Genetic Modification: Methodology, Ethics and Importance

Genetic modification: methodology, ethicality and importance of understanding

  • Sarah Bernadette Dacanay

Word Count (excluding references): 1418 words



The 21st century is a time where science is progressing at rapid speed with the development of new methods used to improve the livelihood of human life. Such methods include the controversial genetic modification of organisms and products, in order to produce effective vaccines, food sources, etc. (Glenn, 2013). Australia like many nations genetically modifies some of its food and plants (i.e. cows, chicken, wheat, cotton, etc.) (Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, 2014) and before being accessible to the public, are heavily regulated by the Gene Technology Regulator (GTR). Furthermore, scientists and organizations such CSIRO (CSIRO, 2010) are constantly finding means to improve the efficiency of the methods and its ethicality. As such, scientific evidence regarding genetic modification is constantly being updated.

Genetic modification can potentially offer tremendous benefits, but as it is still relatively new, there are many uncertainties regarding its methods and ethicality. Thus, much of the public is still unsure on where they stand. The need for current and credible information about this field is undeniably important for the public, in order to gain a better understanding about its advantages and disadvantages. And once this knowledge is gained, they can make a sound decision on where they want to stand with the progression of this field of research.

Source 1: eBook file


The eBook file, National Framework of Ethical Principles in Gene Technology 2012 Outlines the ‘…ethical principles and values relevant to… gene technology…’ and ‘aims to promote well-informed ethical decision making…’ (Gene Technology Ethics and Community Consultative Committee, 2012). The research into the guidelines outlined in the book has been done by the Gene Technology Ethics and Community Consultative Committee (GTECCC) under the guidance and watch of the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR). The GTECCC provides advice on the request of the Gene Technology Regulator (GTR), or the Gene Technology Ministerial Council (GTMC) regarding ethical issues and policy principles with relation to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and products (GM).

The 11 appointments for the committee are done by the Hon Catherine King, Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing after consulting the GTR, State/Territory Ministers and organizations relating to science, consumers, heath, environmental and industry (Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, n.d.). The members chosen to be part of this committee are experts who range from community consultation, ethics, genetic research and risk communication just to name a few. For example, Donald Chalmers, the Chair of the GTECCC, is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Tasmania and is the Director of the Centre for Law and Genetics; and Ms Corrinna Lange, another member, has a wealth of knowledge regarding science communication through her various roles within public and private sector organizations. (Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, 2012).

The fear of bias by the authors while constructing the framework due to conflict of interests, is easily solved as members are ‘…subject to strict disclosure of interest provisions…contained in the Gene Technology Regulations 2001…’ in which, it is stated that ‘Before the Minister appoints a person as an expert advisory…must obtain…a declaration setting out all direct or indirect interests…’ (Expert Advisers – disclosure of interests, 2001). The compiled research is also subject to act in accordance to the Gene Technology Act 2000 (Cwth) in which s.3 states that “the object of this Act is to protect the health and safety of people…protects the environment by identifying risks posed by or as a result of gene technology…’. As such, the information provided by the GTECCC in their eBook publication stating the framework for ethics and decision making regarding genetic research and modification is highly credible.


The Australian Commonwealth Government is a non-partisan institute regarding genetic modification and is undoubtedly established as being credible and well-respected. The credibility of a book lies not only with the author but, also with the publisher; the organization/institute who funds or supports the research of the author/s. The organization/institute and authors are therefore responsible for the information being published. In this case, the funding and support of this eBook, the National Framework of Ethical Principles in Gene Technology 2012 (Gene Technology Ethics and Community Consultative Committee, 2012) research came from the Australian Commonwealth Government. As the information published inside therefore not only reflects the views and opinions of the author, but is also considered as credible information by the Australian Commonwealth Government. Therefore, as the Australian Commonwealth Government is a credible publisher, the eBooks’ (Gene Technology Ethics and Community Consultative Committee, 2012) credibility is also reinforced.

Source 2: Journal Article

Peer-Review Process

Peer-review is a commonly used process during the editing phase of scientific journals to distinguish what articles sent to be published in the journal are credible, relevant and publish worthy. The process requires the article to be sent and scrutinised by experts in the same field who are considered as ‘peer-reviewers’. They asses the ‘validity, significance and originality’ (Sense About Science, 2005) and ultimately act as ‘an error detection system’ (Science Media Centre, 2003). In order to asses these criterions, the results and experiments are re-tested by these peer-reviewers to ensure that the findings are accurate. A decision is then made on whether the article should be published or rejected. If the decision is for the article to be published, it will either be sent back to the author/s for the final review or sometimes, may go straight into publishing after gaining the approval of the Chief Editor (Understanding Science, 2014).

My chosen journal article (Macdonald et al., 2012) was initially handed into the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on December 4, 2011 for review before being published in their online journal. One of the many peer-reviewers assigned to the article was R. Michael Roberts, University of Missouri, Columbia. Dr Roberts’ is a member of the National Academy of Science and his research areas include ‘utilizing human embryonic stem cells (hESC)…’ and ‘induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC)… by reprogramming.’ (Department of Biochemistry University of Missouri, n.d.). The knowledge he holds in the field therefore, indicates his sound ability as a reviewer for the article, proving him capable of making good judgement on whether the claims and conclusions stated are credible.

