Developments in molecular biology since the early 1970s have resulted in many different techniques which lead to genetic modification. These techniques have been used in many micro organisms, plants and animals which can help to better understanding in wide variety of science, organisms, their interaction, production, life style, genetics, enzymes and therapeutically agents.
Genetically modified organism (GMO) occurs when genetic material of one organism is altered (DNA or RNA) by applying the scientific technique that leads to create a new organism with new behaviour or characteristic. Alteration of genetic material of organism can transfer to other cells or replication that not occurs naturally in nature. Usually the GMO is accompanying by the removal of DNA from the cell and it’s manipulation outside the cell and reinsertion to the same organism or another one.
In overall, genetically modified organisms are those with altered genetic material which can be plants animals or micro organisms (including bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi).The technique that applies to GMO is DNA recombinant. Manipulation of DNA outside the cell in DNA recombination and insert of DNA again into the cell can be done by using several ways. The choice of method is usually determined by the type of vector and host cell being used.
There are several ways to insert modified genes into target cell’s organism:
Transformation is the one of the methods that can be used to insert plasmid into cell when cells can take up DNA from the environment. However many cell types do not naturally transform, including yeast, E. coli and mammalian cell but simple chemical treatment can make all of these cell competent, or able to take up external DNA.
Electroporation. In this procedure, electron current uses to microscopic pores in the membrane of cell, then the modified DNA can enter the cell through these pores. Electroporation can be using to all the cell type except those with cell wall which must be converted to protoplas first. Protoplasts are produced by enzymatically removing of cell wall, to directly access to the plasma membrane.
Microinjection Introducing of external DNA into the plant cells is to shoot it directly through thick cellulose walls by using a gene gun. Beside this methods DNA can be introduced directly into animal cell. This technique needs the glass micropipette with diameter that is less than cell. This micropipette punctures the plasma membrane and DNA can be injected through it.
Thus, there is a variety of different restriction enzymes, vectors and methods of inserting DNA into cell. But foreign DNA will survive only if it is either present on a self replicating vector or incorporated into one of the cell’s chromosomes by recombination.By knowing how cells carrying a particular gene, the gene product are frequently the objective of genetic modification. Most of the earliest work in genetic modification used E. coli to synthesize the gene product. E. coli is easily grown and researcher are very familiar to with this bacterium an its genetics. Beside the E.coli, plants cells genetically modified easily because they can be growth from small pieces of tissue and single cell. Genetically modified organism by biotechnology is very specific and rapid selection process, and genes from another organism can be incorporated into modified corn. Therefore (GMO) techniques and application in human benefit always carries concern for environmental and human health impact.
In this study we are consider the bioethical issues of this genetically modification organism and their products which impact over human’s life.
Therapeutic application of (GMO)
Making gene product by genetic modification is a way which applies by genetic engineer. Nowadays researchers are able to use bacteria, fungi, plants and mammalian cells in the process of genetic modification to produce many therapeutic products. To produce the product it is much more economical that have a modified organism to secrete the product for example: Bacillus subtilis.
These gram positive bacteria are more likely to produce their own product and are industrially proffered. Another microbe that being used as vehicle for experessing genetically engineered genes is baker’s yeast, saccharomyces cerevisiae. This organism is the best understood organism in eukaryotic genome and its genome is four times bigger than E. coli. Furthermore yeast is able to secrete constituently the product. For all of these reasons, yeast have become the eukaryotic workhose of biotechnology. Mammalian cells in culture can be genetically modified like bacteria to produce wide variety of product; this can be happening even in human cells. The best suited for making protein product for medical uses is often in mammalian cell because cells are able to produce their product and have less toxins or allergens. Using mammalian cells to obtain genetic product often needs steps of cloning the gene in bacteria, Cloning stimulating factor (CSF). For example, protein that secrete naturally by white blood cell, (CSF) is very effective due to stimulation of growing certain cells that protect against infections. To make wide amount of (CSF) industrially, the gene must be inserted into the plasmid of the bacteria firstly. This bacterium is used to get many copies of plasmid and finally the recombinant plasmid is inserted to the mammalian cells that are grown into bottle.
