A Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) is any organism that has had its genetic makeup altered by humans Ahmed, 2002.
The organism could be an animal, plant, or microorganism. The changing of the genetic code could involve subtracting, adding, or altering. All these changes could be from the same species or different species, which would give the organism characteristics that it does not have normally. GMO technology is widely used for scientific research and in the production of foods and goods. A GMO results from the laboratory process of extracting genes from the DNA of a species and forcing the genes into an unrelated plant or animal's genes. The foreign genes come from viruses, bacteria, animals, insects, or even humans. GMOs allow for the production of organisms with desired biological traits or favor the expression of some desired traits. Conventional crop farming, livestock production, and pet breeding have involved the practice of select breeding in order to produce offspring's with desirable traits. Genetic modification employs technology to produce organism that have their genomes altered in a precise manner at the molecular level. This process involves the introduction of genes from unrelated species, which would not be possible using conventional breeding.
The scientific methods used in the production of GMOs are reproductive cloning and recombinant DNA technology. In order to reproduce offspring with the same genetics as the parent one would use reproductive cloning technology. This involves the transfer of the entire donor's nucleus into the host egg's enucleated cytoplasm. Dolly was the first animal to be born using this technology in 1996. Recombinant DNA technology involves inserting one or more individual genes of a particular organism into the DNA of another. The two organisms are not necessarily from the same species.
According to Bowring (2004)
Reproductive cloning is the deliberate production of organisms with the same genetic as the parent. In this case, each of the genetically produced organisms would be a clone of the original. The most common techniques used for cloning is Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). This involves transferring the nucleus of a body cell to an egg, which has its nucleus removed. This would produce a clonal embryo that needs electricity or chemical triggers in order for it to begin developing. Placing the cloned embryo in the uterus of a female, where it comes to term, thus creating a clone. The clone will have identical genes as those of the original animal. For implanting the cloned embryo, one can use a real or an artificial uterus.
Reproductive cloning is more difficult than it sounds. The process has a low rate of success, and in the case of the cloned sheep, the scientists confirmed that they had to try around 227 times. The attempts required demonstrate that this process is highly impractical. The nucleus extracted from the donor may not reproduce after it is inserted it the donor egg. Even after the insertion, the process requires triggering in order for reproduction to occur. The egg needs to reproduce enough times for consideration as an embryo fit for implantation into a female. The female implanted with the embryo is not necessarily the donor, and the chances that the embryo will reach its term are low. The born animal might be deformed, which renders the whole process a failure and the scientists have to start all over again. There is significant progress in reproductive cloning, but scientists have had trouble trying to clone dogs and monkeys. They have faced numerous challenges like getting a female to carry the embryo and growing the embryo without losing chromosomes. These challenges make the use reproductive cloning a less viable means of GMO production.
SCNT involves removing the entire nucleus of an organism from a somatic cell, followed by inserting the nucleus into an egg that has had its nucleus removed. This process has undergone significant changes and refinement. There are procedures developed that aid in preventing damages to the egg during extraction and insertion. Using SCNT for reproductive cloning is very harmful since the embryo fetuses rarely survive gestation. Some of the fetuses are born with birth defects.
Recombinant DNA technology
This technology involves joining DNA molecules of two different species. The DNA molecules are inserted into the host organism in order to produce a new genetic combination that is of value to agriculture, science, industry, and medicine. The gene is the focus of all genetics. Therefore, laboratory genetics fundamental goal is isolation, characterization, and manipulation of genes Pasternak ()
. Isolating a DNA sample from a collection of cells is relatively easy, but the difficult part is finding the specific gene within the DNA sample. Recombinant DNA technology has allowed scientists to isolate a gene or a DNA segment, which enables the researchers to establish its nucleotide sequence, mutate it in specific ways, reinsert the modified sequence, and study its transcripts. In order to produce many copies form a single fragment of DNA, scientists are using cloning. The procedure allows for the insertion of a DNA fragment into a DNA molecule, then allowing the molecule to replicate inside the living cell. The replicating molecule is a DNA vector and the commonly used vectors are viruses, plasmids, and yeast cells.
The laboratory process employed in the creation of recombinant DNA is molecular cloning. This involves the replication of the DNA in a living cell. The chosen vectors will determine the overall use for the cells created. Recombinant DNA has influenced the generation of better crops. The crops are heat and drought resistant. This was possible due to DNA insertion from crops that do well in these areas. The result is better yield for farmers in arid areas. The prevention and cure of sickle cell anemia has benefitted from this technology. Other areas include insulin production, plants with the capability to produce their own insecticides, and production of clotting factors.
There are three main methods for making recombinant DNA: Non-Bacterial Transformation, Transformation, and phage introduction. Transformation involves first selecting the DNA piece for insertion into a vector. The DNA piece is cut using a restriction enzyme. The DNA insert is ligated with a DNA ligase. For the identification of the recombinant molecules, the insert will contain a selectable marker. The scientists will use an antibiotic marker in order to kill the host cells without the vector when exposed to certain antibiotics. The host cells that contain the vector will survive as they are resistant to the antibiotic. Transformation is the process of inserting the host cell with a vector. The different selectable markers can be for color changes, antibiotic, or other characteristics. The markers will distinguish untransformed hosts from transformed hosts.
Non-Bacterial Transformation is similar to Transformation, but the main difference is that non-bacterial does not use bacteria for the host. The cell being transformed is injected directly with the DNA into its nucleus in microinjection. In biolistics, high velocity micro projectiles bombard the host cells. Phage introduction is a transfection process equivalent to transformation, except in this method phage is used not bacteria. Recombinant DNA is a challenging field of research, but it does hold a promising future. Recombinant DNA technologies will in the future play vital roles in the prevention of genetic diseases, producing less toxic pharmaceuticals, and producing targeted medicines. The technology will influence livestock and agriculture research, which will assist them in finding ways for optimizing genetic codes of animals and plants.
Cultural context of GMOs
GMOs have the potential to provide for crops that mature faster, which would be beneficial in eliminating food insecurity. The technologies have also developed crops that grow in arid conditions. This is beneficial to the people who live in such areas as they now have crops that will grow and survive the harsh conditions. The crop yields are increased by GMOs, as they are developed to mature and produce more yields. This improves the lifestyles of the farmers and ensures that the country has enough produce. The potential for making crops resistant to diseases and pests is immense, which reduces the amount of pesticides used. Using fewer pesticides is beneficial to the weather as there is less toxic emission. Genetically modified animals give increased production of meat, milk, and eggs. There is potential for providing the consumers of GE foods vaccine that will guard them against certain diseases. In the developing countries, the potential for GMOs to increase food security and benefit the farmers is insurmountable.
There is ethical, safety, and labeling issues that society is dealing with in regards to GMOs. Religious groups have indicated that scientists are playing God and this goes against their religious beliefs. Culturally, religious people will not be certain of the food they consume and the probability of using GMOs in the production process does not assist in eliminating this fear. Changing and mixing DNA code requires the tampering with nature, which could lead to adverse repercussions. No one knows the likely effects of having GMO crops grown…