Artificial Selection vs Genetic Engineering
Mike Nicholson

     Artificial selection and genetic engineering both give humans the power to manipulate a certain species so that its members are a better fit for humans wants and needs. Having said that, the the mechanisms for the change is different. Genetic engineering is basically the creation of new traits, whereas artificial selection chooses traits that are already within a species. With artificial selection, a scientist would breed individuals who possess desirable traits. An example is that a scientist might breed or “cross pollinate” the highest yielding crops only for generations. This would result in a population of plants that would entirely produce high yields than the majority of the members of that species. Scientists are able to manipulate the traits in the species population through selective breeding. Evolution has then occurred. With genetic engineering, tools are used by scientists of DNA Tech. to directly change the genome. Inserting genes from different organisms is one way to change the genome. an example of this would be a few cotton plants are in possession of a gene encoding a bacterial toxin within their genome. That cotton plant would then become toxic to moth caterpillars that usually eat the leaves of the plant and other pests. These toxic plants are then different from their non-engineered predecessors. Again, evolution has been achieved.(Socratic, 2014, p.1) This field of study is usually shrouded in controversy whenever it is brought into a conversation. The new genetically engineered stream of species more often than not involved the sacrifice of that animal and surgical procedures on others. This would be considered an invasive procedure if done.(genetic engineering of animals, 2011, p.1) I strongly believe that artificial selection and genetic modification differentiate in scientific and ethical ways. In this paper, I will be discussing these topics and their impact on the human species.

     Genetic modifications and biotechnology methods have potential to contribute to the worlds increase in food supply demands with more economical, efficient and sustainable methods. This is done by minimizing the usage of extremely important resources like water, land and other inputs, reducing the amount of waste and in some special cases, savings lives through means of nutritional enhancement of food. Introducing the beneficial traits in agriculture like weed control is a great improvement. Others are traits that are in crops that are insect and drought resistance. Genetic engineering and conventional breeding both are used to introduce these traits but some of them are only achievable through the former. Scientists have been developing traits in the production of oil producing crops to help reduce susceptibility of the crop spoiling. Quality enhancement benefits, food safety, and nutritional are other food related applications. Protein deficiencies and micronutrients that are prevalent in certain areas of the world are also addressed by nutrition related improvements. The modification of rice, cassava, bananas and sweet potatoes are just a few examples of food being pursued to conquer nutritional deficiencies in countries where the population is partaking in an inadequate diet.(Biotechnology, Genetic Engineering, and “GMOs:”, 2015, p.3)

     The dawn of genetic modification is dated at around 10 000 years ago or longer when humans began selective breeding by saving the seeds of crops. That method along with genetically classic modification techniques progressed quickly to increasingly complex, powerful and more controlled cellular and molecular methods. Taking steps in food science research, plant and microbial genome sequencing along with developments in new technologies have contributed to furthering food science and plant science. This is the scientific process that is allowing extremely complex food systems improvements along with enabling advancements to happen on a grand scale with increased precision and speed. In the 1970’s, genetic engineering began as rDNA methods were developed. Other developments and the application in plants and plant tissue culture drew on this. The academy of NASEM deduced that after publication in the 70’s describing rDNA technology expresses concern about the unpredictable biosafety risk and that this concern led to the creation of biosafety procedures for safe practices, as well as guidelines for research from the NIH (National Institutes of Health). These research guidelines are still in effect but are a modified version. Opposition continued into the 1980’s by those who were concerned about broader ethical and social issues along with the potential risks genetic engineering posed. Other events took place such as the Supreme Court of the United States decision about patenting human made, living organisms along with developments in rBST.(Biotechnology, Genetic Engineering, and “GMOs:”, 2015, p.4) 

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     The scientific grounds for genetic engineering and biotechnology is abundant. Quite recently, Nobel Laureates expressed against spearheaded opposing entities to biotechnological innovation. An honourable mention was Golden Rice, rice that contained beta carotene through genetic engineering which then converted to vitamin A when ingested. Tens of millions of people in Africa and Southeast Asia do not obtain nearly enough of this crucial nutrient. This tiny rice has become a beacon of an idea, an idea that crops can directly effect the lives of a vast population of malnourished poor through genetic engineering.(Biotechnology, Genetic Engineering, and “GMOs:”, 2015, p.12) Extended shelf lives and pest resistant crops are becoming more prevalent in today’s GMO world. Seeds that are engineered are pear resistant and can come familiar with relatively harsh climatic conditions making survival more likely. There are plant genes that when inserted in tobacco and tomato cells, can increase their endurance to climate as well as harsh soil. Modification of genetic traits in humans also has the potential to succeed within the field of genetic engineering. Manipulating certain traits in a person can be seen as potentially dangerous both physiologically as well as ethically.(BiologyWise, 2017, p.1)

     The question of “is it right?” Is often a persons first reaction when genetic engineering is brought up. Religious believe tend to believe that genetic engineering is akin to playing a God simulator and that no can can possibly fill the shoes of the man upstairs. These people would expressly forbid the use of any tampering on their children for instance but besides the religious arguments, there are numerous counts of ethical objections. The diseases that exist today exist for a natural reason and have persisted throughout history for a reason. Overpopulation is a real threat to humans so while we should be fighting against them, we still need a few illnesses to keep us in check. To artificially extend ones life has already caused problems in today’s world so the possibilities and problems that could occur as we keep driving down this road are hard to predict. The safety when it comes to genetic engineering is always in question. Scientists do, of course, have a pretty good idea of how the human body works but they do not know everything on a cellular level. They cannot possible know the repercussions of changes made on a cellular level. Unpredictability can be a very scary thought to some, myself included. The thought of wiping out one disease only to introduce another brand new one and possibly even more dangerous would be a terrifying spectacle. Diversity in all species of animals is crucial to that species and by genetically engineering them, we will be eventually eliminating it in the same way that cloning would. Only the very rich and elite have gene therapy available to them which could possibly mean that people who have traits that make them earn less money would eventually go extinct, though this is an extreme thought.(Conserve Energy Future, 2018, p.1)

     Transgenics, selective breeding, artificial selection and genetic engineering all continue to put forth difficult and intriguing challenges for scientists, ethicists and the general population of the 21st century. Respectful, meaningful and educational discourse are all just the tip of the iceberg for what is essential to tackle a complex ethical issue. Until we, as a united society and total global entity can come to terms on what species, human or otherwise, are worthy of legal and moral respect, we can brace for quite intense cross disciplinary discussion and debate as life forms are created through medicine and science. All of these constructs depend on their relevance to every individual and the relevance each individual has to genetic engineering. It will be very interesting to see how it will all continue to skew the very nature of our reality and future. 

Biotechnology, Genetic Engineering, and “GMOs:” Why all the Controversy? – (2018). Retrieved 29 January 2018, from
Genetic engineering of animals: Ethical issues, including welfare concerns. (2018). Retrieved 29 January 2018, from
How is artificial selection different from genetic engineering? | Socratic. (2018). Retrieved 29 January 2018, from
Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering – Conserve Energy Future. (2018). Conserve Energy Future. Retrieved 29 January 2018, from
The Promising Yet Unsettling Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering. (2018). BiologyWise. Retrieved 29 January 2018, from



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