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Genetically Modified Foods

Dr.M.KANNAN Department of Microbiology, V.H.N.Senthikumara Nadar College, Virudhunagar 626 001

Have you ever eaten any genetically modified food?

Can you tell the difference between a genetically modified organism and a non-GM organism? Do GM foods taste any different? Could they?

Before Reading Any Further

What is the first impression you get when you hear genetically modified foods?

Is it

? or

What is a Genetically Modified (GM) Food?

Foods that contain an added gene sequence Foods that have a deleted gene sequence Animal products from animals fed GM feed Products produced by GM organisms

Also called genetically modified organisms (GMO). Involves the insertion of DNA from one organism into another OR modification of an organisms DNA in order to achieve a desired trait.


A strawberry resistant to frost

Arctic fish DNA

What are GMs?

are a result of technology that has altered the DNA of living organisms (animals, plants or bacteria) Other terms that mean the same thing: Genetically engineered Transgenic Recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology

How does this differ from Mendel and his peas?

GM vs. Selective breading

Selective breading -slow -imprecise -modification of genes that naturally occur in the organism GM -very fast -precise -can introduce genes into an organism that would not occur naturally!

Examples of GMOs
Golden rice rice that contains beta-carotene (Vitamin A), which is not found in regular rice. Bt corn corn that contains a chemical normally found in a bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis) that is toxic to insects but not to humans. Herbicide resistant plants.

Common GM Food
Tomato Maize

Cabbage Pasta
GM Food~Plants 10

Why produce GM food?

To improve the quality of food To improve food production to feed the world To strengthen the resistance against herb and pests To cope better with climatic changes To minimize the cost of production To minimize loss during transport and storage
GM Food~Plants 11

Why do it?
Rice- not high in essential nutrients
Modification: + daffodil genes and a bacterium = beta-carotene content drastically increased + genes from a french bean = double the iron content.

Tomatoes- Introduce genes to increase shelf life.

Worldwide, 40 % of our food production depends on irrigation. Depletion of aquifers is occurring at twice the re-charge rate. Salinization is a major consequence of irrigation

Environmental Hazards from Pesticides

Substantial health impacts on workers

Pollution of natural ecosystems/ waterways

Loss of insect biodiversity in agroecosystems Creation of secondary pests Creation of insect races resistant to pesticides

What is genetic modification?

Does genetic modification only happen in plants?
No, the first gene was transferred into bacteria.

What are some reasons for genetic modification?

Express recombinant insulin in bacteria

What are some of the benefits and some of the disadvantages of GM foods?

Many of the same techniques are used to make a genetic modifications as to detect one
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Restriction enzymes Gel electrophoresis Transformation

How is genetic modification possible?

The components of DNA are the same in all organisms.

Sequences that code for proteins can be moved from one organism to another.

How can DNA be moved from one organism to another?

Its quite simple,


How can DNA be moved from one organism to another?

Find an organism with the desired trait

Isolate the gene sequence that codes for the desired trait
Insert the gene sequence into the genome of the plant cell

Genetic Engineering
Genetic Engineers can alter the DNA code of living organisms. Selective Breeding Recombinant DNA

Gel Electrophoresis Transgenic Organisms

Selective Breeding
Breed only those plants or animals with desirable traits People have been using selective breeding for 1000s of years with farm crops and domesticated animals.

Recombinant DNA
The ability to combine the DNA of one organism with the DNA of another organism. Recombinant DNA technology was first used in the 1970s with bacteria.

Recombinant Bacteria
1. 2. 3. Remove bacterial DNA (plasmid). Cut the Bacterial DNA with restriction enzymes. Cut the DNA from another organism with restriction enzymes.


Combine the cut pieces of DNA together with another enzyme and insert them into bacteria.
Reproduce the recombinant bacteria.



The foreign genes will be expressed in the bacteria.

Restriction Enzymes

Restriction Enzymes
Restriction enzymes are also called restriction endonucleases
They cut double stranded DNA at sequence specific sites They can produce sticky ends or blunt ends depending on the enzyme

Sticky Ends Blunt Ends Sticky Ends Blunt Ends

Restriction Enzymes
1978 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Daniel Nathans and Hamilton Smith for the discovery of restriction endonucleases
Restriction enzymes were discovered in E.coli as a defense mechanism against bacterial viruses (bacteriophages)

The recognition sites are usually 4-12 nucleotides long

Sequences are palindromic (GAATTC)

There are hundreds of restriction enzymes currently being used

Restriction Enzymes

Polymerase Chain Reaction PCR

PCR allows scientists to make many copies of a piece of DNA.

