The Necessity Of Genetically Modified To Be Banned
What is a GMO? According to Stevie Shepard, the science writer for BBC Good Food, a GMO is “any living thing that’s had its DNA altered using genetic engineering”. He says that genetic alteration is used to give an organism a “desirable trait”. He gives an example regarding a low tech version of genetic modification. He says “Ancient farmers did it with maize (that’s sweetcorn to us), and transformed a tough, indigestible grain into the juicy yellow kernels we know today.”. This particular anecdote shows simply this genetic modification is not necessarily an untested, new age science that has suddenly been foisted upon us as consumers. In fact, Mr Shepard has included a link to a helpful graphic that shows us how modern day sweetcorn derives from a plant that would be unfit for human consumption.
Another common example that we see everyday would be a grape. Organic grapes (organic meaning produce that hasn’t been modified) contain seeds that without human interference would allow the grape plants to reproduce. Yet, when was the last time you bought a bunch of grapes with seeds. This is because, according to Wonderopolis.org, “You can’t plant a seedless fruit, because the plants that produce them don’t occur in nature because they are sterile”. As they can’t be planted, one must conclude that they are made. According to Wonderopolis, “to make seedless grapes, new plants are made from existing plants. Adult grape plant stems are sliced diagonally and cut into sections. The cut ends are then dipped into a rooting hormone and planted. The new plants that begin to grow are basically genetic clones of the original plant, except that they produce seedless fruit”. This is a base form of genetic modification.
However, modern day genetic engineering has extended far further than primitive methods such as these. Invaluable research executed and relayed by companies like OCR has allowed us to learn that DNA is not a fixed object. It is constantly being manipulated and altered to give living organisms new, incredible features. OCR’s second year biology A-Level textbook tells us that when cells replicate they can change certain things about their genetic makeup. Genes are essentially long lines of DNA. In simple terms, DNA is a long code that is like a set of instructions. Cells use these instructions to make proteins that make up more or less every structure in every living organism. This is called translation.
The textbook says that “There are a number of different ways that genes are regulated”. One of these different ways is called “Transcriptional”. This means that “genes can be turned on or off”. The second uses “mRNA”; mRNA is a substance that carries messages in cells. This form of regulation manipulates mRNA so that it can regulate what proteins are produced from the DNA. “Translational” regulation is when”translation can be started or stopped”. The final form of regulation is “Post-translational” which is when proteins are modified after being produced.
Modern genetic engineering utilises the ability of transcriptional regulation to artificially switch on and off certain genes that cause organisms to have certain traits. Due to further expansion in the field of genetics, we can now take the genes from an organism with a particular trait and artificially inseminate them into the cells of another species. Although this is already possible in plants, further research is being pursued to see the effectiveness of this in animals.
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