The technique illustrated in this animation produced by WGBH and Digizyme, Inc., shows how scientists use natural processes and technological innovations to insert genes into loops of DNA called plasmids. Plasmids can then be introduced into bacterial or other cells, which will proceed to replicate the inserted genes or induce the cells to produce such valuable proteins as human insulin and growth hormone.
6 Reasons To Avoid GMOs
When was the last time you thought about how food was made, where it came from, whether and if it was chemically treated? With the first ever Non GMO Month around the corner, an awareness campaign launched by the Non GMO Project, perhaps now is a good time to pay attention. As you look at each food item and its ingredients, consider these fundamental unanswered questions concerning genetically modified (GM) foods — which are most foods that you eat today. Disturbingly, while we are force-fed “wholesome” messages about the alleged benefits of GM foods, a decade and a half after the first GM crops went commercial many of the same concerns persist. 1. Human Health Concerns
Many scientists, doctors and health advocates raise concerns about the unintended impact of GMOs on human health. Yes, because there is no independent research (and in fact, seed companies’ agreements forbid the use of seeds for independent research), nobody can say with any degree of certainty that GMOs are safe. And so it is not surprising that there are unresolved questions concerning the potential alteration in human genome, allergenicity of introduced genes and high toxin production in plants and animals that may lead to long-term health effects. What’s more is that certain GMOs may also have the potential to further lower the effectiveness of antibiotics in the population. Amflora, the GM potato, for example, that was recently approved in the European Union for industrial uses, has a gene for antibiotic resistance. Superbugs anyone? 2. Animal Health Concerns
Often less discussed is the impact of GMOs on animal health. While we should be altruistically concerned about the well being of our fellow creatures, the fact is that if they are impacted by GMOs, we are not far behind. Animals, especially insects who feed off GM crops, are our canaries in a coal mine. Take bees and the colony collapse disorder. Many scientists believe that while several causes may have contributed to the massive bee die-offs of the last four years, at least one contributing factor is the increased use of pesticides. If there is anything we learned since GM crops went commercial is that pesticides and GMOs go hand-in-hand.In fact, recent research indicates that since GMOs were introduced, farmers applied 318 million more pounds of pesticides than compared to the amount of pesticide likely to have been applied in the absence of GM seeds. Now, you’ve heard it before: if bees become extinct then humankind has about four years left. 3. Environmental Concerns
In addition to the threats that GMOs may have on human and animal health, there are also numerous pressing environmental concerns. The list of potential problems highlighted by the Union of Concerned Scientists is long and portentous. First, the engineered crops themselves could become weeds. For example, some compared the recently approved for trial planting of GE eucalyptus trees with kudzu, a plant imported for purposes of preventing soil erosion but which became a pest throughout the southern U.S. states. Second, the crops might serve as conduits through which new genes move to wild plants, which could then become weeds.
4. Moral and Ethical Concerns
In addition to the practical and earthly concerns over the health and ecological impacts of GMOs, there are also considerations of the higher sorts. Since genetic modification, by its very essence, requires manipulation of the genetic make-up of an organism, the very core of its existence,...