Any organism which has its genetic sequence altered by insertion of a piece of foreign genetic material is considered to be a genetically modified organism, or simply, GMO. The recombinant DNA technology (or gene cloning) allows such modification by using enzymes that are naturally found in almost all organisms. A restriction enzyme is used to cut a specific DNA segment of a ‘donor’ genome and to generate sticky ends in the ‘host’ genome. The cut-up portion is then joined between the sticky sites by the help of a DNA ligase enzyme which stitches them together. Since its introduction in the field of biomedical sciences, the technique has been used for various purposes, which include but is not restricted to gene expression studies, functional analysis of a gene, disease modeling, and most importantly, amplification of useful protein products. The GMOs has been introduced in a variety of fields including drug development, agricultural and food biotechnology, industrial product manufacturing and culturing/modeling laboratory experiments.
Genetically modified organisms provide novel intersections in the pathway elude the today’s society of diseases, poverty and hunger. Many scientists argue that these GMOs have been widely used in the process of drug development to prepare various pharmaceutically important drugs by formation of chimeric proteins. The two most significant examples include insulin and humanized immunoglobins (antibodies). The large scale insulin production has only been made possible by cloning the human insulin gene in bacteria to amplify the final product. This has made the ‘drug’ less expensive and thus, affordable for a common man in most of the countries. The humanized immunoglobins are the antibodies raised against any one of the thousands of infectious diseases (monoclonals), including some cancers, by insertion of human gene in genome of model organisms such as mice. These allow for significantly high titer production which is purified and approved for treatment.
GMOs in Agriculture and Food
In agricultural sector, the DNA technology has been reflected as a magic wand that can produce huge amounts of highly nutritive food and solve all the hunger issues that may exist in the world. However, the integration of the technique in crops, both food and others, has started decades ago. Yet, the world hunger index has reached almost 1 billion with 200 million being the children, in 2013. Another related phenomenon is the use of GM food as drug factories, although the issue is faced with numerous regulatory issues. The number of trials that drugs usually undergo would or would not be implemented for these foods, is still a question.
Controversies and Perspectives
A very common example of genetically modified food is the BT corn and other crops prepared by inserting Bacillus thuringiensis genes. These crops soon replaced the traditional crops after its introduction in 1995, in USA. However, various...