SCI207 Dependence of Man on the Environment
Instructor: Amanda Slaughter
January 29, 2013
The world has seen plenty of changes and advances in the past century but not as many possibilities as genetic engineering. It’s also tuning up in more and more places around the world. This new technology has a wide variety of possible benefits but it also has dangers and risk.
Genetic engineering is any process by which genetic material (the building blocks of heredity) is changed in such a way as to make possible the production of new substances or new functions. As an example, biologists have now learned how to transplant the gene that produces light in a firefly into tobacco plants. The function of that gene—the production of light—has been added to the normal list of functions of the tobacco plants. (Advameg, 2013) Soybeans, Cotton, Corn, Rice, Sugar Beets, Canola, and Potatoes are the crop’s that are being engineered.
Between 1997 and 1999, gene-modified ingredients suddenly appeared in 2/3rds of all US processed foods. This food alteration was fueled by a single Supreme Court ruling. Since then thousands of applications for experimental GM organisms have been filed with the US Patent Office alone, and many more abroad. The first commercially grown genetically modified whole food crop was the tomato (called Flavr Savr.) which was made more resistant to rotting by Californian Company Calgene. The tomatoes were released into the market in 1994 without any special labeling.
Genetic pollution is defined as the undesirable gene flow out into populations in the wild. It typically refers to the flow of genetic material from a genetically engineered organism to that of a non genetically engineered organism. Although, some conservational biologists refer to it when describing the gene flow from a feral or domestic species to that of a wild or unknown population or species. (Orfano, 2008)
There are a lot of environmental health issues such as cross contamination, increased weediness, gene transfer to wild or weedy relatives, change in herbicide use patterns, squandering of valuable pest susceptibility genes, poisoned wildlife, and creation of new or worse viruses. Cross contamination of GMO crops have an indirect effect on food safety and food security due to the movement of genes from GMO plants into conventional crops. The center for food safety says the following are just a few of the dozens of episodes in which pollen or seeds from GE crops have contaminated conventional crops.
Having an increase of weeds where we humans don’t want them can be an environmental health risk because they can have an unwanted effect. Gene transfer to wild or weedy relatives can be at risk because altered crops are growing near fields and the new gene can easily move via pollen into those plants. The new traits might confer on wild or weedy relatives of crop plants the ability in unwanted places, making them weeds. The change in herbicide as patterns is a risk because crops that are genetically engineered to be resistant to chemical herbicides are tightly linked to the use of particular chemical pesticides. The adoption of these crops can lead to changes in the mix of chemical herbicides used across the country.
Squandering of valuable pest susceptibility genes are many insects contain genes that render them susceptible to pesticides, which these susceptibility genes predominate in natural populations of insects. The genes are a valuable natural resource that allows pesticides to remain effective pest-control tools. Poisoned wildlife is an addition of foreign genes to plants that could also have serious consequences for wildlife in a number of circumstances, an example of this is engineering crop plants, such as tobacco or rice, which produce plastics or pharmaceuticals could endanger mice or deer who consume crop debris left in fields after harvesting. One of the most common