Genetically modified soybean

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Genetically modified soybean is a soybean (Glycine max) that has had DNA introduced into it using genetic engineering techniques.[1]:5 Soy is a widely planted genetically modified crop that is used to produce genetically modified food.

Genetic modification in plants[edit]

To modify a soybean’s genetic makeup, the gene to be introduced into the soybean must first be isolated. If the gene does not display an obvious phenotype, or visible characteristic, a marker gene must be linked to it so the modified cells and unmodified cells can be distinguished. According to Dr. Peter Celec, a professor in the Slovakian Comenius University’s Department of Molecular Biology, the “marker genes typically confer resistance to a selective agent, often an antibiotic,” so the unmodified cells can easily be killed off to leave only modified cells behind, and the “other [gene] is meant to confer a desirable phenotype, which is often agronomic (herbicide, pest, stress resistance) or related to food quality (shelf-life, taste, nutritional value).”[2]:533 Once the gene to be put into the soybean’s DNA is isolated, there are several ways to insert the gene, though the most popular are by “biolistics,” by using Agrobacterium, by electroporation.


Biolistics, more formally known as ballistic bombardment, is a process in which particles of a heavy metal element, such as tungsten or gold, are coated with the gene to be adopted by the plant and then fired, with a gene gun, into a sample of plant cells, as described by Professor Sibel Roller of South Bank University, London, and Susan Harlander, a vice president of Pillsbury’s research and development department. These particles penetrate the cell walls, leaving the genes free to code into the plant’s DNA. As the description implies, with its very uncomplicated and explosive process, this is one of the oldest methods of genetic engineering, as it was developed in 1990.[1]:6


Agrobacterium tumefaciens is a type of bacteria that transfers its DNA via horizontal gene transfer to create tumors in plants. This makes it very useful to genetic engineering. Gene transfer using it happens when “a restriction enzyme is used to cut non-virulent plasmid DNA derived from A. tumefaciens and thus create an insertion point, into which the gene can be ligated. The engineered plasmid is then put into a strain of A. tumefaciens, which contains a ‘helper’ plasmid and plant cells are treated with the recombinant bacterium” in culture.[2] While this looks like a complicated concept, it is really only a genetic engineering version of cut and paste.


Electroporation is exactly what its namesake implies—it is the creation of pores by using electricity. Specifically, it is when a pulsed magnetic field is used to create pores in plant cells, “through which genes can be taken up, and in the form of naked DNA incorporated into the plant genome.”[2]

Gene knockout[edit]

Gene knockout, also known as antisense technology or gene neutralization, is used when a gene in a plant is undesirable or inhibits the function of the new gene that will be introduced. To “knock out” this gene, a noncoding strand of DNA (DNA that does not translate into any genes) is used to silence the undesirable trait.[2]:533

Examples of transgenic soybeans[edit]

The genetic makeup of a soybean gives it a wide variety of uses, thus keeping it in high demand. First, manufacturers only wanted to use transgenics to be able to grow more soy at a minimal cost to meet this demand, and to fix any problems in the growing process, but they eventually found they could modify the soybean to contain healthier components, or even focus on one aspect of the soybean to produce in larger quantities. These phases became known as the first and second generation of genetically modified (GM) foods. As Dr. Celec describes, “benefits of the first generation of GM foods were oriented towards the production process and companies, the second generation of GM foods offers, on contrary, various advantages and added value for the consumer,” including “improved nutritional composition or even therapeutic effects.”[2]:533

Roundup Ready Soybean[edit]

