Hello cyber world! My name is Alex and I am a junior at the University of Maryland studying Economics.  Like most college students I love hanging out with my friends and participating in different sporting activities.  A few hobbies that I have that differ from other college students is my love for sailing and snowboarding.  I began sailing when I was 13, at summer camp and it has become one of my favorite activities.  Biotechnology is a futuristic concept that really caught my attention as a sophomore in college.  I took a course that concentrated on the on the human genome and what things like blood doping, cloning, and gene therapy could do for the human population.  While I was not well informed before taking the course, it was so interesting that I read up on the subject and became knowledgeable in select areas of Genetic Modification.  A topic in which i have a strong interest in is blood doping, which is the practice of boosting the number of red blood cells in the bloodstream in order to enhance athletic performance.  Many famous athletes have tried this to get a leg up on the competition. Most will relate this with the Lance Armstrong scandal that just occurred where he was accused of using this method to gain an edge.  Stay updated with our blog, as we highlight the importance of genetic modifications for our world.

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Genetically Modified Animals

One of the topics at the forefront of the biotechnology debate is genetically modified animals.  In the 21’st century science has discovered ways in which to genetically modify animals in order to produce a number of benefits for humans.  While there remain a number of opponents to the practice of genetically modifying animals, it would seem that the benefits of genetic modification are rather overwhelming.

There are three primary areas in which genetically altered animals have the potential to produce a number of benefits for humans:

1. Research:

The British Society of Animal Science recognizes the benefits of genetically engineered test animals, such as rats, for research in the fields of science and medicine. Genetic modification of these test animals allows researchers to breed the subjects in specific ways in order to observe certain traits or abilities through various combinations of genes.  Scientist can produce test subjects that possess traits that are more or less desirable for their research.  This kind of modification will aid in scientific and medicinal research as it allows scientists to more easily observe the reactions of an ideal test subject.

2. Human Medicine:

Scientists have developed the ability to introduce various kinds of genes into animals that will benefit humans that consume them.  A number of human diseases and deficiencies have the potential to be treated through the introduction of important genes (protein producing genes in cows) into animals for human consumption. Another experimental field of genetic animal modification is that of animal to human transplants.  The research into this potential procedure involves genetically modifying animals so as to trick a human body into thinking a transplanted (animal) organ is of human origin.  Typically a transplant of an animal organ into a human body would result in the body’s rejecting of the foreign animal organ.   These kinds of procedures would allow for the production of genetically modified animals for the purpose of supplying transplant organs for humans.  These procedures could save countless lives by reducing the cost of transplants and increasing patient’s access to them.

3. Food Production:

Genetic modification in animals can also increase certain products productivity.  Farm animals, for instance, can be genetically modified to resist certain diseases and defects that affect the quality of the product consumed by humans.  Similarly, scientists have developed ways to genetically alter animals such as milk cows and poultry in order to make the end products more beneficial to the consumer’s health.  Livestock could also potentially be genetically modified to reproduce more quickly, and to pass on more desirable traits to offspring and continue to increase productivity.

Genetic engineering in animals, though mostly in experimental stages, has the potential to benefit human populations in countless ways.  Technology has allowed scientists to use their knowledge of genetics to genetically engineer products that are most beneficial to consumers in this day and age.  We should all support the continued research into and development of this up and coming field of biotechnology.  Let us use the tools at our disposal in order to benefit our world in the maximum possible way.

Works Referenced:

The British Society of Animal Science

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Why You Should Care!

This is an interesting and informational argument about the use of GMO and the effect of GMOs on people.

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Human Cloning

This is an interesting video that shows the useful side of cloning, often when people think of cloning, people typically think about human cloning. However, this video describes the usefulness of cloning stem cells and also shares some fun commentary on Hollywood’s take on cloning,


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Cloning, the New Frontier

Cloning, while not as in the forefront today as it has been, is still a hotly contested topic.  The arguments against it are both religious and biological.  Many people feel that it is like “playing god” while others claim that it is an abomination.  Still others are benefiting from this process daily, and living longer and healthier lives.  When it comes down to it, there are good arguments on both sides of the debate, but the potential benefits of this technology far outweigh the cons.  To illustrate this, I will discuss the benefits with regard to parenting.  The aspects that validate the human cloning process are vast, but the ones I will focus on today are as follows:

1. The ability to solve infertility in couples.

2. The ability to save endangered species.

3. Stopping diseases from being passed down to children.

Cloning would be very helpful for infertile couples who want a child, because the process would allow them to simply clone one of the spouses.  This process could also be used with Gay and Lesbian couples, who want children.  This would eliminate the tiresome process  of finding a surrogate mother.  Along that same vine, women who want twins would be able to have them without having to go through two pregnancies.

