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Dr. L. Curtis Hannah

Professor, University of Florida

Expert Bio

Dr. L. Curtis Hannah is a Professor of Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology teaching Advanced Genetics at the University of Florida. His areas of research include plant molecular biology, plant genetics, starch biosynthesis and transposable elements. Dr. Hannah’s work focuses on engineering heat labile enzymes that play important roles in maize yield. Some variants give rise to as much as a 68% increase in maize yield in hot environments. He earned his Ph.D. in genetics at the University of Wisconsin after completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biochemistry and genetics at Purdue University. He remains active in the family farming operations in Indiana.

Studies, Articles and Answers

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Q: In transgenetic Bt cultivars, do all the cells of the plant contain DNA which includes the transgene? And in those cells which do contain the gene, when and under what conditions is the insecticide protein expressed?

Answered By Dr. L. Curtis Hannah - Jun 19, 2014

A: Thank you for two excellent questions.  First, “Do all cells in a Bt-containing transgenic plant contain the Bt transgene?  The general answer is yes.  Barring rare mutation or rare chromosomal abnormalities, all somatic cells in a plant contain the same DNA.  The large part of a cereal seed (corn, wheat, oats, rye, rice, etc) is called an endosperm and it has three doses of each gene whereas other cells and tissues contain only two copies.  However it is the same complement of genes in all tissues. Germ cells (pollen and ovaries) contain only one copy of each gene an [...]

GMOs & Farmers Health & Safety Crop protectants


Q: Why cant GMO be used by organic farmers outside of science denial? GMOs are supposed to be better for the environment than conventional crops. If organic farming methodologies are better for the environment, why dont organic farmers use GMOs? Wouldnt that

Answered By Dr. L. Curtis Hannah - Nov 06, 2014

A: You raise a very valid point. There is no scientific reason why organic growers cannot use genetically engineered plants. In fact, when GM plants first came on the market, I thought the organic growers would be the first to use them. The fact that plants could be engineered to avoid any spraying with insecticides would be ideal for the organic growers. Clearly I was wrong. Perhaps the arbitrary ban placed on GE technology by the organic community is because the use of genetic engineering will eventually minimize the difference between commercial and organic agriculture. Perhaps it is simply a [...]

How GMOs Are Made Modern Agriculture Crop protectants


Q: Do you think it would be possible to grow GM crops in a large scale contained environment?. This way, it would prevent GM crops from unintentionally spreading out of GM cultures and thus lower the risk of causing important modification to the environment.

Answered By Dr. L. Curtis Hannah - Dec 18, 2014

A: First, thank you for an interesting question. The simple answer to your question is yes. Let me amplify though on some of the points to which I think you are alluding. First, growth of any experimental transgenic plant material in an outside environment is not a decision investigators can make by themselves. Outside growth requires that a permit be issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This agency examines the gene inserted and its probable function and then makes a decision of whether the material can be grown outside of the laboratory or greenhouse. If so, t [...]

Environment Health & Safety How GMOs Are Made


Q: Pretreating seeds via electromagnetism, since many ages ago, was the key to increasing yields, sustaining soil quality, enhancing crops resistance to floodsearly frosts... Is this magnetism still a key GMO?

Answered By Dr. L. Curtis Hannah - May 08, 2015

A: Thank you for your interesting question. As far as I know and as far as I can determine, electromagnetic treatment of seed is not used at any appreciable level in the seed industry, either conventional or GMO. If you have any reference to its use in the commercial seed industry, I would appreciate receiving word of it. [...]