strategy

Creating genetically modified organisms

Synonyms:
Producing GMOs
Genetic engineering
Using genetic engineering
Manipulating gene structures
Context:
For centuries living organisms have been manipulated using traditional techniques such as fermentation, classical plant breeding and artificial insemination to produce new breeds, food, medicines, or other products. Although these and other newer techniques are still practiced, methods have become increasingly sophisticated during the past twenty years, with the development of a wide range of novel molecular biotechnologies. The most significant of these has been recombinant DNA or 'gene transfer' technology, which makes it possible to cut DNA from any source into fragments, and to recombine genes from widely different organisms to yield forms with specific characteristics. Traits such as herbicide resistance can be incorporated into crops to increase yields; hormones created to increase milk yield in cows; and microbes engineered to clean up oil-spills. This is what is commonly referred to as 'genetic engineering'. Genetically modified organisms are organisms whose genetic makeup has been altered by the insertion or removal of small fragments of genes or genetic material (e.g. DNA, RNA, plasmids) in order to create or enhance desirable characteristics.

Genetic engineering is often called bio-technology. This is misleading. Biotechnology uses living organisms in production processes, for example, yeast to make beer. Genetic engineering manipulates genetic material, including taking genes from one species and transferring them to another unrelated species to create new characteristics.

Implementation:
On 11 October 1999 the European Commission Scientific Committee on Food expressed a favourable opinion on the safety of products derived by processing of a genetically modified tomato. Within the framework of the EU Novel Food Regulation, a request for placing on the market of a tomato variety intended solely for processing had been made (ZENECA, UK). When ripe, the tomato softens less quickly than its conventional counterparts, thus conferring better processing properties. The fruit is reported to be unpalatable and is therefore not intended to be consumed raw. It is processed, using heat treatment, to products like diced canned tomatoes, juice, puree, etc. This heat treatment biologically inactivates the modified genes and their protein products. The Committee concluded that, from the consumer health point of view, processed foods derived from these tomatoes are as safe as products from conventional fruits.
Claim:
1. If we ask who wins from genetic engineering in agriculture the response is: not the consumer (who does not know whose genes they are eating), not the farmer (who loses independence and control), but the agrochemical corporations. Genetic engineering does not improve the quality of food, only makes is production more convenient and profitable. Many of the crops being created contain genes from various antibiotics, which are used as markers to see whether the gene transfer has been sucessful. In the light of the BSE epidemic, we are reminded of how little we know about nature. How can we be so sure that eating plants or animals containing antibiotic genes will not increase our immunity to these antibiotics?< 2. Public concern is growing about the potential hazards of new food and agricultural products, including biotechnology and genetically modified foods. Rapid advances in these areas have far outstripped scientific knowledge about their possible risks.
Subjects:
Biology
Genetics
Production
Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies