Monday, January 17, 2005

Thing You Didn't Know You Ate

i'm about a third of the way through a book by Nina Federoff and Nancy Marie Brown (ya you know she has to be rich or something since she uses all three names) called "Mendel in the Kitchen." the first bit was a bit ranting (i agreed, but it was a bit over the top and a bit disorganized). but it got better. thus far i have learned a great deal beyond my high school knowledge of biology and how humans have modified plants for eating for thousands of years and recently. anyways, a quote that i found particularly facinating:

"Until 1990, cheesemakers used rennet, made from the membrane of the fourth stomach of a calf; chymosin is the active ingredient. Genetically engineered chymosin was called fermentation-produced chymosin or FPC; it was delcared kosher, halal, and vegetarian in 1994. Five years later it had an 80 to 90 percent market share."

basically scientists modified a bacteria to output the needed chymosin. apparently, modified bactieria is also used to make insulin for diabetics. the old insulin was from pigs and produced allergic reactions, now the bacteria makes human insulin and it is cheaper, more pure, and no allergic reactions.

anyways, i have long had a suspicion that gmo's aren't as bad as people make them out to be and this book basically supports that position. i think it is an excellent read. it is biased, but it has some really good information.


k2h said...

what does the resident biologist expert have to say? my feeling is if it tastes good and doesn't give me the runs i'm down with it.

forkev said...

I think janell needs to modify me a micro organism or bacteria to produce gold.
we'll do alchemy the NEW way instead of not trying to think of puple dragons while we mix our mucery and lead.
I'll declare the produced gold vegaarian and coshure and we can have a larger marketshare.

Janell said...

From what I've learned throughout undergrad and grad school is that gmo's have definately helped especially in the case of insulin also very useful in molecular work. But a lot of people still have concerns when it comes to modifying plants... some people actually can have allergic reactions to things things they wouldn't if they hadn't been modified. Another thing is plants 'escaping' - could lead to problems - cross breeding with 'normal' plants... I don't remember specific examples... Most things said more study needed to be observed.

palegreenhorse said...

from what i have been reading, genetic modifications in a huge way have been going on for a long time. it isn't just the ones that are said to be gmo's that are really gmo's. corn basically came from one instances of a gmo from long ago.... janell you gotta read this book so you can give a better review. grants pass library has it on order, reserve now on the web =).

Janell said...

Does the book not differntiate between manipulating DNA and breeding plants together to get different variations?

I need to find my library card... (Sarah don't think to evil of me, its been a while since I've been home to use it.)

palegreenhorse said...
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palegreenhorse said...

since when is plant breeding not manipulating dna?
the authors make some good points about how things like using uv and chemical methods to modify the plants dna are not regulated while being specific about what dna you want to be expressed is.
for instance, if you want a crop to tolerate an herbicide like round-up you can either irradiate it with uv (and grow a lot of crops to find the one that expresses the proper gene) or cross it with a plant that shows resistance and these two methods are not controlled or protested against. but if you selectively incorporate the dna used to get the tolerance then it is regulated.
as for past techniques not being as radical, well check out triticale, since it is relatively old (at least old enough to not be made by the newest gmo techniques) and yet is considered both organic and safe. it is made from two plants (of different genera) that could not hybridize without human intervention.