Background information- Genetically Modified Animals.

Thousands of years ago, people modified their animals by selecting animals with desirable traits, and breeding them — selective breeding. Selective breeding was a low tech way for humans to slowly over time genetically alter organisms, or an entire species.

Today, we think of animals like dogs or sheep as domestic animals, while in the past we used to think of them as wild animals. (The dog is supposedly descender from a wolf.) In the 1950’s there was an experiment done using thirty male and a hundred female silver foxes; Vulpes vulpes, a species that had never been domesticated by humans before. More than twenty generations of silver foxes were bred. Over the generations the silver foxes became domesticated. Selective breeding was at work in this experiment — the trait of being friendly towards people was the criteria or trait required to allow the silver foxes to breed. Thus in each successive generation of silver foxes there was a higher percent of human friendly foxes.

Problems can occur when you keep breeding animals that only have the traits you like, a lot of inherited recessive genetic disorders/diseases can occur in animals via selective breeding. There is a reason why inbreeding doesn’t work — genetic variety is good for life.

In today’s world genetic modification can be done by altering the very genotype of the organism to get the phenotypic results that you want. This process is faster than selective breeding, and you can also introduce genes from one species into another. For example, there are animals that have had a jellyfish fluorescent gene added into their genome. This makes them glow in the dark. Think about it, glow in the dark bunnies, cats, and dogs! While the idea is cute, the animals’ fluorescence can help scientists with studying diseases that occur in animals that are similar to diseases found in humans.

Genetic modification could also be used to fix mutations that cause genetic disorders. This topic of mine is important to humanity as a whole as it concerns the world we live in, and the animals that we love, and or eat.

Now animals can be genetically modified to not just grow faster — for animal products to get on our supermarket shelves faster — but to produce certain substances that might not be used as food. For instance there have been goats that have been modified to produce spider silk. The spiders from which the silk originated from could not be farmed as they would attack each other. This is where the genetically modified goats came in. The goats are perfectly healthy, and you can get the spider silk protein harvested straight from the goats’ milk. Spider silk is elastic, it has a high resistance to wear and tear, and it is much stronger than steel; this silk can be used in an array of applications such as bulletproof vests, artificial ligaments and eye sutures.

I believe the applications of genetic modification far surpass just being able to genetically alter a creature to be resistant to a disease or glow in the dark. If animals can be modified to produce materials, then what else could they be genetically modified to do?

The question or rather questions I would like to answer is: How far can we take genetic modification of animals right now? With society’s rules? With today’s technology?

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