The difference between genetic modification and evolution have been slightly misunderstood in the public. Evolution is a natural phenomenon where living organisms change over time. Genetic modification technology, which is also called genetic engineering, is a modern biotechnology technique through which a gene from one organism is transferred to another. Many decades ago, scientists figured out they could fast-track and direct the process of evolution by culling individual organisms that exhibited preferable traits and crossing or selectively breeding them with each other. The understanding of DNA leads to the rapid application of genetic modification in both plant and animals thereby allowing researchers to transfer genes between cells of different organisms.
How are genetic modification organisms created? The simplest method of genetic engineering involves the use of natural enzymes to cut a fragment of DNA inherent in one organism and insert it into another organism. Genome editing is a newer technique by which genetic modification organisms are created. Genome editing allows scientists to accurately alter the sequence of genes to introduce the desired trait. The science of genetic modification technology originated from bacteria which have been doing this “gene swapping” for millennia. A typical example of such bacterial is Agrobacterium tumefacians, popularly called “nature’s own genetic engineer. The insertion of a gene using genetic engineering technique can take different forms. When a gene is inserted from the same species, the term cisgenics is used to describe such phenomenon. Similarly, when an inserted gene is from another species, the term transgenics is used to describe such phenomenon. The type of gene to be inserted is guided by the desired traits the scientist wants to achieve in the organisms. A scientist may insert a gene that governs the trait of organism’s resistance to disease or pest.
How does genetic modification occur? Selective breeding is the most common form of genetic modification. It involves breeding two strains of crops or organisms to produce an offspring that has a specific feature. Selective breeding has been used to enhance desired traits in living organisms for thousands of years. Mutagenesis is another form of modification that is usually performed on crops. It involves exposure of crop seeds to chemicals or radiation to cause them to mutate rapidly. One of the modern forms of genetic modification is RNA interference. It involves the silencing of genes that cause undesired traits in the plant or animal thereby removing any unwanted trait(s) from the crop or organism. In transgenic modification methods, a gene is transferred from one organism and inserted into a specific genetic location in the receiving crop or organism. This kind of genetic modification provides the recipient crop or organism with a desired trait that it would not otherwise have been.
To conclude, genetic modification technology is one of the most controversial technology in our society today. More understanding is needed for the full understanding and acceptance of this technology.
By Abraham Isah
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