High school student wins national competition with pro-GMO video

WASHINGTON CITY — A local high school student recently won a national short video contest designed to find innovative and beneficial applications for genetically modified organisms, more commonly known as GMOs.

L-R: Porter Christensen and his older brother Weston discuss their winning entry in a recent short video contest, Washington, Utah, Nov. 18, 2017 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Porter Christensen, a senior at Pine View High School, said he came up with the idea for his winning 30-second video with the help of his older brother, who recently completed a two-year mission in Uganda for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Christensen’s animated video clip, which was narrated by his brother, makes the suggestion that white corn commonly found in Africa could be genetically enhanced to make it more nutritional.

“What we found is, through research, that if you use beta-carotenes in white corn production, it will provide vitamin A,” Christensen said.

Once the idea had been hatched and the brothers worked out an outline and script, Christensen said he went about the process of putting together the video from scratch, using images he’d created electronically.

“Everything’s drawn out from start to finish in layers,” he said. Christensen said he used the Adobe program Final Cut Pro to create and edit the video, which clocked in at “exactly 30 seconds, with maybe a half a second to spare.”

Not long after submitting their entry to the contest sponsored by GMO Answers, an initiative that supports GMO and biotechnology, the brothers received notification that their entry was the contest’s top winner. The winning 30-second clip can be viewed in its entirety on Christensen’s personal YouTube channel.

Porter Christensen shows how he used a computer program to create and edit his winning entry in a recent short video contest, Washington, Utah, Nov. 18, 2017 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Michael Stebbins, director of external engagement for GMO Answers, told St. George News that contest judges deemed the Christensen entry the “clear winner” out of the 19 total entries submitted nationwide.

“He just did a great job and everyone was impressed,” Stebbins said.

Although the most common use of GMO technology or biogenetic engineering is to help make plants more resistant to pesticides and herbicides, the Christensens’ idea focuses on improving a food source’s nutritional value by promoting vitamin production.

Dr. Esther Ngumbi, a postdoctoral plant pathology researcher at Auburn University, told St. George News the Christensens’ idea is indeed feasible and that research efforts are actually already being made in that area. One recent study she cited explores biofortification techniques being used on both sweet potatoes and maize (corn) in central Africa.

“Science has already made it work and will continually work towards improving the quality and varieties,” Ngumbi said.  

Ngumbi, a native of Kenya, also said she appreciates seeing how such contests can motivate people to come up with innovative approaches to solve problems related to world hunger and food production.

The appetite for new and novel ideas will continue to be there,” she said.

Christensen said the contest helped him and his older brother appreciate the potentially beneficial applications of GMO.

As for the $500 prize money, Christensen said he and his brother Weston will split it evenly. They also plan to keep checking online for more video contests to enter. After graduating from high school next year, Preston Christensen said he plans to serve a mission for the LDS church, then attend Brigham Young University, where he hopes to study film production. Meanwhile, Weston Christensen said he plans to attend Utah State University in Logan.

Ed. note: Analysis of viewpoints concerning GMOs is beyond the scope of this article.

Email: jrichards@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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