Humanity is facing a new age when controlling the very fabric of life by playing with the genes of living organisms is becoming a common practice. That new practice has turned into a powerful, profit driven and rapidly growing industry.
Genetic engineering is the process of transferring genes from one organism into another organism, thus transferring specific traits. The new altered organism is called a genetically modified organism.
Through the science of genetic engineering traits from completely different species can be inserted into each other. That field of science is new and not enough studies have been conducted, genetic engineering can be very dangerous for human health and the environment as well. It should be closely observed and restricted by law, so that precautions will be taken and the negative effects will be limited or prevented. The science of biotechnology is growing too fast without any sufficient study on the topic or adequate government regulations dealing with the problems of these genetically modified organisms. (Morgan)
Currently, there are almost no restrictions on GMO products. They should be labeled as such, so that consumers are aware when they are eating that kind of foods. Furthermore, these products are tested only on animals, no tests have been conducted on humans, so it is unknown if they are endangering human health. Apart from the lack of knowledge in this field, both animals and humans are using genetically engineered crops as food.
Bioengineers are working on genetically modifying farm animals. So far genetically engineered animals have not been approved for consumption, but they are a potential threat to humans and to the environment and their uses have to be supervised closely. The science of genetic engineering is still developing and it is still unknown what can results from inserting genes from one species to another. Mutation and abnormalities of the genetically altered organism is possible, causing more side effects and turning that organism into a danger for human health.
There are concerns that inserting genes from one organism to another can cause severe reactions to people with some allergies to the first organism that genes were taken from. These people will not be aware of that fact and be easily exposed to these GMO foods. There is another concern that by combining different genes, it is possible that new allergies will be created. (Grogan and Long)
Most genetically engineered foods contain antibiotic resistance marker, so that the new transferred genetic material is easily followed. GMO products could increase the spread of diseases throughout the world by making bacteria more resistant to antibiotics.
If not carefully controlled by law, genetic engineering could cause a serious damage to the environment. Genetically altered pollen might be carried to other fields, affecting other plants – modifying the already existing species and creating new ones. Gene pollution is not like other pollutions, because gene pollution cannot be cleaned up.
Genetic engineering is a very powerful scientific technology. By experimenting with genes and DNA, scientists may someday be able to cure deadly diseases. However, if not closely observed and restricted, that technology is a hazardous one. Once a mistake is made and released into the environment, it is uncertain if it can ever be undone.
Zaid A. et al. Glossary of Biotechnology for Food and Agriculture – A Revised and Augmented Edition of the Glossary of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering. Research and Technology Paper. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001.
Grogan, John and Cheryl Long. “The Problem with Genetic Engineering.” Organic Gardening magazin December 2000.
Morgan, Sally. Genetic Engineering:The Facts. London: Evans Brothers Limited, 2006.
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