Genetic Engineering of Plants, Animals, and Humans

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Genetic engineering has the potential to greatly improve the quality of life for all of society; however, if it is taken too far, it poses serious risks to the well-being and morality of plants, animals, and humans.

“Genetic engineering involves the manipulation of the molecules that make up the innermost structure of living matter. These molecules control the hereditary information carried by cells” (Stwertka 11). Humans have been changing the genetic makeup of plants and animals through artificial selection ever since they started farming and ranching. In the 1950s it was discovered how plants duplicate when they divide. This knowledge is the basis for the genetic engineering of today and tomorrow (Thro 20).

In the 1960s, scientists Francois Jacob and Jacques Moned figured out that genes can be flipped on and off like switches by what are called regulator genes. Whether a gene is on or off affects protein production which in turn can change the genetic makeup of an organism (Thro 18). By the 1970s, the first of many successful gene-altering experiments happened, and in the 1980s came a disease resistant petunia, the first genetically engineered plant (Thro 20). Ever since these first experiments and breakthroughs, the field of genetic engineering has advanced vastly.

One major use of genetic modification today is in the agricultural industry, which benefits numerous other industries. “Some benefits of genetic engineering in agriculture are increased crop yields, reduced costs for food or drug production, reduced need for pesticides, enhanced nutrient composition and food quality, resistance to pests and disease, greater food security, and medical benefits to the world’s growing population” (Phillips).

There have also been advances in the development of crops that mature faster than non-modified crops and tolerate a number of environmental stressors: boron, aluminum, salt, frost, drought, and others. These modifications allow crops to grow in otherwise intolerable and barren areas (Phillips). Genetic engineering in agriculture has the potential to help millions if not billions of people, not just from starvation but from diseases. Another frontier for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is the pharmaceutical industry.

In 1986, human growth hormone was the first pharmaceutical protein made in plants. Then in 1989, the production of antibodies in plants began. The research groups responsible for both of these breakthroughs used tobacco, which has since become the dominating crop for expressing foreign genes and is rigorously studied and utilized. Several plant-produced antibodies have made it to clinical trials as of 2003 (Phillips).

While great strides have been made in regards to genetic modification in plants, there are still numerous other possible applications and advancements to be made in the future.

“Genetically modified plants may someday be used to produce recombinant vaccines. In fact, the concept of an oral vaccine expressed in plants (fruits and vegetables) for direct consumption by individuals is being examined as a possible solution to the spread of disease in underdeveloped countries, one that would greatly reduce the costs associated with conducting large-scale vaccination campaigns.” (Phillips)

This could prevent the spread of potentially deadly viruses in countries where vaccinating people is not only expensive but close to impossible. There is also work underway to use potatoes and lettuce to make plant based vaccines for Norwalk Virus, Entierotoyigenic Escherichia Coli (ETEC), and Hepatitis B Virus (HBV). Some scientists are also exploring a way to produce other commercially valuable proteins, like spider silk protein and polymers that are commonly used in tissue replacement and surgery (Phillips). Many industries stand to benefit from the development of GMOs. For example, some researchers are considering microorganisms as future clean fuel sources and biodegraders.

As with any scientific advancement, there are risks and concerns in the field of genetic engineering in agriculture. There have been concerns about the horizontal gene transfer of resistance to pesticides, herbicides, and antibiotics to unintended organisms. This could put humans at risk and cause unintended ecological imbalances; however, the chance of horizontal gene transfer is very low and in most cases cannot even be simulated in a lab with ideal conditions. This would lead scientists to the conclusion that there is no real threat (Phillips).

Another example of a concern for genetic engineering is with Bt corn. Bt corn is a genetically modified stand of corn that produces a protein which is toxic to a number of pestiferous insects; however, it is also toxic to monarch butterflies. Many scientists worried that the corn’s pollen would eradicate the monarchs, but, after years of debate, it was proven that there was no real risk due to the low amount of pollen produced and the fact that the monarch migration did not coincide with the pollination period of the Bt Corn (Phillips).

“There are unknown consequences to altering the natural state of an organism through foriegn gene expression. After all, such alterations can change the organism’s metabolism, growth rate, and/or response to external environmental factors. These consequences influenced not only the GMO itself, but also the natural environment in which that organism is allowed to proliferate” (Phillips).

Along with these risks, there are risks to humans including the transfer of antibiotic-resistant genes to gut flora and the exposure to new allergens in genetically modified foods (Phillips).


Cite this paper

Genetic Engineering of Plants, Animals, and Humans. (2021, Mar 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/genetic-engineering-of-plants-animals-and-humans/



How is genetic engineering beneficial to plants and animals?
Genetic engineering has the potential to improve crop yields, increase resistance to pests and diseases, and enhance nutritional value in plants. Similarly, it can help in developing animal models for studying human diseases, improving animal health, and producing higher quality meat and dairy products.
What are 3 examples genetic engineering?
1. One example of genetic engineering is the process of creating genetically modified crops, which are crops that have had their DNA altered in order to be resistant to herbicides or pests. 2. Another example of genetic engineering is the creation of transgenic animals, which are animals that have had DNA from another species inserted into their genome. 3. A third example of genetic engineering is gene therapy, which is the process of using DNA to treat or cure a disease.
What is genetic engineering in plants and animals?
Genetic engineering is the process of altering the genes of a plant or animal to change its characteristics. This can be done to improve the species, make it resistant to disease, or make it better able to survive in its environment.
What is genetic engineering of humans?
Genomic medicine is the practice of using an individual's genetic information to predict and prevent disease. It is important because it allows healthcare providers to tailor treatments to each patient's unique genetic makeup.
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