December 1, 2011
University Relations and Marketing
Biotech Students at Bowie State Share What's Really in Our Grocery Items
Students Test Groceries for Genetically Modified Components
Biotechnology students at Bowie State University turned a trip to the grocery store into a high-tech research project to determine the makeup of some common food items. They were surprised to find that many of their favorite foods, like bananas, cereal and even cake mixes, were genetically modified.
"Almost everything we tested from the grocery store had been altered. I was disappointed and now encourage the use of more organic food," said Patricia Kamdem, a senior majoring in biology.
The research project enabled students to gain first-hand understanding of how scientific research has changed the way many of the foods found in common grocery items are grown and harvested. New molecular methods that add or modify genes can protect plants from diseases and pests and improve crops in ways that result in a more robust yield.
Each of the ten students in the course analyzed three grocery items that they selected. The students presented their findings at the university's Biotechnology Symposium Nov. 29 where speakers from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture also shared information about genetically modified organisms and biotechnology internship and training opportunities for students.
Experiments conducted by the students showed that most of the grocery items tested did contain modified genes. Dr. George Ude, associate professor in the Natural Sciences Department at Bowie State, guided the students in the research project. He has led the Biotechnology Symposium on campus since 2006.
Ude said research shows that the modifications the students found are safe and allowed by the FDA. The students also researched ethical issues surrounding the use of genetically modified crops and found that while there are opponents of its usage, most scientists agree that it is a safe method of producing crops for consumption. For more information, visit the USDA website at www.ars.usda.gov.
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