What is Genetic Modification?
Genetic Modification in simple terms involves changes brought about in the section of the gene which may affect the phenotype or expression of the gene product. When altered, the organism produces the needed product newly coded by the gene section or expresses a needed character (phenotype). Thus, Genetically Modified Crops are produced!
What are the key elements of Genetic Modification?
The gene forms the basic unit of our entire genome neatly packed in the nucleus of each cell. The DNA codes for the gene product and each product is coded by a unique combination of three nucleotides, known as a codon. In lay man language, these genes govern our characters and how we appear. This is not limited to just animals; plants too possess these genes and are passed down from generation to generation at different ratios.
Artificial modification of genes has revolutionized modern science and genetics. While many cult groups have raised their voice against modifying the essence of nature, scientists and researchers have claimed that such modifications will testify for the betterment of public health and technology.
How does Genetic Modification function?
When a scientist genetically modifies a plant, they either insert a foreign gene into the plant’s genome or replaces the entire host gene section with the foreign gene. This foreign gene is usually picked from a bacterium or other plant species after modifications for host acceptance of the gene. The gene which may own the property of pesticide resistance or production of secondary metabolite, now confers the character to the host plant, enabling it to protect itself from pests or other damage.
Many such genetic modifications have entered the markets- Bt Cotton, Bt Brinjal, Bt Rice are few examples which have insecticidal and drought resistant properties.
What is the positive impact of Genetically Modified crops?
- For the development of improved food materials, GM has the following advantages over traditional selective breeding:
- Allows a wider selection of traits for improvement- Protection against pests, insects, weeds, ability to tolerate drought, salt, temperature and minerals.
- Changes in the primary and secondary products are possible with this tool.
- Desired changes are achieved in few generations.
- Allows greater precision in selection of characters.
- Reduces risk of random occurrence of undesirable traits.
What is the negative impact of Genetically Modified crops?
- Modified plants or animals may have genetic changes that are unexpected and harmful.
- Modified organisms may interbreed with natural organisms. This could lead to the extinction of the original organism or to other unpredictable environmental effects.
- Plants may be less resistant to some pests and more susceptible to others.
Benefits and risks are two sides of the same coin which is science. The amount of modifications and the type of modifications involved need to be monitored and carefully planned collectively by the cream of the science and research division of the world.