Photographic Evidence

Photographic evidence is an effective way to illustrate the processes and results that should be reached during an experiment. It provides the experimenter with an indication on whether the methods are accurately followed. The Materials and Methods section of the journal article (Macdonald et al., 2012), with its various reference images fulfils this purpose. For example, Figure 6, part B in the Materials and Methods section, indicates how the ‘cross-section of a 3 day embryo a day after the injection of GFP-expressing PGCs’ should look like (Macdonald et al., 2012).

Furthermore, the results are set out in clear graphs which are annotated. This can be seen in Figure 2, part D of the Results section, which contains a graph comparing the ‘stable transfection rates of piggyBac and Tol2 transposons in PGCs.’ (Macdonald et al., 2012). The annotations also indicate that the collected and graphed data represent a minimum of four independent experiments. The clarity and in-depth expression, through photographic evidence and compiled data, leave little room for error as it indicates what outcomes should be reached by their methods. This not only makes it easy for those trialling the experiment to compare results, but it also expresses their strong belief that their research is credible.


The boundless amounts of information, found on the internet and at libraries regarding genetic modification, can overwhelm individuals when they first begin researching to grasp a better understanding about the field. Furthermore, as the field is constantly updating and newer efficient methodologies are being discovered, ‘new’ information can grow ‘old’ relatively fast and thus lose its credibility. The two scholarly sources, the eBook (Gene Technology Ethics and Community Consultative Committee, 2012) and the journal article, (Macdonald et al., 2012) I have chosen, are in my opinion examples of credible information. I assessed their credibility under the following criteria: source/author and publisher for the eBook; the peer-review process and photographic evidence for the journal article, and found that the criteria were fulfilled. Thus, indicating that the information from the two scholarly sources is credible. Therefore, to conclude, the information within the two sources can be used to either grasp a better understanding about the field of genetic modification, or be used as references in university research assignment tasks.


  1. American Psychological Association. (2013). The Rules for Federal Regulations: I. The Code of Federal Regulations. Retrieved from
  2. CSIRO. (2010). Gene technology. Retrieved from
  3. Curators of the University of Missouri. (2006). Welcome to the Roberts Lab Website. Retrieved from
  4. Department of Biochemistry University of Missouri. (n.d.). R. Michael Roberts. Retrieved from
  5. Expert Advisers – disclosure of interests, 23 Gene Technology Regulations §1 (2001)
  6. Gene Technology Act 2000 (Cwth) s.3 (Austl.)
  7. Glenn, L. M. (2013). Ethical Issues in Genetic Engineering and Transgenics. Retrieved from
  8. Office of the Gene Technology Regulator. (2012). GTECCC members. Retrieved from
  9. Office of the Gene Technology Regulator. (2014). Record of GM Product Dealings. Retrieved from
  10. Office of the Gene Technology Regulator. (n.d.). Genetically Modified Product approvals. Retrieved from
  11. Office of the Gene Technology Regulator. (n.d.). The Gene Technology Ethics and Community Consultative Committee. Retrieved from
  12. Science Media Centre (2003) Communicating peer review in a soundbite, p.1.
  13. Sense about Science. (2004). Peer Review AND THE ACCEPTANCE OF NEW SCIENTIFIC IDEAS. London, England: Author.
  14. Sense about Science. (2005). “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO BELIEVE…”Making sense of science stories. London, England: Author.
  15. Sense about Science. (2009). MAKING SENSE OF GM. London, England: Author.
  16. Understanding Science University of California Museum of Paleontology. (n.d.). Scrutinizing science: Peer Review. Retrieved from:
  17. University Library University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (n.d.). Is it scholarly? Tips for critically evaluating your information resources. Retrieved from
  18. University of Western Australia Med Library. (n.d.). Vancouver citation style. Retrieved from
  19. University of Western Australia Science Library. (n.d.). APA citation style. Retrieved from
  20. Victoria University. (n.d.). APA REFERENCING: A Brief Guide. Retrieved from

References for two scholarly sources:

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article (Primary Source):

APA: Macdonald, J., Taylor, L., Sherman, A., Kawakami, K., Takahashi, Y., Sang, Helen M., & McGrew, Michael J. (2012). Efficient genetic modification and germ-line transmission of primordial germ cells using piggyBac and Tol2 transposons. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,109(23), E1466-E1472.



Macdonald J, Taylor L, Sherman A, Kawakami K, Takahashi Y, Sang HM, McGrew MJ. Efficient genetic modification and germ-line transmission of primordial germ cells using piggyBac and Tol2 transposons. [Internet]. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2012. [cited 2014 March 15]; 109(23) [about 7 p.]. Available from:

Grey Literature (PDF file):


Gene Technology Ethics and Community Consultative Committee. (2012). National Framework of Ethical Principles in Gene Technology 2012 [PDF]. Retrieved from$FILE/gtecccethicalprinciples2012.pdf


Gene Technology Ethics and Community Consultative Committee. National Framework of Ethical Principles in Gene Technology 2012 [Internet]. Commonwealth of Australia; 2012 [revised 2014 Feb 2; cited 2014 Mar 15]. Available from:$FILE/gtecccethicalprinciples2012.pdf

  • Sarah Bernadette Dacanay

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