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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Ask Ms. Scientist: Hands and GMOs

Dear Ms. Scientist,

Why are so many people right handed?

Manuel A.

About 90 percent of all people around the world are right-handed. There are several theories out there. One of the leading theories is the division of labor in our brain hemispheres. Our brains are really made of two halves: the right side and the left side. The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, and the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body. In order to be more efficient, the left and right sides sometimes delegate different “responsibilities” to handle. For example, studies have shown that fine motor skills, such as speaking and doing things with your hands, are largely controlled by the left side of the brain in most people. Since the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, that means most people end up having stronger fine motor skills in their right hands, thus leading to more right-handed people. Since the converse brain orientation is rarer, we see a lot fewer lefties than righties.

Dear Ms. Scientist,

What is a GMO?

Emma P.

There has been a lot of talk about GMO labeling recently, but what exactly is the process? Genetically modified organisms are used to increase crop yield and improve nutrient value. Genetically modified organisms are created through four steps. First, a trait of interest is identified. The trait of interest usually solves an agricultural need. To identify the trait, scientists observe nature to find crops that already accomplish this need or goal. Step two is to isolate the genetic trait of interest. The genome, or complete list of genes, of the plant with the desired trait is compared to the genome of the plant that needs the desired trait. If they don’t have a database to compare traits, scientists will remove traits one-by-one until the desired trait no longer appears. This tells them by process of elimination which gene exhibits the trait. In step three, the desired gene is inserted into the new plant. Many biotech companies use natural bacteria that carry the gene in their DNA and alter the plant inserting the bacteria into its genome. In the final step, companies ensure the plant will grow with its new gene and optimize the methods used to grow this new strain. 

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