Waiter, there’s DNA in my dinner!

GMO Shortens Life Span by Michael. This shirt design was submitted to Atrium in the No GMO t-shirt design challenge.

Threadless recently hosted* a t-shirt contest for Jeffery Smith‘s Institute for Responsible Technology: the No GMO t-shirt design challenge (see Karl’s post Vote for talking, not fighting for more details). One of the shirts really struck me: GMO Shortens Life Span by Michael. The artist proposes an equation:

plants + DNA  = death

This slogan really makes me wonder – does the artist know that plants have DNA? Does he know that his own cells are teeming with DNA? That without DNA, life wouldn’t exist? Do most people know that DNA is essential for life? What would the average person say if told that they eat about 100 thousand miles of DNA in the average meal?

If this is the level of understanding, or rather, misunderstanding, that persons have, can we ever expect to have useful discourse on the subject of biotechnology or even biology itself? This worries me greatly. Just in case anyone out there reading this is concerned that DNA is dangerous, I’d like to provide a simple recipe that anyone can use to see and touch DNA for themselves.
As shown in the picture below, DNA is tightly packed in each cell. It’s wrapped around proteins called histones, then coiled into the familiar X chromosome shape. The amount of DNA per cell depends on the species, but each cell has about 9 feet of DNA in it. Since each meal contains tens of millions of cells, you eat about 7 to 10 miles of DNA at each meal!

Cells to DNA. Image from Michigan State University.

There are a lot of DNA extraction recipes out there, but there are a few essential steps. The DNA must be freed from the cell membrane and the membrane of the nucleus. Then, the DNA needs to be separated from the membrane bits, proteins, and other cellular parts. Finally, the DNA needs to be precipitated, or brought out of solution by becoming a solid instead of being dissolved in the solution.
Supplies:

  • Source of DNA. Fruit, especially banana or strawberries, works great because they have a lot of DNA per cell. Onions have a lot of DNA per cell too, but make for a much less pleasant smelling DNA extraction than berries or bananas.
  • Detergent, such as shampoo or dish soap. Clear detergent is better so dye doesn’t cover up the action.
  • Coffee filter to remove proteins, cell membrane parts, and other cellular gunk from your DNA solution.
  • Table salt to precipitate proteins and carbohydrates.
  • Ethanol to precipitate the DNA. Rubbing alcohol is ethanol, preferably 95%.
  • A plastic sandwich baggie.
  • 3 cups.
  • A plastic teaspoon.
  • A test tube or narrow glass like a shot glass.
  • Toothpick.
Recipe:
  1. Pour some rubbing alcohol into one of the cups and put it into the freezer.
  2. Prepare the fruit.
    • If using a banana, peel the banana. Set aside of eat half of it and put the other half into a plastic baggie.
    • If using strawberries, cut up about 5 medium strawberries into fourths. Put the pieces into a plastic baggie.
  3. Seal the baggie and use your hands to mash up the fruit. Set the baggie aside.
  4. Add 1 spoon of shampoo to one of the cups.
  5. Add 2 pinches of salt to the shampoo.
  6. Add 1/8 of a cup of water to the salt and shampoo.
  7. Stir until the salt and shampoo are dissolved. Stir slowly so the shampoo doesn’t foam up.
  8. Add about 3 spoons of fruit mash from the baggie to the salt and shampoo mixture.
  9. Stir the fruit solution with the plastic spoon for about 5 minutes, mashing any chunks of fruit against the wall of the cup.
  10. Place the coffee filter over the second cup, making sure the filter doesn’t touch the bottom of the cup.
  11. Pour the fruit solution through the filter. Wait for a few minutes to allow the liquid to flow through the filter.
  12. Slowly pour about 1/4 of the the filtrate (filtered solution in the second cup) into the cold alcohol so that the alcohol makes up about 3/4 of the final solution.
  13. Let the alcohol solution sit undisturbed for about 5 minutes. You should see the solution separate into two layers.
  14. While holding onto one end of the toothpick, put the other end in the top layer of the solution with the tip just in the interface between the two solutions, and gently twirl the toothpick. You should see clear strands that looks a little like mucous sticking to the toothpick. This – believe it or not – is DNA!
  15. If you don’t see anything, take the toothpick out and put the alcohol and DNA solution in the freezer for a few minutes. The cold temperature will help the DNA to precipitate. Then, with a fresh toothpick, try pulling out the DNA again.
    Stringy clumps of DNA in the alcohol layer of the solution. Image from the University of Utah.

