Are there really non-vegetarian vegetables?

In southern Ontario, tobacco is being grown with human genes, also to try to get the plant to produce a drug. In the West Coast of the USA, researchers inserted a human gene related to breast milk into a potato to try to get the potato to produce human milk. In the orient, researchers inserted a rat gene into a cross between kale and Chinese broccoli, in the hope of increasing vitamin C content.

“Are there really non-vegetarian vegetables?” Genetic Engineering Q & A with Canadian Expert Richard Wolfson

Question: How common is it that animal genes are being used in fruits and vegetables and why are experiments being conducted in this area?

Dozens of genetically modified crops are being developed or coming down the pipeline, but there are only 20-30 approved genetically engineered crops so far. Of these, they are mainly just different varieties of a few crops, namely corn, soy, canola, potatoes, and cotton. There are a few other approved crops, like long-shelf life tomatoes or virus resistant papayas, but these are not being widely marketed, because they don’t taste good. (In the USA there is also a virus resistant squash that was approved.)

GE potatoes and corn contain a bacterial toxin gene, which creates a toxin throughout the crop so that insect pests who eat the crops die. GE soy, canola, and some corn contain a herbicide tolerance gene, to allow the crops to withstand more use of toxic herbicides.

None of these particular approved crops contain foreign genes from animals. However, we still do not know the long-term effects of these crops on human health or the environment. An estimated 70-90 percent of processed/packaged foods in stores today contain genetically engineered ingredients derived from one of the few approved GE foods (e.g., GE corn syrup, soy flour, canola oil, cotton oil, soy oil, cornstarch, etc.) I hope this gives you some background.

As far as animal genes inserted into plants and animals, research is going on in this area. A researcher in Calgary has inserted a human gene in a canola plant. He is trying to get the plant to produce a drug that can be sold for huge profits.

In southern Ontario, tobacco is being grown with human genes, also to try to get the plant to produce a drug. In the West Coast of the USA, researchers inserted a human gene related to breast milk into a potato to try to get the potato to produce human milk. In the orient, researchers inserted a rat gene into a cross between kale and Chinese broccoli, in the hope of increasing vitamin C content.

All these experiments and many more are in progress, but none of them have officially hit the market. However, due to cross pollination, some of these crops- if they get out of the lab into the fields- could cross-pollinate with neighboring crops, so that the human or animal genes could wind up in our food.

For regular updates on genetic engineering, contact Richard Wolfson at rwolfson@concentric.net for his weekly newsletter.

In the West Coast of the USA, researchers inserted a human gene related to breast milk into a potato to try to get the potato to produce human milk.

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