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The Ethics Of Genetically Modified Food Production

4169 words - 17 pages

The Ethics of Genetically Modified Food Production

As human technological innovation proceeds into the twenty-first century, society is faced with many complex issues. Genetic engineering and cloning, encryption and information security, and advanced weapons technologies are all prominent examples of technological issues that have substantial moral and ethical implications. Genetic engineering in particular is currently a very volatile subject. One important aspect of this field is GMO or Genetically Modified Organisms, which has far-reaching potential to revolutionize modern agriculture. GMO crops are already being developed by many leading biotech companies, and have come under intense scrutiny by society. This is easily understood, however, because there is not much that is more important than how people get fed. Specifically, where their food comes from, and how it is produced. Thus, it is essential that we examine the ethical dilemmas as well as the practical benefits posed by such a powerful technology.

Before we begin to delve into the ethical depths of biotechnology and genetic engineering, we must first understand how this technology works. To do this let’s start by discussing cells. All organisms are made up of microscopic entities called cells. The human body consists of about ten trillion cells of about two hundred different types, such as skin cells, blood cells, and muscle cells. To gain a general understanding of how cells work, we will look at some of the simplest cells possible- bacteria cells. Once we have an understanding of how bacteria work, it is not hard to see how cells function in other organisms.

So how big are cells? Most human cells are about ten microns in diameter. This is about one-tenth the diameter of a single strand of human hair. The simplest cells that currently exist are bacteria. A bacterium is merely a single self-containing living cell. E. coli is a well-known example. E. coli Bacteria cells are much smaller than human cells- about one-hundredth the size of a typical human cell. In fact, they are impossible to see without the assistance of a microscope. In an infection, bacteria cells actually float around inside a larger organism’s cells like rafts next to an ocean liner.

Bacteria are also much simpler than other cells. A bacterium consists of an outer layer known as the cell membrane, and a watery substance inside the membrane called cytoplasm. Cytoplasm itself is probably about seventy percent water and the other thirty percent is filled with enzymes, which are proteins that are actually produced by the cell, as well as other molecules such as amino acids and glucose (sugar). In the middle of the cell there is a ball of DNA (think ball of wadded-up string), which if stretched out would be close to one thousand times longer than the cell containing it.

Inside the cell enzymes can be found constantly performing the work that allows the cell to function. A bacterium such as E....

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