St. John’s Junior College becomes one of the first tertiary institutions in Belize to successfully produce GMO. GMO, which stands for genetically modified organisms are organisms whose genetic material has been changed using genetic engineering techniques. Proponents of GMO call it a miracle grain that would eventually put an end to the ravages of crop pestilence and world hunger. Meanwhile, opponents of GMO argue that the practice would radically reduce “native” plants and instead generate food stocks owned and controlled by large multinational corporations. But by far the biggest objection is the possibility of a future plagued by unknown diseases caused by man’s interference with nature. Certainly there is much controversy surrounding GMO in Belize, making some shy away from the practice altogether. But one experiment embarked on by the St. John’s Junior College has led to the successful production of GMO. The move was being carried out by a group of biology and chemistry majors called the Biotechnology Honor Society. The group was able to modify the genetic machinery of a strain of E. coli to synthesize green fluorescent protein (GFP), a protein naturally found in a certain species of jellyfish. But how did they accomplish this? – Well using their basic training, the students inserted the gene encoding GFP into bacterial cells, then allowed the transgenic bacteria to grow and multiply, after which the GFP protein was isolated from lysed bacterial cells, purified on a special resin, and analyzed to confirm its identity. (PRESENTATION PICS) – The results of the experiments were presented to a gathering of faculty and students at the annual JC Science Forum held some two weeks ago. At the end of the experiment though, the group destroyed all genetically modified bacteria produced. Incidentally, March is being observed as GMO awareness month in Belize by a local activist group.