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The Benefits And Risks To Genetically Modified Corn

984 words - 4 pages

Genetic engineering or genetic modification of corn refers to using molecular techniques or other similar techniques of biotechnology to add slight quantities of chromosomal material to the atomic structure and composition of corn, to protect it against infestation by pests, harm caused by herbicides or to increase its quality 4. In general, genetically modified corn is wired to resist herbicides and to produce its own insecticide. The trait in corn which tolerates herbicides is produced using tissue culture selection and a chemical called mutagen ethyl methanesulfonate 1. The trait in genetically modified corn that produces insecticide has a certain protein that is poisonous to some insect pests called Bt Toxin, hence the reason why genetically modified corn is also called Bt corn 3.
How does it work?
The transformation of normal corn into Bt corn involves extraction of the required gene from the donor organism, Bacillus thuringiensis,1 which is a bacteria that occurs naturally in soils. The genetic material is extracted from this bacterium to manufacture a certain form of proteins (Bt delta endotoxin) which has the ability to kill harmful larvae of the Lepidoptera species 5 such as the famous European Corn borer and the Southwestern corn borer. However, this gene is not implanted on its own. A combination of the gene and other genetic material such as a promoter sequence that partly determines how the new trait will come out or be articulated in the corn is also implanted 5. Such traits may include articulation of the protein in particular parts of the corn or at specific time periods. Examples of such promoters include herbicide and antibiotic tolerance promoters which are frequently used in identifying which corn have been successfully modified 3.Other sequences that may also be implanted include plasmid sequences or vector sequences. These encourage quick duplication of the vital gene using a bacteria host before being injected in to the corn 5. Once the Bt protein has been ingested by the insect, it binds to its gut wall and the insect can no longer continue feeding. This will result into the protein spreading into the insect’s body and it dies from septicemia caused by excessive levels of the bacteria in its blood. The Bt gene in GMO corn i.e. Bt endotoxin is regarded as safe for human consumption 3. It has been successfully tested in other animals as well. Similarly, it has also been regarded as safe for the environment.
Benefits of using genetically modified corn.
Bt corn has a high resistance to pests which normally bring high financial losses associated with crop damage by pests. In developing countries, loss of crops results to massive starvation 3. The trait of pest resistance in corn also saves farmers a lot of funds normally invested in the purchase of pesticides each year and consequently reduce food prices in the market. Similarly, this trait also prevents health hazards resulting from the consumption of foods...

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