Genetic Engineering and Hormones
Genetic engineering refers to a process through which scientists use recombinant DNA technology to introduce suitable traits into living organisms (Perzigian, 2013). Therefore, genetically engineered organisms contain recombinant DNA constructs producing new traits. Scientists have long been using conventional breeding techniques to produce suitable traits in fish and livestock. Currently, genetic engineering is a powerful technique of introducing suitable traits in livestock and fish (Rollin, 1995). However, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulated genetic engineering of animals and other organisms, which serve as sources of food for human beings. This is done due to the belief that genetic engineering of organisms may lead to potential dangers, including development of new toxins and allergens, evolution of herbicide resistant weeds and noxious vegetation, and creation of conditions that will favor the proliferation of fungi and molds. Hormones refer to chemicals that convey messages from different organs to cells. Genetic engineering makes use of hormones, especially growth hormones, to enhance early maturation as a desirable trait (Walsh, 2007). Genetic engineering has both benefits and problems. Studies have shown that the negative effects of genetic engineering outweigh the benefits that human beings get. This paper will discuss the controversy of the use of genetic engineering and hormones in altering traits in organisms.
Benefits of Genetic Engineering
Genetic engineering has been controversial in society, because considerate has both negative and positive effects (Rollin, 1995). Some people have considered genetically engineering as beneficial to human beings. Genetic engineering enables scientists to introduce desirable traits into organisms, especially fish, livestock, and cultivated crops. Scientists can engineer livestock, such as beef, broiler, pigs, rabbits, and other animals to mature faster and possess healthy flesh for healthy meat. Genetically engineered organisms are beneficial to medical researchers in the quest to look for solutions against genetic diseases, such as breast cancer (Rollin, 1995). Genetic engineering can allow scientists to clone endangered animals. This will help wildlife management in achieving the goal of keeping wild populations, as well as ensuring that the genetic information of the endangered animals remains intact even after the death of the last animal. However, genetic engineering and the use of growth hormones may cause serious problems.
Problems of Genetic Engineering
In the United States, industrial sheep and cattle production relies on the application of genetic engineering and synthetic hormones for accelerating weight gain, as well as improve milk production (Morgan, 2003). Farmers prefer to use genetic engineering and growth hormones, which leads to the increase in agricultural productivity and economic growth. However, it is necessary to consider that genetic engineering may lead to problems. Use of genetic engineering and growth hormones in animal production has raised a debate over the potential health problems to both human beings and animals, which consume the hormone-treated products (Walsh, 2007). Consumer advocates and health critics warn people about the consumption of hormone-treated products, which may lead to cancer, endocrine and reproductive disorders, early maturation among humans, among other problems.
Genetically modified hormones result in accelerated growth among sheep and cattle, leading to a quick increase in weight (Morgan, 2003). These hormones may increase the likelihood of cancer incidences among the consumers of genetically modified products. Bovine growth hormone is among the hormones that scientists developed for the purpose of increasing milk production in dairy cattle. This hormone may lead to the development of colon, prostate, or breast cancer among the consumers of milk and milk products. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers recombinant bovine hormone as a suitable hormone for increased milk production (Morgan, 2003). The Aqua Bount salmon will grow extremely fast following an injection of recombinant bovine growth hormone. People fear that manipulation of growth hormones in salmon or cows may lead to an increase in insulin-like growth factor (IGF) that could resemble the effects of growth hormones among humans in a harmful manner. Studies have shown that the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone increases the quantity of IGF to about ten-fold as compared to the other milk from normal cows. A person is likely to develop cancer when the quantity of IGF is high in the blood stream (Walsh, 2007).
Many factors, such as fat intake, genes, and smoking may contribute to the development of cancer among human beings, but IGF levels have the likelihood of causing cancer, especially prostate cancer (Walsh, 2007). Studies have shown that consumption of large quantities of milk and a variety of daily products can raise the levels of IGF in the blood stream significantly. Consumption of regular salmon and Aqua Bounty salmon may also increase the levels of IGF in the blood stream, and thereby increase the chances of developing cancer. In general, milk contains proteins, minerals, non-IGF hormones, and sugar, but may induce the human body to produce large quantities of IGF, which, in turn, may increase the risk of cancer (Walsh, 2007). Therefore, food products of the organisms treated with genetically engineered bovine growth hormone will increase the risk of cancer among the consumers.
Another negative impact of genetic engineering and hormones on humans include early puberty. Ranger fatten up their cattle and other animals with estrogen, which is a sex hormone. In the United States, scientists have genetically engineered a substance that they implant in the ears of beef cows to deliver estrogen in combination with other five sex hormones (Morgan, 2003). Such hormones are likely to spur early puberty among the children consuming food products of animals that have undergone treatment with sex hormones. It is extremely important for children to attain the stage of puberty in the right time. This is to avoid the disruption of various activities, such as education, in the course of their development.
