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Caring for Earth
Genetic Engineering of Plants

Caring for Earth
Caring for Earth

Genetic Engineering of Plants
Print Genetic Engineering of Plants Reading Comprehension

Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 7 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.52

     challenging words:    biotech, cusp, Frankenfoods, monsanto, non-engineered, self-sufficiency, terminator, traditionally-bred, unlabeled, heated, conventional, crossing, manufacturers, production, cutting, compounds
     content words:    Round UpTM

Genetic Engineering of Plants
By Mary Lynn Bushong

1     It seems like something out of a science fiction novel: scientists changing the DNA of plants grown for food so that more could be grown with less. It sounds wonderful, but what are the long-term effects?
2     What is involved in making plants more efficient? There are two ways of doing this. The first is through traditional plant breeding practices of selecting and cross-breeding plants of the same kind for certain traits. If you were growing corn in Kansas, you might want to grow shorter corn plants that would be able to withstand strong gusts of wind. You would select corn plants that were shorter for cross breeding and cross those until you came up with a plant that was the height you wanted. This is an example of intentional plant breeding, assisted by humans. This type of plant breeding can also occur naturally, without human intervention.
3     The second way of making plants more efficient is through genetic engineering. It is also called genetic modification, gene splicing, or recombinant DNA technology. In plants, it involves the selection of desirable genes and adding the gene or genes into the genetic code of a plant that you want to modify. Selected genes may come from a closely related plant or a completely different plant. They may even come from a completely different organism like a bacterium, a virus, or even an animal. It is not something that could naturally occur in a plant.
4     Scientists can use several methods to join the new genetic material with the DNA of the plant they are changing. Some types of bacteria can be used to insert the new genetic material into the plant's DNA through a process called genetic recombination. Some plant viruses can be used to incorporate the new genetic information into the plant's DNA. However, this method has several limitations. Also, there are several types of new technology that allow the genetic material to be injected into the plant's DNA without the use of other organisms. The gene gun is one of these. Microinjection is another.

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