card
110

genetic modification

OLogy Series
biology
card
110

genetic modification

OLogy Series
biology

Scientists figured out a way to take genes from one species and stick them inside the DNA of another species. When a plant's DNA is changed, it develops different traits. This technology can create insect-resistant corn and tomatoes that stay fresh for longer periods of time. But critics call these new products "Frankenfood" and say that gene-switching is harmful.

What's Bugging the Monarch Caterpillar?
We're not the only ones who love to eat corn on summer days. Bugs love it, too! In fact, 20 million tons of corn are destroyed every year by certain insects. So, scientists decided to create a genetically modified corn that resists these pesky insects. Here's how they did it. They took genes from a pest-killing
bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis (ther-ring-G-en-sis) (Bt), and put them into the genes of corn plants. Bugs won't bug Bt corn! This is great for farmers because they will no longer have to spray their crops with pesticides. But some scientists wonder if this new corn could hurt other harmless insects or harm the environment. After a few tests, they discovered that Bt corn pollen kills monarch caterpillars if the pollen blows
onto the leaves of milkweed plants, the caterpillars' favorite plant food. Other scientists don't think that these tests are correct and say that the monarch caterpillar would not die from eating Bt corn pollen in nature. Who's right? Scientists have a lot more research to do. What do you think?

Which is NOT true about genetic modification?

It could change a species' DNA so that it could fight some diseases.

Some people think that it could be bad for the environment.

All people agree that it is a good idea.

Are you right?

Correct!

There are many possible benefits to the genetic modification of plants and animals. But some people worry about how these genetically modified foods and animals will affect the environment and our health.

Scientists are working on a genetically modified banana that can fight cholera, a disease that kills many people each year.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Scientists are trying to put genes that produce different vaccines into the DNA of easy-to-grow fruits and vegetables, including bananas.

About one-third of the corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Some beetles just love corn. So, to protect their crops, corn farmers use seeds that contain a special gene that protects the corn from these insects.

genetic modification
Where developed: the U.S.
When developed: the 1970s
It means: traits are transferred from one organism
to another
Examples of modified organisms: corn, giant salmon, strawberries, tomatoes, rice, bananas
Why it's important: to improve the quality and quantity of food and to make food that has "built-in" medicine

Image credits: Kelvin Chan.