Gene technology is a modern branch of biotechnology that allows direct modification or removal of a gene, or the transfer of a gene from one species to another. When plants, animals and other organisms are changed using gene technology they are known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Examples of gene technology:
- Insect-resistant cotton. In Australia, caterpillars of Helicoverpa armigera can strip cotton plants of their leaves and nibble their flower buds
- Plants to produce industrial compounds
- Podborer-resistant cowpea for Africa
Uses of gene technology:
It is used to transfer a beneficial gene from a related species into a crop plant in a direct and efficient way.
Plants: DNA technologies based on DNA molecular markers, transgenic technology and gene expression have been widely used in agricultural production which have showed great potential in improving agricultural yields and quality, reducing the loss that various biotic and abiotic stress
Animals: scientists can precisely transfer a beneficial gene (for disease resistance, for example) from one animal species to another. Cloning technology is a type of breeding technology to produce an exact genetic copy of an animal–usually a high quality animal with desirable breeding traits.
Human beings: It has been used to mass-produce insulin, human growth hormones, follistim (for treating infertility), human albumin, monoclonal antibodies, antihemophilic factors, vaccines, and many other drugs. In research, organisms are genetically engineered to discover the functions of certain genes.
Effects of gene technology:
Gene technology also creates unknown side effects or outcomes. Certain changes in a plant or animal could cause unpredicted allergic reactions in some people which, in its original form, did not occur. Other changes could result into the toxicity of an organism to humans or other organisms.
It employs viral vector that carries functional gene inside the human body; the repercussion are still unknown. There are no clues as to where functional genes are being placed. They may even replace the important genes, instead of mutated genes. Thus, this may lead to another health condition or disease to human. Also, as defective genes are replaced with functional gene, then it is expected that there will be a reduction in genetic diversity and if human beings will have identical genomes, the population as a whole will be susceptible to virus or any form of diseases.
Despite all of these current concerns, the potential for genetic technology is tremendous. However, further testing and research will be required to educate society on the pros and cons of genetic technology. There is no doubt that this technology will continue to present intriguing and difficult challenges for 21st century scientists and ethicists, and education and meaningful, respectful discourse are just the starting point of what is required to tackle such complex ethical issues. With the newfound breakthroughs in cloning, the capabilities of changing human characteristics are unpredictable. We can then anticipate intense cross-disciplinary debate and discussion as new life forms are emanating through science and medicine.
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