Genetic Engineering

Genetic engineering is also known as genetic modification whereby direct human manipulation occurs of the genetic material of an organism in a way that does not happen under natural conditions. Genetic engineering involves the application of recombinant DNA techniques but doesn’t involve traditional plant breeding, mutagenesis, or traditional animal. When an organism is produced via these techniques, it is considered to be a genetically modified organism. Bacteria were the first genetically engineered organisms in 1973 followed by mice in 1974. In 1982, insulin producing bacteria were commercialized and since 1994, genetically modified food has been sold. Genetic modification alters an organism’s genetic make up using techniques that add heritable material prepared outside the organism either into a cell that is fused or hybridized already with the host or into the host. To achieve this process, recombinant nucleic acid is used to create new combinations of heritable genetic material after which that material is incorporated either directly via micro-injection or indirectly through a vector system ((Julian & Drake 290).

Examples of Genetically Engineered Organisms

Genetic engineering has numerous examples in which recombinant DNA has been used to develop improved organisms. To begin with, cisgenesis or intragenesis are genetically engineered plants. Unlike other genetically modified plants created by introducing a gene originating from distant and are sexually incompatible species into the genome of the host, Cisgenic plants contain genes that have been isolated either from sexually compatible species or directly from the host species. Recombinant DNA methods as well as gene transfer are used to introduce the new genes. The approval process of cisgenic plants is hoped by some scientists to be much simpler as compared to that of proper transgenics (Schouten, Krens, & Jacobsen 752).

Transgenic microbes are another example of genetically modified organisms. Because of the simple genetics of bacteria, they were the first organisms to be modified in the laboratory. These transgenic organisms are today used for numerous purposes, and are specifically significant in the production of large amounts of pure human proteins for application in medicine. Bacteria that have been modified genetically are applied in the application of protein insulin that treats diabetes. There are other applications of the transgenic microbes (Graham, Hull, &Tzotzos 244).

Third, genetically modified viruses are used in gene therapy to deliver genes that can treat diseases into the cells of human beings. Genes have been genetically modified to treat genetic disorders like severe combined immunodeficiency. Gene therapy technology today only targets the cells that are not reproductive implying that any transformation introduced by the treatment can’t be transmitted to the adjacent generation. Current efforts are ongoing to treat a range of other presently incurable diseases like cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and sickle cell anemia. There is controversy regarding the gene therapy that targets the reproductive cells (Julian & Drake 292).

The fourth example of recombinant DNA technology is the transgenic plants. Transgenic plants have been engineered in order to induce numerous desirable traits like resistance to pesticides, harsh environmental conditions, or herbicides. In addition these plants are modified genetically so as to improve the shelf life of the product as well as increase their nutritional value. Since 1996 when the first commercial cultivation of genetically modified plants was done, transgenic plants have been modified to increase their tolerance to the herbicides glyphosate and glufosinate so as to resist virus damage (Nielsen 227).

Positive and Negative Aspects

Numerous benefits have been associated with genetic modification of organisms. One of the benefits is the improvement of the quality of life brought by the new and modified organisms such as transgenic microbes. Gene therapy has been used to treat diseases. Transgenic plants have been used to reduce resistance to pesticides as well as other resistance problems to plants. Additional individuals are able to come up with desired traits.

On the other hand, there are numerous negative aspects of genetic engineering. These include the fear in many individuals of the safety of the modified products. Some fear losing their lives as a result of complications they could acquire from these products. Some controversy has been looming concerning the use of these products with numerous governments coming in to refute their use in the bid of protecting their subjects. Further, genetically modified products are feared for their distinct and improved features that are quit are extra-ordinary (The European Parliament and the council of the European Union 17).  

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