The genetic modification of organisms is an ancient practice that currently became highly essential and controversial at the same time. Despite the apparent benefits of GMOs, the interference into genes has its oppositionists, and no countries develop a suitable framework to regulate GMO production and analyze its potential risks. The purpose of this essay is to examine the reasons and possible effects of GMO production.
Causes of GMO Production
The principal reason for GMO production is the humans’ desire to improve the characteristics of organisms for benefits. Although people in the past were not aware of genetics or modification technologies, they still were able to influence the genes of other organisms (Rangel par. 3). This method was called “selective breeding” or “artificial selection,” and it represented the selecting of organisms with desired characteristics and mating them to capture these traits in further generations (Rangel par. 3). Dogs are regarded as the first artificially selected organisms; the artificial selection of size, body shape, and hair length and color has changed their genetics and resulted in a large number of breeds (Rangel par. 3). The significant number of plants was selected as well, and the domestic variants of crops developed another appearance and nutrition value.
Modern scientists currently exercise genetic modifications, prevalently in agriculture and pharmaceutics. They discover “the cutting and splicing genes and transferring them” between organisms (Krimsky and Gruber 15). Scientists upgrade the genes of crops to create cold, herbicide, and drought-tolerant plants with the disease and pest resistance (Amofa 118). Geneticists improve “the nutrition properties of crops to enhance human health” with necessary vitamins and minerals (Amofa 118). Another essential reason for GMO production is the increase in food production due to global population growth (Adenle et al. 16). According to the researches, by 2050, people will produce almost 70% more food to support the global population (Rangel par. 20). The development of GM technologies is required to address this challenge.
Effects of GMO Production
The numerous researches of genetically modified organisms, their creation, and introduction to the daily routine of society have a highly significant global influence that cannot be evaluated categorically. GMOs unquestionably have a substantial positive effect on modern life. Insulin, a drug that saved a large number of people, originally derived from the modified bacterium in 1978 (Maxmen 5). Genetic modifications presently make the essential breakthroughs in medicine as they “provide huge potential for production of pharmaceuticals and vaccines,” more usable for transportation and storage comparing with traditional remedies (Amofa 118). According to recent scientific examinations, recombinant bacteria have a positive influence on human health (Maxmen 5). Scientists modify microbes contained in bacteria by adding genes, and these received microorganisms are highly efficient in drug delivery (Maxmen 5). For instance, a genetically engineered bacteria, Lactococcus lactis, traditionally used in the manufacturing of dairy products, are supplied with a gene that stimulates the secretion of protein to cure intestinal inflammation (Maxmen 5). One of the principal directions of genetic modifications in the medical industry id the creation of recombinant bacteria enabled to cure cancer.
Genetic modification practice makes a positive difference in the agricultural sector by the augmentation of crop’s characteristics. For example, soybean is an agricultural plant that is highly essential for the global production of protein and vegetable oil. It beneficially affects human health (Kim et al. 237). The genetic transformation of soybean is performed through “the modification of its chromatic architecture” and the transformation of the plant’s Agrobacterium (Kim et al. 237). These genes interferences lead to an increase in plant height, total seed weight, and the number of pods (Kim et al. 237). In 1992, the tomatoes modified with a DNA sequence that increases the production of natural protein had become the first genetically recombinant plant approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for mass production (Rangel par. 12). In 2000, a modified Golden Rice was created to combat a lack of vitamin A that annually causes the death of more than 500.000 people (Rangel par. 14). In general, the transformation of crop genes is directed at the improvement of its efficiency and nutrition value.
