Genetic Engineering, The Big Debate

There’s a heavy debate going on concerning genetic engineering. It seems the more strides scientists take toward perfecting the art of perfecting, the more outraged the naysayers become.

A large number of people believe we should leave nature alone completely, and let it take its course. Still others have no major problem with the idea of genetically altering vegetables, but don’t believe in altering anything animal. And, almost every opponent to genetic engineering is extremely intolerant of the idea of genetically altering humans.

Recently, news came out that scientists had developed a super banana, which has been altered to contain elevated amounts of vitamins and minerals, making it healthier for us to eat overall. It’s expected the banana will receive as much criticism as golden rice, the vitamin A fortified grain that is now freely available to subsistence farmers.
Genetically altered crops have been created which resist diseases and herbicides, and farmers seem to be in favor of the changes.

The bananas are slated for human testing in the United States in the near future. It is hoped that the new bananas will help to combat the worldwide vitamin A deficiency causing infants death and blindness throughout its low-income communities. The six week study, backed by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will have results by the end of the year. They hope to have bananas growing in Uganda by 2020.

It’s no secret that protests about genetic alteration are even more fierce if the altered product happens to be an animal, such as improved fish or chicken or beef, for example.

As stated in the above article, people are insisting that altered foods should be labeled, as they distrust the food industry and generally don’t understand the process of genetic modification. This could be solved if the public was given more accurate information on what that altering is, and how it affects the food.

More important research has been ongoing within the medical field itself. Malaria has been responsible for countless death over the years, and many of them were children under the age of five. Now there’s a chance that a bit of genetic engineering may be able to come to the rescue.

A report by Dr. Roberto Galzi from Imperial College London was published in the journal Nature Communications, stating that genetic manipulation of male Anopheles mosquito genes would result in a sire that could only father male offspring, thus reducing the number of infectious females within the species. It may eventually cause the malaria-causing species to eventually become extinct.

There’s certain to be some controversy surrounding such a course of action. As ACSH’s Ruth Kava says, “The anti-GMO crowd will likely not have much to say about this new means of fighting malaria. Of course, since the technique is still laboratory-based, it would be harder for them to disrupt it than to stop field testing of Golden Rice, but they might try. Their ignoring the benefits of genetic engineering would reach new highs (or lows) if they fail to accept the life-saving potential of this manipulation.”

One of the most controversial topics in the discussion of genetic engineering now involves creating children who would essentially have three parents. These embryos are formed by removing faulty mitochodrial material and using healthy materials from a second mother to replace them. Britain was willing to allow this new means of in vitro fertilization, while most of the other countries are much more resistant. In the United States, the FDA has voiced a willingness to consider the possibility of allowing three-parent embryos. Below is a video that explains this process.