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Biotech Businesses

GMOs Perfected Down to the Chromosome Level 469

Roland Piquepaille writes "If don't like the concept of 'Frankenfoods,' I have bad news for you. U.S. researchers have developed an artificial chromosome for corn plants. The Chicago Tribune reports that researchers can now make chromosomes to order. These artificial chromosomes are accepted as natural by the plants and passed through generations. As the Monsanto Company bought rights to use this mini-chromosome stacking technology in corn, cotton, soybeans, and canola, I guess we'll soon eat food made from permanently genetically modified organisms (PGMOs?)."
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GMOs Perfected Down to the Chromosome Level

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  • Testing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by navtal ( 943711 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @12:51PM (#21056507)
    Not that it will be tested enough before it is grown and distributed. It wont be long before people all over the world are breathing clouds of genetically engineered pollen. Is this bad? Maybe. But is bothers me a little.
    • by spineboy ( 22918 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:03PM (#21056631) Journal
      I'm sure that since this will all be patented, then the ability to grow it will be subject to various fees and "subscriptions" eventually. I wouldn't be surprised if eventually ou would need to buy a special chemical, without which, the wheat or whatever crop will not grow.
          It's not like mistakes ever happen with this stuff either. Look at Australia with it's toad and rabbit control problems, when a species is introduced out of its normal environment. What if the GM crop wildely displaces the natural crops by "accident". The company can give the growth chemical for free at first or for a nominal fee - but later on...
      This should be boycotted at all costs - Food should always have the option to be grown for free, in your backyard. Yes I think I sound a little survivalist, but this can be a slippery slope, and it's easy to fall downit.
      • I wouldn't be surprised if eventually ou would need to buy a special chemical, without which, the wheat or whatever crop will not grow.
        Actually, this would be a good thing. Then people wouldn't get in trouble for accidentally growing Monsanto's crops (pollen blew in on the wind and mingled with some unsuspecting farmer's seed crop), and it wouldn't take over from other varieties in the wild. Thus, you could still grow heritage wheat (or whatever) in your backyard.
        • by DaedalusHKX ( 660194 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @02:28PM (#21057311) Journal
          Actually that's the downside, it will cross pollinate, and eventually your backyard crops will not "grow" without Monsanto's "blessing".

          They are supposed to have dominant genes.

          This story is old, by the way.
        • by falconwolf ( 725481 ) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .0002_gniraosnoclaf.> on Saturday October 20, 2007 @04:06PM (#21057989)

          Actually, this would be a good thing. Then people wouldn't get in trouble for accidentally growing Monsanto's crops (pollen blew in on the wind and mingled with some unsuspecting farmer's seed crop), and it wouldn't take over from other varieties in the wild. Thus, you could still grow heritage wheat (or whatever) in your backyard.

          Ah but that has already happened. A farmer in Alberta, Canada, Percy Schmeiser [percyschmeiser.com], was found to have Monsanto's Roundup Ready corn in his field. Corn he did not plant, but it had crossbred with corn he grew. Like farmers throughout the world since the dawn of agriculture, he saved seeds from one year's crop to plant the following year. Even though he didn't steal anything from Monsanto when Monsanto sued [foodwatch.de] him he lost his crop. In another case an organic farmer, which bans GE, in Canada lost a shipment when inspectors in Europe, Germany I think, found alien DNA in his corn.

          Falcon
      • by RDW ( 41497 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:36PM (#21056901)
        'I'm sure that since this will all be patented, then the ability to grow it will be subject to various fees and "subscriptions" eventually. I wouldn't be surprised if eventually ou would need to buy a special chemical, without which, the wheat or whatever crop will not grow.'

        Pretty similar things are happening already. See this for a sample:

        http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto/ag_products/crop_protection/roundup_rewards.asp [monsanto.com]

        'Roundup Ready' plants are GMOs modified to confer resistance to a herbicide sold (of course) by the same company. And yes, there's an annual license and an anonymous hotline to report violators (PDF):

        http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto/ag_products/pdf/stewardship/stewardship.pdf [monsanto.com]
      • by VENONA ( 902751 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @06:27PM (#21058929)
        Is there any chance of being able to subscribe to a pizza-bush? I'd sell out in a heartbeat if I could subscribe to a pizza-bush...
    • Re:Testing (Score:4, Interesting)

      by zoney_ie ( 740061 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:09PM (#21056675)
      Well, I'm happy that here in Europe the companies have to do lots of testing and prove there are no adverse effects.

