Monday, August 12, 2013

Mutant Corn and The X-Cows

When I saw The Farmer's corn this year I became very excited. Maybe it was my imagination or maybe it was some kind of latent psychic powers, but I knew what was going to happen when I saw The Farmer was going to plant GMO corn.

 The reason The Farmer plants Roundup Ready corn is because it is a safe and easy way to control weeds in the corn field. After the corn was planted and began growing well the field was sprayed over the top with the herbicide Roundup. The grass and weeds that would have crowded out the corn and stolen the nutrients from the fertilizer are now gone. 
You can see how there is nothing growing on the edge of the field in the photo. This corn saved him more inputs and allowed for the same size crop.

But lets get back to the part I'm excited about: the genetically modified, aka mutant, corn. I realized that by eating it I would change, I would change fundamentally from my DNA and up. I could have fantastic powers like my heroes in the X-Men
wolvie cow cyclo cow
And I promise that I will only use my new found abilities to fight tyranny, injustice, and hunger with one glass of milk at a time!

Science Fiction Vs Science Fact

It turns out that my ideas are about as real as a Sharknado.

Is this corn safe for me and people? According to one science guy friend of the fantastic JP, in her post G is for GMO, it is anything but dangerous.
Here is an example that probably everyone can understand – the gene that gets inserted into Roundup Ready plants is a petunia gene, because they are naturally resistant to Roundup. So, they essentially are taking a desirable element from an innocuous plant (our lovely petunia plant) and insert that ‘piece’ into crops. It is like adding walnuts into brownies – brownies are great by itself, but are fabulous with the walnuts or pecans!
Petunias? Seriously?

 Then I found that Michael Eisen, a biologist at UC Berkeley and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, also wrote that

...Roundup Ready crops, which produce no new proteins not found prior to genetic manipulation,  shouldn’t really be places in the same class of GMOs....

....And there is absolutely no reason to expect that there are any health risks associated with eating the altered form of EPSPS found in glyphosate resistant transgenic plants....

The take home message is I will not be turning into a mutant super hero by eating this corn. It actually looks and tastes just like any other corn I've ever had. It has no ill effects toward man or cow. Totally safe unless you're a weed in the corn field. Think of it as having the same effect as Kryptonite would on Magneto. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Zero.

Bummer, right? But wiill this stop me from becoming a super hero cow? Not on your life! Batman and Robin got by without powers. Iron Man, no powers. The Black Widow and Hawkeye also had no powers.

Lookout world, here I come! I mean as soon as I can finish making a decent costume and find a good superhero name! Suggestions are welcome, please.

Agent 279, reporting from the Udder Side.


  1. Sharknado wasn't real?!?!?!?!?!?

    I already think you are a superhero cow!

    So what type of corn is the farmer growing? Is it the type I would find in a grocery store, or are you ladies going to consume it all?

    1. He grows what is commonly called "field corn" for us. It will be chopped up and blown into an upright silo where it ferments into a tasty delicacy! I'm told that field corn doesn't taste very good at all to people.

      The Farmer, oh the poor farmer, was sad indeed when the wind and rain blew down the sweet corn he planted for himself in his garden. It was Golden Queen and had only begun to have ears. Looks like he'll be joining you at the grocery store or farmer's market for his corn.

      -Agent 279

  2. «Here is an example that probably everyone can understand – the gene that gets inserted into Roundup Ready plants is a petunia gene, because they are naturally resistant to Roundup.»

    That would not seem to be correct. A simple Wikipedia chack should tell you the real story:

    «Some micro-organisms have a version of EPSPS that is resistant to glyphosate inhibition. One of these was isolated from an Agrobacterium strain CP4 (CP4 EPSPS) that was resistant to glyphosate. This CP4 EPSPS gene was cloned and transfected into soybeans. The CP4 EPSPS gene was engineered for plant expression by fusing the 5' end of the gene to a chloroplast transit peptide derived from the petunia EPSPS. This transit peptide was used because it had shown previously an ability to deliver bacterial EPSPS to the chloroplasts of other plants.»

    So the transgenic protein is actually a fusion peptide but the part of the peptide which provides the enzymatic activity, which provides the glyphosate resistance by means of not being inhibited by glyphosate, comes from an Agrobacterium strain.

    1. First off I would like to commend you on making the geekiest comment anyone has every made on this blog and award you the Gold Star of the day. I also want to throw down the gauntlet to anyone who thinks they can make a geekier comment.

      Now for my quotes: Billy Joel "You may be right, I may be crazy." And to paraphrase Dr. Leonard McCoy (as opposed to Hank McCoy, aka The Beast), "Darn it, man! I'm a secret agent cow, not a scientist."

      You citation alludes to soybeans which I didn't talk about at all. Not saying it is wrong, but you're going way over the top on this. My understanding is that RR corn is made by adding a gene from a petunia that produces large amounts of EPSP synthase. This gene then produces so much EPSP synthase that it literally overwhelms the EPSP inhibition caused by the RR application.

      But if you really wanted to point out the gaping flaw in this post you would have reminded me that generally speaking the X-men is a team made up of people that were born with a mutation, not mutated later life. So, had I been right, I would be more like someone bitten by a radioactive spider, exposed to gamma radiation, or in keeping with your name someone that was affected by cosmic rays from space.

      The bigger point is that the corn is safe, and even more so, that I love it being made into corn silage! Delicious!

      -Agent 279