餐桌上的麻烦 Trouble on the Table

2021年1月21日
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餐桌上的麻烦 Trouble on the Table

What do you get when you cross a chicken with an apple? A daffodil with rice? A flounder with a tomato? These aren't jokes waiting for a punch line. Believe it or not, combinations like these may make their way to your dinner table. There's a brave new world of agriculture that has some people excited about new superfoods. Others are very nervous.

鸡肉和苹果杂交会得到什么?水仙和水稻呢?比目鱼和西红柿呢?这不是笑话中的妙语。不管你相信与否,类似这样的组合有可能出现在你的餐桌上。这是一个崭新的农业世界,有些人对新研制的超级食品兴奋不已;还有些人则非常紧张。

For thousands of years, farmers improved their crops by patiently crossbreeding plants that have good traits. They would take pollen from the sweetest melon plants and add it to the flowers of plants that produced the biggest melons to create new plants with melons that are both sweet and big. But crossbreeding doesn't always work. Even when it does, it can take decades to get good results.

几千年来,农民耐心地培育品种优良的杂交植物以提高农作物的品质。他们从最甜的西瓜植株中采集花粉,添加到结出个头最大的西瓜的植株花朵中,这样培育出又甜又大的新品种西瓜。但是杂交培植并不总是奏效。即使奏效,也要几十年才能得出好的结果。

Now, thanks to advances in gene science, there are amazing shortcuts. Genes are the instructions inside cells that help determine what a living thing looks like: its size,its shape and countless other traits. Using the new tools of genetic engineering, scientists can take a gene from one living thing and put it directly into another plant or animal. That way, says John Mount, professor of agriculture at the University of Tennessee, “you can make changes more precisely in a much shorter period of time.”

现在,得益于基因科学的发展,出现了多种令人瞠目结舌的捷径。基因是细胞中的指令,确定生物的状态:大小、形状以及不计其数的其他特征。科学家采用新的基因工程手段,可以把一种生物身上的一个基因直接放入另一种植物或者动物身上。田纳西州立大学农学教授约翰·芒特说,采用那种方式,“你可以在更短的时间内使发生的变化更加精确”。

Here's how it works. First, scientists identify a gene that controls a desirable trait — for example, a protein in an Arctic flounder that helps the fish thrive in frigid waters. The scientists then use chemicals to cut and paste the flounder gene into the genes of tomato cells in a test tube. The cells grow into a tomato plant. Then the plant is tested to see if the fish gene still works. Do its tomatoes resist the cold? Yes, they do!

以下是运作过程。首先,科学家们确定可以控制理想特性的基因——例如,北极比目鱼的蛋白质有助于鱼类在寒冷的水域生长繁殖。然后,科学家们利用化学药剂截取比目鱼基因,粘贴到试管中西红柿细胞的基因里面。这些细胞成长为一棵西红柿植株。然后,检测这棵植株,确认比目鱼基因是不是仍然发挥作用。结出的西红柿抗寒吗?是的,它们抗寒!

Scientists believe the new techniques can create crops that are pest-proof, disease resistant and more nutritious. Researchers are working on rice that has an extra boost of vitamin A from a daffodil gene. The rice could help prevent blindness, even death, for millions of kids who don't get enough vitamin A in their diet.

科学家们认为这项新技术可以培育出抵御害虫、抗疾病、营养更好的农作物。研究人员正在研制一种水稻,添加水仙基因之后,维生素A含量激增。这种水稻有助于那些饮食中维生素A摄取量不足的上百万孩子预防失明,甚至死亡。

Are we making monster food?

我们是不是在制作怪异食品?

Not everybody is convinced that pumping up our food with foreign genes is a good idea. Many people say these genetically modified, or GM, foods may end up harming the environment and humans. They fear that plants with new genes forced into them will accidentally crossbreed with wild plants and create pesticide-resistant superweeds. They also say GM foods could carry genes that trigger allergies or other side effects. Already, there's evidence that some GM corn crops may be harmful to the caterpillars that turn into monarch butterflies.

不是每个人都认为在我们的食物中增加外来基因是个好主意。许多人认为这些转基因食品可能最终会危害环境和人类。他们担心这些被迫加入新基因的植物可能会意外与野生植物杂交,形成抗杀虫剂的超级杂草。他们也认为转基因食品可能带有引发敏感症的基因或者产生其他副作用。有证据表明,有些转基因玉米植株可能对变成黑脉金斑蝶的毛虫构成危害。

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