Thursday, February 19, 2015

Genetically Modified Organisms: FrankenFood for thought

Genetically modified organisms, further known as GMO's, are in our every day life whether it be in the form of the salmon you ate for dinner or even microorganisms used to create life saving pharmaceuticals. GMO's in definition means to alter the genetic make up, the DNA, of an organism to achieve a desired outcome. In the example above we have two types of salmon, wild salmon and farm raised salmon. Now the wild salmon population grows to maturity at a normal rate, barring any outside unnatural environmental forces such as irregular amounts of radiation. Humans like to eat... and we like to eat, not only in large quantities, but at an alarming rate which does not equal the rate of growth in wild salmon populations. To meet the growing demand for salmon on the dinner table salmon had to grow to maturity faster.  So began farm raised salmon genetically modified with the Atlantic pout.The "transgenic" salmon grow to maturity in about two thirds the normal time due to the interactions between the spliced gene from the Atlantic pout and the naturally occurring growth hormone of the salmon. This is only one of many examples regarding GMO's. The question is, are GMO's safe?

The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer here. To answer this question we need to approach this debate with knowledge from four different, but related, fields. Molecular Biology, Ecology, Agricultural Sciences, and Medical Sciences.
They will help us delve away from the dualistic approach we are used to hearing with the debate over the uses and safety of GMO's and steer us towards a more critical pluralism approach. We have to not only look at the immense scientific benefits to our civilization, but we must also look into how GMO's could potentially devastate the worlds natural and fragile ecosystem. It is important to not stick with only one idea, but to find multiple perspectives about multiple ideas on the matter. For instance, improving upon the downsides of rearranging the genetic make-up of an organism to negate the adverse affects upon the host and recipient, instead of berating the scientific advancements that it represents. As another example, completely abolishing the practice of GMO's as it is unnatural and if let out into the "wild" world could dramatically alter our already unstable environment. We can think of these two arguments as two sides of a pair of 3D glasses. While only looking through one side, one can only see in a two-dimensional manner, however, when we open up to multiple perspectives on a debate or argument, we can see the fullness of the three-dimensional world.


  1. Fantastic! A pleasure to read your work, Jack! Make sure you add citations when you use photos that aren't your own. And we will chat in class a bit about the distinctions between epistemologies and disciplinary definitions. But this is great, and a debate that I am interested in, so I enjoyed the quick glimpse into the issue!

  2. The topic of GMOs is definitely interdisciplinary. There are of course more disciplines that could be shown in the chart but your chart is a good overview to the interdisciplinarity of it. GMOs is a controversial topic that intervenes into many different disciplines and it requires cooperation between them.