That title is not meant to be tongue-in-cheek; it’s literal.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a Glossary of Agricultural Biotechnology Terms on its website that reads like the index from a science fiction novel.
Let’s take a look at a few highlights, emphasis (and commentary because I just can’t help it) added:
- Bt crops: Crops that are genetically engineered to carry a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The bacterium produces proteins that are toxic to some pests but non-toxic to humans and other mammals. Crops containing the Bt gene are able to produce this toxin, thereby providing protection for the plant. Bt corn and Bt cotton are examples of commercially available Bt crops. (Non-toxic to ‘pests’ but other living things? Really? Through what, magic? Because the independent research doesn’t support this assertion.)
- Clone: A genetic replica of an organism created without sexual reproduction. (It’s sad how mainstream this term is now.)
- Mutation: Any heritable change in DNA structure or sequence. The identification and incorporation of useful mutations has been essential for traditional crop breeding. (What about the other, non-useful mutations? Environment-damaging mutations? I noticed ‘superbugs’ and ‘superweeds’ linked to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) weren’t mentioned anywhere on the list.)
- Recombinant DNA (rDNA): A molecule of DNA formed by joining different DNA segments using recombinant DNA technology. (This doesn’t sound scary or Jurassic Park-esque at all. Even as I write this, I keep waiting for a velociraptor to pop out).
- Transgene: A gene from one organism inserted into another organism by recombinant DNA techniques. (Just like nature never intended.)
- Vector: 1. A type of DNA element, such as a plasmid, or the genome of a bacteriophage, or virus, that is self-replicating and that can be used to transfer DNA segments into target cells. 2. An insect or other organism that provides a means of dispersal for a disease or parasite.
Other items the USDA thought to include are ‘virtual genomic libraries’ and intellectual property rights (of course…see diagram below for more on that).
Interestingly, the second and third entries on this biotech terms list are “allergen” and “allergy”. It’s true that food allergies are skyrocketing off the charts these days. I wonder why the USDA felt those two terms were necessary inclusions on a reference list regarding GMOs? Is there something they know that we don’t? (That last question was rhetorical.)
The USDA is clearly much more interested in familiarizing us with GMO than they are in allowing us to know whether or not we are eating it.
In related news, this: