Kuiper peers expectantly at a sweet potato fry held in my hand.

Sweet Potatoes, naturally GMO

“Sweet potatoes are yummy!”, Dog (“I has a sweet potato”, 2007. If you’re not familiar with this, check it out here. It’s a classic!!)

Kuiper: 🎶 sweet potato fries, sweet potato fries I love you sweet potato fries get in my mouth yeah!🎶
Me: Did you know that this sweet potato fry is naturally GMO?
Kuiper: what?? but sweet potato fries are so trendy and big corporations are so not trendy?? I AM SO CONFLICTED??
Me: It’s ok, buddy. Eat your fry and I’ll explain.

When we talk about GMOs, we’re usually referring to transgenic GMOs (i.e. an organism that contains DNA from another, unrelated organism.) We call the process of creating these “horizontal gene transfer” (as opposed to vertical, i.e. inherited from parents.) Sometimes horizontal gene transfer occurs in nature. Bacteria like to transfer genes back and forth a LOT among themselves, even among bacteria species that aren’t closely related (side note: this is part of why antibiotic resistance is such a big deal.)

One of the ways we induce horizontal gene transfer in plants is by using a bacteria called Agrobacterium, which naturally has the capability of inserting its own DNA into plants (in nature, it’s a pathogen to plants, but not dangerous to animals.) When scientists from Ghent University in Belgium and the International Potato Center in Peru tested 291 varieties of sweet potato, they found evidence of Agrobacterium DNA in every single one. The wild sweet potato relatives did not have the genes, which indicates the transfer likely happened somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago, or around when sweet potatoes were domesticated.

Is biology weird, or what??

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/Baz6-vbAPga/

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