Genetically Modified Food By: Edric

Think about genetic modification. Something that might come to mind are mutant monsters. A cow with an extra leg, a chicken with 5 wings, an extra finger on the hand. You might think that this is just fiction. But it can actually come true with new discoveries coming up.

Selective Breeding

Hundreds of years ago, ancient farmers genetically modified organisms which is changing an organism so the outcome is different, which is usually unnatural. Farmers used something called selective breeding. This is a process where farmers would choose their best plants and would replant them because they were better than the other crops. If an animal was better than others, they would breed them again. Farmers still use selective breeding today. You can see the impact of selective breeding by looking at dogs and how many different breeds were created to have special traits. This shows that genetic engineering isn’t something very new to the world.

Selective breeding through dogs

But there is something new that has come up, and they are GMOs. GMO stands for a genetically modified organism. It is the result of genetically modifying a plant/animal. Scientists make GMOs by adding genes which they want to that organism.

Creating a GMO

There are 4 main steps to creating a GMO. The first step to creating a GMO is to find the trait that you want and where to find that trait. Scientists use a comparative analysis which is to compare and contrast two different things to find where to find which gene they want from where they can get it. For example, scientists created golden rice, which is good for eyes and skin, and the main difference between regular rice and golden rice is that it is richer in vitamin a. They got these genes from maize which they took out and put into the rice. This means that we already have taken genes and inserted them in other organisms, which is an important part in genetic engineering.

White rice and golden rice

The next step which is to take out the gene that you want to transfer from the organism that originally contained the DNA you want. DNA, which stands for deoxyribonucleic acid (don’t worry about trying to pronounce it), makes up every organism.

A diagram of DNA

The third step is to insert the DNA into the organism which the scientist wants to modify. Scientists use a gene gun to put the new genes into the organism. These guns aren’t meant for shooting someone to grow an extra arm, though. A gene gun shoots out tiny metal particles that are covered in DNA, which ends up inside the chosen organism and modifies it. This shows how the scientists insert DNA into different organisms.

A gene gun.

Finally, the last step is to grow the organism out. For the DNA to take place, the plant/animal needs to grow and reproduce those genes so they actually show up in the organism.

While it is a very slow process, farmers still use selective breeding to improve their crops. Since GMOs have a very large potential, humanity can solve many problems by creating GMOs. Some popular genes that scientists would like to include in plants are that they could be resistant to insects and viruses, and make it so they have more vitamins and minerals.

Safety of GMOs

But the main problem is the dispute about if GMOs are safe, or if we shouldn’t mess with nature. Kevin Klatt, a student with a PhD in the molecular nutrition program says, “We got ruby red grapefruits through natural mutation, yet few are questioning the safety of all the random genetic changes that went into their development.” This shows that nature still had a much greater influence on how some fruits and animals turned out to be than what we intend on changing because genetic modifications can happen naturally.

Alison Van Eenennaam, a specialist in biotechnology with a PhD says,"DNA has always been part of our diet, and it's digested in your stomach along with the rest of your food, there is not some evil trace of poison." This is something that most people doubt about GMOs. They think that the added genes might make the food dangerous and that we don’t need to change anything, but others say that we need to because there are problems that need fixing and GMOs are a solution.

Since genetic engineering is something pretty new to humanity, the human race in general, some people are still scared of it. They also think that changing nature isn’t something that we should do. Scientists still have to do a lot of research before changing an organism.

Stephen MacDonald, who has a PhD and is a specialist in biotechnology says, “I don’t think they are dangerous per se, but I don’t trust the data that says they are entirely safe either.” This says that GMOs are mostly safe, but there could be some that are actually dangerous. This also shows the other side of the debate on GMOs. The side that doesn’t want genetic engineering. What do you think should happen?

In conclusion, genetic engineering takes a lot of steps and a lot of research to do. It takes some time, but it is much much faster than selective breeding. It could have a great impact compared to selective breeding for the better, or for the worse. But the topic is very controversial, which means it is argued over a lot, and we can’t just change nature as it is. We will just have to wait and see how these genetic modifications will impact the world as it is today.

Works Cited

"How to Make a GMO - Science in the News." Science in the News. 10 Aug. 2015. Web. 13 Dec. 2016.

"The Truth About GMOs: Are They Safe? What Do We Know?" WebMD. WebMD. Web. 13 Dec. 2016.

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