A genetically modified organism refers to organism whose genetic makeup has been intentionally altered (Jumba, 2010). They involve both plants and animals. Genetically modified plants are referred to as transgenic plants whereas genetically modified animals are referred to as transgenic animals. According to Starr, Evers and Starr (2011), the most commonly used genetically modified organisms include yeast and bacteria. This is attributed to the metabolic ability of the cells of these organisms to make complex organic molecules.
Science behind Genetically Modified Organisms
Genetic modification is normally carried out in the laboratory. According to Keefer, two procedures are normally applied in the transformation of the DNA of an organism. These include the Gene Gun method and the Agrobacterium method. The Gene Gun approach is normally applied within a living organism. In this approach, new genes are introduced into plant cells and plant chloroplast. In the Agrobacterium method, a tumor inducing region is removed from a transfer DNA, replaced with the desired gene and marker, and then inserted in the organism.
In the creation of GM crops, a number of steps are normally involved. Firstly, the gene of interest is normally identified and isolated. This normally involves the selection of desirable characteristics such as insect or drought tolerance. Secondly, the gen is then placed in transfer vector. Mostly commonly used transfer vector is the Agrobacterium tumefaciens. The insertion process involves the use of recombinant DNA techniques. Plants that incorporate the desired gene are selected for tissue culture.
Application of Genetically Modified Organisms
According to Jumba (2011), genetically modified organisms are normally used to improve production of crops and livestock. Application of the genetically modified organisms has resulted in the reduction of costs of food and drug production (Phillips, 2008). Genetically modified organisms are also used in the production of non-protein and nonindustrial products (Phillips, 2008). For animals, genetic modifications are aimed at enhancing resistance to diseases and improve the maturity. Additionally, plans are underway to use genetically modified organisms in the improvement and control of environmental pollution. Microorganisms are being developed that can aid in the biodegradation of compounds that are normally not easily degradable (Phillips, 2008).
According to Starr, Evers and Starr (2011) genetically modified organisms are used in the production of enzymes that are used in food production to enhance the taste and modify fats. Insulin obtained from animals and then used for people with diabetes has been genetically modified to remove the allergic reactions it causes in humans. E. coli has been utilized in the manufacture of insulin for a very long time (Starr, Evers and Starr, 2011).
History of GMOs
According to Woolsey (2012), the history of GMOs can be traced back to the discovery of DNA, in 1935. Consequently, the discovery of recombinant DNA, in 1973, paved way for the use of recombinant DNA process in developing GMOs. The first GMO to be approved was the production of human insulin using E. coli, in 1980. Sale of first GMO foods was in 1994. This involved the sale of tomatoes that had a longer shelf life than conventional tomatoes.
Social Factors that have drove GMOs
The ability of genetically modified foods to reduce the cost associated with diseases has contributed to its increased need and use. However, the use of genetically modified organism has been met with ethical and social concerns. Food safety has been a main concern in the implementation of genetically modified foods.
Jumba, M. (2010). Genetically Modified Organisms the Mystery Unraveled. Durham: Strategic Book Publishing.
Keefer, J. (n.d.). Science behind Genetically Engineered Stuff. Science behind Genetically Engineered Stuff. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from http://courses.washington.edu/z490/gmo/natural.html
Phillips, T. (2008). Genetically modified organisms (GMOs): Transgenic crops and recombinant DNA technology. Nature Education 1(1):213
Starr, C., Evers, C. A., & Starr, L. (2011). Biology: Concepts and applications. Australia: Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning.