Are GMO’s more natural than we thought?

Reflections from a budding biologist

A recent nugget in The Economist adds to the ever beleaguered conversation about  GMO’s. The article relays the findings of an analysis out of Cambridge in which scientists restate the ubiquitousness of genetic recombination interplay amongst organisms vis-á-vis horizontal gene transfer. A thought provoking read when viewed through the lens of what biotechnology is trying to achieve with GMO’s; the surrounding controversy sounding something like “its just not natural.” OK now. Only. It is, kinda. The scientists, examining the transcriptomes of animals and non animals, were able to determine how many genes in an organism’s genome were due to horizontal gene transfer. Humans have 145 genes in our transcriptome that originated in another organism. Kinda plays into Richard Dawkins’ Selfish Gene idea as well. Could messing with the genome of corn be less unnatural than most people think? Insert shoulder shrug here!

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2 thoughts on “Are GMO’s more natural than we thought?

  1. This is a surprisingly technical article for The Economist about an interesting new paper in Genome Biology on horizontal gene transfer (HGT). I second Avery’s ‘shoulder-shrug’. While I appreciate the analogy between genetic engineering and HGT, the fact of HGT doesn’t inform us at all about the dangers or morality of genetic engineering. There’s also a general misunderstanding of scale in the Economist article — HGT basically shut off after the most recent common ancestor of primates!

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