Genetically Modified Organisms - Ethical Issues

What are Genetically Modified Organisms?

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) is the process of modifying the DNA by extracting the genes from one species and forcibly inserting into an unrelated species. The GMO include microorganisms, birds, insects, animals, plants, and also humans. This process is completely performed in vivo and the main goal behind genetically engineered organisms is to provide a new trait or characteristic features.

An example of Genetically Modified Organisms

Genetically Modified Organisms

  • In Plants and crops, the modification is performed to protect the yield from the pests and to improve the quality and productivity of the crops. Crops include corn, potato, cotton, brinjal, rice, soy.
  • In animals, the modification is performed to provide more food (meat, milk, wool) and for other human benefits.

Genetically modified organisms for human benefits has increased significantly in recent years. Transgenic animals (genetically modified organisms) are often subjected to pain and suffering for genetic research, vaccine testing and to obtain biological supplements and medicines. Besides, genetically manipulated plants are also being created to increase food production and for the treatment of several diseases. However, several ethical issues have come up due to excessive use of technology.

Genetically Modified Organisms

Genetically Modified Organisms: Mice

Ethical Issues Related to the Genetically Modified Organisms

  • Introducing genetically modified organisms into the ecosystem could have unpredictable results.
  • Claiming the patent rights is another problem that has cropped up for the genetically modified organisms which are created for meeting food and medicine requirements and other public services.
  • India is known to cultivate 27 varieties of Basmati, a rice variety known for its unique flavor, fragrance and long grains. However, an American company crossed the Indian Basmati with their semi-dwarf varieties and claimed it to be the ‘new’ variety. The company even got the patents rights for the same without any compensation or authorization from the respective country or the farmers. This is known as biopiracy.
  • Bio piracy is commercial exploitation of naturally occurring or genetically modified bio-resources by companies or organizations without taking permissions and rights from the concerned party and without making the compensatory payment.
  • This would severely affect the biodiversity of the concerned areas and harm the indigenous livelihoods.
  • The developing and the underdeveloped parts of the world such as India, Africa, etc. have a rich biodiversity. They have traditional knowledge of their bio-resources. In contrast to the industrially developed nations, they have poor biodiversity and strong financial status. Thus, laws should be made by the developing nations to prevent the exploitation of their resources.
  • The Indian government took an initiative in this aspect by setting up the GEAC (Genetic Engineering Approval Committee) under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. This body makes laws and rules for the creation, use, import and export and storage of genetically modified organisms.

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Practise This Question

The organization set up by Indian government for making decisions regarding the validity of GM research is