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Written Assignment-Biology and Technology in the Real World

Written Assignment-Biology and Technology in the Real World

Genetically Modified Organisms

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms whose genetic makeup has been modified (Goldbas, 2014) to acquire intended genetic characteristics through genetic engineering techniques. The purpose of genetically engineering crops is to improve them by producing: crops resistant to diseases, viruses, insects and herbicides to increase productivity; crops that tolerate drought, salt and cold conditions to permit the growth of plants in such adverse conditions; crops that have the ability to reduce photorespiration to increase energy conversion efficiency; crops that have the capability of fixing atmospheric nitrogen to a larger variety of species; crops with improved nutritional value through protein engineering; fruits and vegetables with better storage properties like extended shelf-life and crops with appealing characteristics with respect to size, shape and color (Nicholl, 2008).

Popular GMO crops that are commonly grown for commercial purposes include the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) plants such as Bt corn, Bt cotton, Bt soy beans and Bt potatoes. Bacillus thuringiensis is a bacterium that produces toxins that kill pests such as caterpillars when ingested. The gene responsible for toxin production is isolated and incorporated into plants such as potatoes, as mentioned above, to produce pest-resistant crops (Nicholl, 2008).

The creation of genetically modified crops involves multiple stages. Firstly, the gene of interest, such as a toxin gene that kills a pest, is selected and isolated from the donor (Bacillus thuringiensis). Secondly, suitable vectors such as plasmids are selected to be used in cloning. The plasmid DNA and the toxin DNA sequences are cut into varying fragments at specific locations using restriction enzymes. They are then ligated using DNA ligase such that the plasmids contain the toxin gene. These recombinant plasmids are then joined with suitable host cells (such as the Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast) to transform the Saccharomyces cerevisiae host cells into pest-resistant cells. Screening and selection of colonies containing the toxin gene then follows, using screening techniques such as nucleic acid hybridization (Nicholl, 2008). Lastly, the recombinant cells are then amplified to make more copies which are then cloned into plant cells such as those of potato plants to produce Bt potatoes that express a pest-resistant trait. Seeds produced from these plants can then be stored and used for future propagation.

Popular foods containing GMOs include canola oil derived from GM rapeseed, sugar from genetically modified (GM) sugar beets, GM papaya, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, corn, apples, and potatoes. Consumption of foods containing GMOs is quite similar to that of non-GMOs; however, it poses some risks to human health. Firstly, GMOs may trigger cancers. Cancers are a result of gene mutations; therefore, genetic modifications from the GMOs may contain carcinogenic combinations or combinations that would increase the growth of cancer cells. For instance, the production of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) in milk increases as a result of genetically modified bovine growth hormone used in cattle to improve milk production. IGF-I, in turn, leads to the growth of both normal and tumor cells (Algan Ozkok, 2015).

Additionally, consumption of GM foods may trigger or worsen allergenic reactions. The allergy genes may be transmitted from the donor to the recipient animal or plant. Alternatively, the genetic recombination in the GMO might cause unexpected allergenic reactions and/or worsen the existing reactions. Similarly, the development of new toxins and increase in the levels of toxicity might result from genetic modification.

For GMOs to be released in the market for commercial use, they must receive authorization. In the EU, authorization involves an extensive case-by-case safety assessment conducted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), European Commission (EC), and the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. These organizations either approves or rejects the application based on the qualified majority (Twardowski and Małyska, 2015). In the United States, GMO aspects are regulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Here, the growth and marketing of GMOs are allowed after substantial equivalence is proven under the conventional food safety regulations.

Regulations of GMOs also include labeling of products. In the European Union (EU), regulations require product labeling for; GMOs used as foods such as rice, foods containing GMOs such as biscuits made from GM soybean flour and GMO derivatives sugar derived from GM sugar beets regardless of whether the end product contains traces of the GMOs. In the United States, however, the FDA maintains that labeling must be applied only when the GMO product differs significantly from the non-GMO counterparts in ways that might pose risks to the consumer (Castellari, Soregaroli, Venus and Wesseler, 2018).

In conclusion, GMO crops have successfully been created through genetic engineering techniques in order to produce plants with desirable traits such as pest resistance, extended shelf-life and drought tolerance. However, the transgenic cloning methods used to achieve this modification may pose risks to consumers when GMO foods are consumed, and this question about the effects of GMOs on human health continues to be a hot debate. However, CRISPR technology is an alternative method that can insert natural or artificial genes associated with the desirable trait(s) to genetically edit the target organisms (Teferra, 2021). This technology is advantageous as it enables gene replacement and would eliminate the suspicion in most consumers that traces of genes of bacteria, yeasts, or other vectors used may be present in GM foods.


Algan Ozkok, G. (2015). Genetically Modified Foods and the Probable Risks on Human Health. International Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences, 4(3), pp.356-363.

Castellari, E., Soregaroli, C., Venus, T. and Wesseler, J. (2018). Food processor and retailer non-GMO standards in the US and EU and the driving role of regulations. Food Policy, [online] 78, pp.26-37.  <>

Goldbas, A. (2014). GMOs: What Are They? International Journal of Childbirth Education, 29(3).

Nicholl, D. (2008). An introduction to genetic engineering. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Teferra, T. (2021). Should we still worry about the safety of GMO foods? Why and why not? A review. Food Science & Nutrition, 9(9), pp.5324-5331.

Twardowski, T. and Małyska, A. (2015). Uninformed and disinformed society and the GMO market. Trends in Biotechnology, [online] 33(1), pp.1-3. <>


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Written Assignment-Biology and Technology in the Real World

Written Assignment: Biology and Technology in the Real World

Addresses course outcomes 1- 4:

  1. recognize and explain how the scientific method is used to solve problems
  2. make observations and discriminate between scientific and pseudoscientific explanations
  3. weigh evidence and make decisions based on strengths and limitations of scientific knowledge and the scientific method
  4. use knowledge of biological principles, the scientific method, and appropriate technologies to ask relevant questions, develop hypotheses, design and conduct experiments, interpret results, and draw conclusions
Select one of the topics listed below (a-e). (Note: Client chose b)

Find at least three reliable information sources related to your chosen topic.

Written Assignment-Biology and Technology in the Real World

Written Assignment-Biology and Technology in the Real World

Write a paper with title page, introduction, several paragraphs addressing the questions, conclusion and references. You must write in your own words and paraphrase information from the selected information sources, addressing each of the questions for your chosen topic. Your paper should consist of less than 10% direct quotes. Your paper should be 750-1500 words, excluding references and title page.

b) Genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

A friend tells you that she avoids foods containing GMOs because they are unhealthy. You decide to use the knowledge gained from your biology class and some additional research to form your own opinion on GMOs. Answer the following questions backed up by reliable information sources. What is the purpose of genetically engineering of crop plants? Include at least two specific examples of commonly grown GMO crops. How are GMOs created? Use the provided course materials and make a connection to the central dogma of molecular biology in your explanation. Which foods in your supermarket contain GMOs? Are foods that contain GMOs safe for human consumption? What types of regulations exist for these foods? Clearly explain your reasoning for each answer in your paper and conclude whether or not you agree with your friend.

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