DNA. Officially known as deoxyribonucleic acid. Also otherwise known as the building block of life. The substance that is unique to each individual and is the basis of forensics to identify culprits. For some dogmatic people, the one thing that science was never supposed to touch and experiment with. Yet, scientists have been trying for years to manipulate it for their own whatever purposes.
What is recombinant DNA?
One of these experiments led to the creation of DNA molecules that do not exist in nature but only through laboratory processes. These molecules are defined as recombinant DNA molecules. They are used in genetic recombination techniques like molecular cloning, or the creation of genetic material from multiple sources. For everyone who can remember Frankenstein’s story, it is the same thing only done in the molecular level instead of the organ parts level. This was made possible after the identification that all DNA molecules have the same chemical structure and differ only in their nucleotide sequences.
Even though the original concept of DNA recombination was totally different, after specific guidelines were issued in reference to how it would be used and applied by the National Institute of Health in U.S.A., recombinant DNA or rDNA has found usage in biotechnology, medical compounds and research. Here are some specific examples:
A basic ingredient of rennet which is an enzyme required to manufacture cheese.
- Human Insulin
Nowadays the animal based insulin has been completely replaced by recombinant human insulin for the treatment of diabetes.
Otherwise known as human growth hormone, which is administered to people that do not produce sufficient quantities to support normal growth.
- Factor VIII
This is a blood clotting protein administered to patients with hemophilia and they need support for blood coagulation.
- Hepatitis B vaccine
This is a very valuable application of rDNA as the hepatitis B virus is unique and could not be treated through normal vaccines. The recombination introduces an alteration of the virus itself as an antigen.
- Golden rice
This is not yet released to public use, as changes to regulatory issues are pending. Supposedly it will assist greatly in the vitamin A deficiency, which permeates the world population. The variety has been engineered to include the necessary enzymes for the biosynthesis of β-carotene.
- Resistant crops
Soy, maize, canola, cotton and alfalfa have been genetically engineered to resist to the herbicide glyphosate. Some other crops have also been genetically engineered to include bacillus thuringeiensis, which will generate Bt toxin protein for the purpose of insecticide. Both applications are already in commercial use.
As amply displayed rDNA has found its way to commercial applications already. And those are the obvious ones. There is no telling how many other applications have been introduced without licenses and oversight.
And this is the problem
In 1975 scientists decided to voluntarily place a moratorium on research for rDNA as concerns were expressed that there was great potential for dangerous organisms to be created and introduced to the general public. The moratorium was limited to experiments that were regarded as especially risky. The public, particularly the religiously motivated, addressed this moratorium as proof that there still was consciousness in those scientists.
At that time more concerns were expressed on how any control could be imposed to military research and applications pertaining to biological warfare. Even though this kind of warfare has been banned, there is significant concern that this ban only led to experiments performed in deeper secrecy. With so many commercial uses already released, it is a logical assumption that there are dangerous military applications already formulated and ready to be used.
But currently the focus is placed on the controversy for the genetically modified food that is introduced to supermarkets daily. While other applications may be of even greater harm to humans, rDNA opponents have specifically focused the fight to GMO foods.
What are the claims?
The fight is led by the Organic Consumers Association, Greenpeace, Concerned Scientists and prominent people. The claims against GMO foods are:
- GMO is harmful to humans as it is not produced naturally
- Consumers are not advised properly on what they eat
- Genetic engineering is interfering with the process of natural evolution
- There is not enough research done yet for a full comprehension of possible negative ramifications
- Genetic engineering is the same as selective breeding
More concerns were expressed from religious organizations, especially from the Jewish and Muslim communities that impose strict rules on what their members are to eat, on whether the food will remain within the kosher or halal regulations. They went further and designated all GMO food as restricted for consumption by these religious groups.
Focusing the fight on the consumption of food seems too little. At this point, it should be brought to attention what the original concept of DNA recombination was.
The original concept
It would be best not to mention who thought of it. The research was conducted for the purpose of creating genetically engineered human beings. It was conducted for the purpose of interfering on the genetic level to pregnant women in order to direct and control breeding of Einsteins, Freuds, soldiers, officers, leaders, politicians and common people at will and at the desirable numbers.
The first step was cloning. But cloning does not produce controlled people. It produces replicas of people that are still unique individuals with their own thinking processes. A few years ago, genetically engineered clones of sheep were produced. There was some fight initially, which has subsided. Everyone expects that the fight against GMO foods is going to subside soon as well.
Fighting against food and clones fights the tip of the iceberg. Without strict regulations and even stricter control, how long will it take until we see production lines ordering who will be born when and designated to do this and that? How long until humans are born without free will and subject to the desires and needs of the decision takers?