What Is Genetic Engineering Biology Essay

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Genetic engineering is the altering of genetic codes by artificial means, and therefore different from traditional selective breading. The first step taken in genetic engineering is the isolation of the gene that is required then combining it with other genes in order to modify it and the finally putting the gene cassette into the plant which will insure that the desired traits will be incorporated in the crop. [2] 

A gene can be defined as a section of DNA (series if nucleotides) that controls a hereditary characteristic, in other words it is the basic unit of heredity in living organisms. [3] 

2.1 What are genetically modified crops?

Genetically modified crops are crops derived from genetically modified organisms (GMO's). Genetically modifies organisms have has specific changes introduced into their DNA such as mutation breading and somaclonal variations. Genetically modified crops were first put in the market in 1996. During the process of manufacturing genetically modified crops desired genes are selected and combined with other genes and then all that is put into the crop.

Genetically modified crops can be formed by using tumour-forming bacteria as a vector to carry the recombinant plasmid into a suitable host plant or isolated protoplasts for the direct invasion of the recombinant plasmid.

In both cases the invaded cells are cultured in a growing medium to from callus (a shapeless clump of identical cells). A callus is formed by the initial cell dividing by means of mitosis. Each and every cell of the callus has the ability to develop into a small shoot that will grow into an independent plant with the required characteristics.

This is how genes that cause resistance to deses or those that produce toxins that are deadly to larvae of insects, are introduced into crop plants.


2.2. Distribution and use

The countries which are the top producers of genetically modifies crops in the whole world are the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India and china. In 2006 the production of genetically modified crops increased in the following countries; Paraguay, South Africa, Uruguay and Australia. The practice of genetically modifying crops is a worldwide phenomenon. U.S farmer have planted genetically modified crops widely since 1996. Cotton and soybeans have been the most produced genetically modified crop in the U.S followed by corn. [5] 

The table below contains data obtained by USDA's national agricultural survey annually from 2000 through to 2001


Genetically modified food in South Africa

Since the planting of genetically modified food began in South Africa in 1996 the amount of genetically modified soybeans, maize and cotton planted in South Africa increased to 1.8 million hectares.

This proves that genetic engineering is a practice that is well at use here in South Africa, farmers have realised the convenience of GM crops and therefore that practice is continuing to grow, hopefully that the use of these crops will not be exploited.

South Africa has now dedicated 300000ha to growing GM white and yellow maize, soybeans and cotton. Almost 80% of the cotton grown in South Africa is genetically modified. Field trails are being conducted on a variety of crops to identify suitable genetically modified varieties.

3. Different types of genetically modified crops and their purposes

Insecticide sweet corn

Corn has been genetically modified so that it produces poison which kills insects. This means that farmers will save money as they will no longer need to fight harmful insects with insecticides. The genetically modified corn is known as Bt-corn. This corn is of great advantage to the farmer but it could be a disadvantage as the insects could eventually become resistant to the drug.7

Golden rice

Golden ride is genetically modified rise which now has a large amount of vitamin A. Beta-carotene is used to make the rice golden and it is what is responsible for the orange colour of carrots. In order for the rice to make beta-carotene three genes need to include; two from daffodils and the third from a bacterium. This rise is highly advantageous as it provided more vitamin A and therefore people with a lack of the vitamin could benefit greatly.7

Long- lasting tomatoes

The long-lasting tomato is modified so that the tomato produces less of the substance that causes the tomato to rot. This ensures that the tomato remains firm and fresh for a long period of time. This tomato is able to ripen in the sun and this results in a better tasting tomato. [7] 

4. Advantages and disadvantages of genetically modifies crops


They are quick and less expensive to produce

Farming will be environmentally friendly as there will be much less insecticides sprayed into the air.

An increase in crop yield

Farmers will receive higher incomes which they will be able to use for personal expenses.

