Susan Jahoda

Silver prints and mixed media, 16” x 20”, 2003-06


Electroportation, a phenomenon in which the membranes of a host cell are exposed to high intensity electric field pulses, temporarily shocks or destabilizes the cell making it highly permeable to other genetic material. A donor gene's DNA is then injected into the cell where it migrates to the chromosome and becomes incorporated into host's DNA. After the initial charge and injection the cell membrane reforms. Newly altered cells are then placed in a culture enabling them to produce the unique cell types that compose the transgenic organism. The resulting cells are then transferred to a growth environment where the incorporated gene can thrive and reproduce.


Rice is eaten by 3 billion people every day. Ten agricultural conglomerates control 40% of the world's rice seed market. The varieties of seed and how they are produced is increasingly dictated by a few multinationals. Some producing nations cannot afford to buy their own crops and are selling them to the nations providing the seeds. Often the company manufacturing and selling the seed is also manufacturing and selling the weed-killer that the seed is resistant to. When genetically modified material is introduced into the natural environment it can propagate to un-modified, closely related species. Viruses in transgenic crops are able to recombine genetic material and pass new susceptibility to previously established rice strains. An epidemic of blight could sweep across Asia and Africa, creating a famine of unknown proportions.


When these rice drawings were made, the U. S. Federal Drug Administration had continued its refusal to approve the labeling of genetically modified foods. I do not know if the rice used in my drawings was genetically modified.