Genetically Modified Organisms are those organisms whose genes or other genetic materials have been altered by the use of many available genetic engineering techniques. The technology used for modification is 'Recombinant DNA technology'. In this technology, DNA molecules from varied sources are combined in to a single molecule to create or generate an entirely new set of genes. Further, this gene is transferred to an actual living organism that leads to new novel genes. The modification includes insertion and / or deletion of genes. The genes when inserted generally come from different species, geographic conditions, etc. which forms a horizontal gene transfer.
GMO had a huge impact on society after its discovery. Now, they are not only used in biological and medical researches but also in agriculture. The pharmaceutical drugs, medicines and golden rice are the typical example of genetically modified organism. (Frederick, 1995)
There are many social and political risks that are involved in using of genetically modified organism like safety, environment, ethics and impact on society.
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Safety: The technology to be developed in GMO should not put a negative impact on human behavior and health. This includes allergies, resistant markers, antibiotics etc. Human is a social animal and if any negative impact is found on humans than it may lead to total destruction of the planet. Any uninformed or unrestricted transfer of genes from any living organism to human should not be allowed as this may result in mass destruction.
Environment: Environment should remain clean and pollution free. Any harmful effects that lead to pollution and uncontrollable situation may lead us to lose our wide variety of flora and fauna. Un-controlled cross-pollination, un- intended transfer of genes and other effects on living and non-living organisms like soil, microbes etc. is not tolerable. (Nelson, 2001)
Other than human beings there are many living organism, whose gene transfusion may also lead to massive destruction on the planet. Gene transfer should be the last priority for any genetic modification. There should be another way by which genetic modification steps could be carried out.
Ethical Issues: There should be some ethics to be followed while going for genetically modified organism. Genetic modification tries to tamper or change the original existing gene by mixing it with genes of another species. This could lead to stress amongst animals and other living organisms. Restrictions should be imposed for consuming animal genes in plants and vice versa.
Society: These new advances in technology may mark a skew in developed and rich countries. All power should be equally distributed amongst all the nations, regardless of the country's development. (regulation of G M foods).
The impact of technology can be summed under as follows:
Medical: Recently the world has witnessed a huge demand for medicines and still it is on the rise. Main reason for this is the increase in population. The current medicine backup that the world has is not even capable of handling half of the world's population. Now, the demand for medicine is much exceeded to what the current production methods could supply. The population is increasing at a faster pace with the increase in the aged or elderly portion of the population thus requiring much more intensive care as medical perspective.
New diseases are emerging day by day and then mutating at a pace greater than the drugs or antidote could be delivered, the bacteria and viruses whose cure were available are now resistant to all those old and aged medicines.
GM or genetically modified plants and animals could be used by scientist and researchers to produce new effective medicines faster. Moreover, there is a new threat of biological warfare or hazard that may take entire world into its domain. So, to underscore all these factors there is an urgent need for immediate production of medicines
One more arguments is the cost of G M medicines. The prices of a normal medicine are huge now a day's and will continue to rise for next years to come. The genetically modified medicines could produce a much more cost - effective solution to this problem. The developing countries are cheaper so G M plants could be set up there to produce medicines economically and thus helping both the developing country and society as a whole.
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Agriculture: Monsanto's triple stack corn combines Round Ready 2 as a weed control technology. Yield Gard Rootworm and Yield Gard Corn insect control is the United States market leader in corn industry. From 17 million acres in 2007 it stacked to about 45 million to 50 million acres by 2010. This shows the amount of trust that the farmer had in these types of genetically modified organism or crops. These crops are weed resistant and produce a huge amount of revenue with very less efforts. (G M Food debate)
Furthermore adding the benefits its gives to the society are:
Society: It will act as a security for the growing population and helps in generating high resistibility for diseases. New technology and innovation will lead us to improve in future. (G M food and organism)
Animals and organisms: They will be much more resistant to diseases and will result in high productivity. High yield of milk, meat and eggs of G M modified organisms are a common examples of this. GM modified organisms live longer as compared to their counterparts.
Crops: Modification in taste and quality that give a chance to try new things for entertainment. So when crops get genetically modified they tend to become more fruity and tasty. Less time for maturation: This would allow farmers to grow multiple crops faster. Resistant to weeds, diseases, etc. which improves gain as nearly none of the crops would get damaged due to unhealthy environment. High nutrient contents will be available in the G M crops.
There are many precautions and regulatory approaches taken such as:
In different countries like North America, Europe and Canada there is a regulatory system to control the use of genetically modified research. There no research could be carried out without prior information and / or approval with the designated authority. The practical instruments used for genetic modifications are secured with the technique to use it. For crops in Canada, G M crops are grown separately in different location than non - G M so as to prevent cross pollination. Labeling is done for every G M and non-G M crops. This helps the consumer while purchasing a product to decide whether to for G M or non-G M products. Crops here mean crops and organisms. (say no to GMOs)
Precautious taken by the authorities in these countries is labeling. In labeling they separately label G M and non-G M organisms and crops. A live example is BT-Cotton; in this they specifically mention that this variety of cotton is hybrid. Another example is of Labrador dog; the hybrid variety is kept in different chambers so as to easily identify between hybrid and non-hybrid. Proper labeling technique should be followed to differentiate between genetically modified and non - genetically modified. One more precautions they took are that the crops and other eatables are not mixed with the genes of animals.
For the security of society the power of genetic modification should not be patented i.e. it should not remain in the hands of single or a group of persons, organizations or nations. The knowledge should be shared amongst all the countries with no boundaries. Limitation should be such that the practical implementation could only be carried by informing prior to their respective heads or by some written permission. Developing countries heavily depend on industrialization. To prevent the industries from polluting the environment genetic modification algorithms should be used. Bio piracy and unwanted foreign exploitation of natural resources for genetic used should also be taken as a separate issue. As this issue involves many multinational and organizations that may try to hamper the actual image.
If genetic modification is to be adopted worldwide, there should be some prior steps taken to prevent misuse of such a divine technology. The steps taken in countries like North America, Europe and Canada are reliable enough to prevent any harmful usage, but these norms are not global. They operate in their own vicinity and region. United Nation for Organization should setup some guidelines for producing, researching and purchasing of G M products. These guidelines should be followed by all the countries across the world for living happily.
The science and technology is developed purely on the basis of the needs of society. Technology is not something that drives others on its way; it is determined by the hard work and research that is carried out by keeping public interest or need in mind. It is a neutral entity as a whole and we as a user has to decide the consequence of the technology. Example for technology's dual use is: Nuclear Research. It is not only used in generating a huge economical energy but also in various space technologies. On the other hand nuclear power has destroyed many cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Science and technology are not something that could be kept in McLuhan's 4 laws of Media. It is independent of all these. Technology is something what society needs and is capable of generating it.
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Finally concluding we can say that genetically modified organisms are a need for future. The number of diseases, infections, etc. is growing at a pace never expected. For controlling this there should be some mechanism or technique. GMO is a new and innovative way to solve this problem. Some of the live examples are: BT-cotton and hybrid variety of Labrador dog. Cotton was not something that could be grown easily and also the quality of the natural cotton was not so good. The GM BT-cotton changed the scene. It is easier to grow and also the quality is better. Hybrid variety of Labrador dog has more life span and also gains much strength as compared to non-hybrid.
Some of our recommendations can be genetically modified organisms and crops should be used judicially. The research work and thesis could pose a threat if not carried out without prior information. The resultant GMO could be harmful and may endanger whole human life. So, at last GMO should first be tested on all basis of security then only be shown the sunlight of real world. Genetic Modification could prove itself a life saver or a destroyer depending on the use of this marvelous technology.