Genetically modified organisms- a step ahead or a step in the wrong direction? Paulina Langowska
Genetically modified organisms, also known as GMO, are such organisms whose genetic material has been artificially changed using genetic engineering. Genetic engineering, to put it simply, is altering the DNA technology, using DNA molecules from various organisms and using this molecules to create a brand new set of genes. Then the set of genes is added to an organism’s genome. Below is shown an exchange of genes in corn, which is supposed to protect it from various insects. Genetic engineering can also change the color of the plant, make it resistant to difficult weather conditions, insects and viruses.
The beginnings of genetic engineering take us back to the year 1973, when the first recombinant bacteria- a bacteria that has been genetically modified- was created. It was Escherichia coli, which from that point on became a popular lab rat used in genetic engineering. This creation led to discussions whether genetic modifications are safe and needed. The first conference when potential health risks were discussed took place in 1975. In late 1980’s in USA and Canada began an experimental usage of genetic engineered plants in a small scale. In 1990’s, after the approval for a larger scale, genetic engineering was more widely spread across the countries. From that point on, the interest in genetically modified organisms grew year by year.
However, even though genetically modified organisms have gained population, the benefits of it and its harmlessness is disputable. Researches on lab pets show many harmful consequences. Some scientists decided to try and feed rats with genetic engineered potatoes. It was supposed to make them produce their own natural insecticide. But the results weren’t exactly as they were expected. Rats’ cells developed in a proliferative way and potentially cancerous cells. Also, the development of their brain and liver was inhibited and they suffered from an immune system damage. Also, another research was done in Russian Academy of Sciences. This time, female rats were fed genetically modified soy before and during pregnancy and also while feeding their offspring. This time, the results included: * About 55% of offspring died during 3 weeks after the birth (compared to 9% of mortality among those fed with non-genetically modified soy) * Offspring was significantly smaller compared to other as well as their organs (heart, liver, kidneys, etc.) * Both mothers and their children were very aggressive and anxious * When male and female (both form genetically modified soy fed mother) were paired, they were unable to conceive children. Although the results of this experiments are to be taken with a grain of salt, they are still alarming and disturbing due to the wide discrepancies between the GM soy fed rats and the control ones. The health damages found in rats fed with genetically modified potatoes is just as much worrying. The reason rats are used for such experiments is that their morphology and biochemical structures are very similar to the human ones. That is why those experiments, as well as similar ones, provoke an essential question- is genetically modified food harmful to people. The answer to this question is very disputable. Some scientists claim that genetically modified foods are completely safe and otherwise they wouldn’t be approved. But there are numerous articles about possible harmful effects of genetically modified foods and they can’t be ignored. The main concern is allergies. Main aim of getting a new set of gene to an organism’s genome is to create a new protein and every protein is potentially triggering to allergic reactions. The problem with GM foods is that its protein are completely new and we can’t be sure about its effect. Truth be told, people (mainly in USA, where genetic engineered food is the most common) often consume GM products without being aware...
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