Safety note: if you are tempted to taste the DNA, just remember that there is shampoo and rubbing alcohol in there and that these things are generally not good to eat! DNA itself, though, is perfectly safe – we eat it in every meal.  Really want to eat DNA? Check out these instructions for building an edible model.
*Just in case you were wondering, the contests aren’t vetted by Threadless, they are run by a separate site, Atrium. This was important for me, because I rather like Threadless, but I prefer to avoid patronizing companies whose publicized ethical stance I disagree with.

Anastasia Bodnar

Written by Anastasia Bodnar

Anastasia Bodnar serves as the Policy Director of Biology Fortified, Inc. She is a science communicator and multidisciplinary risk analyst with a career in federal service. She has a PhD in plant genetics and sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University.

64 comments

  1. Could you please clarify something in the recipe? Most commercial rubbing alcohol that I have seen is 70% +/- isopropanol, not 95% ethanol. Which should be used for your extraction recipe?

  2. In my reading of the tee shirt, I do not interpret the symbol as meaning “any DNA”. It is a tee shirt regarding GMO foods. The symbol in context of the message, to me, means the foreign DNA used to produce GMO food.

  3. This reminds me of the DNA-free food hoax, which by now is at least a dozen years old. It’s still alive! Check out
    http://home.exetel.com.au/ttguy/Society_for_DNA_Free_Food.php
    Here’s the poll results from that site: 24% of the 2239 people surveyed said they would pay 10 fold more for DNA free food, while 28% said they would pay an additional 50% or more for DNA free food.
    When the hoax was first released on the internet, there was an option to sign up for receiving more information on DNA-free food. When the hoax was revealed, there were howls of indignation from activists. Apparently, many of them had signed up!

  4. I think I just got my entry idea for the upcoming T-shirt contest. I’m gonna get that Ames table of all the carcinogenic chemicals in an organic cabbage (or whatever plants there were in that list). And the skull will look like a cabbage.
    And the t-shirt will actually have a citation.

  5. The main article starts out with a: “This slogan really makes me wonder – does ……? Does ……..? Do most people know ………………………….? What would …………………?
    If this is …………………, can we ever expect…………………………..? This worries me greatly. Just in case …………………………………., I’d like to provide a simple recipe that anyone can use to see and touch DNA for themselves.”
    ———————————————
    H.Kuska comment. Wow! What a number of “straw men” type setups. No quotes to any of these actually occuring.
    —————————————————
    The sweatshirt design is about foreign DNA being introduced into food resulting in death. Can this happen? First, one has to make it clear this is not simply making the food a carrier of the foreign DNA. A new molecule is formed. Therefore a new plant (food) is formed. Is there a property of this new plant that may be dangerous to man? This is where unrestricted independent research should be allowed (even if patented) .
    ———————————–
    Here is one example where independent research has reported that a GMO plant may be dangerous under certain growing conditions.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20108697?dopt=Abstract
    ————————————
    “…..evaluate the impact of heavy metal amendments on the accumulation of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn in a Bt transgenic rice Ke-Ming-Dao (KMD) and its wild-type Xiushui 11 (Xs11)”
    “These results implied that it may be unsafe for growing Bt transgenic rice in heavily Cd-polluted areas. No significant difference in Zn was found between the two varieties with the exception of roots at Zn amendment level of 600 mg/kg, while Pb contents in KMD were much higher in the straw at the lead amendment level of 1000 mg/kg and in the root at 250 mg Pb/kg. Data on the heavy metal accumulation patterns for the genetically modified rice may be used for the selection of growing areas as well as for plant residue management for Bt rice.”

  6. I guess I just was lucky to have the rubbing alcohol I have at home be ethanol. Seems rubbing alcohol could be either ethanol or isopropanol. DNA is insoluble in either, so either would work. You could also use a high proof drinking alcohol.

  7. To be a strawman, it has to be false. I have spoken with people who have said things about DNA being bad for you, or that DNA isn’t safe. They seemed to have no understanding that DNA is present in all living things*.
    *Unless you count RNA viruses as alive. I mention this because of your ability to pluck one tiny detail from a comment and harp on it forever, something I’d like to avoid as much as possible.

