Discuss the potential benefits and potential harmful effects of one example of genetic modification.

Example: The transfer of a gene that codes for a protein called Bt toxin from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis to maize crops. (i.e. Bt Corn)


Potential Benefits:

▪       Allows for the introduction of a characteristic that wasn't present within the gene pool (selective breeding could not have produced desired phenotype)

▪       Results in increased productivity of food production (requires less land for comparable yield)

▪       Less use of chemical pesticides, reducing the economic cost of farming

▪       Can now grow in regions that, previously, may not have been viable (reduces need for deforestation)


Potential Harmful Effects:

▪       Could have currently unknown harmful effects (e.g. toxin may cause allergic reactions in a percentage of the population)

▪       Accidental release of transgenic organism into the environment may result in competition with native plant species

▪       Cross-pollination can occur which results in some wild plants being genetically modified as they will contain the Bt gene. These plants will have an advantage over others as they will be resistant to certain insects and so some plants may become endangered. This will have significant consequences on the population of wild plants.

▪       Reduces genetic variation / biodiversity (corn borer may play a crucial role in local ecosystem)

▪       Other insects that are not harmful to the crops could be killed. The maize pollen will contain the toxin and so if it is blown onto near by plants it can kill the insects feeding on these plants.

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