In the wide variety usage of mammalian cells, bacteria and yeast cell to generate genetically modified organism, the plant cells also can be grown in culture, altered by recombinant DNA technique to make genetically modified plants. These modified plants can be used in the production of human therapeutic agents, including vaccine and antibodies. The main advantages of using of plants is due to low- cost production using agriculture , large-scale and low risk of contamination of product by mammalian pathogens or cancer- causing genes. However, genetically modified plants need the usage of bacterium. By the application of therapeutic agent of genetically modified organism human are able to cure many diseases. For example, many years people with insulin –dependent diabetes have controlled their disease by injecting insulin that obtain by pancreases of slaughtered animals. The main job of this hormone (insulin) is to uptake glucose from blood. Obtaining the insulin is very expensive process nd insulin from animal is not effective as human insulin.
Due to this reasons and the value of human insulin, producing of this hormone by the DNA recombinant techniques was an early goal the pharmaceutical industry. Another human hormone that is produced nowadays commercially by genetic modification of E. coli is somatostatin. Actually 500,000 sheep brains were needed to obtain 5mg of animal somatostatin. By contrast only 8 litters of a genetically modified bacterial culture are now neede to produce the same amount of the human hormone. Moreover, there are other therapeutic applications of (GMO) such as: subunit vaccine, DNA vaccines, and gene therapy. In process of gene therapy as result of (GMO), researchers are able to provide cures for some genetic diseases. By this ability defective and mutation gene are replaced by removing some cells in person and transforming these cells with normal gene. As a result, these cells must function normally in the person. For example gene therapy has been used to treat haemophilia B and severe combined immunodeficiency. There are several ways to insert modified genes into target cell’s organism.
The discussion about the economic, environmental and social effects of introduction and future application of GMO-based products has been a complex and controversial one. These include the effects on non-target organisms, insect resistance crops, gene flow and the loss of diversity as well as the issue on interfering with nature in which the modification process itself is disrupting the natural process of biological entities. There are many people at both sides of the arguments which have very strong feelings. One side of arguments are those who recognize the potential benefits of GMO technology on humankind. These benefits may include improving old tools or providing new ones, applying the new technology to allow human activities to be more favorable to ecosystem than occurs with traditional chemical technologies. They also feel that products and processes of genetic modification are generally safe and beneficial, and their use should be improved and encouraged. The underlying assumption of this view is that the scientific bases for genetic manipulation and other processes are well understood and can be well managed and controlled by the modern biotechnology industry. However, the other side believes that GMOs which are brought into the environment may have a chance of surviving and multiplying with undesirable consequences. They focus on the risks and unknowns about GMOs’ possible effects on ecosystems, species and human health.
The recent advances in life sciences create numerous bioethical problems requiring some stringent regulation. As such, it is correctly argued that a guideline on “genethics” must be formulated in order to improve the scientists’, students’ and the citizens’ abilities to make judgment about what is morally wrong and right in this particular technology (Abu Bakar, 2002).
Bioethics addresses the impact of technology on individuals and societies. Bioethical issues include an individual's right to privacy, equality of access to care, and doctor-patient confidentiality. In the case of GMOs, a major bioethical issue is freedom of choice. Yet broader issues also arise, such as the ethics of interfering with nature, and effects of transgenic organisms on the environment.
Ethics in biotechnology includes the general subject of what should and should not be done in using genetically modification techniques in medical practice or in preparing pharmaceutical, food and agricultural products (Abu Bakar, 2002). The use of genetically modified organisms is a practice still in its early stages of development. But it has presented an exciting range of possibilities, from feeding the hungry to preventing and treating diseases; however, due to high complexity in ecosystems and unpredictability of environmental conditions, the scientists and publics expresses concern about the potential risk of using GMOs. So, some of the questions that need to be answered to build public acceptance and confidence are the following:
- Are we destroying the lines between species by creating transgenic combinations?
- What are the known health risks associated with GMOs?
- What are the long-term effects on the environment when GMOs are released in the field?
- What ethical, social, and legal controls or reviews should be placed on such research?
- Are we inflicting pain and suffering on sentient creatures when we create certain types of genetically modified animals?
