news

Maize

Followers

Showing posts with label Maize. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maize. Show all posts

Maize: Will Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Harm You?

Maize: Will Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Harm You?

 Let's start with the heaviest part: 


You are already consuming a genetically-modified organism as we speak; at least the chances are 9.9 in 10. In fact, it is worse, the one I suspect you're eating was designed using the most potent type of genetic engineering possible - a transgenic modification. 



I am speaking about the TELA maize variety that was developed by Bayer of Germany. The work was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

So, let's lay aside the fear part already. 

I planned going into the nitty gritty of genetic engineering as much as I can in this post but later changed my mind. The full style will not help the average reader much and I think I should just simplify it and cut to the chase. 


TELA came into our space around 2021. I just saw the article in a Nigerian newspaper and it said the crop was developed in ABU Zaria. Well, it's not quite so. ABU is a licensee. The TELA maize has longer roots and here is its story, the brief version, without the scare.


Bill Gates and his friends agreed that Maize (Zea mays) is the most popular crop on earth and if it can be made to yield more, it will go a long way in solving the hunger problem on a global scale. (When you're big, you think global, isn't it?). One of the biggest problem of maize which the Americans call, Corn is that it is susceptible to drought. A little scarcity of water can seriously reduce it's yield. In several parts of Africa, such crop failure is common and it spells hunger for millions. 


In addition, maize is also plagued by the Stem Borer - an insect that lays its eggs on the plant and when they hatch onto larvae, they eat into the maize stem and that's the end of that plant. There is also the Fall Army Worm that inflicts major destruction on maize across the world. The idea here was to develop a variety of maize that can do well on little water and is also resistant to Fall Army Worm and the deadly stem borer disease. This will increase yield and also tame the use of pesticides in controlling the named diseases, saving the farmer crop management costs. 

This is just the way any normal person will think. 


Crop developers had earlier launched a very successful program called Water Efficient Maize for Africa, WEMA. It had been successful at creating a drought resistant maize and it was chosen to be mated with another variety which is resistant to the two diseases earlier mentioned. This level of crop selection and crossbreeding has always been practised for ages. But there was no maize type that was resistant to these diseases so one had to be made using an advanced genetic engineering technique. 


There is a ubiquitous bacterial named Baccilus thurigiensis (Bt) that lives in the soil all over the world. This bacteria is a clever natural solution to a host of entomological problems because it produces a protein (Bt protein) that kills a selection of insects. What  geneticists did was to modify that protein, copy the section (a codon)  of the bacteria's DNA that codes for it and then zip it into the DNA of maize. This was how two varieties of Bt Maize were born and they are resistant to Fall Army Worm and Stem Borer diseases. These were engineered further with the drought resistant variety to produce a single variety that incorporates all the desired qualities - the TELA  Maize. TELA doesn't mean much; it is the short form of the Latin word, Tutela, which means 'Protect'. When you plant the TELA maize, you can rest assured it is not going to freak out at the first signs of drought and army worm or stem borer won't wipe away your crop. The maize variety is sold strictly to recover production costs, that is, it is sold on a non-profits basis. 


Can you plant the harvested seeds? Yes, but the potency won't be 100%. The seeds are specially produced through a method that does not allow open pollination to keep the quality top shape. This is not abnormal at all in crop development. The other time, I saw a young man speaking confidently against this type of hybridized seed production and I felt sorry for those in his audience who do not know that the gentleman does not know what he is confidently talking about. He was actually scaremongering, which is bad. 


Now that is the end of the good part. 


I have explained in an earlier essay on this how there are two levels of genetic modification of organisms. In that write up (I'll include the link below), I had also noted that what is called GMOs should actually be more correctly called GEO - Genetically Engineered Organisms. That is their true status from a purely scientific point of view and in full disclosure. 

All organisms are genetically modified either through selection, mutation, adaptation and the much more complex and poorly understood processes of Epigenetics. Genetic modification is normal and natural and even identical twins, despite theoretically possessing the same set of genetic codes as offsprings of the same zygote, are still different because their genes have been slightly modified during the stage of cell division where crossovers and linkages take place. 