      And *THEN* even so, any food products containing GMO or GMO-derived ingredients have to state it on the packaging - so those who wise to can decide just not to buy products containing GMOs.
      • Re:Testing (Score:4, Insightful)

        by marcello_dl ( 667940 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @04:13PM (#21058041) Homepage Journal
        >And *THEN* even so, any food products containing GMO or GMO-derived ingredients have to state it on the packaging - so those who wise to can decide just not to buy products containing GMOs

        AFAIK, and some googling seems to confirm, much lobbying is done to avoid such labeling even here in EU.

        Which raises the question: what do they have to fear if GMO are safe?
        They basically say "It's because you consumer are too stupid and bound to tradition to appreciate our offering".
        I say "No matter what, I'm the friggin paying consumer and you are trying to deceive me. Besides, GMO is proprietary, so why should I support patenting what I eat after having - indirectly - to deal with patented software? no way".
    • The real problem (Score:4, Insightful)

      by einhverfr ( 238914 ) <chris...travers@@@gmail...com> on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:15PM (#21056723) Homepage Journal
      is that what was once a commodity market (food) could become an intellectual property driven market.

      Piracy will include growing unauthorized crops. This is not good for anyone except for companies like Monsanto.
      • by m0rph3us0 ( 549631 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:52PM (#21057041)
        It's good for everyone because if the yield from the Monsanto crop does not exceed its cost no one will grow it. Subsequently, it's likely to reduce the cost of food. Since there is more than one company producing these foods, there will not be a monopoly and thus Monsanto will only be able to charge marginally above what the technology costs to produce.
        • Once all the natural varieties are driven into extinction, Monsanto can charge whatever it wants. How's a $50.00 dollar loaf of bread or box of corn-flakes sound? Monsanto has already put most non-GM rapeseed ("canola") growers out of business, owning some 80% of the rapeseed market. Think they care how many people starve or are otherwise injured as a result of their greed? If you do, think again. Remember, the new, true corporate philosophy is that their "only responsibility is to the shareholders." I
    • People have been breathing "clouds of genetically engineered" pollen since long before Mendel described how genes even work. It's pretty obvious that if you only grow new corn stalks from your biggest ears of corn, you'll get bigger ears of corn in general. That's genetic engineering, right there.
    • by izomiac ( 815208 )
      One argument for GMOs is that they are very heavily tested, far more so than the other stuff you eat (it also allows farmers to use less weed/pest killers, most of which are known to be harmful for humans). In any case, I doubt that the widely grown crops will be making any pollen. Most GMOs are designed to be sterile. First of all, this is good for the biotech company since farmers have to buy seed from them every year. But, besides being good for the business model, it's also a safeguard. Plants can
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by falconwolf ( 725481 )

        One argument for GMOs is that they are very heavily tested

        DO you have evidence GMOs are heavily tested? How can they be thoroughly tested when they relatively new and it could take generations to test? Are they also test in combinations, tested X, Y, and Z altogether? One thing may seem to be safe and so may another but put them together and they can be deadly.

        it also allows farmers to use less weed/pest killers

        This is entirely wrong. While some GMOs may cut down on the need for chemical inputs

    • Repeat after me: "A breath of fresh air can only happen when patents are in the air!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 20, 2007 @12:51PM (#21056517)
    You mean like the hybrids we've been creating since the agricultural revolution?
    • Yup. Corn itself is a hybrid mutant.
      • One without foreign genes or chromosomes inserted.

        Falcon
    • by taniwha ( 70410 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:10PM (#21056691) Homepage Journal
      the difference of course is that the hybrids we've created (since the dawn of agriculture) have used mixtures of other genes that were already around for generations - if you start just making up genes you do need to do much more carefull testing - make sure they don't mix with the plant next door and make something evil that kills all the bees or creates a super weed etc etc it's a combinatorial problem that nature has already been through and spent a few billion years of evolution on - combinatorial means that there are bullions of possible combinations of genes only a tiny few of which are usefull, most of the rest are non-viable but some will do stuff we don't want and because the state space is so large we probably can't ever predict all the possible outcomes without trying and finding out (and then it's too late if something bad happens) because the state space is so large it may take many many generations to find out

      don't get me wrong I'm not a luddite as far as GM is concerned - I want to see cool new organisms for us to use - I just think we should be really really carefull and require enormous amounts of testing - maybe generations (in human time) of testing

      • by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:32PM (#21056861) Journal

        if you start just making up genes you do need to do much more carefull testing - make sure they don't mix with the plant next door and make something evil that kills all the bees or creates a super weed etc etc
        we aren't making new "genes" in this case, we are transferring a gene from one species to another. it's very similar to natural processes of horizontal gene transfer, even viruses can and do transfer genetic material from species to species on occasion all for millions of years. as for the danger of creating something dangerous, there are several cases where natural species can and are destroying habitats and poisoning large stretches of ocean in one case. we really should test everything regardless of whether we genetically modified it or bred it successively over many generations.
      • if you start just making up genes you do need to do much more carefull testing - make sure they don't mix with the plant next door and make something evil that kills all the bees or creates a super weed etc etc it's a combinatorial problem that nature has already been through and spent a few billion years of evolution on

        Evolution isn't perfect, but it deals. It couldn't prevent the dinosaurs extinction after all (impact, gamma ray burst, super volcano etc), but life persisted regardless.

        But you are right, r
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cfulmer ( 3166 )
        After hybrids, the next version of genetic modification, decades ago, involved irradiating the seeds, planting them and seeing what grew. When one of the plants grown from irradiated seeds produced a better crop, they saved the seeds from that plant, grew others, and sold the seeds. The same thing happens in nature, albeit on a much slower time frame. GM crops are just a way of being more selective about what you end up growing. How do you know that the corn plant your corn came from wasn't hit by cosmi
        • It means that farmers get better yields

          Do you have any evidence or proof this is true? Here's an article about one study that shows organics, which bans GE and GMOs, produces as much if not more than conventional farming: "Organic farming yields as good or better: study" [reuters.com].

          Lower prices mean fewer people starving, and more savings. It's a good thing.

          Wrong. There are 3 major causes of hunger and starvation in the world: conflicts, fighting, and wars; politics; and the massive subsidies the First World

      • The parent post is one sentence. Seriously, WTF? This isn't about fighting against the evolution of language, or minor grammar/spelling errors, or snobby stylistic preferences. It's about basic readability. I felt like I was running out of breath trying to read that nasty thing. I started racing faster and faster for a period or semicolon or question mark or anything, but nothing!
    • by Original Replica ( 908688 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:10PM (#21056693) Journal
      But these aren't really hybrids now are they. To make a car analogy: If you take the parts from two Corvettes and use them to make a new car it's still a Corvette. Now if you make a bunch of parts in your personal machine shop, and you build a car that is based off of the Corvette, it's still not really a 'Vette. I'm not saying I wouldn't eat NuCorn but it's not Corn, and it's not just a hybrid. It's a new different plant. I hope it's tasty.
      • by smenor ( 905244 )

        But these aren't really hybrids now are they.

        Actually... yeah. They are.

        To use your analogy, as it is, corn is a combination of Corvette parts, and other parts from closely related GM (no pun intended) cars.

        Even more than that, because of horizontal gene transfer [wikipedia.org], there's even the odd Toyota part mixed in as well.

        The only difference is that now we can easily pick and choose parts from any car (or off the shelf) to mix in at will to get the best performance possible.

        We're not *quite* to the stage where we can just make parts in our own machin

    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )
      shhhhh you are using logic..
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HW_Hack ( 1031622 )
      I am no plant expert and have only had a few standard biology courses (recently) that covered DNA splicing / modification. But to compare the traditional hybrid process to manipulation at the genetic level is totally mis-leading statement. Genetic manipulation (and its long term effects )is something we barely understand - and its power to alter specific genes (and thus gene expression) is very powerful.

      And this is compounded by the fact that unlike other genetic experiments (using mice - animals - cells) p
    • One big difference (Score:3, Informative)

      by einhverfr ( 238914 )
      is that normal plant patents (at least in the US) only cover grafting, budding, cuttings, and other forms of asexual reproduction. Basically you can't patent a natural genetic variant you discover and then prevent people from using it as breeding stock.

      Hence you can buy a patented rose bush, breed it with another patented rose bush, and be the exclusive patent holder of the offspring (or decide to let the offspring be patent free). This is a big check on the power of plant patents

      This changes with GMOs.
    • You mean like the hybrids we've been creating since the agricultural revolution?