A study conducted in 2007 showed that the consumption of food products from estrogen-treated animals reduces the age of attaining puberty by roughly seven months (Walsh, 2007). The sources of animal proteins may include meat, milk, and geese, which have the impact on the IGF system among human beings. In general, consumption of large quantities of milk, meat, and other animal products trigger early puberty, because the food products are rich in nutrients, proteins, and calories. The United States Department of Agriculture has certified organic dairy and beef products to avoid the problems, such as high risk of cancer and early puberty among the consumers (Morgan, 2003). However, it is necessary for people to cut back on the consumption of meat even when the meat is organic. Therefore, genetic engineering, synthetic hormones, and animal proteins have a close relationship with early puberty and high risk of cancer among humans.
Another problem that genetic engineering causes to human beings is the production of food products containing allergens and toxins. Scientists have been inserting viruses, bacteria, and genes from other organisms into the DNA material of canola, soy, cottonseed, and corn plants. The unlabeled genetically engineered food products are of high risk of inducing life-threatening allergies among the consumers, especially children (Morgan, 2003). This happens because genetic engineering leads to the creating of new proteins, which triggers allergic reactions. For instance, genetic engineering damaged the DNA of soybeans and created new allergens, such as trypsin inhibitor which is resistant to high temperatures. The digestion of genetically engineered soybeans takes a long time in the gut, thereby provoking allergic reactions. Genetic engineering increases the levels of toxins in plants and food products due to unexpected mutations that take place. Genetically engineered plants may require large quantities of herbicides and pesticides, thereby increasing the levels of toxins. Therefore, some food products may be unsuitable for consumption when the levels of toxins are high (Melanie, 2013). Toxins may also cause severe allergic reactions among the consumers of toxic food products.
In addition, genetic engineering may lead to antibiotic resistance among the consumers of genetically modified foods. This happens because of antibiotic resistance marker genes (ARM), which genetic engineers link to foreign genes to determine the success of status of the first genes (Rollin, 1995). Some researchers have discovered the possibility of ARM genes combining with microbes or disease causing bacteria, contributing to high risk of antibiotic resistance. For instance, traditional antibiotics have failed to cure some strains of e-coli, salmonella, campylobacter, and other disease causing organisms among the human population. Therefore, it is necessary to ban the genetically engineered food products that contain antibiotic resistant marker genes.
Some critics oppose genetic engineering because this may lead to environmental problems. Genetically engineered animals and food plants are likely to disrupt ecosystems permanently. The food crops may cross-pollinate with the wild plants, thereby disrupting ecosystems significantly. Another environmental problem that genetic engineering may cause is the creation of new strains of viruses (Rollin, 1995). Natural viruses may have natural means of prevention while the viruses that result from genetic engineering may lack appropriate prevention measures. Such viruses may lead to a widespread death of animals, plants, or even humans. Therefore, genetic engineering is environmental unfriendly, which should be banned for the sake of environmental conservation.
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Genetic engineering has also raised a number of ethical concerns in the contemporary society. Genetically engineered food products create ethical concerns for individuals of various religious backgrounds (Morgan, 2003). Religious vegetarians, including Hindus, Buddhists, and Seventh Day Adventists avoid vegetables and fruits that contain human, insect, and animal genes. Muslims and Jews do not want their restrictions to undergo violation due to the presence of genetically engineered food products. For instance, the presence of pig genes in carrots can violate their restrictions because they are against the rearing of pigs and consumption of pig products (Morgan, 2003). Scientists put human genes into peppers, tomatoes, and fish to grow faster. People from various religious backgrounds are against the consumption of such food products, because they view it as a practice of cannibalism.
Genetic engineering has been a controversial topic for a number of years because of the concerns it raises. Some people consider genetic engineering as beneficial to human beings for various reasons, including the introduction of desirable traits in organisms, such as cattle, poultry, fish, and plants (Rollin, 1995). Genetic engineering can also help scientists to discover appropriate solutions against diseases and complications in human beings and animals. However, it has been evident that the negative effects of genetic engineering outweigh its benefits to human beings and the environment. Some of the negative effects of genetic engineering include cancer, endocrine and reproductive disorders, early maturation among humans, creation of allergens and toxins, development of antibiotic resistance, and the violating human rights, including the religious rights (Morgan, 2003). Genetic engineering allows scientists to create bovine growth hormone and other growth hormones, which increase the growth of farm animals. Research has shown that the food products from genetically engineered animals and salmon increase the production of insulin-like growth factor (IGF) among the consumers. IGF increases the chances of developing cancers, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer. Therefore, I support banning of the practice of genetic engineering in the contemporary society. Genetic engineering has a likelihood of leading to devastating effects on the environment and current plant and animal species.