Biotechnology a boon or bane

blog photoBiotechnology is already progressing at a very rapid rate. Its influence can be felt most prominently in medicine and agriculture, but it is also beginning to have an impact on the energy industry as well as in the field of environmental science. One of the more exciting and famous fields of biotechnology is genetic engineering. Simply put, genetic engineering is the modification of the genetic material of an organism in order to realize a desired effect. Genetically modified foods, or GM foods, are one of the more famous genetically modified organisms, or GMO`s. Many proponents of GM foods proclaim that these organisms are better because they have been engineered to provide higher yields and to be resistant against the onslaught of pests as well as extreme environmental conditions. However, not only crops are genetically modified. Other organisms, such as bacteria, have been genetically engineered to produce human proteins for use in medicine, an example of which is insulin. Several higher organisms have also been genetically modified in some manner, such as the fluorescent fish GloFish and transgenic mice used to study the effects of gene modification on observable phenotypes.

Proponents of GMOs are correct in most aspects regarding their opinion on GMOs themselves. Genetic engineering allows us to make important organisms more resistant to factors that would otherwise harm them, such as pests. This is significant, especially in agriculture. A GM crop that can grow in harsh conditions with minimal maintenance is a godsend to people in arid regions that constantly suffer from famine. This kind of benefit has the most direct impact on the world and immediately helps a lot of people. The use of bacteria to produce important molecules such as insulin has been a great boon to medicine, while transgenic organisms are helping scientists understand more about the connection between genes and diseases as well as elucidating the more elaborate subtleties of genetic engineering.

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