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Nucleic Acid Classification

Introduces specific organic compounds such as DNA and RNA

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Those Deadly Tomatoes

Those Deadly Tomatoes

Credit: Andrew Baron
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewbaron/2567898400/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

In 1978, a spoof of low-budget horror movies was released. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes quickly became a cult classic and still shows up at film festivals, college dorms, and other places where quirky, off-beat movies are watched. The movie sparked several sequels, none of which achieved the fame of the original film.

Why It Matters

  • In the past, genetic manipulation of plants involved breeding plants with different characteristics in hopes that the resultant offspring would gain all the beneficial ones. A plant with good flavor could be crossed with one that is insect resistant to see if growers could develop a good tasting, insect-resistant new product. Different components of the genetic make-up (different DNA structures) could be blended by the reproductive process and new strains would be developed.
  • A specific property of an organism is determined by the nucleic acid sequence of the DNA. These combinations of nucleic acids make up the genetic code for that organism. Changes in the sequence may make a plant more resistant to insects or it may grow taller – the genetic code determines the property and its effect on the plant.
  • Genetic modification today involves the direct introduction of genetic material into the plant. The material may be injected or introduced by way of a microorganism such as a virus.
  • There are pros and cons to the genetic modification debate and all the answers are not in yet. Newer strains of plants may produce a food that can be stored longer, but the flavor and nutritional value may be adversely affected. Resistance to insects may alter other ecological balances between insects and plants. The debate is still going on about genetically modified plants and probably will not be resolved in the near future.
  • Credit: Alexis Baden-Mayer
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/65421715@N02/6262784640
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Many consumer groups are fighting to have all genetically modified foods labeled due to health concerns [Figure2]


  • Watch a trailer for the movie at the link below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebfLWAB8bY4

Show What You Know

Use the links below to learn more about genetically modified tomatoes. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Does the FDA approve genetically modified foods?
  2. What was the first transgenic tomato supposed to do?
  3. Are these modified tomatoes currently available?
  4. What is one concern about new allergies?
  5. How were the killer tomatoes finally destroyed?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Andrew Baron; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewbaron/2567898400/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Alexis Baden-Mayer; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/65421715@N02/6262784640; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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