1. Heat the DNA so it unzips. 2. Add the complementary nitrogenous bases.

3. Allow DNA to cool so the complementary strands can zip together.

Invented in 1983 by Kary Mullis (Nobel Prize in 1993 for its discovery) Uses primers to exponentially amplify a specific region of DNA Components needed for the reaction:
DNA Primers to region of interest DNA polymerase (Taq used to synthesize the DNA) dNTPS (the building blocks of the copied DNA) Buffer (with appropriate salts to ensure the enzyme works properly)

Three steps of the reaction:
Denaturation: High heat (94-98o) to separate the strands of DNA Annealing: (50-60o depends on the primers) this step allows the primers to bind to the denatured DNA strands Elongation (74o) DNA polymerase synthesizes the new strand
This step is dependant on the length of the product to be amplified (1min/1kb of DNA)

Check products with gel electrophoresis and sequencing

PCR: Cycles

PCR: Thermocycler

Gel Electrophoresis
This technology allows scientists to identify someones DNA!

Steps Involved in Gel Electrophoresis

1. Cut DNA sample with restriction enzymes. 2. Run the DNA fragments through a gel.

3. Bands will form in the gel.

4. Everyones DNA bands are unique and can be used to identify a person. 5. DNA bands are like genetic fingerprints.

Gel Electrophoresis
Gel electrophoresis is used to separate nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) or proteins for analytical use
DNA and RNA are separated using agarose Proteins are separated using polyacrylamide The gel is a matrix (cross-linked polymers) that allow products to be separated

Separation is based on the size (based on charge) of a product as it moves through a charged field

Gel Electrophoresis
The negative charge is at the top (closest to the samples) and the positive charge is at the bottom
Samples are negatively charged and will travel towards the positive charge
DNA and RNA are negative because of their sugarphosphate backbone Proteins are denatured to give a constant shape and given a charge through the negative loading buffer used

Samples are diluted in a loading buffer that helps the samples stay in the wells

Gel Electrophoresis
Applications Separating restriction digests Analyzing/purifying PCR products Sequencing Protein analysis

Gel Electrophoresis

Gel Electrophoresis

Sample agarose gel stained with ethidium bromide (EtBr)

How are animals targeted?

The microinjection method uses a fine needle to inject a solution of DNA into a developing embryo.

How are plants targeted?

Agrobacterium that normally normally infects plants with disease is used to infect plant with gene of interests or A particle gun is used to shoot small bits of metal coated with the gene into the plant.

The DNA of plants and animals can also be altered.

1. disease-resistant and insect-resistant crops 2. Hardier fruit

3. 70-75% of food in supermarket is genetically modified.

How to Create a Genetically Modified Plant

1.Create recombinant bacteria with desired gene.
2. Allow the bacteria to infect" the plant cells.

3. Desired gene is inserted into plant chromosomes.

How is this done?: Transgenic tomatoes

What do you think about eating genetically modified foods?

Genetically modified organisms are called transgenic organisms.

1. Mice used to study human immune system


Chickens more resistant to infections

Cows increase milk supply and leaner meat

4. Goats, sheep and pigs produce human proteins in their milk

Transgenic Goat

Human DNA in a Goat Cell

. This goat contains a human gene that codes for a blood clotting agent. The blood clotting agent can be harvested in the goats milk.

How to Create a Transgenic Animal

Desired DNA is added to an egg cell.

Molecular agriculture makes new gene combinations possible

Peas (on the left) that make a genetically engineered bean protein are insect-resistant and do not need to be sprayed with pesticides.

Ha Ha Ha!

Genetic Engineering and Crime Scenes

Roundup Ready Gene

The glyphosate resistance gene protects food plants against the broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup, which efficiently kills invasive weeds in the field. The major advantages of the "Roundup Ready system include better weed control, reduction of crop injury, higher yield, and lower environmental impact than traditional weed control systems. Notably, fields treated with Roundup require less tilling; this preserves soil fertility by lessening soil run-off and oxidation.

Herbicide Resistance
Herbicides, like glyphosate and glufosinate, are used to eliminate weeds to maintain nutrient content in the soil but they decrease the yield. Scientists insert the herbicide resistance genes via agrobacterium into food plants so that they will not be affected by the herbicide.

This reduces the excessive use of herbicide.

GM Food~Plants


Pest resistance
Scientists insert the toxin producing gene from Bacillus thuringienus, a kind of soil bacterium, into maize. Destructive insects will be killed when eating the crop. The loss due to destructive insects is greatly reduced.

GM Food~Plants


Other applications
Potato - modified to produce a beetle killing toxin Yellow squash modified to contain to viral genes that resistant the most common viral diseases Develop foods that contain vaccines and antibodies that offer valuable protection against diseases such as cholera, hepatitis, and malaria Canola modified to resist one type of herbicide or pesticide

GM Canola
Canadian-Australian Relations

Bayer CropScience produces genetically modified canola in Australia for the Canadian market. It is produced to resist the herbicide Liberty and can yield up to 20% higher than conventional canola.

