Markedly different gene expression in wheat grown with organic or inorganic fertilizer
This paper is a little old in science years, but extremely important nevertheless. A group of Ag-Researchers in the farming town of Rothamsted in southeast England looked at the genetic expression of organically vs. synthetically grown wheat grown in 2002, 2003, and 2004, The synthetic fields were fed with Ammonium Nitrate, while the organic fields were fed with Farm Yard Manure.
The experiment was relatively simple, however used relatively high-tech genetic profiling machinery. After harvest, genetic expression was assessed in wheat grains from the different fertilizer types. Analysis was done using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to assess and quantify the RNA found in the grains. The RNA, which is made from codes of DNA, was compared to wheat's known DNA library. The presence of RNA indicates which genes in the DNA had been turned on in order to make the RNA. An elegantly simple example of real world metabolomics, the study of the economy of metabolism.
The scientists found that the number of genes transcribed was drastically higher in the Organically grown wheat than in the Ammonium Nitrate grown wheat. Organic wheat had both a higher diversity of genes activated, and a much higher level of expression. The majority of genes identified were expressed some 4-5 times more than their synthetic counterparts.
This study shows that there is a significant 0difference in how a plant expresses its DNA in response to it's environment (this is an epigenetic changed based on nutritional environment) The increase in genetic expression has direct correlation to the levels of leftover organic molecules found in plant material. The next step to take with this research is to determine what this diverse chemical signature does to plant growth and subsequently the quality of the final produce. Basically, does more and diverse genetic expression lead to better food and medicine? The current science does seem to support this.
So, the next time some tells you that there is no difference between organic and synthetically grown food, you can confidently say otherwise. The reason why those organic strawberries taste better may have to do with the fact that they are utilizing much more of their genome to grow. Thanks science!!!
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