      There's a hell of a big difference between cross breeding and inserting a gene, or in this case a chromosome, that was never there to begin with. Cross breeding occurs naturally, among related species, whereas nature does not insert fish genes into tomatoes, or Brazil Nut genes into soy.

      Falcon
      • by cnettel ( 836611 )
        Oh, yes, it happens. Not frequently, but look at how Agrobacterium tumefaciens originally got the properties that makes it great a great tool for GM. There are genes with a clear plant origin inside that bacterium, and as it can infect different species, it can transfer material between them as well.

        There are also traces of an animal myoglobin/hemoglobin-related protein in some plant species. The sequences are so alike that the most logical explanation is that it's been transferred long after the original

  • Monsanto (Score:3, Insightful)

    by heresyoftruth ( 705115 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @12:52PM (#21056523) Homepage Journal
    Is there anything that company can't do? I associate that name with all things that make me nervous or irritated by this point in my life.
    • Re:Monsanto (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Znork ( 31774 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:06PM (#21056657)
      Monsanto is pretty much the poster boy for corporate death penalty. The company has been found guilty of bribery, suppression of truth, negligence, wantonness and outrage. It's poisoned people and environment with PCB, sarin, and mustard gas. The company has shown that it will knowingly and willingly expose workers and environment to toxic substances, and it will continue doing it until it's forced to stop through legal action.

      This company is one that the world would far better off without.
      • Re:Monsanto (Score:5, Funny)

        by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:41PM (#21056937) Journal
        Agreed.

        If any college students get the urge to go shoot the hell out of some people and put a gun in their mouth, they should go visit Monsanto and do us all a solid on their way out.
        • Re:Monsanto (Score:4, Informative)

          by DaedalusHKX ( 660194 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @02:42PM (#21057411) Journal
          Actually, some fellow from E.L.F. was training to shoot the executive officers of Monsanto after firebombing a Ford dealership and cutting loose some horses from a meat packing plant or some such.

          Anyways, to cut a story short, one of the execs at Monsanto back then was Rumsfeld... as in Don Rumsfeld.

          As it turns out, the kid was sold out by his friends, and "choked himself to death in the sheriff's jail with a plastic bag" which he miraculously held shut over his throat until after he was dead... after which he let go (some rigormortis, eh?)

          Most believe he was murdered so he wouldn't inspire others to try the same trick... I don't hold any beliefs on this issue but find it very telling what taking "effective" action against Monsanto will guarantee you... a black plastic bag over your head :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gad_zuki! ( 70830 )
      and I associate the name Roland Piquepaille with "whoa wtf, does that guy just submit articles all day long?"
  • by Anonymous Coward
    No, seriously, if genes can be made to order, I want a Natalie Portman carrot. and before moderators mod me down as a troll, no grits are involved. I will also accept a Natalie Portman potato.

    Thanks
    signed,
    Slashdot Anonymous Coward
    • I started thinking why exactly a carrot, of all things, then the shape of said object and certain orifices that even males have came into mind and.. Well, I think I'll let the matter drop now and just back out!
  • Just imagine (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @12:55PM (#21056559) Homepage
    Five years from release of a few of these new plant lines. Turns out the tomato causes cancer due to some unforseen chemical combo that's being manufactured. They decide to pull them all from the market. Hey, it turns out that 80% of all tomatos in the world are now this new version. But which ones? You have to test each and every plant, or just get rid of them all. And we know how hard it is to get rid of 100% of a certain type of plant. Good luck with your new cancertomatos.
    • Look at the cane toad in Australia. http://www.fdrproject.org/pages/toads.htm [fdrproject.org] Once it is out, you can't put it back in the box. Not that a little thing like cancer will keep people away from tomatoes...
    • Even if you weren't able to eat them, you'd still be able to throw them at bad actors. That's what the British did with them until the 1600s.
    • by SEE ( 7681 )
      Because, you know, a gene of known characteristics introduced to a plant that has to be tested by the FDA, EPA, and USDA before it gets to market is so much more likely to be dangerous than a random radiation-induced mutant gene in a plant that's allowed to go into the food supply without any testing.
      • a gene of known characteristics introduced to a plant that has to be tested by the FDA, EPA, and USDA before it gets to market

        The only federal agency that has to approve of GE or GMO plants is the USDA. FDA approval isn't needed, neither or EPA approval. If you have evidence or proof I'm wrong please share it.

        Falcon
      • by rhakka ( 224319 )
        I don't know, a few hundred million years of evolutionary evidence seems to indicate that naturally occurring mutations in food stock plants don't normally cause rapid and sudden health problems.

