View Full Version : Would it be possible to genetically engineer a mega-vegetable...

11-08-2004, 06:34 AM
One that would completely sustain the whole human race?

11-08-2004, 07:16 AM
By mega, how big do you mean? They already grow some pretty big vegetables/fruits.


That's alot of pie.

11-08-2004, 07:20 AM
I think the OP means one that would fulfil all dietary requirements.

11-08-2004, 09:45 AM
Yes Mangetout, I mean one that would be completely nutritous.

I don't see why it can't be done, but I suppose the problem would be finding good soil that it can absorb all the goodness from. I'm sure a boffin will be along soon to correct my misconceptions.

11-08-2004, 10:03 AM
It might be possible, but genetic engineering isn't nearly advanced enough right now; we can't really design organisms from scratch. Yet.

11-08-2004, 10:19 AM
I should also add that we can't really even modify things all that much; (caution! tautology ahead!) genetic modification consists of rewriting the organism's genes. Genes are just the pattern by which the cells manufacture chemicals such as proteins and enzymes - it's the interaction of these chemicals that give rise to the organism and its features; inserting/changing/deleting one gene can cause wide-ranging effects because the protein encoded by that gene may perform many functions in many different processes.

Genetically engineering a novel organism is similar in concept and complexity to the idea of potting all of the balls on a pool table with a single shot; in theory, it just means you have to work out what will happen in all of the collisions, and the next lot and so on; in practice, 'just' simply isn't the right word.

If we could accurately model the action of an organism's genome, we could probably engineer any reasonable desired end result by a process of simulated evolution.

11-08-2004, 10:24 AM
Not to mention the fact that there is little to no agreement about what compounds such a vegetable would need in what amounts to be the perfect single source dietary item. Should it be high in carbs or low in carbs? Should it be high in protiens or low in protiens? Which amino acids should it have in which proportions? Which vitamins should it have in which amounts? The nutritional questions need to be answered before you worry about the genetics. Also, humans have different dietary requirements at different stages of life. Nutrition is not even close to being fully understood.

11-08-2004, 02:34 PM
I wonder if the OP wants a plant that can grow "Total" breakfast cereal.

It's probably easier to make Total cereal than engineer and grow a plant which does that.


11-08-2004, 03:05 PM
I wonder if the OP wants a plant that can grow "Total" breakfast cereal.

Or beer!

11-08-2004, 03:27 PM
Aren't there already a lot of vegetables which fit the bill? Brown rice and cabbage come to mind. What do we need to engineer, here?

11-08-2004, 03:57 PM
As I recall, the peanut fulfills virtually all human dietary requirements (I believe it misses three of the essential nutrients) but in some cases at so low a value that it by itself would not be adequate nutrition. But it's the closest thing in existence to "the perfect food" in that sense.