Artificial Selection versus Genetically Modified Organisms

Genetically Modified Organisms

Humans have been genetically modifying plants and animals for thousands of years. For example, the corn used today looks very different from its original ancestor, teosinte. Such a drastic change in corn was driven largely (if not entirely) by humans through the process of artificial selection over thousands of years. Artificial selection is the process whereby humans intentionally breed organisms for desirable traits. With respect to corn, it was selected for corn ear size.

A more recent example involves a close friend of the human — the domesticated dog. Modern-day dogs originated from the gray wolf (Canis lupus), and they now comprise hundreds of breeds, all of which have specific traits that were selected by humans (PBS, n.d.).

However, the process of artificial selection should not be confused with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods derived from GMOs. GMOs have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering, unlike organisms that were bred through artificial selection. GM foods are typically created in a laboratory using recombinant DNA technology. These transgenic plants often possess a gene or genes that have been transferred from a different species. For example, researchers in China have engineered cats that glow in the dark due to the incorporation of a jellyfish gene (search “glowing cats” on the Web). The foods most often genetically modified are soybeans, corn, canola, and cottonseed oil.

GM foods are a controversial topic with supporters touting the benefits of pest and drought resistance, and critics stating concerns over safety, ecology, and economics. Currently, there are a number of food species in which a genetically modified version exists.

Do some research and answer the following:

  • Describe the advantages of GM foods.
  • Describe the disadvantages of GM foods.
  • Present and explain at least two reasons GM foods are produced.
  • Are GMO products accepted in all countries? Why or why not?
  • Based on your research, what food(s) have you used that may be a GMO?
    • Are they clearly labeled as such? If not, should they be?
  • Discuss your overall opinion on GM foods.

Be sure to address all Discussion Board topics in an original, well-thought-out, respectful manner. Main posts should fully and completely discuss each question posed and make frequent, informed references to this unit’s material. Engage in ongoing, productive conversation by responding to a minimum of two classmates per topic. Responses to classmates should be at least 50 words. Remember, you will learn more by sharing ideas!

Please note: Borrowed material (quotes, summaries, or paraphrases) should make up no more than 10% of the total word count for all written assignments in this course, including Discussion. All writing must be in your own words and borrowed material must be properly cited and referenced.

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