GMOs and related organisms

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GMOs and related organisms

Post by SolarpunkFan » 2016-05-02 08:19am

I'm writing a post on my blog to clear up misconceptions surrounding genetically modified organisms. The point I'm having trouble debunking is the fear of genes spreading from a genetically modified organism to a related organism that hasn't been modified (GM corn to wild corn via pollen for example). Is there any information showing that this isn't a problem (or at least not as big a problem as it's made out to be)?

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Re: GMOs and related organisms

Post by madd0ct0r » 2016-05-02 10:57am

Sorry Spf, the only studies I'm aware showed gene escape was inevitable.

I'd like to see you cover the consequences of three scenarios

1) the added genes escaping and doing what they are meant to. So for a weedkiller resistant corn, we get weedkiller resistant grasses. For a salt water or flooding tolerant rice, we get salt water /flooding tolerant grasses. The it might be incredibly useful, or it might lead to ecosystem collapse as the new grass displaces everything else. Another example here is GM salmon. They are designed to grow incredibly quickly, and so would win in mating competitions and out compete their parents for food BUT that fast growth rate has a penalty and they die much earlier. If/when one of these beasties gets into the wild, you might expect these genes to rapidly dominate the species followed by a population crash...

2) the added genes escaping and combining unpredictably. Genes are used for more than one thing at different times and different organs in the same organism. It's why gluing a florescent protein to it and watching the animal to see where it glows is a serious research technique. Because 1+2 might equal C. Any massive effect will show up in testing and hopefully not make it to market, but very specific and or subtle side effects might. I don't know any gene-spec ones off the top of my head, so we'll go with hypotheticals based off real life cases:
- A plant that self dusted with organic DDT would be incredible for any crop attacked by insects (ie all of them) but would have wiped out birds of prey, especially if the DDT genes went wild. There's no particular reason a molecule that fits the gap in insectile nervous systems also happens to disrupt shell accreation in raptors but there's only so many molcule shapes out there...
- Thalidomide was a drug on the market that passed all drug tests at the time. It was great at what it did, my own grandmother was taking it for morning sickness. It also happened to have very specific effects as it interfered with molecules markers that were used by the body to arrange the foetus (again, not something we really understand even now). There's a 22 day period where it causes horrific deformities, with the type of deformity depending on the day of the pregnancy. ... cts_crisis
Outside of that 22 day window, it's a fantastic anti-sickness and mood stabiliser and is finding new uses against cancer. It's just a complex molecule, exactly the same way the production of a natural weed killer or growth hormone is a complex molecule, whether made in a lab or a cell.
- back in the 80s, we started to feed cattle processed dead cattle and sheep. They needed the protein to grow quickly and bulk out as fast as desired, and bits of ground up bone ect were cheap. Turned out some of those protein were prions, something we didn't really understand at all at the time. certainly not something that was being looked for, since we simply didn't know it was there. The result was a spate of CJD cases in the Uk, killing 175 people in a rather nasty way as their brains turned into sponges full of prions.

3) the genes escape and don't have a major effect, just mixing into the species.
Bit more a of a philospopihcal argument this one. How many additions can be added to a species genepool before they're not the same species? We're not talking about economic consequences, loss of diversity or heirloom gene tricks, just straight philosophy. A real world example at the moment is the conservation movement around Dingos.
There's no shortage of individuals, but genetically, the dingo is being bred out by the domestic dog. You might dismiss this argument, but it'd be foolish not recognise some people take it seriously.
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