  8. ——————————
    The following was stated: “To be a strawman, it has to be false.”
    ———————————-
    H.Kuska comment. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man
    —————————–
    Anastasia is talking about what she thinks may be the possible beliefs of the tee shirt designer. Then she jumps to: “Just in case anyone out there reading this is concerned that DNA is dangerous, I’d like to provide a simple recipe that anyone can use to see and touch DNA for themselves.”
    —————————–
    She is providing evidence that DNA in general is safe. An easy argument to win. I agree that she wins the strawman argument. BUT the designer is indicating that a GMO food results in death. This argument she has ignored.
    —————————-
    As a scientist I would have preferred that the right side of the equation contain only a (?) or at least a death(?) not just death by itself.
    ————————-

  9. Karl, from the perspective of someone not familar with GE foods; maybe the following would apply.
    ———————-
    Nowhere does the tee shirt mention DNA. I would expect that someone not familar with GE foods would also not be familar with that DNA symbol. (As an aside, a Google search shows that there are many DNA symbols.)

  10. Ignored the potential dangers of biotechnology? I call bullshit. You obviously haven’t noticed, but one of the main points of this website is to discuss the safety of biotechnology. See our list of safety studies, or my post about health concerns, for a start.
    The point of this post is that some people think all DNA is dangerous, presumably because of a lack of understanding of basic biology. Knowing that some people have so little understanding of basic biology gives us a clue as to why some people fear biotechnology. I can sort of understand that DNA could be a scary concept if you don’t understand it at all. Extracting DNA and seeing it for yourself is a cool experiment that anyone could do at home, and might be a start to understanding DNA, or at least might motivate a desire to learn more.
    The shirt was simply a way to start the discussion, because of its apparent message that DNA causes death. Perhaps the artist was using an artistic device and they really meant that DNA that is added by humans is dangerous, but this leads me to wonder if they are also concerned about other human-induced changes to DNA. Regardless, if the artist is allowed to use some artistic device to provoke conversation, I too, as an author, may use some artistic (verbal rather than drawn) device to provoke conversation.
    The shirt is an example of a misunderstanding about DNA, whether the artist intended it or not. The text that follows discusses other misunderstandings of DNA which may not be held by the artist but which are held by at least some persons (including some persons that I have personally had conversations with at Iowa State and elsewhere, which I didn’t state specifically, perhaps I should have). I would be very surprised if this artistic device / conversation starter was misunderstood by many people. I would also be very surprised if I was the only person who had spoken with people who thought DNA itself was dangerous.

  11. Henry, according to the comment you left on this post at 8:18 am on September 9, 2011, https://biofortified.org/2011/01/seralini-seeks-to-dilute-biology-education/#comment-63626 and in the surrounding discussion, you indicated that you thought that genetic engineering was too advanced of a topic for high school students. You quoted a genetic engineering module to argue that students would need to be proficient in understanding heredity (thus DNA) in order to even begin to learn genetic engineering, and even then it would be too abstract. The impression I got from your argument there was very clearly that you thought that genetic engineering was not an appropriate topic for high school, or at least particular grade levels.
    Now you are saying that an obvious DNA symbol (DNA appears all over the place in our modern world today, from the internet to commercials) would not be recognized unless a person was familiar with genetic engineering. It appears that you are arguing in two different directions in each comment thread: 1. that in order to understand this DNA symbol you must understand genetic engineering, and 2. that you may understand DNA, but genetic engineering is way more advanced of a topic. These sound like arguments of convenience.

  12. Agreed. It has also been shown through surveys that there are a lot of people who actually do not know that non-genetically engineered crops have DNA. This is a real misconception, and it feeds into the fear of GE foods.
    “As a scientist I would have preferred that the right side of the equation contain only a (?) or at least a death(?) not just death by itself.”
    Strange that Henry has not complained that the artist did not document their sources for the plant + DNA = Death conclusion nor the shorter life span claim. This is, after all, a fact-based discussion among scientists, right?

  13. —————————————–
    Karl stated: “Strange that Henry has not complained that the artist did not document their sources for the plant + DNA = Death conclusion nor the shorter life span claim. This is, after all, a fact-based discussion among scientists, right?
    ————————————
    H.Kuska comment. What do you think I mean when I say “?” ?
    I mean we do not know what the effect (any) will be.
    ——————————————
    What do you think I mean when I say “or at least a death(?)” ?
    I mean that we do not know specifically that it would cause death.
    ——————————————
    What do you think I mean when I say “not just death by itself”. I mean that scientifically he at this point cannot say with certainty that a GMO food will cause death.
    —————————————-
    Sorry, I missed commenting on the “shorter life span” claim.

