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A first introduction to genetic engineering

6 November, 2007

Source: http://www.psrast.org/gefirstintro3.htm

A first introduction to genetic engineering

About genes

Genes are at the very heart of life. Together they constitute the blueprint of an organism. In computer terms they are the master program of life. They decide all the properties and all the capabilities of an organism.

In biological terms this master program is called the hereditary substance, the chromosomes. It is constituted by chains of so called DNA molecules that carry the “code words” or instructions of the master program.

There is an identical set of this master program in every cell. For example a corn plant has about a billion cells, each with a set of this master program. In different parts of the plants different parts of the program are active, giving rise to different structures like the leaves, the seeds and the root. The cell is like a huge computer network, much larger than any man-made one. Science has a very incomplete understanding how this billion of master programs is able to cooperate in a very harmoniously and effectively coordinated way.

Genetic engineering

Genetic engineering (also called gene modification) means manipulation of this master program. Genes, mostly from other, often totally unrelated species are inserted in the genetic “master program”. Genes from e.g. fish, scorpions, bacteria and viruses have been inserted into food plants in genetic engineering projects.

Genetic engineering is based on an outdated theory proven to be wrong. It stated that one gene carries one property. This is not so. The effect of a gene is dependent on its location and its interaction with other genes. Therefore, insertion of foreign genes is bound to cause unpredictable surprises including, in the worst case, the appearance of harmful substances in the food.

Moreover, the method of genetic engineering is so crude that it is impossible to decide beforehand where the inserted genes will stick in the master program. This adds further to the unpredictability of the outcome of artificial gene insertion (genetic engineering).

In spite of this inevitable unpredictability, the safety of GE foods has not been tested in such a way that unexpected harmful substances are ruled out. This policy is the result of the influence of powerful industrial interests on governmental policies, resulting in the neglect of serious scientific concerns.

The knowledge about genes is very incomplete

In addition, the knowledge about the master program is very incomplete. Actually only 2-3 percent of it are so called genes. Their function is fairly well known. The function and purpose of the remaining 97-98 percent is very little known.

From genetics it is well known that even changing just a little code word in the master program can mean the difference between health and a deadly hereditary disease. So the genes are very powerful.

It is probably not a coincidence that an unproportionately large part of our members are computer experts. They know that the addition of just one “code syllable” (binary code) may be disastrous to a computer program. Haphazard insertion of genes, as done in genetic engineering, does not add just one syllable, but many thousand of code syllables. In addition, it is obvious to a computer scientist that it is absolutely vital to completely master the program in order to be able to make a useful change in a reliable way.

For some obscure reason, this is regrettably not obvious to biotechnology researchers. They are manipulating genes although they are very far from mastering the genetic “program”.

Much too little is known to justify commercial use

We find it irresponsible to use genetic engineering for commercial purposes at this stage of very incomplete knowledge about the effects. Especially so as unexpected harmful substances may be generated in the food. Also, very little is known what artificially manipulated genes released into nature may do to the environment.

Conclusion

It is an undeniable fact that science knows much too little about the effects of genetic engineering to be able to predict and master the consequences. Therefore genetic engineering has to be confined to contained laboratories until science knows what it is doing. By using it for foods at this stage means an inevitable risk for unexpected and potentially harmful effects on human health as well as for the environment.

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