Genetically modified organism is the alteration, change or engineering of organisms through DNA technology methods such as mutation to produce the intended organism that has positive outcomes. This outcomes include cloning plants that can grow quickly, can easily adapt to harsh climatic conditions and resistant to diseases. The same case applies to animals whereby animals resistant to diseases are produced. Animal that can mature faster for meat production or for milk production.
The use of DNA mixture or recombinants of genes enable the production of modified organism. This is achieved through addition of foreign genetic material to another organism genome to come up with a new character or features that are genetically modified.
Recombinant DNA technology
This is artificial combination of different DNA molecules from foreign sources into a single molecule to produce of a new gene that is genetically engineered. This engineered gene is then injected or transferred into another organism so that it can show the new traits.
The main purpose of engineering organisms is to come up with more improved organisms that can meet the deemed advantages to the scientists. Unfortunately, these modified organisms have got some side effects but after weighing the merits and demerits the merits outweigh the demerits. This gives scientists a go ahead agenda in engineering organisms.
Genes are engineered in particular methods of biotechnologies in order to change or alter the genetic composition of living organisms. Some of these living organisms include small plants, bacteria, large plants and animals of all kind. Therefore, biotechnology refers to making use of living organisms’ parts or their components such as enzymes, hormones to make products such as wine and yogurt. Some of the commonly used products are Soya beans that resist harmful herbicide and pests. Other crops include maize, cotton, bananas, canola, and alfalfa. Some sweet potatoes are engineered to resist virus, rice with added vitamins and irons.
The technology of combining or mixing genes from various organisms in order to come up with transgenic is known as recombinant DNA technology. Some of the genetically engineered products include some vaccines, drugs, medicines, corns, wheat and food ingredients, fruits, animal feeds and fibers.
Advantages and disadvantages
The main advantage of genetically modified organism is that this biotechnology leads to improved plants and animal’s health. This is achieved through proper diagnostic means that are environmental friendly. These methods include innovation of bio-herbicides and bio-insecticides that have little effect to the environment. Again, this technology leads to conservation of soil, water, and energy since the produced GMP is quite economical in terms of climatic conditions. That is they grow faster, they are resistant to diseases and pests, these plants can grow in arid areas where little water is needed. All these factors lead to increased food security especially in poor countries.
When it comes to plants, the genetically engineered crops have good taste and improved quality. These plants have got short maturity time, therefore they can grow faster. Another advantage is these plants have some vitamins added, have higher yield compared to the native plants, they are stress tolerance and have high resistance to diseases, pests and herbicides. Therefore all these factors lead to the benefit of farmers and the environment at large.
On the other hand, animals also benefit. As mentioned earlier, this is through increased resistance to diseases, high milk, eggs and meat production and adaptation of harsh climatic conditions.
This technology is aimed at improving the well being of human being. This will include improved diagnosis of various diseases, for example, a gene encoding a certain protein can be extracted from a fish and inserted in mammalian genome to help in identification of a similar protein encoded by the targeted gene. This is of vital role in scientific research in mechanisms and behaviors of certain diseases in human beings.1
It is not always safe to test these organisms using biotechnology techniques. Some of GM Products have adverse effects to the consumers, the environment and to both flora and fauna.
Human health impact
When it comes to human beings, there is human health impact. This includes development of hypersensitivity and other allergens. Drugs, hormones and Antibodies used in this technology have adverse effects which lead to animal stress. This is well recognized in poultry. Some hormones or antibodies injected to these birds e.g. broilers causes the birds to have certain queer characteristics or behaviors. Slight excitement to these birds would lead to massive death. Vaccines innovated from attenuated bacteria or microbes may have adverse effects to the animals.
No one can control pollination; therefore, chances of cross pollination and mixing of unintended genes can easily occur. For example, in cross pollination, there is relocation of antibiotic resistance signals through different kinds of cross-pollination. This can lead to unknown sound effects on other organisms. This is because pollen grains can be transported over wide areas by vectors such as wind, animals, and insects. In creeping bent grass, a research shows that engineered genes were discovered in normal grass meaning that crosspollination can lead to non intended mixture of genes.
Environmental hazards involve any negative impact to the environment that is caused by man in the line of scientific work and medicine in general. These would be direct or indirect impacts which later are harmful to the livings. Environmental hazards include biomagnifications and other effects of persistent organic pollutants. It is known that some genetically modified seeds require certain chemicals for them to germinate; these chemicals are harmful to the soil and soil life.
Continuous uses of these chemicals pose a threat to the aquatic creatures when they get into the water through drainage. Things like fishes absorb these chemicals, and some might be harmful. Later man and other predators would eat them, and in the process biomagnifications results. Since genetically engineered products are highly reliable, some flora and fauna may be ignored or eliminated in the process due to overdependence on these genetically modified products.
