Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Glow in the dark food?

From the heartland, Margot McMillen writes: A week ago, one of my students told me how easy it is to separate the bit of glow-in-the-dark DNA from a jellyfish. They had done it in her undergraduate biology class. When it came to the next step, inserting it into a frog (or something) the procedure was a little trickier, and the wise biology teacher hadn't gone that far. But it could probably be done, she told me, in an ordinary school lab. But now the news from Singularity University that they have, indeed, created glow-in-the-dark plants, a genre without regulation, and they're offering them to people for a small fee. As a food farmer, I hope none of my neighbors jump on the offer. On my farm, we have never planted a genetically modified seed and we never will. It's bad enough that we might have weeds blowing in from a neighbor's place that resist herbicides or kill pests. These genes have been inserted intentionally to crops, but now spread to weeds, thanks to the weeds' clever evasion of continual dousings of poisons from the industrial farms. Glow-in-the-dark biology can find a market--from wal-mart shoppers without a brain between them, looking for something fun to take the birthday boy, to cities looking for new ways to light their streets. But we obviously would need regulation. Nobody wants glow-in-the-dark tomatoes or kale. NO way, says Singularity University, this non-gift should be available to the world. Now, other groups are trying to find ways to raise money to fight the threat, but I can't see how that will work. With a technique so easy that it can begin in an undergraduate bio lab, the possibilities are endless.

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