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Transgenic Crops

They put it in corn; it ended up in soybeans. Genetically modified crops could raise havoc with the genome of humans. Humans could soon find that they are more BT and Roundup Ready than human. Roundup is a weed killer. Roundup Ready crops are genetically engineered to resist the weed killer, which would otherwise kill them. BT means Bacillus thuringiensis, which is a bacterium species. It contains a protien which kills insects. The gene for that protein has been incorporated into some crops, so insects are killed when they eat the plants. Here’s how it works: Genetic engineering uses a “vector” to insert a gene into a cell. The vector is typically a segment from a cancer causing virus. It is linked to the desired gene and transfers it. It goes through cell walls and nuclear membranes and inserts itself, with the gene attached, into the DNA of the host. What keeps it from coming back out and entering other kukuruz.jpgcells? Nothing does. It transfers to other species and often does not distinguish between plants and animals. This effect has been noticeable in Brazil, where surrounding plants and microbes have become altered. Microbes, such as bacteria and molds, pick up the genes and transfer them to other plants, usually weeds, but also other crops. Why wouldn’t the same also happen to humans? Presumably it does. Presumably, the genes are moving around from cell to cell in humans. Humans are not going to notice the effects as soon as fast growing species like weeds do. But future generations could find their DNA loaded with strange genes. When new genetic information is introduced into plants, bacteria, insects or other animals, it can easily be passed into related organisms, through processes such as cross pollination. This process has already created “super weeds”. There is also serious concern about the dangers of using genetically engineered viruses as delivery vehicles (vectors) in the generation of transgenic plants and animals. This could destabilize the genome, and also possibly create new viruses, and thus dangerous new diseases.

Mae-Wan Ho

The most common vectors used in gene biotechnology are a mosaic recombination of natural genetic parasites from different sources, including viruses causing cancers and other diseases in animals and plants, with their pathogenic functions ‘crippled’, and tagged with one or more antibiotic resistance ‘marker’ genes, so that cells transformed with the vector can be selected. Unlike natural parasitic genetic elements which have varying degrees of host specificity, vectors used in genetic engineering are designed to overcome species barriers, and can therefore infect a wide range of species. Recent evidence also suggests that vectors carrying transgenes may spread horizontally via microorganisms, animals and human beings in an uncontrolled and uncontrollable manner. The teeming microbial populations in the terrestrial and aquatic environments serving as a horizontal gene transfer highway and reservoir, facilitating the multiplication, recombination of vectors and infection of all plant and animals species.



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