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Interactives -- DNA

Implications & Ethics : Genetically Modified Food

The development and use of genetically modified foods is a contentious issue.

Scientists have perfected the ability to put genes into more complex organisms like plants and animals and alter their genetic makeup. This gives us the ability to create strong and healthy plants, resistant to pests and disease or that contain more nutrients, as well as animals with increased disease resistance or that produce a better yield of meat, eggs, or milk.

Some people, however, are very concerned about the risks that genetically modified (GM) foods might pose. They fear that GM foods could transfer their new genes to other organisms (including humans), have unforeseen effects on health and the environment, and affect biodiversity.

The concerns should not be ignored, though it's important to remember that humans have been altering food for centuries by selectively breeding and cultivating the varieties of plants and animals that were tastier and easier to grow. We now enjoy seedless grapes, and large, sweet apples that bear only a passing resemblance to their ancestors, the crabapples.

In fact, all of the foods we eat have been changed by humans. But now, instead of choosing which animals or plants we breed to get a desired result, genetic engineering gives us the ability to choose genes from one organism and put them into another.


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