Genetic engineering

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Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct manipulation of an organism's genome using biotechnology. It is a set of technologies used to change the genetic makeup of cells, including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries to produce improved or novel organisms.


  • Can genetic engineers restore a rapid worldwide rise in grainland productivity? This prospect is not promising simply because plant breeders using traditional techniques have largely exploited the genetic potential for increasing the share of photosynthate that goes into seed. Once this is pushed close to its limit, the remaining options tend to be relatively small, clustering around efforts to raise the plant’s tolerance of various stresses, such as drought or soil salinity. One major option left to scientists is to increase the efficiency of the process of photosynthesis itself—something that has thus far remained beyond their reach.
    • Lester R. Brown, Outgrowing the Earth (2005), Ch. 4 : Raising the Earth’s Productivity
  • You can stop splitting the atom; you can stop visiting the moon; you can stop using aerosols; you may even decide not to kill entire populations by the use of a few bombs. But you cannot recall a new form of life.
    • Erwin Chargaff, Letter to the editor of Science (1976). Quoted in Rose M. Morgan, The Genetics Revolution (2006), 3.
  • Genetic engineering is to traditional crossbreeding what the nuclear bomb was to the sword.
    • Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety quoted in "Animal Patenting: Impact of Bioengineering on Altering Animals", in B. Julie Johnson E: The Environmental Magazine (Apr 1994).
  • I know it's a long shot and people would say it's 'too absurd'… but I'm doing this with hopes of making a Mickey Mouse some day.
  • In a more general sense, all the quarter-million plant species— in fact, all species of organisms—are potential donors of genes that can be transferred by genetic engineering into crop species in order to improve their performance. With the insertion of the right snippets of DNA, new strains can be created that are variously cold-hardy, pest-proofed, perennial, fast-growing, highly nutritious, multipurpose, water-conservative, and more easily sowed and harvested. And compared with traditional breeding techniques, genetic engineering is all but instantaneous.
    • Edward O. Wilson, The Future of Life (2002), Ch. 5 : How Much Is the Biosphere Worth?

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