Genetic Engineering in Plants

Topics: Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food, DNA Pages: 9 (3123 words) Published: May 2, 2013
Mark Lindgren
MLA Research Paper
Dr. Cherif Correa
Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering in Plants
In the 1920’s, a man named Henry Wallace founded a company called “The Hi-Bred Corn Company.” He began selecting corn plants that flourished in certain aspects and bred them with other prosperous plants to make a hybrid. After pollenating the female silk of one plant with the pollen of another; the resulting offspring displayed both traits. This idea of ‘selective breeding’ would go on to become the norm in that era of agriculture because it produced bigger and better plants. Because of his pioneering in the agricultural sector, in 1933 President Franklin Delanore Roosevelt appointed him United States Secretary of Agriculture. Some seventy years later, inspired by Henry Wallace, a new field of science was formed: Biotechnology.

Biotechnology uses a process called genetic engineering to alter DNA. The alteration of DNA and insertion of genes can cause certain desired traits to be expressed in plants. The Collins English Dictionary defines genetic engineering as, “(Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Genetics) alteration of the DNA of a cell for purposes of research, as a means of manufacturing animal proteins, correcting genetic defects, or making improvements to plants and animals bred by man.” Biotechnology is implemented in various fields, such as medicine, agriculture, engineering, pharmaceuticals, and genetic testing, among other things. Biotechnology has the potential for great things in many areas of life. Biotechnology is misunderstood in many ways, by many people, but when implemented responsibly and safely, it has the potential to help and further mankind.

Many people dedicate their lives to making biotechnology better and producing great products that have great benefits. However, there are also entities at work who are not as concerned about helping people and changing the world for the better as they are profits. This reckless disregard gives the entire science a bad reputation, and creates an opposing force that is passionate about bringing biotechnology to an end. This opposition has good reason for concern because of the negligence of some of these corporate entities. However there is still great promise for biotechnology in the plant world.

Biotechnology and genetic engineering give selective breeding a run for its money. Selective breeding requires crossing and combining thousands of genes; many are desired, but many are not. The benefits of biotechnology and the criteria that will be used to express biotechnology’s capabilities and importance are substantial. Unlike selective breeding and hybridization, biotechnology and specifically, genetic engineering, make it possible to introduce individual genes with desired traits into a plant’s genome with stunning accuracy. The precision of genetic engineering makes it possible to implement the traits of the desired genes without diluting them with thousands of unwanted traits. Not only can you swap genes between plants of the same species, but because all life forms share the same genetic material, you can transfer genes between all of them. This technology broadens the scope of possibilities immensely. By making it possible to transfer genes from species to species, plants can deal with stressors more effectively and utilize more energy for growth. This allows farmers to increase production of their crops; which in turn makes them more money and provides more food. Nutrition can also be manipulated. Manipulation of nutrition gives the ability to fight malnourishment, disease and starvation. With so many benefits how can one possibly discourage biotechnology?

In the film The Ethics of Biotechnology, Dr. James Baker a professor in the Dept. of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan, speaks on behalf of the academic community and states the goals and common misconceptions that parallel biotechnology. He says that researchers in the...
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