Drum roll, please. According to research, the first genetically modified foods weren’t human creations. Scientists have discovered that sweet potatoes contain bacterial genes that were introduced by microbes. (The discovery was somewhat serendipitous, as the research write-up relates). The scientists suggest that “such genes may have provided attractive traits for domestication.”
Charles Choi writes for the National Academy of Sciences:
“I think it’s important to recognize that genomes are very dynamic, and what the researchers find here with the sweet potato is one example of how genetic changes can occur,” says plant geneticist Dan Voytas, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Genome Engineering, who did not take part in this research. “Whether this changes public opinion about the dynamic nature of genomes and whether GM crops should be part of the food supply remains to be seen.”
The research continues, and confirming the role of the bacterial genes may be difficult. Stay tuned.
Background: The National Academy of Sciences publishes write-ups of recent research via a blog, Journal Club. The writing is accessible, and the research discussed is varied and relevant. Add it to your Digg. The organization also Tweets: (@PNASNews).