Genetically Modified Seeds: The Big Plant Debate

Genetically modified seeds have been designed specifically from organisms that have had exact changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic modification. These methods have allowed for the overview of new crop traits as well as a far greater control over a food's genetic structure than previously afforded by methods such as selective breeding and mutation breeding. Genetically engineered plants are generated in a laboratory by altering their genetic makeup, and are tested in the laboratory for desired qualities. All sounding a bit confusing?
Genetically Modified Seeds: The Big Plant Debate
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The basic idea is that because of the rapid decline in plants being able to be grown in certain countries due to their climate, the idea was introduced to mutate the seeds so the plant would then be able to grow in those weather conditions.

How to Genetically Modify a Seed
So how do you modify seeds? It’s certainly not an easy or quick task! It can take years of pain staking work to modify a seed, and even then you have to test it out in mass production! It is said that many scientists in their field of expertise feel that they are using wildlife as a guide, they can build plants with qualities evolution could never even dream of producing.

Step one
Firstly you need to find a new trait, this means that in order to produce a genetically modified organism you have to identify the trait you want that plant to have, once this is identified, you then have to find other plants/organisms that already have it.

Step two
The next step is to start grabbing those genes! In the past trying to study the genetic code in individual seed plants required planting the seed, letting the plant grow and when they got to a certain size you were able to take a clipping (a paper hole puncher) through the leaf in order to gather a sample – however scientists quickly found this far too time consuming and inconvenient.

SEE ALSO: How to Grow an Avocado Tree in your Garden?

From this, the chipper was born! It is a blast of air which separates the shavings from the rest of the seed; a bar code system ensures the two can be reconciled later. The device is around the size of a home air conditioner and it can chip a seed every second. The chip is ground to a fine powder and it can then be analysed.

Step three
Once you have isolated the trait that you want you need to go about inserting this into the desired plants. There are a couple of ways you can go about doing this. First you could use ‘gene guns’ that quite literally shoot a section of DNA into the seed, however this can only be used for very robust seeds as this a very aggressive way of inserting DNA. A more delicate alternative for more seeds requiring a bit more TLC is to try heating the plants and placing them under stressful environments (a specialist landscaper will design this environment for you), which will trick the plant into producing sugars and amino acids that feed bacteria. You can then feed the plant the new modified protein and they will accept this new gene as one of their own. Even if you follow every step rigorously it’s a pure game of chance - just like with breeding, you never know how the descendants will end up.

Where does the USA stand on this debate?
As a more economically developed country, their point of view will be different to those who are situated in a less economically developed countries. Although we do have to take note of their considerations on the matter, as they will be mass producing some of these seeds, we also have to find a compromise that will work for everybody. The crop growers around the world who produce for their own nations, or for export, have to be happy to grow the plants using these seeds, so communication is key.

The U.S. food companies have been in contact with many food companies in the UK over this debate, and many U.S. companies are rushing to offer consumers a multitude of products which are free from GM in order to compete. They are finding the effort costly and cumbersome in their landscape which is dominated by genetically modified food. Demand is so high that the trend for growing ‘GM-free’ could actually result in a price spike for consumers!

Where does Ghana stand on this debate?
As Ghana is a less economically developed country and one who grows much of the food we consume in Britain, they play a key role in whether the introduction of genetically modified plant seeds into mass production can occur. The Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs have given statements of assurance that the Plant Breeders Bill will not promote Genetically Modified Organisms in the country. The bill is required to create an environment for Ghanaians who want to breed plants through scientific methods to do so and also to earn royalties for their creations.

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About the Author:

Karen is a keen grower of many vegetables which can be found in her vegetable patch at the bottom of her beautiful cottage garden. When she is not all ‘green fingered’ with her pals from All Seasons she enjoys spending time with her family and running her two businesses

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