The Gene Revolution
Mankind has been improving plants and animals for millennia. Simply by selecting and breeding those they liked best, our ancestors radically improved upon wild species. Today’s biological inventors, with a deeper understanding of genetics, breeding, and heredity, and with the protection of intellectual property rights, are using the technology of genetic engineering to start a “Gene Revolution.”
In the field of medicine, custom-built genetically engineered microorganisms are brewing up rivers of otherwise rare human hormones, life-saving medicines, and much-needed vaccines. In agriculture, scientists are combining their understanding of plant genetics with laboratory techniques of modern molecular biology to “unlock” the DNA of crop plants. By inserting genes from other plants or even common microorganisms, they are able to give plants desirable traits, solving problems that farmers have faced for millennia — faster and more precisely than ever before.
But despite its successes and a bright future, biotechnology is under attack by activists who spread misinformation and foster consumer mistrust. They have been directly responsible for onerous regulations and other hurdles to innovation that are threatening to stifle what could and should be the “third industrial revolution.”
In an effort to combat this misinformation, this paper situates genetic engineering within mankind’s long history of food improvement and then highlights how genetic engineering has dramatically improved human life. In it, you’ll find 29 plants, animals, and microorganisms, from insulin-secreting E. coli to engineered cotton, from cheese-making fungus to chestnut trees, that represent the promise and possibilities that the Gene Revolution holds — if we hold precious and continue to protect the freedom to invent and the power of scientific innovation.
List of Genetically Engineered Innovations:
1. Insulin, genuine human insulin, brewed up by the vat
2. Tumor- and arthritis-fighting drugs like Humira and Avastin, which are just two of many created with biotechnology
3. Ebola antibodies genetically engineered and then grown in tobacco plants
4. Flu vaccines with a new customizability and quickness
5. Artemisinin, 35 tons of the malaria-fighting medicine
6. Chymosin, the cheese-making enzyme used in 80% of cheese eaten worldwide
7. Vanilla flavoring cheaper and closer to the original
8. Sterile mosquitoes released to fight dengue fever
9. Avian-flu-resistant chickens halt the spread of bird flu
10. Herbicide-tolerant crops are the world’s most popular genetically engineered crops
11. Insect-resistant trait fortifies corn, cotton and eggplant against burrowing insects
12. “Vaccinated” papaya saved Hawaii’s papaya farms from a nasty papaya disease
13. Saving your OJ . . .
14. . . . and bananas: two of your breakfast favorites could use a boost from genetic engineering
15. The Arctic Apple, the world’s first truly non-browning apple
16. Non-browning potatoes, less susceptible to black-spot bruising
17. Triple-stacked rice grows come rain or come shine
18. Pink pineapples . . .
19. . . . and purple tomatoes: two novel fruits with added nutrition and color
20. Fast-maturing salmon grows in about half the time
21. Bringing back the mighty chestnut, a tree that was wiped out by a fungus
22. Golden Rice could save millions from blindness
23. Golden bananas are fortified with beta carotene
24. Non-toxic cotton seeds are packed with protein
25. Cassava engineered to fix some of the crop’s fatal flaws
26. Daisy the hypoallergenic cow: the first cow that doesn’t produce an allergy-causing protein in her milk
27. A better brew: wine and beer engineered for flavor and fun
28. Roses are red, roses are blue: genetic engineering aids in the quest for the first blue rose
29. Glofish, genetically engineered aquarium pets
Read the essay.
Image: Mopic via Shutterstock.com