The Nature Institute

The Nature Institute 
20 May Hill Road, Ghent, New York 12075  Tel: (518) 672 0116

Home | Our Education Programs | Our Publications | Content Areas | Writings Ordered by Author | Resources and Links | Contact Us | Search

In Context #7 (Spring, 2002, pp. 7-8); copyright 2002 by The Nature Institute

Small Manipulation—Big Effect

The slogan we've been hearing so insistently from biotech industry representatives over the past several years assures us there is "substantial equivalence" between genetically engineered and non-engineered crops. The slogan's endless repetition has obscured a remarkable fact: it is unclear whether anyone making this claim has ever bothered to look at the two types of plant in a disciplined way in order to ascertain what immediately visible differences there might be.

"Almost Like Different Varieties"

But now The Nature Institute's affiliate researcher, Johannes Wirz, is helping to remedy this oversight. By growing genetically modified and non-modified potatoes under controlled conditions, his team in Switzerland has produced startling results. Observation of plants with and without added genes showed such dramatic differences in leaf morphology and development that, in Johannes' view, the plants might well be mistaken for different varieties.

The project began when Pia Malnoe, a molecular geneticist at the Eidgenössische Research Institute in Changins, suggested a qualitative and holistic assessment of the genetically modified potatoes she had developed. Johannes, w