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should we grow them?
engineer a crop
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guess what's coming to dinner? by lexi krock

picnic table


pizzaFor each of the ingredients you might find in a pizza, including cheese, wheat, green peppers, onions, and tomatoes, scientists are testing GM varieties. They are modifying rennet, a dried extract used to curdle milk for cheese, to speed the cheese-making process, wheat used in bleached flour to be more easily digestible and produce greater yields; and green peppers, onions, and tomatoes to stay fresh longer in supermarkets, resist pests, and survive droughts.
bananasScientists are testing several different crops for use as edible vaccines against a host of diseases, including hepatitis, polio, cholera, and malaria. Bananas and other fruits may serve as particularly good storage media for edible vaccines, because their skins provide sterile barriers against contamination. Bananas are also indigenous to many developing nations. There, conventional vaccines can be difficult to deliver on a broad scale, because they typically need to be refrigerated and administered by health-care professionals.
coffeeSeveral biotechnology companies are testing coffee plants engineered to produce coffee with altered caffeine content. If these new coffee beans are approved for public consumption, coffee growers could potentially produce decaffeinated coffee beans, avoiding having to decaffeinate coffee beans after the harvest.
flyThe first GM insects are due for release in the United States this summer. Using what is called the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), biotechnologists genetically sterilize an all-male population of pests, which are then released into a crop area. Since the GM insect cannot contribute to reproduction and most female pests can mate only once, the pest population in the release area is eventually reduced or even eliminated. Successful SIT programs in other countries include the eradication of the tsetse fly in Zanzibar, the melon fly in the Okinawa islands, the Queensland fruit fly from western Australia, and the med fly from Mexico.
fruitPlant geneticists are testing almost any fruit you can think of for GM variety approval. Strawberries, pears, melons, apples, grapefruits, and watermelons with altered sugar content, fruit ripening cycles, and pest resistance may be hitting your local produce aisle soon.
sushiRice is one of the three crops, along with corn and wheat, on which scientists have conducted the most research using genetic modification. In test fields around the world, researchers are planting rice with altered starch levels, pest resistance, and "edible nutrition" (genetically added vitamins and minerals not naturally present).
cornBiotech companies have filed more applications to plant varieties of GM corn in field tests than any other crop. So far, they are testing corn concoctions that have altered oil profiles, amino-acid compositions, seed color, starch content, and ability to tolerate drought.
flowersPetunias may become the first GM flowering plants available to decorate your dinner table. Researchers are currently conducting tests on petunias possessing GM coloring and pesticide resistance.
friesPotatoes engineered to absorb less oil when fried are currently pending approval by food regulatory boards. Bioengineers are also working to generate high-performance cooking oils such as peanut oil, sunflower oil, and soybean oil, which may allow for healthier fried foods with fewer saturated fats.
cottonSoon, perhaps, even your tablecloth may contain GM material. Testing is underway on GM cotton with altered fiber quality that is also moth resistant and drought tolerant.


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wheat photograph ©h. david sewell/corbis
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fries flowers #sushi corn fruit banana fly coffee pizza cotton

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