TALON Talk: GMOs, For the better or the worse?

My inquiry question was “what is the relationship between how GM crops are made and how they affect us, and can we positively apply GM crops to our lives?” I talk about what a GMO is, how they are made, how they affect us, and explain if they can be positive. I did quite a bit of research on this topic, and trying to make this as concise as possible was quite a challenge. Also, I focused on the science behind GM crops, and tried to avoid any political viewpoints to remain impartial. I hope you enjoy and learn something from clicking the link below!

TED Talk

Bibliography

Image sources are below the images.

14 thoughts on “TALON Talk: GMOs, For the better or the worse?

  1. Interesting TALON Talk Jerome! I liked the way that you structured it, and found it very convincing. However, I am wondering to what extent we can use GMO. Since we can only edit a plant to a certain extent, at what point will we need to stop? I would also like to know the impacts of GMO crops on climate change, and whether we can use them to improve our situation or not.

  2. Thank you for your comment! For your first question, I could be Hamilton and write an essay, but I’ll just give the general answer. Since we need to take the desired gene from another existing organism with the desired trait, we are limited in the number of traits. Also, the process of editing GMOs is extremely costly (the average GMO takes over 10 years to develop and costs millions of dollars), and sometimes adding a gene can result in undesirable consequences. Previous GM plant projects had to be abandoned due to health concerns, and because the financial risk is so high, if the success rate is low, scientists usually choose not to risk modifying the plant. Basically, there’s a financial extent.
    Answering your second question, GM crops can be used improve climate change. Organic farming methods use 40% more land than conventional farming methods, and certain GM crops can have yields three times larger than conventional crops. At the very least, GM crops would save 21 893 492 square kilometers (a little less than the size of the United States and Canada combined) than organic farming methods, potentially saving forests from being turned into trees. Trees, release oxygen during photosynthesis, and more trees means less carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Also, with climate change and rising temperatures, GM crops would be very beneficial to us, as we could engineer them to adapt to rising temperatures.

  3. Engaging and interesting TED talk Jerome! I had a similar topic to you, but I focused on humans rather than plants. It was interesting to learn how genetically modifying plants works, because I focused more on the human side so it was nice to learn some new information. Something I’m wondering is the extent to which we can modify plants. I understand we have the capability to modify small characteristics such as bacterial resistance, but what about things like preventing them from dying, or making plants that normally die in winter suddenly be able to thrive? I also would’ve liked to see some more pictures, because although you did put quite a few in, there were parts that had no visual aids for quite a while, and pictures can really help some visual learners, for say me. Overall, very well prepared and researched TED talk, and you really knew you stuff. Great work!

    • Thanks for your feedback! It was interesting to see the similarities and differences in our TED talks.
      Answering your question, I’m going to copy-pasta part of the answer I gave to Dylan and add a bit more to it, since he asked a similar question.
      Since we need to take the desired gene from another existing organism with the desired trait, we are limited in the number of traits. We would need to find a gene in another organism that has the specific trait. For example, we could take the gene from a perennial and insert it into the GM crop. Currently, however, we don’t have the technology to do this.

  4. What’s up Jerome!
    That was an excellent ted talk! I actually came here right after watching Kimi’s ted talk, that touched on GMO fish and what it does to the environment. This was a nice transition.
    I really enjoyed your argument on why GMO crops and foods in general can be a great thing as well as bad, going through each and every pro and con.
    At first when you came up to me and said that you support GMO’s and think they are good, I did not understand you and thought you were joking.
    With your numbers on the population hitting higher than 9 billion in the near decades to come, and that 51 % of land would be covered for agriculture if we went to only farm naturally…it was quite something that I never knew.
    Now I know why GMO’s are considered so useful and why people continue to work with them even with the proven health problems that can follow with them.
    I have a question regarding something I learned from Kimi’s ted talk but directly connects to yours. Kimi said that GMO salmon are not marked GMO specifically and sold just like natural salmon here in Canada, as the GMO fish are past the normal food gradings of health canada. Are plants like that too? When I buy my vegetables, some of which do no say GMO, would I sometimes be eating GMO tomatos?
    Thanks for a very interesting talk! I really enjoyed it.

    • Thank you for your comment! Before I answer your question, I would like to add that the population hitting 9.6 billion is a relatively conservative estimate. Norman Borlaug, my eminent person, and many other biotechnologists predict the world population to exceed 10 billion by 2050. Also, the 51% is also an extremely conservative estimate. Of the 37% of land used for agriculture, only 3.5% is wholly suitable for organic agriculture. We couldn’t possibly expect the same yields from Siberia, the Canadian Arctic, or expect China to feed it’s 1.3 billion population when only 15% of it’s land is arable.
      I apologize for being Hamilton, I shall now answer your question.
      While there is voluntary labeling of GMO’s in Canada, it’s not mandatory, so many farmers choose not to label their crops. In the case of your tomato, however, you should be fine. Only a few GM crops are grown in Canada. Corn, soy, canola, and sugar beets. We do get imports from the US, however, and we get GM papaya, GM squash, and GM cottonseed oil. Laws may change in the future, and hopefully corporations will be more willing to label their GM crops, but as of now, you can eat that tomato in peace.

  5. That’s a good looking dress shirt Jerome. Overall your TED talk was very informative, and I like how you’re continuing to go on with this farming/agriculture idea throughout the whole year. The connection with our science curriculum is smooth, and I never knew that there was so much happening behind the scenes with plants, specifically the shocking of bacteria carrying desired traits. The Trojan Horse actually assisted me a lot when imagining the process you explained, and dang! A tortilla? Anaphylactic shock? Your analysis of GMOs provides a large amount of great information in a compact, concise TED Talk. I can now tell everyone I know that I have a newly found outlook on GMOs and their potential, the background, and how scientists are implementing them.