- Will transgenic interventions in humans create physical or behavioral traits that may or may not be readily distinguished from what is usually perceived to be “human”?
- If the blending of nonhuman animal and human DNA results in entities possessing degrees of intelligence or feelings never before seen in nonhuman animals, should these entities be given rights and special protections?
- What unintended personal, social, and cultural consequences could result?
- Will these interventions redefine what it means to be “normal”?
- Who will have access to these technologies, and how will scarce resources be allocated?
Potential Effects of GMOs
The effects of GMOs can be classified into three main categories: scientific aspects, economic and political aspects and socio-cultural impacts. Each of these will be explained in more detail in following:
Effects on the Environment
1. Herbicide Use and Resistance
Effects on the environment are a particular concern with regard to GMO crops and food production. One area of development involves adding the ability to produce pesticides and resistance to specific herbicides. These traits are helpful in food production, allowing farmers to use fewer chemicals, and to grow crops in less than ideal conditions. However, herbicide use could be increased, which will have a larger negative effect on the surrounding environment. Also unintended hybrid strains of weeds and other plants can develop resistance to these herbicides, thus neutralizing the potential benefit of the herbicide.
2. Effects on Untargeted Species
Although the pesticide can protect crops against unwanted insects, they can also have unintentional effects on neutral or even beneficial species.
Effects on Human Health
GMO crops could potentially have negative effects on human health as well. When splicing genes between species, there are examples in which consumers have developed unexpected allergic reactions.
2. Long-Term Effects
Because GMO technology has been available for such a short amount of time, there is relatively little research which has been conducted on the long-term effects on health. The greatest danger lies not in the effects that we have studied, but in those which we cannot anticipate at this point.
3. New Proteins
Proteins which have never been ingested before by humans are now part of the foods that people consume every day. Their potential effects on the human body are as of yet unknown.
4. Food Additives
GMOs also present us with possibilities of introducing additional nutrients into foods, as well as antibiotics and vaccines. This availability of technology can provide nutrition and disease resistance to those countries that don’t have the means to provide these otherwise. The distribution of these foods is more feasible than mass vaccination for current diseases. However, even these possibilities carry with them potential negative effects such as the creation of antibiotic and vaccine-resistant strains of diseases.
Recent Bioethical Legislations
The recent legislation on GMOs regulates three main issues: authorization for placing GMOs on the market, labeling of products containing GMOs and traceability of these products.
The authorization procedure for the approval of genetically modigied products is intended to ensure that the safety of these products is scientifically established before they are allowed on the market.
Labeling rules are in place for all genetically modified products that have been authorized for marketing. It is important to note that the purpose of labeling is not to indicate that the products are unsafe, but only to provide consumers with the information necessary to know about the right to choose between GM and non-GM products.
This rule ensures that all products containing or consisting GMOs are required to be traceable at all stages of introducing into the market.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Transgenics and genetic engineering present intriguing and difficult challenges for 21st century scientists and ethicists. Until we as a society or, perhaps, as a global entity can agree on what beings, human or otherwise, are worthy of moral and legal status and respect, we can expect intense cross-disciplinary debate and discussion as new intelligent life is created through science and medicine.
Given the ethical issues mentioned above and the complexity of the technology used in creating GMOs, following recommendations can be proposed:
· The governments can financially support independent research institutes to study the environmental and human health impacts of GMOs as well as to assess whether the product accomplishes its stated goal. So the research labs will be responsible for investigating both positive and negative effects of the GMO in order to provide a safe and effective product to consumers.
· All new GMOs can be subjected to strict testing and examination before they can receive FDA approval and be introduced to the market to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the product.
· All GMO products should be labeled properly. The public has the right to be informed about the nature of the foods they consume. This is also essential for citizens with food allergies. Further information about each GMO product could be available online or in information packets in grocery stores and restaurants. Distributors of the food may provide this information to the marketing location.
· Since education can enable consumers to make informed decisions regarding consumption of GMO products, the governments can financially support public education regarding GMO products. In addition, it is beneficial if the governments fund the distribution of informative posters to cooperating grocers. A Government-operated database is very useful to be available online for easy public access to information regarding GMO technology and specific GMO products.
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