GMO talk closed Science on Tap series

Dr. Tara Turley-Stoulig explained how genetically modified organisms are made, what their main functions are, how they are used in today’s food market and what is their actual effect on the human body.
Zachary Billiot/The Lion’s Roar

Dr. Tara Turley-Stoulig hosted a seminar detailing information about genetically modified organisms, and comparing some misconceptions to real facts about them.

The talk, titled “Pokémon GMO: Should We Fret at All?” was part of the Science on Tap series hosted by the university’s Department of Biological Sciences, and was hosted at the Tope Lá catering building on May 2 at 7 p.m.

Turley-Stoulig kicked off the seminar with a reference to “Pokémon GO,” a mobile game where players would go out into the real world to find Pokémon and catch them. Turley-Stoulig related that to the hunt that many people find themselves on when hunting for GMOs in their food products.

Turley-Stoulig also explained that while there are a wide variety of perceptions on GMOs, the average person does not actually know what they are. She also clarified some myths and showed, with the research she had gathered, that GMOs do far more good and a fraction of the harm than what many people believe they do.

She explained why she chose GMOs as her topic for the seminar.

“Over the last two years, I’ve had a program with some Southeastern undergraduate students where I teach them information about molecular genetics,” said Turley-Stoulig. “Then we talk about human genetic disease to give them something relative to the world. We talk about GMOs too, and we talk about molecular genetic laboratory techniques targeting that towards GMOs. So initially when I created that program, I decided to feed in the GMO concept for some real-world application.”

Those who attended the seminar seemed to really enjoy what Turley-Stoulig had to say.

“I think this is really good to spread to the scientific crowd,” said Cody Godwin, a graduate biology major who attended the seminar. “I would have really appreciated if it went a little bit further to the public, and especially the skeptics of GMOs. That would have been really good.”

Other biology students also made it to the seminar and expressed their opinion on the talk.

“I thought it went really well,” said Dave Cooper Campbell, a graduate biology major. “I’ve been to a couple of presentations on GMO before, so I thought it was really well done and helped explain how GMOs are not this big evil entity that people think they are but at the same time clarified that it’s still a new process.”

“I’m a graduate biology student, so I did have a bit of background knowledge in what GMOs actually were and how they worked,” said Cecilia Boyd, who also attends the university. “Something that I have really thought of before is how food labeling doesn’t really address genetically modified organisms that are modified in other ways other than transgenically having DNA inserted into them.”

Turley-Stoulig expanded a little bit on how she became involved in the biology world.

“When I was in high school, I was fascinated when we started learning about cell division,” said Turley-Stoulig. “When we learned about mitosis and meiosis, we learned a little bit about heredity and it just blew my mind. I thought, ‘How spectacular, how miraculous, how amazing are our cells, are our bodies. They do all of these things, so often, correctly.’ So as I started learning more about genetics in high school on a very basic level, I was really just drawn to that topic. Around 10th grade I mentioned to my parents, ‘I want to study genetics.’”

This seminar was the last Science on Tap seminar to be held  this school year and the series will begin again next semester.