The beginning of the 21st century has heralded a series of transformational breakthroughs sweeping changes stirring practically every function of human life. Its influence has been felt all across the globe. Growing population in countries like India has necessitated the need to introduce interventions to enhance superiority touching every aspect of life, improve livestock, medicine and perk up quality and quantity of food. One of the interventions of paramount importance for the past few years has been on the study of gene. Gene is the basic unit of life and controls every piece of life whether in structure and function. Organisms are nothing but the by product of their genetic makeup. Any deviation from the normal is the reflection of defect in the genetic arrangement in that organism. Concurrently the defect can be corrected by altering the flawed array and subjecting it into a normal state. This property of altering the genetic makeup by maneuvers called genetic engineering is well explored by researchers in agriculture, animal husbandry, medicine and is challenging the traditional way of treatments.
Geneticists studying inheritance at molecular level have learnt to cut, splice and insert genes into organisms and read its impact. The organisms that contain and express foreign genes are popularly called genetically modified organisms or GMO. The technique utilized to cut, splice and insert gene is called genetic engineering. It makes use of tools which are enzymes. Restriction enzymes are the genetic scissors which cut the gene from superior organism and insert into recipient from which the defective gene has been removed using the same enzyme. Insertion is enabled using ligase which is the genetic glue. This technique is extended as gene therapy and is used to cure fatal diseases like diabetes, cancer, several human genetic disorders as color blindness, sickle cell anemia etc.
Research in India has focused on the bacterium Bacillus thuringienses. A gene namely Cry AC 1 in this bacterium codes for an endotoxin which is repellent to bollworms and other insects. This specific gene is incorporated in cotton plant making it insect and bollworm repellent so that it inherently wards off these pathogens from attack. This has eliminated the need for application of chemicals and fertilizers and reduced financial burden on the farmer multifold. This GMO cotton is popular in India as Bt Cotton and has ignited much debate hers from the opposing lobbies. Similarly GMO tomatoes in India are in vogue as Flavor Savr characterized by delayed ripening and better shelf life besides superior taste and increased solid soluble. Here the gene coding for enzyme polygalactourinase is lifted. This enzyme causes cell wall ripening making tomatoes soft and pulpy. Furthermore GMO pigs are subjected to human genes so that their organs carry human antigens and are not rejected following transplantation.
The seeds of Pentadiplandra brazzeanae are 2000 times sweeter than sugar. The desired gene coding for this plant are inserted into corn. The isolation, treatment and extraction of sugar from its kernels serves as a better sweeter than the synthetic ones. These are only a few examples of Genetic engineering. Its concepts and applications can be understood in a better way through books penned on the subject and sold with every bookstore in India. With e-commerce and i-shopping now extended to Indian soil these books can be located and their shopping enabled courtesy online bookstores in India.