Crosspollination by wind or insects might lead to mixing of genes between genetically modified plants and natural plants or some genetically modified plants might regenerate to uncontrollable level. Again inbreeding among the animals is another factor of concern. The consequences of inbreeding are known to produce undesirable characters. These eventually might lead to lack of proper preservation of biodiversity. This effect of losing natural habitat would be felt later in the near future. Some products of this biotechnology are non-biodegradable or take long time to be recycled due to their inpallatability character. This poses a major threat to the environment.
Industrialization and use of advanced technology has some negative impacts on the environment. This include global warming and pollution of both water and soil e.g. green houses that are used for the growing of genetically engineered flowers require human control for the temperature, water and minerals. After a period of time that soil habitant and ecosystem becomes altered or ruined due to chemical mixture. Some soil organisms cannot tolerate that living condition. Interference with the environment to some extent can lead to climatic conditions that are not favorable for the growth of enough food for the future generations hence food insecurity. It is important that this technology should hold for the future food security with minimum threat for both living things and environment at large.
Losses of natural biodiversity
Loss of natural biodiversity can easily result due to genetic pollution through alteration of specific genes as scientists try to engineer the organisms. Crosspollination is a good example of this whereby gradual recombinant of these genes can lead to loss of natural habitat.
In hybridization, native organisms are used, with gradual use and modification of such organisms, indigenous organisms with greater resistance to diseases and pests can lose the sense. For example, indigenous breeds evolved and adapted to local climatic conditions over a long time with high resistance to diseases etc. Currently, they have already become extinct or might become extinct in the near future. Due to this genetic contamination, large part of gene pools of various flora and fauna have distorted. This causes much genetic wearing down and genetic contamination leading to great loss of genetic range and biodiversity.
Overdependence and exploitation
Due to the need to create dependency, manufacturers of these plants ensure continuous reliance of new engineered products. This is achieved through generation of first crops that would give rise to nonviable seeds in the second generation. Again, the firms e.g. Delta and Pine Land owning these plants require farmers to buy specific chemicals that would induce germination reactivate the genetic traits and growth of GM crops. The purpose of doing this is to limit the distribution of genetically modified plants and to maintain market.
Ethical and moral issues
Ethical and moral issues involves rules of conduct and implications that governs the progress toward the study of scientific work and research as it pertains to biota and the environment, its effects and consequences in life and medicine. Here several questions arise whether duos genetically engineered products solves the problems of food security or whether these products demerits outweigh the merits. It is unethical for the Christians to alter Gods creation. It is believed that God creation is good and should not be tampered with so Christians won’t welcome this issue of GMP. Some cultural believes of Africans duos condone this technology. How comes that MG products cannot be bitten by pest be edible to man. It is known that some companies will patent and own gm products life forms. This is unethical since they just manipulate with natural life.
Actually it is against the biblical teaching to alter the nature. It is unethical for Christians to interfere with God creation. Through engineering of organisms, there is violation and change of original value of natural organisms. Modification of organisms is tampering with nature by mixing genes among species.
Some countries e.g. Europe and USA do not allow use or consumption of genetically modified organisms. This shows that they have adverse effects and huge impact to the environment.
Food safety inspections
Food safety inspection involves government organized bodies whose their duty is to make sure that good food surveillance is done with maximum discipline. This includes checking for quality, quantity and whether the food is safe for human consumption. The government ensures that all the necessary measures are put into place to ensure safety. Due to politic issues, activists, consumers and illiteracy, government food regulators fail to perform their duty properly. In general government regulators might be forced to allow untested genetically engineered food and other products in their country due to corruption or political influence by powerful agribusiness partners. This is a serious offence to the world of science and technology.
Proper food inspection and safety analysis should be done before they are released to the farmers or consumers. Tight measures should be taken against biotechnologist who produces GMP with lethal effects. Consumers of genetically modified products should be sensitized through civic education. Some countries like Europe prefer banning genetically engineered products.
Breakdown and failures actually lead to genetically problems in the world. These include genetically associated diseases, malnutrition, loss of biodiversity as mentioned earlier.
Genetically modified products are of good help to the human being as far as food security is concerned, but this technology should be abused. Serious testing and inspection should be encouraged to curb genetically oriented complications to the living things and curb environmental hazards.
Underlying health risks caused by genetically modified food.
Sherlock and John Moray (2007), Ethic and Biotechnology Millers publishers, New York
Young R.Tom (2004) biosafety of GMP, published by World Conservation Union
Genetically Modified Crops – by Atherton T. Keith (2004) Modified crops Academic University Press, New York.