‘Natural’ Foods vs GMOs

Just what makes a natural food? Anti-GMO advocates consistently bring up the idea that food should be ‘natural’ or ‘organic’. But when it comes to human-induced modification of genes, it turns out that most traditional crops are really far more modified (and far less tested) than feared GMOs.

Kevin Folta writes an informative opinion piece on this issue here. In it he creates a handy table for side by side comparison of traditional modifications – which points out the inconstancies in the arguments of many who advocate compulsory (misleading) labelling of GMOs. (Click the table to enlarge)

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Switch Critters

Switch Critters are a re-imagining of light switches – the are switches we do not have full control over. Normal light switches obey our every command (on and off), whereas these critters require particular attention to be devoted to them for their tasks to be accomplished. This is infuriating and annoying, but over time one becomes accustomed to it and is actually satisfied with the interaction. This leads in general to  a more mindful interaction of the rhythms of your environment. At the very least its a very interesting concept, perhaps one relevant to future consumer based (application driven) synthetic organisms?


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Entire Cell Simulated For First Time

The overarching goal of systems biology is to understand how all of the individual small molecules which make up cells (and thus organisms) work together to create the an overall phenotype. A huge step forward in this field has come with the first “entire cell” simulation – a program which predicts the phenotype of a cell in different internal states. This work was done by a collaboration between scientists at Stanford University and the J. Craig Venter Institute. This initial simulation is for one of the simplest cells possible – but it is nonetheless a huge step towards the goals of systems biology made possible by rapidly improving computer speeds.

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GM Crops Help Organic Crops Grow

In what seems like irony, in the context of the GM vs. Organic food debate, a recent study has shown that genetically modified crops actually help organic crops grow. This paper explains that GMOs provide a king of ‘herd immunity’ which protects the entire ecosystem – in a very similar manner to vaccinations. Unfortunately it would probably be too optimistic to imagine the advocates of organic food deciding to plant GMOs next to their crops any time soon.

Because insecticides kill indiscriminately, they kill many species that are beneficial to farmers – such as spiders and ladybirds. These predator species feast on aphids. Thus, the chain of events goes like this: Bt cotton allows farmers to use less insecticide, which causes predator populations to increase, which then leads to a decrease in the population of aphids.

This is a win not only for farmers, but also for the environment.

Read more at biotech-now.

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Bioluminescent Flowers

Glow in the dark things are the quick becoming one of the most cliched products of the GMO world. This is probably because they are achievable and very easily recognised as alien and different. Humans love lights and glowing things in general – so glowing flowers seem like an obvious product. As of earlier this year they are finally commercially available. A small Australian company BIOCONST has produced its first range of commercial fluorescent flowers, which it calls Galassia Flowers. This first range is treated with a “fluorescent formulation” rather than being genetically modified – but the company has plans to create GMO products too. These flowers also need an illumination device, which presumably shines the UV light needed to see the glowing effect.

Check out their gallery of current products here. After the break also check out a fashion show they ran which showcases some of their flower fashion accessories.

Read more

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