Genetic engineering is the process of modifying or changing the genes of a living thing. Genes are made up of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, and they carry information about the organism. Scientists alter this genetic information for a variety of reasons. These changed organisms are called genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
- Scientists take DNA from different organisms and combine them. The organism from which DNA is originally taken is called the donor. The DNA from the donor is combined with genes from another organism, and the new DNA is called recombinant DNA.
- Scientists then clone the recombinant DNA by using bacteria. Bacteria reproduce quickly, so they put the new DNA inside of the bacteria and it reproduces along with the bacteria.
- Genetic engineering is used in medical science to create helpful medications such as vaccines, human insulin, and other hormones.
- Genetic engineering is used in agriculture. The goal is to create crops that are more nutritious, more resistant to pests and herbicides, and more productive.
- One application of genetic engineering has more to do with turning off genes, rather than combining genes. For example, scientists are manipulating DNA in some apple varieties so that they won’t go brown after being cut.
- Genetic engineering used in industry has created things like more effective detergents and biodegradable diapers.
- Scientists use genetic engineering to manipulate the DNA of domestic animals. This is done for reasons such as, increasing food production and decreasing the negative effects of the animals on the environment.
- Genetic engineering was first done in 1973 by biochemists in the United States.
- Genetic engineering is controversial. Many people are concerned about whether GMOs are ethical, safe for humans and the environment, and beneficial. Research is being done to try to answer these questions.
Biodegradable: When an object is able to be broken down by microorganisms and blend back in with the earth.
Ethical: Pertaining to beliefs about what is morally right and wrong in society.
Questions and Answers
Question: Are manufacturers in the United States required to label products as containing GMOs?
Answer: Manufacturers are not currently required to put labels that say the product has GMOs, but they will be required starting in the year 2022.
Learn more about genetic engineering.