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Caring for Earth
Effects of Genetic Engineering

Effects of Genetic Engineering
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 7 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.52

     challenging words:    biotech, cusp, Frankenfoods, monsanto, non-engineered, self-sufficiency, terminator, traditionally-bred, unlabeled, compounds, incomplete, crossing, killers, mutate, conventional, manufacturers
     content words:    Round UpTM

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Effects of Genetic Engineering
By Mary Lynn Bushong

1     It seems like something out of a science fiction novel: scientists using gene splicing to improve food production plants so more could be grown with less. It sounds wonderful on the surface, but can it stand up to serious testing?
2     What is involved in making plants more efficient? There are two ways of doing this. The first is through traditional plant breeding practices of selecting and crossing plants of the same kind for certain traits. If you were growing corn and wanted to grow shorter corn, you would select plants that were shorter and cross those until you came up with a plant that was the height you wanted.
3     Gene splicing, on the other hand, is completely different, although some people think it is the same. It involves the splicing or cutting in of genes from a completely different plant or chemical chain and adding it to another one. It is not something that could naturally occur in a plant otherwise.
4     Scientists use a virus to carry the new genetic material to the DNA chain of the plant they are changing. Normally, there are controls built into the DNA strands so it knows to do certain things at certain times. This new part of the DNA acts differently from the rest of the strand. It has no controls. Instead of turning on and off when necessary, it works all the time. The result is that it can produce new compounds and chemicals never seen before in that or any plant. What the plant produces depends on where the new DNA was put into the existing strand. Many people worry that the new substances that are produced can be harmful to people and animals.

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