• Question: What is your view on genetic modification and cloning?

    Asked by tpeng to Mike, David, James, Suze, Will on 20 Jun 2011. This question was also asked by mahin.
    • Photo: Mike Dodd

      Mike Dodd answered on 13 Jun 2011:

      I think that genetic modification of food might be the only way to overcome the world food shortage. Whilst organic might be fine in this country, it doesn’t work in other parts of the world. Organic farming can usually only produce a fraction of the possible amount of food from the ground. In the developing world there is a real need for crops that can survive in harsh environments. Fertilizer is expensive and many pests are becoming resistant, similar to antibiotic resistant bacteria. Genetic modification of plants to make them resistant to pests offers an alternative that doesn’t require expensive fertilizers and could increase the number of crops that can be harvested. Another modification is rice that can grow in salty environments, this means farmers can grow rice closer to the sea and in areas that flood. I feel that genetic modification offers the best possible future for feeding the world.

      Cloning is another matter. The idea of cloning animals and humans, I think is wrong. Cloning has the problem that each cell has an “age”. This is determined by the number of times that it divides. The problem with cloned cells is that you take the nucleus from one cell and implant it into another, but it keeps that cells “age”. This means that all the cells in the cloned animal will be biologically older than they should be. Hope that makes sense

    • Photo: Suze Kundu

      Suze Kundu answered on 16 Jun 2011:

      Hi Tpeng and Mahin.

      I agree with Mike. Genetic modification of food is necessary in less developed countries, as changing things like a crop’s resistance to frost, or its resistance to catching a specific plant disease, and improving the plant’s genetic make up to make it tougher and more likely to survive is really important, as the percentage of crop that you get from the number that you had initially planted will go up, or in other words the yield increases.

      I’m not sure what I think about cloning in humans yet. There was another question about cloning for organ transplants, and the ethical, moral and medical, not to mention emotional factors are just too high, and I can’t really get my head around it. It would depend on each individual case, and reason for feeling that cloning is their final option.

      What do you guys think about GM and cloning?

    • Photo: James Marrow

      James Marrow answered on 17 Jun 2011:

      GM’s an interesting area. Done intelligently, it’s essentially a way of accelerating natural selection to bring out the characteristics that you want of disease/drought resistance. The problem can come from the “law of unintended consequences” – care needs to be taken with GM crops if they can interact with the environment around them.

    • Photo: William Eborall

      William Eborall answered on 20 Jun 2011:

      There are also some genetically modified plants that have been made so that they are healthier for us to eat such as “Golden Rice” () which contains beta-carotene which is used in your eyes. Lots of people in Asia don’t have enough beta-carotene in their food and risk becoming blind because of it. Golden rice could help prevent this.

      Another example is purple tomatoes () which contain a chemical which might help prevent us getting cancer.