Monday, February 02, 2009

Science Stuff

UC Davis researchers have developed flood tolerate rice using precision breeding developed in New Zealand. It brings the best tools of molecular biology, genetic engineering, and plant genetics together. Actually, all it really is is genetic engineering without the bits of bacterial DNA known as a vector sequence. Plant sequences are used to avoid the resulting plants being called transgenic, because there is no transfer of foreign DNA. Still, the plants will be called GM for genetically modified. I'm all for it. The technique will be a boon for crop scientists and save a lot of money in development of new crops. The problem is similar to Frankenstein's monster though. All natural human parts were used to create a a man-made human being in Shelly's novel. People feared the process and the product. Much needless suffering ensued. Will much needless suffering ensue because people fear man-made crops that are no different from man-made crops now except that they were created a bit more precisely? Vitamin A rice isn't being cultivated because it is a transgenic rice strain. Rice doesn't make beta-carotene. A crucial gene to make beta-carotene had to be introduced from elsewhere. Other genes had to be modified to make more of their products which make the precursors to beta-carotene. Thousands of children go blind due to vitamin A deficiency every year.

Scientists have found a cheap harmless way to kill antibiotic resistant bacteria dubbed MRSA. Meanwhile, the use of tetracycline by swine farmers is causing the spread of MRSA in pigs and workers. I'm not eating pork, bacon, or ham ever again. I wonder if MRSA is spreading in the poultry industry since tetracycline is used there as well. The use of antibiotics in the livestock trade is the Ag industry's dirty little secret. The CDC and FDA have been trying to stop the practice of feeding antibiotics to poultry and livestock without much success because animals on antibiotics put on weight faster than animals that aren't given antibiotics. But, infected meat from the treated animals usually contains antibiotic resistant strains of E. coli or Salmonella.

There's no such thing as a Siberian tiger. It appears that tigers migrated to Siberia from the Caspian Sea region according to mitochondrial analysis. Mitochondria have their own DNA and are maternally inherited. It would be nice to see a Y chromosomal study using the same samples to see if the paternal and nuclear DNA results confirms the mitochondrial study. It would be nice if tigers could be reintroduced to the Caspians. It would be even nicer if the Chinese would give up using tiger parts as medicine so that the South China tiger stands a chance of survival.

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