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QUIZ: FOODS FROM GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS
July 13, 2000, Purdue University -- Press Release
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.-Some food companies have stopped using genetically
modified crops as sources for their foods. But if you are like many
Americans, you may think you don't know enough about the issue to know
whether you agree or disagree with those who pressed for these changes. A
May 2000 survey by the International Food Information Council found that
only one in five Americans consider themselves informed about foods produced
with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Peter Goldsbrough, a plant
scientist and expert in genetically modified crops at Purdue University, has
developed nine questions to test your knowledge of genetically modified
foods and agricultural biotechnology:
1. Have you eaten foods made from genetically modified crops?
2. Which foods use genetically modified organisms in their production to the
3. What are the current benefits of having foods made from genetically
a. They improve farm profitability and make some farmers' jobs easier.
b. They allow farmers to greatly increase the amount of crops produced.
c. They improve convenience for consumers, e.g. by creating foods with
longer shelf lives.
d. They improve the nutritional quality of foods.
e. They cause less damage to the environment than conventional
4. Of the foods we eat, how much contains the genetic material DNA?
a. Less than 5 percent.
b. 20 percent.
c. 50 percent.
d. 80 percent.
e. Nearly 100 percent.
5. Most foods derived from genetically modified crops contain:
a. The same number of genes as food produced from conventional crops.
b. The same number of genes as foods produced from hybrid crops.
c. One or two additional genes.
d. Hundreds of additional genes.
e. No genes at all.
6. What effect does eating genetically modified foods have on your genes?
a. It could cause your own genes to mutate.
b. It could cause your own genes to absorb the excess genes.
c. It has no effect on your genes.
d. The effects on human genetics aren't known.
7. Are foods made from genetically modified crops required to pass human
8. Are foods derived from genetically modified crops required to be tested
for possible allergic reactions in people?
9. Are foods derived from genetically modified crops nutritionally superior?
a. Yes, they offer substantial health advantages over foods produced from
b. Yes, they offer some health advantages over foods produced from
c. No, they are neither better nor worse than foods from conventional crops.
d. No, they are slightly less healthful than foods from conventional crops.
e. No, foods produced from genetically modified crops are a known health
1. Answer: a. Yes. "If you live in the United States, it's almost certain
that at one time or another you've eaten foods made from genetically
modified crops," Goldsbrough says. A large percentage of the corn and
soybeans grown in the United States comes from genetically modified plants,
and the crops from these plants are made into common food ingredients such
as high fructose corn syrup and vegetable oil as well as other food
additives. The corn syrup is used in a number of products, including soft
drinks, and the vegetable oil is used to fry foods such as fast-food french
fries. According to the Grocery Manufacturers of America, this year an
estimated 70 percent of the foods on grocery store shelves will have been
made or manufactured using genetically modified crops.
2. Answer: a. Cheese. Before the advent of genetically modified organisms,
cheese was produced using an enzyme obtained from the stomachs of calves
slaughtered for veal. Now genetically modified bacteria produce that same
protein. One result of this is that many cheeses are now considered Kosher.
3. Answer: a. They improve farm profitability and make some farmers' jobs
easier. Right now, genetically modified crops have made life a little bit
easier for the nation's farmers who use them. However, scientists and
farmers believe that soon all of the answers will be true: genetically
modified crops will create foods that are more nutritious, have longer shelf
lives, contain fewer pesticides, and are produced with less damage to the
4. Answer: e. Nearly 100 percent. All plant and animal cells contain DNA, so
nearly all food contains genetic material regardless of whether the food has
been genetically modified. There are a few exceptions, however. "During the
processing of some food products, such as vegetable cooking oils, almost all
of the DNA is removed," Goldsbrough says.
5. Answer: c. One or two additional genes. Genetically modified crops
contain one or two additional genes than either conventional or hybrid
6. Answer: c. It has no effect on your genes. "Genes in foods are easily
digested and there is no evidence that these new genes are going to have any
affect on our genes," Goldsbrough says.
7. Answer: b. No. "There are currently no regulations that require human
testing of these crops," Goldsbrough says. "The producers are required by
the Food and Drug Administration to say where the genes come from and to
disclose nutritional properties, but that is as far as the requirements go."
