Care2 Blog Weekly Roundup (02/18/12)

Environment/Human Rights:

Bittersweet: The High Cost of Cheap Chocolate

Green Construction is Here to Stay

The Planet Hasn’t Noticed Your Green Lifestyle

The Future of Eating

Why Monsanto Fails at Sustainability

Politics:

“There’s No Market for LGBT Fiction”: Are You Sure?

2013 NASA Budget Gutted

Leaked Documents From Climate Denialism Lobbyists Revealed

2 thoughts on “Care2 Blog Weekly Roundup (02/18/12)

  1. Just read about Monsanto and I wondered if DNA is really just DNA. I am a potter and retired elementary teacher, not a research scientist or nutritionist but in trying to understand the folding of proteins I heard that the same DNA folded differently is a different substance. Thalidomide, as I understood, was not harmful to people until the manufacturing process was changed and the protein was folded differently. Then it caused all those problems. DNA now making up the proteins in Monsanto’s corn differs from DNA in those interbred corns that our bodies learned to digest over the eons. Which corn protein strands are in the plaque in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients? The new one – the created dna combinations – that our personal chemistry doesn’t break down. The new studies of feeding pigs the newest Monsanto corn shows that the animals do not gain as much weight eating the new product. Is that because they can’t digest it – can’t break down the new protein strands? The GM potatoes studied by Arapad Pusztai were also unable to nourish animals. So, I’m asking. Are you sure that inserting fish dna into a tomato doesn’t change it into something harmful? I see it as a topic not well studied and with growing proof that it is harmful. The old standard of if it looks like, smells like, grows like, taste like and feels like corn, it must be corn, isn’t good enough anymore.Thanks.

  2. Hi Elaine, thanks for your comment. When I was in university I studied physics, not biology, but I feel I have a pretty good grasp of the basics. Is DNA just DNA? Well, I’m going to hedge and say yes and no.

    Yes, in the sense that DNA doesn’t seem to possess any memory of how it was formed, it functions according to the laws of chemistry and physics regardless. In other words, if it’s possible to achieve a certain strain of corn with certain characteristics through simple selective breeding, then attaining the exact same genome through direct modification will be no more dangerous. Although a gene may come from a fish, the fact that it functions in a tomatoe suggests to me that it’s a genetic pattern the tomatoe could very well have stumbled onto on its own, if it profited the genetic carrier to do so.

    But can DNA be dangerous? Sure. Cancer is nothing more than damaged DNA causing cell machinery to go awry. Viruses are rogue, well, usually RNA, but nevermind that. I suspect that much of the arguments against genetic modification are based on (valid) concerns about the greedy companies doing the work and (invalid) concerns based on fear and magical thinking about how DNA works. I don’t like Monsanto, but I’d like to see government research along this line for the public good.

    Still, my opinions aren’t set in stone. I recognize that I’m only an educated layperson in the topic and I’m definitely open to being convinced of a legitimate danger of unforeseen consequences.

    You mention research along these lines. If you have any particular studies you want to point me to, I’d be eager to see them. If you’re right and I’m missing something, you’ll find I’m easy to convince. I’ll never hold onto a view if it’s shown to be in conflict with the evidence.

    (By the way, protein is not made up of DNA. Rather, DNA is a way of storing the pattern by which proteins are made. While DNA is made up of nucleic acids with different base pairs, protein is made up of a pattern of any of dozens of different kinds of amino acids.

    It’s not clear to me what you mean by the manufacturing process affecting the folding. Are we still talking about corn or artificially created proteins in a lab? Or is it the way the corn is processed after it is grown? Do you mean that the types of protein in Monsanto corn are different? I’d be interested to hear more about this, as well, if you’re aware of a study.)

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