• The New Practice in GM Foods is the Same as Breeding

    Well, it’s not really a new practice.  But I’m really curious as to what the anti-GM crowd says about this.  The latest practice is cisgenesis.

    OK, some quick vocabulary:

    Cisgenesis is genetic modification of plants with cisgenes only.

    A cisgene is a natural gene, coding for an (agricultural) trait, from the crop plant itself or from a sexually compatible donor plant that can be used in conventional breeding. The gene belongs to the conventional breeder’s gene pool.

    A cisgenic plant contains no foreign genes.

    A transgene is a gene from a non-crossable species or it is a synthetic gene. It represents a new gene pool for plant breeding.

    A transgenic plant is a GM-plant that contains transgenes.

    Traditional or conventional breeding is using all classical and modern insights and techniques, including those related to biotechnology, however, without genetic modification. It includes a number of techniques that are not regarded as genetic modification or that are exempted from the GMO-legislation.

    from Cisgenesis.com

    The GMOs that most people think about when you say “GMO” is transgenic plants.  These are plants (like BT Cotton) that have a gene in them that is from a different species… heck, in the case of BT, it’s from a completely different kingdom.

    Another form of GM (not mentioned above) is intragenesis where new genes are taken from a plant functional elements are isolated and then reinserting the changed parts back into the plant.   For example, some genes produce more of a product when there are two of the genes in the organism.  So by copying the gene and inserting another copy, the plant may then produce twice as much protein or vitamin A.

    Cisgenesis is similar except that the entire gene system (promoters, introns, exons, etc) are taken from one species and inserted into another species, where the two species can interbreed anyway.  Cisgenesis is genetic manipulation in exactly the same way that conventional breeding practices are genetic manipulation.  It is possible to get exactly the same results from conventional breeding as with cisgenesis.  The difference is that, with cisgenesis, we know exactly what the product will be instead of getting several thousand random plants before getting the one change that we want.

    Many scientists are pushing for a reduction in regulations, especially for cisgenesis.  They feel that since conventional breeding is essentially unregulated, why should cisgenesis be regulated the same as transgenesis?

    I mostly agree.  I wouldn’t say that they should be totally unregulated, but certainly, we shouldn’t have to do the years and years of analysis before releasing them to the wild.

    The European Food Safety Authority seems to be on board saying that cisgenic plants have the same risk a conventional breeding.  The US EPA seems to be on board as well, proposing to exempt that plants that produce protectants , other changes would have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

    Personally it seems silly to me that these are issues.  Of course the vast majority of people haven’t done the massive amounts of research into GM foods.  And those that are on the anti-GM side, seem to me, to fall into the same categories as other pseudoscience socioeconomic programs.*

    The data so far is very clear, after sufficient testing, even transgenic crops are safe.  The crops on the market now are essentially no different than crops that have been in production for hundreds of years, at least in terms of what we actually consume.  The genetic manipulation makes the crops better.

    If we have to go back to baby steps and let people get use to cisgenesis and the like, then let’s try it.

    If there are any anti-GM people reading this, I’m curious about your thoughts on the concept of cisgenesis and the regulations that you feel should be required and why.

    * There are basically three groups.  1) The person who has some benefit from believing or promoting the pseudoscience (monetary, power, etc).  2) The Tru Believer who has determined, using no evidence or data at all, that x science is bad and no amount of logic, data, or evidence will persuade them otherwise.  3) The ignorant believer who just hasn’t thought about it, just doesn’t know, but is willing to consider new information.  Note that ignorance is not bad.  I’m totally ignorant on medieval sword making, but I could learn about and become not ignorant.  Stupid is if I learned about it and still said that they couldn’t have made swords (for example).

    Category: GMOScienceTechnology


    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat