So what is Biotechnology exactly?
Biotechnology is an effective way to transfer genes from one organism to another. Biotechnology when applied to major issues, such as farming, can lead to fundamental changes in the relationship between people, plants and the environment as a whole.
In the past, we have mostly tried to adapt the environment to the needs of the plant, which is what a farm actually is, simply put farming is meeting the demands of the plant to maximize the yield of the crop. Biotechnology gives us the tools to make it possible to make the plant adapt to the environment.
There are many methods to biotechnology. In order to understand other methods of biotechnology, we need to understand totipotency, which means every cell in a multi-cellular organism has an entire complement of genes for that organism. This means that every single cell in an organism can be manipulated to produce an entirely new organism.
This is also known as cloning. Cloning is a very useful technique to produce uniformity among the produced organisms. In forestry, trees are cloned to obtain uniform size and growth rates. This makes harvesting the trees very efficient and makes it possible to conserve trees as a resource. Other methods in biotechnology include transformations of cells using vectors and gene selection for making vectors. Transformation can be induced by inserting DNA into organisms by vectors or gene guns methods.
Public concern in biotechnology
Biotechnology allows us to be very selective of the phenotype we want the organism to express. To allows us to introduce traits from different species in a single organism. It also allows us to speed up a process of developing new phenotype which is much more rapid than the evolutionary process. This may no doubt raise the public concern. Many science fictions have illustrated the possible dangers of biotechnology. Many people have concerns with biotechnology since it is a science of tampering with DNA. In the past, the tampering was done mostly by random and by trial and error methods.
However today with the technological advancements many of the methods have been shown to be very safe. However, much concern arises when biotechnology is applied to organisms that we consume. The concerns include the thought that genetic manipulation is unnatural interference with nature. Many people feel disgusted at the fact that their plant food may have a gene from a bacteria or a frog. They may feel this is going too far. There is no true solution to this problem.
Many scientists simply say that most food is already genetically modified by breeding processes so there is no reason to be repulsive to it. But what biotechnology does is completely different, genes are added from all over the world from any species and splicing them together. No breeding process can even come close to the possibilities of biotechnology.
Another concern is that genetically modified foods may be unsafe to consume. For example, modified proteins may induce allergic reactions. However, we have to keep in mind that most modification is not done to the food part of the plant. Much of the modification is done to non-food parts to make the plant more adaptable to its environment. The only difference in most cases is that the food part has a few extra bits of DNA in it and being allergic to DNA is not likely.
There is also a concern that genetically modified organisms are dangerous to the environment. This may happen when a resistant gene that is introduced into a food organism is transferred to other organisms that were not intended to achieve that resistance. This has occurred in some cases. This may, for example, create super weeds that are impossible to get rid of. And this may devastate production food. The solution to these problems is either we make multiple tests and do the introduction of the gene with extreme caution or simply don’t do modifications in organisms that concern us.
The main concerns are enforced in first world countries like in northern Europe. The third world countries are usually quick to take up many modified organisms since it greatly solves the immediate problems regarding food. This shows that many first world countries take food production for granted, unlike many third world countries who need these modified food sources to sustain their living conditions.
Even though biotechnology has many concerns associated with it. It is a very useful science that will be very important in the future development of our world. It has enormous potential to solve many problems we currently face. This science also gives us greater insight into the evolutionary process and our relation to other species on this planet. Much of the biotechnology can also be used to solve many genetic diseases in the near future. This may include gene therapy, cloning and stem cell technologies. For those who wish that this technology shouldn’t exist, it is already too late. So, the only thing we can do is work to make this technology as safe as possible and solve many of our problems with it.