21 April 2011

Scary, dangerous, genetically modified...

About DNA, digestion and mythology
Renat AtaevIt's time to talk about the holy.

The field of science that has become the subject of today's note has already contributed a lot to the national character and mentality of the average inhabitant of the Russian Federation. A lot of rotting fragments of copies already adorn the landscapes of the Runet here and there. We will also do our part.

A session of magic with its exposureThere is no more fertile reason to demonstrate the work of the mechanisms of modern mass culture than the topic of genetically modified creatures.

There are few things today that excite the layman as much as the problem of embedding the scorpion gene into his precious genome, which insidiously crawled inside with a banana eaten earlier. In order not to inflate the text, we will skip the enumeration of the entire spectrum of existing prejudices in this regard, and immediately proceed to refute the main ones.

1. There are no "scorpio genes"Nucleic bases are the universal language of all living things.

Substances synthesized by animal organisms have been repeatedly (and it seems independently) "invented" by plants, fungi and even bacteria. Oxytocin, insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, tyrosine, serotonin, acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine are human hormones and mediators that are perfectly used for their purposes by microorganisms (Oleskin A.V., Botvinko I.V., Kirovskaya T.A. Microbial endocrinology and biopolitics // Vestn. Moscow. Un-ta. Ser. Biology. 1998. No. 4. pp. 3-10.).

2. Genetic engineering vs "conventional breeding" The modifications that species undergo during breeding may be more dangerous and have obviously less predictable consequences.

The myth of "herbivorous" varietal work by Grandfather Timiryazev's methods is very tenacious, but it does not correspond to the realities of modern genetics for seventy years. When new varieties are obtained, seeds are now treated with highly toxic mutagens, the cytoplasm of cells is fused together (if it is impossible to cross the two species in a normal way) – in general, they breed very far from the prototype variety of freaks. In nature, they are obviously not tenants, and the probability of occurrence of dangerous combinations of genes for the consumer with such methods is not lower than with genetic engineering. Which, in your opinion, is easier: to track the possible toxic effect of one protein, or that of hundreds and thousands of new proteins that have arisen during the non–directional long-term "modification" of the target by radiation or chemical mutagens?

3. Genes from GMOs cannot "integrate" into our genome. Proteins from food – penetrate somewhere beyond the gastrointestinal tract.Any food is full of "alien" genes.

It is not clear why any of these thousands of fragments should be embedded in the consumer's DNA, namely "modified" - however, a concerned citizen usually does not ask such questions. He is not interested in the fact that digestion guarantees the destruction of "foreign" DNA and the splitting of proteins introduced into the product. Any literate student, in theory, can competently answer the question whether bioengineered DNA from products can somehow migrate into the human genome. I usually send all doubters to Google what "wall digestion" is (lazy: a physiological mechanism that guarantees that no large molecules will enter the bloodstream from an intact intestine).

In gene modification, viruses and bacteria (vectors) are sometimes used that can transfer part of their genome into plant cells. But, firstly, these vectors are always inactivated. Secondly, a virus that affects plant and animal cells equally is still something out of fiction. Gene exchange between plants and animals is, to put it mildly, an unproven thing. If you find that at least one of your cells has a GMO gene embedded in it, feel free to get a Nobel Prize for proving the Neolamarkists right. The mechanisms that prevent dangerous changes in the genome have been worked out by evolution, which is called "on the five." Any modification of DNA leads to an immediate "twofold case" of cell death (apoptosis). Viruses need a long evolution to infect plants and "hacker" mechanisms developed with considerable difficulty, which, alas, are useless on animals like you and me.

4. The protein that prevents the Colorado potato beetle from eating the leaves of GM potatoes is synthesized... in its leavesIt is not synthesized in tubers.

And this is in addition to the fact that the protein itself is toxic only when it enters the stomach of a beetle of this particular species. In humans, it breaks down like a normal protein. I will draw attention to this circumstance: in addition to the leaves of GM potatoes, the Colorado potato beetle does not eat, for example, oranges, but we can eat them, nevertheless.

5. Proteins synthesized by GM plants make themselves felt after generationsGM crops have been used as livestock feed for 17 years.

