) gene deletion, (3) modification of genetic control, or (4) infusion of foreign genes (mainly bacterial ones). A group photo of GMOs (Blaffer museum employees)
    21. 21. 21 • A genetic modification may or may not have a visible effect on the organism. • In case it does, the modification may or may not be desirable. • To get desirable results, we need to apply selection, and allow only desirable individuals to reproduce.
    22. 22. Selection when you’re lucky (desirable mutation present in the population) 22 The aim is “black”
    23. 23. Selection when you’re not lucky (you have to wait for the desirable mutation) 23
    24. 24. Selection with genetic engineering Selection + genetic engineering differs from other types of selection by being very fast. 24
    25. 25. The domestication of animals and plants 15,000 years ago and the genetically engineered organisms of 2013 entail the same genetic modifications. The only difference is that one process is faster than the other. Genetic engineering is to domestication as hand knitting is to machine knitting. The only difference is that Greenpeace hasn’t ever burned textile factories. 25
    26. 26. The Basic Error of GMO Opponents: Plants and animals evolved for millions of years for the sole purpose of being eaten by humans. Such plants and animals constitute natural food. Natural, wholesome (good) Genetically Modified (Bad) 26
    27. 27. 27 Natural (inedible) Genetically Modified (yum!) Genetically Modified (yum!) Actually: Plants and animals evolved traits to avoid being eaten. Genetically unengineered plants and animals are mostly inedible.
    28. 28. 28 The only natural citruses in the picture
    29. 29. Kale Kohlrabi Brussels sprouts Leaves Stem Genus Brassica Wild mustard Flowers and stemsBroccoli Cauliflower Flower clusters Cabbage Terminal bud Lateral buds 29
    30. 30. Domestication (primitive genetic engineering) Wild Solanum (poisonous; opponents of GMOs should only eat wild Solanum) 30
    31. 31. 31 Even your pets are genetically engineered
    32. 32. 32 If you know a supporter of Greenpeace, kill his/her pets!
    33. 33. After this talk you are all invited to taste a few items* made out of genetically-modified ingredients: bananas, wheat, rice, corn, eggs, chicken, yeast, potatoes, milk, bell peppers, sugarcane, soybean, grapes, sunflower, celery, sorghum, onion, garlic, tomatoes… *Food bought, schlepped, prepared, and paid for by Dr. Mina Graur. 33
    34. 34. Chicken Gallus gallus Red jungle fowl Gallus gallus At most 12 eggs per year up to 371 eggs per year Is this genetic engineering or is this genetic engineering? 34
    35. 35. Red jungle fowl Gallus gallus At most 12 eggs per year Is this genetic engineering or is this genetic engineering? 35 Can you feed 7 billion people with genetically unengineered food?
    36. 36. A bowl of corn and wheat cereals with milk and bananas. What can be more wholesome? What can be less genetically modified? 36 Let’s analyze your breakfast:
    37. 37. 37 Corn:
    38. 38. 38
    39. 39. 39 Teosinte (natural) Corn (engineered)
    40. 40. 40
    41. 41. 41 Teosinte (natural) May the supporters, contributors, and propagandists of Greenpeace know only popcorn made of teosinte!
    42. 42. An allopolyploid is a species with multiple sets of chromosomes derived from different species. 42 Wheat:
    43. 43. 43 Wheat is transgenic
    44. 44. 44 Bananas:
    45. 45. 45
    46. 46. 46 This is a natural banana: Very good for dentists!