  14. The following was stated: “Ignored the potential dangers of biotechnology? I call bullshit.”
    ———————————
    H.Kuska comment: where in this thread is this statement (Ignored the potential dangers of biotechnology?) made? By whom?
    ———————————
    Concerning my comments about your discussion of the shirt. I put in quotes the section that I was referring to. I ended with the following: “H.Kuska comment. Wow! What a number of “straw men” type setups. No quotes to any of these actually occuring.”
    ——————————————–

  15. —————————————
    Karl, your logic escapes me. I replied to your statement : “Perhaps you could approach it from the perspective of someone who is not familiar with GE foods?”
    —————————————-
    I answered: “I would expect that someone not familar with GE foods would also not be familar with that DNA symbol. (As an aside, a Google search shows that there are many DNA symbols.)”
    ——————————————
    How does that get translated to the “unless” part of your statement: “Now you are saying that an obvious DNA symbol (DNA appears all over the place in our modern world today, from the internet to commercials) would not be recognized unless a person was familiar with genetic engineering.”
    —————————————-
    To me someone can be familar with the fact that GE foods exist without being familar with genetic engineering. (Also, notice, I said “I expect”. You may have different expectations.) Your question to me was “someone not familar with GE foods”. That is a quite different question than asking whether they were familar with genetic engineering at the level being discussed in the (other) education thread.

  16. I am simply pointing out that the magnitude of objections to non-exhaustively-sourced statements is quite different for you when it comes to statements in favor of GE versus criticizing GE. You objected to my poetic license in the other post demanding citations, however you merely suggest that you would prefer a “?” on the shirt. Pretty transparent double-standard. It’s only human, though.

  17. you said “the designer is indicating that a GMO food results in death. This argument she has ignored.” This argument has not been ignored, although it was not the subject of this post. We talk about GMO safety all the time. Sheesh.

  18. Thanks for finding that. I wonder if things have changed 8 years later. I would love to see a survey that determines whether there is a correlation of basic biological knowledge with acceptance of biotechnology. So much to do, so little time!

  19. Henry says:
    “BUT the designer is indicating that a GMO food results in death. This argument she has ignored.”
    Anastasia says:
    “Ignored the potential dangers of biotechnology? I call bullshit.”
    Henry says:
    “H.Kuska comment: where in this thread is this statement (Ignored the potential dangers of biotechnology?) made? By whom?”
    Karl says: Seriously? You said it! Death = potential danger. I have now expanded my breadth of nerd rage to include issues with synonyms.

  20. I believe there is some research trying to look at those very questions. It doesn’t pan out very well for what’s called the deficit model (more info –>acceptance). But there are other studies that indicate that information can help, but we need a lot of connections between values to really get the message across.

  21. —————————
    I was making a statement about how after Anastasia introduced a tee shirt statement, then she ignored it and argued another point. This is where the sandman type statement came in. Now she states:
    —————————
    “although it was not the subject of this post”.
    ———————————
    This is what I pointed out when I stated:
    ——————————–
    “BUT the designer is indicating that a GMO food results in death. This argument she has ignored.”
    ———————————
    In scientific reading statements are to be read in context. My statement has nothing to do with any other and all other statements that Anastasia has ever made in her life. I commented on what she did in this thread.
    ———————————

  22. Just wanted to point out something that I thought was obvious. Each post has a limited subject area. That means that one subject or a few related subjects will be covered in each post. Other subjects will be covered in other posts. It is unrealistic, in my opinion, to expect that every subject would be covered in every post. If you think you can do that, you are welcome to start your own blog. Until then, please stop nitpicking. You have a tendency to derail entire comment threads, which may be your goal, I don’t know, but it seriously hampers the ability of other people to enjoy a conversation. Frankly, I can write about whatever I want – this is my article on a website I co-founded. There is no requirement for me to include in each post a dissertation on every potential related subject. Instead, I can find my own way to get a point across. If you don’t like my writing, don’t read it!!!
    I’ll restate my previous comment differently, since you don’t seem to have understood. With this post, my goal was to encourage conversation about ways that people who don’t understand science could be encouraged to look at DNA in a new, fun way. Most people enjoy hands-on more than just reading an explanation*. The shirt is, in my opinion, an example of someone not understanding what DNA is, and was simply used as an introduction to the post to make the subject of kitchen DNA extractions relevant to Karl’s recent post about the shirt contest, and because this shirt is what inspired me to write the post in the first place.
    *No, I don’t have a citation for this, I am basing it on my own experience teaching biology.

  23. Henry’s claims are almost entirely composed of meta-grammatical deconstructions of others’ statements. Emblematic of this is his insistence that ‘super weeds’ are not in the same category as ‘superweeds’. Disputing the relevance of a one-word vs. two-word approach is not enlightening. I very nearly think he’s haunting the wrong blog.

  24. DNA precipitation usually calls for a round of propanol and then a round of ethanol (I’m thinking b/c propanol does a better job, but ethanol evaporates faster to leave you with a nice pellet of DNA) – given enough time either will work just fine, and frankly this is only really important if you’re trying to precipitate your DNA and get it in a solubilizable form for further downstream use (anyone who’s done any molecular biology will know that if you don’t get rid of all the ethanol/propanol then when you try to run your gel what you’ll get to see is all your DNA shooting off apparently of its own volition out of the well of your gel) – for the purposes of the above experiment rubbing alcohol of any variety should work just fine.

  25. Wow Henry, you’ve really outdone yourself on this particular thread.

    Nowhere does the tee shirt mention DNA. I would expect that someone not familar with GE foods would also not be familar with that DNA symbol.

    That is spectacularly ignorant of the ubiquitous presence of various symbols for DNA in daily life and in western culture, it is such a repeated motif that I doubt any half way educated person in the world would be unfamiliar. You’ll note that Karl was talking about not being familiar with GM foods, rather than not being familiar with the fact that GM foods exist. These are too wildly different states of knowledge, as I’d expect a grammar policeman to have picked up on, odd how your double standards encroach upon all areas of the conversation – I’m familiar with the existence of tiger intestines, I am however not familiar with tiger intestines themselves.

    BUT the designer is indicating that a GMO food results in death. This argument she has ignored.

    No, the designer is quite clear about what they are indicating, and it ain’t what you’re saying (if it was, then the following would contain entirely different words)
    What the author actually says about the T-shirt design:-

    Eating GMO foods is nothing less than consuming toxins. As time goes by, harmful substances get stored in your body. Simply and scarily, it results in a shorter life span.
    Crops + DNA = Toxins.

    And on a lighter note

    This is where the sandman type statement came in.

    There’s only one person making sandman type statements around here, thankfully though I am equipped with a near endless supply of corporate provided caffeine.

    My statement has nothing to do with any other and all other statements that Anastasia has ever made in her life.

    It is only tenuously to do with any statements Anastasia has made in this very post or thread. Which isn’t atypical.

  26. Henry
    Would you be happy with a T-shirt that said “food = ?”
    Lets face it we don’t know what any food we eat (created mostly by a combination of random crossing, irradiation, chemical mutagenesis and tissue culture) will do to us in the medium/long/multigenerational term.
    Bugger all except keep us alive would eb the best guess faced with modern scientific understanding but I bet you lie awake worrying about it.
    Jonathan
    PS Anastasia is right. I don’t come here very often any more as any intelligent discussion is immediately killed by Henry’s high volume, rapid reply, boringly verbose, chrerry-pickingly ill-informed, contradictory obstruction of every post. Yawn.

  27. It’s pretty simple. In the other thread, you are saying that genetic engineering is way complicated and you wouldn’t expect someone even familiar with DNA to grasp it in high school, and in this one, you are saying they are so closely linked that not being familiar with GE means you are not familiar with simple DNA symbols. (You are also saying by this, that being familiar with DNA symbols would go hand-in-hand with being familiar with GE foods.)
    Anyway, all this is moot as Ewan points out below that the artist intended it exactly as Anastasia described.
    Crops + DNA = Death.

  28. I don’t care what side of the food argument you happen to be on, things like this t-shirt add nothing to the conversation and can only be used as scare tactics in hope bringing the uniformed over to your side.
    A debate with real scientific facts mixed with the knowledge that this is also an emotional subject for consumers is the only way to find common ground. Just shouting that “The other side is wrong!” proves nothing and does nothing to advance the conversation.
    Thanks for pointing this out.

  29. Karl, you are still initially replacing “GE foods” with “GE”. I expect that many people are familar with “GE foods” but are not familar with the details of GE (genetic engineering) at the level that was being discussed as being presented in non select sophmore French biology courses. In that thread, I then documented my statement:
    ———————————————–
    “In my mind there is a huge difference between: 1) teaching recombinant DNA in an advanced topic and corresponding laboratory experiment to a second biology AP type course to select Juniors or Seniors.
    and
    2) teaching all sophmores in general education biology and technological education biology about recombinant DNA to the level necessary that the corresponding laboratory experiment would be meaningful.
    ———————————–
    The cited Nature article quotes Valérie Sipahimalani, national secretary in charge of biology and geology for the National Union of Secondary Teachers, part of the Unitary Union Federation in Paris: “Personally, I don’t believe in teaching manipulation for manipulation’s sake,” she says. “More importantly, DNA takes a lot of time to explain — it is very complicated for secondary school-students to understand.”
    —————-End of my quote from other thread.————–
    ====================================================
    Karl states: ” In the other thread, you are saying that genetic engineering is way complicated and you wouldn’t expect someone even familiar with DNA to grasp it in high school,”
    —————————————
    H.Kuska reply: please show me where I am saying that. I cannot find it.
    ==============================================
    Karl states: “Anyway, all this is moot as Ewan points out below that the artist intended it exactly as Anastasia described.
    Crops + DNA = Death.”
    —————————————-
    H. Kuska comment: Oh???? Ewan stated the following: “What the author actually says about the T-shirt design:-
    Eating GMO foods is nothing less than consuming toxins. As time goes by, harmful substances get stored in your body. Simply and scarily, it results in a shorter life span.
    Crops + DNA = Toxins.”
    ———————————-
    I agree that Ewan’s statement is probably correct. I was discussing Anastasia interpretation:
    “The artist proposes an equation: plants + DNA = death”

  30. Oooh, that smarts.
    Thanks, Jonathan for stopping by and letting us know that you’re being driven away from the conversation. Since the whole point of this site is to foster conversation, it does seem that Mr. Kuska’s comments have been doing more harm than good. I’ll take action on that and hopefully things will improve.

  31. Whatever! I thought you guys are supposed to be smart. I get the T-shirt. It means don’t eat it! GMO’s that is, not DNA.
    Once I extract the DNA so I know it’s there do I then check it for mutations or will that just be evident when my children have babies?

  32. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for lively discussion with those of an opposing viewpoint, its just I really can’t be bothered trawling through referenced papers looking for the relevant bit (which I often struggle to see why it is relevant) and the rapid descent into nit-picking about the meaning of what was or what was not said. I’d love to have some short straight questions or answers from Henry as it is extremely important that people with GM concerns hang around here. Especially those with their own viewpoint rather than referenceing other peoples viewpoints in the form of a lengthy multi-referenced reponse.
    Jonathan

  33. Please don’t ban Henry Kuska from the site. It would be far preferable to get him to change his style. The nit-picking is not very helpful, indeed it is annoying, but if another poster says something false or illogical, it is valuable to have it corrected.
    Henry, please make an effort to rely less on links to distant papers. Make an effort to distill their relevant content into concise statements.
    As Karl has pointed out, you appear to nit-pick the pro-GMO comments and mostly tolerate the anti-GMO comments, no matter how wildly inaccurate. This makes it look like you have a bias. For example, in the recent discussion of Seralini’s comment about hands-on biology education, we have no idea whether you think the various CRIGEN papers are good science or purely propaganda.
    Also, when people dialog with you, it would be better if you responded with dialog rather than with nit-picking.

  34. Henry, you are right, the exact quote is “Crops + DNA = Toxins”. Now that we’ve established the precise language. Whether the word Death or Toxins is used – that is not the point. The argument is over whether or not people would understand that the DNA symbol means DNA and whether or not the artist intended it to mean DNA. And your nitpick has not in the slightest changed the conclusion away from this fact – and only shown that you are still unwilling to correct your ceaseless arguments to the contrary.
    “H.Kuska reply: please show me where I am saying that. I cannot find it.”
    I am glad to hear that you do not believe it is too complicated for high school students to learn. Despite all the quotes about high school students not having formal-enough learning, DNA being too complicated of a subject, teachers not having enough skill, pre-tests and all that, that at the end of the day you still accept that an in-class experiment of genetic modification would be grasped by high school students. Fantastic!
    /sarcasm

  35. ——————————–
    Karl stated: “that at the end of the day you still accept that an in-class experiment of genetic modification would be grasped by high school students. Fantastic!”
    ——————————
    Karl what I concluded is the following (from that thread and on the date posted): “H.Kuska comment. On September 10, 2011 at 9:43 am I proposed the following: “Industrial scientists in cooperation with teachers may be able to prepare a “GMO learning” “guest lecture” type computer based module.”

  36. Karl stated: “The argument is over whether or not people would understand that the DNA symbol means DNA and whether or not the artist intended it to mean DNA.”
    ————————————
    H.Kuska comment. if you change your statement to “whether the artist intended it to mean “any” DNA, I would agree with you. My point was stated very early in this thread, September 10, 2011 at 12:31 pm.
    ———————————–
    “In my reading of the tee shirt, I do not interpret the symbol as meaning “any DNA”. It is a tee shirt regarding GMO foods. The symbol in context of the message, to me, means the foreign DNA used to produce GMO food.”
    ——————————-
    Ewan puts in words the equation; “Eating GMO foods is nothing less than consuming toxins. As time goes by, harmful substances get stored in your body. Simply and scarily, it results in a shorter life span.”
    ——————————–
    Please notice the “GMO foods”. GMO foods means that the DNA was incorporated into the food structure. Which is my position that the tee shirt indicates.
    ======================
    Regarding people not understanding the DNA symbol, that was in my answer to a specific question about a subset of the population – those who were not familar with GE foods. See my post on September 10, 2011 at 10:34 pm.

  37. On September 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm I attempted to post this. It has not appeared, the statement given is: “Your comment is awaiting moderation, probably because it contains several links. If you register for the blog, this will be unlikely to happen again.”
    ————————————-
    As far as I know, I am registered. Once before this happened so I just removed the http
    —————————————–
    “Reply
    If the reader is interested in samples of Jonathan’s contributions and my replies please look at the following threads (I suggest using your “find” command with the term Jonathan ).
    XXXX://biofortified.org/2011/01/seralini-seeks-to-dilute-biology-education/
    AND
    XXXX://biofortified.org/2011/08/genetic-contamination-may-not-mean-what-you-think-it-means/#comment-59791

  38. Just registering for the blog does not tell the blog that any individual comment with your name is really you. You have to comment while logged in to skip comment moderation. Maybe I need to put that in the moderation message too…

  39. Henry, as an FYI if there are particular comments you wish to direct people’s attention to you can click on the date/timestamp on the post – this will then change your browser address to
    XXXX://biofortified.org/year/month/post_title/#comment-NUMBER
    which *should* skip folk directly to where you want to be if copied and pasted into the main text
    I often run into a similar issue as I have no bloody clue about whether or not I am logged in (I think I am maybe 10% of the time) on any given computer and am far too lazy to take the extra steps required – thankfully Karl and Anastasia are industrious enough to cover my flaws up by generally getting something sorted out eventually – although it is probably also a good means of reducing my general quantity of gibber gabber to managable levels by having me self censor (as I’m generally too lazy to repost things, and only put stuff into a word document if its a novel arguement that requires a silly amount of time (as I’ve lost numerous lengthy rants when closing the browser due to my boss wandering by…(or by accident, as is more frequently the case)))

  40. Your first paragraph is rather contradicted by your second which seems to suggest that you’d only expect DNA in a modified plant.

    Once I extract the DNA so I know it’s there

    Weellll… if you’re eating a plant you know that DNA is there… because it’s a plant.

    do I then check it for mutations

    One would think that if you’re concerned about GMOs you’d jsut check for the transgene – if you’re looking for mutations you’re likely to be confounded by general DNA degradation during processing and cooking, plus the inherent variability between different available genotypes – what would you use as a reference for what is and is not a mutation? It’s highly probable that any corn or soy product you eat has a combination of different source genotypes each of which will differ from each other simply due to coming from different breeding programs (or from different varieties within a program) so ascertaining what is or is not a mutation, per se, may be rather difficult (particularly as even in a population of genetically uniform plants there will no doubt be numerous mutations which arise specific to that generation and are present in the end product in various quantities)
    One does wonder however why this would become evident when your kids have babies – generally these sort of analyses are time dependant to an extent, but not to specific times like when your kids have babies – that seems rather irrelevant to the sequencing and computational biology side of things – generally its more about throughput and resources available, and I’m hoping nobody would be dense enough to think that a mutation in a plant genome would lead to actual phenotypic differences two generations downstream of the consumer.

  41. Henry, this disputation of single words is getting really tiresome. Especially since you are trying to divine what the artist intended while not paying attention to what they actually said. Ewan did not “put in words the equation” – He was quoting the artist’s own words from the contest entry! I believe if you can spend all this time looking up education journal papers from 30 years ago to quote ad nauseum that you could at least check your facts before you misquote people.
    Here is the artist’s actual, complete words from the T-shirt entry page:
    “Eating GMO foods is nothing less than consuming toxins. As time goes by, harmful substances get stored in your body. Simply and scarily, it results in a shorter life span.
    Crops + DNA = Toxins.”
    The artist meant DNA by the symbol, spelled out in their own words. If you would like to debate exactly which DNA (any? specific?) and by what process it is added (agrobacterium or biolistics?) feel free to ask them on their contest entry page. Because I’m done on this note.
    Henry, can you answer me this one question without documenting timestamps, quoting other passages and adding unnecessary horizontal lines:
    Why are you commenting at Biofortified? You are spending a lot of time doing what most people here can recognize as being excruciatingly nitpicky and drawing out huge discussions over very minor details, and diverting the discussion away from what it was about, and not backing down when it is pointed out to you that you said something that was obviously wrong, or when you contradict yourself. We want to hear from diverse perspectives on this blog, but we aren’t hearing your perspective about anything so much as getting into protracted disputes about issues that don’t really matter. Before, you were using comment moderation as a weapon to question other people’s opinions as expressed on this blog. Are you here to talk about your views, or to throw monkey wrenches into discussions? Why are you commenting at Biofortified?
    Your presence in the community here is not in question, but I’m struggling to understand what it is you are looking for, and thus, how I should treat you.

