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Biodesign Café: GMO Detectives

Life is built on DNA. Everything we eat, everyone we love, sickness and health, the entire living world is written in DNA. Humans have domesticated plants and animals since around 12,000 BCE, using selective breeding or artificial selection. Since then we are genetically modifying them.

Corn which we eat today probably is modified version of Mexican teosintes grass, which has only around dozen of seeds on cob. Nowadays there are more than thousand corn on each cob. This process of modification lasts around 9 000 years.

But since end of 20th century the process has changed. We started to use genetic engineering techniques (i.e., a genetically engineered organism). The first genetically modified bacteria was created in 1973, and the first plant was produced in 1983. Today GMOs are widely used, all human insulin for diabetics is produced by genetically modified bacteria, and adoption of herbicide and insecticide resistant crops has been widely adopted. New cancer immunotherapies utilize genetic modification where your own immune cells are taken out of the body and modified to detect and attack cancer cells, and then returned to the body. Today only few of us understand it, but many are afraid that, this new power is quickly maturing.

During our TEDxKatowiceAdventure workshop we would like to look closer on DNA and GMO. We will use DIY approach to extract DNA from food thanks to toolkit GMO Detective, created by Guy Aidelberg from The Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity in Paris.

The toolkit helps to create a 5 minute DNA extraction protocol that only needs water. This is coupled to novel isothermal DNA amplification techniques, detected through fluorescence, utilizing ultra affordable LEDs and plastic gel filters. The first use case is detection of GMO's in food.