    A question I have focuses on the lady with allergies. What caused these allergies and how did they get there, GMO wise?

    Some constructive criticism, it was a little plain at some points. The information was interesting and great, all I’d like to say is to add more gesticulation, or do something with your body while speaking. Sick TED talk Jerome.

    • Your kind words flatter me, sir. I’m glad you found my dress shirt aesthetically pleasing, as white with stripes was something I carefully calculated to add to the effectiveness of my TED talk.

      Allergies from GM crops are caused due to the addition of a foreign protein. When we genetically modify crops. we add a specific gene to it that produces a desired protein that carries the desired trait. This gene could come from anywhere, and the protein created from the information in the gene can be a protein that was never meant for human consumption. In the case with the woman who got an anaphylactic reaction from the corn tortilla, the addition of a gene that contained the information to create the protein Cry9C, a protein NOT approved for human consumption and typically found in common ground bacteria, caused an anaphylactic reaction. Basically what this means is that we could be eating a nice, juicy piece of GM watermelon and get an anaphylactic reaction due to a protein found in soy. Since then, however, many laws have been introduced and all new GM crops are approved for human consumption before hitting the markets.

  6. Relevant and interesting TED talk, Jerome! I enjoyed your analogy that used the Trojan horse to explain how desired traits are put into plants. I also found your presentation quite interesting, as my TED talk was about the use of genome editing technology to cure cancer. There were many interesting parallels and differences between the two processes. I was wondering if you found anything in your research about any possible, unintentional effects of the proteins added to the plants on the plants nutritional value? I understand that unexpected changes can lead to unusual allergic reactions, but I was wondering if you found anything surrounding decreased nutrients or impacts on minerals that might make them unavailable to humans?

    • Thank you for your comment! Your question was one of the many questions that came up during my inquiry, and unfortunately, I can only tell you that there really isn’t one answer to it. Many anti-GMO websites claim that GM crops have less nutritional value. Theoretically, this could be true. Foreign genes could increase phytate levels, a compound that binds with minerals and makes them unavailable to humans, decreasing the mineral nutritional value. From the other perspective, GM crops have the same nutritional value as non-GM crops, if not more. GM crops could actually increase the nutritional value of crops. Golden rice is currently a GM rice in development that has high amounts of vitamin A and may potentially help areas with vitamin A deficiency. I apologize for not being able to give a straightforward answer to your question, but I hope illustrating the two perspectives answered at least a part of your question.

  7. Informative and entertains ted talk, Jerome! I really liked your Trojan horse comparison, as it was creative and very helpful in further explaining your point. I also was really engaged by your part about unintentional protein addition, and was wondering if it is possible for scientists to genetically remove these proteins.

    • Thank you for your feedback! I found my initial explanation of Agrobacterium Tumefaciens to be a bit too complicated, so I decided to add the Trojan horse analogy. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
      The addition of the allergen inducing protein is simply a consequence of adding a foreign gene. Cry9C, the protein that caused the anaphylactic reaction, is also a biological pesticide. Back then, there was a risk of the protein being an allergen as it lingered in the digestive system. We could remove these proteins, or just not put them in to begin with, but if we do, the biological pesticide trait of the plant will also be lost. Nowadays, we make sure that the GM crop is fit for human consumption before it hits the markets, so the chances of this occurring again is very low.

  8. Great TALON Talk! Straight away, you had a very confident and clear voice that made it clear that you knew what you were doing. You also had an interesting hook, having us wonder what was so great, and bad, about GMOs. Talking about good and bad, you also did a great job of introducing GMOs flaws & strengths. You also did exceptionally well when depicting why GMO is so helpful to humanity. I also liked how you explained everything mostly vocally, with images to go along nicely. Finally, you had a very infomercial like subtext and I was convinced that GMO has a very bright future.

    Some questions I have are:
    a. What makes GMO foods trigger allergies that wouldn’t necessarily be triggered by a natural foods?
    b. Do you know of any cases where scientists and/or farmers were looking for one effect, but had a pleasant side effect? (e.g looking to make fruit resistant to going bad and unintentionally making it resilient to weather conditions?)

    The only thing that I can think of that needs improvement is the camera quality. I know that’s not really helpful or reasonable, but it’s really all I got.

    Impressive TALON Talk.
    Cheers,
    Yoonha

  9. Merci beaucoup! I appreciate your feedback. Kevin asked a really similar question, so I’ll copypasta the answer I gave him.
    Allergies from GM crops are caused due to the addition of a foreign protein. When we genetically modify crops. we add a specific gene to it that produces a desired protein that carries the desired trait. This gene could come from anywhere, and the protein created from the information in the gene can be a protein that was never meant for human consumption. In the case with the woman who got an anaphylactic reaction from the corn tortilla, the addition of a gene that contained the information to create the protein Cry9C, a protein NOT approved for human consumption and typically found in common ground bacteria, caused an anaphylactic reaction. Basically what this means is that we could be eating a nice, juicy piece of GM watermelon and get an anaphylactic reaction due to a protein found in soy. Since then, however, many laws have been introduced and all new GM crops are approved for human consumption before hitting the markets.
    While I don’t know of any specific cases of farmers or scientists unintentionally creating a GM with a different positive effect than what was initially expected, the whole process of creating a GM crop involves quite a bit of trial and error, even with a standardized procedure. Scientists could be removing pieces of the seed to see which gene is causing the desired trait, and unintentionally discover a different trait that was positively impacting the plant. I apologize for not being able to give you a definitive answer, but I hope I answered at least a part of your question.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *