Introduction to genetic engineering.
If you enter a grocery shop, you may find a section with the ORGANIC FOODS label. What do those words mean? Some people wonder if produce in grocery shops has been grown naturally, or manipulated in some way. These are genuine concerns. Biotechnology has entered into new areas where DNAs of plants or animals have been combined or modified to create new DNAs that never existed before.
It is vital to understand what DNA and Gene are. DNA simply means Deoxyribonucleic Acid. It is a hereditary molecule found in almost all living things (cells). DNA carries a code (information) that genes use to make living things grow. It is found in all cells in structures called chromosomes.
Genes are instruction manuals in our bodies. They are molecules in our body that explain the information hidden in our DNA, and supervises our bodies to grow in line with that information.
With that brief DNA and Gene explanation, let us see this scenario.
A scientist wants to make blue apples:
The scientist decides on the intent or reason for making blue apples. He gets a plant with blue fruits (say blueberries). He cuts out a piece of the blueberry DNA and inserts it into the apple’s DNA. He plants the new apple seed, and the apple tree produces blue apples instead of red.
But it is not in plants alone — if he wants a cow to have some desired traits such as high milk production, he can get the DNA of a cow with that trait and fix its DNA into the new cow so that the recipient cow will have a high milk production trait.
In the past, farming practices like Simple Selection, Crossing, Interspecies Crossing, Embryo Rescue, and Cell Selection were used to propagate crops and animals with better qualities. The concept is what drives genetic engineering today.
It is worth knowing that biotechnology or genetic engineering can manufacture entirely new animals or plants by merging cells from different sources. It is scary just thinking about it, so in this lesson, we shall look at just the foods we eat.
People are very uncomfortable because the consequences of GMO technology are inherently unpredictable. People fear that altering the natural cause of DNA development and function can result in some cell discord and mutations. And more importantly, once GMO seeds get into the market, they cannot be recalled.