1. The history of GMO\'s
To start off with we should probably go back to where the study of actual genetics begins. The biggest example most people look to is Gregor Mendel. After some regular schooling he began to study to become a monk. He studied at a monastery, which at the time was a cultural center for the area. After leaving to continue his study of sciences at a university, he returned to the monastery in 1853 and took a teaching position at a secondary school. It was during his time there that he started the experiments that he is so well known for. He in fact is even considered the father of genetics. He chose to use peas because they have several distinct varieties and they can be produced easily. After crossing peas with different characteristics, (tall, short, wrinkly, yellow, and green) and studying the results he came to two important conclusions. One is The Law of Segregation which basically says \"that there are dominant and recessive traits passed on randomly from parents to offspring (and provided an alternative to blending inheritance, dominant theory of the time), and the Law of Independent Assortment, which established that traits were passed on independently of other traits from parent to offspring.\" Through these studies he proposed the idea of a gene as something of hereditary. Although the experiments were only with peas he proposed that all living things had the same traits (Editors, Biography.com). Freidrich Miescher born in Switzerland is who people accredit the discovery of DNA with. He was a young physician and was working in a laboratory. He studied white blood cells on the pus from used bandages. While studying the proteins in these white blood cells he noticed something that did not appear to have properties that matched those of proteins. He had found DNA. He called the substance nuclein, because it was found in the cell’s nuclei. At this time, proteins were still thought to be where genetics started. Oswald Avery was born in Nova Scotia, after studying medicine at college he joined Hoagland Laboratory in Brooklyn and started doing bacteriological research. While he was doing that research he started to study pneumococcus( Streptococcus pneumoniae) the bacteria responsible for lobar pneumonia. Avery and his fellow colleagues found a substance in the blood and urine of an affected person. They identified it as a carbohydrate called a polysaccharide. He found that this polysaccharide could stimulate an immune response, such as producing antibodies, and was the first to propose that something other than a protein could do this. Several years later he was interested in an experiment that Fredrick Griffith did in which he had two strains of S. pneumoniae one enclosed with a polysaccharide capsule that was virulent and another one that did not have a capsule and was non-virulent. His results were that the virulent strain could be convert the nonvirulent strain to an agent of disease and that that conversion was heritable (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica). 1944 is when Avery, Maclyn McCarty and Colin MacLeod came out and said that the substance that caused the transformation was DNA, and that it was the true carrier of molecular information. This proposal was not immediately met with acceptance but a few years later it was proved. In 1953 James Watson and Francis Crick described the DNA’s molecular shape as a double helix. All of these discoveries led the way to genetic engineering. As we talk about genetics we have to think about specific manufacturing of genes. It’s easy to see how base pairs can make proteins that make genetic differences. Years ago it was a hard and an incredible thing to think that we could actually manufacture special sequences that make a desired effect in an organism. This act and the products of it are what we refer to as GMO’s. Right around 1972 is when Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer introduced gene splicing and how to insert recombinant DNA, which is DNA that has been formed artificially by combining constituents from different organisms, into a substance so that it would replicate naturally (Chemical Heritage Foundation) A couple years later they introduced human genes that produce insulin into strains of bacteria. These bacteria then started producing insulin. They also manufactured human growth hormone (HGH). This technology entered the food industry in 1990 when the safety of a new strain of GMO rennet was approved by the FDA. Rennet is used to curdle milk to form curds, whey, the raw material of cheese and other dairy products. By 1995, 67 percent of the cheese produced in the U.S. was being made with rennet from genetically modified organisms. In the early 1990’s, Monsanto, an agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation, gave us a form of bovine growth hormone (BGH) that was made by genetically modified bacteria. This hormone is used to make cows produce more milk. In 1993, it was approved by the FDA www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ProductSafetyInformation http:///ucm130321.htm
2. How they are made
To start off simply for example farmers have been taking crops that produced well and using them to try to keep making their plants better such as cross-breeding. They have always been trying to figure out the best way in order to make their crops produce better and have better quality. In order to MAKE GMO’s we need to take DNA from the desired organism and insert it into the host organism of our choice. Part of the way we do this is by molecular cloning. Molecular cloning takes the DNA of the organism with the desired trait and places it into a test tube where restriction enzymes cut the DNA into smaller DNA fragments. The fragments are then taken and combined with vector DNA (which is basically a DNA molecule that carries foreign genetic material) in another cell where it can replicate itself. One example of a vector DNA is plasmid. Combing these two (the DNA of desired organisms and the vector DNA) makes what we call recombinant DNA. This DNA is then put into a host organism. This will make a population of organisms in which the recombinant DNA is replicated with the host organisms DNA. Because these new organisms contain foreign DNA fragments, we call them genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). These organisms are not naturally occurring https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molecular_cloning.
