Genetic Modification of Animals
In the realm of science, there are continuous developments and discoveries every day. One particular development called genetic engineering is having a momentous impact on many of the foods we consume from day to day. It is more than likely that the chicken, pork, or any other form of meat we eat has been modified in some aspect. “The aim of genetic engineering is to introduce, enhance or delete particular characteristics of an organism.”1 Genetic engineering can be used for something as simple as increasing the amount of milk produced in cows; to the physical composition of an animal. While many people believe genetic engineering creates a safer product for consumers, the opposition argues that there are ethical issues and health concerns. The utilization of this method on animals infringes on the rights of animals: there is a significant amount of evidence suggesting that modified animals are more susceptible to stress and disease. Nonetheless, genetic modification negatively impacts the health of consumers, the animals, and strips the rights of sentient beings as a means for inexpensive food. Genetic engineering is a method that appears to favor the industry over the consumers; sensibility is replaced with greed and the animals as well as consumers of genetically modified meat are the ones that pay the price. Following the discovery of DNAs sequence, almost instantaneously, the concept of modifying the DNA arose. “From the moment it was known that the structure of DNA directly determines the structure of proteins, it was in principle possible to manipulate one or the other by chemical reactions that determine and modify the structure of genes. This presupposes that the genetic information manipulated in this way can be expressed.”2 Therefore, by manipulating DNA, the structure of proteins that make up an animal can be modified to express specific characteristics. By doing so, scientists gained the ability to strengthen the characteristics in an animal that are considered desirable and weaken undesirable characteristics. However, genetically modifying animals is not done with ease. Genetic engineering is a very meticulous procedure and requires a copious amount of knowledge of DNA and its chemistry. But once the proper level of knowledge on DNA is achieved, the modification of any animal is possible. “Any animal cell is able to express foreign genes as long as those genes contain regulatory elements that can be functional in the host cell.”3 There are numerous methods used to genetically modify animals; however the most widely used process of DNA sequencing is known as polymerase chain reaction. This process of DNA sequencing is “the most commonly used and efficient method for making genetically engineered animals.” 4 DNA sequencing involves determining the order of bases in a DNA fragment. With the information of the DNA’s composition, it is possible to manipulate and create new strands of DNA with desired traits. In polymerase chain reaction, also known as in vitro gene amplification, DNA sequencing consists of synthesizing a complimentary strand of DNA. In most cases, two different forms of DNA strands are synthesized in a lab simultaneously. This forms a double-stranded DNA fragment which can then be used to modify an animal with these newly created traits.5 But as the genetic engineer attempts to modify multiple characteristics in an organism, the opportunity for failure greatly increases. All portions of the procedure must be done in a perfect fashion. “As the size of the culture increases it represents an ever-increasing investment of resources. Culture failure is then more serious but at the same time the system increasingly demands that all conditions are met more critically.”6 In order to cause a characteristic change in an animal, a genetic engineer manipulates the animal’s code of enzymes to change its genetic makeup and create new characteristics in the animal. A fertilized...
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