Fear of ‘foreign’ genes in GMOs? Turns out Nature produces transgenic sweet potatoes

| | April 22, 2015

One of the most frequently mentioned issues with GMO foods is a vague concern about bringing genes from distantly related organisms into plants. But an international team of biologists has now found that this has occurred naturally in a major crop plant: the sweet potato. The strains of this crop that we currently cultivate had a set of genes inserted into their genomes by bacteria—the same bacteria used to create many genetically modified plants.

The bacteria in question are part of the Agrobacteriumgenus, a group of plant pathogens. Upon infection, the bacteria insert a small piece of DNA (termed T-DNA) into the plant’s genome. The DNA carries a number of genes that interfere with a few normal plant hormones. These changes cause plant cells to start proliferating, forming tumor-like growths.

Researchers have found it in the sweet potato, a food crop. While studying the RNA made in sweet potato cells, researchers found a collection of bacterial genes. Tracing them back to the DNA, they found the Agrobacterium T-DNA, along with a handful of genes from the bacteria. Further examination revealed a second cluster of genes, indicating that this natural transgenic process has happened at least twice in this lineage.

Every sweet potato plant contains foreign genes obtained through a process similar to that used to create GMO foods.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the variety of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Genetically modified crops? Nature got there first

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Click the link above to read the full, original article.
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