Is Genetic Engineering A Positive Course For Mankind?

Genetic engineering is one of the most effective but controversial ways of altering the fundamental nature of animals and plants, usually those which are used as food. This is done to try to improve the resistance of crops against pests and disease, to create larger animals which produce more food, and to produce medical drugs more cheaply and in greater quantities. The system is undeniably effective, but there are grave concerns about the effect on the environment and on the future ecology of the planet.

The factor which distinguishes genetic modification from other forms of scientific altering of substances is the changing of nucleic acids. These are effectively the building blocks of life, as they carry the genetic blueprint for all forms of animal and plant life. The characteristics of each specimen are largely determined by these blueprints, and the ability to alter them gives scientists the possibility of creating new specimens with improved characteristics. There is no dispute as to the potential benefits which this could bring to the world through increased food supplies, less wastage and damage through pestilence, and the greater availability of medical supplies. Those against the technology point to the potential dangers to safety and ecology.

There are two distinct levels to the practice of genetic modification, and they each have potentially different consequences. The most obvious level of work is to use genes from within the same species, but to try to isolate the best and most effective from individual specimens. This is relatively easy to do, and was the method used to produce the first genetically modified tomatoes. These were the first plants to be developed in this way to be made commercially available. The level beyond this is called transgenic modification, and introduces genes from other species. This increases greatly the number of possibilities, but obviously the risks increase also.

types of genetic engineering

The most common and well publicized use for genetic engineering is in the development of genetically modified food. This is a response to the shortages of food which prevail in many parts of the world, allied to the increasing resistance of crop pests to insecticides and other chemicals used in Western food production. It is believed that the development of improved strains of crops can increase the food yield, while at the same time reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and insecticides. There is no doubt that this is true, but the ecological side effects are harder to quantify.

Genetic modification was first attempted in plant species, and as of now it is still only plant based food which is commercially available in genetically modified form. Plants are easy to modify in either way, as you can find the strongest strains and repeatedly breed from them, while at the same time introducing genes from other plants to create completely new strains. Everything depends on the objective being sought, which is usually either improved durability and resistance of a greater food yield. The more complicated the genetic modification, the harder it is to predict the exact consequences.

genetic engineering

The genetic engineering of animals is considerably more complicated, but it has a far reaching potential. Many of the modifications which have been carried out so far are aimed at producing larger specimens of certain animals, so that the breeding programs produce more food for the same space and effort. It is also possible to produce farm animals which are more resistant against diseases, some of which can spread from farm to farm and cause huge losses in stock and capital. It is expected that commercially available genetically modified animal products will be authorized for sale in the near future.

The benefits which the world can derive from genetic modification are hard to quantify, but they are doubtless substantial. If food yields can be increased without the need to overuse chemical fertilizers, there is a possibility of feeding more of the world's population from the same area of land. There is also the possibility that food prices could fall over time, making it easier for families in all parts of the world to budget for their needs. Despite this, there are many who claim that genetic modification is a mistake which will severely affect the ecology of the planet, and that the real consequences of the technology are impossible to predict.

The only way to form your own informed opinion of genetic engineering is to carry out your own research, and to study both sides of the argument. There are many resources on the Internet which give you the views of those actively involved in developing the technology for what they hope will be the betterment of mankind, and also the views of the governments who are backing their activities. You will also find the views of environmental activists who point out the potential dangers in a future altered by genetic engineering.

 

 

 

Genetic Engineering News:

 

Dietitian Q&A: Genetically Modified Organisms - DesMoinesRegister.com

DesMoinesRegister.com

Dietitian Q&A: Genetically Modified Organisms
DesMoinesRegister.com
Genetically modified organisms, or genetically modified seeds, are created using genetic engineering, such as gene splicing, to break natural boundaries in order to produce new species that are not made by nature. It is believed these new species have .

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Broad Institute Joins CRISPR Patent Pool Talks | GEN - Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (blog)

Broad Institute Joins CRISPR Patent Pool Talks | GEN
Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (blog)
The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard said today they have joined discussions to create a nonexclusive CRISPR/Cas9 joint licensing pool being coordinated by .

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Israeli university harnesses viruses to fight antibiotic-resistant . - Haaretz

Haaretz

Israeli university harnesses viruses to fight antibiotic-resistant .
Haaretz
A new technique developed by researchers from Tel Aviv University could be a milestone in the battle against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, ultimately even .

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The race to revive woolly mammoths using ancient DNA - CBS News

CBS News

The race to revive woolly mammoths using ancient DNA
CBS News
And why they don't get cancer is in their genes. If we can figure that out, we can use this genetic engineering to solve cancer," he said. The author also addressed the ethical concerns related to these types of genetic engineering practices. "The idea .
Woolly Mammoths Coming Back To LifeChronicle Day
Peter Thiel Is Funding the Effort to Bring Woolly Mammoths Back to LifeMIT Technology Review

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Human Neural Stem Cell Therapy for Chronic Ischemic Stroke | GEN - Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Human Neural Stem Cell Therapy for Chronic Ischemic Stroke | GEN
Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News
Chronic disability after stroke represents a major unmet neurologic need. ReNeuron's development of a human neural stem cell (hNSC) therapy for chronic .

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A Potent Tool to Treat Pancreatic Cancer May Already Be in Your Body - MIT Technology Review

MIT Technology Review

A Potent Tool to Treat Pancreatic Cancer May Already Be in Your Body
MIT Technology Review
Valerie LeBleu, assistant professor of cancer biology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, is working on genetically engineering exosomes to carry molecules that seek out pancreatic tumor cells to keep the cancer at bay. Her team .

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Gene therapy to kill cancer moves a step closer to market - CNET - CNET

CNET

Gene therapy to kill cancer moves a step closer to market - CNET
CNET
An advisory panel says it's time patients had access to gene therapy. If approved, the first such treatment to make it to market would take on a stubborn form of .

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