Response to the lecture on food in
The age of biotechnology
Biotechnology refers to the revolutionary technology that allows the manipulation of biological species in order to generate better and desired products. One of the areas of biotechnology is genetic engineering, which pertains to techniques that involve alteration of the genetic constitution of a species. Under this area is the concept of genetically modified foods, which are technically altered species of interest that make a specific agricultural species more enticing or more productive. Agriculture has benefited from biotechnology because it allows the improvement of specific species based on particular phenotypic features (Patel et al., 2005). In addition, these species are further selected in order to produce agricultural species in bigger sizes or through faster growing or maturation times. For example, an example of a genetically modified food is the larger variety of potatoes that are best used for making French fries or baked potatoes. If smaller potatoes were used for such food items, then these products would not be well appreciated by the consumers. Other plant species have been genetically modified in order to produce resistant varieties that can survive extreme conditions of drought, insect infestation or insecticide exposure.
The process of generating genetically modified organisms involves the screening of multiple organisms for biomarkers that would help determine and track down features of interest. These features are also called positive genetic traits and these are important in production in agriculture. Biomarkers are also employed in the identification and differentiation of varieties and strains of agricultural species. The benefits of biotechnology and genetically modified organisms can be observed around us. The cereal we consume every morning are grown from improved breeds of wheat, as well as oats, and these have been genetically modified to grow bigger grains at a very short time. Milk may also come from cows that have been administered with growth hormones that have been produced through biotechnological means. The growth hormones may have been manufacture in the biotechnological factories that employ bacterial strains that could secrete the hormones through the insertion of gene coding for these growth factors.
I personally feel that genetically modified foods should still be continued to be used because this allow mass production and selection of varieties showing better features. Regardless of the ethical and safety concerns associated with genetically modified organisms, I think it would be helpful that scientists be morally and ethically cautious when performing any future manipulations, in order to instill trust in the society at large. The benefits of employment of genetically modified foods far outweigh the harm that is suggested to be associated with using genetically altered food items. Time will show whether the risks that have been imagined could really become a reality.
Patel R, Torres RJ and Rosset P (2005): Genetic engineering in agriculture and corporate engineering in public debate: Risk, public relations, and public debate over genetically modified crops. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 11, 428-436.