Main article: Roundup Ready soybean

The Roundup Ready soybean, also known as soybean GTS 40-3-2, is a transgenic soybean that has been immunized to the Roundup herbicide. Since the soybean’s natural trypsin inhibitors provide protection against pests, the only major problem in soy farming was weeds,[3] thus making soybean 40-3-2 revolutionary. According to Dr. Gerhardt Wenzel, a professor at the Technische Universität in Munich, Germany and a deputy member of the “Zentrale Komission für die Biologische Sicherheit” (ZKBS), the glyphosate in the herbicide would inhibit the soybean plant’s EPSPS gene, which is involved in the maintenance of the “biosynthesis of aromatic metabolites,” and cause the plant to die along with the weeds for which the herbicide was meant.[4]:57 A plasmid which was transferred to the soybean cells through the cauliflower mosaic virus[citation needed] was soon developed to provide immunity to glyphosate-containing herbicides, and, after this process was perfected, the Roundup Ready soybean was ready, first hitting the US market in 1996.[4]:55

Stacked traits[edit]

Monsanto developed a soybean expressing Cry1Ac protein from Bacillus thuringiensis and the glyphosate-resistance gene, which completed the Brazilian regulatory process in 2010.[5][6][7]

Genetic modification to improve soybean oil[edit]

Soy has been genetically modified to improve the quality of soy oil. Soy oil has a fatty acid profile that makes is susceptible to oxidation, which makes it rancid, and this has limited its usefulness to the food industry.[8]:1030 Genetic modifications increased the amount of oleic acid and stearic acid and decreased the amount of linolenic acid.[8]:1031 by silencing, or knocking out, the delta 9 and delta 12 desaturases.[9][8]:1032 DuPont Pioneer created a high oleic fatty acid soybean with levels of oleic acid greater than 80%, and started marketing it in 2010.[8]:1038


The regulation of genetic engineering concerns the approaches taken by governments to assess and manage the risks associated with the development and release of genetically modified crops. There are differences in the regulation of GM crops between countries, with some of the most marked differences occurring between the USA and Europe. Regulation varies in a given country depending on the intended use of the products of the genetic engineering. For example, a crop not intended for food use is generally not reviewed by authorities responsible for food safety.[10][11]


There is broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food.[12][13][14][15][16][17] GM crops also provide a number of ecological benefits.[18]

Critics have objected to GM crops per se on several grounds, including ecological concerns, and economic concerns raised by the fact these organisms are subject to intellectual property law (although this latter issue applies equally to any plant variety). GM crops also are involved in controversies over GM food with respect to whether food produced from GM crops is safe and whether GM crops are needed to address the world's food needs. See the genetically modified food controversies article for discussion of issues about GM crops and GM food. These controversies have led to litigation, international trade disputes, and protests, and to restrictive legislation in most countries.[19]


