IGEM:Harvard/2010/Human Practices

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Draft wiki page



Elements to Include

  • Overview (main page)
  • History
    • Of GMO's
    • Major policy
  • Public Perception
    • Survey and results
    • Video Interviews
  • Safety
    • Fence??
  • Controversy


Controversy over GM foods

  • "Playing God"
  • Safety
    • Whether GM foods safe for consumption (assumption that unnatural things are bad for you)
    • -->are genetically engineered foods "unnatural"? How is synthetic biology different from "traditional" genetic engineering? How are molecular techniques different from "classical" plant breeding technologies? Is there a scale of "naturalness"?
    • Danger of cross-contamination to other crops, spreading the foreign DNA constructs
  • Legal - ownership of GM plants and sales (Monsato)
  • Sustainability - economically and environmentally.
    • Harming wildlife :: Transgenic pollen harms monarch larvae (Nature, Vol 399, No 6733, p 214, May 20, 1999)[[1]] - could be likened to the DDT effect on Bald Eagle eggs exposed in Silent Spring (Rachel Carson)
  • Outcompeting other plant species (indigenous ones)

Also to consider -

  • Public perceptions of genetic engineering (Splice)
    • one thing we are trying to do with this project is to inform the public about genetic engineering and synthetic biology - we want to show them how it is done, rather than letting the media do all the talking. We want to make the processes accessible
      • How are scientists responsible for current perceptions? How can scientists work with the media and the public to engage thoughtful discussion? What is the role of different interest groups in the discussion and acceptance of new technologies? Do we need environmental groups to be critical of science in order to make better science?

Our safety concerns:

  • Genetic fence -- preventing cross pollination and spread of the GM plants.
  • Consumer safety -- making sure that the plant doesn't require that the consumer uses harmful chemicals, making the process simple and safe.
  • Making sure our constructs are not harmful.

From google - a simple overview of GMOs [[2]]

  • creating unintended allergens
    • it is very difficult to predict if a protein is going to be allergenic, this is part of the reason why it's hard to make things purposely hypoallergenic
  • unknown effects on human health

Ireland enacts GMO-Free Policy [[3]] "Green" Farming vs. Genetic Modification -- can they work together

Preliminary Outline

  • History of GM foods
    • Synthetic foods versus selection through breeding
    • Recent breakthroughs in GMOs
    • Controversy and legislation, up until today
  • GM Foods: Pros
    • Can add nutrients (i.e. golden rice)
    • More efficient growth (less pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer)
  • GM Foods: Cons and Controversy
    • Some have to to do with "unknowns"
      • Unknown safety factors: unintended allergens, unpredicted health effects (proteins can be unpredictable)
      • Unknown environmental effects: unknown effect on wildlife, competition and cross-contamination with other plant species
    • Some have to do with policy and public perception
      • Idea that by creating GMO's, we are "playing God"
      • Media tends to paint synthetic biology as grotesque (Splice, Outbreak, Fringe)
      • Ownership and Intellectual Property Rights vs. Economic Sustainability (Monsato)
  • Our Goals
    • Education