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WHAT ARE GENETICALLY MODIFIED ANIMALS?

Genetically modified animals are animals whose genetic materials have been artificially altered. This is often done to change certain characteristics in the animal.

HOW ANIMALS ARE GENETICALLY MODIFIED

Modern biotechnology has made it possible for scientists to change the genetic composition of species. GMOs are better than their natural-born cousins in a lot of ways.

how animals are genetically modified
  • The DNA of an animal can be changed by deleting, adding, or changing certain parts of it.
  • People use the word “DNA,” which stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, to talk about the molecules that make things alive. DNA tells how a living thing looks and works. Every cell in a living thing has DNA in it.
  • They are stored in parts of DNA called genes. There is a process called genetic modification that lets you change the genes of animals and other organisms in the way that you want to.
  • One of the names for what this is called is “genetic engineering.” Scientists can use this method to find out which genes are responsible for certain traits in an animal, like how big it is.

GENETICALLY MODIFIED ANIMALS HISTORY

Humans have changed animal DNA as far back as we can remember. Breeding strategies help to change an animal’s DNA. (Research source: Havard University)

Conventional techniques of modifying genetic materials in animals:

(i) Crossbreeding

  • Crossbreeding is when you get an animal by mating a male and female of two different animals.
  • When crossbreeding is done correctly, it can make a hybrid that is better than both parents.

(ii) Selective Breeding

  • There are some types of selective breeding, in which animals are chosen for breeding because they have certain traits. 
  • In selective breeding, the parents are usually chosen based on things that can be seen.

Modern Genetic Modification:

The first time GMO technology was used to change a living thing was in 1973. Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen were the first people to change the DNA of an organism.

  • The two scientists were able to transfer genetic material from one organism to another. They used bacteria as their sample.
  • Some other scientists, like Rudolf Jaenisch and Beatrice Mintz, also played a role in getting people to use GMOs. They made the first genetically modified animal by putting foreign genes into mice.
  • Modern genetic modification removes and adds DNA sequences to change organisms.
  • Insertion happens when a gene or a group of genes are added to a piece of DNA. Deletion is the act of taking certain genes out of an organism’s DNA.
  • GMO technology can be used to make animals and plants that have been genetically modified.
  • Unlike crossbreeding and selective breeding, GMO technology allows scientists to make specific changes to genes. There are times when traditional genetic modification methods don’t work out well.

WHAT ANIMALS HAVE BEEN GENETICALLY MODIFIED 

Scientists have changed the genes in many animals. They do this to see how it works. A few of the animals that they’ve changed are shown in this list:

what animals have been genetically modified
  1. Chickens

  • Scientists have made chickens that can lay eggs that are good for you.
  • It can help some types of cancer and arthritis if these eggs are used to make drugs that can help.
  1. Salmon

  • AquaBounty, a biotechnology company based in the United States, has been able to safely change the genetic material of salmon.
  • Salmon that have been genetically modified to grow faster than normal salmon do. The fish is safe for humans to eat and is on the market now.
  1. Mosquitoes

  • Mosquitoes are thought to be one of the most dangerous insects in the world. Malaria, dengue fever and Zika virus are some of the things they spread.
  • Scientists have changed the DNA of mosquitoes to stop the spread of these diseases. Oxitec, a British company, has made mosquitoes with genes that make them die off on their own. Before they are old enough to be adults, the offspring of modified mosquitoes die.
  1. Mice and Rats

  • They are used in the study of neurological disorders.
  • They can also be used to study changes in behavior that happen because of genetic changes.
genetically engineered livestock

Genetically Engineered Livestock:

  1. Pigs

  • Pigs are one of the older animals scientists use to study GMO technology. Scientists make GM pigs for the drug industry. 
  • The organs of GM pigs help grow new medical ideas.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration now allows the sale of GM pigs for people to eat. GM pigs produce more meat than natural pigs. 
  1. Cows

  • Genetic engineers from different parts of the world changed the DNA of cows. Genetically modified cows are different from cows that are naturally bred.
  • For example, Argentinian and Chinese scientists made cows have more milk.
  • Another goal is for cows to make milk that is closer to human milk.  This is easier for the human body to break down. 

Genetic engineers are constantly working to modify more animals. In fact, scientists think there are a lot of good things about genetically changing sheep, goats, horses, and goats. (Research source: The Guardian)

GENETICALLY MODIFIED COWS PROS AND CONS

It is safe to make changes to a cow’s DNA with GMO technology. Genetic engineering of cows has both good and bad things.

  • Advantages

-Cows can be genetically modified to grow faster, which will cut down on the cost of production.

-Genetically modified cows can make more milk than cows that haven’t been changed.

  • Disadvantages

– Changing a cow’s genetic materials can cause genetic changes that aren’t what you want. This means that genetically modified cows are not safe for humans to eat.

-There is still a lot of work to be done before people can eat products from GM cows.

genetic modification

HOW DO GENETICALLY MODIFIED ANIMALS AFFECT THE ENVIRONMENT

Changes to an organism’s genetic makeup has unexpected effects on the natural world. (Research source: Scitable by Nature Education)

GMOs Can Impact Biodiversity:

There are many ways genetic modification impacts the population of both plant and animal groups in an ecosystem.

Some problems with genetically modified animals include:

  • Animals with changed genetic material often overwhelm other animals in a habitat.
  • It’s possible for genetically modified animals to carry new diseases. These diseases could kill off other species of animals.
  • Also, GM animals may eat too much food in the environment.

CAN GENETICALLY MODIFIED ANIMALS REPRODUCE

Genetically modified animals may or may not reproduce:

  • Depending on the type of modifications some modified animals may not have the ability to reproduce.
  • Often scientists remove the DNA sequence that allows reproduction. However, sometimes the ability to reproduce is accidentally deleted! 

GENETIC MODIFICATION (GM) TECHNOLOGY HAS GREAT POTENTIAL

Scientists can use genetic engineering techniques to make animals that are better than animals that haven’t been genetically modified. When GMO technology is used, it can change the field of medicine by making animals that are better at fighting off diseases.

It can also boost the production of animals and crops, which means that global food security will be better. However, most GMOs are not safe for people to eat, so more research needs to be done to make them safe.

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