Genetic Engineering: The Solution to Hunger and Disease
In case you were not sure, we don’t live in a perfect world. Millions of people die every year. Two significant causes of death are hunger and disease (I am aware that there are more causes such as war and crime, but they are irrelevant to this essay). There are about 5.6 billion people on earth; all of whom need to eat. However, only a certain amount of food (less that what everyone needs) can be produced. With the use of pesticides, much of the food that is produced is not as nutritional as it could be. Food production costs are also inordinately high due to the crop’s weaknesses to pests, pesticides, and weather fluctuations. On an ascetic level, tomatoes are tasteless. They have little nutritional value because farmers must pick them when they are still green so they won’t be too soft by the time they get to the consumers. On a global scale, millions of people die of starvation every year in third world countries. The worst famine in India killed 3 million people in 1770. Over 100,000 people have perished so far in the current famine going on in Ethiopia and Somalia (Wallace 1065). Disease is the other killer. I need not waste time talking about how many people die of disease because it is extremely common knowledge.
There is hope. Every living organism has deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). It is the genetic code which determines what the organism will be. Recently, scientists have been able to alter an organism’s genome to come up with desired characteristics. This is known as Genetic Engineering (GE). GE is the process of altering biological systems by the purposeful manipulation of DNA. For example, removing the gene which causes rotting in tomatoes will make the tomato stay firm for ten days longer that usual. Simply put, GE is the solution to hunger and disease.
GE can come pretty close to ending hunger. The goal here is to improve the quantity of food from plants and improve the amount of milk and meat that cattle produce. There are three ways in which ‘agricultural engineering’ can be done. Scientists can mass produce the bacteria that plants need for nitrogen fixation. Another method of agricultural engineering entails the growing of individual plant cells in cultures in order to screen for genetically superior traits. A third method, and perhaps the most efficient, pertains to splicing new genes into plants and animals themselves (Weintraub 156). With respect to the third approach of plant engineering, scientists are working on splicing the genes needed for the production of 1- lysine, an amino acid which has nutritional value for humans. By enhancing the nutritional value of corn in some Third World countries, an expansion of food supplies would be unnecessary (Ellis 153). Other possibilities of gene engineering that evolve from gene splicing is the manipulation of a plantÕs genes that regulates photosynthesis, which increase plant...