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alarmduckBiotechnology

Dec 12, 2012 (4 years and 9 months ago)

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About


I am studying for a M.Sc. Science Communication at Imperial College London.

One of my courses was to design a

science communication website. I have a blog
(external link 1 =
http://penblogsandbuildsawebsite.wordpress.com/
)
describing the constru
ction process for this web page.


Since I have a degree in
Biological Sciences with honours P
lant
S
cience from the
University of Edinburgh, genetic modification (GM) in plants seemed th
e logical
choice. It is part of the reason I became interest
ed in science communication. It is
a controversial topic
,

which is yet again in the mainstream media
.
I wanted to
design a website that reflected my
thoughts

on GM.

I

am not trying to present a
de
finitive

opinion on GM, simply reflect what I have been taught during my
degree. I would

also

like to add an international dimension since I have lived in
both the UK and USA.


What is GM?


All organisms have genes, made up of DNA.

Genetic modification (GM)
describes
the process by which an organisms’
genetic material has been altered.
On this
site, I will focus o
n what that

means within the plant kingdom.
GM

can be

achieved

through the insertion of genes.

These genes can be from pla
nts

within
the same spec
ies, or from different species.

The ultimate goal is to have a plant
with desirable traits.

There are several techniques for GM, or plant
transformation. Descriptions can be found on the “How are GM plants made?”
<link> page.


§Whe
n it was first used / discovered


The first GM plant was created in 1983 [1]. It was a transgenic <definition>
tobacco plant [1]. This was made possible
after Watson, Crick, Franklin and
James discovered that DNA was the smallest unit of life.
Scientists began working
with bacteria [2].
Several decades of research lead up to

the first plant
transformation [2].


[1]
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/h
i/special_report/1999/02/99/food_under_the_micro
scope/280868.stm

[2]
http://www.whoinventedit.net/who
-
invented
-
genetic
-
engineering.html


§How it is different to cloning


Cloning produces an identical

copy to the original. This is different to GM which
prod
uces a plant with new genetic material. The techniques used are also
different; cloning uses an adult cell which is placed in an ovum

with the nucleus
removed

(definition). A small electrical charge is passed through which
starts the
cell cycle.


H
ow are
GM

plants made
?


§Information about the main techniques used in plant transformation:


There are two main techniques for plant transformation:


Biogun <link>


Agrobacterium tumefaciens
<link>


I will explain these techniques in slightly more detail, but I will focus on
A.
tumefaciens
. This is because it is the more efficient and elegant technique. It also
has an interesting story rooted in plant pathology.


§Bio gun


The biogun is pretty much h
ow it sounds. A solution containing genetic material
(definition)
is ‘shot’ at plant cells.

The force of the action opens microscopic
holes where the DNA can enter.


§
Agrobacterium tumefaciens


This bacterium
, in the wild, causes a plant disease called
crown gall (definition).

The clever bacterial mechanism is exploited for plant transformation. For more
information, please follow the link to the
A. tumefaciens
page <link>.



For both processes, this is by no means a definite event; most of the DNA will
not
enter the cell. Even if it does, only a fraction will be taken up into the plant
genome (definition). Of those cells which take up the new DNA, only a small
number will be viable. The DNA may enter at a point that disrupts a vital plant
process or in a
n exon (definition) sequence.


A
. tumefaciens


§More about the bacteria:

§Diagram to show the bacterial cell

§More about the disease it causes in nature (which is called Crown Gall disease)

§Why it was selected for plant transformation


U
ses of
GM

plants


§Where GM plants are used

§Why use GM plants


link to current / future concerns

§Crop resistance

§Drought resistance

§Benefits of GM to farmers

§Statistics about disease crop losses

§Benefits to consumers

§Example of Golden Rice™


W
here are
GM

plants used
?


§What countries allow GM plants to be grown

§Stance of: UK, USA, EU

§Links to pages that have the official information

§I think it is important to have links where appropriate. Any good sci comm site
should have links to sources as it helps
give credibility to what is being said if
you can see the original information.

§What kind of products are on sale here that may be GM


C
oncerns and benefits of
GM


§Concerns

§Quote from Steve Jones’ BBC impartiality report

§Benefits

§Primary benefits

§Sec
ondary benefits

§Tertiary benefits

§This will link to the clone beef stories from a few years ago. There was some
confusion over the difference and GM was brought into the debate under the
umbrella of “Frankenfoods”