• Question: What are your thoughts on genetic modification? If we could use this to our advantage, genetically modifying different species instead of natural selection, would this be considered good or bad?

    Asked by Theo on 20 Aug 2021.
    • Photo: Sahr Mian

      Sahr Mian answered on 20 Aug 2021:


      I think that genetic modification gets a lot of bad press. We’ve been genetically modifying crops for 1000s of years without ever calling it that and we’ve already used it to our advantage. All the fruits and vegetables we consume today looked very different only a few hundred years ago. We’ve genetically modified all these crops from their wild relatives just by breeding them together and we benefit from that by having access to so many food sources. It may not be occurring in a lab, but when you breed plants together to give rise to genetic diversity, you’re modifying them.

      To me, even something as simple as cross pollinating flowers is basically genetic modification because you are mixing one set of genes with another. If I had a tomato plant that did very well in dry conditions and I took the pollen from those flowers and added it to the the flowers of a plant that didn’t do very well in dry conditions (much like bees do when they pollinate flowers at random), I’m trying to transfer those genes to the next generation.

      It may be hard to see this in plants but a great example is when we breed dogs. A lot of people breed dogs in different ways to give rise to different traits. When you breed one type of dog with another and give rise to a mixed breed – this is the same as genetic modification. And its what we’ve been doing with plants

      Genetic modification has already benefited us immensely but it does come with it’s downside so must be used responsibly.

      If we look at dogs again then we know that some breeds like Pugs have a lot of health concerns due to their breeding. They have been bred so that have short snouts and small skulls which actually causes a lot of medical problems for them. This is an example of when genetic modification is actually very detrimental to the wellbeing of an animal and has been done for cosmetic reasons rather than being beneficial.

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