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The long term consequences of genetic engineering are still unknown, but a
few things should be considered.  Hosta as we know them today are the result
of evolutionary changes that took place in response to the environment.
Changes that made the plant more fit survived and those that made it les fit
were lost.  Each change was a one step process that was tested before the
next step took place.  It took thousands of years and a lot of mistakes to
make a Hosta plant.  If we insert a single gene into a crop plant that codes
for a bacterial toxin that inhibits insects from eating that crop plant,  we
have made a 'more fit' crop plant (this is the major use of genetic
engineering in plants today) .  However, most crop plants could not survive
in the wild without cultivation, so have we made a more fit plant?

In order to make substantial changes in plants (or animals for that matter)
that truly change the form of the organism will require the transfer of a
several genes.  We do not at present have the insight to know how to control
these changes, so to add several genes would be shooting in the dark.  The
technology is too expensive to mimic evolution and test each change after a
single gene transfer and then go to the next gene, so we are stuck with the
simple single gene changes at this time.

Eventually, as we gain more insight into how individual genes control
development of the plant, we may in fact may be able to make major
alterations in the form of plants and animals.  Eventually we should be able
to model changes using computers so that we can get the desired result
without a lot of trial and error.  I would not expect to see this kind of
engineering in the near future.  I just hope that we can deal with the
ethics involved as well as the technology when we get to this point.  It
probably will not happen in my lifetime, but I may be surprised.  I doubt
that we will see monocots becoming dicots any time in our lives, but I bet
we will see a blue camellia and rose before too long.  Maybe we will see
slug resistant Hostas as well.

Jim Anderson

----- Original Message -----
From: Ransom Lydell <ranbl@netsync.net>
To: <hosta-open@mallorn.com>
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 1999 1:24 AM

> At 01:44 PM 11/29/1999 -0500, you wrote:
> >Sorry Ran,
> >
> >This genetic engineering thing is still in its infancy.  We are still
> >transferring one protein (gene) at a time.  Glow in the dark Hostas would
> >probably be rather dim as are most bioluminescent fungi, but would be
> >interesting on a moonless night.
> >> >Jim Anderson
> >> >***********
> Jim
> I was working my way to a more serious question , that is in part
> in my wondering what will result from "genetic engineering" that results
> genes from a dicot and a monocit being mixed.  Could a Hosta concieviably
> grow branches?  or a trunk? Bigger question????  Would it still be a
> Hosta?????
> Thanks
> Ran
> >
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
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