genetic modification

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Offline elpida

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Offline WylieE

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Re: genetic modification
« Reply #1 on: 20/12/2006 05:06:22 »
 I'm not sure what you want by way of a comment, but I'll give it a shot.  I'm sure others will respond shortly also- and you'll have a wide range of answers.   This is one of my favorite topics, so I can't resist a response. 
 I thought this was a poorly written article and was difficult to follow.  Although I am being quick to judge without knowing the age / background of the author.  My guess is that this author feels very passionate about the subject, but has little exposure to many facts.    There were no references given, so it is difficult to determine exactly what the author was referring to in some cases.  If you would like more information on pros and cons of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), I can provide links to better written articles on both sides. Here is one True, it is from scientists, but I think it is balanced in pointing out some of the pros and cons of GMOs (and it has some nice links at the end).

 First of all bioengineering can have very different definitions.  It can mean anything from designing an artificial heart to creating GMOs.  It is clear from the article that the author is referring to the latter, but itís a bit difficult to understand specifically what they are talking about.  This is a very key point.  If we are talking about GMOs we cannot lump them all into one category.    ďCreating superhumans" is quite different than improving the ability of corn to withstand drought. 

Personally, I support the use of carefully tested GMOs.  I believe that improving crop yield, nutritional value, stress tolerance, and insect resistance will allow us to grow more crops on less land.  Therefore, we can keep from destroying native habitats for farmland (the next step is to keep from destroying them for strip-malls- but I donít think GMOs will help too much here).  However, I donít think we should follow blindly the idea that we can trust all scientist to check and make sure everything is safe before we use it.  We need to establish guidelines and monitoring systems for the use of GMOs.

I went through the article and made comments on all of their work, but it got really long, so I'll just post the first paragraph here with my comments.  If you really want punishment I can add the rest (but it's long).
Hope this is helpful in some way, shape, or form.
A Perspective on Bioengineering by Peggy Barnett
There is an expression, which is no longer commonly used, that states, "You can't see the forest for the trees". It means, of course, that by examining pieces of the larger whole exclusively, the meaning of the larger entity is lost.
Genetics and bioengineering is, by design, the study and implementation of processes upon pieces of the whole.

I donít understand this last sentence, does this make sense?   My guess is they are trying to point out that the objects studied in genetics and in bioengineering affect the whole organism.  Thatís true, thatís one main point of studying genetics- to discover how the components contribute to the whole organism.  For example, how certain DNA sequences may increase someoneís risk of cancer.  Likewise, thatís the point of genetic engineering in plants- to improve the whole plant. 

though the true nature of the gene
Does the author mean DNA?

as an entity, has not been exclusively studied
Um . . . ., Morgan, Levene, Avery, Hershey, Chase, Pauling, Wilkins, Franklin, Watson, Crick, and thatís only till 50 years ago- and I've probably left many people out
and is, therefore, not well known
I would consider the ďtrue nature of a gene (the DNA)Ē to be very well understood.   I mean maybe not at the quantum level (but Iím learning more about that on this site) and there are certainly some aspects that are not understood.  However, based on the extensive knowledge of DNA available I would feel confident saying that this is one of the best understood aspects of modern biology.

causative effects of genes, located on specific parts of chromosome threads in the nucleus of a cell, is extensively studied and acted upon.
Maybe the author just has backwards what they mean is known and unknown?

This lack of knowledge of the larger whole (gene to chromosome thread to nucleus to cell to cell subgroup to cell subgroup section to cell group sections to organ, for example) is similar to understanding the use and effects of a particular tree in the forest without fully understanding how that tree interacts with the other trees in the forest.
The assumption to this statement is that genetics (or bioengineering) only looks at the genes, but not what the genes (or more correctly the products of the genes) do.  This is incorrect.  It is of no use to know gene exists if it isnít known what transcript it encodes, what protein it makes, what that protein does and how that affects the whole cell.  This is especially true for any target of genetical engineering- why waste all the time and effort if you donít know how the gene product will work?   

Is the tree in unison with the trees that surround it, in competition with them or overtly antagonistic towards them? Any tree can be planted in a forest.
Maybe any tree can be planted, but not any tree can grow- good luck getting a tree to grow in a pine forest.

Is it native to the larger forest, or is it alien? If it is alien, will it exhibit, over time, the encroachment that occurs with what is termed effects of invasive species?

I think their whole point from this intro is to look at the big picture.  Yes, that is something we should focus on doing, especially with GMOs, and I think that does happen (but we should be vigilant and make sure it continues to happen).  The author presents it like no thought is put into this at all and genes are just thrown in "willy nilly"- and that simply isn't the case. 
« Last Edit: 20/12/2006 06:14:06 by WylieE »