History of the Universe

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Genetic Engineering

Humans have always tried to improve their animals and plants by breeding the ones with the features they like.

Engineers are now learning how to take genes from one organism and insert them into another. This technique can be used to cure some diseases or to give resistance to disease. It can also be used to make clones of animals.

Golden Rice Uneaten

Genetic engineering has led to some dramatic improvements in crop yields and improvements in the nutrition of some foods. For example, 400 million people dependant on rice for their main crop suffer from vitamin A deficiency, causing vision impairment and disease susceptibility. So the Rockefeller Foundation international program on rice biotechnology spent US0 million between 1984-99 to enable Swiss scientist Ingo Potrykus to add genes from bacteria and daffodils to rice, creating a new strain (called golden rice) capable of producing beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A.

But although golden rice could bring great benefits, especially to Africa, yet it was still not widely available ten years later because of governments’ and some non-governmental organizations’ fears about its safety.

There is also serious concern among people in Europe that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are dangerous. On the other hand, transgenic crops (ones which have genes taken from other organisms) have been more readily accepted in the United States.

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