        I guess if the government agencies want to wait for that sort of a track record on intentionally modified GMOs, I'd be pretty comfortable with it too.
    • by jhines ( 82154 )
      Easier to imagine a new virus or fungi that kills them off.

      I try to work around this by using "heirloom" seeds in the garden, rather than modern hybrids.
      • I try to work around this by using "heirloom" seeds in the garden, rather than modern hybrids.

        Unfortunately older heirlooms aren't so easy to find. They can be found at places like Seed Savers Exchange [seedsavers.org] along with other exchanges. However I don't think many people know of these. I used to be a member of a group that exchanged seeds or plants, but I left years ago.

        Falcon
    • by Cheapy ( 809643 )
      Just imagine this: Five years from release of a few of these new plant lines. Turns out that the tomato doesn't cause cancer.

      Life goes on as normal, and people still fear monger.
      • Re:Just imagine (Score:4, Insightful)

        by falconwolf ( 725481 ) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .0002_gniraosnoclaf.> on Saturday October 20, 2007 @02:19PM (#21057237)

        Just imagine this: Five years from release of a few of these new plant lines. Turns out that the tomato doesn't cause cancer.

        Just imagine people who are allergic to Brazil nuts [whyfiles.org], which can cause Anaphylactic shock [wikipedia.org] and thus kill the person. Then imagine a gene from the Brazil nut being inserted into soy [allergies-...relief.org] and having those allergic to Brazil nut having the same reaction to the new soy. Don't think it won't happen? It already has.

        Falcon
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          A mistaken, but often-quoted, example of GM foods causing new allergies concerns genetic material from Brazil nut plants that was inserted into a soy plant to improve its nutritional qualities. A gene coding for a Brazil nut chemical that can cause allergies in some people was also transferred into the soy.

          Scientists were aware of the possibility of this transfer, and conducted laboratory testing on the soybean before its release. During the laboratory testing procedure, the allergenic Brazil nut protein w
    • by smoondog ( 85133 )
      As I said in a previous post, BBQ likely causes a risk of cancer, every BBQ'ed item you have ever eaten. Why are you concerned about a hypothetical risk and not a real one?
    • And we know how hard it is to get rid of 100% of a certain type of plant.

      Why not just let the free market or natural selection take its course?

      Either we'll end up encouraging non-tomato markets or we'll stimulate evolution for genetically engineered humans immune to genetically engineered tomatoes... eventually.
  • I think there will be a future (that might be sooner than we think too given recent advances in the area), that we will start having to make the distinction between "natural genetics" and "artificial genetics". And obviously, the artificial ones will be patent encumbered to the teeth. It will probably move on to artificial bacteria etc that can also be patented, and before we know it, we'll be patenting life. :-/

    Even if we won't create complex organisms on the human scale anytime soon, or even mice, the ram
    • and before we know it, we'll be patenting life. :-/

      Yeah, well ... anyone that tries to find me in violation of such a patent will find himself no longer a candidate for infringement.
    • by cduffy ( 652 )
      Patents expire, you know.

      If you're talking "future", we're eventually going to see much of this work in the public domain.
      • Only for now. Look at what's been going on worldwide in terms of (ahem) "intellectual property" legislation and harmonization with U.S. law. I would expect patents to be extended indefinitely in much the same way as copyright. Too many people want to own "their" inventions forever. Now that's not good for society (any society) but it is good for the rightsholders. Or at least, they think it is ... long-term I think they'll find it's not.
        • by cduffy ( 652 )
          I don't think so.

          There's a long track record of retroactive copyright extensions -- it's not a recent trend, and there are obvious reasons why -- for one, the folks with the economic incentive to fight such trends are historically disorganized and underfunded. On the other hand, the industry making generic medications (based on products for which the patents have expired) is huge, and powerful groups like the AARP will back up their ability to continue doing so. Who wants to be the politician that stops peo
          • Well ... let's hope you're right. I just don't see much concern for the future in the system anymore, and it's obvious that whoever has the biggest lobbying budget wins. The Monsantos and big pharmacoms of the country would love to have their investments patented forever. Consequently, what you're banking on is that the people that want access to those patents can continue to prevent them from being extended. Personally, I don't feel comfortable depending upon that: in the past fifteen years or so Congress
  • GMO idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lerc ( 71477 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:00PM (#21056603)
    I had this idea yesterday (alcohol may have been involved).