There are very complex standards that GM crops have to fully meet, therefore these products are very safe and they raise few health issues

Food prices will decrease due to lower farming costs and higher yield; this would also lead to a decrease in poverty as people in poor areas would be able to afford the food better.8


Harm could be caused to other organisms

The taste is not appealing or natural

They could cause a spread of new more resistant super weeds and super pests

This could cause geopolitical conflict as the bigger countries would benefit more

GM crops cause serious health issues

Greed could arise amongst GMO manufacturing firms [8] 

5. Issues of concern around genetically modified crops

There are a number of issues around genetically modified crops, issues such as social issues, health issues, ethical issues and environmental issues. GM crops cause allergies to some individuals therefore this leads to health issues, these health issues that arise are very dangerous as it is difficult for consumers to distinguish between a product that is genetically modified and one that is not. Manufacturers and farmers could terminate this problem by just simply labelling the products that are genetically modified. This would make lives much easier for customer and it would result in a decrease in health issues. Genetically modified crops are a serious threat to the environment as they affect the local biodiversity which results in a lack of variety of crops. These crops also cause contamination of organic crops and the natural vegetation and this could potentially lead to the pollution of the ground and of water. There are serious ethical issues that result from GM crops as many feel as though it is not natural and ethical to combine genes from different organisms into one in order to create a better product. Vegetarians are afraid that they will consume crops with animal genes. Many religious groups believe that the practice of genetically modifying crops is playing God therefore they are strongly against it as the GM crops are not how God intended them to be.

6. My personal view

GM crops are a very controversial subject to speak on, however, I believe that id GM crops are used in the correct manner they could be extremely beneficial to Africa. Poverty is a major factor in Africa and so is starvation. I believe that through GM crops this problem could be overcome. GM crops a quick and inexpensive to produce therefore a number of poor country would benefit from this as the food prices would increase therefore they would be able to afford the food better. These poor countries would also benefit from the added vitamin and minerals to the GM crops. This could also potentially improve many economies as there would be a lot more products to sell and therefore more business for many business owners. The farmers are the ones who would benefit the most from these GM crops as they would be farming at lower costs which would ensure them higher salaries which they could use to improve their farms or other personal reasons. There are a lot of positive that come with GM crops but the use of these GM crops would have to be under much scrutiny in order for it not to be exploited as that would bring about all the negatives of GM crops.

It is however understandable that there would be much confusion regarding GM crops as many people wouldn't be very trusting and welcoming of them as there are concerned for their safety. In cases such as these it would be advisable to introduce educational projects to be conducted in order to for people not to feel as though they are in the dark about the introduction of GM crops. If people are better informed about what is happening around them they will no longer have any crazy false ideas about GM crops.

7. Evaluation of view point

During my research I came across a lot of pros and cons about GM crops which led me to my views about GM crops. There are many factors about GM crops that are still unknown and are still being researched. However scientists are constantly doing research on how these crops work and how they affect the human body. So far there are no substances that pose any harm towards humans; the only thing that could be a concern is that they may cause allergies to other individuals, but no damage has ever been lethal. The concerns about the environment might have swayed my decision a bit but they are also not so bad. After all the research I realised that when it comes to GM crops there are more advantages that disadvantages. During my research I found out how much they could actually benefit our economy and how many job opportunities could actually result of it, therefore not only would there be an improvement in our farming and economy, there would also be an improvement in the unemployment rate of our country. GM crops come with a lot that has not been distinguished yet but if we have the correct approach to it, it could really work to our favour.

8. Conclusion

I hereby conclude by saying that even though genetically modified crops do have a lot of disadvantages, the advantages could do wonders for our countries. The economy would benefit greatly and so would the farmers. The single most important benefit would be the poverty decrease. I believe that introducing genetically modified crops would be another step towards the development of our country. The prosperity of any country is dependent on putting together little pieces in order to create a bigger picture or a brighter future, genetically modified crops have the potential to play a very huge role in the creation of that bigger picture and brighter future.

Genetics is the study of genes; it explains what they are and how they work. Genes are how living organisms inherit features from their ancestors, for example when the young of animals resemble their parents because they have inherited their genes. Genetics identify the features that have been inherited and the try to explain how they have been passed on from generation to generation. In genetics a feature of a leaving thing is known as a trait. Some traits are part of the organisms physical appearance for example a child may inherit their mother hair colour, their fathers nose etc. some traits are not easily identified, these are traits such as blood type and resistance to certain diseases. Some traits are inherited through our genes so fat and short people will usually have short and fat children. Such traits which result due to inheritance alone are called genotypes. Some traits are influenced by our environment for example if a child is born with traits of being chubby but is poorly nourished the child will remain thin, such traits are called phenotypes.

Genes are made from a long molecule known as DNA, which inherited through generations. DNA is found mainly in the nucleus of cells as it forms an important part of all the chromosomes that make up the chromatin network. The order of the units in the DNA carries genetic information. DNA uses the genetic code to communicate its information. This information is the instructions for constructing and operating a living organism.

The structure of DNA reference: http:/t3gstatic.com/image?