8. Answer: b. No. There are no requirements to test whether genetically
modified crops cause allergic reactions. "When Pioneer put genes from brazil
nuts into foods and found that they did cause an allergic reaction by using
skin tests, they stopped research on that product," Goldsbrough says. So far
this system appears to work. When conventional new foods are introduced into
the U.S. market-such as kiwi fruit-allergic reactions are common. But after
three years of widespread use in the United States, no allergic reactions to
genetically modified crops have been reported.
9. Answer: c. No. They are neither better nor worse than foods from
conventional crops. "Most of the genetically modified crops currently
available are designed to reduce farmers' production costs. Under some
circumstances there may be less pesticides used, and there is some
indication that genetically modified corn is less likely to be infected with
fungal toxins that are natural carcinogens, but the overall health effect of
these benefits is minor," Goldsbrough says. "In the future these
technologies hold the promise of delivering foods that are nutritionally
enhanced. For example, foods might provide essential vitamins or contain
natural compounds that can help improve your health."
GMO CROPS? TEST YOURSELF WITH THIS QUIZ
July 13, 2000 Purdue University -- Press Release
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.-Nearly half of American farms grow genetically
modified crops such as Bt corn or glyphosate-resistant (Roundup-ready)
soybeans. Peter Goldsbrough, a plant scientist and expert in genetically
modified crops at Purdue University, has developed 10 questions to test your
knowledge of genetically modified foods and agricultural biotechnology:
1. As a result of genetically modified crops, chemical use on farms has:
a. Gone up dramatically.
b. Gone down dramatically.
c. Gone up on some but no change on others.
d. Gone down on some crops but there is little or no change on others.
e. Not changed.
2. The first plant that was modified by genetic engineering was produced in
a laboratory in:
3. Will insects develop resistance to the toxins produced in Bt corn?
a. It is impossible for insects to develop resistance to Bt corn.
b. It is unlikely that insects will develop resistance to Bt corn.
c. Under certain conditions insects may develop resistance to Bt corn.
d. It is almost certain that insects will develop resistance to Bt corn.
e. Insects are already resistant to the toxins produced in Bt corn.
4. Does Bt corn or Bt cotton only kill specific pests that damage the crop?
a. The Bt toxin kills all insects.
b. The Bt toxin kills European corn borer and other flying insects.
c. The Bt toxin kills the European corn borer and its close relatives.
d. The Bt toxin only kills the insects for which it is targeted.
e. The Bt toxin repels but doesn't kill insects.
5. When did crops become resistant to herbicides?
a. Crops have always been resistant to some herbicides.
b. After the introduction of Bt corn in 1997.
c. After the introduction of Roundup-ready soybeans in 1996.
d. Crops are not resistant to herbicides.
6. Can genes escape from genetically modified crops and jump to other
a. Yes, and often do.
b. Only to some crops, but those crops aren't genetically modified.
c. Only during rare climatic conditions.
d. No, genes cannot move from species to species without human intervention.
7. If we make plants that survive in regions where they normally wouldn't
survive, such as very cold regions, could this cause unexpected ecological
a. No, the crops are only suited for cultivated fields.
b. It is possible that a crop might invade the surrounding ecosystem.
c. It is certain that the crop would move from the fields into the
8. How long does it take to develop a new genetically modified crop?
a. Twenty years.
b. Ten years.
c. Five years.
d. One year.
e. Six months.
9. Can scientists predict with certainty where an inserted gene will go on a
a. With modern genetic techniques, scientists can insert genes precisely.
b. Genes are inserted on the proper chromosome, but there is no control on
where it goes on the chromosome.
c. Scientists have a general idea of where the gene will go and what it will
do to the plant.
d. It's just a shot in the dark.
10. Can agricultural biotechnology reduce our dependence on petroleum?
a. Most of it.
b. Some of it.
c. No effect on petroleum use.
1. Answer: d. Chemical use has gone down on some crops but there is little
or no change on others. "In some cases the use of genetically modified crops
may reduce the use of pesticides, but people are still going to use
herbicides to control weeds," Goldsbrough says. "But it can reduce the use
of some pesticides that are more likely to damage the environment, and that
2. Answer: d. 1984. "However, genetic modification and selection of plants
has been going on for about 10,000 years, since the start of agriculture,"
3. Answer: d. It is almost certain that insects will develop resistance to
Bt corn. Insect resistance to Bt toxin has already been demonstrated in the
laboratory and observed in the field, according to Goldsbrough. "Insects
will eventually develop resistance to the Bt toxin," he says. "Farmers are
required to plant refuges of conventional crops and take other measures to
slow down the development of resistance in insects, but it will eventually
happen. Nobody knows when that will happen-this is a big ecological
experiment that's going on."
