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Cindy Maddera

OK, so many people, particularly environmental groups, have a big problem with genetically modified foods. The worries arise from transgenics, the process used to genetically modify things. Transgenics has the capacity to bring in new genes that haven’t been in that particular genome before. For instance let’s say that you want to put a peanut gene into corn for some reason. Using transgenics, you run the risk of inserting the gene that carries the protein for an allergen. Now people with peanut allergies can’t eat corn flakes for breakfast. A new technology called Tilling could get the same results as trangenics without actual genetic modification. Tilling is short for targeting induced local lesions in genomes. It relies solely on the genes already in the plant and uses reverse genetics to pinpoint mutations that might enhance nutritional value or eliminate food allergens.

Scientists at Purdue University are using tilling to create a hypoallergenic soybean. Soybeans are one of the top eight allergenic foods. The researchers are creating as many mutations as they can in the plants in hopes of producing soybean plants in the population that don’t produce allergens.

The process has already been used by researchers at Davis, California to improve bread wheat.