Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Gregor Mendel and... Belgian Blue's

Gregor Mendel was the founding father of many heredity theories.  Thirty-forty years before his time, he started experimenting with pea plants seeing the way that they could make cross breeds of specific plants, leading him to his passions in animal hereditary.  You could say Gregor Mendel changed the way we live today.

Today almost everything from potatoes to rabbits are genetically enhanced and altered.  Including chicken. The difference between selective breeding and genetic modification is key.
Selective Breeding is when breeders take a certain desired trait in an animal or plant and breed the best of the best of that trait until the family tree passes down the most intense and concentrated form of what you want to breed out of it.  For example, the Belgian Blue Cow.  This animal is like the body-builder form of an animal, the most muscle mass has been bred out of these cows for hundreds of years until they get the product of a cow weighing over a ton.

Genetic Modification, or engineering, is when scientists take a trait not always home to the targeted organism, and places it into the desired animal or plant.  It is the insertion of genetic material into a genome, this genetic information is then copied and replaced.  An example of this would be almost all of the produce we see in our grocery stores.  The food we see there wasn't nearly that size before it was genetically modified to be tens of times bigger than it originally was, or even a different plant in other ways too.  Tomatoes obtain a trait found in flounder that enable it from freezing in the cold oceanic waters, as to not freeze during cold nights or months.

Some benefits of selective breeding are the dog breeds we have today, not all those breeds used to exist until we selectively bred them to be what they are today.  Another benefit is that we can now control and better understand specific parts of a genome and traits of an organism, target these and selective breed them, or target it and attack it.

Some benefits of genetic modification would be that we have the foods that we do today.  We would not have the same types, vastness, or quantity as we do now without genetic modification.

Some concerns with them would be that after selectively breeding these things so much can really hurt and damage the organism.  The same diseases and bad qualities are passed down with the breeding too, not just the desired traits.  In animals, we breed them mostly for larger size, but this means that the bones have to support more body mass, and the heart has to supply a larger body now too, and in most cases, these animals are suffering and living short lives due to this.  Heart failure and lameness are one of the main contributors.

Genetic enhancing and manipulation is not any better.  These organisms are becoming more of a pain than anything, with all of the illnesses spread down it is hardly worth the special crops of organisms. These GM's are posing negative health impacts and unhealthy cross-pollination as well as many other negative controversies.

I think that GM's should be more concerning to the public because, especially recently, scientists are testing on animals and organisms for unnecessary reasons.  Rabbits for example.  Scientists have taken a trait from jelly-fish and inserted it into animals to make them "glow." I think that at least cross breeding sticks with the raw materials given, but in GM we are messing with intermixing whole different families of living things.  A tomato and bottom crawler fish should not be mixed.  In this way I think that we are just messing with nature a bit too much, and it is dangerous, much of the time unnecessary, as well is causing more animal testing than I think is moral.

If Gregor Mendel saw our current day hereditary studies and changes we have made I think he would be shocked.  He started out experimenting on pea plants, not jelly fish and rodents.  He would probably be impressed with himself for starting this whole evolution of science, and think that we have taken this further than he ever expected to.  Hopefully he would be able to tell the difference between what we have done and what he started out with doing, and also I hope that he would be able to see how far we have come, as well as being able to see or tell people what he thought of current day involvement with hereditary studies.


  1. Really nice job Lily! Photo's are a great addition. When we exhibit these in the spring, you can proud of your work throughout the year.

  2. the one on the right us the real cow lol