Jennifer Thomson Explains How Genetically Modifying Plants Allows Us to Add Certain Traits
Rebekah Kendal wrote an article for Foschini’s Club Magazine about genetically modified foods and spoke to Jennifer Thomson to find out more. Thomson, who is the author of Food for Africa: The life and work of a scientist in GM crops, explained that there’s nothing new about manipulating plants to suit our needs but that GM gives us the ability to “add genes specifically for a given trait”, such as insect-resistance.
The long and short of it
Genetic modification (GM) is a form of biotechnology in which genetic material is transferred from one living organism to another. For example, a gene could be taken from a fish and added to the DNA of a tomato. There is nothing really new about manipulating plants to suit our needs – hybrids have been around since the 1920s – but GM involves specific changes on a molecular level. ‘What is different with GM is that we can now add genes specifically for a given trait,’ explains Professor Jennifer Thomson of the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Cape Town.