How are genetic engineering techniques used to modify crops?
- The most common method is of using a gene gun to introduce genes into plant cells. DNA bound to particles of gold or tungsten are shot into the plant tissue or cells, under high pressure. The particles penetrate the cell wall and membranes, DNA separates from the metal and integrates itself in the plant DNA inside the nucleus.
- In the Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated technique, Agrobacteria introduce their genes into plant hosts.
- In case of electroporation, DNA enters plant cells through small pores created by electric pulses.
- In microinjection, genes are injected into the DNA.
Biotechnology in Genetic Engineering Food
The darker side of genetic engineering in food is that the processes involve the use of herbicides and contamination of genes in crops. Horizontal gene transfer and recombination can give rise to new pathogens. It may introduce virulency among pathogens. If certain resistance genes spread in the harmful bacteria themselves, we may waste our defenses to diseases. By genetically engineering food, we are in a way ignoring the possibility that transgenic life forms could be harmful.
Genetically engineered crops may supersede natural weeds. Genetic engineering in food may prove to be dangerous to other weeds and natural organisms. The self-replication of genetically modified life forms might render us helpless in controlling their production and growth.
If not done with great care, genetic engineering can have negative side effects on food. It can lead to undesirable mutations in genes. It may produce allergies in crops. Moreover, in case of genetically modified seeds, all of them are identical in their genetic structure. This might cause a widespread failure of a crop due to a pest attack. Some argue that in refining the appearance and taste of food, its nutritional value may be compromised.