Bacteria were first to be genetically engineered, being used for replicating and modifying genes that were later introduced into plants or animals. Because of their rapid reproduction rate, bacterial systems lend themselves to genetic manipulation. A clone of bacteria can be produced in a short period of time. The cells are then lysed and DNA can be isolated. Bacteria are used to produce non- bacterial proteins used in vaccines. Scientists therefore have taken advantage of nature to modify bacteria. As with bacteria, in order to genetically modify plants, one must obtain genetically identical populations and readily manipulating DNA. Many plant species undergo fragmentation, where parts from the parent plant regenerate a new plant. Other methods include growing plants in culture from small explants or culturing plants from totipotent cells found in the plants meristems. These plant cells can divide and differentiate into various specialized cells.
Several concerns surround transgenic crops. Genetic engineering may inadvertently generate new allergens or toxins that can affect human health. "In March 1996, researchers at the University of Nebraska showed that an allergen from Brazil nuts had been transferred into soybeans. Individuals sensitized to Brazil nuts make antibodies (IgE) specific to certain proteins in the nuts. Engineered soybeans reacted with such antibodies invitro. If allergic individuals consumed the transgenic soybeans, they would have likely experienced IgE-mediated reactions, ranging from itching to anaphylaxis." (Rediscovering Biology www.learner.org) Expressing known allergens in food is dangerous and challenging. It is difficult to predict whether or not a protein in a novel organism will cause allergies. Additionally, the introduced genes from engineered crops can move into other organisms in the environment. The development of insecticide resistant plants disrupts the beneficial insects that are affected by the engineered plants.
The Monsanto Corporation is a multi-billion chemical company and is among the largest pesticide and biotechnical corporations in the world today who produce genetically engineered crops. Their products are used in many areas of agriculture, landscaping and markets throughout the United States. The Monsanto promise is to create new, safer pesticides and stronger bio-engineered crops. Despite this, what Monsanto actually produced and marketed were products that are potentially toxic and sold for a profit. During its early years, Monsanto produced Polychlorinated biphenyl, known as PCBs, later proven to be a carcinogenic, highly toxic and corrosive to skin or mucus membranes. Another product, "Agent Orange" was used to destroy jungles in Vietnam. Together with dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or DDT, another pesticide that caused massive damage to living things as well as the environment. Prior to being known as too dangerous for use, many lives and ecosystems were already negatively impacted. This damage may have meant big profits for Monsanto, but the effects are irreversible. Today, Monsanto is the producer of Round-up, whose most active ingredient is glyphosate salt, a highly toxic weed repellent. This ingredient has the potential to kill "super weeds," just as antibiotics do to "super germs." "This pesticide kills all but the strongest pests, leaving only the hardiest members of the population to repopulate the area. Eventually, once the weaker pests are killed from the gene pool, super weeds are all that remain; at this point, modern pesticides will become nearly useless and far stronger and more toxic ones will need to be employed." (From Agent Orange to Pesticides and Genetically Engineered Crops, http://www.globalresearch.ca)
A large portion of Monsanto's business is concentrated in the field of genetically modified organisms. GMO's have an altered genetic structure with the intent to yield more and repel more pests. This however may have introduced many unintended consequences and side effects of genetic mutation making them harmful to consume as well as for the ecosystems in which they are grown. Although some of Monsanto's products may be safe, many have a history of being toxic. The issue of concern is that genetic engineering is relatively new and its consequences though some known have yet to be completely discovered. (From Agent Orange to Pesticides and Genetically Engineered Crops," http://www.globalresearch.ca)