The benefits and hazards of gene technology

Essay by kaviHigh School, 12th gradeA, August 2007

download word file, 2 pages 3.0

BenefitsThrough gene technology, it is now possible to produce:• genetically modified organisms for a specific purpose.

Previously, such genetic change would have to be brought about by selective breeding which requires organisms to be of the same species (able to breed successfully together), takes many generations and involves transfer of whole genomes, complete with undesirable background genes. Gene technology is much faster and involves transferring one or few genes, which may come from completely unrelated organisms, even from different kingdoms.

• specific products, such as human insulin and human growth hormone, thereby reducing the dependence on products from other, less reliable sources, such as pig or cow insulin.

• reduce use of agrochemicals such as herbicides and pesticides since crops can be made resistant to particular herbicides, or can be made to contain toxins that killinsects.

• clean up specific pollutants and waste materials – bioremediation• potential for use of gene technology to treat genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis (see below) and SCID (Severe Combined Immune Deficiency) as well as in cancer treatment.

HazardsGenes inserted into bacteria could be transferred into other bacterial species, potentially including antibiotic resistance genes and those for other materials, whichcould result in antibiotic resistance in pathogens, or in bacteria that can produce toxic materials or break down useful materials. Regulation is designed to minimise therisks of escape of such genes. There is little evidence that such genes haveescaped into wild bacterial populations.

Crop plants have, by their nature, to be released into the environment to grow, and many millions of hectares of genetically engineered crops, both experimental and commercial, are planted across the globe. So far, fears that they might turn out to be ‘super-weeds’, resistant to herbicides and spreading uncontrollably, or that their genes might transfer into other closely related wild...