    You could take the genes from geckos/skinks that makes their tails fall off when they are frightened and put it into grass.

    Then you could have a lawn that you could mow by going outside and shouting Bang!.
  • by MaizeMan ( 1076255 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:07PM (#21056665) Homepage
    The article summary is deceptive. Inserting a gene into the current genome of crop is just as permanent a change as added a new mini-chromosome. In either change the changes will be inherited by the offspring of the individual plant.

    The main difference between this technology and currect methods on inserting genes is that more than one gene can be added as easily as a single gene, whereas in the previous system "stacking" multiple genes required much more effort than a single gene, since each had to be inserted individually and then combined using conventional breeding.

    I for one think this technology is a step in the right direction, as it will make it easier to create artificial species barriers, which require two-five genes to be inserted, but would prevent GM crops from crossbreeding with traditional varieties in the field. THIS IS NOT TERMINATOR TECHNOLOGY! The plants would still be fertile, just only with others carried the added chromosome.

    But couldn't they have found someone besides Monsanto to implement it?
    • would prevent GM crops from crossbreeding with traditional varieties in the field

      How does this technique prevent crossbreeding?

      Falcon
  • Human testing (Score:3, Informative)

    by ocelotbob ( 173602 ) <(ocelot) (at) (ocelotbob.org)> on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:22PM (#21056771) Homepage
    Can we start splicing chromosomes with humans please? I want my catgirl, dammit. What use is bringing food to the masses when I don't have my fucking catgirl?

  • I have nothing against GMO per se. It is a new, untested approach to hybrid plants and we won't know how well it does for some times, but in 20 years we'll have the proper methodology to do so safely. For that reason, I will cheer for every new discovery in that field as I feel it is a step toward 20-years-down-the-line.

    But the current GMO are about as safe as unpatched Windows on the internet. The only reason why it has worked fine is that natural evolution is akin to monkeys and typewriters: random, dumb
  • what problem are monsanto pretending to solve? apart from improving their bottom live, what is the point? is this corn cheaper / tastier / healthier? faster growing?
    it seems to be a very dodgy experiment in fucking around with the basic genetic structure of one of our most vital foods just to make a certain dodgy company richer.
    so, speaking as a consumer, I'm not impressed.
    • by Nephilium ( 684559 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @02:00PM (#21057103) Homepage

      The problems they're attempting to solve are:

      1) Plants that are resistant to pesticides.
      2) Plants that are more resistant to insects.
      3) Plants that are more resistant to fungus.
      4) Plants that are more resistant to droughts.
      5) Plants that have additional nutrients in them.
      6) Plants that have higher yield.

      Assuming no possibility for cross breeding (which they test the hell out of, just so that their modifications don't get out into the wild), I see no issue with these goals.

      Nephilium

    • Well it's simple, really.

      "Natural" grain per hectare using "traditional" farming : 130 to 250 tonnes
      "Natural" grain per hectare using modern farming (read : insecticides, machines, automation, ...) : 1060 tonnes
      GMO grain per hectare using modern farming : 2500 tonnes

      So unless you want to cut the food supply in half. GMO grain is where it's at.

  • by smoondog ( 85133 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:34PM (#21056879)
    I guess we'll soon eat food made from permanently genetically modified organisms (PGMOs?).

    I'm not sure how a PGMO differs from today's GMOs which, I believe, can pass genetic modifications to offspring (they are present in the germline). The article summary contains a bias that GMOs are somehow inherently bad. Look, lots of things in our food contains risky things, and people seem to want blame GMOs for many ills. At some level of intake everything is risky. There are tons of studies outlining why some foods are bad for you. Alcohol is bad for you. Marijuana is bad for you. BBQ is bad for you (polyaromatic hydrocarbons, other bad things in charred foods). French fries apparently contain acrylimide. Saturated fats are associated with obesity, the development of heart disease. Sugar is associated with the progression of diabetes. Salt is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease. Acidic foods (ie diet coke) are bad for your digestive system. You get the point.