One soybean of the GTS 40-3-2 line has grown 1.5 billion tons, the vast majority of which is fed to animals. Over the years, many generations have been replaced, fed on a genetically engineered truck. During these 17 years, no cases of poisoning or deterioration of health associated with GM crops have been recorded. Not to mention mortality. Animal husbandry – first of all, money. And no businessman will feed GM feed to cattle if he finds negative consequences. Here is a study of the influence of Liberty Link corn on the development of offspring of three generations of rats. 630 adult animals and 2837 baby rats were used in the experiment.

But that's not all. All the insulin that humanity uses today is genetically engineered. It is produced by GM bacteria of E. coli. And it has been used for the second decade - very massively, I must say.

6. GM plants are dangerous for the environmentGM plants are primarily cultivated plants, they cannot survive in the wild.

Their lot is the "greenhouse" conditions of agrobiocenoses. Varieties obtained in recent decades, as a rule, either do not produce fertile offspring at all (hybrids, polyploids) or quickly degenerate in a couple of generations. The above is also true for genetically engineered plants. If over–pollination with modified genomes of natural relatives can occur, it is only at research sites. But the latter is already a question of the normal financing of research and the protection of their results. The finished product is safe.

Who needs itThe use of bioengineering in the future will allow us not only to feed ourselves hungry, but also to pay off debts to the planet – for example, to reclaim deserts, many of which are generated by the primitive agricultural activities of our ancestors.

In addition, GMOs have other great applications.

Lifestyle Pets company has released a GM cat Ashera GD, whose coat does not cause allergies. Suffering from the latter, the reader will someday be able to eat special hypoallergenic peanuts. The leaves of genetically modified lettuce can be added to diabetics' food to save them from having to inject insulin. A number of areas of the human body that are difficult for oncologists to access are accessible to GM bacteria of the Clostridium family, which multiplies in a cancerous tumor. The biochemistry of schizophrenia can now be studied on an ideal model object – a line of mice in which the gene that prevents the development of this disease in humans is blocked. The mice behave as they should: slightly inadequate.

Finally, a few words about the "Monsanta conspiracy" and other GMO conspiracy

First. Let's say that publications in the most authoritative Western scientific journals have been paid for (although the same Nature with its budget can quite afford to ignore the bribe taker). But in our country, since the "cold" 70s, studies of transgenic organisms have also been conducted. And in agriculture (and where else?) – and very meticulous. With the involvement of a lot of money and doctors. It seems that GMO hysterics should have no reason to doubt the impartiality of the Soviet agro-industry and biotech. Well? And where are the loud revelations? Where in decades has there been at least one serious study that has shown that the use of GMP is dangerous?

Second. We are doing a huge damage to the environment by traditional agriculture. And if we continue in the same spirit, then soil degradation, deforestation, the transformation of territories into agricultural land, entailing the extinction of species, the accumulation of pesticides, their ingress into groundwater and water resources will inevitably lead to a catastrophe. The reasonable introduction of biotechnological crops will reduce this harm.

The third. The hysteria around GM plants increasingly resembles an information war on the part of the main competitors of bioengineered products - manufacturers of traditional agrochemicals. Plants that are not afraid of pests are not particularly in need of pesticides. Plants that inhibit the growth of weeds will do wonderfully without herbicides. Plants that can capture nitrogen from the atmosphere themselves will not need expensive and environmentally hazardous fertilizers. So qui prodest?

Last. Ermakova's "research", noisily promoted by our kvass uberecologists, could not be repeated by any researcher in any laboratory. Although the hype around this topic in the media has been maintained for a dozen years. At the same time, there are more than 300 authoritative studies that directly prove that the danger of GMP is not at all higher than that of plants obtained by "traditional" breeding methods. Here is just a small list.

So it's one thing to be reasonably careful. There are clinical trials for this (and in the case of GMOs, they are paranoid equivalent to drug research). Quite another is the irrational fear of the unknown, which has largely ceased to be such for specialists, but retains the aura of "bearishness" for amateurs. Inflating hysteria on such an airy basis to the detriment of one's own economy cannot be assessed otherwise than negatively.

Life -affirming epilogueAccording to the conclusion of the Jewish Orthodox Union, genetic modifications do not affect the kosher quality of the product.

According to the Islamic Council of Jurisprudence, products derived from GM seeds are halal. The Catholic Church also supports the cultivation of GM crops. According to church hierarchs, these can become a solution to such global problems as hunger and poverty (see the chapter "GMOs and religion" in the article "Genetically modified organism" on Wikipedia). Amen.

I thank Ilya Polevoy for drawing attention to the topic and helping with links.Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru


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