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GMOs made using Agrobacterium, RNAi use natural processes, not ‘Frankenstein’ technologies

| | November 16, 2015

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Over 90 percent of current GM crops contain genes transferred into plant genomes using T-DNA  molecules from the soil bacterium Agrobacterium. In the wild, this bacterium injects its T-DNA into plant cells to force them to produce food molecules that only Agrobacteria like to eat.

Anti-GMO activists claim that GM crops and foods are dangerous because the T-DNA-mediated transfer of genes into non-related plants is unnatural. Recent research has demonstrated that all sweet potato varieties cultivated by farmers contain foreign genes with associated T-DNAs that were not inserted by scientists. Wild-type sweet potatoes lack these genes and T-DNA. This means that all certified organic sweet potatoes are by definition GMOs.

Advances in molecular biology have led to two new methods for transforming the genetic makeup of crop plants. These are known as RNAi and CRISPR-Cas9. RNAi (ribonucleic acid interference) is a process used by cells to turn off a gene that codes for a specific protein by producing a small piece of RNA that triggers the destruction of the RNA used to make that protein. Plants naturally produce many types of RNAi to fight diseases and to regulate growth.

CRISPR-Cas9 allows researchers to precisely alter small DNA domains. CRISPR-Cas9 can produce single base changes in DNA similar to naturally-occurring mutations or mutations created by X-ray mutagenesis, but unlike the “shotgun” approach of X-ray mutagenesis, CRISPR-Cas9 can target a specific gene.

The RNAi and CRISPR-Cas9 techniques are designed to augment, not to replace traditional plant breeding. They enable plant breeders to produce crops with desirable properties more precisely, faster and more cheaply. They are not “Frankenstein” technologies as claimed on anti-GMO websites.

Read full, original post: Andrew Staehelin: All certified organic sweet potatoes are GMOs

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