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Embracing the change

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Embracing the change



A planting season requiring no dangerous herbicides or toxic pesticides. Thousands of dollars saved, because nutritional supplements are now needless. A beef steer reaching market weight in 75 days. The use of medicines nearly nonexistent. Millions of human lives improved and even saved by a sheep's milk or a pig's brain cells.

Something out of a science fiction novel? A scientist's unrealistic fantasy? Maybe something that could happen in 500 years?

That may be what many of you believe. But right now, these miracles are happening in laboratories all over the world.

The first Genetic Engineering technique, still used today, was the selective breeding of plants and animals, usually for increased food production. In selective breeding only animals with desirable characteristics are chosen for further breeding. Though these practices may have seemed sufficient in the past, they are actually hit and miss cases with little chance of success. Through Biotechnology, breeders choose specific genes. Breeders can also incorporate genes from an unrelated species, giving an animal or plant new features the previously wouldn't be available. This system is faster, more exact, cheaper and less likely to fail than traditional methods.

Plants can now be engineered to be resistant to pesticides, insects, and diseases. The environmentally-friendly herbicide Glyphosate is very successful in killing weeds, but unfortunately kills crops as well. Crops are now being engineered to be resistant to such herbicides. Grazing crops now have improved nutritional qualities to enhance livestock productivity. Pasture grasses, for instance, that have been developed with Lucerne strains become sulfur rich, which produces higher quality wool.

Genetically Altered animals help scientists discover treatments for a variety of human diseases. Pure human products, such as insulin and Human Growth hormone, can now be produced in commercial quantities. Sheep's milk is used to produce A1A, an enzyme used in the treatment of emphysema: cow's milk is used to produce a protein that combats bacterial infections: and goat's milk is used to produce tPA a blood-clot-dissolving enzyme. Pigs, being easy to raise, have been organ donors to humans for many years. Heart-valves from pigs are being used as replacements for worn-out or diseased human heart-valves. Recently, pig brain cells have been injected into the brain of people with Parkinson's disease to replace the brain cells destroyed by this crippling disease. Cattle have been treated to increase milk and beef production, as have pigs to yield more meat and less fat.

In the very near future we may be able to produce plants that require less water, can grow in an arid climate, are higher yielding, and carry a higher protein level. Plants will become salt tolerant, so that salt-water can be used for irrigation purposes. We will be able to protect our farms by ...

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