Genetic engineering or genetic modification refers to the process of manipulating the characteristics and functions of the original genes of an organism. The objective of this process is to introduce new physiological and physical features or characteristics.
A gene is a basic constituent unit of any organism. It is a locatable region of a genome which contains the whole hereditary information of the organism. A gene corresponds to a unit of inheritance. It is a segment of the DNA which determines the special features or functions of the organism.
Genetic engineering meddles with the organism’s natural reproductive process, whether sexual or asexual. It gives it a new direction which is different from its natural disposition and development. The process involves the isolation and manipulation of the genes by introducing the new DNA into the cells. DNA is a blue print of the individual characteristics of an organism. The information stored in the DNA controls the management of biochemical process of each organism. The life, development and unique characteristics of the organism depend upon on its own DNA.
The aims of the study, development and practice of genetic engineering are noble and beneficial for mankind. Genetic engineering may help make crops resistant to herbicides used to kill the unwanted plants and weeds which obstruct their full growth. Though some herbicides are selective and kill only the specifically targeted unwanted plants, there are others which are non selective and besides killing the useless and obstructive weeds, kill any plants they come in contact thus killing the plants which are sought to be protected.
The domain of genetic engineering can extend from plants to cover both the animal and human life. It can, for example, hybridize the production of the animals and promote the growth of healthy species of milk producing animals, stronger and healthier horses, cows and bullocks which can better withstand the wear and tear of life.
Recreation of vital human organs to replace the sick and missing ones is another example of how genetic engineering can prove beneficial to human beings.
The possibilities of the scope of genetic engineering are limitless and the horizon is widening with every day of research. Genetic engineering like many other branches of science, for example, nuclear science, can be used nobly and ignobly.
The human genome project to categorize all the genes in the human species is a remarkable effort to determine the complete structure of the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the human genetic material, and understand its functions. This research in human genetics aims at determining why the human being resemble or differ from each other.
On the other hand, genetic engineering can also be misused by mutilating the beautiful creation of God by launching, for example, Nazi style schemes for population control or produce a biological devastation through bungling with man made viruses. Cloning is one such example how genetic engineering can be beneficial as well as detrimental.
Molecular biologists have discovered numerous enzymes which can alter the structure of the DNA in living organisms. Using them the scientists can cut the specific genes from the DNA and build customized DNA. With this knowledge they can alter the genes of living organisms.
For example the biological engineers have been able to change the growth patterns of tomatoes. Tomatoes are sensitive to frost that shortens their life span. Fish on the other hand thrive in the cold and chilly water. Scientists found out the gene in fish that resists the cold and transferred it to tomatoes thereby immunizing them against the frosty cold and prolonging their growing season. There are innumerable such projects that are creating new strains in the agricultural areas which have great economic potential.
Genetic engineering can boost the growth and yield of a variety food crops--pulses and cereals-- and alleviate the problems of food shortage and mitigate the suffering of the starving millions across the world.
Where there's a will there's a way.
Anybody can do anything that he imagines. - Henry Ford