The different kinds of GMO’s A couple different kinds are 1. Medicine/insulin. Normally your body makes your own insulin by the pancreas. People’s bodies that have diabetes can’t make their own insulin, or their body doesn’t use insulin properly. Therefore, sometimes they have to use insulin injections, which can be genetically modified. Insulin can be from a couple different sources. Pharmaceutical insulin used to be taken from cows and pigs. Now we can take the human gene for making insulin and attach it to the E. coli bacteria to produce synthetic or GMO insulin. Bioremediation. This basically uses naturally occurring organisms or GMOs to remove, or neutralize pollutants in a hazardous area. Food/agriculture. Some of the biggest or most talked about or debated GMOs is with our food/agriculture. This has to do, for example, with changing the genetics in the plant to make it resistant to pests and herbicides. There are different advantages to using GMOs. For instance, when we talk about GMO insulin. Using this method to produce insulin is less time consuming and less complex than getting it from cows or pigs. It works well as a substitute for a lot of people who have trouble with making or using their own insulin. When we talk about GMOs in crops there are some big advantages a few of those are what we mentioned before with the pest and herbicide resistance. Farmers try their best to keep insect damage and weeds at a minimum and a lot of farmers do this by spraying pesticides and herbicides. This keeps the bugs and weeds at bay. Fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides are all forms of pesticides. When farmers spray pesticides they don’t want these pesticides to affect the quality of the food or to get on something besides just the plant they want it on, that’s why they have developed GMO plants that are resistant to pesticides and herbicides. In this was when farmers spray pesticides, for example, just the insects, pests, or weeds will be killed and the plant will be just fine. One such example of a pest resistant crop is what they call Bt corn. This is done by combining a gene of Bacillus thuringiensis, (a soil dwelling bacterium) with the corn organism. The gene they use from Bacillus thuringiensis, makes a protein that kills Lepidoptera larvae, specifically European corn borer when the insect ingests some of it. Because it generally doesn’t affect other types of insects it is very selective and considered safe for human consumption. This is one example of a genetically modified plant that is used to the farmers advantage to yield a bigger crop and have a much, much greater resistance to these certain pests. Though we talked about a few advantages there are people who are very concerned about GMOs. When we talked about GMO insulin, while for a lot of people it is safe and works well for them, for some people it will not work as well and may have side effects. The idea that GMOs are not naturally occurring has people concerned. Some people don’t think that we should “mess” with and make unnatural organisms. Affecting the environment, and humans themselves is probably the biggest concern. Because GM crops are normally herbicide tolerant, farmers can spray a lot of herbicide and the plants won’t be affected but sometimes the herbicide doesn’t always just stay on the plant it can run off into the soil and other places. The fact that so much can be sprayed on the crops and that we eat those crops is a major concern to a lot of people. Obviously we are not drinking/eating gallons of the herbicides or pesticides, but residue can be left over after the crop is harvested such as in sweet corn. The herbicide Roundup has been linked to different diseases. One example is when put in the lab it causes the same kind of oxidative stress and neural cell death associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Spraying something onto our food that can kill living organisms is definitely a horrible thought to some, even if the plant is resistant to it. Another concern that people have is they believe that the companies that are approving or making the GMOs are sometimes not doing a thorough job of testing to see if they are safe for us and just approving them in order to make more money.
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