The contemporary practice of animal genetic modifications has promising results of severe illnesses’ spread reduction. Due to climate change and the greenhouse effect, mosquito-borne diseases become a potential threat to the United States. Mosquitoes spread a significant number of dangerous pathogens, including malaria, dengue fever, chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika virus (Adalja et al. 1). This situation needs both tightened vector control and alternate solutions to decrease the spread of illnesses. As the effective mosquito control is performed with effort, one distinguished modern method to influence the disease expansion is “the release of genetically modified mosquitoes” (Adalja et al. 2). These male mosquitoes have reformed genes that make them sterile, and this characteristic will help to control and diminish the population size of wild-type insects (Adalja et al. 2). Although this practice has already received controversial reviews, it is currently applied in Panama and Brazil (Adalja et al. 2). In general, it is reasonable to say that GMOs exert a prevalently positive influence on modern life.
Despite the achievements that became possible due to GMOs, the arguments concerning the safety of genetic modifications are not ceasing. Public awareness is prevalently connected with genetically modified food, and the main reason for safety uncertainty is the potential long-lasting influence of modified food on human health with an unpredictable outcome. Nevertheless, the scientific community thoroughly investigates genetic modifications and concludes that the consumption of plants with edited genes does not differ from eating traditional crops (Rangel par. 18). However, society is highly influenced by social media, despite the fact that the negative effect of GMOs is not confirmed.
Bacterium Bacillicus thuringiensis that is used to modify plants for insect resistance is impeached for “the expression of so-called Cry toxins” that have a negative influence on the environment and potential risks for human health (Hilbeck and Otto 1). This bacterium was presumed to have a negative influence on butterfly populations. However, further investigations confirmed the safety of Bacillicus thuringiensis (Rangel par. 16) Nevertheless, despite the disputable harm of GMOs, 64 countries have a law according to which all GM products are labeled (Rangel par. 17). This practice is used to give people the right to choose and monitor this technology in the case of unexpected health problems.
Genetically modified organisms appeared many centuries ago through selective breeding, and the purpose of GMO production remains the same. People interfere in the DNA of organisms to improve their characteristics and make them more beneficial for humans. There are various examples of the positive impact of genetic modifications on agriculture, pharmaceutics, and health care. Nevertheless, GMOs are not accepted by a significant number of communities despite their disputable harm. Anyway, GM technologies are inevitable, and they will play a highly substantial role in the future as the growth of the population demands extensive food production and regenerated medicines.
Adalja, Amesh, et al. “Genetically Modified (GM) Mosquito Use to Reduce Mosquito-Transmitted Disease in the US: A Community Opinion Survey.” PLoS Currents, vol. 1, 2016, pp. 1-11.
Adenle, Ademola A., et al., editors. Genetically Modified Organisms in Developing Countries. Risk Analysis and Governance. Cambridge UP, 2017.
Amofa, George. “Recommendations from a Meeting on Health Implications of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO).” Ghana Medical Journal, vol. 48, no. 2, 2014, pp. 117-119.
Hilbeck, Angelika, and Mathias Otto. “Specificity and Combinatorial Effects of Bacillus Thuringiensis Cry Toxins in the Context of GMO Environmental Risks Assessment.” Frontiers in Environmental Science, vol. 3, no. 71, 2015, pp. 1-19.
Kim, Hye Jeong, et al. “Overexpression of a Chromatin Architecture-Controlling ATPG7 has Positive Effect on Yield Components in Transgenic Soybean.” Plant Breeding and Biotechnology, vol. 5, no. 3, 2017, pp. 237-242.
Krimsky, Sheldon, and Jeremy Gruber, editors. The GMO Deception: What You Need to Know about the Food, Corporations, and Government Agencies Putting Our Families and Our Environment at Risk. Skyhorse Publishing, 2014.
Maxmen, Amy. “Living Therapeutics: Scientists Genetically Modify Bacteria to Deliver Drugs.” Nature Medicine, vol. 23, no. 1, 2017, pp. 5-7.
Rangel, Gabriel. “From Corgis to Corn: A Brief Look at the Long History of GMO Technology.” Science in the News, sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/from-corgis-to-corn-a-brief-look-at-the-long-history-of-gmo-technology/. Accessed 25 Sept. 2019.