Genetic Modification

Genetic Modification

Genetic modification is another form of genetic engineering which can be used in animals and plants as well as microorganisms. It doesn’t produce clones, however. Instead a new set of genes is created by swapping genes across different species.

How it works is by ‘cutting out’ DNA from chromosomes using enzymes and then inserting this into the chromosome of another organism. This means that the new organism now contains this new genetic information and, therefore, can produce the features it codes.

New genes can be transferred into crop plants and these crops are known as genetically modified crops (GM crops). For example, GM crops already available today include rice which contains high doses of vitamin A, tomatoes which remain fresh for longer, and sweet corn which contains its own insecticide so that the farmer doesn’t need to spray the crop. Crops resistant to herbicides and insect attack are renowned for producing bigger yields than those without.

As well as food, genetic modification can also has other uses, for example medicinally to create insulin for people who suffer from diabetes.

However, there have been a number of concerns raised about GM crops:

  • populations of wild flowers and crops could be affected due to the new DNA being released into the food chain
  • the implications on human health are still not clear
  • some GM crops need particular chemicals to start growing and then die after one season so this could lead to certain companies taking control of the food market