A Lot Of Leftover Salmon

The genetically modified you’ve probably already heard of, these salmon--developed by the Massachusetts-based company AquaBounty--can grow to 250% the size a normal Atlantic salmon, ballooning to more than 13 pounds. The AquaBounty fish also grow twice as fast because of the insertion of two genes into its genetic code. One is from the Chinook salmon, the other comes from a fish called the ocean pout. When the two genes are inserted together, they switch on the genetic algorithm that controls growth and then keep it on.

Tuna Pig?

For years, nutritionists have been telling us to eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are fat that the human body can’t make itself. While the medical science is still out on omega-3s being protective against cancer and heart disease, dieticians have been extolling the virtues of oily fish, like tuna, that are high in the fatty acids. In 2006, however, a team of scientists genetically modified pigs, adding in a gene from roundworms to create a litter of five piglets with muscle tissue rich in omega-3s.

Breast Milk From Cows

For parents of the future looking for a third alternative to breastfeeding and formula when deciding what their newborns will eat, Chinese scientists present milk from a transgenic cow that might just do the trick. Researchers at China Agricultural University revealed they had developed a herd of 300 cows that produced milk that contained three crucial human proteins: the antimicrobial lysozyme, immune system booster lactoferrin, and Alpha lactalbumin, which of late has been utilized in the development of a vaccine to prevent breast cancer.

Purple Tomatoes To Thwart Cancer

British scientists reported in 2008 that they’d modified the humble tomato with a pigment found in blackberries and cranberries that is believed to be protective against cancer. The researchers inserted a gene found in the flower of the snapdragon plant, which turned the tomato’s standard red color purple. Mice susceptible to cancer that were fed the genetically engineered tomatoes outlived their brethren who were fed regular tomatoes, indicating that the anti-cancer effect may be real.

Hens Lay Disease-Fighting Eggs

In 2007, British scientists announced that they had inserted two genes into a breed of chickens called ISA Browns, themselves a hybrid construct developed to be mass producers of eggs. The genes added to the hens’ DNA caused them to make proteins for treating skin cancer, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, all of which end up in their egg whites. Not only does this constitute a boon for human health, the farm-based manufacturing method for producing these proteins, which scientists say can be easily separated from the rest of the albumen, is more efficient than standard industrial methods.

Cabbage With Venom, Not Pesticides

In an attempt to design a way to grow cabbage without using pesticides to kill off the caterpillars that like to feed on the leafy green, Chinese scientists turned to genetic engineering. They inserted a gene into cabbage that coded for the production of a modified version of the venom that scorpions discharge from their tail to fend of predators. The altered venom isn’t poisonous to humans, but it makes a cabbage patch a much more dangerous place for caterpillars.

Not-Mad Cows

In the mid-1990s, British cattle started to act a bit off. Shortly after, lots of them started dying. When scientists looked at their brains, they were holey messes. The cause: mad cow disease, which is caused when proteins called prions are misfolded and then prompt the misfolding of other proteins in the brain. Eating beef from a mad cow can result in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human version of the illness, which was a big concern in the U.K., and to a lesser extent, the U.S. around the turn of the twenty first century. So, in 2007, scientists in South Dakota announced they’d simply disabled the gene that codes for prions in 12 bulls, effectively making them mad cow resistant.

Low-Fat Pork

In 2002 Japanese scientists announced the existence of three and a half-year-old pigs that they’d genetically modified by inserting a gene from the leafy green spinach. The gene, FAD2, controls a biological mechanism that converts saturated fat to unsaturated fat. Thus, pork from the spinach-pigs, which have 20% less saturated fat than normal pigs, could offer a low-fat alternative to normal variations of the other white meat.

2012-06-27

Genetically Modified Food That Prevents Cancer, Makes You Healthier

There is a lot of reasonable debate about the safety of changing the genetic makeup of things we eat, but scientists are doing amazing things with GM food—everything from cancer-preventing tomatoes to cabbages that produce their own pesticides.

Currently, a debate is raging in the U.S. about the risks involved in eating genetically modified food, most prominently in the case of Aquabounty salmon, which have been genetically engineered to grow faster and bigger than normal salmon (see the first slide above). Californians will be voting on whether so-called "Frankenfood" will require a label to identify it as such if sold in the state. The Food and Drug Administration is currently deciding whether or not that should be the case nationwide, despite the agency’s assurances that it poses no safety risks. Like it or not, genetic modification is more than likely here to stay, and in the following slides you can see some of the various foods that are being affected.

For more videos and stories on innovative solutions in food technology, check out the rest of our Feeding the Future series.

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