Thursday 27 June 2013

Gen-enchiladas anyone?

There have been some interesting articles on GM recently and I couldn’t help but see the opportunity for a genetics-sounding recipe idea; hence the Gen-enchilada! This brings together two of my favourite things; food and genomics (sort of) so here’s a recipe first and some links to GM projects that might appear in your shopping basket soon.

Gen-enchilada recipe: Corn tortillas filled with beef-chilli, salsa, lettuce and topped with sour cream. Or ground beef and onion can be wrapped in flour tortillas, topped with cheese and baked.

GM beef: Beijing University of Agriculture have made GM beef calves by inserting an extra fat gene to try and produce a beef to rival the very best Kobe beef.

GM corn: One of the orignal "success-stories" of GM, herbicide-resistant coprs were released by Monsanto in 1996 as "Roundup-Ready". GM corn has subsequently been grown all over the world. It's not all been good news though; in 2001 StarLink corn, which had been intended for animal consumption only, was found in Taco Bell taco shells. The corn was also present in some US aid deliveries which were sent back!

GM wheat: The discovery of GM wheat in a single field in Oregon sent a shiver through global wheat traders. Although Monsanto had stopped trials almost a decade earlier a few plants were discovered after routine screening of the wheat.

GM tomato: The FlavrSavr tomato was released in the mid 1990’s and I remember buying a tin of 'Sainsbury’s Californian Tomato Puree' proudly labeled GM in large and loud letters on the front of the tin. I’d hoped to keep it as a bit of history but it got used many years ago in a Bolognese or something similar! The GM tomato has continued to be developed and the push for tastier tomatoes should make our Gen-enchiladas even better!

GM onion:a A tear-free onion has been created by using RNAi to silence the lachrymatory factor synthase gene. This converts sulphur compunds in teh onion to the tear producing volatiles when cell damage occurs, e.g. by slicing with a blunt knife in the kitchen. A side-effect of the process means that the same sulphur compunds are then available for conversion into other aromatics improving flavour.

GM garlic: No reports about GM garlic at

GM chilli: People are up in arms about GM chilli’s (see here and here), why they should be getting so hot-under-the-collar (sorry I could not resist) about these and be happy to accept GM corn and soya I’ve no idea. However the articles are a salutatory reminder that not everyone is a fan of GM and that far too many scientists are overly blasé about the risks (not completely ruled out) and benefits (minimal for most 1st world consumers).

GM cheese: No GM cheeses yet but more and more GM soya being fed to cows. I wonder if anyone is doing any metagenomics research on cheese bacteria? Can we get a Cheddar tasting like Roquefort by using different cultures of bacteria? Would we want to!

GM cilantro/coriander: No reports about GM coriander at

GM lettuce: Insulin has been produced in lettuce as a potential source for Type 1 diabetics. Henry Daniell at the University of Central Florida was awarded a JDRF research grant to further develop a GM lettuce that produces capsules of insulin. Freeze-dried cells given to diabetic mice returned blood-sugar levels to normal after 8 weeks opening up the possibility of new methods to produce insulin and treat diabetes.

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