DNA Day experts answer your questions about genetically modified crops

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By genetically modifying crops, do we lose any of the nutritional value, or are we just getting better versions of the same thing?

There is no evidence to my knowledge that we are losing nutritional value in genetically modified crops. We genetically modify for disease resistance and enhanced environmental growth conditions.

- Answer provided by Dr. Dennis McCormac

GMO crops seem easy - can we genetically modify our meat supply in the same ways?

It already exists, e.g. cattle that have the gene removed that encodes the PrP protein (the one that causes Mad Cow Disease). It is worth noting though that "seem easy" and "is easy" don't always go together, and consumers education about the specific modifications is essential for acceptance (e.g. removing a native gene vs. inserting one from another organisms).

- Answer provided by Dr. Paul Gordon

Currently the main focus of GMO projects are centred around the improvement of desirable plants/crops to make them stronger and more resilient to pests that harm. Has the concept of modifying the pests to be less harmful ever been considered and if it has what was the result of it?

I don't know offhand of experiments for crops, but certainly this method has been tried for insect-borne tropical diseases. An issue is that things will tend to evolve towards avoiding the genetic constraints, so it works best for cases where the change doesn't affect the disease directly but rather its vector. That's why modifying mosquitoes can work, but not modifying the malaria they carry. With plants I guess theoretically that rust or some other diseases may be abated by modifying their vector insects, but this is both probably impractical and perhaps undesirable (lay of unintended consequences) outside a controlled lab environment.

- Answer provided by Dr. Paul Gordon

How do you go about researching the safety of GMO food or crops? Can it come up with any definitive answers?

This is handled by the regulatory systems of every country. There are rigourous protocols in place and an enormous amount of data must be generated and supplied by and to the regulatory agency to demonstrate the safety of the food.

- Answer provided by Dr. Sylvie Cloutier

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