A Look at Transgenic Issues

Transgenic techniques have been used in biomedical research for many years. Transgenic organisms contain DNA that has been inserted experimentally. In this activity, you will research the potential benefits and risks of using transgenic organisms and form an opinion about the topic. You should consider all aspects of the issue including the ethical and social implications of using transgenic organisms.

Answer the question “Do the potential benefits of transgenic techniques outweigh the risks?”

Background Information

Since the early 1970s, scientists have been “engineering” new organisms by inserting a gene from one organism into the cells of another organism. In 1978, a company called Genentech produced bacteria that had been engineered to produce human insulin. Today, there is a variety of transgenic bacteria, plants, and animals.

Transgenic bacteria:  Some of these organisms produce insulin and other hormones.

Transgenic plants:  Much of our food supply is made of transgenic, or genetically modified (GM), plants. Many transgenic plants have been modified for improved taste, nutritional value, yield, or hardiness. For example, certain transgenic plants produce a natural insecticide so that the crops do not have to be sprayed with chemical pesticides.

Transgenic animals: Although not engineered for human consumption, there have been transgenic experiments involving fish, cows, and pigs (Figure 3.36 – page 119 in your textbook). Transgenic mice have been produced that have immune systems that are similar to humans. Scientists use these mice to study the effects of disease on the immune system. Recently, several companies have investigated the use of genetically altered pigs as organ donors.

Please chose your topic and use the assignment organizer in the Resource section!

Worksheets and Resources

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