Yesterday I was working out at the greenhouse for my rice genetics lab.
I was getting rid of some old rice plants that we’d collected the seed from and no longer needed.
If a plant got to this point in a garden you’d normally throw it in the compost so it would be useful next year.
That’s not allowed for the rice we work with in my lab because it is an untested transgenic line.
Some members of the public dislike altering the genetics of food crops to create genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There are a couple of logical reasons for this and a couple of illogical ones.
Logical reasons include: religious objection, lack of crop diversification, cross-species allergens, and the strengthening of agribusiness monopolies that often accompanies GMO crop use.
Illogical reasons often have something to do with safety or not knowing what is in a product when you purchase it at the grocery store.
I could go on about this a lot. GMOs are a complex topic with a lot of ground to cover, but that wasn’t why I was writing this post today.
Because of the fear of GMOs, they need to go through extensive testing before they are declared legally safe. This testing can take up to ten years.
We don’t do that for every strain of modified rice in our lab, so certain precautions need to be taken.
Yesterday I cut off all the excess seeds on the old rice plants. The seeds go into a plastic bag.
The seed bag and the leftover portion you can see above both go into an orange dumpster at the center of the greenhouse complex.
All the stuff in the orange dumpster then goes into a special oven that ensures the modified crops won’t somehow get into the wild and start growing there.
After the special oven, called an autoclave, has destroyed the genetic material in the rice it can go into a normal dumpster or be used for compost.
Just another little glimpse at my job!