    How many of these do you overindulge in occasionally? Similarly, assuming all GMOs are bad for health reasons is short sighted (although they may be bad for political reasons -- that is another matter). Many foods we eat are engineered in some way, usually with a sledge hammer by classical means, no one seems to complain about that. We already use pesticides on crops, perhaps resistant GMOs might reduce pesticide use? Perhaps GMOs might have better nutritional components than their non engineered counterparts? Perhaps GMOs can be developed that make some of the risky foods in the previous paragraph less risky? GMOs should be evaluated like everything else, carefully. While I understand their fears, I wish the GMO protest community would spend a little less time worrying about GMOs and more time worrying about very real food risks (see above), heavy metals in imported goods (including foods) and the things around us that are really worth our concern.
    • How many of these do you overindulge in occasionally?

      You need to ask the right question: To what degree are corn ... soybeans, and canola part of your or your children's diet?

      I prefer to be able to pick my own poison.

      If there's any shortsightedness with respect to GMOs, I'd say it's on the side of those who hold economic interests above others which, regrettably, includes our legislators.
    • "While I understand their fears, I wish the GMO protest community would spend a little less time worrying about GMOs and more time worrying about very real food risks (see above), heavy metals in imported goods (including foods) and the things around us that are really worth our concern."

      There are some unique aspects: many GMO proponents don't want to label their foods so that a consumer can choose non-GMO foods, and nearby non-GMO plants can pick up the genetically modified organisms. Normal foods with lot
  • by Thrustworthy ( 1177055 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:35PM (#21056887)
    "...One of the people who suffered anaphylactic shock after eating an enchilada made of yellow corn, Californian Grace Booth, said she was still convinced she had a reaction to StarLink (genetically engineered corn)."

    "Everything else I ate in the 72 hours before I got so sick, I've eaten again with no problem," she said. "Frankly, I don't trust the tests."

    http://www.mindfully.org/GE/GE2/StarLink-Cleared-AllergiesCDC.htm [mindfully.org]

    Anyone remember this? Some people don't have the necessary enzyme to properly metabolize the Cry9c protein in genetically engineered corn.

    Also, "In September 2006, PUBPAT filed formal requests with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to revoke four patents owned by Monsanto Company that the agricultural giant is using to harass, intimidate, sue - and in many cases bankrupt - American farmers."

    http://www.pubpat.org/monsantovfarmers.htm [pubpat.org]

  • by Zapped.Info ( 1113711 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:43PM (#21056967) Homepage

    Consider that mankind really hasn't been around that long: Especially in comparison to plant-life.
    Consider that mankind is 100% dependent on plant-life to survive.

    Altering the genetic structure of our food may seem like a great idea in the short term for many positive reasons, including the elimination of famine.

    The problem is we simply do not have the foresight to know what will happen thousands of generations after the epoch of our genetic manipulations: Not only to the plants, but to those who consume them.

    Genetic diversity is good, it is necessary for survival. What happens to that diversity when a super-plant is created that dominates all the species around it? Including those that consume it? Will the only thing we can eat a thousand years from now be corn?

    Most of the miracles of medicine have been gifts from nature and much of what has been discovered was right in front of us the whole time. Gee that's weird...I ate that piece of moldy bread because I was starving and now I feel better! I thought that mold was going to make me sick.

    What if I wasn't starving? What if I had an abundance of bread, because that bread was genetically engineered to resist blight. Since there is no blight, I'm not hungry enough to eat moldy bread, but there isn't even any mold on the bread because mold can't grow on the genectically resistant grain it was made from.

    So the whole population becomes fat and happy until a super-bug comes along and knocks out 99% and I die because I didn't eat my moldy bread.

    I for one would at least like to have a choice, but presently there are no incentives or laws (that I know of) motivating companies to inform you, that they have completely screwed you over, by screwing up the genetic code of what you are eating, just so they can add a few percentage points to their profits, so that the stock price will go up, so that Daddy CEO can retire next year; and that they really don't know what will happen ten years from now, but your generation seems like the perfect guinna pig.

    • by Samrobb ( 12731 )

      The problem is we simply do not have the foresight to know what will happen thousands of generations after the epoch of our genetic manipulations: Not only to the plants, but to those who consume them.

      I may be going out on a limb here, but if you're speaking in terms of "thousands of generations", then I'm going to guess that the vast majority of "those who consume them" will be deader than the proverbial doornail.