The second claim, that cloning will be able to save endangered species is self explanatory.  By cloning an animal and breeding it with another one in the wild, the animal’s DNA will be able to pass on to the next generation.  Many arguments, religious or otherwise, contest this fact and claim that breeding between a cloned and natural animals is will eliminate bio-genetic diversity.  This is not true.

In fact, according to The Human Genome Project, even when reproductive cloning is used, the created animal is not an identical clone of the donor animal, as only one chromosome is identical.  An example of this type of animals is Dolly the sheep,  an animal cloned using reproductive cloning who was able to live fore 7 years and become an adult sheep.

The third claim, that cloning will reduce the amount of diseases passed down to offspring is also applicable to every society.  With diseases like HIV, AIDS, Muscular Distrophy, etc that can be passed down to children, this process will allow people with these awful diseases to have children with out fear of ruining their lives.

While the success rate is low, the potential benefits of this technology are far too great for it to be ignored.  With future research and practice, this can save lives and give life to parents who could otherwise never have children. Interestingly enough, human cloning is all ready saving lives, as cloned fetuses are being used to cure diseases that would otherwise be fatal.  Furthermore, animals produced by this process are still have have bio-genetic diversity, and can thus create new offspring.  This principle could also be applied to humans.  Once perfected, this process will be an integral part of our society, and we will all benefit from it.

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Annotated Bibliography

Nerlich, Brigitte & Clarke, David. Anatomy of a media event: How arguments clashed in the 2001 human cloning debate. New Genetics and Society. Vol. 22, No. 1, pg. 43-59. Aug. 19,2012.

This essay is an excellent way to see how the general public views cloning, and specifically why they do so.  In the article, the researchers examine the media’s role in the cloning debate in 2001.  By examining the media’s effect in cloning debate, we can analyze the exactly how the opponents of our position have framed their argument and packaged it to the media.  After determining this, we can then find the flaws in the argument and refute them. We can also use their findings to frame our argument, and combat the preconceived notions about the process.

Lovell-Badge, Robin. The Future of Stem Cell Research. Nature. Vol. 414.  pg. 88-91. November 1, 2001.

In this article, Lovell-Badge describes the current status of stem cell research, and then speculates on the future of the technology, implying that it will grow “evolutionarily”.  Interestingly enough, many of the predictions are visible today.  This article is useful to our argument because it supports the claim that stem cell research is a viable technology with the ability to drastically alter and save lives.  The article also explains the processes involving stem cell research in detail.  With this knowledge, we can better understand our position and support our claims.

Strong, Carson. Cloning and Infertility. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, Vol. 7, pg. 279-293.

In this article, Strong presents a view on cloning that we had not considered much up to this point.  The essay examines the ethics of cloning when infertile parents want to clone a child.  While Strong did not go into the actual logistics of human cloning, he does make some very good arguments assuming that human cloning is totally safe and birth defect free.  He also then poses the question to the reader.  This essay, while not a concrete solution does provide a perspective not presented in the blog.  With it, we have a different way of approaching the argument, and challenging our opponents.

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What’s what about GMOs

For this post, we decided to refute arguments against Genetically Modified Food, one of today’s most controversial topics.  To do this, I’m going to analyze an article by  The three arguments I will refute are as follows.

1. GMOs have not been tested thoroughly. GMO safety tests are sometimes as short as 90 days, which is not long enough to prove that a substance is safe for long-term, multi-generational human consumption.

2. GMOs will inevitably lead to more monoculture, which is dangerous because it threatens the biological diversity of our food supply.

3. Genetically modified plants or animals could interbreed with wild populations, creating problems such as population explosions or crashes, problems with corresponding predator or prey species, or offspring with dangerous traits.

The first claim, that GMOs have not been tested enough is quite inaccurate.  In fact, according to Dr. Trewas, a 40 year old plant biologist, claimed that that before being served to the public, “GM crops must satisfy 50 pages of regulations, 4 years of safety tests, and pass 3-4 committees” . Clearly, these foods have been extensively tested, and all  genetically modified foodstuffs have to pass through the FDA before being fed to the public (154).

The second claim, that GMOs will lead to a lack of biodiversity is also refutable.  For this, I will refer to the study done by Dr. Entcheva and her team, which was featured in a previous post.  In the study, Dr. Entcheva discovered that alterations performed on an organism carry over to the next generation, even when cloned.  Furthermore, Dr. Trewas claims that many plants are being infused with different hormones and vaccines to fight off diseases like E. coli, hepatitis B, and cholera, and have had some success with these genes transferring to the next generation.

The third and final argument to be refuted claims that GM animals and plants have the danger of breeding with other organisms in the wild.  This too is incorrect.  According to Dr. Trewas, scientists are diligent about keeping this from happening and always separate GM organisms from their natural counterparts.

Trewas, Anthony. Food Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press 2002. Pring

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