Genetic engineering can be done on
any living organism because all living organisms
contain DNA within each cell nucleus. Genetic engineering
involves the manipulation of DNA and the transfer
of gene components in order to encourage replication
of desired traits. The same techniques used to further
medical genetics (such as cloning, gene therapy
and splicing, etc.) are used to enhance crops and
livestock to more effectively feed the growing human
population and to preserve the diverse variety of
life on the planet.
|Simple genetic engineering has
been practiced since ancient times. For thousands
of years, plant and animal breeders have selected
parent stock with certain desirable traits to
produce offspring with the same characteristics.
Fast dogs could be bred to become faster, sweet
corn could be bred to become sweeter, and so
on. By selecting and crossbreeding, farmers
changed the genetic makeup of many of the plants
and animals (and hence, the food) that exists
today. Modern genetic engineers, however, don’t
wait for generations of offspring to develop
a trait; instead, they isolate the genes responsible
for a specific trait and insert them into the
DNA string of another plant or animal. Genetic
engineering by means of technology is just a
quicker way to achieve the same results that
farmers have been producing for thousands of
Genetic scientists are developing
vaccines and hormones for animals as well as disease
resistant and more nutritious plants. The genetic
science developments of today are just as revolutionary
as the “Green Revolution” of the 1950’s when new
pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, and hormones
caused great increases in food production.
Genetically engineered plants and
animals are not dangerous to eat. The DNA of the
altered plant or animal cannot affect our own DNA.
All the food we eat is made of cells which have
genes. It does not make any difference if the genes
came from a wild plant, from a plant crossbred by
farmers, or a plant engineered in a lab by geneticists.
People are afraid that recombined genes will make
a harmful monster or a dangerous bacteria that could
get loose and destroy us. Attitudes like this result
from the seeming mystery of genetic engineering.
People do not understand it and therefore fear it.