Engineered organisms however are a different thing entirely. Scientists actually take down the genes, which are sequences of nucleotides that code for how that organism is made and then drag in codes from another organism. The most striking is when the copied codes or genes are from another species. In the Bt Maize -and also the TELA maize you've been eating - the genes are from a different kingdom. It is a gene from the Baccilus thurigiensis bacteria (from the animal kingdom) zipped into a member of the plant kingdom. 


So what's the issue with that?


Well, nothing as such. But it is a little more powerful than nothing. The anxiety comes from the fact that scientists don't fully understand what can be the fallout of this type of genetic work somewhere down the line. The genetic code is the fundamental of creation and zapping it around this way gives everyone who knows the power of genes the chills when they are being honest. Genes are not just chemistry stuff, they are chemicals of life itself and they are capable of self replication. Now everyone reading this quickly remembers that cancer is body cells gone rogue, replicating without control. Those who can connect the dots fear that consuming organisms engineered this way can trigger body cells to go rogue at any time.


Is there any evidence this can happen or has ever happened? 


No. But that doesn't assuage all fears because genes can also lie low for a long time. You must have heard of drug tests taken 20, 40 years down the line. We need the big data report - observations of the effects of these crops not just on the present consumers at the present time, but the effect on their offspring and the descendants of those as well. And the effects could be subtle - it may not be cancer but something more benign. Maybe it will affect some body systems or dial down (or even up!) our brains just a little. 


The consumption of GEO especially the Transgenic (between species) ones can also potentially alter the balance of our body's microbiome. 2% of your bodyweight is bacterial. They are ever present on our skins and mostly in our gut where they function just as a critical part of our bodies. We won't last for more than hours without them as they protect us from harmful microbes. GEO may in some ways affect these organisms by reprogramming them. Imagine writing a string of codes in the programming language of the OS your device is running and then mating it with the OS as an executable sentence. That is how GEOs are in principle. No programmer can say with absolute certainty that the system will continue to function perfectly after that intervention. 


So, are GMOs good or bad?


So far, they are good, but there are no guarantees they cannot turn very bad without warning. All those who carry on genetic engineering work  will agree on this.


John Ogunlela 

 Let's start with the heaviest part: 


You are already consuming a genetically-modified organism as we speak; at least the chances are 9.9 in 10. In fact, it is worse, the one I suspect you're eating was designed using the most potent type of genetic engineering possible - a transgenic modification. 



I am speaking about the TELA maize variety that was developed by Bayer of Germany. The work was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

So, let's lay aside the fear part already. 

I planned going into the nitty gritty of genetic engineering as much as I can in this post but later changed my mind. The full style will not help the average reader much and I think I should just simplify it and cut to the chase. 


TELA came into our space around 2021. I just saw the article in a Nigerian newspaper and it said the crop was developed in ABU Zaria. Well, it's not quite so. ABU is a licensee. The TELA maize has longer roots and here is its story, the brief version, without the scare.


Bill Gates and his friends agreed that Maize (Zea mays) is the most popular crop on earth and if it can be made to yield more, it will go a long way in solving the hunger problem on a global scale. (When you're big, you think global, isn't it?). One of the biggest problem of maize which the Americans call, Corn is that it is susceptible to drought. A little scarcity of water can seriously reduce it's yield. In several parts of Africa, such crop failure is common and it spells hunger for millions. 


In addition, maize is also plagued by the Stem Borer - an insect that lays its eggs on the plant and when they hatch onto larvae, they eat into the maize stem and that's the end of that plant. There is also the Fall Army Worm that inflicts major destruction on maize across the world. The idea here was to develop a variety of maize that can do well on little water and is also resistant to Fall Army Worm and the deadly stem borer disease. This will increase yield and also tame the use of pesticides in controlling the named diseases, saving the farmer crop management costs. 

This is just the way any normal person will think. 


Crop developers had earlier launched a very successful program called Water Efficient Maize for Africa, WEMA. It had been successful at creating a drought resistant maize and it was chosen to be mated with another variety which is resistant to the two diseases earlier mentioned. This level of crop selection and crossbreeding has always been practised for ages. But there was no maize type that was resistant to these diseases so one had to be made using an advanced genetic engineering technique. 


