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Genetic Engineering -- US vs World?

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AP prep

Basic Mendelian Genetics
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As I was researching this topic -- genetic engineering -- I thought... truth really is stranger than fiction… and then I thought…wow… this would make a great movie plot… So, I have to warn you, this is not your traditional prepared speech. But hey…what’s traditional about bio-engineered food?

Just imagine…

The setting - hometown America, 1980...little white house… picket fence…Volkswagen bug in the driveway... mom and dad working in the yard…

You get the picture?

The opening scene has maybe...Harrison Ford fertilizing his lawn...

Harrison: (muttering) "Why is my grass brown but the darn dandelions are growing beautifully?"

Then we pan over to Jodie Foster working in her garden

Jodie: "Why are my weeds doing so well but my tomatoes are dying?"

The third scene is in a bio tech lab. The husband and wife team, both brilliantly smart scientists in their white lab coats working on solving their problems...

Jodie: "If we give the tomato just a little of the dandelions strength ... what have you got?

Harrison: "A miracle seed... A bio-miracle!"

The cameraman gets a close-up of their gorgeous round tomato...so close that you can almost smell it ...but in the background the camera focuses on a poster of Gregor Mendel, Father of Genetics, he’s the pea pod guy, with his laws listed

1. that the inheritance of each trait is determined by "units" or "factors" that are passed on to descendents unchanged

2. that an individual inherits one such unit from each parent for each trait

3. that a trait may not show up in an individual but can still be passed on to the next generation.

That third section is the one the camera focuses on... The one about recessive traits not showing up right away.

Back to reality…

Recently bioengineered foods have been very prominent in the media across the world. Maybe the biggest piece of news was that Europe was banning them from their shores. The World Trade Organization has condemned Europe for holding out against genetically modified foods and crops with a decision that will most likely change the future of farming. It also ruled that Germany, Italy, Austria, Luxembourg, Greece and France broke the rules by making their own bans on genetically modified foods. The United States, Canada and Argentina attacked these countries saying that these bans hurt their sales and weren’t based on science. These countries must have a reason for applying this moratorium,. It’s interesting that Europeans have resisted these goods so fiercely and the Americans have so leisurely accepted them? If the European Union is willing to pay these huge fines to keep it off their continent shouldn’t we be more concerned?

The products aren’t labeled differently so the consumer has no idea what they are consuming. Shouldn’t we at least have the right to choose whether to ingest these man made substances? In fact, a July 2003 ABC News Survey found that 92% of Americans felt that the Federal Government should require labels on food that say weather or not it has been genetically modified (1). Only 6% believe that the government should not require labeling. I think we all have to remember, we are what we eat so if we don’t know what we’re eating, what are we?

A major piece as to why the market of bioengineered foods is growing so rapidly is the input of the agricultural giants that control the production of these goods. These companies are in control of the research and development, the labeling, shipping and marketing of these new products. At this point in time the FDA has ruled that there is been no scientific proof that these foods are at any health risk to the general public. This may be true now but who knows what these genetically engineered foods can evolve into in years to come. For example, if a plant is genetically altered to resist pests, will that pest become more tolerant, and therefore stronger? What’s the solution when it gets to that point? Do we increase to potency of the plant until the toxin is strong enough to affect a human?

Back to the movie…

A little girl and her dad in their garden...

Girl: "I don't understand... I planted a tomato seed. That really expensive one.

Dad: "It looks like tomato... And smells like tomato... but

...the cameraman pulls back to show one small plot of land morphing into fields and fields of a very strong, very invasive dandelion weeds...

Here we can have the camera focus on that Mendel poster again… the one that talks about recessive traits popping up in future generations.

Jodi and Harrison are boarding Air Force One which whisks them to the little girls garden … as the plane descends they are looking horrified out their windows…to see the thousands of acres in America's breadbasket have been invaded by the very resistant, mutant strain of dandelioned tomato.

This where Jodi Foster and Harrison Ford start to realize the extent of the damage...

Can they save America's breadbasket?

Can they save the other countries from the same fate?

Those ships carrying millions of tons of the seed...

If it's already in warehouses, could they even identify it?

If it’s been distributed could they even recall it?

None of the seed is labeled as being different from its conventional counterpart.

How will they keep this knowledge for terrorist organizations?

But the real question is this:

What are the other implications they haven’t even thought of yet....

Now, I understand the importance of bioengineered foods. I understand the benefits for farmers and I understand the potential benefits for consumers. I also support its growth, but I believe that we have to take it slow and cooperate with all the other nations around the world so that something like this doesn’t occur. Believe it or not, I think my future will probably be in the biotech field, and hopefully I’ll help to answer some of these questions.

12 Easy Pieces
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From the Lab to a Debacle
Line Art Newspaper

The New Zealand Herald February 10, 2006

US wins WTO case against GM bans
 
09.02.06
 
WASHINGTON - The World Trade Organisation has condemned Europe for holding out against genetically modified foods and crops with a landmark decision that could change the future of farming.

The WTO ruled that the European Union applied a moratorium on approving genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in violation of trade rules, diplomats said.

In a preliminary decision, the WTO also ruled that six individual states - France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Luxembourg and Greece - broke the rules by applying their own bans on marketing and importing GMOs.

The United States, Canada and Argentina brought the WTO complaint against the EU, arguing that its moratorium on GMO approvals hurt their exports and was not based on science.

"It shows that science has prevailed, which is a good step forward, and ... is going to prevent other countries from undertaking a similar kind of moratorium," said Michelle Gorman, director of regulatory relations at the American Farm Bureau.

"There will be some relief for trade," said Gorman, adding that she had not seen the 1000-page report, which US officials and lawyers were still poring over.

The EU's action effectively blocked up to US$300 million of US agricultural exports annually, said Sean Darragh, executive vice-president for food and agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organisation.

The ruling would send a strong message to other countries considering regulations regarding biotech crops, said one industry source with government experience.

"It will be a valuable case for the US Government in protecting the rights of its exporters around the world - there will be an immediate impact on the regulatory environment of biotech."

- REUTERS

Genetic Engineering: The Future of Foods?
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Agriculture throughout the world is in the early stages of a new biological
revolution. Research has led to rapid advances This course farmiliarizes the student in biotechnology and to a greater understanding of biological processes. This course is designed to help participants better understand the management of new technologies and biological processes toward the ends of achieving higher productivity and enhancing environmental quality within the context of available inputs of more traditional fertilizers and chemical
pesticide technology. Concepts and Principles of Agroecology, IPM and Sustainable Agriculture
Ecological Opportunities in Agricultural Productivity:
Insects, Pathogens, Weeds, Nutrients, Soil, and Water.
Agronomic Opportunities in Agricultural Productivity.
Agroecosystem design and Systems integration.
Environmental consequences of various systems.
New Horizons in Agriculture.
Biotechnological approaches to agricultural production.
Ecologically based pest and nutrient management.
Social Concepts.
Integrated Natural Resource Management, including Soil, Water and Biodiversity Management.
Extension Strategies, Adoption/Acceptance of New Technology.
Information and Training Resources in Agroecology, IPM and Sustainable Agriculture.
Field Visits to Agricultural Research Stations and Innovative Farmers Sites.
This course will help participants in structuring research or extension
programs around the concepts of agroecology. MSU is a leader in agroecology, IPM, sustainable agriculture and
genetic technology research with an unsurpassed resident expertise and experience in systems interactions and biological processes. Multidisciplinary projects at MSU are generating information on what drives biological
processes and on managing them for efficient production and resource conservation. MSU faculty, representing diverse disciplines, regularly conduct training programs in local and international settings.