Biotechnology Report -- Grade 9 Science: What are the current applications of this technology? What potential issues may arise from the use of this new technology?

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Genetic Engineering.

It is variously known as genetic engineering, genetic modification or genetic manipulation. Genetic engineering is the process by which genes are altered and transferred artificially from one organism to another. In other words, it is the reshuffling of genes usually from one species to another. Advances in genetic engineering are progressing rapidly, and innovative applications of this knowledge are just beginning to be imagined and understood. Genes that have been artificially moved into an organism's genome, make it possible to create organisms with traits that cannot be obtained through normal sexual reproduction.

Current Applications in Genetic Engineering.

For thousands of years, breeders of plants and animals have used breeding methods to produce favorable combinations of genes. These "genetic engineers" have produced most of the economically important varieties of flowers, vegetables, grains, cows, horses, dogs, cats etc. Beginning in the 1970's, scientists developed ways to reintroduce individual genes into cells or into plants, animals, or other organisms.

Such techniques alter the heredity of the cells or organisms.

Researchers have found important uses for genetic engineering in such fields as medicine, industry, and agriculture. Many new uses are predicted for the future.

In Medicine:

A number of human illnesses are caused by the failure of certain genes in the body to make specific proteins. For example, the failure of genes in the pancreas to make insulin causes diabetes. Scientists can produce large quantities of insulin in bacterial "factories" by joining the insulin gene isolated from human cells to plasmids from cells of Escherichia coli (a bacterium found in the intestine of animals and humans used extensively in genetic engineering. E. coli can be fatal to humans if undercooked meat is digested) bacteria. The insulin is then given to patients who need it. Many people suffer from diseases caused...