4. Answer: c. The Bt toxin kills the European corn borer and its close
relatives. Scientists were not surprised to learn last summer that monarch
butterflies would die if forced to eat the Bt toxin. The European corn borer
is the larva of a moth, and the Bt toxin will kill only moth or butterfly
larvae that eat it. However, monarch butterflies typically don't eat the
corn plant. "The Bt toxins produced by Bt corn aren't species specific,"
Goldsbrough says. "But they are much more specific than flying over a field
with an airplane and spraying a general insecticide. The notion that this is
a silver bullet is wrong, but so is the idea that this is killing all
insects such as the monarch butterfly. Genetically modified crops offer a
number of advantages compared to spraying insecticides."
5. Answer: a. Crops have always been resistant to some herbicides. "If they
weren't, then farmers couldn't use herbicides such as atrazine on corn or
some of the common herbicides on soybeans," Goldsbrough says. "While there
is something novel about the herbicide-resistant crops produced through
biotechnology, there is also something that is very much the same as before.
This is more of an evolution than a revolution."
6. Answer: a. Yes, and often do. If crops are able to breed with wild
relatives, the new genes will be spread to those wild plants. For example,
sorghum can breed with the common weeds johnson grass and shattercane, and
canola can breed with wild mustard plants. "So if you made Roundup-ready
sorghum you'd quickly end up with Roundup-ready shattercane," Goldsbrough
Scientists safeguard against this by not releasing genetically modified
crops in areas where wild relatives are present. "There are no relatives of
maize [corn] and soybeans in the United States where the crops are planted,"
Scientists did develop a technology that would prevent this crossover by
making the genetically modified crops sterile. However, the technology came
under attack from environmental groups, which labeled it the "Terminator
gene," and the technology never made it to market.
7. Answer: b. It is possible that a crop might invade the surrounding
ecosystem. "I don't think that's a likely scenario, but it could happen,"
Goldsbrough says. "For example, if you make strawberries that can resist
frosts, you may have made the plant more competitive under certain
conditions, and it is possible that it could become an exotic weed like wild
mustard. That's something that's difficult to predict."
8. Answer: b. Ten years. "At the moment it takes approximately 10 years to
develop a new genetically modified crop," Goldsbrough says. "It takes
several years to test these genes to see how they work. Then the crops are
evaluated under different environments over several years, just as other
crops are evaluated before they're released to the growers. It's a long,
careful process. That doesn't mean it's foolproof, but it's a deliberate
process." Goldsbrough says new advances in technology, such as genomics, may
speed the process of discovering desirable genes, but bringing new
genetically modified crops to market will still take several years.
9. Answer: d. It's a shot in the dark. In some cases, a literal shot. For
the most part, genes are moved into plants in one of two ways: using
bacteria as carriers, or using air guns that shoot the genetic material into
the cells. Just a few years ago scientists used .22 caliber blank cartridges
to shoot the genes into the cells, giving the technique the label "gene
gun." Once the genetic material is in the cells, the plants incorporate the
DNA into their own chromosomes. But because scientists have no control over
where the genes might go in the plant cells, they must germinate, grow and
test hundreds or thousands of plants to find the ones where the introduced
genes work properly and produce the desired traits. "The current
state-of-the-art technology is unpredictable. Where the genes end up is a
random process and can have unanticipated effects," Goldsbrough says. "But
the plants that don't have the appropriate characteristics are discarded."
10. Answer: b. Some of it. "Plants harvest the energy in sunlight, the
ultimate renewable resource, and plants are being developed that will
produce plastics, fuels and other high value products. This has the
potential to reduce our consumption of petroleum-based products.
Biotechnology may allow us to reduce our reliance on fossil-based fuels,"
swt/0007 AP Goldsbrough.cropquiz
Writer: Steve Tally, (765) 494-9809; firstname.lastname@example.org
Related Web sites:
Goldsbrough's professional web site:
Biotechnology time line: http://www.ncbiotech.org/aboutbt/timeline.cfm
International Food Information Council Foundation survey on consumer views
on biotechnology: http://ificinfo.health.org/foodbiotech/survey.htm