Page of images for Media

Anastasia and I just got out of a Skype interview with John for Truffle Media, and the question came up, how to visualize a genetically engineered food? As I’m sure you all know when you read articles about genetic engineering, you get all kinds of crazy pictures from this:

To this:

When the scientific truth is more like this:

While we may write a lot about this topic, part of the battle for ideas is fought with pictures, and video too. I decided that we should put together a page of images for media to use. Here it is in its bare glory. So far, I thought that there could be four categories of pictures: Food, Science, Field, and Fun. The plan is to have several pre-edited sizes for each image, and full credits for those images. I want to make it easy for media to illustrate their stories.
So now the question is, how to depict genetic engineering? What kinds of pictures will be helpful? We have pictures such as the comparisons between GE and non-GE plants like the rotating images at the top of the blog. Have you seen anything you have liked, or might have some ideas for things to look for (or photoshop)? Let me know in the comments.

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Written by Karl Haro von Mogel

Karl Haro von Mogel serves as BFI’s Director of Science and Media and as Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. He has a PhD in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from UW-Madison with a minor in Life Sciences Communication. He is a Postdoctoral Scholar at UC Riverside and works on Citrus genetics.

17 comments

  1. I like the image of the GE trees I saw the other day (papaya and eucalyptus). Where did I see that…? Ah–right: the AgBioView newsletter on 12/13. Did you see that? Very effective. This is the article they came from (see both photos) http://www.canada.com/technology/branch+science+build+better+tree/3964214/story.html#ixzz181Nx8XO7
    And maybe if you don’t have the rights to the image you could still point people there.
    Another image I have used is the hybrid one (since that’s such a common misconception out there) that came from the corn genome sequencing: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_images.jsp?cntn_id=115920&org=NSF
    I’ll keep thinking about that.

  2. Well since those photos are credited, it wouldn’t be hard to track them down. We do have papaya photos in our rotating header images. And I think we can get permissions from Pat Schnable for the hybrid photos. 🙂

  3. That is a very powerful article, thank you for posting it, Mary.

    But subsistence farmers depend on [cassava] because it’s “very drought-tolerant and very bad-management-tolerant,” said Edward Charles, a team leader for the Great Lakes Cassava Initiative, a six-country consortium based in Kenya and supported by the Gates Foundation. For example, he said, even when farmers are too weak from malaria to weed, their crops survive.

    We all have to remember that that’s what we’re fighting for.
    As for pictures – I do like comparisons between GM and not GM, and sick vs diseased or stress tolerant vs not stress tolerant are pretty striking. I think we need some pictures of people, though. Like the folks at #agchat say: “let us put a face on your plate”*. We need to show who are these crazy genetic engineers. We need pics of scientists young and old smiling and doing cool things in field and lab.
    Karl, the categories you’ve divided photos into are great. As for the “fun” category – I’d love to see some photoshopped images of a plant scared of a disease or something then all happy because she was transformed but maybe that’s just me. Something to counter Mr. Scorpion Carrot there.
    The pictures of syringes frustrate me the most because that’s actually much closer to mutagenesis than to biotech! And we all know that mutagenized crops aren’t regulated in most places at all, and few people if anyone is calling for their regulation, despite the high probability of unintended changes. Grr. Oh!
    Speaking of unintended changes, check this out: Only half the transcriptomic differences between resistant genetically modified and conventional rice are associated with the transgene! Spanish researchers found that the transcriptomic differences between transgenic and non-transgenic rice was only 0.4% and of that, 35% was due to tissue culture and 15% was due to event specific changes. Lots of stuff to think about there. Ok, back to work for me!
    * I have to say that that slogan creeps me out (no faces on my plate, please!) but I know what they mean 🙂

  4. Thanks for the suggestions, and yeah I thought the categories made sense. Maybe Frank running from some protesters would be a fun photoshop to do.
    I wonder if there should be a section of pictures for other techniques like mutagenesis and polyploidy? Hmm…
    Any chance you could generate some pictures of your glow-in-the-dark maize kernels?
    Great find with the rice transcriptome paper, yet another great paper from that research group – they seem to be the people really focusing on comparing different genetic modification techniques. Added to the GENERA list! (And it is independent as well. Sweet.)

  5. Mary M.,
    Your remark about GMO ‘action heroes’ reminds me of a news story about maybe 8 years ago. A cotton seed company in India took that approach in advertising its seed — Bam Kazoom, the insects are soundly trounced. An NGO claimed the advertising was misleading and also not very kind to ‘our friends the insects’. Wish I could find the link, it was a very interesting contretemps.

  6. “Actual GMOs — all of them, actually, look just like their conventional counterparts. Why, then, are depictions of GMOs so consistently bizarre?”
    To make them look dangerous/evil/”unnatural” before you even start to read the poorly constructed and researched article that invariably goes underneath.
    Jonathan
    PS There’s a photo I’ve seen somewhere of blight-resistant potatoes looking lush and green in a field next to rows of brown dead non-GM ones. If I remember where I saw it I’ll post.

  7. Jonathan,
    Apropos of your observation of lush GM potato plants — this was about a decade ago, in India. A woman had a healthy-looking crop of eggplant/brinjal. A group of neighbors got together and destroyed her crop. The reason given: the plants and fruits looked so healthy, they had to be GMOs.

  8. “Jonathan,
    Apropos of your observation of lush GM potato plants — this was about a decade ago, in India. A woman had a healthy-looking crop of eggplant/brinjal. A group of neighbors got together and destroyed her crop. The reason given: the plants and fruits looked so healthy, they had to be GMOs.”
    No…these were GM potatoes with blight resistance built in from a wild relative with 100% resistance. Probably saw it in a University presentation.
    Jonathan

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