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ARTICLE: GMOs can save the day and swiftly

The following is an excerpt of an article by reporter Carol Reese on the Jackson Sun website detailing the many ways GMOs can benefit our world.

Petting your Labrador retriever right now? You are touching a genetically modified organism. Did you eat an Angus steak, or a big chicken leg, or even broccoli, carrots or lettuce?

Humans have been manipulating genes for centuries to shape animals and plants that serve our needs. If we hadn’t you would not be reading these words right now. You’d be out scavenging for grasshoppers, rabbits and grass seeds to feed your babies. There’d be no phone, electricity, hot shower and car because no one would have had time to invent these conveniences. It was agriculture that allowed humans the time to develop language, art, and eventually the technology that you are employing to read these words.

It took centuries to develop crops that deliver bountiful, affordable nutrition, but as humans got better at sharing knowledge, we shortened the time. Still it takes several generations of traditional breeding and selection to get a desired result. In the case of a fast maturing crop. that might be a matter of weeks or months, but in other crops it might be many decades…unless…

The American chestnut makes a good case study. This huge tree dominated the woodlands of eastern North America. The nuts fed billions of birds and other animals, including the human one. The rot resistant wood served our ancestors as they settled this country, building houses, furniture, barns and fencing, until an introduced blight wiped out nearly 4 billion trees in about 40 years. A handful of trees survived, and dedicated groups and individuals began crossing them with Chinese chestnut which is resistant to the blight. Now 35 years later, the third generation of backcrossed trees will be tested, and only 1% of them are expected to have high resistance, and these few may not have all the desirable characteristics of the American chestnut, since there has been so much gene exchange with the Chinese.

If I were to tell you that inserting a gene would restore this magnificent tree to our continent, would you still give the thumbs down? The resulting tree would be essentially 99.9% percent American, and retain all of the original’s desirable and adaptable qualities. This work is underway and showing great promise, though surprisingly, it is likely that the desirable gene will be one from wheat that attacks the blight fungus, rather than the resistance gene from the Chinese chestnut.

To read the entire article, please visit the Jackson Sun website.