Benefits of Genetic Engineering and Modifying

1. Higher yielding crops, more efficient use of land 2. Can save money and promote higher profits 3. Longer shelf life, less waste Example// Tomatoes from genetically modified seeds stay fresh longer. 4. Enhanced taste and quality 5. Reduced maturation time

Importance of GM crops
Worldwide, 9 percent the global primary crop production from genetically modified crops 2006: over 100 million hectares in 22 countries 64% of total soya crop and 24% of the global maize crop

Importance (2)
Many processed foods contain Soybean oil and/or glucose syrup (from corn) Difficult to avoid food containing genetically modified material, especially in the USA

Animal feeds
Likewise animal feeds commonly contain corn and soybean meal from GM crops Also in Europe GM material was found in milk and meat

Some GM crops will improve the nutritional quality of foods. Such foods are now in the pipeline.

Labels are not neutral!

Produced by Radiation Breeding!

Truthful labels can be misleading or meaningless

There are no GM apples anywhere!

Is food labeled this way nutritious?

How to Label?

Conventionally grown
Pesticides, twice a week

Pesticide free

Should foods from GM crops be labeled? Perhaps!

The US takes the view that if foods are substantially equivalent, the method of producing them need not be on the label.

Farmers use a variety of techniques, and keeping production streams separate from plow to plate costs money. Such separation is called identity preservation. Who should pay for this?

How common are GM foods?

48 foods have been approved for use by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Products Corn Canola Potatoes Tomatoes Squash Soybeans Flax Cottonseed oil Sugarbeets
Derived Products Corn syrup Tofu Canned foods Soya sauce Animals that feed on GMOs . AND MORE

How common are GMO foods?


Labeling of GM foods is not mandatory unless if there is a health or safety concern (Health Canada/Canadian Food Inspection Agency)

Who Uses this technology

The Countries that Grow 99% of the World's Transgenic Crops

7% 1% 23% USA Argentina Canada 69% China

Potential Environmental Hazards

Reduced effectiveness of pesticides as insects become resistant to engineered toxins.
Loss of biodiversity

Harm to other organisms Pollen from Bt corn was shown to cause high mortality rates in monarch butterfly larvae(9). BUT follow-up studies have shown that the exposure levels in the fields are negligible(10).

Potential Environmental Hazards

Gene Transfer to non-target species
Herbicide resistant plants and weeds could cross breed and create superweeds To address this one could:
Create sterile male plants that dont produce pollen Engineer the plants so that pollen doesnt contain the foreign genes Create buffer zones of non-GM crops around GM crops. The buffer crops would not be harvested.

Potential Human Health Risks

Genetic engineering could potential introduce or create allergens For example, inserting genes from a nut into another plant could be dangerous for people who are allergic to nuts

Unknown health risks

Biological processes involve a lot of INTERACTIONS It is often difficult to identify every possible interaction.

Economic Hazards
Elimination of competition
GM seeds are patented

Suicide seeds
Plants with sterile seeds that are infertile are created Farmers are forced to buy seeds every year

However, some companies have reduced costs or donated GM seeds to impoverished nations.

Creating a balance
So are GM foods a good or bad thing? It depend on each individual case. Consumers, the government and scientists should be responsible for weighing the benefits against the costs.

Environmental risks Health risks Economic risks

Improved Nutrition Resistance to disease Reduced use of chemicals

Religion and choice?

What happens if vegetarians eat food which is genetically engineered with an animal gene? Will it repel choice of food?

GM Food~Plants


Add labels to the packages Improve genetic modification technology Food tests

GM Food~Plants


Concern: Food Safety

GM food is not labeled as such The industry argues GM crops are substantially equivalent to their conventional counterparts Consequently no need for special considerations concerning safety Label GMO free opposed

Risks with GM continued:

Addition of Bt gene into plants including corn, potatoes and cotton to increase resistance to plants Bt gene obtained from Bacillus thuringiensis (a soil bacterium that produces a natural insecticide) Problem: plants producing Bt toxin are releasing toxin in pollen

Draper, D. (2002). Our Environment: A Canadian Perspective 2nd Ed. Scarborough: Thompson Canada Lmt.

Pollen from a Bt plant was dusted on to milkweed: - only 56% of young monarch butterfly larvae lived - whereas pollen from organic plants dusted on the milkweed produced a survival rate of 100%. Approximately half of the monarch butterfly population live in the corn belt of the USA = this new gene could have serious repercussions for this organism