Potential benefits and risks of gene technology

Potential benefits and risks of genetic engineering

There are many benefits to using genetic engineering. It is used in agriculture, for example, to improve the yields of important economic crops, and provide insect or pest resistance. It is also used in the medical field to create insulin, which can be used for treating diabetes. But, as with most new technology, it also carries potential risks.

Benefits of genetic engineering:

  • Genetic modification is a faster and more efficient way of getting the same results as selective breeding.
  • Improves crop yields or crop quality, which is important in developing countries. This may help reduce hunger around the world.
  • Introduce herbicide resistance, which results in less herbicides being used, as weeds are quickly and selectively killed.
  • Insect and pest resistance can be developed and inserted into the plants. The plant produces toxins, which would discourage insects from eating the crop.
  • Genetically modified insects, for example mosquitoes, could be created to combat diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and the Zika virus. For example, GM male mosquitoes released to mate with wild females could produce offspring that cannot survive adulthood.

Risks of genetic engineering:

  • Genetic modification involves the transfer of the selected gene into other species. What benefits one plant may harm another. This could create 'superweeds' that are resistant to pesticides.
  • Some people believe it is not ethical to interfere with nature in this way. Also, GM crop seeds are often more expensive and so people in developing countries cannot afford them.
  • GM crops could be harmful, for example toxins from the crops have been detected in some people's blood.
  • GM crops could cause allergic reactions in people.
  • Pollen produced by the plants could be toxic and harm insects that transfer it between plants.
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