A gene is a gene is a gene. But a single gene often has more than one job in the cell. Scientists working with corn genes know that first hand.
In The Beginning...
In the beginning, scientists thought the Glossy 15 gene only gave corn seedlings a waxy coat. Much to their surprise, they discovered Glossy 15 did more than that. They could use it to make super corn plants.
When additional copies of the Glossy 15 gene were inserted into corn, the maturation process slowed down. This doesn't seem like it would be very helpful. Why would people interested in making better corn plants want them to mature more slowly?
When the plants mature at a slower rate, they become much larger by the end of the season.Â Unfortunately, producing bigger corn plants does not mean more corn.
It seems that seed maturation is slowed by the gene also. But corn is grown for more than its seed. Its biomass of leaves and stems is used to feed cattle.
Scientists also believe that because of the larger size, the new super corn would be an ideal energy crop to make ethanol. And super corn needs less nitrogen fertilizer, so it's less costly to grow.
Scientists say the government needs to approve their new super corn, but they feel using Glossy 15 is a great way to safely improve corn production because they are using a gene that is already in the corn plant.
It looks like it's only a matter of time until you can thank the Glossy 15 gene for the steak on your plate or that gallon of ethanol in your tank.