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Genetically Modified Organisms

Although humans have altered the characteristics of many other species over the years (most notably in plant and animal domestication), a watershed was reached in the early 1970s when biologists began to directly manipulate DNA. This “genetic modification” or “genetic engineering” involved altering, recombining, and transferring genes from disparate organisms. It is one of the most powerful technologies ever devised; it is also one of the most controversial because of the ethical, legal, political, economic, and biological issues it raises.

Even the basic vocabulary for the subject is contested. The term genetically modification first appeared in the 1970s to describe early experiments on bacteria. But by the 1990s, in response to portrayals of such creations as sinister and unnatural, some proponents began to label all ...

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