      Of course, that's the same thing I'd expect from someone who consumed non-gentically altered

    • OMG. Chill out. I've been in molecular biology for a decade now. I'll gladly eat any GMO knowing that it is free of pests and costs less and imparts stability to global food availability. Humans are living longer and healthier now than at any point in history. This trend will not make a u-turn. There isn't going to be some big "oh shit our genetic manipulations have rendered us all sterile and the human race is going to die out". But you've illustrated a very important point. The scientists have clearly fai
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:54PM (#21057055) Homepage Journal
    This development advances my Evil Plan to deploy vegetables MADE OF MEAT! Vegetarians won't know what to do! World domination will be mine! Muahahaha!
  • by Arthur B. ( 806360 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @02:12PM (#21057201)
    The wheat you eat is already a man made chromosomic monster, it's hexaploid!
  • I have news for you, HFCS is used extensively in North American products. Corn is commonly "modified", either by selective breeding or scientifically. Either way they're both GM -- so if you want to avoid so called Frankenfoods, better cut out all that corn syrup.

    I don't have a problem with the actual GM foods, it's the environmental impact they have on the ecosystem I have issues with.

  • by machinelou ( 1119861 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @02:21PM (#21057261)
    The real danger is that this will only help Monsanto increase the number of plants they sell that are unable to produce viable seeds.
  • by Zymergy ( 803632 ) * on Saturday October 20, 2007 @02:32PM (#21057339)
    Researchers have been doing this stuff for over a decade. And there are REAL Intellectual Property issues here.
    Genetically Engineered DNA sequences in many cases can be treated just like programming code.

    I remember a true story from one of my Genetics Professors, Dr. Ron Van Den Bussche ( http://cas.okstate.edu/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=27&Itemid=71 [okstate.edu] )
    He told our class about a genetically altered cotton strain of which he was integral in its development.
    Apparently, a giant agri-industrial competitor to the giant agri-industrial company who funded the strain of cotton Dr. VDB developed,
    surreptitiously obtained a reproduceable/cloneable live specimen and subsequently cloned it and used it in gross quantities for their own unlicensed use.
    (I think the new strain could tolerate saltier soils and drier conditions and it grew a larger puffier bowl of cotton, oh yes, and it was Patented/Copyrighted also.)
    -->Here's the really funny part, Dr. VDB and his team were expert witnesses in the intellectual property infringement lawsuit/trail against the competitor who allegedly stole the strain. (sorry, can't remember what state)
    The defendants had claimed they developed the new genetic strain of cotton themselves.
    This was proven blatantly false by the prosecution when Dr. VDB revealed he had spliced unique identification DNA sequences into their genetically-engineered cotton strains from a VERY Very Rare Bat species.
    (which happened to be an endangered species that ONLY inhabits a single remote cave system in Texas).
    Sure enough, forensic DNA testing was completed on the allegedly stolen cotton strain and it was, in fact, found to be stolen.
    -Many, many, Million$ of dollars were paid by the defendant to the plaintiff.
  • by Raven737 ( 1084619 ) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @02:52PM (#21057483)
    first: both my parents do research for Monsanto and i am proud of them and the work they do, not of the company itself though
    next, i think people who talk about 'Frankenfoods' are poorly informed about what contemporary GM is and isn't.
    For most GM modifications you take a gene that you know serves a certain purpose from one organism (plant for example) and transplant it into another.
    There is nothing new, it is the same thing you could archive with normal breeding but it would take centuries and would only work with closely related species.
    You see, 1+1 = 2, 1+1 != flesh eating monster
    Of course this is in stark contrast to the practice of 'accelerated breeding by random mutations through irradiation' that nobody ever complained about and where most results are far less then desirable and you really have no clue on what else might have changed.

    Also, any current GM Crops inherit their traits and are therefore just as 'permanent' as any created using engineered chromosomes.
    Oh, and 'permanent' is of course also incorrect, crossbreeding with non-modified crops will of course weaken (and over time could eliminate) the traits and this is the same for the old and this new approach.
    Of course Monstante did develop a way to prevent genetic traits to be inherited, but they ineptly name it 'terminator gene' and the whole world screamed in horror until the released it into the public domain and promised to never ever use it.
    And now people complain about GM's being too 'permanent'!
    In any case, the chromosomes are simply a neat way to package desired genes and it makes the 'injection' much more reliably.
    And no worries, GM Plants created using such chromosomes still won't turn into monsters that eat people, really!
  • While I think the addition of a chromosome is a significant step, I think it is also very important to notice that this research is going to be published in the open journal PLOS Genetics.

    Also according to the article, Monsanto has a nonexclusive license. They can not lock out the rest of the world from making use of this technique. It was probably very tempting for Chromatin to sell out, but it sounds like they have some ideals.

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