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BIOTECHNOLGY

The term biotechnology refers to the use of scientific techniques, including genetic engineering, to improve or modify plants, animals, and microorganisms. In its most basic forms, biotechnology has been in use for millennia. For example, Middle Easterners who domesticated and bred deer, antelope, and sheep as early as !,""" #.$.E.% Egyptians who made wine in &""" #.$.E.% and 'ouis (asteur, who developed pasteurization in !) , all used biotechnology. In recent years, however, food biotechnology has become synonymous with the terms genetically engineered foods and genetically modified organism *+M,-. Traditional biotechnology uses techniques such as crossbreeding, fermentation, and enzymatic treatments to produce desired changes in plants, animals, and foods. $rossbreeding plants or animals involves the selective passage of desirable genes from one generation to another. Microbial fermentation is used in ma.ing wine and other alcoholic beverages, yogurt, and many cheeses and breads. /sing enzymes as food additives is another traditional form of biotechnology. For example, papain, an en0yme obtained from papaya fruit, is used to tenderi0e meat and clarify beverages. Genetic Engineering The DNA contained in genes determines inherited characteristics. Modifying 123 to remove, add, or alter genetic information is called genetic modification or genetic engineering. In the early 4!"s, scientists developed recombinant 123 techniques that allowed them to extract 123 from one species and insert it into another. 5efinements in these techniques have allowed identification of specific genes within 1236and the transfer of that particular gene sequence of 123 into another species. For example, the genes responsible for producing insulin in humans have been isolated and inserted into bacteria. The insulin that is then produced by these bacteria, which is identical to human insulin, is then isolated and given to people who have diabetes. 7imilarly, the genes that produce chymosin, an en0yme that is involved in cheese manufacturing, have also been inserted into bacteria. 2ow, instead of having to extract chymosin from the stomachs of cows, it is made by bacteria. This

type of application of genetic engineering has not been very controversial. 8owever, applications involving the use of plants have been more controversial. 3mong the first commercial applications of genetically engineered foods was a tomato in which the gene that produces the en0yme responsible for softening was turned off. The tomato could then be allowed to ripen on the vine without getting too soft to be pac.ed and shipped. 3s of 9""9, over forty food crops had been modified using recombinant 123 technology, including pesticide: resistant soybeans, virus:resistant squash, frost:resistant strawberries, corn and potatoes containing a natural pesticide, and rice containing beta:carotene. $onsumer negativity toward biotechnology is increasing, not only in the /nited 7tates, but also in the /nited ;ingdom, <apan, +ermany, and France, despite increased consumer .nowledge of biotechnology. The principle ob=ections to biotechnology and foods produced using genetic modification are> concern about possible harm to human health *such as allergic responses to a ?foreign gene?-, possible negative impact to the environment, a general unease about the ?unnatural? status of biotechnology, and religious concerns about modification. Biotechnology in Animals The most controversial applications of biotechnology involve the use of animals and the transfer of genes from animals to plants. The first animal:based application of biotechnology was the approval of the use of bacterially

7cientists inserted daffodil genes and other genetic material into ordinary rice to ma.e this golden rice. The result is a strain of rice that provides vitamin 3, a nutrient missing from the diets of many people who depend on rice as a food staple. (roduced bovine somatotropin *b7T- in dairy cows. #ovine somatotropin, a naturally occurring hormone, increases mil. production. This application has not been commercially successful, however, primarily because of its expense. The cloning of animals is another potential application of biotechnology. Most experts believe that animal applications of biotechnology will occur slowly because of the social and ethical concerns of consumers. Concerns about Food Production 7ome concerns about the use of biotechnology for food production include possible allergic reactions to the transferred protein. For example, if a gene from #ra0il nuts that produces an allergen were transferred to soybeans, an individual who is allergic to #ra0il nuts might now also be allergic to soybeans. 3s a result, companies in the /nited 7tates that develop genetically engineered

foods must demonstrate to the /.7. Food and 1rug 3dministration *F13- that they did not transfer proteins that could result in food allergies. @hen, in fact, a company attempted to transfer a gene from #ra0il nuts to soybeans, the companyAs tests revealed that they had transferred a gene for an allergen, and wor. on the pro=ect was halted. In 9""" a brand of taco shells was discovered to contain a variety of genetically engineered corn that had been approved by the F13 for use in animal feed, but not for human consumption. 3lthough several antibiotechnology groups used this situation as an example of potential allergenicity stemming from the use of biotechnology, in this case the protein produced by the genetically modified gene was not an allergen. This incident also demonstrated the difficulties in .eeping trac. of a genetically modified food that loo.s identical to the unmodified food. ,ther concerns about the use of recombinant 123 technology include potential losses of biodiversity and negative impacts on other aspects of the environment

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