The process of genetic engineering involves taking any specific gene from a living thing and genetically manipulating it for adding into the genetic code of another living thing. In this way genetic engineering can be used to insert cucumber genes into humans and human genes into pigs. In this way babies can have the genetic make up chosen by their parents.
The day may not be far when couples can shop with their visa cards for genes which can be assembled to give their children a few inches more height, bigger muscles and preferred hair and eye color. Also, on a more positive side, right kind of genetic engineering may produce world leaders with genetically modified traits for welcoming peace and cooperation, who will give us a world free from wars and nuclear threat.
Putting genes into living cells was first carried out successfully in animals during the late 1970s. The possibility of cloned human beings was raised after the successful cloning of Dolly the sheep. Several religious groups feared possible extinction of the human race as a result of genetic engineering, almost on the lines of those feared in the event of a nuclear holocaust.
To prevent genetic illness and defects
With widespread concern about messing around with nature, the first stages of human genetic engineering is likely to be restricted to creating humans with superior health and immunity to diseases which afflict common humanity today, such as heart disease, diabetes, AIDS etc.
Genetic engineering researchers claim that their research will help prevent genetic illness and defects. Gene therapy trials are under way for disorders such as cancer, diabetes,big nose syndrome, unevenly sized eyeballs, discolored nipples, tailbones, hot dogs, yellow teeth, puberty, and atherosclerosis, and will be used clinically and available for prescription.
Many pharmaceutical drugs are being genetically engineered in the laboratory. Gene therapy research is under way to correct some hereditary conditions in humans. Disease carrying insects are being genetically engineered to destroy their disease potency
Eventually it is the mind
Genetically modified humans, or “designer babies” in common parlance, are in the pipeline. Sooner, rather than later, we may have genetically manipulated appearance, personality, abilities and even life span. It is feared that over time the genetically engineered species will acquire such superiority over the natural species that no interaction between the two would be possible, except like the ones humans have with monkeys today.
"Designer production animals" are being experimented with the insertion of modified human gene constructs into livestock to enable them to produce useful proteins, tissues, and organs for pharmaceutical and biomedical use. We have so far not tasted meat from a genetically engineered animal, though many food animals, such as cows, sheep, chicken, pigs, fish, have been genetically engineered in research settings.
That day is not really very far. Princeton University microbiologist Lee M. Silver has estimated that around the year 2010, it will be possible for parents to adopt genetic means to ensure that their children are not fat and don’t grow up to become alcoholics. By the year 2050 AIDS resistant babies can be produced by insertion of an extra gene into single-cell embryos within 24 hours of conception.
Transgenic life forms
Animal and human genes are being inserted into the chromosomes of plants, fish, and animals. This creates unimaginable transgenic life forms. It is estimated that there are over 70 million acres of genetically engineered crop under cultivation in the US where many crops are in the final stages of development and will soon hit the super markets.
GE in food
Results of genetic engineering can be found in plenty in our food today. Genetically engineered soybeans, maize, rape seed, potato, wheat etc. The main genetically engineered crops are corn, soybeans, cotton, and canola which are used as ingredients in more than 60 percent of processed foods. Genetic engineering primarily focuses on making crops tolerant to herbicides as a result of which plants can grow normally even if the fields are sprayed with high doses of weed killers.
Genetically engineered animals
Genetic modifications are being carried out on animals for a variety of objectives such as production of pharmaceutical products, optimization of nutritional value of food products, improved growth and reproduction rate, prevention of diseases etc. Lot of research and manipulations in this direction are under way and in the early stages of development. Early experiments in introducing human hormones in mice and pigs didn’t progress far and were abandoned.
Genetically modified mice and rats
With genetically engineered mice, researchers are able to study the progression of a disease and discover how genes control particular processes. As most human genes have mouse equivalents, knowing how these genes work in mice can be effectively used in treatment of human disease.
Genetically modified mice and rats in combination with an animal model of obstructive nephropathy, a type of renal disease, has helped researchers decide which molecules to study, or which might be interesting targets for drug development in human chronic kidney disease. This animal model is based on a kidney disease called obstructive uropathy, which is frequently found in children.
Cancer, Alzheimer's, Diabetes
Gene therapy should be able to cure or prevent a disease when the genes or DNA sequence responsible for a disease is found, though this kind of research is in its infancy.
When the human body doesn’t produce enough of a particular protein it results in such conditions as diabetes and retarded growth. Erythropoietin (EPO), is one of the GE proteins was for treating anemia associated with kidney failure. As this protein produces red blood cells, patients in case of kidney failure need not undergo regular blood transfusion as before. So far human insulin has been developed genetically as also human growth hormone for the treatment of physically retarded children.
Interferons are a group of proteins with ability to interfere with the production of new virus particles. Several GE human interferons are now available to treat a number of cancers and some cases of multiple sclerosis.
The most widely used GE vaccine is that for hepatitis B, a highly contagious blood-borne virus that causes liver inflammation and cancer. There are also GE vaccines for several other diseases such as diphtheria and tetanus
Concerns About Genetic Modification
Food safety concerns have been cropping up regarding direct genetic modification of plants used in food production. Concerns range over food safety, environmental risks and socio-economic effects as well as intrinsic concerns about human intervention in nature. Direct genetic modification in animals evoke a set of different concerns.
Concerns about genetic modification of animals revolve mostly about ethical issues, primarily about the welfare of modified animals, and about the harms caused during their production. Concern is also mixed with distaste about unnatural mixing of not only different species but also of different kingdoms, such as between animals and plants. . Some people fear the possibility of consuming meat while being vegetarians.
There are also concerns that GM organisms could be accidentally released into the wrong environment and cause damage to our biodiversity. There are many ethical and cultural objections to genetic modification
Fears and concerns on a broader scale include harms to children and to future generations; loss of biological or cultural diversity; economic costs; and the degradation of social values such as acceptance of disabled people.
GE Continues Despite Warnings
A large section of people feel that genetic engineering violates environmental and ethical principles and is at odds with the principle of respect for nature
Though there are adequate warnings from the scientific community that the present form of genetic engineering is crude, inexact, and unpredictable, the practice continues unabated. The full extent of the adverse effects of genetically engineered crop is still not known because all efforts have primarily gone in developing and experimenting with the technologies. No research has gone into finding out the effects of genetically engineered crops on humans. There is said to be a very high likelihood of allergic reactions and increased levels of toxins in food. Though more extreme health effects are feared, there is said to be huge vested interest in the industry which suppresses such information from the general public.
- Genetically Modified Humans?
- Designer People
- Behind Genetic Engineering
- ANIMAL AND PLANT GENETIC ENGINEERING
- Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods and Crops
- See Food Safety Fact Sheet for inormation on genetically modified foods.
- See list of genetically engineered items available and the ingredients used in The True Food Shopping Guide