What Is Genetic Engineering Used For?

August 13, 2019 • Shannon Flynn


People are always looking for the next big
way to make life better. It’s what’s driven people to invent creations that
have changed the course of human history, like cars and airplanes.

While some people dream big with their inventions, other people have dreams that will also change the world, but on microscopic levels.

Those are the people who came up with genetic
engineering, which has made its rounds in the news since its creation. It can
be a helpful but controversial form of engineering, depending on how it’s used
and who uses it.

Read on to learn more about what genetic engineering is used for and why it’s something that grows more complex as time goes on.

What It Is

Genetic engineering is when the DNA of an
organism is directly manipulated to create a phenotype that wouldn’t normally
occur in nature.

It’s also known as genetic modification
because it deals so heavily with an organism’s genome. This engineering
changes, deletes or duplicates a base pair of genes to achieve a specific goal.

Genetic engineers have also extracted DNA
from an organism and combined it with DNA from a separate organism.

How It Changes

Food is one of the most important resources
for humans, which is why people are always trying to improve agricultural

Genetic engineering is one of the ways people
do this. They combine certain genes from wild and crop plants to get the
desired trait. This trait can be a number of things, depending on the crop
that’s been genetically altered.

Some crops are engineered to have a higher
nutritional value
. That makes the food better to eat,
which creates a higher profit margin for the production company.

Crops may also be genetically engineered to tolerate
herbicides better
. More powerful herbicides take care
of pest infestations and weeds easier, so no plants are lost before they’re

People sometimes get concerned about changing
the DNA of crops, because they view it as eating something that’s unnatural.
However, studies have shown that genetically altered crops do not pose any
to those who eat them.

Why It Matters for

The world of medicine has also been touched
by genetic engineering. Insulin was one of the first products that genetic
engineering improved, back in the 1980s.

People with diabetes used to get their
insulin injections from pig or cow pancreases, but genetic engineering of human
insulin resulted in Humulin.
It was the first marketable product that had been genetically altered, lasting
longer than animal insulin and having a slower onset of action.

Couples using IVF treatment have also seen
success with genetic engineering. Slight genetic modifications increase the success rate
of embryos after freezing. This doesn’t change the DNA that the fertilized
embryo would use to grow into a baby. Instead, it makes the embryo more likely
to be implanted and fertilized successfully.

Some people are more concerned about genetic
engineering in medicine and biology than anywhere else. Although genetic
engineering may one day end
that currently have no cure, people
worry that it could lead to humans being created in labs with certain

A person being born with genes that make them
a faster runner to one day compete in the Olympics would be an example of this
kind of concern. Although scientists don’t believe that kind of genetic
altering would be legal if it were possible, it’s something that’s studied and
talked about

How It May Evolve

Genetic engineering is currently used in the
fields of medicine and agriculture to improve the quality of life for people
around the world, but what does its future look like?

Whether or not it’s controversial, scientists
will continue to use genetic engineering to the advantage of the human race.
Today that means that things like crops and human fertility improve, but one
day it could mean so much more.