Genetic Engineering: A Step Forward

Genetic Engineering: A Step Forward

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Genetic engineering (GE) refers to the technique of modification or manipulation of genes (the biological material or chemical blue print that determines a living organism’s traits) from one organism to another thus giving bacteria, plants, and animals, new features. The technique of selecting the best seed or the best traits of plants has been around for centuries. Humans have learned to graft (fuse) and hybridize (cross breed) plants, creating dwarfs and other useful forms since at least 1000 B.C. (Pueppke 2001). There are two main arguments surrounding genetic engineering the first argument is, genetic modification of crops threatens to produce pesticide-resistant insect pests and herbicide-resistant weed, will victimize poor farmers, and is unlikely to feed the world. The second argument is, genetically modified crops hold the potential to feed the world during the twenty-first century while also protecting the environment. Norman E. Borlaug, a pioneer of the green revolution and the winner of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize states, “Genetic modification of crops is… just another step in humankind’s deepening scientific journey. … We cannot turn back the clock on agriculture,” he adds, “and only use methods that were developed to feed a much smaller population.” (Rodney 2000). Through out time we will be required to adapt to genetically engineered crops as a necessity to nutritionally feed the growing population. The demand of rapidly growing world population has exerted increasing pressure on the earth’s resources (Cockburn 2001) and the environment (Nichols 2000, Dennis et al. 2008).
Growing genetically engineered foods can help eliminate the application of chemical pesticides, reducing the run-off of agriculture wastes that can poison valuable water sources and cause harm to the environment (Deal and Baird 2003). GE can also engineer plants with highly specific disease resistances (Cooper et al. 2004, Duveiller and Sharma 2008) and help fulfill nutritional goals by adding vitamins, protein and vaccines (Nichols 2000, Poitras 2000, Livermore 2002). An example of how GE can help fulfill nutritional goals by adding vitamins to a crop is rice. Rice is not a source of vitamins in particular vitamin A, and yet it is widely consumed around the world. Vitamin A deficiency is most common in young children and pregnant women and can lead to blindness, susceptibility to infectious diseases, and death (Lemaux 2008). According, to a team of scientist, led by Dr. Ingo Potrykus, professor of Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, has produced transformed rice (golden rice), which does indeed express beta-carotene, a vitamin A precursor (Livermore 2002).

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Through agriculture and local trade, golden rice is expected to reach the target populations in developing countries, where vitamin A deficiency prevails, grains from Golden rice is expected to provide this important micronutrient sustainably (Al-Babili and Beyer 2005).
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