Sunday, January 16, 2011

Still Undecided About GMOs?

Me too.

On one hand, Genetically Modified Organisms seem great. Altered seeds like Bt Cotton produce plants that protect themselves from their biggest pest therefore reducing the need for insecticides. On both hands, Roundup Ready seeds that allow big farms to spray entire fields with herbicides, which is convenient for them and reduces the need for tilling and the accompanying soil compaction, but has also eradicated Vitamin A-rich weeds in nations whose people depend on them. Then there is Golden Rice - Monsanto's promise to feed and nourish the Vitamin A-deficient folks. While I remain undecided on modified seeds and the controversial patent laws that accompany any discussions around them, I just discovered a whole other wing of GMOs to ponder: Bird Flu Resistant Chickens. Popular Science reports:

Generating flu-resistant birds may be more effective than giving vaccinations to an entire flock, said Dr. Laurence Tiley, a veterinarian and lecturer in molecular virology at the University of Cambridge, England, one of the authors of the chicken study. Vaccinated birds may not develop flu, but the virus can still replicate in their bodies and be transmitted to other unvaccinated fowl, he explained in a podcast with the journal Science, which publishes the study tomorrow. Besides, just like with human influenza, there are plenty of strains, and vaccines don’t cover all of them.

The new genetic modification is basically the opposite — birds will still get sick and die, but they won’t pass on the virus to other birds, a major advancement for animals that generally live in very close quarters. The lack of transmission also means the virus will be less likely to spread to people.
Read more here and here.

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