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Genetically modified crops - February issue

'Toby' H D Bradshaw toby at u.washington.edu
Mon Feb 1 20:03:16 EST 1999

In article <el#jyQhT#GA.264 at nih2naaf.prod2.compuserve.com>,
Nigel Colborn <NColborn at compuserve.com> wrote:
>Terry Harper wrote in message <7947tl$546$3 at uranium.btinternet.com>...
>>Are F1 Hybrids genetically modified? If not, why not?
>>Snip here
>Not genetically modified, in that their DNA has not been zapped with genetic
>material from some unrelated organism, usually introduced via a 'gene taxi'

Quite a few wild and cultivated plant species carry genes which were
introduced into them by bacteria long before humans were around to
supervise.  *All* green plants harbor ancient bacterial genomes in them
(mitochondria, chloroplast).  Are all green plants thus 'genetically

I think the term 'genetically engineered' is much more appropriate for the
type of plants usually meant by the ambiguous phrase 'genetically
modified', since 'engineering' implies a human agent and purposeful

As an aside, have you ever wondered why there are free-living bacteria
that are capable of transferring their DNA into plants?  Agrobacterium
isn't an invention of modern science, after all, even though it's natural
abilities have been tapped by those interested in making transgenic
plants.  Does the fact that bacteria *can* transfer chunks of their DNA
into plant nuclei suggest to you that they probably *do* 'genetically
modify' plants as part of their normal life history?

Some people seem to object to DNA transfer that doesn't involve sex,
despite the fact that asexual DNA transfer happened countless times before
'genetic engineers' arrived.  My personal view is that the characteristics
of products, and not the processes by which they are produced, are what

Others, like Prince Charles, are more concerned with style than substance.
Perhaps no more should be expected from the Prince, given his career path.

"I happen to believe that this kind of genetic modification takes mankind
into realms that belong to God and God alone." -- Charles, Prince of Wales

Birding groups snipped.  My newsreader didn't recognize the conservation
groups, so they got snipped, as well.

Toby Bradshaw               | (206)616-1796 (voice)
College of Forest Resources | (206)685-2692 (FAX)
University of Washington    | http://poplar2.cfr.washington.edu/toby

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