[This article was originally published on Exposing The Truth. Hyperlinks added by GreenMedInfo.com]
One of the hottest and most controversial issues in the world today is genetic engineering. With protests against Monsanto on May 25th in over 400 cities, people have shown that this is a topic they truly care about. Largely, the stances are highly polarized with opponents saying it is all cancer causing, poisonous, and environmentally dangerous and supporters saying it is wonderful, improving yield and making everyone except “anti-science” opponents happy.
The problem with polarized positions is they almost always miss the reality of the issue and avoid talking about the general facts. Polarized texts instead skip directly to the evidence supporting their position. But, in real life, I think it is important to lay out exactly what we are talking about before we try to say if it is “good” or “bad.”
The first question we have to address, before we talk about the potential and danger of genetic modification, is what exactly is genetic modification? If you want to avoid the science, you can just skip the next 3 paragraphs. Otherwise, I can advise continuing to read, using the sources I provide, or using a search engine.
In the modern context we are talking about the introduction of foreign genetic material, almost always coding for a protein –which are molecular workhorses capable of doing everything from binding with other proteins to changing what DNA is activated or not (nuclear receptors), to themselves performing reactions and either creating or breaking down molecules-, which is introduced into the genome through a double-strand break and insertion (what I call “splice-in”), or through homologous DNA recombination (meaning it trades bases, or DNA, with a target strand inside the cell).
This means that using existing techniques we are often inserting a new piece of code, complete with its own regulatory mechanisms (transcription factors), into the cell and inducing a targeted double-strand break and insertion with endonucleases, something like TAL-effectors, and hoping this doesn’t accidentally alter any important regulatory or coding elements.