Genetic engineering is also known as genetic modification or genetic manipulation. Regardless under what name it goes, it is a branch of biotechnology involved in reshuffling of genes, generally from one species to another.
Existing examples of genetic engineering are the transfer of genes from a human to a pig and a fish to a tomato.
What is genetic engineering?
Any living organism comprises of cells. Some like fungus contain a single cell. But the human body is built up of several billion cells. Each cell in any living organism has a different role to play.
Genetic engineering is the ability to remove genes and segments of DNA from one species and put them in another, breaking through the species barrier. The purpose is to introduce into a non-modified species certain cells that are lacking in it. The objective is to inculcate features the non-modified species does not naturally possess.
For instance, in genetically modified soyabean a gene has been introduced which is able to resist weedicide which normally kills anything green. Hence a field of genetically modified soyabean can be sprayed indiscriminately with weedicide which will kill everything but the soyabean plant itself. The growing cost is hence substantially reduced as it eliminates the need for selective application of weedicide.
But opponents of genetic engineering perceive a potential threat. They are apprehensive about the long-term effects of such genetic modification. Tests conducted with mice fed on genetically modified food have shown adverse results.
The perceived danger is that once the new cell is introduced into the new host, it begins to grow unchecked. It may either behave as predicted or else come up with some unexpected results. It could for instance interfere with the entire regulation of gene expression in the new area where it is located.
One of the main dangers inherent in genetic engineering particularly related to plant food is that genetically modified organisms have the ability to spread and interbreed with natural organisms. In the process they can contaminate the non modified organism and future generations of it in an unforeseeable and uncontrollable manner.
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