  1. ^ a b Roller, Sibel and Susan Harlander. "Modern Food Biotechnology: Overview of Key Issues." Genetic Modification in the Food Industry: A Strategy for Food Quality Improvement. Ed. Roller, Sibel and Susan Harlander. London: Blackie, 1998. 5-26.
  2. ^ a b c d e Celec, Peter, et al. "Biological and Biomedical Aspects of Genetically Modified Food."Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. 59.10 (Dec 2005): 531-40.
  3. ^ "Molecular Pharming"
  4. ^ a b Wenzel, G. "The Experience of the ZKBS for Risk Assessment of Soybean." Journal fuer Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit/Journal of Consumer Protection and Food Safety. 3.Suppl. 2 (2008): 55-59.
  5. ^ Monsanto's Bt Roundup Ready 2 Yield Soybeans Approved for Planting in Brazil - Crop Biotech Update (8/27/2010) |
  6. ^ Staff, Monsanto. August, 2009. Application for authorization to place on the market MON 87701 × MON 89788 soybean in the European Union, according to Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 on genetically modified food and feed Linked from the GMO Compass page on the MON87701 x MON89788 event.
  7. ^ Monsanto's Bt Roundup Ready 2 Yield Soybeans Approved for Planting in Brazil - Crop Biotech Update (8/27/2010) |
  8. ^ a b c d Clemente, Tom E. and Edgar B. Cahoon. "Soybean Oil: Genetic Approaches for Modification of Functionality and Total Content." Plant Physiology. 151.3 (2009): 1030-40.
  9. ^ Anthony, 196-7
  10. ^ Wesseler, J. and N. Kalaitzandonakes (2011): Present and Future EU GMO policy. In Arie Oskam, Gerrit Meesters and Huib Silvis (eds.), EU Policy for Agriculture, Food and Rural Areas. Second Edition, pp. 23-323 – 23-332. Wageningen: Wageningen Academic Publishers
  11. ^ Beckmann, V., C. Soregaroli, J. Wesseler (2011): Coexistence of genetically modified (GM) and non-modified (non GM) crops: Are the two main property rights regimes equivalent with respect to the coexistence value? In "Genetically modified food and global welfare" edited by Colin Carter, GianCarlo Moschini and Ian Sheldon, pp 201-224. Volume 10 in Frontiers of Economics and Globalization Series. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing
  12. ^ American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Board of Directors (2012). Legally Mandating GM Food Labels Could Mislead and Falsely Alarm Consumers
  13. ^ A decade of EU-funded GMO research (2001-2010) (PDF). Directorate-General for Research and Innovation. Biotechnologies, Agriculture, Food. European Union. 2010. doi:10.2777/97784. ISBN 978-92-79-16344-9. ""The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies." (p. 16)" 
  14. ^ Ronald, Pamela (2011). "Plant Genetics, Sustainable Agriculture and Global Food Security". Genetics 188 (1): 11–20. doi:10.1534/genetics.111.128553. 
  15. ^ American Medical Association (2012). Report 2 of the Council on Science and Public Health: Labeling of Bioengineered Foods
  16. ^ FAO, 2004. State of Food and Agriculture 2003–2004. Agricultural Biotechnology: Meeting the Needs of the Poor. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome. "Currently available transgenic crops and foods derived from them have been judged safe to eat and the methods used to test their safety have been deemed appropriate. These conclusions represent the consensus of the scientific evidence surveyed by the ICSU (2003) and they are consistent with the views of the World Health Organization (WHO, 2002). These foods have been assessed for increased risks to human health by several national regulatory authorities (inter alia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, the United Kingdom and the United States) using their national food safety procedures (ICSU). To date no verifiable untoward toxic or nutritionally deleterious effects resulting from the consumption of foods derived from genetically modified crops have been discovered anywhere in the world (GM Science Review Panel). Many millions of people have consumed foods derived from GM plants - mainly maize, soybean and oilseed rape - without any observed adverse effects (ICSU)."
  17. ^ Other sources:
  18. ^ Andrew Pollack for the New York Times. April 13, 2010 Study Says Overuse Threatens Gains From Modified Crops
  19. ^ Wesseler, J. (ed.) (2005): Environmental Costs and Benefits of Transgenic Crops. Dordrecht, NL: Springer Press

Further reading[edit]

Anthony, Kinney J. and Susan Knowlton. “Designer Oils: The High Oleic Acid Soybean.” Genetic Modification in the Food Industry: A Strategy for Food Quality Improvement. Ed. Roller, Sibel and Susan Harlander. London: Blackie, 1998. 193-213.

Deng, Ping-Jian, et al. “The Definition, Source, Manifestation and Assessment of Unintended Effects in Genetically Modified Plants.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 88.14 (2008): 2401-2413.

Domingo, Jose’ L. “Toxicity Studies of Genetically Modified Plants: A Review of the Published Literature.”Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 47.8 (2007): 721-733.

“Genetically Modified Soybean.” GMO Compass. Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Dec 2008. Web. 22 Nov. 2009. <>

Kuiper, Harry A., et al. “Assessment of the Food Safety Issues Related to Genetically Modified Foods.” Plant Journal. 27.6 (Sep 2001): 503-28.

“Molecular Pharming.” GMO Safety. Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Oct 2009. Web. 22 Nov. 2009. <>

See also[edit]

External links[edit]