Week 6 - Biotechnology of Today - Shanpeng Li

In today’s society, biotechnology exists almost everywhere but it’s often not noticed due to the reason that we do not see how our food is grown or processed. This week, our focus on biotechnology brought back many interests from what I have learned in the past. Whenever I think about biotechnology, two major categories come to mind, food and cloning. The food being sold and consumed today most likely have been tampered with biologically to enhance them visually and physically. Cloning on the other hand is a very serious technology currently being studied and raises a ton of ethical debates.

Food in our society today all seems perfect in terms of appearance and taste, but the reality is that most of them are genetically modified to be that way and it does not only apply to vegetables. A major component of biotechnology is done on food and crops for numerous benefits for the population and those who consume them. Some of the more obvious benefits are of course better taste and appearance. I have always wondered why the fruits and vegetables in supermarkets always look so bright and fresh, now I know that it is partly due to genetic engineering. Biotechnology performed on food can also induce other changes such as reducing how vulnerable the plants are to certain diseases or environmental harms thus creating an increase in the amount of yield. This in my opinion has a major impact on our society since it provides an excess amount of edible food source and makes it less likely for a famine to occur. Another aspect of biotechnology on food is increasing the nutritional values of these fruits and vegetables so that they can provide the needed amount of nutrients to human beings. This is great application of biotechnology because it boosts the general population’s health and most likely lengthens their expected lifespan. I have also read before that genetic engineering is often being performed on animals to gain more yield. Although this is only a rumor, many people seem to believe that companies are using genetic modification to raise chickens that have faster growth rate and a larger body. This is one of the many ways biotechnology can be exploited by companies to earn more revenue but at the cost of the quality of their products.

In recent years, biotechnology is also being studied to apply to humans and that also comes in numerous fields such as genetic testing, gene therapy, and cloning. Although each of these fields has distinct purposes, they all utilize the same concept to reach its goals. After genetics have been highly studied and developed, it gradually spread its reach onto humans and with that came the rise of numerous genetic fields that deal with the human genome. Many of these biotechnologies provide unimaginable benefits to our society such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis or gene therapy which can cure or prevent many genetic diseases and defects, but a threshold needs to be drawn as to how far these technologies can take us. Human cloning in my opinion is definitely crossing the line by making an exact copy of a person, I’m sure there are cases where this technology is needed but there’s not many I can think of.

Biotechnology today has become very advanced, but with every new scientific discovery, there will be those who find a way to exploit it. There are countless possibilities as to what these technologies can be used for. Only with correct amount of restrictions can we make sure they are not being overly exploited.

- Shanpeng Li

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