In a laboratory in Yolo County, California, scientists are infusing grapes with jellyfish genes. This process, called a “transgenic event”, helps the fruit resist disease as it journeys to your produce stand or into your box of wine. Frederick Kaufman visited the UC Davis Plant Transformation Facility for Vice and learned, among other things, a few ways to put the “gene” into genetically modified food:
1) Use a DNA gun, also known as a Model PDS-1000 Helium Biolistic Particle Delivery System, in which one bombards microscopic genetic bits into a plant using tiny bullets made of real gold (I’m not making this up).
2) Create a genetic tumor made from the desired DNA inside the target plant. Called the “agrobacterium” method, this process involves cutting the desired host plant and soaking it in a bacterial soup, from which the DNA will grow into a “controlled infection” that will become a permanent part of the plant.
Sound delicious? Kaufman writes that these scientists hope that “biopharming will help feed the world by creating next-generation drought-resistant crops, flood-resistant crops, insect-resistant crops, herbicide-resistant crops, and crops that can be grown under harsher conditions than traditional varieties can stand...”
Still, “biotechnology has many foes, all of them happy to assert that next-generation groceries pose a threat to public health as grave as tobacco, asbestos, and DDT.”