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Background Information and History
Can genetic engineering be regarded as biotechnology?
Some say genetic engineering is just one of the many fields involved in biotechnology. The information throughout this project will give an idea whether of not they are directly linked.
Throughout the years farmers have exposed their crops and plants to different elements trying to maximise their quality and value. Farmers have exposed their crops to fertilisers to enhance growth; they've controlled pests and weeds by using pesticides and herbicides. All this contributed to the plant's DNA and has over the many years actually modified the gene pool of the plant without the farmer even knowing. This is known as biotechnology and why it is considered to have begun so many years ago.
Another example of early biotechnology and genetic modification is the customised or selective breeding of animals. Humans have selected the finest of the animals and mated them to produce an animal which was initially wanted. The reason for this is also resistance to certain elements and also to give the animal characteristics which are wanted by the breeder that the initial animal did not acquire.
Biotechnology is any field in which biology is applied. It concerns the use of living organisms in engineering, technology and medicines among many other useful aspects. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity defines biotechnology as:
"Any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use."
Biotechnology is not only related to medical and health issues, but includes other fields such as agriculture. This field includes the cultivation of plants. Biotechnology is also used to clean up waste and recycle, a field known as bioremediation.
Golden Rice was created by Ingo Potrykus at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. He aimed to eliminate the problem of Vitamin A deficiencies in under developed countries. People eat the endosperm of the rice. The aim was to create a production of beta-carotene, which is naturally produced in the leaves of a rice plant. Beta-carotene is one of the main sourced of Vitamin A.
Vitamin A is an essential vitamin to the body. It produces retinal pigments which are needed for night vision. It also assists in the growth of skeletal tissue, helps prevent some lung cancers and has an anti-infection agent. Deficiency of this vitamin can ultimately result in blindness, especially night vision, as well as chest infections and growth problems, however too much of this vitamin can too be a problem. It can result in anorexia, vomiting, enlarged liver and pressure of the brain.
It is of utmost importance for biotechnologist to cure the problem of Vitamin A deficiency, so the quantities must be sufficient but not too much.
The main feature of Golden Rice is to provide a cheap, convenient source of food and Vitamin A to communities in under-developed countries.
Fermentation is one of the oldest biotechnological processes known. It involves the use of converting sugars (such as yeast) to alcohol. Basically, glucose to ethanol under anaerobic conditions. In biotechnology the term is more loosely used in the way that it involves the growth of microorganisms on food in aerobic or anaerobic conditions. The brewery of beer has three stages: the preparation on the cell wall and the intake of oxygen, glucose and nitrogen. Secondly is the phosphorylization, formation of pyruvic acid and Acetol and the Kerb's cycle. Lastly the pyruvic acid is converted to ethanol.
The main feature of fermentation is uses the process of anaerobic respiration to provide a product derived from basic sugars.
Advantages of Biotechnology: Enhances the quality of food. By modifying the chemical structures of the plant, it can be designed to produce more of a substance that is required. It can also improve the quality, taste and texture of the food.
Improves human health by designing the plant to produce more vitamins or minerals needed.
Use of stem cells to help treat or cure diseases.
Molecular breeding methods can improve growth and quality of live stock to be resistant to pests or other harmful factors.
Disadvantages of Biotechnology: Allergens. Some people can be allergic to the substances that the plants have been modified to create. Chemicals and methods used to design such plants can have an impact on ones health concerning allergies.
The methods used to modify plants or animals can be harmful to wildlife and to animals.
When the plants are designed to become pest resistant, such pests and weeds may adapt and develop a resistance to such plants and up destroying them anyway.
Genetically modified foods first began in the 1900s. Genetically modified foods are of which their DNA has been modified or reasons to benefit the consumer. Genetic engineering does not only relate to plants but animals too. Re-designing their DNA to become resistant to certain pests or other harmful factors.
Modifying their DNA is actually the insertion of genes or removing of genes in their DNA strands.DNA from another species can be added to the plant or animals' DNA strands to modify them for the better. Methods of inserting genes consist of inserting the gene into a virus and exposing the living organism to the virus. The gene can also be physically inserted into the animal or plants' DNA strands by means of a very small syringe.
One of the most controversial forms of genetic engineering is Cloning. It has brought about mush debate and is considered to be very interesting. For many years scientists have been trying to map every gene of the human body, they have so far not succeeded. Although they have still have much work to do on the mapping of human genes, the fruit fly is one living organisms whose genes have well knowingly been mapped. The research of the fruit flies genes have resulted in many breakthroughs. The fruit fly's genes have helped scientists to gain knowledge into the world of Parkinson's disease and cancer.
On April 6, 2000, an American company, Celera, announced they picked out every human gene although they had not labelled their functions or gotten them in order. In the future it is said that Celera will discover the mapping of human genes. Their research so far is not considered useless as the information they have on genes will be able to allow people to choose characteristics of their children, such as eye and hair colour.
Dolly is a well known case of cloning, she proved to be identical in many ways to her "mother". Her creator, Dr Ian Wilmut, hoped that the cloning of Dolly would not bring about ethical issues, such as cloning of humans, but he hoped to introduce ways in which people could use cloning for medical reasons, such as heart and kidneys being created for donors waiting a second chance in life.
Dolly has since passed away, due to natural causes and it is said to be that the cause of death was not influenced by the fact that she was cloned. She successfully gave birth to a lamb, naturally.
Genetic Modified Crops:
Soy beans are just one of the many crops that have been genetically modified. The genetically modified soybeans, known as Roundup Ready soybeans, have been designed to be resistant to herbicides such as glyphosate or glufosinate. This gene causing resistance was taking from bacteria and inserted into the soy bean. The bacteria used were obviously resistant to these herbicides resulting in the soy beans being resistant. Although these soy beans are genetically modified, farmers claim that the crop yields have not increased. 77% of the world farm these modified soy beans. Soy beans have many uses and are often used as a healthy alternative to some meats and milk.
Advantages of Genetic Modification: Reduces the cost of production this occurs because the farmer is saving money that would usually be spent to avoid factors which now do not exist in the modified plant or animal.
It gives the GM food a better texture, flavour and gives better nutrition.
Fewer chemicals are used because plants no longer need them.
Plants and animals now have better resistance against pests, weeds and disease. This allows for more successful growth and survival.
Disadvantages of Genetic Engineering: It is unnatural as people are taking the role of creating living organisms.
Domination of world food production by a few companies because their plants are so successful, there is no need for other farms.
It can be stressful for an animal to go through the processes and testing for genetic modification.
Ethical Issues: Many people have problems with Genetic Engineering, especially when it comes to cloning. One of the greatest concerns is that of "playing God". It is unnatural to a human to create another living organism, which is why it is considered wrong in the views of some people. Because nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes. A mistake in this case can result in bad, inferior creations, causing more harm than good. Genetic Engineering could also be used destructively in ways which living organisms could be created to wipe out another species or just be destructive to other species, disturbing the natural cycle.
View points and Opinions:
My opinion is that biotechnology allows for better understanding and development of the world and its population of living organisms. It should be allowed but only to a certain extent. Cloning humans and animals is not right, it disturb the natural life cycle and opens the chance to mistakes and mutations. Don't play God.
I would consider Genetic Engineering to be one of the many fields in biotechnology. They are linked in the way that they are both to promote the conditions and quality of living things for the better of life.
Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering opens up a whole new world of development, to cure diseases, improve living conditions, improve characteristics of animals and plants and to allow growth of knowledge in the fields of biology