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Gene modification and Algae !! 5

By JB

Unfortunately, that?s such a loaded word. Even defining what is genetic modification depends on who you talk to and what their definitions are. Fundamentally there are several issues here. I see no necessity for doing transgenic organisms, where you actually put in foreign genes from some other organism, like for example in agriculture, where genes from other organisms have been inserted into plants for herbicide or insect resistance.

What we are primarily needing to focus on is to try to change the regulatory systems in algae. For example, one that everybody needs to focus on sooner or later, is how to maximize lipid production ? both content and productivity.

The other one of course is photosynthesis itself and there I see great potential in what we call antenna size reduction, work that I started a number of years ago. Here we want to reduce the amount of chlorophyll or other light absorbing pigments so the cells on the top don?t shade out the cells deeper in the culture.


It?s very clear that we need to have genetic tools; that we need to go into the algae to change the regulation of specific pathways. We can?t just expect that we are always going to find the perfect strains by simple mutations or selection, at least in many cases. So we will have to do so-called genetic modifications.

There is a great concern among many people, and I think rightly so, that we need to know the consequences of using these kinds of organisms. Can they spread into natural environments? I think that in this case what we need to do is get the government to pull together a completely independent committee of scientists, experts in topics such as phytoplankton ecology, environmental impacts, etc., to look at the issues of the spread of cultivated organisms. Not only genetic modified organisms, but also so-called non-native strains.


Nature is a very harsh mistress and will weed out anything that we domesticate for our own purposes. None of the cultivars of plants that we have domesticated would survive any period of time in nature.

At the very best they will revert back to the wild type if they can, and if not they will just disappear. You take a field of wheat and let it go without cultivation for five or ten years and see how many wheat plants are left, you will be surprised if you find more than one or two.

So, same thing here.

But I think it is a legitimate cause of concern, I don?t want to minimize it. I think people have the right to ask the question. Some people in this industry do not like this question to be raised, but I think it has to be raised and has to be addressed by the government, not the industry, and has to be answered.

Courtesy JB
Tue June 01 2010 11:12:53 PM by Manohar 1732 views

Comments - 5

  • Larsyn wrote:
    Wed June 02 2010 05:26:54 PM

    Until natural reproduction has been exhausted GE is not needed. Strains can be subjected to Extreme enviromental conditions both good & bad which will produce different types of mutations. Hybrids could be of great help if breeding could be performed & perfected. Hybrid vigor could produce what we are all looking for

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  • Fri June 04 2010 12:38:25 AM

    I agree that natural selection and enviromental control will give us all the different strains we might need.Genetic manipulation is only good for short tern gain like every damn think else that money and industry gets into.The long term effects have not yet been assesed. All we need is a little climate change or some rare disesse to wipe out crops and produce starvation.Diversity has always been natures hold card in the event of catastrophy. To take it away is pure foolishness on the part of man.It would be better to control our own numbers than to manipulate our food supply.This planet like any community has an optimum population of humans. We need to atay with in the bouds of that optimum or suffer the consiquences.

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  • Shankar wrote:
    Wed June 16 2010 04:28:06 AM

    Guess who is getting into GM. Exxon Mobile. After producing CO2 for the last so many decades, they have earned enough money to plough $ 600 million to gene modify the algae. There is an urgent need to regulate gene manipulation.

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  • Veronica wrote:
    Fri July 02 2010 03:59:51 AM

    Yes. Regulation is critical. We all know what happened because of lack of regulation in the sub prime mortgaging of houses in the usa.
    Part of the reason for Ireland's present status.

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  • Pami wrote:
    Fri August 06 2010 06:56:46 AM

    A series of really fresh ideas in this post I just wanna share a few of mine
    1) the theory of reducing chlorophyll to take away shade on lower cells.. I think photosynthesis is very crutial for development of cells a change in chlorphyll content can lead to growth problems in culture..Instead a good PBR should take care of enough lightening of culture.

    2)gnetic modification as I could see are esential for producing new starins of algae... I feel algae can't be compared with wheat because the importance in production of large quantities of algae is much higher( we wanna substitute orthodox fuels, for that we need to depend on very fast growing species).

    3)Comming to the effect of environment on the GMO and vice versa, algae growing in PBR should be treated as some important chemical..they have to be properly taken care. They must be engineered with suicide genes ( to stop their spreading into environment!!)

    There are a good number of food crops for us to eat!!..But when it comes to fighting the orthodox fuels we have very limited eco-friendly resources..Since the enemy is very strong we need to search for a better weapon ( in this case modify our weapon)!!

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