Is Genetic Engineering a variety of breeding?
This is a crucial question. An affirmative answer means that it would not be justified to treat GE-foods differently from most other foods.
The biotechnology industry maintains that Genetic Engineering
(GE) is a kind of breeding. They have been successful in persuading governments
that it is so. Therefore, very low demands are now put on safety assessment
of GE foods.
For a rapid visual idea of the difference between genetic engineering and mating, see "The difference at a glance", a comprehensive illustration.
1. Breeding never introduces genes that are foreign to the species. Foreign genes may have unexpected and potentially dangerous effects when placed in a genetic environment that is different from what is natural for them.
2. Breeding doe not involve any artificial manipulation of the genes. The only "manipulation" is that certain parents are selected for mating. The mating occurs naturally, which means a natural combination of the hereditary substance of the father and mother. So the argument of Biotech proponents that we have been manipulating genes for ages in breeding is seriously misleading.
3. In GE, but never in breeding, there occurs an artifcial insertion of a gene, which means a disruption of the orderly sequence of instructions in the hereditary substance. This always results in a loss, to a lesser or greater degree, of the tight genetic control and balanced functioning which is retained through conventional cross breeding. With GE there may occur an unpredictable creation of new molecules that may be toxic, allergenic or may disturb the metabolism of the cell so as to create unexpected toxic or allergenic molecules .
For more details, see "GE and Traditional Breeding Methods Are Worlds Apart" below.
GE and Traditional Breeding Methods Are Worlds Apart
(Excerpt from "Genetic Engineering and Traditional Breeding Methods: A Technical Perspective""by Dr Michael Antoniou, a molecular biologist and scientific expert on genetic engineering)
The proponents of the use of GE in agriculture argue that mankind has been selecting and manipulating plant and animal food stocks for millennia and that this new technology is simply the next stage in this process. However, we have seen:
Clearly these procedures are worlds apart when compared to cross fertilisation between closely related species.
The totally artificial nature of GE does not automatically make it dangerous. It is the imprecision in the manner by which genes are combined and the unpredictability in how the introduced gene will interact within it's new environment which results in uncertainty. The balanced gene functions that have evolved together and which are preserved with traditional methods, are lost with GE.
Therefore, from the standpoint of the fundamental
principles of genetics and the limitations in the technology, GE is neither
more precise nor a natural extension of traditional cross breeding methods.
If anything the opposite would appear to be true.
For you who want more details, we recommend:
"Genetically Engineered Food - Safety
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