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THE NUCLEOTIDAL WAVE - The Front Line of Mutant Food

For 50 bucks an hour, the UC Davis Plant Transformation Facility, one of the premier genetic-modification labs in the US, will offer its services to anyone with a dish of DNA, a vegetable, and a mutated dream. It is a place where ordinary supermarket fruits and vegetables are converted into new and improved species and has been home to more than 13,000 “transgenic events,” which is what molecular biologists call it when they blast DNA from one life-form into another. I recently traveled to Yolo County, California, to examine one of the laboratory’s recent successes: molecular pre-seedlings of Thompson seedless grapes that have been spiked with genes from a jellyfish. These grapes are commonly sold as produce and used to make table and box wines, and this infusion fortifies the fruit against a deadly disease. It also makes them glow in the dark.

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