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Genetic Engineering In Foods Essay

1817 words - 7 pages

Genetic engineering is a laboratory technique used by scientists to change the DNA of living organisms. DNA is the blueprint for the individuality of an organism, which relies upon the information stored in its DNA for the management of every biochemical process. The life, growth and unique features of the organism depend on its DNA. The segments of DNA which have been associated with specific features or functions of an organism are called genes (Mayeno 2).Molecular biologists have discovered many enzymes which change the structure of DNA in living organisms. Some of these enzymes can cut and join strands of DNA. Using such enzymes, scientists learned to cut specific genes from DNA and to build customized DNA using these genes. They also learned about vectors, strands of DNA such as viruses, which can infect a cell and insert themselves into its DNA (Mayeno 2).With this knowledge, scientists started to build vectors which incorporated genes of their choosing and used the new vectors to insert these genes into the DNA of living organisms. Genetic engineers believe they can improve the foods we eat by doing this. For example, tomatoes are sensitive to frost. This shortens their growing season. Fish, on the other hand, survive in very cold water. Scientists identified a particular gene which enables a flounder to resist cold and used the technology of genetic engineering to insert this 'anti-freeze' gene into a tomato. This makes it possible to extend the growing season of the tomato (Avery 2).At first glance, this might look exciting to some people. Scientists want to transfer desirable qualities from one organism to another, for example, to make a crop resistant to an herbicide or to enhance food value. Deeper consideration reveals serious dangers. Imprecise Technology is when a genetic engineer moves genes from one organism to another. A gene can be cut precisely from the DNA of an organism, but the insertion into the DNA of the target organism is basically random. As a consequence, there is a risk that it may disrupt the functioning of other genes essential to the life of that organism.There can also be side effects. For example genetic engineering is like performing heart surgery with a shovel. Scientists do not yet understand living systems completely enough to perform DNA surgery without creating mutations which could be harmful to the environment and our health. They are experimenting with very delicate, yet powerful forces of nature, without full knowledge of the repercussions (Is it genetically engineered?).Genetic engineering has been used to try and improve crops but is threatened to cause widespread crop failure. Genetically engineered foods containing genes derived from bacteria and viruses are now starting to appear in the shops, and foods with insect, fish, and animal genes will soon follow. These genetic changes are radically different from those resulting from traditional methods of breeding. Yet, the sale of these foods is being...

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