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UHV students test organic produce (video)

By Carolina Astrain
Oct. 23, 2012 at 5:23 a.m.

University of Houston-Victoria senior Thomas Martinez pours a solution over a gel that will hold samples of DNA from organic fruits and vegetables that the class was testing to discover if they were genetically modified during a genetics lab at the university on Tuesday. Of the fruits and vegetables tested, none tested positive for being genetically modified.

The genetics lab classmates sat side-by-side in matching white coats.

University of Houston-Victoria biology majors were busy mapping out their test subjects for an experiment that would reveal traces of genetically modified organisms.

Hashimul Ehsan, UHV biology professor, led the pack of 17 students in his genetics lab Tuesday morning on a journey of discovery.

The fruits and vegetables tested at last week's Tuesday three-hour lab were bell peppers, bananas and broccoli - all tested negative for genetically modified organisms.

About 80 percent of what the average American eats from the grocery store contains genetically modified organisms, said Ehsan.

The manipulated organisms have various uses in produce production.

Most of the negative criticism of genetically modified organisms stems from the link to cancer a French study uncovered using rats and genetically modified corn.

The French national food safety agency concluded the study wasn't reliable enough to support its conclusions.

During the analysis portion of their experiment, the students came across problems of their own with reliability.

Some of their samples were difficult to extract properly.

Strawberries proved to be one of the more challenging subjects to read that day.

"It's normal," said biology major Sarah Vincent. "In every lab something messes up and that's just part of it."

In the Nov. 6 election, California voters will decide whether a mandatory sticker will be placed on genetically engineered produce.

"It's controversial, but at the same time, there are two sides to every story," said biology major John Longoria. "Using more GMOs means being able to produce more food faster for more people."

The organic vegetables and fruits tested in the lab all came out negative for genetically modified organisms.

And so did Julio's Cornchips, an apparent classroom favorite.

"They're keeping it real," said biology major Steven Couch. "What a relief."



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