There is a ubiquitous bacterial named Baccilus thurigiensis (Bt) that lives in the soil all over the world. This bacteria is a clever natural solution to a host of entomological problems because it produces a protein (Bt protein) that kills a selection of insects. What  geneticists did was to modify that protein, copy the section (a codon)  of the bacteria's DNA that codes for it and then zip it into the DNA of maize. This was how two varieties of Bt Maize were born and they are resistant to Fall Army Worm and Stem Borer diseases. These were engineered further with the drought resistant variety to produce a single variety that incorporates all the desired qualities - the TELA  Maize. TELA doesn't mean much; it is the short form of the Latin word, Tutela, which means 'Protect'. When you plant the TELA maize, you can rest assured it is not going to freak out at the first signs of drought and army worm or stem borer won't wipe away your crop. The maize variety is sold strictly to recover production costs, that is, it is sold on a non-profits basis. 


Can you plant the harvested seeds? Yes, but the potency won't be 100%. The seeds are specially produced through a method that does not allow open pollination to keep the quality top shape. This is not abnormal at all in crop development. The other time, I saw a young man speaking confidently against this type of hybridized seed production and I felt sorry for those in his audience who do not know that the gentleman does not know what he is confidently talking about. He was actually scaremongering, which is bad. 


Now that is the end of the good part. 


I have explained in an earlier essay on this how there are two levels of genetic modification of organisms. In that write up (I'll include the link below), I had also noted that what is called GMOs should actually be more correctly called GEO - Genetically Engineered Organisms. That is their true status from a purely scientific point of view and in full disclosure. 

All organisms are genetically modified either through selection, mutation, adaptation and the much more complex and poorly understood processes of Epigenetics. Genetic modification is normal and natural and even identical twins, despite theoretically possessing the same set of genetic codes as offsprings of the same zygote, are still different because their genes have been slightly modified during the stage of cell division where crossovers and linkages take place. 


Engineered organisms however are a different thing entirely. Scientists actually take down the genes, which are sequences of nucleotides that code for how that organism is made and then drag in codes from another organism. The most striking is when the copied codes or genes are from another species. In the Bt Maize -and also the TELA maize you've been eating - the genes are from a different kingdom. It is a gene from the Baccilus thurigiensis bacteria (from the animal kingdom) zipped into a member of the plant kingdom. 


So what's the issue with that?


Well, nothing as such. But it is a little more powerful than nothing. The anxiety comes from the fact that scientists don't fully understand what can be the fallout of this type of genetic work somewhere down the line. The genetic code is the fundamental of creation and zapping it around this way gives everyone who knows the power of genes the chills when they are being honest. Genes are not just chemistry stuff, they are chemicals of life itself and they are capable of self replication. Now everyone reading this quickly remembers that cancer is body cells gone rogue, replicating without control. Those who can connect the dots fear that consuming organisms engineered this way can trigger body cells to go rogue at any time.


Is there any evidence this can happen or has ever happened? 


No. But that doesn't assuage all fears because genes can also lie low for a long time. You must have heard of drug tests taken 20, 40 years down the line. We need the big data report - observations of the effects of these crops not just on the present consumers at the present time, but the effect on their offspring and the descendants of those as well. And the effects could be subtle - it may not be cancer but something more benign. Maybe it will affect some body systems or dial down (or even up!) our brains just a little. 


The consumption of GEO especially the Transgenic (between species) ones can also potentially alter the balance of our body's microbiome. 2% of your bodyweight is bacterial. They are ever present on our skins and mostly in our gut where they function just as a critical part of our bodies. We won't last for more than hours without them as they protect us from harmful microbes. GEO may in some ways affect these organisms by reprogramming them. Imagine writing a string of codes in the programming language of the OS your device is running and then mating it with the OS as an executable sentence. That is how GEOs are in principle. No programmer can say with absolute certainty that the system will continue to function perfectly after that intervention. 


So, are GMOs good or bad?


So far, they are good, but there are no guarantees they cannot turn very bad without warning. All those who carry on genetic engineering work  will agree on this.


John Ogunlela 

Poster Speaks

Poster Speaks/box

Trending

randomposts