After the self-lighting Christmas tree will come: the GM rabbit, with genes
from chickens allowing it to lay eggs at Easter (they are still searching
for genes that will add the color); the dragon-fly/human cross that will
consume tooth enamel and excrete shiny metallic discs (aka the Tooth Fairy);
and the self-stuffing and self-cooking turkey.
With apologies for such flippancy,
Food Circles Networking Project
Department of Rural Sociology
University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211
 882=1473 (fax)
From: MichaelP [mailto:papadop@PEAK.ORG]
Sent: Monday, October 25, 1999 7:55 PM
Subject: GM christmas lights ??
BBC -- Monday, October 25, 1999 Published at 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK Sci/Tech
No more ceremonial switch-ons?
Frustrated fiddling with Christmas tree fairy lights could become a thing
of the past as genetic engineers have proposed a tree which grows its own
The idea for glowing pine needles was dreamed up by five postgraduate
students at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, as their entry in a
It is a perfectly possible proposition, as genetic engineers elsewhere
have already created glowing mice, silk and potatoes.
Neurophysiology student Katy Presland, 29, said: "We're talking about a
green luminescent Christmas tree that glows in the dark and produces a
noticeable light during the day.
"It is quite feasible. The only problem in reality is the cost," she
"We calculate that the initial trees would cost about #200, which means
going for the upper end of the market. But I'm sure a lot of people would
love them, especially the Americans."
The team detail a plan to modify a Douglas spruce with two genes to make
it illuminate. These would taken from fluorescent jellyfish and fireflies.
The first gene produces a substance called green fluorescent protein
(GFP), while the second results in an enzyme called luciferase.
The trees would be modified by infecting seedlings with a harmless
bacterium carrying the genes. A chemical compound called luciferin is
needed to activate luciferase, which in turn "switches on" GFP and makes
In the case of the luminous Douglas spruce, the luciferin would be mixed
into a special fertilizer sold with the tree.
The genes for green fluorescence have been widely used by genetic
engineers because they allow scientists to see at a glance whether an
attempt to introduce a gene into an organism has been successful.
Blue fluorescent proteins have also been discovered and, last month, a red
fluorescent protein was found in a coral. This means that, in theory, the
GM Christmas tree could grow its own multicoloured lights.
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