    47. 47. Is Drinking Milk Natural? 47 Milk:
    48. 48. The digestion of lactose, the primary sugar present in milk, into glucose and galactose, is catalyzed in the small-intestine by an enzyme called lactase. 48
    49. 49. Lactase persistence In mammals, levels of lactase decline rapidly after weaning, and adults are not able to digest lactose. Most people are unable to digest lactose as adults (i.e., they are lactose intolerant). Digestion of fresh milk in individuals who are lactose intolerant can result in diarrhea, which during most of human history was lethal. 49
    50. 50. When the only source of milk is the mother, lactose intolerance is evolutionarily advantageous, since breastfeeding is an imperfect contraceptive, which inhibits menstruation & delays resumption of ovulation. 50 Lucas Cranach the Elder. 1530. “Maria lactans" Oil on canvas
    51. 51. Majority of Adults Lactose Tolerant 51Majority of Adults Lactose Intolerant
    52. 52. 52 Lactose tolerance arose as independent mutations in the control region of the lactase gene, once in N. Europe, and one in W. Africa (5,000-15,000 years ago). No such mutation occurred in Asian populations.
    53. 53. Lactose tolerance The Eurocentric View • Hypolactasia (lactase restriction) = low lactase activity weaning. • Normolactasia (lactase persistence) = persistent lactase activity into adulthood comparable to the neonatal period 53
    54. 54. Cow milk consumption represent a rare case in which the genetic change occurred in the consumer rather than the consumed. 54
    55. 55. Modern Genetic Engineering 55
    56. 56. The story of the Flavr Savr tomato 56
    57. 57. Tomatoes are usually picked when they are unripe so they will not bruise in transit. 57
    58. 58. Prior to marketing, ripening is initiated by exposing the tomatoes to ethylene. 58
    59. 59. Problem: Tomatoes that are ripened with ethylene are not tasty, they contain less sugar than vine-ripened tomatoes). 59
    60. 60. Ripening: 1. Transformation of cellulose into sugar. 2. Pectin hydrolization. 60
    61. 61. 61 Ripening: 1. Transformation of cellulose into sugar. 2. Pectin hydrolization.
    62. 62. Solution: Knockout the gene that produces the enzyme that hydrolyzes pectin. 62
    63. 63. Result: Flavr Savr™ 63
    64. 64. Result: Flavr Savr™ 64
    65. 65. DNA Technology & the Story of “Golden Rice”
    66. 66. Malnutrition
    67. 67. Vitamin A deficiency • Weakens the immune system • Can lead to blindness which increases the risk of death • Is entirely preventable!
    68. 68. Vitamin A Deficiency: The Problem • 400 million poor in rice-based societies are Vitamin A deficient. • 500,000 children per year go blind. • 1.15 million vitamin A deficiency- precipitated deaths among children world wide. • Rice is the main staple crop for most of these children, but rice lack pro-vitamin A and other micronutrients.
    69. 69. Vitamin A Deficiency: The Solution • Golden Rice – Development by Potrykus and Beyer – Contains a gene from maize or daffodil plants and common soil bacterium (Erwinia)
    70. 70. Golden Rice • Free distribution of seeds • Potential to save millions of lives and prevent millions of children from going blind. • So why is it not in large scale distribution?
    71. 71. The reason that golden rice is not widely distributed among poor farmers is that Greenpeace likes blind children! Blindness courtesy of
    72. 72. 72 What can we consume that is entirely GMO free?
    73. 73. 73 What can we consume that is entirely GMO free? Nicotiana tabacum + Cinnamomum vera = Cinnamon flavored cigarettes
    74. 74. Is genetically modified food bad for you? 74
    75. 75. Is genetically modified food bad for you? 75 No. Ignorance is bad for you.
    76. 76. • Nostalgia = a sentimentality for the past. • Genetic nostalgia = A sentimentality for the genetic engineering of the Neolithic, and a feeling of hatred for the genetic engineering of the 21st century.
    77. 77. The making of ale and lager involves some amazing genetic engineering of yeast. The ale yeast was modified in 9500 BCE. The lager yeast was genetically modified early in the 15th century. Part of the story involves an yeast from Patagonia. 77
    78. 78. Because of Texas law and University of Houston regulations, I cannot invite you for a taste. So, I am going to throw two paper balls in the air. Catch them and you will receive a bottle of very good beer (to be consumed at home). Proof that you are 21 years or older is required. 78
    79. 79. 79