GMO is an abreviation for “genetically modified organism.” Genetic modification has been around for centuries through methods of selective breeding.
If a plant had a high yield, farmers would plant the seeds from the high yield plant. They would continue to do this and receive a stronger harvest each year. G.M.Os are one of the most controversial areas of science due to ethical and health issues.
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G.M.Os refers to the process of extracting desirable traits from one plant’s DNA and combining it with the DNA of another plant to produce a desirable trait in a new plant. The gene that has been introduced can be isolated by a related plant species, isolated by a completely separate organism or designed on a computer and constructed in a lab. GMO is possible through the universal genetic code that all life shares. All organisms possess nucleotides (ATCG) but different organisms contain different orders of A, T, C, G. This is the basic concept of GMOs.
While different methods of selective breeding involve altering thousands of genes, GMOs allow breeders to select a trait and insert it into the target plant or animal while still a single cell organism. The simplest method of genetic engineering includes using enzymes to cut genes or separate DNA from one organism to another. The chosen genes can be transferred from a virus or directly through a gene gun. A gene gun uses a process to spray DNA coated gold particles over the target cells of the chosen organism. For example, if an apple tree was to be modified to grow larger apples, then a gene gun would be used to spray the modified gene (from the donor organism) onto the apple tree cell.
After the desired trait joins with the apple cell’s DNA, the cell would begin to divide containing the same trait for each division. All aspects of genetic engineering follow basic steps, “identifying a trait of interest, isolating that genetic trait, inserting that trait into the genome of the desired organism, and then growing the engineered organism.” Scientists commonly search for animals containing desirable genetic information. If for example, researchers were looking for a gene that would allow a plant to survive in a colder climate, than they would look at organisms that can naturally survive in colder conditions. The next step of genetically modifying the plant is to isolate the genetic trait of interest.
Researchers would perform an analysis to decode the genetic makeup of the donor organism in order to locate the chosen traits. The chosen genes are then removed through a process known as gene splicing. After the donor gene is inserted into the organism, then the modified organism would replicate. Each cell would contain the newly engineered trait. One key example of Genetic engineering positively affecting the food industry was an incident surrounding the papaya ringspot virus (PRSV) in Hawaii. The papaya industry faced a massive downfall in domestic sales in the 1940s due to PRSV.
PRSV would deform the papaya and would completely spoil the fruit while it would still be very young. The American government tried many methods to save the dying industry; even moving the fruit plantations to different islands. In the late 1990s, farmers growing papaya turned to GMOs to solve the growing problem. If the fruit contained genetic material of the virus then they would protected, because of this the researchers isolated a PRSV gene from the virus and inserted it into the cells of the papaya making the fruit immune to the virus. GMO technology has vastly positively affected farms economically.
First, Gmo traits have provided higher incomes through improved yields for farmers across the world. The global economy has increased by 116.1 billion due to GMOs. Farmers in developing countries have especially gained from GMOs. The lower production cost has provided farmers with the opportunity to vastly improve margins. “Crop biotechnology has contributed to significantly reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices. This results from less fuel use and additional soil carbon storage from reduced tillage with GM crops. In 2012, this was equivalent to removing 27 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere” (Manager, Community.
“What are the real economic and environmental impacts of GM crop use?) One common example used against GMOs is the use of pesticide within the plants. The pesticide develops within the fruit. while the pesticide used kills insects, it is completely harmless for a human to ingest. GMOs have also been proven to be equally nutrient and safe. Scientists have concluded that GMOs will be paramount in the upcoming years in order to feed the growing population. Biotechnology also helps to make plant-based organisms healthier. Nutrients have been added to fruit and vegetables to make them healthier and contain more nutrients so they can be more beneficial for our bodies.
Although it is commonly considered throughout the scientific community that GMOs are beneficial to our society there are reasonable concerns about ethicality and safety revolving around GMOs. genetic modification can be a serious threat to the environment, traveling passed their original fields and cross-pollinating creating herbicide-resistant weeds can be a threat to other crops impacting the food chain. Also, there are many issues relating to the ethic and moral values within genetic engineering. Modifying food from its originality serve our needs would be considered as changing nature, posing questions about what we as a species should be capable of manipulating. There are also concerns about the dignity of the organism, the modification of a living plant without consent could be considered as wrong or as disrespectful to the integrity of the organism.GMOs and the ability to modify crops are a key piece of agriculture providing stable food sources and stable incomes to farmers in countries; both developed and developing. As our knowledge and capabilities increase it is important to consider both ethical and necessary modifications to food sources.
Recent events around climate change create a even stronger need for GMOs. GMOs could also be used to help plants to survive in hotter temperatures and be used to limit the amount of nitrogen in the atmosphere. In the end we as species will have opportunities to advance in this field of science, however, we will have to make sure we use this technology for the betterment of mankind and not for selfish motivations.