  42. —————————————
    Karl said: on September 13, 2011 at 12:38 pm the following:
    “Henry, this disputation of single words is getting really tiresome. Especially since you are trying to divine what the artist intended while not paying attention to what they actually said. Ewan did not “put in words the equation” – He was quoting the artist’s own words from the contest entry!”
    ————————————–
    H.Kuska comment. If he was quoting something from a contest entry, then I expect a reference to the information. Without a reference my assumption was that the statement is his interpretation of what the author really meant. This is a forum. After I posted my statement, Ewan could of simply said that the author actually said it in the contest entry.
    =====================================
    As to why I participate in this forum. I am a retired educator/scientist. As I have mentioned in at least one (possibly more) previous threads, in my advanced graduate courses A technique that I would use is to pass out a scientific paper and then have the class analyize it. At the Ph.D level I feel that part of our resposibilty is to teach scientific thinking/communication skills. For quite some time now there have been comments/complaints that some (many?) science university faculty are using graduate students as low cost advanced technicans and not including training of scientific thinking/communication. A very recent study received considerable “exposure” recently in the “popular” science daily type newsletters.
    ————————————
    http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1525/bio.2011.61.2.8
    —————————————–
    “Nearly half of the students perceived written communication skills to be among their top five strengths—the highest rated of any skill. Faculty members did not share this opinion: More than half (53.4%) scored written communication skills as an area of weakness in student preparation. More significant, according to potential employers in both the public and private sectors, written communication skills are in great need of improvement. Government staff ranked written communication skills as new employees’ top deficiency. In the private sector, insufficient written communication abilities ranked just behind inadequate plant identification skills.”
    —————————————
    What some may interpret as “nit-picking” is possibly my attempt to point out deficiencies in scientific thinking/communication skills. For example there have been a number of instances in this thread where someone has argued against a “strawman” position that they have set up for me. Why they did they do it? I assume that they have not fully developed the skill of reading the complete statement and then attempting to put everything in context.
    ————————————–
    Another example that has occured more frequently than I had expected is for people to use words/concepts without checking as to what the accepted scientific meaning actually is.
    =========================================
    There are also other reasons that I participate. But the typing box indicates that I am at the bottom.

  43. Just to nit-pick what I said was

    What the author actually says about the T-shirt design:-

    Eating GMO foods is nothing less than consuming toxins. As time goes by, harmful substances get stored in your body. Simply and scarily, it results in a shorter life span.
    Crops + DNA = Toxins.

    With the key being “what the author actually said” – there was no paraphrase, no interpretation, and the link to the author’s piece is right there in the original blog post above – generally, when given a piece with references, one would expect readers to follow the references to form their own opinions.
    I could, indeed, have jumped straight on you and corrected your post, but I found this unnecessary as I felt my point was utterly clear (as evidenced by Karl knowing precisely what I was on about, and infact doing a better and more concise job of pointing this out) and your misinterpretation had no bearing on anything.
    On typing boxes and bottoms… I view that as a guide to say I’m about half way done… as far as I am aware you don’t get stopped although there is a degree of somewhat annoying bouncing back up to the main text involved as one collects one’s thoughts.

  44. Ewan,
    What Henry is up to is postmodernist. Since all meanings are unavoidably self-constructed and subjective, the best we can do is accurately replicate, word for word, what others say. Hence the preoccupation with who said exactly what, and when. Claiming to know the meaning of symbols as used by others (such as the double helix) is therefore suspect, if not inherently wrong-headed.
    This is an unfortunate excrescence of logical positivism and nominalism, both of which actually predate postmodernism, and all of which are worse than useless.

  45. For our upcoming T-shirt design contest, I thought we would make it more of an open collaboration for ideas, and pass the winner(s) off to an artist who can make them look good. This would help out those whose ideas are greater than their drawing skills.

  46. Just to jump the gun somewhat (as otherwise I’d forget) I’d propose a near replica of the T-shirt design above with the following changes – in place of the skull you replicate the plant, and for the text you just put “Food”
    Plants + DNA = Plants
    Food.

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