Science » Technologies and discoveries
Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

GMOs start Golden Age era for modern-day biology

It is still open to question whether GMOs are a benefit or a time bomb for humans. Israeli scientists contrived to breed wholesome tobacco in three years. In the north of the country the company CollPlant breeds plants in 1,000 m2 technological incubators. These plants only look like all other plants. The thing is that in the hot house they breed transgenic tobacco, in the genome of which the scientists had implanted five human genes. Thus the plants became the source of valuable human collagen that is widely used in cosmetology and plastic surgery to heal scorches, injuries and a number of orthopedic problems. Human collagen, one of the major proteins in the human body, makes up about 25 percent of the body’s “dry substance.” When extracted from plants, it is absolutely harmless; it does not cause allergy and is much cheaper, unlike its animal analogues. By the end of 2008, CollPlant is going to first supply human collagen extracted from transgenic tobacco.

Other scientists conduct reverse operations using the so-called “gene quenching” technology. For instance, scientists from New Zealand and Japan contrived to get a new sort of onions that does not cause tears. The workers of the Crop and Food research institute in New Zealand removed the gene regulating enzyme that is discharged when we cut onions. This substance starts a chain of chemical reactions, which creates a tears-causing stimulant. They started working on the project in 2002 after the Japanese scientists had removed the gene that produces the tears-causing substance. Formerly scientists considered that this ‘tear agent’ was created spontaneously while we cut onions. However, the research showed that it is controlled by enzyme. The new type of onion will not make you cry, said Colin Eady, the senior research officer of the institute. Nevertheless, scientists think a decade will pass at least before the new type of onions is supplied to shops.

Today there is no unanimous attitude about GMOs. Meanwhile, scientists have bred pesticide-proof tobacco that entered markets in 1982; they invented frost-proof tomatoes, the DNA of which contains the gene of the Arctic deep-sea flounder. Because of this gene such tomatoes become resistant to cold. They bred the ‘golden rice’, in the genome of which they implanted genes that synthesize beta-carotene (the predecessor of vitamin A in the organism) and the genes that increase the ferrous content in grains. Scientists engendered soy beans, white beets and two breeds of corn resistant to herbicides; corn that can resist corn borer (ostrinia nubilalis) and two breeds of potatoes that can resist Colorado beetles.

Some scientists believe that the Golden Age for biology has come now. Deciphering the genetic code in the DNA enabled scientists to apply the genetic engineering knowledge in biology, in bioengineering, to be more exact. In order to create GMOs, a gene of one organism should be implanted into another to lend this organism new properties (frost-, drought- and pest-resistance, long storage abilities and so on). It also makes products much cheaper. Scientists expect to receive impressive results from another branch of bioengineering – creating new medicines and vaccines. Thanks to genetic engineering mankind uses such medications as insulin, interferon, vaccine against viral hepatitis B and others.

However, these are scientists who strongly oppose GMOs. They are sure that these mutants are dangerous for health and ecology. Many countries either refused to produce and sell GMO or introduced strict rules to restrict their turnover for the population.

This uncertainty of attitudes is caused by the insufficient understanding of functioning and regulating of the genome of plants, unpredictable effect of the received genetic structures, their instability and technological rubbish in them.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Translated by Julia Bulygina